Art Studio Tour

Hello! I thought I would post something special today, and that’s a tour of my art studio. Maybe I should rename it the Scott Story Art Facility on the Story Studios Campus? No? Ok.

There are a lot of toys in this room, as well as owls, superheroes, and great natural light. These days I even have houseplants (not pictured). It’s a great place for me and my studio cats to hang out, listen to podcasts, and be creative.

Getting Close…

Greetings from the Midwest!

I’m closing in on that all-important soft launch of Story Studios Presents Changing of the Guard, and as you might suspect that means I’m really busy seeing to all the details. That entails the following:

I’m using the excellent application Publisher Rocket to determine my most useful organic keywords and most advantageous categories for Amazon. Rather than a lengthy explanation about what that means, I’ll just say that these are elements that work in the background and make my work easier to locate and for Amazon to rank. Authors that publish through Amazon should understand what this is about.

Later today, I’m going to set my Bookfunnel page and prepare my mailing list. I’ve resisted this for years, because 1) I felt it was intrusive, and 2) what on earth do I have to discuss that often? I mean, I’ve kept everything close to my vest for a long time, and I’ve stayed away from infuriating small talk. Well, I’m taking my cue from A.P. Fuchs and his excellent newsletter. He includes commentaries on a wide range of subjects, mostly related to being a creative today, so I’m going to follow suit.

I’m usually sorry whenever I pipe up and state my opinions on social media. Politics is everything, really, and it reaches into every corner of our lives. Nothing good comes from discussing it. It’s as corrosive online as talking about religion, finances, and any other hotbutton topic.

Mind you, I will not apologize for speaking up about climate change, or violence against women, children, and animals. Those subjects are not the point of this blog, but I will not be shy about them. If you deny climate change, or condone cruelty, then you are not my type of person anyway.

My next two novels in the works are fantasy. No surprise there. That genre fits nicely with my Medievalist heart. I did not intend that either book would be illustrated. In fact, my current book (Story Studios Presents Changing of the Guard) was not planned as an illustrated tome, but it has 18 pen and ink illustrations included. 18!

Well, I’m already well into character portraits for one of my fantasy novels, and here’s an example:

Be good, be prosperous, be kind, be full of gratitude. Scott.

Calm before the Storm

Hi, Hola, Salutations, yadda yadda yadda:

I’ve got the launch of Story Studios presents the Changing of the Guard scheduled out. This is new and exciting for me, because I’ve never embarked on this level of promotion. When all this come to a close, I’m sure I’ll have some interesting observations about the launch process.

In time, the launch is broken into pre-launch last minute preparations that should take up the rest of November; then the soft launch, which should cover all of December; then the hard launch, which takes up all of January; then the post-launch followups. I have made myself crazy with all the books and articles I’ve read about book launching, and the sheer number of options is mind-blowing. After much study, and much advice from my writing mentors, I have come up with a few guidelines.

The first guideline is that I am going to spend as little on author-based services as I can. This decision was brought to bear after my poor decision to purchase Kindle Samurai, a type of search engine that helps you develop the phrases that readers will organically search for on Amazon when they are looking for new reading material. So, I invested in this application, because I have four different books I’m working on, and this program would have been very helpful.

There is no need to go into the details, but Kindle Samurai was non-functional, and it appears to be abandon-ware. Help tickets and numerous emails were answered, and then they ghosted out on me. I am contesting the purchase on Paypal, but whatever happens I’ve learned my lesson. I cannot throw money at the problem and make it disappear. That guideline worked well enough through the editing, proofreading, and formatting stages of the novel, so I should have done the same DIY thing here. Lesson learned.

My second and other guideline I have adopted is this: only do those promotional activities I feel comfortable with. If something wounds my little introvert heart, then it’s probably not right for me. Besides, with each book I launch, I can add more and get more sophisticated on my approach. This time, in my book launch virginity, I just want to get through it.

I’ve set up an account on Goodreads. Not sure what I’m going to do with it, but it comes highly recommended. There’s a lot I still don’t understand on there, like how to add friends or join groups. I just submitted to be a Goodreads Author, so we’ll see how that develops.

Well, that should be sufficient for today. Remember, if you are a ninja, don’t wear corduroy. 🙂

Updates Galore:

Hi, Reader People!

Last week I wrote a long post about simulation theory and digitizing and downloading people, but I had the good sense not to post it because it probably would bore most people to tears. Most people are not even aware of the coming singularity (however you define it). Maybe I’ll post it at some future point, but for now it is hidden away with some of my other more heady, out there posts.

Story Studios presents Changing of the Guard is 100% done! But, no I have not posted it yet. I am hard at work studying how to launch books, and the current book I am devouring is this:

I am happy to say that this book, of which I am 80% done reading on my Kindle, is straight-forward and very informative to someone of my experience level. After this book, I am going to read this:

It comes highly praised.

Yes, I am going to make the leap into publishing a newsletter and building a mailing list. I have resisted this level of engagement for a long, long time. I mean, really, most writers would prefer to spend their time writing, and having people enjoy their work. It doesn’t work like that nowadays, and probably never did unless you are already famous.

Developing the newsletter and landing page are going to be . . . something. Not only do I need to offer some sort of enticement to sign up, a loss leader, if you well, but then I need to produce content for it on a regular basis to keep readers engaged. I’m not all that sure what form that content or loss leader will take. Clearly, I have a lot to learn.

There are some other elements to this self-publishing mystery I could write about, but I leave it be for now.

I will say that Steven Doty is hard at work on the last pages of Spire City Noir no. 2. This comic has existed in limbo for a couple of years now, and at a few points I’ve toyed with idea of simply writing the story as a prose novel and being done with it. Still, somehow I knew we’d always finish it, and that time is really soon.

I’m also editing Benita’s debut solo book, a Patchwork Life, and it’s a fantastic read and I’m really proud to be a small part of it. It’s really going to put her on the map. I mean, she’s already well known in her field, but now the world will be able to enjoy her gentle wisdom and wonderful storytelling abilities.

I guess that’s enough for now.

Old Fashioned Miscellaneous Musings

Hello, Internet, my old friend, I’ve come to …

Um, yeah. Okay. I couldn’t help it.

I’ve got a lot on my plate, but I couldn’t be happier about it. If you are curious enough to find out about what is going on in our lives, here is a post from Benita on her blog that explains it all very well. It’s been an interesting but satisfying time.

Why do I not have a Patreon account? I’ve considered it many times, because I believe my art would gain some traction there. The thing is, however, is that I also spend a lot of time of writing and publishing, so that means extended times without doing art. I go through periods where I post stuff all the time, and then long periods where I’m away from art and working on books. Being a generalist in this way has slowed my career down, but I cannot help it. I could not give up writing or art. I do both. Both crafts go back to my origins.

Lately I’ve become enamored of the old, old mystery man, the Shadow. I’ve read all the comics I can find with him in it, and luckily there are quite a few. I’d love to be able to write and draw some of his adventures, but alas he not in the public domain. Still, it would be a awesome to do so.

A few comments about the Shadow. He more Batman than Batman, but a meaner, more lethal version thereof. The Shadow is not to be confused for a nice guy. Second, his powers are extraordinary. As I’ve read, I’ve seen more and more cool tricks he has, far beyond “clouding the minds of men.” Dynamite is the current publisher for this character, and I recommend checking these comics out. I have collected a good number of the old Shadow novels, but I have not read them yet.

I have a lot of plans for business articles and art how-to articles, and in fact I’ve already written a lot of them. I have not published them here yet, however, because they may be syndicated at a new website called Shoutfyre. Nothing is set in stone yet, and I want to make sure that this new venture is going to happen, so that is why I have not posted more business related stuff here. I will certainly keep you up to date with how this all develops.

I plan for the story-collection Story Studios Presents Changing of the Guard to be published as an E-Book on December. Here are a few notes on its progress:

  1. It’s complete, and edited, and looking spiffy.
  2. Scrivener and it’s compile tools have been marvelous for simplifying the unjustifiably hard formatting duties. So, the book is 80% formatted, but I’m taking it over to MS Word for final tweaks.
  3. Then comes the book launch. I know so little about how to do this correctly. There is a high learning curve, and I’m going to have to negotiate that. I’m not sure even where to start.
  4. At the same time as I try to climb that curve, I will be formatting the book for print. Some of that work will overlap with the E-Book formatting, so that should not be as difficult (I hope!)
  5. As usual for Story Studios, I plan to publish the print version through Lightning Source.

Okay, news about this website. Again, I will present it in list form because that’s how I think in real life.

  1. The target date for turning this site back into a store of my goods is January 1. Now, a month and a half out, that seems unlikely. I guess the takeaway is that I intend for it happen relatively soon. In the meantime, keep purchasing Story Studios stuff at Amazon, Drivethru Comics, Indy Planet, and Comixology.
  2. Those sellers aren’t going away, because I’m happy with all of them. What I want to sell on this site is more specialized stuff, such as sketch cover variants, original art, posters, etc. and so forth.
  3. I’m feeling my shoulders tighten up as I consider all the marketing efforts. Baby steps, baby steps. Indie empires aren’t built in a day!
  4. I should also mention that I had plans to include all the tools that I use as affiliate links on this site. It would have been a nice way to make a little cash. As it turns out, most of those tools have no affiliate system, or systems that are so restrictive to sign up for as to not be worth the effort.
  5. Then, having abandoned that version of the affiliate idea, I decided that I would promote all those tool through an Amazon advertising server. Maybe this will happen, maybe not.

Is that enough for this post? I think so. Besides, I have work to do on the front of my house, so…

Outside-In I: From General to Detailed

This is a quick post to share and organize my thoughts while I wait for our new dishwasher to arrive.

Focusing In

I think it’s interesting that most skills in life are based on focusing in on the details, working from large to small, or outside in. Not to make too much of it, but that reminds me of the holographic principle of the universe, or the the more traditional “as above, so below.”

In the computer applications for what I do, I’ve noticed the same process. I originally used Adobe Photoshop for all my digital art, but then switched over to Clip Studio Paint by Celsys. Photoshop has a generalist tool, with zillions of options for however you intend to use it. CSP, on the other hand, is aimed at illustrators who work in the world of comics, manga, animation, anime, etc. Yes, you can use CSP for general illustration purposes, and I often have, but it approaches art from a comic creation perspective. There are still things I use Photoshop for, because CSP doesn’t offer all the options PS does.

In writing, I have recently made the same move. I originally wrote in Professional Write, but switch to Microsoft Word when that became the norm. Over the years, I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words in MSW.

Not long ago, I added Campfire to my tools. This is a plotting and world-building application that gives you a great deal of control over stories you may be writing. It’s quite innovative, and I’ve already made a lot of use of it.

Now, I’ve tackled Scrivener. This is an all-purpose writing and publishing tool. It’s intended use is long, complex documents, be they books, reports, fiction, non-fiction, etc. It is amazing. I am sure that there are some things that MSW will still offer that Scrivener does not, but I guess that’s all part of the “General vs. Detailed” theme.

Art

This leads into a few thoughts about my drawing process, or how I create finished art. For years I’ve called my specific process “drawing outside-in.”

I’ve done a little internet research to see if my particular approach to art already has a label, to see if maybe I’ve stumbled onto something that already exists. Not so much, as it turns out. The closes I’ve been able to come is there are some similarities to the “Scribble” style, also called the “Blind Contour” style. So, for now, “Outside In” is what I will call it. I have also toyed with calling it the “Deductive” method, because it proceeds from general to specific.

The basic concepts in creating art this way is:

  1. You could qualify this approach as “life drawing from the imagination.” In other words, the same drawing skills that you would use to draw from life or a photo is used here, but the life or photo is in fact in your mind’s eye.
  2. You need to develop a high level of active visioning techniques. For example, if you can imagine a character, can you pose him, rotate him, change the lighting, or generally manipulate the image in your mind as you would a 3D character on a monitor?
  3. Contours are far more important that interior detail. This is one of the reasons silhouettes or simplified art is so effective.
  4. Building visual memory is a layered process. For example, you need to understand anatomy, proportion, perspective, and light to know who to make up realistic images from the imagination. This means there is no secret short cut or hack to the style, you have to do the work and study.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that some artists have the ability to jump right to the finished image. Just watch videos of Kim Jung Gi, for example, or look at the work of Jack Kirby or Gene Colan. There is very little under drawing or build-up in these artist’s works. It almost looks like magic.

For years I wondered about this ability–I can’t draw like Kim Jung Gi, for example. He picks up a pen and puts down a finished drawing. It’s like magic!

But, it isn’t magic. I realized in my early years of drawing that I did key-line drawing like so many beginning artists do. That’s drawing from a line-drawing figure, then filling the figure out with simple geometric shapes, then turning that into anatomy, then doing clothing, shadow and light, and so forth over the top of that. It’s a laborious way to draw characters from the imagination. The trouble is that it works, and the three-dimensional thinking is an important step in the artist’s learning process.

I haven’t drawn characters that way for years, however. Sometimes I draw from a light sketch of the anatomy first, and more often then not a light sketch of the clothed, almost finished figure. In other words, I skip past most of the beginning steps, because I’ve already composed a three-dimensional, correctly proportioned and dressed character in my minds eye.

In a recent Imagine FX tutorial, Gi explains that he does not have some supernatural photographic memory, and that he used to draw the under work before making finished drawings. He has gotten so good and experienced that he simply sees the finished image in his mind now, and and he can jump right to that stage of the art and amaze people with the results.

My basic premise is that skills, like computer applications or drawing, are arranged from the specific to general, that as artists we are on a continuum. This is reassuring to me, and I hope to you.

Story Studios Self-Publishing Business Model Part 1

INTRODUCTION:

It’s a strange truism that there are almost as many would-be publishers for indie comics as there are readers of indie comic. Most comic fans have some cherished idea that they would love to see realized in sequential form, or they love to draw and dream of seeing their art printed in comics. Comics are a noble calling, but the reality of all the time, work, and expense it takes to make these dreams happen rules out about 95% of these endeavors.

For those of us who do make and publish comics, there is no single business plan. One thing is for sure, however: you cannot mimic the mainstream comics (read: Marvel, DC, and some big indie publishers) and expect to make a profit or break even. It is all a matter of scale and demand, so it is best to not even try to go there. One indie publisher (Crossgen) tried to replicate the creation pipeline of the legendary Marvel bullpen from the 60’s and 70’s, and they ultimately failed. (That’s a gross oversimplification of that tale, but lesson is you cannot just throw money at the problem.)

I plan to cover a lot of the popular indie comic approaches, but I am creating this article because this is what has worked well for me. I am not claiming that this is the only way to succeed in self-publishing, or the best way, but it has worked for me. I should add one caveat: the market evolves continually, so my method will not work well forever. Already, I have seen a lot of opportunities come and go, and businesses including Comixpress, Project Wonderful, Graphic Smash, and the like have their time in the sun and then close their proverbial doors. Times change, things change.

MY CREDENTIALS:

In case you haven’t heard of me, my name is Scott A Story, and with my wife and often-time collaborator Benita G. Story, we co-own Story Studios. Before I became a self-publisher, I was a freelance artist on a great number of indie comics. Usually I was the penciler, sometimes a penciler/inker, and sometimes a colorist or penciler/inker/colorist. In the beginning I drew mostly comic interiors, but as time went on I composed more and more comic covers. The publishers I worked for are too numerous to mention, but they included Image, Amp, Arrow, and others.

In 2004 I dreamed up my own creator-owned property, Johnny Saturn, and almost immediately Benita joined as my co-writer. Story Studios was born. As of this writing, that equals 18 individual comics, three trade-paperback collections, a pinup book, two sketchbooks, a calendar, and subsidiary merchandise like t-shirts and mugs. The webcomic version ran for 2006 to 2016, during which it garnered Webcomic Reader’s Choice Awards and enjoyed a sizable and loyal following. It was during this period as well that me, Scott Austin, and Arne Schulenberg founded the successful Collective of Heroes, a juried webcomic collective that featured superheroes. The Collective of Heroes still exists and is still healthy, although now it is in the hands of other talented creators.

So, I’ve done all that, and tested those waters well. What have I not done? I have not tried crowdfunding yet, nor self-published via offset printing, nor used Diamond Distributors to the Direct Market. I’ll explain all those in greater detail, and why I have not taken up those options, as the article progresses.

NEXT: FUNDING AND FINANCIAL BACKERS

Alternate Cover for Spire City Noir No. 2

I’m not going to say this picture is done. I’m going to let it simmer for a while, so to speak. This is about the outside range or my watercolor skills at the moment, although I’m studying to get a better command of it.

Covers, Cover Bands, Cover Ups

The Changing of the Guard cover is now finished and lettered.

Name of the Shadow is still a work in progress, but it’s getting closer to taking its final form.
The is the unlettered cover of Local Hero Press’s new book Plague by Adrienne Dellwo

To Push, or not to Push

Hello, readers!

Today finds me in a relaxed mood. I know the more time I stay away from the news and social media, the better my mental state becomes. This is no secret. The world is a relentlessly negative place, and while we have to live in it we shouldn’t have to wallow in the muck. Sometimes there is no choice, I get that. Find happiness where you can.

I have two-and-a-half projects in motion currently. The project-and-a-half part is “Story Studios Presents the Changing of the Guard,” a collection of prose stories set in the world “Johnny Saturn” and “Spire City.” There are nine stories in all, written by me, with the exception of “Being Johnny Saturn” which was penned by Benita G. Story.

That’s a whole project, and it’s very near the end of its proofreading cycle. The half project that goes with it is18 black-n-white full-page illustrations that are included in the book. These prints also will serve as the basis of a large-formatted poster book once I’ve painted them all. That’s why I call it a project-and-a-half, because I’m reusing the art for something related.

These days I’m at peace with being a storyteller. I no longer fret about specializing as an artists OR a writer. I’m both. I always have been. No reason to deny it. I see myself as sort of a creative generalist these days.

My other project is a novel called “The Name of the Shadow.” It’s midway through the editing process. It is a medieval fantasy adventure starring a thief named Raeth. I’ll be writing more about this as the project takes center stage.

I am on track to have both of these novels ready for December this year, and I already have two more books in various stages of completion to put out next year. This has been a good creative time for me, but it’s way past the time that I should hunker in and get some stuff done!

More New & Updated Pictures

Mish-Mash of Miscellanea

Hi, Peoples of Earth!

I’m not going to act like there’s a theme to today’s post. There’s not, sorry. Just some art.

I just finished another cover for a novel called “Rooftops” for Local Hero Press, and I really, really really want to show it off today, but I cannot. I have to wait till the publisher shows it off first.

These pictures relate to my upcoming Johnny Saturn anthology,