Jenn Manley Lee



Prototypes of the Rafferty kerchief in Family Yellow and Auxiliary Red (not show: Boss White). Personal verdict? Pretty darn pleased. Looks pretty swell in action as well, as my lovely model Dylan Meconis demonstrates below.

Like the dice, these will be available only during pre-orders for Book 1 of Dicebox. Included in the "Swank" package on up, there is also an option to add the Rafferty Kerchief to any other package. Or buy an extra, whichever.

In the actual

I got a short test run of the custom Wander Dice, and I must say I am pleased. Naturally, I had to re-enact the patterns I had mocked up previously.
I find the detail on the Poppy particularly delightful.

As you all probably know by now, these are available only during pre-orders for Book 1 of Dicebox. But you probably didn't know that I have added an option to add these to any pre-order package. Ditto for the Rafferty Kercheif.

Rafferty Redux

Way back when doing Part 7 of Book 1, "Pots and Pans," I created a badging system for family organized factory workers known collectively as Sooners, specifically the Raffertys, Mare and her lot. I made a post about this badge–which takes the form of a head kerchief–in this journal, explaining the rudimentary code and inspiration for it. Here's my original design:

Simple, to the point, perfect for my needs. Until I decided to actually produce this sucker as a full size kerchief as part of my pre-order packages. Then I went to town:

You can click here for a much larger view of this design.

As I am using a process that allows it, I'm offering a choice of the three color variations, beyond Family Yellow seen above, there will Auxiliary Red and Boss White, seen below.

These will be 22 inches by 22 inches each, printed one-sided on organic cotton sateen with finished edges.

Them Bones

Here's a look at the design for the custom dice I am offering with some of the pre-order packages of Book 1 : Wander and only during the pre-order process. It'll be a set of 4, 2 of design A, one each of B and C.

My criteria for the design of this set was to keep the traditional dice pips there and readable while seeing what pictures I could make:

Next up: the fancifiying of the Rafferty kerchief for production.

I got better*

So Dicebox got a write up on io9 yesterday, which was a completely delightful shock. It is a great review with the added bonus that the reviewer, Lauren Davis, picking up on those aspects most important to me, making me feel that I did my job as a storyteller. So I am a little ashamed that my first reaction was my, uh, dissatisfaction with the art of the sample pages she chose. From a story angle, her selections are very rewarding. And understand that as I've been going through the rewriting and tweaking process on Book 1, I've gotten kinder towards my old art, finding most of it acceptable. (Do I still want to redraw everything? Yeah, but I wanna finish Dicebox even more and move on to the other stories rattling around my brain)

Of the seven examples chosen for the review, only one will stand as is. And two more will need only minor tweaks. But of the other four, one will be reincorporated into a rewrite of the scene and so redrawn, one needs everyone to get back on model, one is slated for a serious makeover and one has already been redrawn and recolored though not uploaded as I need to tweak the following pages to have it integrate.

But I'm actually not here to whine and moan about that. Heck, it tells me that I chose correctly on what some of the keys pages are. I'm here to show and go through why I chose to redo a page that contains a panel that is used over and over again as a positive example of the art of Dicebox. That being page 10 of Part 5, "Blood from a Stone."

(click a thumbnail for a larger view in new window)

On the left is the original page art, on the right, the revision.

I was never satisfied with the feel of this page, specifically I wanted more of a sense that the characters are in and surrounded by the space and for the plains they are walking across to be a significant presence. So I took the opportunity of being invited to a group show to rework this page, exploring how I could make it really work the way I wanted it to. Which is my criteria for the other couple of pages I plan to revamp, i.e. that they are somehow key pages and there is something I can learn in the redoing. After all, I always intended Book 1 as my journeyman project, what I would use to learn the craft of a cartoonist.

First thing I decided to do was make the first panel a background flood image to allow it to be an environment to the characters and the other panels. To aid this, I felt some indication of foreground was called for and so moved up the second panel to reveal some of it. This had the added bonus of suggesting motion between it and the next panel. Lastly, I decided to let the Griffen in the last panel break the frame for continued integration with both the background and the first rear view of her. Also as a mood break to accompany her comment.

And you probably notice the updating of the color palette and the increase of contrast, all things that I need to apply to the rest of this scene before I will upload this revision. Because, as happy as I am with the redo, I would find the disconnect too jarring and so be doing myself no favors.

*The title for this post comes from a response I made to Kevin Moore when he called me on my propensity to redo the same pages over and over again. He and many of my other friends are forever trying to break me of this filthy habit.

What was old is new again

I broke my week long Dicebox fast yesterday by doing some exploratory sketches of what Griffen will be wearing at the beginning of the next book. And her wardrobe through out Book 2 in general, which will be a cut above the bargain bin ensembles of Book 1. More extreme for me will be the actual styled haircut she'll be sporting.

(click this and all images for a larger view in new window)

I haven't come up with what I want just yet, but the colored sketch above is getting there. However the real reason I'm sharing it is that, before I had even finished this sketch, I realized that I had sketched Griffen wearing a similar get-up a few years back.

Once upon a time, I had planned to do a short story featuring a younger Griffen in a stream of conscious tale called "Journal" which was structured around Griffen, well, writing in her journal right after she had gotten back from visiting her father's grave. This sketch below, freakishly like the one I had just done down to the cigarette, also served as a color test for the limited palette I was planning to use.

Though I hadn't actually written or drawn said comic, I had done a good deal of prep work which included, beyond designing a look and outfit for 30 year-old Griffen, creating a decorative map of her home world as well as her old home office. There was also back story generated along with some contemplation of the culture and structure of her home country, most of which will be used to inform certain parts of Book 2.

I'm actually glad that I was suddenly inspired to sift through this old abandoned work, rediscovering certain things, some remembered, some not quite. Disappointingly, the fully colored and refined Photoshop art files for the map and Griffen's office had become corrupt, but I rescanned the pencils, quickly spot colored the office drawing, as both will be useful reference for Book 2.

And whereas I have no real desire or need now to do the short comic "Journal," I do regret not being able to use the nifty title graphic I came up for it.

Favorite Photoshop Watercolor brushes

I've been exploring and experimenting with new Photoshop brushes recently and I found some nifty ones, but I gotta say, the winners and still champions are the sets made by Dave Nagel. Gotta love the fact he included a "salt" brush. This is a note to myself that could be useful to others type post, though relevant as I continue/resume concept art for the next book of Dicebox, which'll be more watercolor than gouache in finish.