Friday, 21 November 2014

Clambering out of the snow!

Well, I say snow, but right now it's drizzling a sort of icky cold drizzle!

I just looked at my last blog entry and was shocked to see that it was back in August. I can't tell you how fast time has moved since then, it's somewhat dizzying! After my last post about the rewrite, the story has been though another rather intense re-drafting, that I'm really pleased to say that the new version has been received very well. These last two weeks I've been in meetings discussing it, and the general impression is that it's a much stronger story. There are still some tweaks and tightening ups to do, but I feel like the bulk of this work is out of the way, and I'm hoping to return to the drawing of The Firelight Isle in the new year.

Over the last two months, a reasonable portion of my time has consisted of waiting for meetings and waiting for feedback. During that time, I've been working hard on a new website for The Firelight Isle, which will integrate the comic, my shop, this blog and my personal blog into one properly unified space! There'll be much more useful features like a dedicated RSS feed for the comic, comments sections on each page, and under the hood the whole thing will be much easier for me to manage and update because it's built on a wordpress install. That's about 85% done, so I'm hoping that when I start to post pages again, I'll be able to launch the new website at the same time - a bit of an all round reboot!

The final thing of note is that although the art on the already-published pages you can read here has remained untouched by the edit, there have been some dialogue tweaks, and there may well be a small extra scene half way through what you've already read. I'm debating wether to keep the part of the story that is already up on the web as it is, or to change it when I shift to the new site... no idea what the decision will be yet!

If you're not already one of my lovely and patient Patreon supporters, the campaign is still up and running! Although I haven't reached any of my goals yet, the money is immensely helpful, and means that the income I get from my part-time job (what would ordinarily have been a subsistence wage) is bolstered, allowing me more security from day to day!

I'll be in touch soon with more news.

Friday, 8 August 2014

How Avalanches Work

They start with a few stones and before you know it, it's too late... here's a visual depiction of the aftermath of this re-write in stages!

Aaaand you can see where I am now! I've just finished typing up and organising all these notes systematically, and now I can get to doing some more scene tweaks. Phew.

Friday, 4 July 2014

The Editor...

Here's another part of the process of making The Firelight Isle that I haven't discussed much... the editor!
As I've mentioned before, the lovely and incredibly experienced David Fickling has been editing The Firelight Isle since very early on in its life. David has had an incredible career and knows story-telling inside out... he's helped to take The Firelight Isle from a collection of related themes, character sketches and events, to a genuine story, all without directly suggesting what I should do with the writing, or where the plot should go. Here's a little snippet from his bio:
In his first job at Oxford University Press he signed up Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke, and has published Philip's books ever since, including the multi-million selling His Dark Materials trilogy. Later he set up Doubleday's program of original children's books: the launch list included Philip Pullman and Jacqueline Wilson (whom David teamed up with artist Nick Sharratt). David is the man behind both the Goosebumps and Horrible Histories phenomenon, he remembers being told kids don’t like history! In more recent years he published Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (bestseller and award winning play) and John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Jenny Downham’s Before I Die and Andy Mulligan’s Trash – all international bestsellers and big time Hollywood movies.
He's now publisher at the newly independent David Fickling Books, and I'm hoping that after The Firelight Isle has finished it's run on the web, that it will eventually be collected by DFB into a lovely printed edition. The details and certainty of that publication are still up in the air though, because the way we're approaching the creation of this story is as a whole... both David and I are keen that no corners are cut in the writing, and that (although the story is being released episodically) we approach the overall narrative with as much attention and care as any novel receives in editing. There's no commitment to the book until it's all top notch from beginning to middle to end, and last time we met, we agreed that the story needed quite a bit of work.

Given that, I've gone out on a limb somewhat in even drawing and publishing Chapter 1, but I feel that there are some concessions to be made for the webcomic format. I wanted to get the first part of the story out there so that I could gauge how the story was sitting as a series of stand-alone episodes and chapters, and I'm glad that I did. Having finished these 30 pages has really solidified how I see the characters and world, to the point where I don't think my re-draft would have been effective if I hadn't already finished Chapter 1.

The only snag with this method of creation is that webcomics should run to a tight schedule, but editing a 300+ page graphic novel runs to a different kind of time-table. David (having just set up a publishing company) is a pretty busy guy, and handing in a draft for him to look at means waiting until we can discuss it properly. I have a meeting set with him for the end of July, but until then I can't really do anything more on The Firelight Isle.

This is kinda frustrating, so please bear with me over the next three weeks or so. I'll be posting news about how things went after the meeting is done!

Friday, 20 June 2014

New draft: FINISHED!

I'M DONE!!! This re-draft has ended up taking up a massive amount more time than I expected, but it's fantastic to see it all together. The first third of the story is all in finished pages or thumbnails, the second third is a hybrid of thumbnails and script, and the last third (which has had the most re-working done to it) is all script. I'm pleased with how it's all gone, I feel like the focus is much tighter and the story more engaging around the end of the second third/beginning of the last third. Now I just gotta run the gauntlet of edits...! More soon.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A thing about writing.

No new pictures to show this week, but hey, words are exciting too right? And I haven't talked much about the writing process yet, cause the drawing had been so all-consuming up until now.
Last time I checked in, I mentioned having to redraft chapter 2. The redraft was necessary because actually knuckling down and drawing the first chapter of this story has had a much more profound impact on the way I think about the characters and their environment than I expected. Bringing the little nuances of finished storytelling into being - like contemplating the small, practical details of finished environments - has set all sorts of ideas tumbling in my head, and brought my grasp of the wholeness of the world of The Firelight Isle into sharp focus.
This may sound pretty vague... I mean the story has been written and thumbnailed, already. None-the-less, there are scenes later on in the story that I struggled with whilst writing them, and this nebulous new understanding I've arrived at has shed light on why that was the case. I've also worried on and off that the middle third of the story lacks focus, and the reasons for that have suddenly become very clear!
In what has been a slightly fevered few weeks of writing, I've dragged together all my old notes and put together a comprehensive and organised database of info on the story, updating details that have changed and adding new entries on culture, tradition, character and theme when appropriate.
Having done this means that I've been able to dig into the story, tighten up all the loose bolts and restructure the weaker sections... all without running into any frustrations other than the regular interruptions of life!
The rewrite is still in progress... I've restructured the whole story in synopsis form, and am now going through each chapter in detail, writing new scenes and editing dialogue on old ones. The final result will be a real Frankenstein's monster of script, cut-up thumbnails, and notes-to-self, but I can't wait to have it finished so I can start bringing life to Chapter 2!

Friday, 30 May 2014

MCM Expo - May 2014

So, last week I was at MCM Expo promoting The Firelight Isle! Here's a quick snap of my table set-up:

I'm especially excited about the table cloth, which I got printed at woven monkey, (who had excellent customer service) and is actually a pattern that appears in the story a little later!
I had a great time, and the comic seemed to be received quite well. Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by and chatted, bought a copy or got a sketch! I'm hoping to do October MCM as well, and I'll be at Lakes and Thought Bubble later this year too!
On the down-side, exhibiting meant that I had to spend the two days I would normally have spent working on the comic itself on preparation and travel, so no progress to announce for Chapter 2 yet. Watch this space!

Friday, 23 May 2014


Hello all! Progress on the next chapter is coming along - albeit slowly! I've had some major re-drafting to do that has had me scratching my head over exactly what's going to be best for the comic. Originally a LOT happened in the next chapter, but I felt that I wasn't giving it all enough space, and worried that it would be harder to connect to everything going on. Decompressing it comes with its own issues though, and it means that the shape and length of Chapter 3 has to change to compensate! It's like doing a jigsaw puzzle where putting a piece in changes the shape of all the other pieces... or, for anyone who has ever had the pleasure, tuning a guitar with a floating bridge. Here's a preview of the thumbnails. I'm having to break the new pages down into tiny annotated sketches to see how they all fit before committing to anything!

Friday, 9 May 2014


Wish I had a more exciting update for you today, but unfortunately I'm not even writing this today, I'm writing it tomorrow and just dating it as a Friday entry, because yesterday (and the day before) I was in bed with a nasty virus-thing. And typically, having slept during the day whilst recovering, I can't sleep now (the time is 1:40 in the morning). So boo to having lost the two days a week I spend on The Firelight Isle this week, and yay to feeling a bit better and getting back to it next week!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Comics Unmasked

Fantastic news! The Firelight Isle is being featured in The British Library's new exhibition, Comics Unmasked. It opens today, and will be around until August, so there's loads of time to have a look! It's a beautifully designed show (supposedly the largest ever exhibition of mainstream and underground comics) and well worth going to see. The Firelight Isle is part of the digital comics display in the final room of the exhibition.


Friday, 25 April 2014

Ribbon 4 is up!

Hi all. I just finished the latest story ribbon and it's all ready read!! Click here to read the latest part, click here to read from the beginning!
This ribbon wraps up the first chapter, and I've got a bit of rewriting to do on the next chapter, so I'll be posting more about how that goes next week.

Friday, 18 April 2014

A Happy Accident

Weirdly enough, I often find myself stopping half way through my colouring process, when various unfinished and hidden parts of the page make an unexpectedly beautiful result! This is one of those moments from a page near the end of chapter 1...

I was so surprised by the result that I've been toying with the idea of making this a print in the store! Finishing this page has also brought me *very* close to having the next ribbon ready to post! I'm confident that it will be out next week in fact! Hope you're as excited as I am - these things take a long time, but it seems worth the effort!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Colours Away!

The colouring of the pages for the next ribbon has begun and is going very smoothly... I expect to have the whole ribbon ready by next week with luck (or the following more realistically)! Here's a preview of the colours for a page that I just finished... as always, you can catch a sneak preview of all the unlettered colours and linework so far if you're a 10$ patron on the Firelight Isle Patreon!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Linework For Next Ribbon Finished!

I've now finished all the linework for the next ribbon, which will conclude Chapter 1! As soon as I'm done with the colouring, I'll be adding it to the site, and also starting plans to collect the first chapter into a printed single issue! :) If you're itching to see more work ahead of time, all the linework from this ribbon is available for anyone who donates $10 or more to the Firelight Isle Patreon Campagin! Here's a little preview for everyone else...

Friday, 21 March 2014

Make It Then Tell Everybody

Hey all! The pages are going very smoothly - I've now finished all the linework for the next episode, and am on to the colouring - hopefully it should only be a few weeks before I can put it up on the site. That episode will conclude the opening chapter, so after it's done I'm going to look into collecting all of chapter 1 into a printed edition!
For this week's Firelight Friday, there's a brand new interview... a few weeks ago, I was invited to be a guest on Dan Berry's comics podcast, Make It Then Tell Everybody. Dan is a fantastic comics creator in his own right (along with teaching AND running a podcast - I don't know how he does it), and it was a really interesting chat. We covered all sorts of topics, from The Firelight Isle, to working methods, to opinions about the industry and art education. You can listen to the whole thing on Dan's Site.
There's also a Patreon campaign for the podcast, so if you enjoy the interview, consider being a patron! There are tons of great interviews already, and the campaign will help Dan absorb the cost of making more.
Don't forget that there's a Firelight Isle Patreon page too!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Drawing Page 25

Last week, I recorded myself drawing page 25. Here's the whole process condensed down into a 10 minute video!


 I'm making good progress on ribbon 4, most of the drawing is now done, and the colouring is left to go!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Making Ribbons

I was asked in the comments on an earlier entry how I go about putting together the very long pages you see on this comic! Here's a quick break-down of the process.

1) It starts with "thumbnails", very sketchy roughs of the finished pages. I compose two at a time, side-by-side, and whilst I'm doing so, I think about how they'll fit together top-to-bottom.

2) Once that's done, I break them into individual pages and draw slightly more detailed roughs, focussing on the layout of the individual page. I have a set of rules for myself that I try never to break in order to keep the reading flow smooth:
  • Keep the panels-per-page to a minimum (less than 6 is ideal).

  • Keep the reading direction always going top-to-bottom and left-to-right (with as little left-to-right as possible).

  • When placing speech bubbles, I never place my next speech bubble higher than my last.

  • Once all the speech bubbles are placed, drawing a line through them in the intended reading order should produce a simple and easy-to-follow shape, starting at the top-left and ending at the bottom-right.

  • I use speech bubbles to bridge gaps between panels that should be read one after the other, to guide the eye from one to the next.

  • I never bridge gaps between panels that aren't intended to be read one after the other.
  • I try to use the shape of the art and the direction of motion of the characters to guide the reader's eye onwards.

3) When drawing a finished page, I extend the top and bottom of the page, and create a natural finish for the panels or drawings.

4) Then, once the pages that make up a ribbon are done, it's a very simple matter to drop all of the pages into one very long canvas and position them so that it reads, without apparent breaks, from top to bottom.

5) The only thing I haven't mentioned is the trick of picking "beats" in the story (moments where there's a natural rest or a scene change that causes anticipation) to form the ends of each ribbon. There are actually an irregular number of pages making up each ribbon (between 5 and 8) because of this, and I can adjust the length and flow of the ribbon by adding larger or smaller extensions above or below certain pages. The overall story is composed in chapters of around 30 pages, meaning that each chapter falls into about 4 ribbons.

And there we have it! I hope that's an insightful overview of how I make The Firelight Isle work for both web and print.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Become a Patron!

In order to support The Firelight Isle as I create it, I've signed up to a service called Patreon. Patreon lets fans become patrons of their favorite creators, but unlike other fundraising services, which raise for a single big event, Patreon is for creators who create a regular flow of free material. Patrons can make monthly donations in exchange for perks, and donate as much or as little as they like, for as long as they like. The idea is that even a dollar or two a month is worth a lot if you have a few hundred patrons.

The goals I'm aiming towards are raising enough money per-month to hire assistants to help with the running of the project and the colouring of the artwork, and eventually to raise enough to spend more of my own time each week on the art!

I answer some basic questions that will probably occur to a lot of readers (especially supporters of the Indie GoGo campaign) on the page itself, so please check it out and consider becoming a patron of The Firelight Isle!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Lots of Faces

I've just realised that I missed last week's blog entry! I had a post planned about how I put together tall images whilst making sure that the story still reads as a series of individual pages, but I shall have to save that one for next week... In the meantime, I've been working as hard as possible on the next episode - I hope to spend much less time on this one! This next part focusses on Sen, for which I produced a giant character sheet to speed me up.

One other piece of news, I've put a mirror of The Firelight Isle up on Smack Jeeves, a webcomic hosting site with some social media extras. So if you like reading webcomics there, or would like to see how the story reads one page at a time, check it out!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Ribbon 3 is up!

Hi all, I've been putting the finishing touches on the latest story ribbon this week, and it's now ready to read!! Click here to read the latest part, click here to read from the beginning!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Time Lapse

Lots and lots of flatting today. For those who aren't lucky enough to have encountered "flatting", that's the process of putting flat colours under uncoloured linework. It's like the first pass before the lighting and detail is put down and is basically the same as doing a colouring book... except not so fun.
So, rather than share the monotony with you, I took a moment to edit down, speed up, and upload the livestream I did late last year. The following video is the exciting part of the colouring of page 15 (the flatting has already been done when this video starts). Hope you enjoy, and feel free to ask questions about technique etc in the video comments, or in the blog comments (full screen in HD is a must if you want to see what's going on in the layers).

Making a promise about a release date is probably the worst thing I could possibly do at this stage, but let's throw caution to the wind! I hope to have the next part of The Firelight Isle live either next week or (if colouring these pages is slower than predicted) the week after! I am excite! I hope you are too!

Friday, 24 January 2014


Hi all! :) Things are going well, I'm skipping ahead with a batch of linework before I catch up with the colouring at the moment, which means I'm focussed on drawing. Earlier today I realised that I haven't actually produced a full turnaround for Anlil yet, so I extracted and edited images of her from the pages I've done so far, and then filled in the gaps to create the start of a turnaround.

Despite how long these pages take, I'm always trying to find shortcuts and ways to speed up. I often feel like the discipline of drawing comics is all about finding ways to "cheat". Having such a large range of poses means I can skip a few steps by using these as "bases" each time I need to draw the character. In many ways, having only drawn a few dozen pages means that I'm still getting used to this project, and finding out how to streamline the process.

The sheet is still missing the half where she's looking down and from behind, but it's a good start. I thought it'd be a laugh to stick it into a gif to see how well it'd animate... turns out not very well at all (her hair slides around like a loose wig), but it is neat to see it moving, and it taught me a fair few things about how to keep her face consistent from different angles!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Sketching Away

The admin is still going, but going well. I've just finished a batch of sketches to send off to their contributors, and I'm looking forward to getting back to drawing the comic itself again tomorrow! :)
As I mentioned in the last post, crowd funding is hard and lasting work! If you're interested in it yourself, I wrote a double-article on the experience a while back on my personal blog! Part 1 here. Part 2 here.

Friday, 10 January 2014

The End of an Era...

Today, I started to wrap up the last of the admin associated with The Firelight Isle IndieGoGo campaign. Just a caution if you're personally considering using Kickstarter or any other crowd funding sites... a successfully funded campaign is a LOT of work, it can literally take years to sort it all out!

But you're probably here for the comic... this ribbon is crawling along painfully slowly for the reasons I listed in the last entry, but here's some new linework from a page I was working on yesterday!

Friday, 3 January 2014

The best laid plans...

No new update this week, but I think it might be a good chance to discuss something I've learnt and am still learning as a freelancer. No plan ever goes to plan, unless part of the plan includes the plan failing.

When I started drawing, I sat down and figured out that The Firelight Isle takes me 1.5 days a page on average, and that I have 8.6 days a month to work on it, meaning I can get 5.7 pages done a month, and with the average episode of the story being 6 pages attached to one another, I should be able to get just under 1 episode done a month.

Sounds great, huh? I've been making calculations like that since I started doing comics as a freelancer, and have ended up relying on them in a number of situations, but life always throws things you don't expect at you.

Things like prepping the final designs for that other freelance project I took a few months ago, having a little extra work to do for The Phoenix out of office, updating my records with a year's worth of business receipts, submitting my tax return, being away for Christmas, planning for the next financial year, going to town to post those shop orders, writing these blog entries... lots of small interruptions and additions that seen in isolation are barely worth thinking about, but when put together add up to a significant amount of time!

The thing I never want to admit to myself is that life never stops throwing these at you. You can wait all you want for the "quiet time" to happen or the "perfect routine" to fall into place, but it never does. The only predictable thing about self employment is unpredictability, and working with unpredictability is a matter of keeping space in your plans for the unknown to occur - not an easy task.

So, it seems that in the balance, suggesting I'd be able to get one episode out a month was optimistic, and plans made with optimism are just poor plans. Employing a bit of practical pessimism is forcing me to say that I just can't schedule it... they'll be ready when they're ready. I really hate saying it, but it's true. If I had 5 days a week for this things would be different, but 2 will have to do!

See you next week, and remember - hope for the best, but prepare for problems, and never promise anyone anything that doesn't take possible problems into account!

Friday, 27 December 2013

On Holiday...

This is a sneaky, lazy automated blog post, because I'm currently relaxing with friends and enjoying a bit of a holiday break! More in the new year, but first, a quick glimpse of a new page (this is where Sen's family live and work)! Hope you've had a lovely festive time this Christmas too! ^_^

Friday, 20 December 2013

Merry Midwinter 2013!

Hello all! Just a quick message to wish you a happy deep-of-winter (if you're in the northern hemisphere), or just a happy whatever, wherever you're from!

I'd hoped to have a new episode out by now, but it turns out that many things have ended up in the way of that goal (winter colds, winter celebrations and the fact that the script I wrote myself is abusively challenging to draw). Expect more in the new year! :D

Friday, 13 December 2013


Things have been going smoothly this week! I'm nearly done with all the tricky scenes from the next episode, and looking forward to focussing on some of the simpler ones. This Friday, I'm posting a deeper look at the shading process that I started to talk about last week, using one of the recently finished pages from the next episode. To begin the shading process, I work on top of a dark-grey background. Since there are lots of different light sources in the exterior scenes, I add them one by one, by dropping a textured white gradient onto the page, and masking off the areas where shadows would fall, or the light wouldn't reach.

Here's the page with the remaining light sources added in (unless there are visible torches or windows, I just add them where it looks most dramatic)...

Then I add in solid white for windows and doors, along with greys to show light falling on and shining through cloth...

Once this process is done [technical photoshop babble coming up...] I hide the linework, deepen the grey to black, and use the resulting black-and-white image as an alpha channel for some adjustment layers. Those layers are then placed over the flats to darken the colours and increase the amount of blue and red in the areas where the shadows are...

Then I do the same, only inverted, for the areas of light. The amount of yellow is increased, and the colours are lightened. I also blur out the lighting adjustments a little to get a subtle bloom effect.

Finally, textures, patterns and painting are added for clouds, fabrics and sky!

The people in the scene are in a separate folder, and I shade them second...

The lighting on the figures is much less complex. I pick a single dominant light-source (whatever the closest is), and add cel shading on the figures using a similar technique involving adjustment layers and masks..

And it's done! See you next week with more progress!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Colour Choices

Happy Friday, folks! This week I've been continuing the battle against busy market scenes, and progress is going well! Since I just finished the flat colours for a page, I thought it'd be a good opportunity to show what a page of The Firelight Isle looks without any lighting or effects. The colour palette is chosen to entirely avoid blue, which is a sacred colour in Azulian society, and only seen on certain buildings and people.

The following is a compilation of all the swatches I use, with the addition of "Azulian Blue". The swatches are repeated three times, without lighting in the centre, with the tones I use for shadows on the right, and with the tones I use for light on the left...

 Next week, I'll have finished the colours for this page, so I can compare the two stages and talk a little about how I add lighting effects.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Schedule and Progress!

Hi all! This Firelight Friday, there's no new episode, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about schedule so there's no confusion. After Freakangels, I'd imagine that many people expect a weekly release for The Firelight Isle, and really I'd like nothing better than to be able to do this!

However, whilst working on Freakangels, I had a flatter, a colourist an a letterer to help me, the website was built and managed by Avatar Press, and there was a full page rate to pay my wage as I worked - not to mention no writing duties whatsoever!

With The Firelight Isle, I'm handling the whole project myself, from writing to the building and maintaining of the website... plus I also have a part time job at The Phoenix Weekly Story Comic as a designer and in-house illustrator 3 days a week! Pages of The Firelight Isle take me between 1 and 3 days to finish depending on the level of complexity involved, so I'm imagining that I'll have a new episode out roughly once a month. Not ideal for a webcomic, but the best I can manage at the moment!

So, onto progress! The pages for the next episode are a mixture of difficulties. I've got some nice, easy conversational pages coming up, but there are a couple of large exterior scenes which are bound to suck up a lot of time, too! I'm starting with them, so here are a few in-progress drawings:
Anlil walking through a section of Azul marketplace.
The living and working quarters of Sen's family (they make and trade dyes).

Whilst I'm doing this, I'm also working on a major rewrite of the second half of the story, which is currently a little unstructured and needs some tightening up. I imagine this re-write will go on for a number of months, and I hope to have some more in-depth info about it here as I go. I'm excited to share parts of the editing process as I proceed.

Finally, a few people have asked about an RSS feed for the comic. Unfortunately, right now my website doesn't have the capacity for a dedicated RSS feed (my hosting plan doesn't support databases). I'm working on migrating to a new plan and rebuilding the site in the future - this build only took me a few days and is tragically basic. However, you can subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog (links below each post). I'll be updating it each Friday with a progress report, so every time I have a new episode out you'll know. Alternatively, I'll be posting episodes of the comic on my Tumblr and Deviantart pages, and I'll be reminding my Twitter followers when there are new updates too.

See you next week!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Firelight Fridays Begin!

It's finally live! The first two episodes are up and readable, and I'm elated. It's been a very long journey from the IndieGoGo campaign to here, so I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone who contributed once more - it wouldn't have happened without you!

There won't be a new episode every week - the production is just too intensive for that, but I am planning on making every Friday a Firelight Friday, with a progress report or a behind-the-scenes look at how things are coming along each Friday. Keep an eye out on the blog, and click on the Firelight Isle logo or the archive link at the top of the page to start reading! I hope you enjoy!

Friday, 30 August 2013

And production has begun!!

I'm expecting many are wondering what has happened to the project after such a long wait! After a bumpy and pretty long road, the goals of the Indie Gogo campaign for The Firelight Isle have now been met! The world and characters are fully developed, the story has been plotted out and the thumbnails have been produced (and in some cases are in 3rd or 4th draft)! Looking back on the process, it hasn't been at all what I expected. Here's a snippet from the secret blog written in response to a question from a contributor to show you what I mean!
When I began the funding campaign, I imagined that the world-building and the writing would be very separate parts of the production that I would be able to share lots about in isolation. It certainly started off that way as I posted details about the culture, the clothes, the city and the planet it was set on, but as I continued writing, I began to realise that the finer aspects of the culture were so intimately tied to the storyline that it was impossible to develop one without the other. Instead of the period of environment, character and world design I imagined doing, what instead happened was an extended period of rewrites during which the plot, and my ideas about the world slowly aligned. It was a very frustrating process, because where I’d hoped to have lots of finished art to share, instead I had lots of rough drafts and quick sketches (either in text or in thumbnail form). Hence the long periods of silence during development.
Despite the steep learning curve involved in writing The Firelight Isle, production of the finished pages is now underway (I just finished colouring page 8, and I'm lining page 10 right at the moment). It's going to take me a while to revamp the website in preparation for putting the project online, so in the meantime, I'll share the first page and a later section of the opening (comprising about 2 pages worth of drawing)! Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Live Drawing Demonstration

Here's a little something to show that The Firelight Isle is live and well! I live streamed the drawing of the first page recently, and have edited down and uploaded the recording to Youtube ^_^


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Character Designs

I've now finalised the character designs, and have a number of them to share with you! The costumes have changed quite a bit since the beginning of the project, and the style has moved towards a more stylised look. I'm excited to get drawing!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Lessons with Anlil

I've been meaning to produce a cel-shading tutorial for a while now, and finally got the chance (thanks to some new software I stumbled across) whilst working on an illustration of Anlil. Here's the tutorial (please enable captions for full instructions), and the finished illustration!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Beta Testing

The Beta test for The Firelight Isle has now concluded and was a big success! A number of different people who donated to the Indie GoGo campaign offered to test how The Firelight Isle was reading, both in the imagined online form, and the print form, by reading the first half of the story in its current rough state!

I'm pleased to say that the feedback has been really positive, and that it's also given me a lot to think about! The thumbnail process is now moving onto a second draft, and is proving to be very challenging, but hopefully the story and world will be stronger for the extra time spent getting the flow of the story just right!

Thursday, 25 October 2012


Thanks to the fantastic contributions by everyone who has supported The Firelight Isle, I'm now in a great position. I have a fully fleshed out story, fully developed thumbnails, and I've had the chance to beta-test the first half of the story with interested readers, and have received an amazingly positive response.

There's still editing work to do, but I can say with confidence that the development stage is drawing to a close, and I'm now shifting my focus onto preparing for publication.
This is an exciting, but ultimately uncreative part of the project - I'll be approaching publishers, making plans and proposals, doing the groundwork to prepare my website for the comic, and deciding on details of format and distribution. At this stage it's hard to say exactly how long this process will take, since it's not a matter of a finite amount of work. Negotiations can be a slow and unpredictable affair!

However, I've been able to do a tremendous amount of work on this comic thanks to the help of so many supporters, and I can say with confidence that I have a plan to cover every eventuality from here on out: The Firelight Isle is poised on the edge of being ready to draw, and one way or another, it will be published!

Thanks for bearing with me during a period in which the work I've been producing has been very hard to share with you. Watch this space!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Web Ribbons

I'm now well over 100 thumbnails into the project, and I've decided to start the ball rolling by scanning and formatting the first 120 of them (it took nearly a whole morning just for scanning!). I've been giving a good deal of thought to how I'll be presenting The Firelight Isle on the web, and after some deliberation, I've decided that the pages, once done, will should in two different directions. When in print, they can be arranged into a series of double-page spreads that work well together (that's how I've been thumbnailing them), but they've been drawn in such a way that they will also stack one on top of another seamlessly, and form "ribbons" (of about 10 pages at a time) that can be scrolled down from top to bottom - something that works well for webcomics. By increasing the spacing between certain panels, I'm hoping to give the webcomic its own scroll-contingent pacing, whereas the print comic will have pacing that relies on each double-page spread being absorbed at a time. This is no mean task, so I'm presenting these first "web strips" to contributors who are interested in being beta readers. Hopefully the feedback will help me streamline the finished product for both web and print. If you'd like a chance to beta-read The Firelight Isle, but didn't get a chance to contribute to the IndieGoGo campaign, I'm still accepting donations through PayPal, since every penny I raise for the project can be put to use in the production and promotion! I'll leave you with a thumbnail of the thumbnails to give you an idea what I'm intending:

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Thumbnails away!

Now that the writing process has reached a point where I have a reasonable synopsis, and visual ideas for most (if not all) the scenes in the story, it's time for the thumbnails! Since the last blog entry I've been working to get these rolling, and I've now produced a good amount. I'm estimating that the whole process (including tweaks, edits and so-on) will take me roughly 3 to 4 months, by which time I'll be ready to move onto the final stage, which will be producing finished designs, and a sample section of the comic itself. Here's a quick picture of my working area with all the thumbnails so far spread out!

There are three aides that I'm using, first a sketchbook, where I'll often very quickly scribble an extremely tiny, rough version of a thumbnail to make sure it's going to work before committing it to a larger piece of paper. I also collect notes, ideas and make brief sketches of details that the thumbnails can't capture in here. The second is the sheet of paper with coloured print and scribbles in the margin. That's a condensed synopsis with editing notes attached for quick reference. The last is my laptop with a bunch of text fleshing out the story, and more importantly, a big list of "things still do to or fix" that I address as I draw! It's a tricky and exciting process, but unfortunately not one that leads to a lot of regular material to post on the blog! Please forgive a certain amount of radio-silence while I work to get this done!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Story Comes Together + Sponsors.

A fantastic update! Thanks to the support I received through The Indie GoGo campaign, I've been able to dedicate two weeks over the last month to editing, rearranging, polishing and fleshing out the story of The Firelight Isle. I'm really happy with how it has come together, there have been several major shifts in emphasis and a restructuring, and I'm looking forward to the next stage of development which will be thumbnailing/storyboarding. This stage will most likely include its own story edits, and I'll be using it as a tool to decide which designs to focus on.

This is only the first step in the work that the campaign money will cover, but it's perhaps the most important! The funds that were so generously donated through the Indie Gogo campaign have been set aside to use as a basic wage for any day on which I work on the project.

So far, I've spent a few days on research, a few days on admin relating to the campaign, and two weeks on writing. Some of the campaign money has inevitably had to go back into the time it took to produce the trailer and run the campaign whilst it was active, but the majority of the funds are ready and waiting for the bulk of the work, which will be thumbnailing, design and visual reseach.

I can also announce a new section of the site for the following sponsors!
Travelling Man: An independent shop located in Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, York and online, stocking comic books, boardgames and RPGs of all kinds.
Red Garden Manga: An independent shop for the latest in manga and Letraset art products, supporter of upcoming manga artists and home of the Red Garden Artist Group.
Thought Bubble: The UK's biggest and best annual sequential art event, celebrating the medium in all its forms: everything from superheroes to independent and small press comics.

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