Showing posts with label Shojo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shojo. Show all posts

Monday, May 2, 2016

Getting the Hang of Zazzle

I’ve been going up the wall lately on optimizing a controlled and organized Zazzle store.  Before products were arranged in any and all kinds of order.  This left visitors scrambling all over the store.  Which isn't good!  Even I came frustrated with the disarray I’d created.  Added to my organizing, I’ve also been reviving the color of my original uploads from 2012.  A few color correcting techniques in the drawing process have stepped up since 2012.  So the difference from then and now were a little too noticeable for me to ignore.  
I wouldn’t call it grueling, but I’ve been up until like 4am all weekend redoing all my previous faults.  I think we've all been there, where it's late but we tell ourselves just one more action before we sleep.  Then one action leads to ten.  
So here are a few of my considerations to optimizing a fresh Zazzle store.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Gold Fleur

Hi, everyone.  Blogger has been acting a straight fool lately and I've been impatient with it.  I don't know what the issue is, but nothing’s loading properly--including this new blog post on my latest drawing.  Nonetheless, I think I'm there.  I think it’s doing its job, and now it’s time to share my process again through a series of images.

I've named this image Fleur.  The character’s name is still unavailable to me.

I sketched the actual drawing probably three months ago and just left it, for some reason. Therefore, I don’t have the penciled version. Nonetheless, as of recently, I went through the process of inking the drawing and adding all the particular areas that would require shading/shadows regarding the flesh (I use Copic markers for this). Besides using the usual colored pencils to add tones to the eyes, I also used a screen/pattern early within the process as the backdrop. Because the process only gets messier, I try to have this construction part out of the way as early as possible. Anyway, at first I meant to apply the screen/pattern as the shirt, and then realized there wasn’t enough paper. I like it better as a backdrop, though. So having carefully carved out the negative space, I added it on as needed.

Now on to the colors. Water coloring is always my base of choice because it’s light and covers space quick and easily. Because I decided his shirt would be yellow—in semi-accordance with the gold fleur de lis within the backdrop—I painted it a light yellow. Just as his hair would be brown, I gave it a light-brown color. However, as seen, I covered the hair with a dust of brown-toned chalk pastels before I applied the yellow chalk to his shirt. I’m all about layers. Get the base color, and then add more and more colors!

Because I like layers, I try to add the darkest color first when it comes to chalk pastels. Why? Because it can get messy. Adding the dark color first allows me to clean up the edges before applying lighter colors. As seen in this image, I added a yellow chalk pastel to his shirt as well as a flesh color to his skin tone. As for the hair, it was time for a layer of colored pencils toned and streaked through his hair to give it vibrancy (I eventually use a tissue to blend the three mediums that layers the hair). Furthermore, I used wooden beads and brown string to craft the drawstring area of his shirt. As for his undershirt, I applied a ragged piece of actual denim to give it form.

Almost finished. I streaked his hair with a gum eraser as a form of highlights, and then gave sparks (an actual whiteout pen) and further flourishes to his eyes and the glisten of his lips. On the crafting aspect, I used more string to construct him gently gripping a necklace consisting of bejeweling stickers, and a gold cross sticker. I went through several designs of the cross from what I had available before I decided to stick with a gold one. This cross, in particular, matches his earrings, which are also stickers taken from the same batch.

The final part. Immediately, after I scan a drawing, I revive its color in PhotoFiltre. Hey, it’s all I got. The reason I do so is because digital images come out differently than the original. So I found it best to give some digital brilliance to the colors. Nevertheless, because the image is further decreased to portrait size, I also made corrections and adjustments. One of those corrects were to brush a matching brown color over the wooden beads that makes up the drawstring of his shirt. This was to cover the dry crafts glue peeking out. Other adjustments called because certain aspects tugged at me. Like his lips. I brushed over the glisten I originally intended, deciding it looked best without. I also touched up the glisten in his eyes by applying a softer gray over them to bring down the brilliance. Sometimes you have to make little adjustments as the digital image always looks differently than the actual one. A little clean up in an otherwise never-perfect drawing.

I have about four other images I’ll be sending off before turning them into journals and other items on my Zazzle shop, this one included. Until then, let’s come up with a name for him.

I sometimes get message from people asking me what inspires me to draw in this style.  Then there are some who pinpoint it right away.  In any regard, I idolize Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon) and Miwa Ueda (Peach Girl) and their shojo manga drawings.  I love the youthfulness, softness, and simplicity of shojo-themed drawings.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Manga Realness: "Ultra Maniac" by Wataru Yoshizumi

The last series in my favorite completed manga set is Ultra Maniac, by Wataru Yoshizumi.  This is quite possibly my favorite between the four I've recently written about, and for serveral reason.  Besides the franatic storyline underneath a schoolhouse backdrop, the artwork (or line work) is clean beyond belief.  Taken with an artistic eye (not that I'm a professional of any sort), the drawings are very clear.  Even clearer and cleaner than Naoko Takeuchi's work.  Maybe it has a lot to do with the different time periods the two series were released, but I noticed Ultra Maniac was very much on par with Absolute Boyfriend's line work.  Perhaps, a smidget cleaner and more meticulous.  Never mind, they both are nicely done.  I just notice it much more in Ultra Maniac.

Yet another manga series I followed through each English adaptation's release, Ultra Maniac also brought me comfort during some frustratingly lonely times.  Also as a note, this one of the few manga series where I own the anime version also--which is just as clean and wonderfully put together.

Ayu Tateishi.  Rei Hino, anyone?
Rei with her secret crush, Tetsushi
So those who are unfamiliar with the short series, Ultra Maniac, let me first summarize what it’s about before why I like it.  For starters, the series combines comedy, romance, and fantasy.  It’s magical, with extended emphasis on celebrating our uniqueness and the friends we gather from doing so.  The story revolves around Ayu Tateishi (who I’ve attributed has an attitude and likeness similar to Rei Hino in Sailor Moon).  As a middle-school girl, Ayu is somewhat of an inspiration to her classmates.  She has a maturity about her that many of her peers admire.  She isn’t one to let loose her emotions or super-express her feelings in concerns to school crushes and chasing idols.  Also, she firmly states that she isn’t one to believe in magic and fantasies.  Ayu has a smooth and practical personality, which I identified with from the jump on some levels.  Nevertheless, Ayu hides a lot of her feelings behind this demeanor--through a personification built mostly because of her interest in a certain student named, Tetsushi Kaji.  Much of her development comes from accepting and projecting her inner desires, trusting that she can believe in the impossible becoming possible.  And this is where Nina Sakura--the teen witch--comes in.  

Nina Sakura and her little spell-tool box
Tetsushi Kaji, the popular boy
From the beginning, Nina comes across as somewhat of a scatterbrain.  Yet, that's a part of her cute, spunky, and likeable charm.  She is like the antithetic to Ayu, or the Pippi Longstockings to Ayu's calm personality.  Nina has just about the same level of energy and gusto as Pippi Longstockings, as well as the unwavering passion for believing in the unbelievable.  However, just like Ayu, Nina hides many of her insecurities behind her jubilant personality.  Somehow attracted to Ayu’s resonablities, Nina is in distress after losing a personal item related to her witching.  It’s a big issue because Nina is in this “world” to prove she is capable of becoming an outstanding witch, considering the people from her world don’t seem to trust that aspect of her.  Once Ayu finds and returns Nina’s magic tool, Nina sees Ayu as the perfect individual to divulge her secrets to.  This includes confessing her desires to be an outstanding witch.  I suppose Nina felt she could share this with Ayu because of Ayu's smooth personality, but now thoroughly attached, Nina does anything she can to make Ayu happy.  To her, they are friends now.  However, Nina's magical antics doesn’t always turn out in Ayu’s favor.  And this is where the adventures begin.

Opposites attract, leading the girls down exciting paths encouraged by one another’s differences and inner similarities as they develop a close friendship filled with trust and adventure.  Between the two secondary male roles expanding onto the friendship, and friends from Nina’s witch world entering many chapters, Ultra Maniac makes for a comedic five-volume series. 

Tetsushi's best friend, Hiroki
As I outline Ayu and Nina’s characteristics and differences, I want to make it known that those elements are what made me love the series.  Particular because I spent my middle school years in somewhat of the same circumstances where I had to cover up myself just to survive the experience.  The funny thing is that in middle school I was more like Ayu, calm and collected.  It wasn't until the second year of high school that I became out going like Nina.  It balanced out eventually.   And necessarily so. 

Nevertheless, that's only half of my identification with the manga series.  While I wasn’t the most popular in middle school I had enough “credence” to associate myself with a few of the more popular students.  I suppose in many respects I was that in-between kid.  Nevertheless, my best friend was one of the students who was forever looked over and bullied by others.  He was the kid I would have to defend from ignorant tormentors.  It had a lot to do with him coming from a family in economic straits (like who wasn't?).  Straits that showed in his tattered shoes and daily repeating outfits.  On top of this, his family weren't that nice to him.  I remember a time when I had extra money and got us both Snicker bars out of the school vending machine.  He took his home.  The next day I asked did he enjoy it.  Sadly, his dad took it away from him and told him that he didn't deserve it.  What kid doesn't deserve candy?  I was angered of course.  Months later I bought two copies of a collection of ghost stories.  Nobody took that from him.  

Nina flagging down Ayu
Maybe because I've always tried to remain receptive to people, but I see no other way to find acceptance in yourself but through the accepting of others.  Nothing is more bonding than being genuinely emphatic and sympathetic to another.  What he and I shared was a love of Stephen King (which may say a lot) and the imagination.  Not Air Jordans or Mustangs.  Just books and some creative thinking.  We could be ourselves while everyone else was shooting to be relevant to others.  Therefore, I enjoyed his company and considered him a friend.  I needed one just as he did.  

Now, while there is much, much else to speak about in Ultra Maniacthe story of two girls who seem to support and compliment each other inspires me to remain open to people.  Have you been open to people lately?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Manga Realness: "Doubt!!" by Kaneyoshi Izumi

Here we are guys; readers and friends of Comic Towel.  Manga enthusiasts and those curious enough to take my loved titles as recommendations, I present to you Manga Realness Number Two: Kaneyoshi Izumi’s Doubt!!.  But first, this is not based on Yoshiki Tonogai's manga series with the same name.  

The New Ai Maekawa
Coming from my loathsome sessions plodding through the Peach Girl manga series (which I bailed out on), Doubt!! did a good job dissolving the growing weariness I gathered from reading about Japanese schoolgirls who allowed her peers to run over her.  Translated as “bullying”, the Japanese term ijime describes this type of behavior seen in many school-based manga stories.  Now that’s not to say there wasn’t a supply of this in the five volumes that make up the complete series of Doubt!!.  After all, it wouldn’t be a shojo manga series without melodrama, plaid skirts, sharp-jawed boys, love triangles, depraved ijime, and the misunderstood tanned student with duck lips.  Nevertheless, the more or less distinct difference is that the protagonist in Doubt!! was (or at least started out) a little more on my temperamental level when it comes to not accepting crap from others.

Will So's past break his relationship with Ai?
A six volume shojo series crossing Romance and Slice of Life, Doubt!! tells the school life story of Ai Maekawa, an overlooked junior high teen who turns her image around to begin an acknowledged, new life in high school.  Armed with a new haircut and pimple cream, this transformation jumps off the series after a small prologue recounts her last embarrassing moment in junior high.  Feeling a lot more confident in her looks, Ai enters high school with the admiring eyes of her peers.  In turn, she suddenly finds herself in the mix of two of the school’s popular boys, So Ichinose and Yuichiro Kato.  A seemingly over flirtive (another word I made up) womanizer with a sketchy background related to his childhood, So Ichinose literally scoops Ai up and hangs off her backside during the first chapter of their meeting.  Why?  Because she is new, cute, and prospective-looking to his limbido.  Alternatively, his best friend, Yuichiro Kato, hangs back to admire Ai from afar, while berating So for his overzealous flirting.  The boys are two sides of the same coin, and as the placidly cool Yuichiro grows feelings for Ai, and Ai grows feelings for So, So tackles the difficult task of keeping his checkered past out of sight and from drawing a line between him and Ai.  Meanwhile, Ai has to battle her own past, as figures from then emerge to wreck her sudden popularity and budding relationship with the boys.  This all befits the web of drama that makes up Doubt!!.  And it only gets juicier as each of their secrets are revealed.

Now, what hooked me to this series…

Does Yuichiro stand a chance with Ai?
Some can say that the determination for Ai’s transformation reinforces how girls cater to a cultural obsession with looks and social popularity.  However, to me, Ai changing her looks installed in her that she is worth more than she believed before.  She didn’t think she was cute.  She didn’t think she would ever get a boyfriend.  She didn’t think too much of herself.  Then she decided to move away from that frame of thinking and make a change.  Granted, it can appear shallow for her to believe that looks is the beginning of this inner and outer transformation; nonetheless, her doing so sparked a fighting spirit inside of her.  I don't know about you, but I've always admired individuals who can make a change and take charge of their lives.  Seriously, how many people can wake up and decide to do battle with their issues instead of feeling sorry for themselves?  That's why I liked Ai and dedicated myself to reading her story. 

Still, her story doesn't stop there because soon she has to defend her new attitude--which kept me further invested in her story. 

Ai's ijime became jealousy-driven once she reached high school.  The girls who did not know of Ai’s past chose to bully her because she was pretty and gained the attention of the most popular boys in school.  However, driven by the torture she experienced in junior high, as well as her will to remain consistent in separating herself from those experiences emotionally, Ai did not back down from this new misconception that her bullies formed about her.  After all, the fight from her previous slew of misconceptions built enough character to combat the other.

At one point a student expressed: “Pretty girls get everything handed to them.  You don’t know what life is really like.”  Instead of succumbing like during her past insecurities, Ai chooses to stand up (quite violently I must add) for herself under the realization that the ijime she faced in junior high has only changed.  While she is somewhat thankful to be labeled "pretty", it did not come easy.  Therefore, she sure as hell wasn't willing to let someone taunt her about something they knew nothing about in regards to her emotional struggles.  So the best thing for her to do was to shut it down before it started.  And that's what she did when she fought back for her respect.  

This resonated with my experience adjusting from junior high to high school.  Like Ai, it was this adjustment that let me know that I didn’t have to take crap from anyone else anymore, and that I wasn‘t so unattractive that I needed to lay in my own darkness.  What I believed for myself was exactly what I had a right to pursue.  I didn’t have to lie in my shell any longer because there was nothing wrong with being confident, loud, and even obnoxiously cheerful.  So take control of your life when you find it necessary.  You’re going to come across opposition of some sort any way.  Might as well attempt to make the best of yourself in the process.  Feed confidence into your emotional diet even if that means changing your looks.  And most of all, stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Give yourself some credit for moving through life itself.

If you could go back to junior high or high school, what would you do differently?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Manga Realness: "Absolute Boyfriend" by Yuu Watase

I have a humble collection of manga, so this will be a modest series of posts (not really).  Nevertheless, my manga library was a lot larger in the past, but many of the titles that I decided not to venture pass book one (unless it was a one-shot) did not make it during years of moving and rearranging cluttered bookshelves.  In retrospect, I wish I kept many of them because I fume silently at the absence of my copy of Antique Bakery Volume 1.  Did I give it away?  Or did I misplace it in my mess?  It always seems to work that way: you grow out of certain phases then you tumble your way back in.  One year my manga library grows, the next year it’s stagnate, the following year it’s dwindled.  And on it goes.

Nonetheless, there are a few manga series and one-shots that I refuse to separate from.  Some of them I’ve completed and some of them I hold on to in the hopes of one day picking back up to complete.  Naturally, the other singular element that assists with my decision to hold on to a title is the artwork.  

So with all of that said, let’s get into Manga Realness Number One.  By the way these are not ranked; alphabetically arranged with each category, though.  With Sailor Moon completely out of the way (what manga series can beat that?), my first favorite completed manga series is Yuu Watase’s Absolute Boyfriend.

Absolute Boyfriend is about a withdrawn Japanese high school girl (she happens to live alone while her parts work overseas) named, Riiko Izawa, and like many shojo genre girls, Riiko is having romantic problems.  Well, Riiko’s problem is that she can’t seem to have a romantic problem.  Guys that she's interested in are never receptive to her.  When it finally appears that she will remain loveless throughout her school years, a strange set of circumstances, involving her returning a missing cell phone, sets Riiko on the path to finding love.  Or does it?  It is nowhere near as easy to determine.  The missing cell phone belongs to a mysterious stranger who, after listening to Riiko’s romantic woes, offers her a card and CD-ROM that directs her to a website called Kronos Heaven.  It is here that Riiko spends a late school night customizing what appears to be her perfect boyfriend, offered for order by Kronos Heaven.  While she approached much of this as a joke, the next day Riiko receives her wish in the form of the perfect, robotic boyfriend named, Night (he is part of the Nightly Lover android series).  Per the instructions, a kiss is required to activate Night.  With Riiko ready to comply, this is where the fun of the 6 volume manga series begins!

Riiko Izawa
Night is given to Riiko on a trial basis; he must be returned three days after purchase.  The mysterious cell phone stranger reveals this to Riiko during his service-appreciated visit.  The problem is that Riiko wasn’t aware of the statement, and is therefore stuck with Night and a one million dollar (or yen) bill.  With her first payment only days away, Riiko and Night quickly devise ways to earn money, including working in a hostess bar.  Night even disguises himself as a woman to assist Riiko; such a dedicated fellow him be.  Until Riiko is groped by a drunk patron does Night come out of his wig to protect her, subsequently leading to both of their terminations from the bar.  Leaving the bar broke, they run into the mysterious cell phone stranger.  Realizing her struggles, he offers Riiko a deal: the organization will waive her fee if she provides them with data concerning her relationship with Night.  This will assist the company in creating even better boyfriend models for future customers.  Gladly, Riiko agrees.  She is determined to teach Night everything about women.

It all makes for a great set-up, especially when you factor in the antics the two go through to keep their secret, as well as their comedic dialogue.  Other elements that unfold within the series includes the crush Riiko’s neighbor, Soshi, has on her.  This eventually forms a love triangle between the three where Night and Soshi battle it out for Riiko’s attention and affection.  Other characters join in on the adventures, including a miniature version of Night who assists Riiko during a time when Night requires repairs to his cyborg body.  Nevertheless, the main focus of the series revolves around Riiko’s maturity and choice.  With a sudden brew of romantic options, will she choose the robotic boyfriend, Night?  Or will she choose the moody and flawed human character, Soshi?

Night.  The robot mate.
Without a doubt, this manga series contains many of the elements that I love in manga.  That's one reason I loved it so much (other than the hilarious plot).  I read the volumes as each English adaptation was released (2006-2007), so it came along as a positive distraction from the mundane life I faced working my ass off to keep up with bills and rent in a city three hours away from home.  I can distinctly remember reading volume three while gassing up my car for a trip to Six Flags (needed that break).  So why was I so invested in the series?  Because Riiko was so terribly unsound when it came to figuring out her love life, and for good reason when you consider she resorted to a robot to try to fulfill that void.  I could relate to her in that aspect--not the robot nonsense.  I knew what it was like to wonder why certain tingling elements revolving around relationships and finding love did not seem to operate correctly in my own life.  I, too, like Riiko, spent a lot of time swallowing down the interest in place of accepting my solidarity.  But at the same time I longed for companionship.  You begin to adapt this armor where you stress to others that connections and relationships are not needed in your life, meanwhile you watch the relationships of others blossom and secretly ask yourself what is so wrong with you.  Now, I wouldn’t dare pay someone to be the “absolute mate”, but I know what it’s like to struggle in finding answers to your questions without endangering the integrity and self-respect that makes up yourself.  Even if those two things are the very things that get in your way.

Check out Absolute Boyfriend Volume 1 on and look out for Doubt!! by Kaneyoshi Izumi.

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