Testing Times

Below is a timed sketch that I produced last week for an art test. I decided to include my slightly rubbish initial sketches, just to show the process more clearly. No word on the outcome as yet. Click the image for a bigger version.

Art Test Illustration

Art Test Illustration.

Getting it covered

I’ve been working fairly intensively on the cover artwork for my FutureQuake story, and it’s getting close to completion now. Just the background to paint, and a few tweaks to make to the character. Here’s a sample of the work in progress (I’ve just slapped in a masthead from a previous edition to help with the layout):

FutureQuake Cover Art in Progress

Cover Artwork in progress.

Let me know what you think.

Flick Golf riding high

It’s been very satisfying watching Flick Golf riding high in the US iTunes App Store. It’s currently at number 8 in the Top Paid chart, after peeking earlier last week at number 3. At that point, it was even beating Cut the Rope, which is quite an achievement.

Screenshot of Flick Golf

Flick Golf.

Flick Golf is the third iPhone release from my employer, Full Fat, and the first I’ve been involved with. Our first two iPhone titles, Deadball Specialist (featured by Apple in the Rewind 2010 and App Store Essentials), and Zombie Flick received excellent reviews, but neither have achieved the success of Flick Golf.

I designed and created the logo for Flick Golf, along with all the interactive elements of the game UI (buttons, titles, dialogue panels, etc). The wonderful loading screen images and UI backgrounds where created by Heather Sheppard (who you can also find on Twitter masquerading as DinobotTwit), who also painted the beautiful background for this Flick Golf marketing poster (click the image for a huge version):

Swanky marketing poster

Flick Golf Poster.

It’s very nice to be involved, even if only in a small way, in a product that has been so successful, and received consistently high praise from reviewers and casual gamers alike.

App Store hide’n’seek

I haven’t had much chance to play with the new Mac App Store, but I think it shows a lot of promise. It’s already introduced me to an excellent new app called Alfred, a very promising replacement for the sadly fading Quicksilver. But the App Store isn’t without it’s problems at the moment.

The biggest “gotcha” I’ve encountered is with trying to link applications that I’ve already installed to my App Store account, so that I can get the quick and easy upgrades it makes available (installing and upgrading apps from the App Store is really nice). I found out to my disappointment that there is no way to link applications I’ve paid for without buying them again (Apple really should offer developers a way to allow existing customers to upgrade to the App Store versions for a reduced fee), but I didn’t think I’d have any hassle with free applications. Well, it does work, but I discovered that it’s not necessarily straightforward.

I’m a big fan of the OS X Twitter client Itsy. It’s simple, lightweight and easy to use. I much prefer it to both the official Twitter client, and the other popular Mac OS X app Twitterrific. When I came across it on the App Store, I decided I’d like to download it. I was impressed to see that the App Store app showed it as installed, but less impressed that it offered me no option to overwrite my existing version. A quick Google search told me that I should delete the currently installed version, relaunch the App Store app, and all would be well.

A quick trip to the Terminal to remove the Itsy.app bundle, relaunch the App Store, and oh, it still shows as installed. I tried logging out and back in, but the result was the same. Itsy was gone from my Applications folder, but the App Store app still showed it as installed. A restart led to the same result. Well, that was annoying, but not the end of the world. I logged into my administrator account, and used Titanium’s excellent Onyx to remove the system caches, in case this was causing the problem. I let Onyx do it’s stuff while I continued sorting my bank statements into date order (it’s Tax Return time again). Another restart, then back to the App Store app to discover that, oh for goodness sake, it’s still showing Itsy as installed?

So, I did what I should probably have done in the first place. I ran a Spotlight search for Itsy, and discovered a copy of it still in my Installers folder (I have a habit of dropping apps that I download into this shared folder, so that when I log in as an admin user, I can install them with the correct ownership and permissions settings). I dropped the rogue copy of Itsy into the Trash, relaunched the App Store app, and sure enough, it was now available for free download. A real facepalm moment.

So, the moral of the story is that if you have an application that the App Store insists is installed, make sure you look further than your Applications folder before you resort to drastic measures. But at least I finally got around to doing some overdue clean up on my iMac.

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Back to the Future

Or more accurately, back to the FutureQuake. For the last few weeks, I’ve been beavering away on the finished artwork for my strip; all five pages are now inked, and have the flat tone applied to them. I’ve also completed the shading on page one. You can see a sample of the finished result below:

Extract from the finished first page

Jellied Eels Page 1.

I wish I had time to revisit some of the panels that I’m not so happy with, but it’s difficult enough to grab time in the evenings and weekends to work on it. My workload has been increased even further by the editor asking me to paint the cover for the next issue, something that I’m very thrilled to be doing.

I’ve completed the initial sketch for the cover image (below), and will be getting on with painting it as soon as I’ve sorted out my damned tax return. The cover is full colour, full bleed, so it will be an interesting challenge.

Psion’s Lament

Sketch for the FutureQuake cover.

Reaping the reward of prior effort

Page four of my FutureQuake is now done, and I’ve finally remembered why I spent so much time modelling the heroine’s space ship using Google SketchUp. The ship features quite heavily in this page, and with such a complex design, constructing the last two panels in particular would have been very time consuming. With the model made, all I had to do was position the camera, print out the ship at the right size, then draw the heroine and her surroundings over the top. Once the sketch was scanned, it was very easy to drop the renders of the ship onto the sketch and mask out the unwanted sections. I think the end result is well worth the effort I invested in making the model (of course the experience I gained using SketchUp wouldn’t have been a waste – learning is good – but it’s nice to finally put the model to good use).

Page 4

Jellied Eels Page 4

I used a render taken from inside the ship to create the interior shot too; it was useful to get the perspective and overall shape set up before filling in the interior by hand. I wish I’d had time to model the interior too, but as it’s only seen properly in one panel, it would only have been useful as an intellectual exercise, and the finished panel will be dark and smoke filled enough to hide any wonkiness in my perspective.

This will probably be the last panel I post, as I don’t want to give away the end of the story until it has been seen in print (something I’m excessively excited about).

Comic strip: page 3

After taking the decision to redesign the principle character, it’s taken me a while to get this page finished, as I’d already drawn it using the original version of Psion. This page also features a revised version of her main protagonist; I thought his design was a bit weak too, so I’ve made him look a bit more useful. I’ve based his face on one of my favourite actors, but it’s only a passing likeness.

Page 3

Jellied Eels Page 3

I’m glad I decided to redesign Psion; I feel a lot more positive about this page now that I’ve updated her outfit. The only issue I have is with the sword strike in panel 4; I think I need to revisit this to add a bit more movement to the pose. She doesn’t look like she’s used much effort to make such a devastating cut.

To the root of the problem

I’ve found myself in something of a malaise whilst creating the pencils for my FutureQuake strip, and have felt distinctly lacklustre about the first two pages. At the end a fantastically unproductive Friday I realised what the problem was; I simply don’t like my original design of Psion (the main character). Specifically, I don’t like her outfit. The body armour looks heavy, clumsy and uncomfortable, and her sword (a key feature of the story) looks feeble and cheap too.

So, I decided to bite the bullet and spend a few hours this morning redesigning her costume. Rather than trying to create her costume “cold” (that is, entirely from my own imagination), I spent about half an hour downloading reference images of motocross body armour, motorbike gear (modern racing boots look like something off Star Trek; not like 15 years ago, when I was riding: back then, leather Wellington Boots were the order of the day), weapons and swimming costumes. Here is the result of mashing all that reference together:

Front View

Psion Redesign - front view

Rear View

Psion Redesign - rear view

A lot more exposed skin, a lot less rigid-looking body armour, and a honking great “photon” sword. I think she looks at lot more lithe and flexible now and, dare I say it, a little sexier too (an important trait for any comic book heroine). I’m feeling much more positive about her look now, and raring to get the remaining pages finished. Of course, I have to redraw all the images of Psion I’ve done so far, but I can just trace over the existing poses and Photoshop the new appearance in to place before I start inking. I think it’s worth investing a little extra time to get it looking right, rather than feeling disappointed with the finished result.

What I haven’t done, of course, is succeed in making her any easier to draw. And I still can’t decide on one small detail: gloves, or bare hands?