Happy New Year 2017!

Happy New Year! May the new year be far better than the old. 2016 has been brutal, hasn’t it? Goals include learning more advanced techniques for 3D art and possibly using the new skills to make variant covers for the released books. Although the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” is quite true, clearly people do anyway. So, makes sense to start designing variant covers that look more attractive than the current ones.

Of course it makes sense to continue learning. There’s no reason to ever stop as there will always be new things to learn. This looks to be a light year for comic book releases, if there are any. Why? Well, there’s a wedding to prepare for, which will keep things quite busy for quite a while.

Rendering full books is quite time consuming and while wedding preparations are going on, more difficult to get done. There might be one or two new books this year, but they’re going to be much slower in production. This could be a good thing as it’ll force more attention to be paid to each panel of the page. Finding time to setup and render scenes is likely to be difficult.

While the new year looks to be a happy one, there’s a number of challenges that will definitely be presenting themselves along the way. The challenge of planning a wedding, successfully moving across the country and yes, even the challenge of learning new skills along the way. Yet the hope is that this year will be happy despite the challenges.

So, Happy New Year 2017! Make it merry and bright!

The studies continue…

As the studies continue, I find myself constantly learning new things. For a couple months now I’ve been working on a house model and while the mesh looks good, the textures tend to be… messed up.

Well, messed up textures haven’t slowed me down too much. Just another lesson needing to be learned and gradually, the lesson’s being learned. Happily, the lessons for lighting and cameras are being well practiced with increasingly promising results.

Take Captain America here for example:

Impressive, isn’t he? Don’t worry, he’s simply fan art practice. Still have to admit, he’d likely sell a few books if he were on the cover, wouldn’t he?

This one would make a fabulous cover, wouldn’t it? And she’s all mine! Isn’t Dream Angel just breathtaking in this shot?

Now, I bet you’re noticing she looks a little different from the usual renders. Well, I’ve changed the model I use for the character. Instead of Genesis, which is a generic model that can be male or female, I’m using Victoria. A mild difference, but one that’s making an impression. Clearly, Victoria is a more realistic model and definitely looks more feminine. Nyxus was the test example with impressive results:

Fabulous for a 10,000-year-old mother of five, isn’t she? I’m finding that depth of field is my best friend when combined with 3-point lighting, a good pose and dramatic camera angle. Studying up on the 7-point lighting and getting the image composition right will definitely be a good boost to the quality of art. I’m pretty good with Photoshop, but there’s a finesse to be studied in using it for post work. With all these elements more thoroughly studied and practiced, book rendering is likely to be staggering!

The plan for when the studies are consistently implemented successfully is to re-render Dream Angel #1-6. Okay, Dream Angel #1 2nd edition is good as it is, but I think there’s room for a little extra tweaking to step it up a notch or two. Where it’s considered #1.2, it’ll be 1.2 1/2 with the mild changes. After that, covers are going to be getting updated.

For now, the studies continue. This gives time to finish scripts, as well. So, keep your eyes peeled for updates and more impressive renders! You’ll find them in the Facebook group! Come join us! Promise we won’t let the vampires bite!

A Bat-Lesson well learned!

A Bat-Lesson is learned!

I learned a Bat-lesson yesterday. Okay, I’ll admit I’m not usually one to render fan art in 3D (my Sailor Moon fan comic is another story) but I’m starting to use mainstream superheroes for practice.

Nightwing came first!

Nightwing was the first and his renders, after a couple tries, turned out staggering. Like the poses I put him in, he rose to the challenge of looking impressive. His first, the lighting was too dark and he was barely visible. Adjusting the lights, he improved greatly. Changing his pose and tweaking the lights, he looked better. Changing his pose again and “morphing” him to superhero appearance, he’s a sight to behold.

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Then came the Bat!

Batman, on the other hand, well, he looked good from the onset once I setup his figure. He got a wonderful moonlight forest background (I’m on the hunt for an equally awesome city background!) and considering the moonlight, I chose a darker lighting setup. Admittedly, I was afraid he’d have the same initial result as Nightwing – too dark to see him – but when the render showed up, my eyes went wide and the reaction was “Holy sh*t!”

He struck an imposing render and was very much impressive. Adding a camera and morphing the figure to superhero appearance helped, but the real awesomeness came from playing not with Batman himself, but the camera I pointed at him.

See, in my studies these last few months, things like lights and camera have been my focus and, no pun intended, the focus needed adjusting. By adjusting the depth of field and focal distance, I threw the background out of focus and rendered again. If the Bat was impressive before, this took him to a whole new level! He seemed to literally jump out from the background. The focus was entirely on Batman himself, though the background could still be effectively seen.

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The lesson: For a dark figure with dark lights and a dark background: throw the background out of focus! The result will knock your socks off!

Disclaimer: Batman and Nightwing of course belong to DC Comics. These renders are merely fan art done for practice!

Modeling studies and what’s been learned

As you know, I’ve been studying modeling and learning a lot in the process. These modeling studies and what’s been learned from them will be put to use in future books.

Why study modeling? Well, sometimes I just can’t quite find what I want in ready-made models. I might have a very specific idea in mind and just can’t find something to match. What to do then? I’ve very clumsily made my own models in the past and gotten lucky when they did what I wanted or looked close within reason to what I had in mind.

Lately, I’ve gotten the idea that if I can make reasonably good-looking models I can also sell them. Okay, it’s going to take a lot of practice to get to that point, but having that as a sort of sideline to the comics will help them, too. From that point of view, that makes these modeling studies worth the time, wouldn’t you agree?

One thing I’ve become particularly proud of is the ability to create my own dynamic cloth. Dynamic cloth being simulated cloth that drapes realistically on the 3D model. The theory with that being that used together with the cloth that’s not dynamic and simply has morphs to simulate the wrinkles and appearance of cloth, it can step up the look and feel of the characters to help against the “stiff and lifeless” complaint.

So, between being able to model my own stuff, use more realistic-looking clothes on characters, camera tricks and lighting that sets an effective mood, it’s safe to say future books will look even better than ever. It just means being patient while these new skills are learned and practiced. Don’t forget to come keep an eye on the activity streams page, though. I’ll be posting goodies there occasionally!

Happy 4th Anniversary, Dream Angel!!

Happy 4th anniversary, Dream Angel! On this day, 4 years ago, your first book became a finished reality. Now, 4 years later, you boast 23 books and a second edition of that first book. Your first story, some years ago, won second place at the county fair. A Barbie dressed in a handmade costume as Katrilina won first place and was stolen. Your first hand drawn comic was featured in a college newspaper.

dreamangel600There’s been more than enough ups and downs these last 4 years, but through it all, you’ve remained unforgettable to those who’ve enjoyed your stories. Although this year, the book release schedule has been slowed down considerably, patient fans will find the books to come worth the wait. Your counterpart Techwarrior had his first anniversary this year. Your newest counterpart Hillbilly Hoot has yet to celebrate his first anniversary next year with more books, but today’s about you.
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Through your many forms and various ideas, you’ve endured the years. Happy 4th anniversary and many, many more to come! You are indeed the shining golden goddess of the dawn.

Here’s your anniversary present, fans!

Now, to the good news you readers might enjoy: there’s a coupon floating around today only!! Here’s the code: 4thanniversary2016. It can only be used once per person, but 30% off is pretty good, so have some fun!! Simply put the code in during the checkout process to get the discount. Sorry, it doesn’t apply towards shipping – that’s something I can’t control, but it’s 30% off your entire purchase! That counts for something, right? So, head over to the shop and put it to work!!

All together now: HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, DREAM ANGEL!!

What have I been learning lately?

What have I been learning lately? A fair question and quite a valid one, considering how quiet it’s been for the most part. Well, since books have hit a standstill, I’ve been learning new things about lights and cameras. Grabbing every tutorial on the subject I can when I can. Anyone who’s read the earliest Dream Angel books will agree those are indeed weaknesses. True fans wouldn’t have those early books any other way, considering the visible evolution of the art through the books. Improving the art has always been and will always be a goal of this artist.

Now, I’ve noted that a leading complaint about CGI art is that it’s “stiff and lifeless.” Well, alongside the lights and cameras, I’ve been on the hunt for ways to solve that problem, as well. On the one hand, the stiff outfits with morphs are much easier to control and less taxing on the computer when rendering. Although, sometimes, a realistic drape is far more dramatic. I figure I might be able to use both at appropriate times to achieve the effects I want in the scene. Sometimes, a dynamic drape just doesn’t cooperate the way you want it to and it’s not an easy thing to control. I do wish to get some tutorials to help with mastering it, of course! So, the stiffer object with the morphs can take over in the meantime while I’m learning. Fair enough, right?

Taking time to learn new things is just as important as releasing new books, right? Admittedly, it’s been a couple months now since the last book was released, but I believe you’ll find the wait well worth it as books to come will benefit from what’s being learned. So, to finish up, I’ll share a couple of the recent renders and let you see what’s been going on behind the scenes.

Let’s have a look at those new

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Now, let me point out a couple things.

  1. Starting with the first image, lighting is good, but could still use some dramatic flair.
  2. Second one, there’s some drama going on. I’m willing to bet some color adjustments or other tweaks would take it over the top.
  3. The third one, with Techwarrior and his villain Cryptolock going at it is pretty dramatic. I’ll bet there’s some room to tweak it further. You’ll also notice that cape of Cryptolock’s is pretty stiff compared to the
  4. next image and its dynamically draped cape. Between the two, his scenes may well be considerably more dramatic and with dramatic lighting to match… Well, I think you can imagine the improvement.
  5. The next one has Techwarrior in his new dynamically draped outfit. Not so “stiff and lifeless” is he?
  6. The last is the newest with the “chibi” figure I recently found. Nothing dramatic here, just Dream Angel and Nyxus showing off with the new figure. This new figure is quite good, but there’s still going to be some hand-drawn chibi figures for comedic emphasis throughout the books. They’re intentionally cute, but good for the overly emotional chibi style of character infamous to manga.

As you can see, despite being quiet around here, there’s still plenty going on behind the scenes. So, what do you think? Any ideas, tips, suggestions?

So many books!

There’s so many books here already that it’s hard to keep track!

Let’s try, shall we? Our flagship series is Dream Angel standing at a fabulous 24 books 180da#1 (counting the second edition of Dream Angel #1180da2nd#1). The second series is Techwarrior tech1-180 with a fantastic 4 book setup waiting to blow readers away. Last, but not least is the smallest, and newest series, Hillbilly Hoot 13221633_1091311364240861_3680558582007933730_n and while he’s only got one book at the moment, it’s a wonder to behold.

What’s going to happen next with these three wonderful series?

Well, more books, of course! For the time being, new skills are being learned to improve the quality of these books. The study of lighting a scene has taken center stage, for one. It’s true what all the tutorials have been saying: “lighting can make or break a scene. Lighting is 90% of the art. Master that, and you’ve got a stunning scene!” What’s that mean? It means new books are put on hold to allow time to master that 90% and really step up the artistic quality of the books.

“But the books are already so beautiful artistically!”

There’s always room for improvement. Mastering lighting is one step closer. True, even someone who’s mastered their craft is always looking for ways to do it even better, but it helps to have the basics solidly learned. The learning process continues and happily, the results will continue to improve with time and practice.

Keep your eyes open for more eye-popping art to sneak in on the activity pages! You won’t want to miss it!

Thoughts time! What do you think of the books so far? Have you read any of them? If you haven’t, you really should hop over to the shop and grab a few! The earliest books might be a little rough around the edges artistically, but they improve gradually and you might be surprised by the most recent books.

Good news, Techwarrior fans!

Good news, Techwarrior fans!

A rough script for Techwarrior #5-12 has been completed. When the series was started, a 12 book run was proposed, so having the script complete makes it one step closer to rendering. Now, before you get all excited, note that this series is a collaboration. The script has to be approved before rendering can start, and that takes some time sometimes.

Once the script is approved, however, expect books to begin appearing regularly through the 12th book. This is good news for Techwarrior fans, is it not?

What about Dream Angel and Hillbilly Hoot?

Dream Angel at this point is a larger collaboration. Getting the minds involved to do their part has been a slow process I’d hoped would be done long before the book’s time to be rendered. It hasn’t happened that way. The current story arc has been more than a year in the making. Having fellow creative minds involved has in fact slowed down the usual pace for rendering and releasing. Fortunately, things are beginning to pick up gradually and the writing may soon be completed for the arc.

Hillbilly Hoot is another collaboration and health issues have been slowing it down. Life has kept the minds involved with these books quite busy, so it’s difficult to keep a regular schedule at times. Fortunately, these are independently created and released, so there’s no publisher schedule to keep, merely a personal one.

Still fun to be had!

Have you checked out the activity streams page lately? There’s some cool blitz art challenges going on there! Even if you’re not the artsy type, the idea’s to draw what you see and I like to think anyone can do that, no matter how bad they might think they are at drawing! So, come on! We don’t judge! Just have fun with it and enjoy! Despite what people might think, even tracing can be artistic and I can say from experience, it helps with learning to draw, as well.

The finale of the triple release party!

Parties are fun, don’t you think? Well, now we’re seeing the finale of the triple release party. First, we saw Techwarrior #4 released on Saturday, then Hillbilly Hoot #1 on Sunday and today, Dream Angel #23 finishes out the trio.

What’s next? Well, that ought to be obvious by now: more books! More plush action figures! More goodies! I seem to have a never ending to-do list. Characters need to be made into plushes from the new patterns, new 3D techniques to learn, books to plan… Then there’s, dishes, laundry, vacuuming, cooking and mopping on top of it all!

So, we’ve made it through all three book releases. Is there any other news to impart? Why yes, there is. The soft weapons will soon be added to the shop with very large bold warnings that they’re most emphatically not for children 3 and under. Soft though they may be, they’re still small accessories! Rather than being for kids, these are better for older collectors more than to be played with. Things like the bow and crossbow do work, and do a nice job of sending the arrow and bolt flying across a room – which could hurt somebody. The pistol and dagger are quite small, too.

Now, older collectors and kids would enjoy these weapons because they’re magnetically attached to the doll’s hands. Characters like Larissa – who’s a police Lieutenant – would benefit from the gun belt made of faux leather, since it would help emphasize her law enforcement status. Reprobates would look more menacing holding a spear or sword. Being soft is simply a plus for these, since it should be harder to hurt someone with them.

So, thoughts?

What do you think of the new books? How about the triple party? Looking forward to seeing new plush characters and the weapons in the shop?

Let the triple party begin!

We’re having a triple party and it’s lasting through Monday! Hillbilly Hoot #1, Techwarrior #4 and Dream Angel #23 will all be released for the party, one each day of the party!

So, who goes first? Drumroll, please!

Today’s release will be….

Techwarrior #4!

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It’s true CryptoLock’s a sneaky virus, but what about his favorite pet Infiltrator? What secrets does this lethal-looking mechanical snake hold? You won’t want to miss today’s release to find out!

Less than 2 1/2 hours from the time of this post, this page goes live!

What about the other two books? Well, there’ll be another toss-up tomorrow to see which one goes live for day 2 of the triple party.

These have been longer than usual for production. Especially Dream Angel #23. A lot has been learned along the way, too. Some of the new techniques have been employed in these books, others will possibly  be put to use in later books. One important lesson has been just how many characters can go into even the simplest of scenes before the program crashes! Even with the upgrades done to the computer, it still has its share of limitations. Fortunately, I know ways around those limits to create the scenes I want.

The beauty of these books – particularly compared to the earliest ones I’ve done – is staggering! If you’d told me in 2007 I’d be making such beautiful 3D art, I’d have laughed! You see, I was just beginning to explore 3D with Poser 7 and still doing my comic book art by hand. Nothing against hand art, but it took 3 days to do one page and unfortunately, the art still needed a great deal of work to look very realistic. Don’t get me wrong, the art looked good at the time, but looking back at it now, it looks like a 5-year-old did it… well, to me it looks that way, anyway.

I didn’t formally discover DAZ Studio until 2012 when it was suggested by a fan that I do a new version of Dream Angel #1. The new second edition blew me away – and I rendered it! I’d added 6 new pages that, while dark, still printed with breathtaking results and the story seemed enhanced by the new art. Well, it doesn’t take much guess work to realized I was hooked and promptly started fixing character models to work in DAZ Studio. The first group turned out good and some have since gone through a few light changes, but nothing drastically noticeable.

A year ago, a friend suggested taking his logo and making him a comic book character… well, that would be Techwarrior and he’s seen more of the experimenting in new techniques than Dream Angel. If you haven’t seen Techwarrior #1, you ought to because it was the first time I lit a scene myself. Why’s that significant? Well, I’d nearly always used light sets for scenes and sometimes they simply didn’t do what I wanted. With Techwarrior, I wanted to utilize the studying I’d been doing on lighting to create the right mood for the story and it worked. Since, there haven’t been too many non-custom lit scenes in Techwarrior and Techwarrior #4 has some that really add to the mood of the story in a way I only dreamed of a few years back! Don’t take my word for it, get the books from right here in the shop!