A miscellany of weekly ramblings on comics, art and film by Ted Mathot, storyboard artist and writer/artist/self-publisher of graphic novels and comics

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What is CORA?

Since the first book of Cora is due to come out about 2 1/2 months from now, here's a little background of the story.

Cora is the follow-up to a story I wrote and drew called Rose and Isabel, that follows two sisters (Rose and Isabel Callaghan) during the American Civil War. The three brothers of the Callaghan family go missing during the fighting so Rose and Isabel leave their home in Virginia to find them and bring them back safely. What is revealed in the story is that the female side of the Callaghan family has descended from a long line of women warriors of the past. The sisters have some knowledge of their lineage, but it remains mostly hazy to them.

CORA takes place 18 years after the story that began in Rose and Isabel. Isabel and her family live a peaceful existence in the American West around the time of the closing of the western frontier (1888). Her daughter Cora is an 18 year old who knows nothing of her family's ancestry, and lives a simple frontier life with her mother, father and brother. The whereabouts of Rose remain unknown after her mysterious disappearance from the family home in Virginia 20 years earlier.

The book I'm working on now is the first book of four (or more) and will be the set up for a much larger story that will take place throughout the American West. The story will mainly follow Cora, but will jump around throughout Rose and Isabel's past, starting from their birth in 1842. At this stage I've already roughed a number of pages for book two that will deal with Rose's troubled childhood as her innate abilities unfold. All of the characters' stories (and some new ones too) will eventually collide in what I'm planning to be a cataclysmic finale somewhere in the New Mexico desert.

Monday, April 21, 2008

CORA update: April 21

Things are progressing slowly but still moving forward...I had to take a few days off to unwind a bit. I also needed to take some time to clear my head to draw up a piece for an art auction.

There are 21 pages to go on Cora, then I have to do color on about 1/3 of the book, write and re-write a bunch of dialogue, and tie down the cover and do individual page fixes. I added a few new pages to fill out the story, which took a bit of additional time, but the story is better for it (I hope). 28 days to go to hit the deadline, give or take a few days...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Battling technology :: process

At the beginning of this year, I decided it was time to have a dedicated space and new, updated equipment to work on the new book, so I rented studio space, bought a brand new Mac Pro and Wacom Cintiq, and upgraded to Photoshop CS3. When everything arrived, I set it all up in the new studio space only to discover that the Photoshop brushes looked like absolute crap. Unusable. What was the reason for this? I still have not figured it out after hours and hours of settings manipulation, systems admin testing, posts on various message boards and forums and phone conversations with tech advisors at Adobe and Wacom (too see more of what I'm talking about you can look at this thread on the Adobe forums).

It may be the new higher quality Cintiq is showing how bad Photoshop is as a drawing program....or maybe it's Apple's Leopard OS (which is the ONLY OS that can be installed on new macs, BTW - not backwards compatible with older OSes. Incredibly frustrating)...or maybe it's a bug in CS3...or a combination of any of the two or three, etc etc.

But I soldier on. All the new equipment is back in its respective box, and I am back on old equipment until a solution is found.

So that said, I'm working to find new ways to make Cora's linework look better than R&I without spending a gajillion hours feathering every line at 200% actual size. The standard hard round brush wasn't working for me anymore, and what I've found is the opacity jitter setting in the brush dynamics menu. The images below show that brush (top image) vs. the hard brush (bottom image).

opacity jitter on, set to 1% jitter and affected by pen pressure

standard hard round brush

The opacity brush is more like a pencil and the closest thing I can get to a pressure sensitive line in Photoshop. It's been really great cleaning up hair and facial expressions with the brush. It allows for a looser style yet still looks relatively clean.

Here are some process shots:

layout (first phase), done at 200dpi, with a standard hard round brush (this is done very fast to keep things moving)

rough (second phase), done at 400 dpi, 25-50% of actual size and hard round brush, to help me get closer to actual poses and facial expressions (except in this panel, I lost a bit on Cora's pose in the background, which was better in the layout)

final line (third phase) done at 400dpi, 50-100% of actual size and hard round brush with the opacity brush described above.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Cora update: April 7

Not much to report. 42 days and 28 pages to go.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


I've registered the above address in the hopes of more and bigger things to come. I had actually done this a YEAR AGO (!) after the link on Boing Boing and Cory's admonishment that I had no home page or landing place with information about the books.

For the time being, the blog should link to the website and vice versa, so if you encounter any problems getting to the site through a link or otherwise, please let me know.

I hope to get some sort of site up before Comic-Con in July...