State-of-the-Art Ephemera


Imagine calculating your monthly expenses on an abacus, and then turning around and entering that data into your smartphone. The workflow for my graphic novel Tonoharu was kind of like that.

First I’d draw the line art using tools straight out of the 19th century. Each panel was roughed out on paper with a pencil, eraser, and ruler, and then inked with a brush and a dip pen.

The dip pen—perfect for inking comics (or signing the Declaration of Independence).

After that I’d scan the artwork into my computer. All of the coloring, typesetting and page layout was done digitally, using cutting edge computer hardware and software that had been released just a matter of months before.

I could have ditched my analogue drawing tools and gone completely digital. Even back in 2003 when I first started Tonoharu, you could get a computer monitor that you draw on directly with a stylus, roughly simulating the experience of drawing on paper. That would have streamlined the process (no more scanning in each and every panel), and allowed for quicker, on-the-fly edits.

But honestly, I never really even considered going that route.

Inertia was a factor to be sure. I’d drawn by hand my entire life, so I was reluctant to completely uproot my artistic process. Price was another factor; tablet/monitor hybrids were (and still are) a pretty significant expense.

But probably the biggest reason I dismissed digital art creation was because I thought that it would compromise the quality of the work. And to be fair, I think even the most advanced pen displays are still inferior to physical tools in a number of ways.

Real brushes and dip pens bend and flex, really giving you a sense of the line as it gets thicker and thinner. A stylus/monitor can’t provide that sort of tactile feedback.

When you draw on a monitor, there’s a piece of glass separating the stylus from the pixels. So you’re not drawing directly on the surface the way you are on a piece of paper. In addition to that, the plastic stylus tip moving across the glass feels slippery.

Pictured: Where the stylus is touching the glass (red arrow) and where the line is showing up (green arrow)

And finally, there’s sometimes a bit of lag from when you move a stylus across the monitor to when the line actually shows up. This is especially pronounced when you’re drawing quickly or using a large digital brush.

All these factors make digital drawing feel more floaty and less precise than drawing the old fashioned way. So for years, I snubbed my nose at the very idea of digital art creation.

While I still acknowledge digital’s shortcomings, I’ve since done a complete 180 on the subject. I’m now fairly convinced I’ll be working exclusively digitally for all of my artistic projects from here on out.

I’ll explain where this change of heart came from in my next blog entry. Stay tuned!


Finally, this week’s obligatory Tonoharu: Part Three shipping update:
First off, a recap of the thrilling saga of me waiting for copies of Tonoharu: Part Three to arrive:
Two weeks ago, copies of Tonoharu: Part Three were traveling by rail to my distributor.
Last week, they arrived at the distributor, but hadn’t been logged into their computer system yet.

Now on to this week’s episode:
Six days ago the shipment of Tonoharu: Part Three was logged into the distributor’s computer system. I requested some of those copies be sent to me, and prepaid for the shipping. The order has officially been placed.

And…that’s all I know for now.

My contact at the distributor says the warehouse should let him know when they’re shipped, but I kind of got the sense that maybe they’re not always the best at conveying even that. And apparently getting tracking numbers is rarer still.

So maybe the books have already shipped and I’ll get them later today. Or maybe they won’t ship for another week or two. :-/

I’ll update this entry if I hear anything new. Otherwise I’ll have a new blog entry up next Monday as usual!

The Future is Now (and it’s cheesy)

My parents bought a used Prius a few months ago, and I saw it when I visited America this summer. The dashboard display reminded me of a cheesy, unrealistic display you’d see in sci-fi movie from the 80s. Just look at this:


Everything about this looks fake to me. The weird, segmented gauge on the right, all the random little numbers and abbreviations… but the icing on the cake is the phrase “Hybrid System Indicator”. I mean, really? It just reeks of meaningless, high-tech-sounding nonsense.

Even funnier is the secondary “Energy Monitor” display. Check this out:


Doesn’t that look like something from Total Recall or something?

I suspect part of the reason for the Prius’ dashboard design is rooted in the whole “life imitates art” thing. They probably wanted something that looked high-tech, so what better way to evoke that than with a design that looks like it came from a sci-fi movie? I probably would have drawn inspiration from movies that came out after Reagan left office, but whatever, to each his own.

Either way, I hereby deem this little piece of reality to be unrealistic.

I’m Home, Empty Room!

The Japanese language has stock phrases that are always used in certain situations. Before you start eating a meal, you say “Itadakimasu” and when you’re done you say “Gochisosama deshita”. These phrases are so entrenched that Japanese people even say them when they’re by themselves and no one is around to hear them.

There are also stock phrases for when you leave and return home. When you go, you say “Ittekimasu!” (I’m leaving) and the whoever’s still at home says “Itterasshi” (Have a safe trip). Then when you come back you say “Tadaima” (I’m home) and whoever’s home says “Okaeri” (Welcome back).

I was surprised to hear from a Japanese friend who lives alone that she still says “Ittekimasu!” and “Tadaima”, even though there’s no one to hear her and offer the reply phrases. I couldn’t help but laugh, because imagining doing the same thing in English comes off as a little sad.


The Soy Song

I’ve lived in Japan off-and-on for a total of eight years now. At this point I’m pretty desensitized to weird Engrish and wacky Japanese tv shows and such, so I rarely find them amusing like I did when I first got here.

But once in a blue moon, something comes along that’s bizarre in just the right way to really tickle me. The Soy Song is a prime example.

One of my elementary schools inexplicably decided to have English lessons centered around beans. The above song was the centerpiece of the lesson. It was one of the few times in class that I’ve had to fight with all my might to stifle my laughter.

Here’s what they’re singing in case you can’t make them out:


I Like Nathan Fielder.

Direct YouTube Link

I’ve been trying to keep the weekly updates to this blog “on topic” (that topic of course being ME, ME, ME!!), but last week was busy and exhausting so I didn’t really have time to write anything.

So this week’s blog entry is a few links to YouTube videos featuring Nathan Fielder. The above clip is from his current show Nathan For You. It’s essentially a prank show, only funnier and less mean-spirited than the typical fare.

The second season of Nathan For You premieres on Comedy Central on July 1st. Check it! And if you enjoyed the above clip, here are a few segments Fielder did for the CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes:

Continue reading I Like Nathan Fielder.