Up until I wrote Sophie in “Farewell, Fairytale,” during my first year of college, I really struggled with female characters. I came up with hotshots like Micah and smart guys like Andrew and tough guys like Danyil without any problems, but Shani was annoying and Kyasai was a bitch and Cirrus in …WtR drove me nuts. Creating characters that did things I would do, as Sophie did, was kind of a breakthrough for my approach to character design. One of the worst women I wrote prior to this was Cadence. In the original graphic novel, she was definitely a catalyst but, essentially, I hated her. Which is probably why I killed her in the end. Anyway re-writing the story this time around has given me a cool opportunity to hang onto the strengths of her character — she’s fiercely determined and always speaks her mind — while rounding out the parts of her that were a little unbelievable. Indeed, I could almost credit this one scene I decided to put in towards the beginning of the story. In the original draft you don’t even actually see her and Solaris until the second volume, which was roughly two hundred pages into the story (…159 pages, actually). I talked to Ana (one of the story’s best readers) who agreed it was weird that the namesake of the story took so long to show her face. Anyway, I wrote about that in my last entry. I just wanted to kind of squeal about her a little bit because suddenly I’m really excited about her character. I’ve also changed her fate. As for her image, it’s remained largely the same and has of course simply benefited from a few more years (oh my God…four years) of practice on my part.
Writing Cadence this time around, it’s weird, ’cause I see how she fits in with the rest of the story now. Why Solaris, such a powerful man, would have fallen in love with her. Why she’d have gotten children from epic cosmic forces. Why she didn’t want Cirrus to be with Syracrus. And it’s weird to only now be getting in touch with the main roots of the story, but as far as most people are concerned, the product I’m turning out now is the first of its kind.
Seriously, getting into this graphic novel business again is bringing me a level of pleasure and satisfaction I couldn’t have anticipated. I was expecting to get frustrated…or lose interest…or to not feel like it was doing what it was supposed to. I kept telling people I was done with drawing graphic novels till I felt like I could bring to them something that I couldn’t before. I guess that day felt much more distant than a place I’m at now. But it works. People would always ask me if I would color my penciled pages, but when they’d ask me that I simply couldn’t color. So for years now I’ve been trying to get comfortable with it, and part of it has been a surrender to digital media. But I will accept digital art if it is the key to doing what I want to do with my art. In this case, it means being able to illustrate the characters in TCoaRH the way I mean to. They need colors, and that’s what stopped me from even finishing my novelization. I want to add more images to this than I currently can because frankly I want to go keep working on pages. But I’m 33 pages into this story and I can’t believe it. Yesterday though I thought of how much I have left to write and I started to laugh because I’ve gotten virtually nowhere…but I’m committed. There is a long haul ahead, and I’ll make allowances when I have to put it down to focus on, for instance, graduating. But I believe in this story, and in Cadence.
As an example that I had to come back and add, of how this story needs images…I have been waiting to do a page like this of Solaris since I came up with him in high school. Maybe it seems a little simple, his character design…you know, you’re trying to make the Sun King, so you slap him with a warm-toned palette and give him crazy hair and a godlike body. But when I tried to do him in high school I hadn’t committed to the idea of the Element Kings looking like their elements. Plus unfortunately TCoaRH was done while I was on my way out of my phase where all my characters looked like women. So this is the best I could come up with in 2008 or 2009 when I was angry at people during my last drawing class before English class with Miss Kope. It’s cropped weird ’cause it’s on some of Vifquain’s bigger paper that’s too big for my flatbed.
Also, STATIC. Dynamic images are one thing I’ve kind of aimed for, I’m not sure for how long, but whenever I’m making a character like Solaris these days it’s movement I want. Maybe a part of me has come to believe that a plain old portrait like the one above can’t qualify as art.
So, I figured out sometime before I started working with TCoaRH that I wanted Syracrus to be black and Solaris to have batshit crazy hair. Well the hair comes out later like Shepherd Book in Firefly (God I’m sad) but for now I let him tame it. In the aforementioned scene I introduce Cadence and Solaris. While watching Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke on Monday, I decided to really introduce them, and I gave them actual full-page spreads. Solaris’s page was what I’ve kept saying: Exactly the image of him I’ve wanted to do for 4 years.
I won’t even bother pointing out anything that might annoy me about this image because mostly it’s precisely what I wanted to produce.