Pulling Back the Curtain

This past Saturday, I was finally able to marry the man I’ve been with through eight years and (some not insignificant legal) change. It’s been a long time coming, and it was a lot of wonderful things. My husband (!) designed a crazy-spectacular steampunk wedding with what shouldn’t have been nearly a large enough budget, and melted my heart in all the right ways. He knows that, and if he doesn’t, then I’ve got work to do, but that’s marriage, right?

Wonderful, too, were all the people who worked their effing butts off driving U-hauls or carting set pieces or tying strings for lanterns or, honestly, showing up and being there. Every little bit helped and mattered and there aren’t enough letters on the keyboard to express my thanks.

I’m not going to spend more time gushing about the awesome, though, because let’s be honest: that just winds up sounding like bragging, anyway. I’m not here to make everyone who wasn’t there jealous that they couldn’t be. Quite the opposite.

For several personal reasons that I’m not going into (this post may be a lot more open about my personal life than others, but I’m still a private person), when the legal window opened in Florida, we wound up with a short timetable for planning and pulling off a wedding. If we had any hope of getting anyone at all there, we had to invite quite quickly. But because of the same restrictions that meant we were rushing out invites, our guest list had to be painfully short.

There are a lot of people in the world we love, and whom we know love us. Extended family members and friends whom we knew would be ecstatic for us, the sight of whom would make us ecstatic. And we couldn’t have them all.

Back when I taught, we used to talk about how a heavily-edited paper was “bleeding” from the red pen. Our invitation list felt a lot less metaphorical in its bleeding. You can’t see it, but every name we crossed off to make it possible to have our wedding at all was like slicing off our fingertips. Some people understood and some people didn’t. I think more of the former than the latter, but I’m not a telepath, so I suppose I’m just guessing.

Whether it’s people you couldn’t invite or people who couldn’t attend for schedule or financial reasons or — because we’re human — people who couldn’t be there because they’ve passed, no matter how long you can make your guest list, there will always be someone missing.

We had oh so many of all those folks. That they weren’t lined up in chairs back further than the horizon ached just below our chests and stung the corner of our eyes.

But we saw and felt at least a bit of them in loaned props and set pieces, in original creations crafted with amazing talent and skill, in vendors we only found from recommended phone numbers and names they let us drop. They were there from the remnants of their strong hugs when we ran into each other out in the world. They lingered in every verbal or virtual “congratulations.”

That wedding wasn’t just three months in the offing. Or even eight years.

You helped make it happen if we ever met you. From every small or large interaction, good or bad, that eventually steered the two of us together, kept the two of us together. If you think this is about you, it is. You’re why and how this happened.

And we can’t thank you enough.

Just Love Me (but Not On the Lips)

I’m still ambivalent about a The Last 5 Years1 film, largely because its concept has always seemed so tied to live theatre. Mind you, I don’t mind adaptation. It happens all the time. Filmmakers adjust stories to better fit the new medium and I totally think they should.

That said, the central conceit of The Last 5 Years–that Cathy is moving backwards through the relationship as Jamie moves forward–feels both essential to the material and all wrong for film. In all honestly, while there are a lot of songs I love in the show, I think the reason you sit through those songs all at once is the time juggling. It’s a device that engages your mind in a different way than a linear narrative, and by around the midway point, starts encouraging you to try fitting songs back together internally. The intellectual exercise of figuring out who is when keeps your brain working to put together what is, on its face, a fairly standard relationship narrative.

And, in a theatrical setting, no one really balks at just having two people performing a series of musical monologues. We’re used to folks getting up on a stage and doing just that. It’s the buy in. We don’t need anything cinematic. And, again, that intimacy seems kind of crucial to what this particular story is trying to accomplish. As, effectively, an elaborate he said / she said story, forcing the audience to lock in on whomever is currently doing the saying is important. It’s not a tug of war if you aren’t being yanked from deep within one person’s perspective to deep within another’s. Film tends to want to be far more immersive with its environments, and rightly so.

So, yeah. Given that the two things that I think make The Last 5 Years, you know, The Last 5 Years are both elements which I think don’t work especially well in cinema, I’ve been apprehensively curious about how things are going to work in this new film.

The first clip from the film feels a bit like my concerns are at least reasonably valid2:

So, in an effort to help things move, to give the world of the film that immersive environmental element I was talking about above, we have our lead characters in a car. We get wind, we get scenery, we get all that wild, fun energy of being out on the road with the person who gets you going, which of course leads to pulling off said road in order to get going with said person.

But because Cathy has to keep singing the whole time, the scene plays really awkwardly for me. There’s no real musical break to let Anna Kendrick fully connect with Jeremy Jordan. She manages to sneak in one, very quick kiss, but the rest of the scene, which is attempting to build to some spontaneous roadside nookie, keeps fighting with the need for Kendrick to keep singing. I count three or four different spots where it’s clear that the actors’ instincts (which I think are spot on) are to be kissing, but: Must. Keep. Singing.

So instead we have Jordan going to town while Kendrick sings about how into it all she is without being able to actually be into it. It’s kind of a perfect example of the tension between the needs of the filmmakers and the needs of the show they’re adapting.

Maybe this is just a particularly off example of the rest of the film released because “look, we made it full of sexy stuff!” or something. Still, it’s not doing much to reduce my ambivalence.

1. I thought for half a second about going back and forth between 5 and Five in the titles to distinguish film from stage show, but it just became confusing, not least of all because, while MTI lists the title with Five-the-word, the poster just about everyone associates with the show uses 5-the-number, and I’m done with the headache, so this is what you get.

2. The original clip is actually from Entertainment Weekly, but after much screaming and gnashing of teeth, I cannot get that into WordPress. Thus the YouTube.

Who Drood It?: Posterized

Yes, I disappeared. I don’t know how widespread the term “Hell Week” is when discussing the week and change leading up to a show opening, but, well … yeah. That’s where I’ve been. I did, however, manage to put together all those D(r)oodles I’ve been doing and take another crack at some marketing materials. Wonkery to follow, but pictures first (click each for zoomy biggerness).

I tried a horizontal layout (around legal paper size) first, as I wanted everyone more or less on the same level:

Then, because normal paper is easier to print on, I tried vertical:

I started with the scanned sketches, pulling them all into a layered document and shuffling them around until I had two groups of four that I thought fit well together. I wanted to make sure I got everyone’s face and his or her “weapon of choice” visible. I used masks to chip away elements that other characters would cover without losing my lines if I changed my mind (which I did several times). That also helped when I switched layouts, since Drood covered different bits then.

Durdles was originally meant for the right side group, but I realized when I started piecing things together in the mockup that he and Princess Puffer had almost identical body lines, which looked repetitive in that context. One of them was going to have to move. I needed/ wanted to keep Puffer’s knife sheathe exposed, since I feel that’s what gives her weapon character beyond “pointy stabby.” It was easiest, then, to flip Durdles, since his raised shovel made it a lot easier to slot him in behind the other characters without losing him and his. Bonus points for their mirrored body lines providing a bit of a frame for Drood.

Since I knew I wanted multiple layouts, but that the groups of four would be the same either way, I made three documents for inking: the left group, the right group, and Drood on his own. Then I pulled those into Manga Studio to have another crack at vector inking. I think I’m getting a better handle on some workflow, though I’m still not sure on line weights. The thick lines seem heavy handed, but thinner ones have a tendency to disappear when I go light on the pressure for variance. Learning curve and all that, I suppose. Still, for the most part I think things cleaned up reasonably well.

The inks got exported back to raster for compositing, where I scaled things around, then did some text skewing and reshaping until I liked something for a logo. Then I added a sepia toned layer on top in burn / color burn, eh voila: Victorian postery stuffs.

Tech Sun-dead

Apologies for no Monday post, and further apologies for not much of one today. That local production of Peter Pan that my fiancée is costume designing for opens this Thursday, so since last Thursday we’ve been all but living at the theatre. I don’t sew, so mine is the manual labor: running errands, carrying costumes, fetching food. For this show, too, because of the steampunk paraphernalia he’s making, there’s been a lot of added hot glue and painting — of both the spray and sponge kind.

There has been much soreness and exhaustion to be had, a glue burn or two, and my left thumb has a semi-permanent blackness from holding things to spray paint, and yesterday was mostly me with the creeping crud one picks up from the collection of folk in similar states of exhaustion; one wouldn’t want to see the words I’d try to string together, then. But, hey, all in the name of art, yes?

In any event, I’ll try to get back on track here, but if things slow down as we face the final few days, one hopes you’ll forgive the sparseness here in order to help with the Pan-magic happening over at Manatee Players.

Coloring Masks (Not That Kind of Mask)

Amy Reeder’s posted a great look at her personal coloring process:

I’m not an uber-experienced colorist and I have no idea what the standard technique for coloring is—so maybe this is common knowledge—but there’s something new I’ve been trying occasionally when I really want to play with opposing hues as light sources. And I thought I’d share.

The short of it: I create three hue versions of the base color and give each a layer. Then I use layer masks to choose which layer comes through.

I’ve watched a fair number of tutorials, and definitely binge-watched a lot of the videos over at Ctrl+Paint, which is an excellent resource. I vaguely recall mention of the Channel Mixer over there as a tool for helping pull together color schemes. And I knew layer masks were a good way to edit less destructively. But most of the stuff I’ve seen previous to this is about adding colors to a base layer.

This is the first I’m seeing of this very cool, full-colored multi-layers technique, though. I remember reading something about stone carving being about revealing the shape already in stone. This feels a bit like a similar philosophy, as all the potential palettes are there, and the colorist sort of brushes away the layers to find the right mix of them all. Well worth a look and a read for anyone interested in coloring techniques. Or just a kick ass Red Sonja picture.

(via Gail Simone)

New Ways to Fly: On the Hook

Something of a sequel to the original Pan Wanted Promo. Seems only fair:

Wanted: Captain Hook

The base layers are recycled from the other image, obviously. Hook himself is a newer experiment. I got Manga Studio during a crazy-cheap online sale. I’d been reading / hearing in several places that it was great for digital inking, so it seemed worth the low price to give it a try.

Hook here is my first time trying to ink with vector graphics, using MS. It’s not amazeballs, by any means, but I do feel like once I get used to things and figure out what settings work best, it will be nice for line art. I definitely liked being able to tweak lines after I drew them. And the “erase intersection” tool is sweet. I was able to concentrate on trying to draw through / past lines for a bit more smoothness, then I just had to tap the extra line, and poof: gone.

I had some trouble bringing it into Photoshop. At first, every time I tried to re-size, the lines turned into a crazy-jagged mess. Turns out I just didn’t notice the exported image file was in bitmap mode, and I just had to change it to grayscale / color for things to even out.

It’s still a little jagged, but I think that’s probably a mistake I made ‘inking’ at too low a resolution. I’m used to 300 dpi being plenty good for color work, but I think the nature of vector graphics means I may need to use a higher resolution for those.

Or that might be another red herring, but we’ll see. In the meantime, Hook was a fun first go.

(For more information on the show itself, you can check out Manatee Players’ website here.)

If Marvel Won’t Make One…

I suppose I could pretend that tonight’s little project was inspired by part one of the Project Runway finale, but not so much. It’s the fanboy within. He occasionally latches onto something and can’t let go. I’m not sure this constitutes a real tutorial, but I had a vague amount of fun with this, and if my blog title means anything, it’s stuff like this, right?

So, I’m on a bit of a mission to make myself a set of Power Pack t-shirts. My fiancée helped me put together a prototype of sorts earlier in the year. For Halloween, we’re making a go at another. This time up, we’re going blue for Jack Power / Mass Master.

For the symbol, I already had a ready-made template, since I’d previously done an iPhone wallpaper with the same pattern. I blew that up to a couple of different sizes and printed those out so I could try them out against the shirt.

I had thought I’d want the largest one, but after I put it up against the shirt, and realized I’d want room for the line which connects each Power Pack symbol with the edge of its bounding box, I wound up going with the middle size. Next, it’s fun with Frisket Film, a low tack adhesive film I found out about a while back.

I knew I was going to save myself some cutting effort and just use tape to mask off the line itself, so I only needed to have the cloud symbol. I suppose I could have cut the line out of the Frisket, but (1) the film is a bit stretchy, which makes it kind of finicky, so a bulkier piece is easier to handle than a long thin one. Also (2) the exact-o knife and I shouldn’t be around each other any longer than necessary. Me + cutting objects = worrisome.

Okay, anyway, I managed to cut out the cloud. Everything else about the design is squared edges and lines, so that just involves painter’s tape. It’s a shirt, so I don’t know that I really need low-tack, but the less trouble I have getting the sticky stuff off, the better. Less residue & less stretching. So: painter’s tape.

After the taping, it’s me and a sponge brush and the specialty fabric paint my fiancée ordered. A lot of dabbing and a bit more having to pay attention at the collar (it’s a pain trying to tape off the collar, so we go with careful, instead).

It’s not totally solid black, but I actually like that. I tend to prefer the silk screening that looks a little distressed. From here, it’s some careful tape and stencil pulling, and …

I have to let this dry overnight, then I can use tape and some more paint to put the stripe down the right side. After that, it’s the half of this couple who sews, as I exploit my relationship to swap out the right sleeve with a black one from another t-shirt. But the biggest graphic part of it’s done, and my little fanboy heart, she warms.