The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘art’

The Goodies

Posted by BigWords on April 14, 2016

I am working on getting a bunch of custom materials together for (technically) free use by any small or self-publisher. Fonts, backgrounds, illustrations – all the goodies that will enable some kick-ass covers. I’m getting tired of seeing the usual suspects (Impact, TNR, Arial, and all the rest) being used again and again on covers, often without an idea of what such typefaces might represent to the reader. The overabundance does not bode well for a title standing out, especially at smaller resolutions.

nu_gods

Nu Gods, whose title should come as no surprise to geeks. A heavily simplified Blackletter design, which takes a lot of cues from seventies and eighties science fiction lettering.

Part of putting together links, fonts and images in a communal pool is to see what people can do with the tools – a dozen people are going to come up with a dozen designs, even if the titles are remarkably similar in tone and audience. The idea of people pushing off against the ideas their contemporaries are providing, and stretching out in new and exciting ways. Like evolution, only not.

Ten Free Image Sites

Freeuse
ISO Republic
Gratisography
StockSnap
Unsplash
Pexels
Pic Jumbo
Pixbay
Pixabay
Wikimedia Commons

Check the licenses before using, and do what you can to support free image hosting.

Custom Logo Design

When I have things settled into a groove, there will be time to create cover logos for people who need them. I haven’t got it all worked out yet, but I am hoping that it can assist with under-perfomrming books. A great graphic can be enough to get someone to pick up a title they might otherwise overlook.

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Nothing To See Here – Move Along

Posted by BigWords on July 23, 2010

You can take the fact that I’ve been slacking off here as confirmation that I’m really busy elsewhere, so I thought I would share with you some things which inspire me. First and foremost is (quite possibly) the greatest cover to ever adorn an annual – an old World Distribution Zane Grey’s Western Annual. It’s even better looking than my scan makes it appear.

And because I’m feeling generous, I’ll share with you the finest example of Gold Key’s one-page fillers:

It may not have the immediacy of the “killer dwarf” story which was reprinted a few times, but it’s a subtler kind of yarn… It’s not far removed from a campfire tale. There is much to appreciate there.

I swear I’ll post something meaningful soon. 🙂

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Some Thoughts, Part Two – Extras

Posted by BigWords on April 1, 2010

When I say that I have been creating a wealth of information outside of the novel to enhance my understanding of the world I am playing with, you might very well expect the data to be dry, ordered in line with a series bible for a television show. Not so. There are numerous pieces of data which exist outside of the story itself, but which inform and shape the moments that are covered in the story. As I am expanding on the idea of what a story (and the media in which it is transported) can become, it seems appropriate to elaborate on what I am doing.

Since I’ve made no secret, here and elsewhere, about my admiration for Philip Jose Farmer, it should come as no surprise that I have been making family trees of my main characters going as far back as the adoption of the Gregorian calendar – trying to fudge my way through the prior complexities is asking for trouble and necessarily time-consuming. These can add a lot to the character’s past if used cleverly, because placing them in a specific social strata, location, familial lineage, and cementing their dates all adds to detail. There is a good character breakdown sheet template here, which I have recently been using to take my characters from sketches to fully rounded people. Now I know when, who, and (roughly) where, I need to nail down the specifics of the location. Which means maps. I’m not simply printing out screengrabs of Google Maps, because that would be far, far too easy – and the level of complexity with which the world is taking on means that anything so simple is less than helpful. The Devil is in the detail, to twist a phrase, and I – poor deluded and psychotic world-builder that I am – need something which can be used again and again.

I’m building my own maps, mostly of parts of London where I know I’m going to be setting large chunks of the narrative. The maps aren’t at all accurate though, including locales which have either been knocked down over the years (great chunks during WWII), are in disuse (lots of Underground stations), are hidden from the public, or never existed at all (Hobbs Lane). Getting closer to the ground, and nearer the specifics I need to draw on, there are other plans which get generated for the benefit of the world, and the character, and the plot. The house in which the MC lives is, in line with the way I am approaching other aspects of this world, designed for the most impact. I work out where rooms adjoin, where storage space is partitioned off, which aspect the building will be facing… None of which has impact on larger pieces of the Story aspects, but which has the potential to dig me out of a brain-freeze if I should need assistance.

Having built a robust world, and with enough supplemental material to last through a considerable length of time, I find myself pondering the release schedules of series titles. For something based off of other media, the Star Trek or Doctor Who novel series’ are good examples, there is less need for constant exposure to the public, but for original novel series there is always a lull between books, necessitated by the titles being refined by the author. In this silence between releases there is much missed potential. Having an author blog, or a forum, or any form of relationship with the audience, is important, but a lack of new material for months at a time will eventually drive even the most ardent fan to look for something similar just for the meantime. That search for similar works may lead them to works which speak more closely to their heart, so having something to sneak out between books is a good idea.

Wow, all those bits and pieces of art, writing and background may come in handy after all, huh? As teasers, they may hint at things to come, or clarify events already told, but they will have the undeniable effect of keeping the already-hooked audience waiting for more such material. The additional material may even be used to create something new, but that rolls over into ideas I’m having concerning marketing and – as such – has no place here.

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Lost, Huh?

Posted by BigWords on March 19, 2010

They named the show well, because it certainly lost the plot. Okay, so maybe that’s being mean, but it ain’t exactly the most sensible show on the planet. Ah, but therein lies the nub of my theory which states that the series is, in fact, little more than a sequel to Harsh Realm. Think about it – Santiago (or whatever he was called) has his mind and personality submerged to avoid capture, resulting in him taking on the personality of Locke… And the massive computer simulation which formed the basis of Harsh Realm explains all the weird shit in Lost.

I’m a fucking genius.

*cough* Anyways, one of the things which has bugged me (for quite some time now) is why, if the island is so magical, Locke is still bald? Terry O’Quinn should be rockin’ a massive ‘fro.

I don’t really care anyway, because this is all just an excuse to ridicule the show in pictures…

All of which makes more sense than the last two seasons of the show combined.

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“The Ant” Typeface – Unused Originals

Posted by BigWords on March 15, 2010

As often happens, sometimes I work on something which gets stuck at some point – nothing wrong with the idea, nothing wrong with the story, characters of format, but the parts simply don’t add up to the whole. The following font was for a pulp character which was intended as a counterpoint to the ‘lone hero’ stories of the thirties and forties, making a point about how difficult it is to fight crime in isolation. The character of The Ant was to change in every story, with the secret organization (roughly) following the social strata of real ants. The idea of “the collective good” seemed a tad too close to an espousal of Communist ideals for some, and the project never really got off the ground.

There are character designs kicking around somewhere, but as I’ve only just discovered the font I created for the story I’ll start there. It’s based on a few Art Deco designs, and was laboriously rendered in Adobe Photoshop – there are approximately thirty layers for the colored, finished lettering, but these are the B&W originals which (until now) have never been seen by anyone. I never got around to creating the other letters, but I only really needed six anyway.

And the original design for the header in full:

The actual ant logo in the center was going to be handed off to someone who could design a more appealing (and more era-accurate) rendition, but it gets across the 1940s vibe well enough. I can’t remember what was going to be inside the arch at the top of the box, though I have a feeling it was a design element lifted from a from a book of copyright-free designs to save time (and money).

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Some “Fun” Graphics For Bibliophiles

Posted by BigWords on January 14, 2010

Off the back of a drunken argument in which I argued that, yes, the British government has gone overboard with their nannying behavior in the past few years, I find myself thinking of the ways in which warning labels have crept into everyday life. The ones warning of the obvious risks are bad enough, but with so many of the damn things popping up there is an important question which nobody seems to want to corner – does the proliferation of messages become a white noise after a while? You see them, but do they actually register? Am I the only person whose selective blindness has encompassed all of these warnings? I’m not sure I am.

They aren’t appearing on books yet, but it is only a matter of time before the government decides we can’t be trusted to read without attending a course on proper page-turning (y’know, so we don’t sue publishers every time we get a papercut). I’m slightly surprised that nobody else has had the idea that something like this might one day be all too familiar, though I am willing to concede that one of the triggers for this post lies in the Comics Code – a blight upon the industry for decades.

Enjoy label-free books while we have them.

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A Quick And Easy Way To Create Comics Digitally

Posted by BigWords on January 11, 2010

There are probably the better parts of twenty or so comics on various hard drives, so I have plenty of elements if I ever decide I really want to torture myself trying to pitch a title, but with the Commando character I’m in uncharted waters. I haven’t thought of trying to do a comic which harkens back to the old days of paper rationing and gung-ho national pride (because I get fixated on the irregular size) but I’m willing to see how well I can use the styles and distinctive mood to create something new. The main difference (‘cept for the shape of comics back then) is the text boxes and page layout in the better examples. I’m going to focus on elements rather than the bigger picture – no pun intended – to show my method through this.

First of all we are faced with the physical comic itself. Given the harshness of white paper, and when trying to recreate the feel of a Golden Age comic this is important, the look is completely off – so it is necessary to use a  suitable substitute. Yes, that is a Photoshop recreation of old paper… And the original is 2.7 GB in size and seven layers deep. Obsessed much? Probably, but I like playing with the software. The paper used on Fawcett and Fox comics are prone to browning (as are other publishers to greater or lesser degrees), but I don’t want the base image I’m building on to look too dirty. Off-white is enough to give the impression of age and distress without turning people off the idea of looking at it in the first place.

If you have never seen a GA comic, you might be surprised to find the name of the comic printed at the top of each page throughout the book (just like in some novels), and trying to match this is damn hard. The first attempt (using – appropriately enough – ‘Comic Book Commando’ font) is overlaid with a 50% fade of the background to break up the solid black. It ain’t perfect, but it’ll do until I can start scanning scratchier, hand-written fonts. There are many little details I want to capture, and some of the most distinctive elements are the stuff that isn’t considered important any more – such as letterboxes. But I’m getting ahead of myself… First there is the basic page shape to deal with.

I can’t work irregular shapes. I’ve tried. I’ve attempted three or four different shapes which correspond to GA comics, but each and every workaround is hampered by the restrictions which I need to impose on the underlying framework. Before I even consider adding any visual elements to the page, I start with a new Photoshop file 12cm x 18cm (at 500 pixels per cm – more than enough for b&w printing), and a white background. Onto the white background I drop in a layer that assists with scaling, being a grid of ½cm black and white cubes, and a layer of solid red (at 25% opacity) so I can pick out any stray pixels that need correcting. Yes, that does come under the heading of obsessive, but it works for me.


For anyone wanting to play along at home, this is what the image ought to look like thus far. Using the Magic Wand Tool (W) – add to selection – I select the four corner boxes from the grid layer, and then create a new layer. It is simply a matter of joining up the boxes to each other to give a border to work within – this is an easy way of checking how cluttered the artwork looks with text inserted – using the full page would look cluttered anyway, and this gives a better approximation of the printed image.

Save this, as it can be used and re-used for multiple images.

When I need to use grids, a rather outdated style these days, I have them set up as standard images ready to re-use when needed. The gutter width varies depending on the number of panels per page, but I like to keep them as close as possible throughout the length of the title.

The boxes are still red, being ‘layer via copy’ from my red layer, though putting in black borders this early seems as if I am rushing things. I like the images ready to use before I decide on how strong the borders are going to be rendered. Of course, my natural instinct would be to use as many quirky border effects as possible. The following element example is from a kung fu comic I started a while back, and demonstrates how unusual border elements don’t necessarily have to be complicated.

This, of course, is redundant with a Golden Age comic, so I’m having to treat every single panel as if it was fresh off the page. Too many clean lines will ruin the immersion, and it is complicated enough trying to work out the depth of image I can get away with as it is. The most complicated pieces of the puzzle (ironically) will be the text boxes, as some of the best examples hail from the early forties.  Yes, I know it looks awkward and too faded at the moment, but it should look okay once I have gone over it with several more layers of rendering, smoothing out the gray background and darkening the text.

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