Dec 14 2015

The Unexpected Bashfulness of Charity Cheeger

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The cover for issue four of Rough Housing went up today, and I’m quite pleased with it, but I also noticed something about it on reflection.

For a comic ostensibly set on the beach as an excuse for me to draw beefcake/cheesecake, there has been precious little cake in it. With the possible exception of Langley in her “Hello Kitty” underwear, this is probably the most fanservicey image from the comic so far.

I also noticed for the first time just how bashful Charity is. I mean yeah, in the original issue 1 cover (which looks so sparse now compared to the final version with Langley, Roxie, and Parker in it) she’s wearing a shirt over her swimsuit, but that was intended as something of a tease. In the issue four cover, she is explicitly hiding behind Langley so as to not be seen in her bikini.

Honestly… I was not expecting this of Charity. I mean, she was never intended to be an exhibitionist, but my original conception of her was that she was very much a chip off the ol’ block of her mother Comfort, who was anything but shy! Charity was supposed to be bouncy, exuberant, and fun-loving… but as the story evolved she has ended up serious-minded, high-strung, suffering from a deep-seated need to live up to… something, and even a bit prudish.

This is the kind of thing I mean when I say that strong characters often go off in their own directions. Being in the role of “boss who has to whip the hotel into shape” almost requires Charity to be a more serious-minded character, because if she was just another party girl she’d get lost in the mix. Certainly I can’t see Comfort coming in and kicking Langley out of the manager’s bedroom; but Comfort also wouldn’t take on a managerial role, on the grounds of “What fun is that?”

As for my unexpected recent reluctance to draw fanservice… I have no idea what that’s about. I used to love to draw beefcake and cheesecake both, and I was always rather proud of drawing what I considered to be “empowering fanservice,” which showed happy and confident subjects who were in the picture because they wanted to show off. Now I’m just not comfortable with it, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe it’s that with the proliferation of porn to the near-exclusion of other things, the idea of fanservicey art just sorta seems like a quaint relic of time gone by? Who’s gonna care about characters posing in swimsuits when there’s “YCH orgy” pictures all over the place? Or maybe it’s my own attitudes towards sex and sexuality being out of synch with the world around me that’s making me want to just avoid the topic all together?

I dunno. Obviously I have my own issues to deal with, just as much as Charity has hers.

-The Gneech

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Nov 13 2015

Art, Comics, and Why There’s Been Precious Little of Either From Me Lately

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Long title is long.

Anyway! So what’s the deal with me? Issue four of Rough Housing was due to be up and running by now, and people are waiting on commissions and and and…

Yes. All of that is true. Guilty, nolo contendere.

There are a few explanations for this. First and foremost, Mrs. Gneech’s job evaporated, and while we’ve been living on savings, those were rapidly evaporating too, which led me to return to the world of being a barista to pay the bills. That was a pretty punishing job when I was 30. Now I am 46, and it’s devastating. Even on part-time hours I tend to spend my time at home flopped into a chair just trying to recover, and for me art is a thing that requires a certain amount of energy investment.

Second, I wrote a novel when nobody was looking! I’ve recently completed the second draft and will begin shopping it around to agents and/or publishers in December. I’m very pleased with it and I hope it will be the launch of a new career for me. But it also pretty much ate August, September, and much of October whole.

Finally, there are real art block issues I have been contending with.

Now You’re Just a Genre That I Used to Love

The furry art scene was very different when I got into it. Yes, the whole “clean vs. naughty” thing was raging on then, but there was also a lot of vitality and invention going on. “Kids’ WB” was in full force and people were drawing inspiration from things like Pokémon, Road Rovers, and Animaniacs as well as beautifully rendered animated films like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Furry, like webcomics, was in a growth period, with something new and never-seen-before popping up all the time.

The genre has cooled a bit, since then. I don’t want to imply that there’s no innovation going on, because there always is– but there is a sort of standard “furry art” that is just sort of there. I recently went to my FurAffinity account after my extended writing absence and had 1,500 art pieces waiting for me by artists I follow… of which maybe 6-8 caught my attention. The rest were pretty much the same “fursona standing in a pose” portrait or “YCH orgy” thing that has been filling my watch list for the past five years.

No slices of life. No funny takes on the oddities of animal behavior. Not even so much as a “skunk stinking up the room” joke. Maybe there’s something fun and interesting going on somewhere that I haven’t seen, but right now at least it feels like the furry world is in a rut. Which in turn makes it hard to find inspiration to create new, fun, and interesting stuff. Quite the Catch-22.

The Comic I Created Wasn’t the Comic I Wanted

On a more specific note, Rough Housing was half-baked on launch. I think there’s a lot of good in it, and I intend to salvage it. But on some level I think I was still trying to create the “Verity and Tanya” story without having to reconcile the baroque steampunk look it should have with my sloppy, toony art style. But the whole thing was forced and, as I say, incompletely developed.

I’m working on fixing that now. The series is undergoing, as they say on TV, “a soft reboot.” I’ve completely thrown away my existing script for issue four and I’m rewriting it from the ground up, as well as trying to re-evaluate just what it is I want from the series and how to achieve it. I wanted a vehicle for drawing fun scenes of characters romping around on the beach or engaging in silly shenanigans, and I think there’s still plenty of room for that, but as I was writing it I was trying to shoehorn a lot of shipping things into it that really don’t belong there, or at least were not growing organically from the story, because they belonged in the “Verity and Tanya” book instead.

Hopefully, writing that book will get some of that junk out of my system and I can let Rough Housing become its own thing now. When issue four will actually come out, I’m not sure, that’s entirely dependent on the job situation and how tied up I get in publishing the novel. But it’s not just sitting there ignored!

It’s still going to be called “Buff Housing” though. I can’t let a gag like that escape. 😉

-The Gneech

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Nov 05 2015

In Which I Draw a Comic Not My Own

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Yesterday, I finished the second draft of my Sky Pirates novel and sent it off to the beta readers, which gave me a nice feeling of achievement. At ~80,900 words, it’s almost exactly the length I intended when outlining, even if that may end up being too short for some publishers.

Today, the first comic by me to see the air in a while went up, a guest comic for Matt Youngmark’s Conspiracy Friends! which is a fun romp through life as presented by the tabloids, I highly recommend it!

Meanwhile, In Hasbro's Hidden Lair...
Meanwhile, In Hasbro’s Hidden Lair…

Speaking of comics, I think I figured out what was going wrong with issue four of Rough Housing– to wit, the part of me that wanted to be writing the Sky Pirates book was starting to shoehorn stuff from it into Rough Housing instead because that’s what I was working on.

So, having written the Sky Pirates book, maybe now I can relax a bit and let Rough Housing be its own thing. There’s a longer, more detailed explanation of what’s been going on with that, with my art generally, and with furry art in particular, which I still intend to write up at some point, but not just yet. Too many topics spoil the post!

-The Gneech

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Aug 15 2015

The First Rule of Write Club

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For the past two weeks, when not sending off job applications, most of my time has been spent writing another novel. I had intended to hold off until November and do it as a NaNoWriMo project, but for whatever reason the book said, “NOAP, you will write me NOW!” and so I have been. As of last night, I hit 20,000-ish words at the end of chapter seven, and I’m taking a “creative recharge and look back at the progress so far break” today before attacking chapter eight.

I have to say, I am very pleased with how the book is coming along, and as far as this story is concerned, it’s about damn time. This story started out as a nugget of my Arclight Adventures comic project, then morphed into my Coventry idea, then emerged as its own thing, then got shelved, then informed the creation of Rough Housing, then got shelved again, and now has finally re-asserted itself with forcefulness that will not be denied. Verity and Tanya want their story to be told, and they want it to be told in the right way, dammit! And when characters yell at me that loudly, well, I’d be a fool not to listen. The book is coming fast, and solid, and fun, but also with a lot more depth and texture to it than I expected. As I tweeted last night, I think this is going to be my best book yet, and this is the one I finally feel is a good candidate for publication.

The revamped Brigid and Greg novel is another good candidate, actually, and I may put that into the NaNoWriMo slot if this book is finished by then. That one would probably have been finished by now if the house sale hadn’t knocked me out of my groove.

A major factor in this level-up of my writing craft has been Scrivener, which has turned building an outline/story structure from a horrendous pain into an absolute joy. For both the B&G book and the new one, I have started with five notecards:

  • Act One: Setup
  • Act Two: Conflict
  • Act Three: Rising Action
  • Act Four: Catastrophe/Falling Action
  • Act Five: Denouement

Drilling down from each of these, I put in 4-6 more notecards with major story beats. On each of the story beat notecards, I then drill down and put 3-5 short scene summaries– not even whole sentences, just things like “Brigid and Isadora argue”. That whole process takes me a few days, and by the time I’m done I have a nice and solid skeleton to start hanging my story on. From there, it’s just writing out each scene as described in the summary, usually in a 500-1,500 word chunk, of which I can write around three on a “normal” working day and more on a really good day. Just looking at the math, you can see what happens: four scenes of 1,000 words each make a 4,000 word chapter; five chapters of 4,000 words each make a 20,000 word act; four acts of 20,000 words, plus a denouement that’s probably one or two chapters tops, make an 80,000-90,000 word novel.

(Of course, nothing ever goes completely to plan. In the current story, in order to twist the emotional knife on a particular scene, I decided to elevate something that was basically speed bump in my outline into a major catastrophe, which in turn made complications that had to be coped with, but which had not been factored into the original plan. Using Scrivener, that was relatively easy to fix, basically by just shoving in some more notecards for new scenes or chapter. Since it’s just shoving little pieces around at the outlining level, it doesn’t feel like major plot surgery.)

Anyway, I think that with this book, I will actually be making the transition from perennial dabbler to true professional novelist. Not just because of the quality of this piece, but because I now feel like I have the tools and the experience to repeat the performance. I can now confidently build a novel-length story, and I know both what I want out of the process and what the process will need out of me to pull it off. And honestly, I think that when I actually finish something my writing is as good as anybody’s out there.

Building an audience, translating these books into earning a living, and all that stuff, is something else I will need to tackle, of course, as is integrating all of this with my desire to keep Suburban Jungle alive. But those are all topics for another day.

-The Gneech

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Jun 23 2015

Come Find Me at AnthroCon!

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Gneech and SirFox at table N14

AC 2015 is just a few weeks away! As usual, I’ll be sharing a table with my old pal Sirfox. And, as usual, I’ll be doing clean, family-friendly fare, and he’ll be smutting it up. 😉

As always, I’ll be doing badges, sketchbooks, and so forth, as well as premiering issue three of “Suburban Jungle: Rough Housing.” So come on over! Buy my stuff, I’ll be your friend!

-The Gneech

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Jun 01 2015

Art Schedule for the Upcoming Months

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First of all, hello and welcome to everyone coming to see me after picking up my card at Furthe’More! I hope you’ll find lots of stuff here you like. ^.^ Posts have been a little sporadic since March, due to the whole selling-my-house-and-moving thing, but that’s all cleared up now and the production machine is moving again. 😉 As I owe some of you commissions, and others of you may simply be curious as to what I’ve got in the pipeline, this is one of my periodic “state of the Gneech” posts to let you know what’s going on.

My first priority is to get Issue Three of Suburban Jungle: Rough Housing finished as quickly as possible, in the hopes that I can have it on hand for AnthroCon, which is only a month away! (Eep!) Everything else I’ve got going on is officially on hold until I get that squared away. If I’m lucky, that will be done by the end of next week… if I’m unlucky, it will take pretty much the rest of June and no issue three at the con, which will make me go all sadface.

Once issue three is done, either way, I will be emptying out my digital commission queue. This is what I have listed in my notes, so if I’m missing something of yours, please remind me!

  • KarmaKat’s Watering Hole series (4 of 4)
  • Conqure commission
  • Miertam Twilight/Fluttershy monster studies commission
  • MaxGoof commission

Assuming the SJ work gets done on time, these should be finished by the end of June and/or AC. Finally, once those are done, I’m going to turn all of my attention to Dungeons and Denizens and get that finished off while I work on the script for the fourth issue of SJ. That will probably take most of July and/or August.

So, that’s my summer spoken for. 😉 If you want to squeeze a commission in there, they are technically still open, but your best bet to get art from me in the near future is to get me to do it for you at AnthroCon. As you may have read in my LiveJournal, badges and sketchbooks at Furthe’More were almost nonexistent for whatever reason, which is not a happy way to spend a convention for an artist! Especially when most of the other dealers were booked solid. Don’t you love me any more? *sniffle* Aw well, hopefully AnthroCon will be better!

Anyway! Time for me to get to work. Catcha later!

-The Gneech

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