Failed experiments and other follies

Hootie Comics are my little forum for comics experimentation, which is one of the joys of not being syndicated. However, many of these experiments are things that I have since decided don’t work. Because of the lag time between when I draw a strip and when I post it, several of these experiments-gone-awry are coming up in the queue. Some examples are:

Failed experiments 1 and 2: Brushed-in fur, and real grey wash
I was trying to reduce the labor and wrist strain of drawing Sodie’s fur by doing it with a fan brush. I don’t like the way this looks, it’s kind of dirty-looking and doesn’t suit funny animal comics. I’ve since settled on a technique of suggesting fur without drawing every single hair. Also, the grey wash here is real diluted ink, applied with a brush. The result looks cloudy or foggy; maybe OK for a noir detective story, but again, not for a funny animal cartoon. Digital grey wash is much more even and cartoony-looking. Although I prefer traditional media, like Doug Tennapel says, I’m a purist until it doesn’t work. Both effects are combined here for a pleasing fur tone that doesn’t involve carpal tunnel surgery:

Failed experiment 3: stock backgrounds
As I mentioned in another post, using stock backgrounds doesn’t work because background elements always seem to end up in the wrong place, interfering with the characters. You can use Gimp to make the background lighter, but this just looks weird and processed:

Failed experiment 4: hand-drawn balloons with computer fonts
My hand lettering sucks, so I’ve begun using a font, but I don’t really like computer-generated balloons. So I’ve been trying to do the balloons by hand, and the letters in Gimp:
The problem here is that it’s hard to anticipate how big the balloon has to be. Sometimes it ends up too big, other times, too small. The solution is to use the Gimp path tool to make the balloons, instead of the oval select, which makes perfect ovals:
It looks a little vector-graphicy, which it is, but I don’t think it looks bad, and it gets the balloons to fit.

So that’s it. This is a process of continual experimentation and improvement for me as I keep the stuff that works, and jettison the stuff that doesn’t. Stay tuned…

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