This week I’m more deliberately trying out one of the transition types Scott McCloud mentions in his Making Comics. This is the aspect-to-aspect transitions – that is, a set of images each showing a small piece of a single moment.
Here’s a look at the full scene I’ll be breaking into pieces:
Rosie, as you might have guessed, is having a pirate adventure.
After staging her, I took about 30 shots from all kinds of angles and distances, like this:
I could have done it in far fewer shots, but I kept thinking of things I wanted to add to the scene 🙂
Then I cropped the shots to emphasize just the parts I wanted to highlight, like this:
On Friday, when I do my adventure, I’ll show the different aspects that make up that scene. Ideally, I’d lay them out on a page, but I don’t quite know how to do that yet. So, I’ll probably just stream them down the page the way I’m doing now.
Aspect-to-aspect transitions do two things: they slow the scene down, and they make the reader work to assemble the complete picture in their mind.
And that’s my main work this week. Rosie’s episode is carrying a pretty complex plot element, so I’ll probably spend some time trying to figure out the most graceful way of explaining that, in pictures.
I’m reading through a few graphic novels I got out of the library – one of the Sandman books, Will Eisner’s Contact with God, and two others that I can’t recall right now. Great inspiration, although I’m years away from being able to bring all of the pieces together to make a full photographic novel.
At the end of Camellia’s last episode, she had encountered a stranger on the island and, together, they began working on a hut.
This week they continue working on the hut, and Camellia tells about her escape.
Camellia and Moana travel to a remote part of the island to gather fibers for the hut.
Around the fire that night . . .
. . . Camellia continues the story of her escape.
Once she’s out to sea, she drops her gown and Daisy’s teddybear into the ocean
Where the tides will eventually carry them to the shore.
I struggled a good deal with this bit of the story – how does Cado realize that Camellia has gone by rowboat, and what leads him to believe that she’s taken the children with her? Unless he sees her leave, the only thing I could think of was that something identifiable is left on or washes up on the shore.
Once I decided that she’d drop the items overboard to be washed up on the shore, I made Camellia responsible for whatever repercussions that caused. And we’ve already seen, in Cado’s story, what those repercussions are.
Here’s what my to do list for this week looks like:
* Fix very front of hut for close-ups
* Add some items for inside the hut
* Iron out backdrop
* Rewatch citizen kane
* Work through next Photoshop chapter
* Read next Making Comics chapter
I haven’t gotten to the hut yet – what I want to do is weave some straw-like stuff into the structure to close up everything but the door – and I don’t think I’m going to end up adding elements to the inside – I may just hang some material over the door. I have both of those on schedule for today and tomorrow.
I switched Pyscho for Citizen Kane. I’m mainly looking at transitions and shots to see what I can learn. The overwhelming takeaway from Psycho, other than the wish that I could add sound to my comics, is that I’m not doing nearly enough with lighting. I play with it a bit during Camellia’s scenes, but the rest are pretty flat. That’s probably not something I’m going to fix right away, but it gives me another realm of learning to add to my list.
I talked about the Photoshop select and mask on Monday. The current chapter is text, which is another thing I haven’t added to my stories yet (except through captions). That dovetails nicely with the Making Comics chapter I just read, about the different roles that text and words can play. For some reason, I’ve really tried to stay away from words in the stories, other than to set the scene. I’m realizing that I’m going to need to get over that, and figure out how to merge them more gracefully into the story. That’s another learning for another day.
That leaves ironing the backdrop, which I did yesterday. I have vinyl-ish (and not muslin) backdrops, so I imagined that they’d melt it I put some steam on them. I followed the most protective instructions first, involving laying a damp towel over the top of them and ironing through the towel. But, I couldn’t see what I was doing, so eventually I took the towel off and just ironed directly on the damp backdrop. The first one I tried – the clouds in a blue sky that I use for Camellia’s scenes – weathered the ironing just fine.
Here’s the result:
A before shot
and an after
It’s still a little wrinkly, if you look at the whole thing
But it’s so much better than it was before.
And that’s my week. I still have two more shots to take – of the two women gathering the grasses and then weaving them into the hut – and then I’ll be ready for Friday’s episode.
The first series of shots I took of Camellia, before I started the doll adventure, were of her escaping the ball. I love the idea of her in bare feet with her skirt lifted up fleeing down some marble steps.
Here’s the shot I took of her:
Like so many of my early shots, I end up with a shot I love on a background that’s very difficult to remove. My early shots all have tiny bits of red mixed in their hair and around the edges of their dresses.
Because I hadn’t really taken the time to learn Photoshop before, I used some combination of selecting, pasting, blurring, etc to remove the image I wanted from the bright red background.
This weekend, I took the lesson on selecting and masking, and I finally have an image where Camellia isn’t shrouded in red.
The select and mask tools themselves are 90% of the solution. Between the select tool, for getting the big pieces, and then the refine tool that you can use to refine the selection, most of the red is easily removed. But, even after I’d removed all of the visible red, as soon as I put the background behind it, I could still see a tiny halo of red all around her.
If you see this after you’ve used select and mask, choose “decomtaminate colors” and output to a new layer. This strips out I the last little bits of red.
I still had to tinker with her dress and legs, because the red backdrop had put a red tint on these objects. I adjusted the hue on those pieces and, even though her legs looks a little ghostly, they’re good enough for me.
And that’s Camellia escaping from the ball.
Making Comics has a terrific section on expression and gestures, but I feel like that’s learning for some future episode, and my Photoshop book is about to do a lesson on text. So, for Wednesday, I’ll show the results of getting the wrinkles of out my backdrop, and hopefully I’ll also have completed the front of the hut by then.
My Up Above doll adventure starts out slowly – two sisters sit in the glade behind their house and plan out how they might build a treehouse.
I got one day of clear weather, so I was able to take the last two shots outside (although I still photoshopped a background behind the picture of Strawberry in the tree.)
My PhotoShop lesson this week was about tweaking your photos, and I did a lot of that this week. I’ve started to get a feel for how to smooth the join between two layers. IMO, the picture of Strawberry in the tree is the most successful, suggesting that a pretty busy upper layer is a good way to merge in a background. The mixture of the two layers in the “Sketching the treehouse” is harder to make realistic, since they both exist on the same plane.
I realize I wrote but never posted about the newest addition to the dolls house. Here’s a little background I wrote a few weeks ago.
I’ve been gathering together two groups of dolls. A smaller set of dolls (19 to 25 cm tall) for my Underfoot story, and a larger set (43 – 45cm) for my treehouse story.
Then, I went and fell in love with a doll who’s not in either size group. She’s Strawberry, from Dollsbe (also called Be With You dolls).
At 28 cms, she should be a good fit for the Underfoot crew, but there are three significant problems:
She’s bigger than Jinjur, and that seems to rob Jinjur of her primary role as protector of the group.
Although she’s just a few centimeters taller, her head is disproportionally large in comparison to the very small-headed Jinjur, and that just makes her seem completely out of scale. Buu is also big-headed, but she’s so much smaller that it seems in scale with Jinjur.
In her features, she’s far more similar to the toddler-like Buu then to the more mature features of Jinjur, and that makes her seem like an overgrown toddler.
Altogether, she’s just not a good fit for that story, although she bears such a strong resemblance to Buu that I keep wanting to make it work.
That leaves her to hang out with the tree house crowd. That cast is far less filled out (just Amy, so far) so it’s harder to visualize how she’ll fit in altogether.
Again, her enormous head poses a problem. Even though she’s a full 15 cms smaller than Amy, her head is larger. Even so, she’s a good fit for Amy – the two look like they might hang out together, even if they don’t necessarily look related.
As a doll, she’s absolutely fantastic. She’s far and away the easiest doll to pose – she moves into all poses easily – and she has a fantastic center of balance – she can stand pretty much no matter how you set her down. On her site, her creator (the very helpful YG) is able to get his dolls to stand on just one leg. I just have to fiddle with the poses to figure out where he’s finding that center of gravity, but I’ve gotten her almost there with just a little bit of time experimenting.
Since writing this, I’ve come to really like how the two dolls look together. Strawberry has a sweet wide-eyed look that balances Amy’s more cautious approach. And the mix of ages brings up all kinds of interesting subplots.
Here’s one I’m thinking about now. I plan for almost all of their scenes to take place outside of a conventional home. I’m planning a tree house, I have a rowboat, and I’m planning on getting some combination of RV and tent. So, really, there’s no space for them to also have a regular bedroom. That makes me think that maybe there’s not much home to go back to. That means either that they’ve been set adrift through the loss of their parents, or that something is very wrong in their house. I’m not really loving either option – i see the story as being sweet and dreamy, and I don’t want them bogged down by a grim backstory.
One idea I’m kicking around is that they have a loving but distracted father – he looks up from whatever he’s deeply immersed in and realizes he hasn’t gotten food on the table and doesn’t know where the girls are. That would give them a safe base, but also give them fairly boundless freedom. Anyway, I’ll see how that sits with the girls once I’m a few more episodes in.
So, the rain hasn’t actually stopped here yet, so I have to use Photoshop for the first episode of my Up Above tree house story. I’m hoping I’ll still get one or two good days before Friday for a few of the shots, but I’m starting out just fiddling around with Photoshop to get my fake outdoors shots.
Here’s the picture I’m fiddling with:
It’s the two sisters starting to sketch out the design of their tree house.
The accessories – blue blanket, notebook, ruler, and pencil – are all courtesy of Our Generation dolls. That’s Amy nearest the camera – I’ve changed her wig to blond with braids – and that’s her little sister Strawberry behind her.
I started out with this photo:
Because, apparently, I can’t be bothered cleaning off my surfaces before I take photo. I paid for my sloppiness in a lot of extra time getting rid of extraneous elements. Note to self, don’t place white paper on a white surface and expect Photoshop to be able to figure out where the paper ends and the surface begins.
I added it to a free stock photo (from Pexels) of trees in a grassy expanse.
I did very little to the background photo, other than blurring it slightly and upping the midtones. On the layer with the girls, I softened the edges around their hair with a little bit of light erasing and a tiny bit of blurring.
The most significant change I made, though, was one of the simplest. With the background layer selected, I chose the Burn tool, and then I drew a shadow on the background beside their blanket, their book, and under Strawberry’s hair. It was a tiny change, but it made a huge difference – the shadow makes it look as if they’re resting within the background, instead of existing in an unrelated layer.
I know there’s more I can do with feathering (again, especially around their hair, particularly the crown of Strawberry’s head) to soften the edges between the two images, but that’s another lesson for another day. For this day, I’m happy with the result for a small investment of time.
One of the very best things about having a 43 cm doll is that I can buy them 18-inch doll accessories.
I’ve been pining for American Girl-type accessories for ages, but they just loom over my 12 inch dolls. As soon as I got my first 43 cm (about 17 inch) dolls, I started shopping in earnest. Having now spent a few months searching under “18 doll accessories”, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what’s available.
Here’s the low-down:
* American girl accessories: If money is no object, start here. American girl hits a high point with some of their accessories (I’m looking at you, $400 Lea’s treehouse) that just cannot be matched by any other manufacturer. At their best, their accessories create a complete little working world. And it doesn’t always cost a fortune to buy a piece of that world. My sister got me an amazing little set, with a Secret Garden book, a little stuffed elephant, and a tiny yet completely functioning radio for around $25 on sale. It even had a few small posters to go on the wall. OTOH, if the set doesn’t have magic, you end up with extravagant prices for ordinary objects, like an $8 doll hairbrush. In general, I look at the pictures on the American Girl site, but I only buy if it’s right on target and under $30.
* Wellie Wishers: I always feel like I should love the Wellie Wishers stuff (same company as American Girl, but in a 14 inch size). It’s brightly colored and quirky, but nothing really feels like it’s part of a complete world. I feel like the company doesn’t have a good grasp on how these girls spend their days, and it really shows in their accessories.
There are three other major companies that all have their own brand of American Girl-type dolls:
* ToysRUs – Journey Girls
* Walmart – My life as a doll
* Target – Our generation
The ToysRUs Journey Girls line doesn’t really hit the mark, for me. If a set has the kinds of things I like – like a music room set with flute, violin, and guitar – then it’s rendered in such shoddy materials that it doesn’t seem fun. I like the idea behind them, and the cities-of-the-world themed set, but the execution just isn’t good enough. Some of their furniture looks nice, particularly a few of the beds, but they’re much more expensive than the other lower-tier brands and, from the reviews, suffer from the same shoddy execution as their other accessories.
Walmart’s My Life As is much closer to the mark. Although none of their play sets capture the American Girl magic, their furniture is cheap, cute, and seems sturdy. I’ve got my eye on a furry saucer chair, and may go with the bunk beds if it turns out my sister dolls like them. Decent, functional stuff.
Saving the best for last, Target’s Our Generation has some American Girl level magic at a budget price. I stumbled on them first when I needed some tree-building tools for the doll to create their tree house. For $6.99, I got a saw, hammer, jar ‘o nails, paint can, and tiny birdhouse, all fitting comfortably in my dolls hands. After a few more small purchases, I sprung for the big one – a rowboat, big enough for three (or maybe even four). It’s so evocative that it’s making me dream about Huck Finn-type adventures.
So, for doll adventures, and all the accessories they need! 🙂