Captain’s Log m8•11: Clip Studio Kaplooey

Like in October of 2021, I have heaped projects on my plate. And like October of 2021, it is not working well. I don’t really know how I’m going to handle it just yet, however.

I am making John Michael Jones Gets a Life at a rate of one comic a week, which is a nice, slow, easy pace. Nevertheless, I have been a scant 2 weeks ahead this whole time, and this week, I’ve slipped to 1 week ahead. They are color comics, so they take a little more producing, and eventually, our heroes will be in a digital world, which will allow some shortcuts, but there it is.

Concerning to me, I’ve launched this before I’ve finished the draft. Which means I don’t know if I can land this ship. But I felt if I sat on it any longer, it would never get done, so…

Awesome Moments is my Bible Story book series. Awesome Moments 1 goes from Eden to Christ to the Parousia as briskly as possible to serve as the anchor for the rest of the series. I’ve ranged from doing two illustrations (each of these being two pages) per day, to one, to none.. I want to have it all done by the middle of the month so it can be thoroughly exorcised from my system, because I feel kids’ books are my best medium, but I haven’t been able to finish a draft. I think my gears are clogged, and won’t start turning again until I finish this book.

Also, while the publisher intends to Kickstart it in December, they’d like it a good deal sooner.

Jump the Shark is a platformer that’s a big dose of Sonic, a moderate dose of Megaman X, and whatever else I feel like mixing in to taste.

Strangely enough, the adoption of all these projects can be traced to one program: Clip Studio Paint.

Clip Studio is a Japanese comic-making tool that is, within its confines, roughly comparable to Photoshop. It’s a little better, a little smoother, if you are making comics, maybe a little worse for other things.

I bought a copy years and years ago, tried it, didn’t like it, and put it on the shelf. I used Krita and Inkscape instead to make my illustrations for comics and games. Except for pixel art, which was done in Aseprite for animations and Pyxel Edit for tiles. But someone on the internet convinced me to dust it off and give it another go recently.

And I did. And I didn’t hate it anymore.

Perhaps the fact that I have a display tablet now was the deciding factor. I didn’t when I first tried Clip Studio, and I found it painful and laborious.

With John Michael Jones, the first comic was penciled in Krita, inked with physical ink and a brush, scanned and colored in Krita, and then lettered in Inkscape, per my old process. But my second was done entirely in Clip Studio, just to see if I could. It was nice to have the whole process in one place!

There are differences. Elements that work better in one, elements that work better in the other. Inking digitally is exhausting; inking with ink is relaxing. As a result, I tend to get lost in detail when inking with ink, and I tend to resent detail when inking digitally. But while the sharp-eyed among my audience will noticed there are differences, it’s close enough.

Now, I’ve tried HD animation with Krita, then importing it into my games. And let me tell you, it did not agree with me, though it looked very nice.

But Clip Studio has its own animation tools. And having entered a game jam, I made a snap decision to try and create the art in HD via CSP. And it went about as wonderfully as it could:

So I’ve started building a Jump the Shark game using CSP’s animation tools and I feel like I’ve come home. This is the thing I was supposed to make. In fact, I should generally tell interactive stories using Godot and CSP.

So, of course, Awesome Moments has received the same treatment. I’ve been illustrating it in Clip Studio.

And that’s the worst.

See, with John Michael Jones and Awesome Moments, I’ve started to feel like I’m phoning it in. And that’s a death knell for my projects. I can force myself forward when a thing starts to bore me for a while. But I have ADHD. Without industrial grade drugs, I cannot ultimately make myself do something that bores me.

I think the problem is the friction CSP causes in the drawing/inking process. It’s busywork. It’s hard, without being rewarding. In the case of game art, that gets cut with programming, animating, and the images are small and fairly disposable, but multiply that by a resolution that prints well, and we have a problem.

Today, I tried penciling a John Michael comic in CSP, printing the pencils, and inking with actual ink again. It took longer, but it was Zen. It was Zanshin.

I think from now on, I’m going to do my comics and my book illustrations this way. And for John Michael, that’s fine. The quality of the work zigs and zags throughout, but it’s close enough for government work. And for future books, that’s fine. They’ll be internally consistent, as much as I ever am.

But for Awesome Moments, that’s unacceptable. The art needs to be consistent throughout. I either need to finish in CSP as I started, or else start over.

Anyways, sucks to be me. I think odds are good I’ll get it done, especially if I get those industrial drugs I was talking about.

But I am excited about each of these projects. Though not about working on all three at once. I need to get that sorted.

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