Miffed!


THE INCEPTION OF GROWTH
This is another project that’s benefitted from continual development. The current 20-page short stand-alone story represents a ‘story within a story’. Now, there’s another small idea that’s come to the fore, giving a reason — or temptation — to side-step, which, if I did, would give us a ‘story within a story within a story’. Substitute the word ‘story’ for ‘dream’, and we have a situation akin to the movie Inception. But run, I won’t. I’ve noted down the idea and will get to it in due time. For now, this is my journey, and it’s one I will endeavour to complete, especially as I’m now mid-way through. Yay!!! It’s been a while, so now, the thing is to stay focused, and not get side-tracked or tempted to stray; just like with any relationship…


HUNTER-GATHERER...
Sometimes — as with the creation of the fur of the main character — I like to document the creative process by taking screen shots or ‘progress shots’. This time, I had enough of a collection of images to put together a little movie made of stills. I still have an old version of Apple’s QuickTime (version 7), so I imported the stills as png image files into QuickTime and then, once opened, I saved the image sequence as a movie.

It’s quite basic, but it does the job as far as showing you the progress made with forming the character using an image base template in Photoshop. Once again I used my Wacom tablet and pen to form the character.


video

Hunter Illustration Screen Shots Movie — A short shot of one of the many hunter images that I’ve produced, except this time I get to share its evolution with you.



Final HUNTER Composite — This shows the finished hunter image placed into his nighttime surroundings, as he hunts by the light of the moon.



MIFFED! ‘Promo’ image — I’m not sure how long I’ve had this image in mind, but it probably goes back nearly five years to when I was writing part of the treatment to the MIFFED! graphic novel. That was originally set to be around 200-250 pages.
I wanted to have a scene where she’s alone in the woods and is caught by an ominous light, emanating from within a deep gorge in the forest. I wanted the scene to be part eerie, part serene. Both of which I feel captures the mood being depicted, so it’s great to be able to finally get to it and make it happen. Plus, the more images I work on, the closer my vision gets to being made manifest.




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THE BEGINNING...
This is the opening scene from  page 1 of MIFFED!



I wanted to have a slow reveal as well as a slow build-up to the events that take place in the story, so you don’t really get to see much of her until a few pages in.



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MIFFED! OF FURRY!
A few people have asked about the techniques used for the creation of the fur on the MIFFED! character. To answer this, I thought I would do a few screen grabs  of the work in progress and then explain each stage.


Basic colouring of the initial panel after scanning in the sketch.

If we look at the left paw we can see that it has been given a base colouring for the ‘skin’ (which I usually do loosely with two shades of the same colour). With the fur being white, giving the figure a layer of skin—even though over 90% of it won’t be seen—still adds a subtle layer of ‘believability’ and depth. Something to consider, even if the character you have created is from your imagination or an interpretation of something familiar.



More detail is added to the hand in the form of spots.

At this early stage, it is not important to create a convincing skin texture, as noted before, it will hardly be seen. However, as subtle effects can be perceived on a subconscious level, it is still worth having them in there.



Dark strokes are added to the skin as an introduction to the fur.

Once the skin is complete, or you feel that it has enough contrast, you can then begin with the fur.
For this I use Photoshop’s Airbrush Tool with the Wacom digital tablet and pen. For the initial dark strands of fur, I reduce the airbrush’s opacity down to about 45-60%. This is to give slight transparency to it, adding to the overall effect of depth within the fur. Also, feel free to use about 2 shades of brown for the fur. Hopefully, at this stage you will already have decided the origin of your light source. Have the lighter strands closest to or in the path of the light source and the darker strands further away or in shadow.



The paw begins to take shape with the addition of the white ‘fur’.

For the ‘whiteness’ of the fur, I opt for either an off-white or a pale grey. This leaves room for adding additional brightness, which we’ll see later on. I then reduce the airbrush’s opacity down to about 40-45%.
The technique for creating each strand of fur, or the fur in general, is the same as if you were using another medium such as a brush or pencil. The Wacom pen is pressure sensitive, so starting by applying a normal level of pressure and then ‘flicking’ the pen at the end of each stroke creates a ‘tapered’ effect, just like fur itself. This is encouraging to see and can give you the confidence to further experiment or push the boundaries of what you are setting out to achieve.



The finished base level of fur.

Here we see the finished base level of white fur. In between creating the white strokes, beige strokes were also randomly added to give more depth. Also, rather than have the fur all follow one direction, I made a few of them flow in opposing directions, just to add a little more character to the piece.



The use of Photoshop’s Burn Tool, useful for creating shadow areas on the fur.

The application of Photoshop’s Burn Tool (set to ‘Midtones’, with an exposure rate of about 24-35%) is useful for creating shadow areas on the fur and bringing out the differences in the various shades.
This can be done with either a mouse or the Wacom tablet and pen.



The highlights of the fur, applied with Photoshop’s Dodge Tool. Used for highlights.

For the fur’s highlights, I used Photoshop’s ‘Dodge Tool’ (set to ‘Midtones’, with an exposure of about 24%). This is where we can see the the benefits of using beige and off-white for parts of the fur as opposed to just a flat white — there is a lot more contrast and the highlights are more noticeable.



The highlights of the fur, further enhanced using the Dodge Tool, set to ‘Highlights’.

For the last stage, I add more ‘lighting’ to the fur. This is because in the scene for which this will be used, part of the fur will be in sunlight. I continue with the Dodge Tool, yet this time I’m using the ‘Highlights’ setting with an exposure of 24%). As you can see, the ‘sunlight’ gives an almost ‘glow’-like effect to the fur.



The final composited scene complete with background image and other elements.

Normally, I colour the character in one Photoshop document or as one image (completing about 90% of it), and then produce the background in another Photoshop document. Once the background is finished the main image is then composited onto it, completing the last 10% of the character and/or the foreground elements. This is where I spend time blending both aspects (background and foreground) into one final, complete image or panel.





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MANIFESTING MIFFED!
Sometimes, your penchant for having crazy ideas can manifest into something that is not only interesting but worthwhile.

For me, it came in the form of a “What if?” What if you took a well-known/liked or recognisable child’s motif, image or icon and gave it a make-over? …a 15 or 18 certificate make-over?


This design first began as an idea for a T-shirt which then became a painting.

As time progressed, a back-story to the character developed that evolved into a full-blown story which I am currently working on.

The MIFFED! original Sticker design and resulting canvas, 2008.


The MIFFED! Sticker design ended up in a book called StickerBomb, circa 2008.






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