Frame by frame

Posted: 2nd November 2011 by R.AGE in Stories

When blogger Goh Kheng Swee opted to use drawings instead of text and pictures to tell a story he encountered while taking the public transport, he never expected to receive so much positive feedback from readers.

But since he did, Kheng Swee decided that drawing was a good way to express his thoughts and opinions, and decided to continue doing so on his blog.

Today, Miao & WafuPafu Comic Blog (www.akiraceo.com) has close to 1,000 unique visitors per day and almost 1,400 Likes on its Facebook fan page.

“When I first started blogging in 2007, I used text and pictures to tell my story, just like many bloggers out there. However, I realised I could tell the same story and make it even more interesting and funnier through my drawings and that was when I decided to make the switch,” said Kheng Swee, who is popularly known as Jian Goh or Miao.

Jian Goh demonstrates how he draws his characters using only a mouse, Adobe Fireworks and Adobe Illustrator.

Jian blogs about interesting things he sees or incidents he experiences, in a comical way. He draws himself as a cat and appearing alongside him are his two hamsters – Wafu and Pafu.

“I love cats and also happen to be the only cat lover among my friends. At the same time, I am from Kuching, Sarawak, or Cat City.

“Wafu and Pafu were given to me by a friend. Sadly, they died two years ago and I now have to draw halos on top of their heads in my drawings,” said the 26-year-old engineer.

For Jian, drawing is very different from writing a blog post. It is not practical to draw every single detail or an entire story from start to end. He also needs to ensure that the message he wants to convey is clear, using the right amount of frames which ranges from three to 10 per blog posts.

“I always give my story a twist or a punch line at the end to make the post interesting or funny and usually, this would be the most difficult part,” he shared.

Jian uses Adobe Fireworks and Adobe Illustrator to sketch his drawings, which some initially thought was almost impossible, or at the very least, an insane thing to do.

“When I first started, I only used the basic shape and line tools to draw my characters. It was hideous but I found it acceptable back then.

“It was tough drawing with a mouse, but practice makes perfect. As I got more familiar with the software, my characters were ‘upgraded’ and given a facelift. It’s what I like to call, version 3.0,” he said.

While Jian has his two hamsters to accompany him on his blogging journey, Ernest Ng has his four “brothers” to count on to keep his blog, Bro, Don’t Like That La, Bro (dontlikethatbro.blogspot.com) going.

In his comics, Ernest focuses on his experiences with four close friends – Jamus, Daryl, Shamus and Jon – whom he refers to as his “bros”.

“Jon once pooped in his pants when he tried to fart and I told myself that I needed to let the world know about his misfortune.

“That incident inspired my comics from the very beginning. The story eventually spanned into nine separate blog posts,” said the 25-year-old video editor and part-time freelance emcee.

Unlike Kheng Swee, Ernest sticks to a six-frame template for each post, which forces him to compact his ideas.

Ernest Ng shows off a wallpaper that he sketched and then later digitzed.

“Sometimes, little details of the story get omitted from the final strip but I will try to avoid that if I could. If the nature of the story does not permit it to be summarised (in such a way), I will just stretch out the story into a few blog posts or draw a few more frames and call it a special edition,” he said.

Ernest updates his blog every Monday and Thursday, although he tries to draw as much as possible during his free time.

“I usually draw about two weeks’ worth of content in advance so I can take my time to draw for the subsequent weeks. That way I still have time for social activities while drawing newer strips at a steady pace,” he explained.

It is fairly easy to notice the differences between one artwork and another, as each artist has his or her own unique styles.

“Different styles of drawings will draw different types of readers to your blogs. I do not think there is one style that fits everyone’s taste,” said Ernest.

Unlike Jian and Ernest who draw their comics straight on the computer, Pauline Low Pou Leen and Tan Wai Kit both use the old school method of drawing with a pen, and on paper. They then get their drawings scanned, and digitally coloured. Such method can take up to two to six hours to complete.

Pauline Low is a 20 year old law student at University of Malaya and often blogs about her love story and guys on her blog.

 

“I may draw the comic but it is my co-author Dan Khoo who colours them as I am not good with the software,” said Wai Kit who runs Bolehland (www.bolehland.net) together with Dan.

Bolehland revolves around Dan and Wai Kit’s lives, and is drawn in a four-frame comic.

Sometimes, fans and readers of Bolehland will come up to them and praise their work. “We are always happy when our work is recognised. Sometimes, I even use my friends’ stories as story ideas.

“So far, no one is offended yet,” said Wai Kit, 24.

Bolehland co-author, Tan Wai Kit poses together with some of his artworks for the camera.

He added that readers tend to perceive him as the really shy and quiet one while Dan is the more outgoing guy.

Although their works do manage to gain some popularity in the blogosphere, one of the disadvantages of being a comic blogger is that they miss out on the opportunities and perks (like monetary gains) other bloggers seem to be getting.

“Dan and I decided not to do gadget or food reviews or accept advertisements to maintain the blog’s direction. Because of that, we are probably missing out on some really good opportunities,” said Wai Kit.

For Pauline, who runs I Know You Don’t Give a Damn about My Life (iknowyoudontgiveadamnaboutmylife.blogspot.com), her blog is a private sanctuary for her.

“I disclose very personal information on my blog, things that I will not normally share in real life, not even with my family or friends. But, at the same time, it is through my blog that they get to see a different side of me.

“I feel more comfortable revealing my inner feelings through my comics while injecting some humour into it,” said Pauline, 20, who is studying Law at Universiti Malaya.

Pauline even blogs about her love life, which seems to be a recurring topic on her blog.

“I am not afraid to let others know about my personal stuff online, but when people come up and ask me about the things I posted, it gets a little awkward,” she said.

Even though her friends and family members know the existence of her blog, none of them have asked to be featured. However, they are quite amused that she uses them as characters in her comic strip.

All four comic bloggers, despite the differences in drawing style and genre, seemed to agree on one thing and have the same dream – to compile their comic strips and get them published into a book.

Jian Goh works his magic on the computer while Tan wai Kit (second from left) and Ernest Ng (first from right) looks on.

Being a comic blogger is not easy as there are times when people would criticise their work for various reasons. Still, perserverence is the key to success.

“We had a tough time at first what with people criticising our work but in the end, what is important is that we have fun,” said Wai Kit.

Ernest encourages upcoming bloggers to pick up a pencil and paper and start drawing.

“It does not mean anything if one has lots of ideas yet do not take the first step to translate them into drawings,” he noted.

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3 comments on “Frame by frame

  1. oh ok its here already! thanks so much!

  2. Alvin Lim on said:

    whoa, u guys are famous now :D :D :D

  3. Great to hear that people are using Fireworks for things like this! It is definitely the most versatile, fastest, intuitive and efficient graphic design program out there right now.

    These are some collected reasons for using FIREWORKS and not PHOTOSHOP when creating on-screen graphics:

    FILTERS
    PS: Adding a blur to a shape, you have to rasterize it.
    FW: You can add any filter to any object

    PS: Suddenly you can’t use a certain filter for a certain layer. There are no explanations on why this is the case and you can’t even see the fly-out menu with filters that “used to be there”.
    FW: You can apply anything to anything at any time

    VECTORS
    PS: Shape layers are more confusing than they have to be. You can’t apply effects to vectors in Photoshop.
    FW: You can interact with vectors directly in the artwork, just click on it and you can move it around without having to pay close attention to which layer the object is on.

    OBJECT PROPERTIES
    PS: Rounded rectangles: You can’t change the radius after drawing it. You can’t see the result of the radius until you have drawn it.
    FW: Each object can be reviewed and analyzed quickly by looking at the property inspector when the object is selected. A rectangular shape has a “rounded corner” setting and when changing the value it updates in real time.

    CONTROLLING & SELECTING
    PS: You can select an object from the canvas by holding down ctrl (PC) but after adding a few objects to the artwork you basically have to work from the layers if you don’t want to interact with pop-up dialogues telling you layers are empty or locked etc. You basically have to name every object you create in order to find it again. Selecting something from the canvas when you get a complex document is just impossible. You end up “searching” for your objects for way to long. This makes it trickier to “sketch” or make something quickly in PS. Example: Draw ten lines on top of each other in random directions. Try moving or changing one of the lines without interacting with the layer panel. It’s pretty much impossible without naming every object. The objects you draw are “sinking into the artwork” and the more you create, the harder it will be to get hold of them.
    FW: Every object lights up as soon as you hoover over it, letting you know you can select it by just clicking. If you need to select an object that lies below the highlighted one there is a “select behind” tool

    PIXELS
    PS: Nudging a pixel when zoomed in further than 100% or less than 100% and the object will move in half-pixels (etc). There isn’t even a setting to get the nudging to snap to pixels.
    FW: One nudge click equals one pixel. You can set each object to be anti-aliased or not, there is even a “snap to pixel” fuction for objects that might be off-pixel, real simple (when using sub selection tool you can move anchor points to half-pixels)

    LOCKING
    PS: Even if a layer is locked you can accidentally select that layer.
    FW: A locked layer is locked and you will not be bothered by it.

    TRANSFORMATIONS
    PS: When a transform is ongoing, or a text field is being altered, you can do nothing except work with the transformation. You can’t close a document, you can’t “unselect” by clicking on the outside, in other words you are locked until you press enter (or ctrl-enter when working with text). Because of this you have to let go of the mouse/pen and interrupt your workflow.
    FW: You hold down ctrl and press outside of the object and you are ready to interact with other objects. A very quick way to work.

    HIDING
    PS: When you press ctrl-H it means you want to hide all the stuff around an object but when you do that for a text you still have the “transformation box” around the string.
    FW: Ctrl-H hides everything and you can see the artwork clearly.

    MULTIPLE OBJECTS
    PS: If you want to apply a layer blend mode for more than one object you have to do it one object at a time. When selecting two at the same time, PS “forgets” what modes they have. Even if they have the same mode.
    FW: You can select multiple objects on multiple layers and create the same blend modes for them. You can add the same effects to them etc. Even if they have different properties before.

    COLORS
    PS: When selecting a color for an object or a shape you might want to select other colors than the ones in the artwork, say for instance the color of a shape in the layer panel. You can’t.
    FW: You can sample colors from anywhere on the screen, even from the FW GUI if you would like to.

    GRADIENTS
    PS: Handling gradients is cumbersome.
    FW: Every vector object can be set to have “Gradient fill” instead of “Solid fill” in the property inspector. The gradient is then controlled from either the property inspector or the actual object. Like in Illustrator but in a more straight forward way.

    - – -

    Other benefits with FIREWORKS:
    - PAGES. Great (and fast) way of organizing your work.
    - QUICK PROTOTYPING with linking and toolboxes filled with functional UI elements
    - SYMBOLS. Well developed in FW. Compared to PS and AI the handling of symbols (smart objects) is superior.
    - PROPERTY INSPECTOR. Instead of showing effects etc in the layer panel you see and alter the effects by clicking on the object.

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