Wednesday, December 30, 2015

CanisVulpes Reflections

So, 2015... Prepare for a wall of text, guys:

I think the public global consensus is well known at this point so I'll focus on a more personal, narcissistic level.

I'm honestly speechless. Like, seriously. January, hell, even April feels so alien to me. So much as changed for me since the middle of the year.

Much of this I discussed in December. In most basic level, and hopefully in the long term, I'm better off. I guess you can say, in hindsight, I actually accomplished more the resolutions that I had set around this time. In review:

Be more sociable, empathetic, stop being so quiet and actually take initiative to talk and speak out thoroughly.
This is still a work in progress.

Improve time management, and organizing. Focus on a task, avoiding 21st century distractions, suffer thru what needs to be done first and bask in leisure later (a lesson I've had to learn the hard way). Perform check lists, utilize calendar for more than leisure.
Achieved with increasing success towards the latter half of the year when events in life and work have prompted me to improve my time management to get more tasks done on time.

Get at least two works of fictions out. Be it infamous Valleydog or Elevations or whatever comes to mind. At the very least focus on that work and not whine about lack of appreciation for something that hasn't even been fleshed out yet.
Valleydog was given the silent mercy kill back in March, but Elevations is just starting its second chapter and is on track to completion. I’ve realized there was far too many flaws in the former to continue on, and essentially had to let go of the past. Unlike Valleydog, I know where Elevations is going from beginning to end, and boy is this a fun story to write!

• Reduce vanity.
Your mileage may vary, but this just sorta happened. I became increasingly selfless in the latter half of the year with the increased self-awareness.

• Save up and begin process for employment and moving out, cut ties with family without being forced to burn bridges. Improve financing.
I am on the way to a Tech career come January and have been learning relevant skills since September. I have developed a reliable income since and, save for moving out, am on the right track. I've also realized how valuable family can be, and while to see myself as independent I shouldn't burn a well-built bridge.

• Be happy, genuine positive outlook and not just derpy.
I’ve become more confused and a lot more derpy since 2014. Things happened. I’ll leave it at that.

Stop relying on twitter as lifeblood; reduce tweet output and focus on more worthwhile work. People don't stop thinking about you if you log off for a bit.
I’ve begun to tweet less towards December. Partly out of necessity, partly because I know what I tweet.

• Be more active (the most generic of resolutions, I know).
I have lost weight (yay for being <200 for first time in years) and I am trying to reach out to more animal folks that I kinda hung out with, just to be more than an acquaintance. Mileage may vary.

• Don't be afraid of input and review. A punch in the face is good for improvement.
One Punch Man premiered and it's awesome.

Long story short, changes. Many things I didn't expect to happen, did. On the practical side I have income and some plan for the future mapped out. On the fun side I now have a fursuit and a comic in the making. I have made friends, and lost a few... and remade them. I dove into anime (which seriously surprised me). I pondered romance only to eventually realize how impractical it'd be in life as it stands. Doors have opening, but are also closing. My imagination soared this year, but also some regrets over certain (or lack of) actions. Overall, it's bittersweet. Life is funny... but I guess this is what growing up feels like. I wanna be a marfy animal all the time!

It should be noted that around this time of 2005 I decided that being a two-legged animal person would be pretty cool. Shortly after, I discovered many other people that agreed and that there these people joined together in annual conventions. One was not too far from my place. That con was Further Confusion.

While I didn't go that time (if you do the math on me, you can pretty much guess why), I did dive head-first into finding out more about these furries and how they interacted. Like Ariel, I wanted to be part of that world. As a result, I aimed to hone my artistic skills and my-then aspiration of being the next Walt Disney (hey, I was young), and begun drawing, taking inspiration from numerous animal sources. Three years and much lurking later, around 2009, I came up with a combination of a fox and a wolf out of pure indecision. I gave it a generic name, Mike Folf, in the hopes of using it as a pen name for other uses later on in my life and with that I took the plunge into the fandom.... and tried to interact with these people in person, thinking my art was good, like a typical online teen would do.

The following year, I finally went to FC... for two hours... trapped by the fursuit parade. While it was a quick visit and I didn't really interact with anyone because newbie, that experience of seeing all of these people, who for the longest time I only knew as a cute animal icon, was enough a catalyst for me to return and dive any further.

To say that the furry fandom had a major influence in this stage of life would be an understatement.

I began to draw more, even if they were, at the time, very sketchy canines. I began a comic with a friend, I took over a comic. I determined where I would go after high school not only on my planned career (arts and animation), environment (can I actually go anywhere without a car? Do I feel comfortable there?), but also where the animals were (historically speaking, the place with computers and a Golden Gate Bridge... the mere fact that this was even a factor in swaying my vote is something I've kept secret for a while because of how stupid it is to base your future, let alone an important stage in adult development, on a fan community... but I was young and I thought I could make an anthro-based animation studio in five years by connecting with furries in what was at the time the mecca).

Come June of 2012, I did it. I did get into an animation college in Sunnyvale, and I also begun to finally interact with furries in person... again diving in head-first (attending as many meets as I can, volunteering for Further Confusion).

So, yeah, be careful what you wish for.

My newfound lack of discipline and wanting to go to every meet so I could gain a foothold in the community caused me to get the boot out of that college within a year. I experienced the good and the bad within the fandom. As I was new at the time, I assumed anyone and everyone could be friends, and ended up witnessing drama as it happened. Thankfully, I gradually fine-tuned that circle to filter those apples out. I became more self aware, worried about what others were saying about me (which in itself motivated me to attend meets and events more out of this fear of backtalk at the expense of my own success).

Last year, 2014, was the plateau, or test, so to speak. Freshly kicked out of the college I once thought I'd succeed in, I tried to take community college courses to get me back in and tried to ditch the fandom. Long story short, I was lazy when it came to disproportionate prereqs so I tried to get into film, or at very least, take courses relevant to making animation and plan to make Valleydog a cartoon by myself. Also at the time, the furry fandom was my sole social circle and would remain so for the rest of the year. Thankfully, I begun to discover who my friends were and held on to those connections when I could.

Theoretically, 2014 was my 'year of furry', in the sense that I was very active in the meets and having attended my first true out-of-state con (sorry, BLFC, you're that weird anomaly) and, well, other things, under the guise of "freelance cartoonist and future Valleydog animator", still holding on to that plan and dream. The fandom no longer felt special but more.... normalized.

This is also when the idea of Elevations began to take form.

Professionally, I was struggling. The courses I took went nowhere. It's like looking performing a musical on the Titanic as it was about to hit the iceberg. I knew this wouldn't last. Through advice of select people, I had to change my career and shift gears; put dream as a hobby. So... what does someone in the Bay Area go to as a surefire career path? Computers, of course!

So begins 2015. I began practicing coding and programming. I lost friends, and figured out who were there for me. I made goals to meet by the end of the year. I honestly didn't know where I'd end up, but somehow, towards the middle of the year, everything changed. I'll leave the details for another time as this post is already long-winded as it is.

I feel like I'm not the same person I was a year ago. I'm definitely not the same person I was three years ago when I first moved down. My perception on things has changed. I'm shifting more away from "doing it all now because it might not be there tomorrow" and more "do now what will benefit you tomorrow". I am honestly grateful for the friends I have made, and those that stuck around for me. While everything around us will change and be unrecognizable tomorrow, may we stick together in even the darkest of storms.

What are my goals for next year? Self improvement; become better than I am today. I want to push my limits, artistically and otherwise, just to see where I may go.

This is by no means a 'leaving the fandom' post despite what the context may bring. I am grateful for having found this fandom, but I don't see (nor desire) having it entirely define who I am. The furry fandom is just one of many facets of my life. Granted, it's one facet that overlaps with a lot of other facets (traveling, creativity, among others). I still see myself as being a part of you animal people in the future... heck, I might even achieve that dream some day.

The one troublesome element I personally have at this point, is a fear of letting go (if you take a look at my submission and journal count, I seldom if ever delete anything for archive purposes). I'm afraid that I am cursed to always get involved in something right before its demise/end/major shift (many TV shows pre-finale, Bay Area exodus, friends with furries just as soon as they leave the fandom, etc).. it honestly has made me distant as I don't wanna get close to anything if it's bound to eventually fade away. I want to cherish as much of the status quo of discovery as much I can... and honestly, my biggest regret is being able unable to notice an opportunity to do so when I see it. Half of what brought me to where I am now either no longer exists as is or is in the process of change.

It honestly shouldn't bother me. In the long run, it's all a trivial part of life.

But enough rambling. To my friends, and you know who you are, I cannot thank you enough.

Here's to 2016!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Elevations Connection: Chapter One Conclusions

This post covers pages 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, and pretty much the entire marfing chapter.

Chapter One: October 19-December 4. Little over a month, not bad for timing.

It still feels a bit funny to be doing a comic again, and to actually conclude a little bit of a story that a few months ago seemed like a pipe dream. I'm still trying to avoid this getting to my head. After all, I honestly don't expect much from this project, let alone the first chapter.

Since this is the end of the chapter, why not go into a bit deeper of a reflection and thoughts on the story so far, and productions thereof.

The Production

As planned early on, the comic will go on a break at the end of a chapter to catch up on production and give me breathing room for about a week or two before beginning the next chapter. This honestly is good timing, as I ended up using the entire buffer I built up this past week (the final page, Page 23 was finished and posted 45 minutes behind schedule, and even then it's still a rough draft).

Elevations was not produced in bulk as contrary to what I had planned. I'm human, and I paced myself. The production pattern has essentially broken down to the following:
  1. Arc Outline
    This takes 1-3 years and is where the basic storyline and plot take form. Insofar, the current arc, Sutro, is set in stone. Only a few close friends and myself know the eventual fate of Terry.
  2. Act Outline
    This is where I flesh out the arc and figure out where I want what to happen. Elevations is broken into 'Acts', akin to comic book issues or manga volumes. These Acts follow directly after each other but are paced in such a way that points and moods in the arc will be easily identified by the Act it was in (eg Act One: Premonitions is much lighter and goofier than what follows).  The time it takes to fully lay out an Act varies between 1-4 months, and the contents will change over time. So far, only Act One has its outline set in stone. Acts Two and Three have basic elements and twists laid out.
  3. Chapter Outlines
    More individual details! The Acts are broken down into 4-5 chapters of 20-25 pages. This is usually where a lot of chopping and pacing begin and is usually done in unison with writing the Acts themselves, if not a little longer. This also changes over time, and often in conjunction to the following steps. So far, Chapter 2 and a little bit of Chapter 3 are set in stone.
  4. Chapter Scripts
    This is where I write the dialog and know exactly what's going on! This is done in conjunction with the above and below, and is highly susceptible to sudden changes. A chapter can be scripted out in one hour or a few days depending on the outline and what other ideas may pop up. So far, only Chapter 2 is completely scripted.
  5. Chapter thumbnails
    This is where I interpret the script and the outline to figure out the best way to lay out an individual comic page (like so) before I place digital ink to digital paper. These are very fun to do and give a fairly good idea of what everything will look like. The thumbnails won't necessarily follow the script, and sometimes the final product doesn't follow the thumbnail at all. Production time is roughly 5-30 minutes a page. So far, I got up to page 28 thumbnailed.
  6. Page Production
    This is where I draw the actual comic that you see online. This can take between 1 hour to 3 days, depending on the complexity. So far, I need to draw more pages.
Save for steps one and two, the production process doesn't necessarily stay in that order. Steps 3-6 will often go hand in hand. As such, the final step unintentionally isn't done in order either. Instead of doing everything at once, I ended up drawing Chapter 1 in three distinctive periods (sets of days when I had time to devote to drawing). These periods are as follows:
  • Production period 1 (July 29-September 6)
    • Pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 16
  • Production period 2 (October 12-24)
    • Pages 11, 13, 14, 18
  • Production Period 3 (November 8-December 3)
    • Pages 12, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23
The one takeaway I've had from pacing these out is that it's surprisingly hard to keep a style consistent. Compare Page 1 and Page 3 to Page 14  or even Page 18 and Page 22. I tossed the halftones out pretty quickly and apparently went for a more inklike/painterly feel. What do you think?

I just wonder how this would impact the off chance of dead-tree publishing when I'm done with this Act.


The first draft of the current script had the school scene and post-tram chase linger on much longer. This also had a much ruder Terry and was split into three chapters. I quickly realized how much space this would take, as well as realizing that a goofier dog was more lovable. Thus, I trimmed the fat to get to the house awakening much sooner. Message me if you wish to see this script, I'm more than happy to share!

Pay close attention to the header banner on the site (the thing on top with the logo) and The Story So Far pages as you keep following the comic. You won't regret it (and props to those who screencap when keeping track).

Chapter 2... what's in store?
We'll find out what Terry was doing in the house, what that canine is, and who Terry has been living with all this time. Who is that horse and what's with the tower, anyway? Will we be seeing that dragon Terry dreamed about on the train? What is with that book? What did that dog wake up with?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Elevations Connection: A Streetcar Named Marfi

This post covers pages 16, 17, and 18 of CanisVulpes Elevations

The one thing I absolutely love about San Francisco is how ridiculously robust their transit system is. Seriously, those buses will take you anywhere in the town. I spent a day back in April doing random exploration of the city (for comic preparation, I swear). This was the first time I actually relied on Muni beyond a short hop from water to mall, and given the stories I've heard about the system, my standards were low. Needless to say, I stood corrected. The service is frequent (never have I seen nearly every other line be 10 minutes), and if it weren't for traffic, the most you'd be on is an hour.

Plus, riding one of the trolleybuses down a steep hill is as close to a coaster as you'll get in the city.

I have had a lot of cases involving barely missing the bus, waiting in the dark, or waiting forever to find it'll never show. I've become adept at intentionally walking the extra mile to catch a better line, or take a longer route under the assumption of more convenience. A majority of these have happened with my local VTA, which tries so hard to emulate Muni in coverage, but fails so hard at being frequent and reliable, cute little thing).

April of 2012, I was visiting San Jose for my eventual  move down. It was unexpectedly raining, my phone was dead, and I left my phone charger back home. I looked around Diridon Station for maps in the hopes of being able to find a way to family in the area. I also tried to get a new phone charger because, well, communication good.

To cut to the chase, I did get a cheap charger, and I pulled up a large map and traced a line from downtown. I did catch the line...albeit in the wrong direction. The bus ended in downtown at this sandwich shop (Lee's by SJSU if you're still keeping score). At this moment, it was pouring so I made a run for the sandwich shop to do a quick charge. I didn't know when the bus was gonna leave, so I quickly ran outside, in the rain, waiting. Meanwhile there was this man, mumbling, grunting with pounding fists (just imagine the Spongebob Rock Bottom Episode and you get a good idea of the situation. Needless to say, I couldn't be any more happier to be onboard.
Exterior inspirations for Pages 13-15 (off Geary and Stanyan)

This was partial inspiration for this week's pages, as a worst case scenario of "putting a cute, innocent airhead of a dog into a situation he cannot help himself out of". In hindsight, I should've made him a little more creeped out, because night is creepy.

I mean, I've personally had no problems with a stroll in the dark. Heck, I even enjoy a walk along the block every now and then, but even then, when the air is too quiet and still and there is an abnormal lack of lighting on the street, even the most peaceful of suburbs can begin to look like a setup for a horror film. Boy does San Francisco get dark at night. I walked around the Richmond district (between Geary and California, just west of Presidio for those keeping score) one time for a family occasion. The area is nice, and the houses actually do reflect their rent (lawns and all). I visiting around the afternoon, close to sunset. What was once pleasant looking by day quickly turned scary.

Exterior inspiration II for Page 17 (Not Richmond, but Sunset).

I mean nothing bad happened but those blocks have practically absent street lighting. I felt like something would lurk up behind me.

Production Trivia
Below is the rough path Terry would've taken these past six pages. I did do some rough research on this beforehand. It is much longer than I thought at approximately a 40 minute walk. That said, I wouldn't mind giving this a go sometime.

In hindsight, I probably should've included a few extra pages of Terry walking in Golden Gate Park. Future bonus scenery porn?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Elevations Connection: Sutro Tower

This post covers pages 13, 14, and 15. Comments relating to those pages can be posted here at the bottom of this entry.

You see it there. Above the fog, atop the tallest peak, creeping behind the skyscrapers of the Northeast, the Sutro Tower stands above it all.

San Francisco is full of hills. This made it a challenge for broadcasting signals until around the mid-century when it was realized that perhaps building a giant tower to allow convenient broadcast throughout the Bay Area might just be a pretty good idea.

It was the 1960s. A pyramid was taking shape, a subway was being lowered underwater, the Summer of Love was in full swing, and a stationary Googie tripod (that makes for an adorable coat rack) erected itself atop, fittingly enough, Mount Sutro in the middle of the City. This made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Like most major structures in the city when they're first built, people hated it. Unlike those major structures that became adored over time, this one just... existed. Standing there, watching over all the unassuming citizens below.

Some random, trivial facts about Sutro Tower:
  • There are 249 antennas on the tower itself. These are used by 11 TV stations, 4 FM radio stations, local civic services, mobile cellular service, and other communication outlets.
  • The tower is (disappointingly) not open to the public. The closest you can get is via trails adjacent nearby Summit Reservoir, though the further Twin Peaks is much more accessible.
  • The tower stands tall at around 980 feet (only slightly shorter than the Eiffel Tower if you don't factor in height from Sea Level).
  • The tower does not let you take control of the entire Bay Area with the right code (if it did... oh the powers I would use with that).
  • It really needs to have an observation deck and a restaurant. I'd pay tons just to eat above scenic fog!
As one can't actually visit and go to the top as an average citizen, I would like to end on this video find (courtesy KQED) of someone who'd been able to do just that (and boy is that view pretty):

Images by yours truly
History and research from, Wikipedia, and Exploratorium (via YouTube)