A Little Fairy Arrives in our World!

Her name is ‘Mugdha’ (The giver of joy), and she has arrived in our home to touch our hearts and souls. She is only nearly two months old, but already has managed to fill our little world with her presence.

Mugdha is our little daughter. Me and Aparna adopted her from Shri Vatsa, the home of destitute children affiliated to Sassoon Hospital, Pune. She arrived in our home today, bringing with her immense joy and infinite dreams.

Let’s welcome her to our family, and hope she lives a much fulfilled life with us.

The Arrival

We first saw Mugdha on 2nd Oct 09 in the Shri Vatsa office, and there was instant bonding between her and her new parents.

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Saturday, 10th Oct 09. Me, Aparna and Aparna’s parents went to Shri Vatsa. Many children were playing in the court yard.

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We went into the office, where we were warmly welcomed. After some formalities were completed, Mugdha was handed over to us for familiarizing with her new family members. Dhruv was super-excited and wanted to play with his sister and hold her in his lap.

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Mugdha was absolutely an angel in her new mummy and daddy’s arms.

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The SOFOSH social workers had painted a Rangoli for giving a farewell to Mugdha (former name Shravani)

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Sharmila, the SOFOSH social worker, and Aparna’s mom performed certain rituals and presented Mugdha and Dhruv flower garlands.

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Then we arrived home to a enthusiastic welcome.

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Mugdha is now getting settled in her new family and surroundings. May her life be filled with great joy.

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India Adoption FAQ

Here I have collated answers to all the frequently asked questions on adoption process in India. This is not THE comprehensive list, but it gives a fair bit of idea about what process we went through (and are still going through) in the adoption, and our thought process behind it.

1. Why did we choose to adopt a baby?

Ans – Me and Aparna had decided even before we married, that we would have one biological child and one adopted child. Since we already had a son (who will soon turn 5 yrs), we decided to adopt a daughter.

2. What was the reaction to our decision from our respective families?

Ans – Fortunately, our families and friends were highly supportive. Our families, including my two elder sisters (Sadhana & her family and Swati), Aparna’s sister (Amruta & her family), and mine and Aparna’s parents were very supportive of us. All our efforts would be futile if not for their relentless support and love for us.

Many of our relatives and friends encouraged us during the long waiting period, and many of them told us that they were proud of us. Sometimes even we felt that we were praised a lot more than we deserved. But this support will definitely go a long way to give us strength and courage to tread over any rough patches we may face in the future.

3. Are we doing it as a social service?

Ans – No. We are doing it to satisfy our parental instincts, and to complete our family. If it helps a social cause, we are happy for it. We are also very happy to give Mugdha a good life amongst a loving family. But we do not feel we are doing anyone a favor here. And we feel anyone adopting a baby should approach the process with the same mindset.

4. Why the name Mugdha?

Ans – The name is very nice, has a pleasant sound and meaning to it. Also, as any married person can tell you, it’s near impossible to have a uniform opinion on these naming matters between any married couple, and for once, me and Aparna did agree on this name.

5. When did we start the adoption process?

Ans – Adoption is a very long process and there’s a big waiting list. We applied for adoption of baby on 20th Apr 2008, and finally got our chance in Oct 2009.

We are adopting baby via an adoption agency called SOFOSH (Society of Friends of Sassoon Hospitals)

6. Why does it take so long?

Ans – Well, there are a lot of documents for the adoption agency to verify, interviews to be conducted, government regulations to be fulfilled, and then, there’s the long waiting list.

7. What happens if the child’s biological parents come looking later?

Ans – According to Indian law, only non-identifying details of biological and adoptive parents can be shared with each other, e.g. social and economic background, religion etc. So the biological and adoptive parents do not know about each other, ever.

Once the legal adoption process is completed (which may take another six months or so), the child is given a birth certificate with the adopting parents’ names, and everyone else’s rights on the child are relinquished.

8. So, what is Mugdha’s original social background?

Ans – The social worker did disclose it to me and Aparna. But we both prefer to keep it to ourselves only, and not to share with ANY third person, no exceptions.

To us, Mugdha is our daughter from the day we saw her first, and that’s all that matters to us.

9. How did the adoption process start?

Ans – The adoption process started with a basic interview with the SOFOSH representative. We completed an application form and a whole lot of documentation including

    1. Health checkup certificates for me and Aparna
    2. Income certificates for both of us
    3. Character certificates for both of us
    4. Recommendation letters from three families for us
    5. An affidavit from a blood relative couple promising to take care of the adopted child in case something happens to us.
    6. Family photographs
    7. Police clearance (similar to one required in obtaining a passport)
    8. Answers to a big customized questionnaire asking us the about the thought process behind adoption decision, and many family related questions.

10 .What came next?

Ans – Well, after our documents were submitted and verified by SOFOSH, nothing really happened for nearly 16 months, since we were in the waiting list.

At the beginning of Sep 2009, we got a letter from SOFOSH, inviting us for a full day seminar on adoption. The seminar was scheduled on 11th Sep 09.

Many aspiring parents were invited in the seminar, which covered varied topics like legal and medical processes followed while giving babies for adoption, how do these babies land up in the adoption agency, social and family issues faced by adopting parents and children, positive parenting and child psychology etc.

The seminar was highly motivational and informational, and cleared many concerns of the aspiring parents. The best part of the seminar was visits by adopting parents and their adopted children (apart from the delicious food, of course).

During the seminar, we were pleasantly surprised to know that our turn for adoption had finally come, and we would soon be invited to select a baby.

A social worker from a government agency (http://www.adoptionindia.nic.in) contacted us next week, and invited us to their office on a weekend.

The social worker, Shubhada interviewed me and Aparna, first together, then separately, during which she asked many open ended questions about our family background, upbringing, financial position, and decision making process in the family.

A couple of weeks after the interview, SOFOSH invited us to see the baby. The complete known medical and social history of the baby was shown to us. We spent some time with the baby. It was adoration at first sight, and we decided to have her as our daughter. After a couple of additional medical tests, we conveyed our consent to the SOFOSH, and fixed the date 10th Oct 09 as the date of arrival.

11. So, is this all? Is the baby ours now completely?

Ans – The legal process is expected to go on further for at least six months. Mugdha will be in our custody for next three months, during which we are allowed to take care of her, but not make any permanent markings like body piercing and tattoos on her.

During the next three months, SOFOSH social workers will periodically visit us to make sure she is well taken care of. Simultaneous to this ‘probation period’, a petition will be submitted to the court, asking for permanent custody of Mugdha to us. After nearly 4-5 months, there will be a hearing in court, after which Mugdha will become our child. She will be given a birth certificate with me and Aparna mentioned as her parents.

12. What happens when she grows up? Are we going to tell her she is adopted?

Ans – Absolutely! It’s better for her and us that she knows the reality about her from her parents rather than strangers. In our counseling sessions, we were specifically told how this delicate subject should be handled without hurting anyone’s sentiments. We are sure we will be the best parents for her, and she will understand.

13. How should one contact SOFOSH in case they want to adopt?

Ans – You may contact SOFOSH on the following address / phone number

Address:

Society of Friends of Sasoon Hospitals

Room # 87, Sasoon Hospital

Pune 411052, Maharashtra, India

Phone : +91-20-26124660

Fax: +91-20-26128219

E-mail: sofosh@vsnl.net

Website: http://www.sofosh.org

Welcome to HuesAndTones

Finally the version 1.0 of HuesAndTones is ready to be distributed to the world.

It has been a tireless (actually, very tiring) and very fulfilling journey till now. More and more features and design elements are in the pipeline.

Awaiting your candid responses and feedbacks on the site design and content

Lettering 2 – Speech Balloons. Making them look ‘Hand Drawn’

This is part 2 of the lettering process. Here, we will see how to finish up the speech balloons nicely with that ‘squashed’ look.

At the end of last procedure, the caption texts are grouped together with their bordering rectangles. The speech balloons are still not grouped with the ellipses bordering them.

Now it’s time to draw ‘monkey tails’.

Selecy the ‘Benzier curve’ tool as shown circled in the picture below. Draw the 3 points as shown in this picture. Let the lines intersect ellipse shape.

benzier curve

While keeping the benzier curve selected, press ‘F2’ on the keyboard, or select ‘Edit paths by nodes’ tool as shown below. This enables us to curve out the tails as we wish.

edit paths

Click and drag to curve the monkey tail to desired shape.

curved tail

Once the monkey tail is appropriately shaped, select it and the ellipse for speech balloon. Select Path->Union from menu. This combines the tail and ellipse to form a speech balloon. You will notice that the line overlaps between ellipse and tail are also gone.

path union

Now it’s time to ‘squash’ the balloon to give it a handmade look. Select the balloon, click on the Benzier curve tool, and adjust the balloon dimensions, so that balloon is aligned nicely with the text inside.

squashed

Keep the speech balloon selected, select the text inside it as well, and then group these objects. The speech balloon is (finally) ready.

Coming up – Desktop publishing in Scribus.

Lettering 1 – Text, Captions and Basic Speech Baloons Outlines

As mentioned in the eariler posts, Inkscape is a free Vector graphic drawing program, and is excellent for lettering. I import the TIFF file into this file. This TIFF file has only the graphic part, and no text. I resize the TIFF file within my page, such that the width of TIFF is exactly 8 inches. This is how the page will look now.

inkscape opening screen

This makes sure it has enough margin for printing. The actual graphic size is less than the TIFF file, since it’s enclosed in panels. This adds a bit to the margins. (A4 paper width is 8.3 inches, while US letter paper width is 8 inches.). So regardless of paper, the image width is always 8 inches. Now click menu items File->Document Properties. The following dialogue will come up

fit page to selection

Click ‘Fit Page to Selection’, and now the graphic size is exactly 8 inches (width) X 10.667 (height). This graphic, once completed, can easily fit in A4 size or US letter size paper.

Now it’s time to start lettering.

Step 1 – Typing out the text.

I first type out the entire text over the imported graphic at predefined places. The JPG files saved eariler with the original text act as a reference here.

For typing, I use Comic Sans MS font at size 11. If I need to emphasize something in the text, I use Comic Sans MS in bold type at size 13. There are a lot of people on the web advocating not to use Comic Sans MS, as it’s a bit overused, and there are a lot of alternatives available on web, free or charged. However, I decided to stick with Comic Sans MS for now.

After the whole text is typed, the page looks like this.

text_only

Step 2 – Covering the text boxes with caption boxes and word baloon eclipses.

Select the rectangle tool (for text boxes) or eclipse tool (for word baloons). Draw the rectangle / eclipse around the text. No need to be too accurate at this stage. Cover the whole text with the shape.

Double click on the lower left side of screen (circled in red below) to get Fill and Stroke dialogue up.

fill_and_stroke

Keep the Fill and Stroke settings as shown below.

fill

stroke

stroke_style

Press the Page Down button on your keyboard while this shape is selected. This will send the shape behind the text. Now we have a text box / baloon surrounding the text, as shown below.

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Select the reactancle/eclipse, and adjust it so that is looks good. Make sure you give some “breathing space” to the text.

For caption boxes, do the following and you are done.

Select the rectangle and the text within it simultaneously. You can do this by selecting the rectangle, pressing the ‘Ctrl’ key on keyboard, and then selecting the text.

Keep both selected, and click on the menu item Object -> Group, or simply press the ‘Ctrl-G’ keyboard combination. This groups these two objects, making it very convinient to move them around together without disturbing their relative alignment.

For speech baloons, there’s some more

Coming up – Lettering 2 – Speech Baloons and Monkey Tails.

Workflow employed for the making of my first comics and technical details. (This may drastically change in the future productions)

Create panels, pencil sketches, inks and initial speech balloons/captions in GIMP. Graphic size – 3300 X 4400 pixels, 1200 PPI. When creating a new file, click ‘+’ sign next to the ‘Advanced Options’ and enter values as following:

GIMP_screenshot

Creating panels, pencil sketches and inks has been discussed in previous posts.

Something about the speech balloons and captions.

GIMP has a fairly lousy text tool. Once you select the Text tool in GIMP toolbox and type in something in it, it creates a separate layer on top of current layer. This is the only good thing about this tool, as you can easily make it invisible for later use.

I create various speech layers like this, one layer for each speech balloon / caption. All captions are left justified and all speech balloon text is centrally aligned. All these speech layers are kept at the topmost of all graphics layer stacks (panels, pencils, inks etc). I am not overtly careful while placing the text, nor much worried about the look and feel. These speech balloons are only placeholders and help me in ‘reading’ the story as I draw next pages.

After typing in all the text (Font size – 50, Font – Comics San MS normal), I insert a layer above all inks layers, and just below the lowest text layer. I name this layer text_bg.

I draw all speech balloons and caption backgrounds on this layer. This makes it easy for me to make them disappear in one click later.

After all the text is typed, the page looks like the following.

page_with_text

I select the text_bg layer, and start drawing balloons / rectangles on it. The process is repeated for all texts within the page.

1. Using the Selection tools, I drag an oval (for speech balloon) or rectangle (for caption) which will encompass the text. At this stage, a selection ‘running ants’ shape will appear around the chosen text, but everything below that text and the oval / rectangular shape will be visible. Draw the shape at such a size that the text below it will have some ‘breathing space’ (white space) around it.

2. Then I fill the selection with white color.

3. I keep the shape selected, choose the brush tool, select brush of size 5 pixels and keep black as foreground color.

4. I click the menu items as follows: Edit -> Stroke Selection. The stroke selection dialog box appears. Choose the radio button against the ‘Stroke Selection’ option as shown below.

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stroke_with_paint_tool

This draws a 5 pixel stroke within the boundaries of selection. Now we have a background for our text.

5. I unselect the shape, and repeat this process for every text item, remaining on text_bg layer.

6. Now it’s time to draw tails for speech balloons. I draw fairly rough tails here, just to get an idea how the final ones will look. Select the text_bg layer, select brush tool, 5 pixel brush. Keep pressure sensitivity off, and draw the balloon tails freehand. Let them invade in the balloon space a bit. If you are fussy about the look (like me), you may fill them with white color, stroke with black color, and clean up the overlapping bits.

When this is done for the entire page, I save the file as a JPG image. This image serves as a reference when doing the actual lettering.

Now I make all text layers and text_bg layer invisible, and save the image as a TIFF file with maximum resolution. TIFF format employs a lossless compression (unlike JPG) and is ideal for final printing.

Now we have a full resolution image with no text and no speech balloons / captions. This image is ready for lettering.

Coming up – Lettering using Inkscape.

Difference between Raster Graphics and Vector Graphics

Two kinds of graphic formats are used in electronic mediums. Raster and Vector.

Raster graphics are stored as a bunch of pixels, while Vector graphics are stored as a bunch of shapes and nodes.

Raster graphics start losing their clarity as they are stretched beyond their original maximum size. Vector graphics can be (theoretically) stretched to any size without loss of clarity.

Vector graphics van also be used to draw precise shapes, since each stroke can be tweaked separately. But Raster graphics have a better color reproduction.

Photoshop and GIMP are examples of Raster graphics editors.

Illustrator, Inkscape, CorelDraw are some of the vector graphics editors.

Vector graphics can be exported to raster graphics.

Inkscape is a open source, free vector graphics editor I use for lettering. More on this in the workflow discussions.

Question: If vector graphics editors create so much accurate, scalable graphics, why don’t I produce the complete artwork in Inkscape?

Answer: That’s something on my agenda for future. Currently I am learning Inkscape.

The Graphic novel making – Difference between RGB and CMYK formats

Many of you must have read these terms ‘RGB’ and ‘CMYK’ in my previous post, and wondering just what they are.

Well, RGB and CMYK are 2 models of representing color. Typically, RGB model is used in web and screen colors, while CMYK is almost exclusively used in print medium.

The following graphics show the color models in their representative form.

RGB

Additive Colors (Image courtesy wikipedia.org)

CMYK

Color-subtractive (Image courtesy wikipedia.org)

The abbreviation RGB stands for Red-Green-Blue. Every color pixel that we see on a computer / TV screen is a combination of various quantities of these three primary colors. When these three colors are mixed at their full strength, the color white is produced. That’s why, sometime these colors are called ‘Additive colors’.

Printing is a different ball game, though. When priniting on paper, the printers use inks of CMYK combination. CMYK stands for Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Key. Cyan, Magenta and Yellow are the three ‘Subtractive Colors’ i.e. adding them together yields black color.

Every color printed on paper is a combination of CMY colors in various quantities. The ‘K’ in ‘CMYK’ stands for Key, which is a term used for black color. The reason the letter ‘B’ is not used for black is to avoid confusion with Blue in the term ‘RGB’.

Black color is separately mixed along with CMY combination while printing. Even though combining CMY colors yields black, it may not be a very neat effect due to impurities in inks, and any discrepancy on a black print is easily visible on paper. That’s why black is treated as a separate color and printed so.

The reason CMYK combination is used for printing on paper is why sometimes paper printing in color is sometimes referred to as ‘Four color printing’.

Sometimes, there’s a need to use a special color in very precise quantities while printing. This is achieved by adding the ink for that special color to the printing process. This is called ‘Spot Coloring’.

The color spectrum within CMYK world is not as rich and diverse as that of RGB. That’s why it’s quite possible that an image appearing brightly colored on screen may not be reproduced as it is on paper (on professional printers). The inkjet and laser printers may produce this RGB effect accurately, but the professional offset printers will not.

The Graphic Novel making process

The illustrations, lettering and cover page for my first ever story are complete. Waiting for the test prints.

I don’t know when I decided to jump into comics / graphic novel stuff, but it has yielded some interesting results so far.

Currently, I have 2 stories written, one of them completed in the form of a small book. I am done illustrating, lettering and formatting for this story. Now this is done, I intend to get a few test copies published via a print-on-demand (POD) site (Pothi.com). This will help me visualize how the final book will look, as well as improve formatting before the complete book goes onto print.

I have yet to look for a publisher, but currently evaluating various options like professional publishers, self publishing and POD.

The second story illustrations have started and may take several months before I complete them. It’s a bigger story (approx 40 pages) than the first one (24 pages). But I have a definite advantage of experience, learning from my mistake and a definite workflow from the illustrations of my first story.

My first attempt at uploading the book and cover on Pothi.com failed due to the size restrictions at their end. This issue got resolved in a couple of days, enabling me to upload the stuff, and get my first hard copies ordered last week. Now I am waiting for them to arrive in mail.

The workflow

I do all my comics work digitally, even though I intend to print these in paper form in future. I use all free open source softwares for paneling and thumbnailing, drawing and inking (GIMP), lettering (Inkscape) and publishing (Scribus). I use my Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop with a Wacom Bamboo Fun 9″ x 7″ tablet.

The workflow is as follows:

Scripting (Tool – Wordpad)

It’s assumed that the script is complete before I even touch illustrations. The script is written in a consistent format with all the panels neatly planned, dialogues, captions and actions written in vivid details, though I may improvise on the go.

I typically write the script in a Wordpad document, so that I can edit it on any PC with MS Windows installed, and there’s no need for any special word processor for viewing it.

The script is written in a format consistent with the guidelines given on Dark Horse comics website. Since I started my experimentation in comics with a script provided by Dark Horse comics for aspiring artists, my script writing style is inspired by them.

Here are the experimental comic pages I did with the Dark Horse comic script.

Page 1

Page 2

Thumbnailing (Tool – GIMP)

This is a very important step in visualizing the content, even though it’s written in the script.

I have been doing thumbnailing in GIMP so far, but it may change. The thumbnails are very rough sketches useful for reference when I actually illustrate the comic pages. Even though the pictures look like they are drawn by a two year old, they are invaluable reference. They provide references for the camera angles, spaces for speech balloons and captions, and overall panels positioning. So when I am actually illustrating the page, these things become less taxing on mind, and I can concentrate on illustration quality.

thumbnail

Page Size

For the first story, the page size is 3300 pixels (W) X 4400 pixels (H) at 1,200 PPI. These pages are designed to be printed on A4 size / US Letter sized paper. The files are converted to Grayscale mode (Menu Item – Image->Mode->Grayscale) to make sure no other color accidently seeps in.

Paneling (Tool – GIMP)

I rename the default layer with white background as ‘Panels’. Then I use the brush tool for drawing panels, with pressure sensitivity off, as shown in the following screenshot.

panels

Some comic artists prefer their panels to be above the illustrations, I prefer them below. It’s a matter of choice, and no approach is right or wrong.

I keep a template page (shown above) with a set size of a single big panel encompassing the maximum area covered by all illustrations on the page. I use this template for all pages within the story. This ensures that illustrations on all pages remain within the same area.

Penciling

Once the paneled page is ready, I add a transparent layer on top of it, and name it ‘pencils’. I use the GIMP pencil tool for drawing the rough sketch. There’s no set rule on how much detailing I do in the pencil sketch. Sometimes it’s hardly a doodle, not so different from the thumbnail page, sometimes, it’s very detailed.

pencils

Inking

I create another transparent layer called ‘inks’ on top of the pencil layer, select ‘Ink’ tool from GIMP toolbox, and start inking.

One big disadvantage of using a tablet over paper is that one cannot rotate the virtual ‘canvas’ like paper. One can rotate the paper to convenient angles as suitable for ink strokes. So drawing perfect ink strokes requires some practice. Of course, this disadvantage pales in comparison to all advantages of working digitally (primary of which is cryptically called Ctrl-Z).

In the current comic stories, I have used perfect black and white shades only, and refrained from using gray shades. But this is very much possible by using the brush tool, as evident from my earlier work below.

shades

While doing inking, it’s a very good idea to periodically make the ‘pencils’ layer invisible, and have a long, hard, critical look at the inking work (which is going to be the final artwork). Sometimes, it’s easy to miss out certain strokes because the pencil work is showing through.

If there are complex overlapping elements, I create separate transparent ink layers above the basic ‘inks’ layer. This helps in making changes easier afterwards, as there’s no loss of data involved.

After the inking is done to my satisfaction, I make the ‘pencils’ layer invisible. This eliminates all the rough work from the final drawing in one stroke. Beats erasing bits from paper hands down, doesn’t it?

This is how the final page looks, after inking is complete.

inks

Coloring (If applicable)

The reason Coloring is optional is because so far I have illustrated my stories in grayscale only, although I have done the cover page in full colors. Here’s a snapshot of the temporary cover page I created for my test copy. Note that this cover image is designed to be printed. So the front cover is on the right side, and back cover is on left side.

Both original Grayscale and colored versions are shown below.

cover_bw

cover_color

RGB Vs CMYK (More details on this in the future posts)

It’s very important that all colored images to be printed on paper are converted to CMYK format before being sent to the printer. Since CMYK has a much lesser range of colors, it may be difficult to visualize how the image will look on paper when viewed in RGB mode.

The following two images show the subtle color difference in RGB image and CMYK image.

RGB

cover_rgb

CMYK

cover_cmyk

More tips on Lettering and desktop publishing coming up in the next post.

A New Beginning

Blog-Prologue:

Recession. Yes, that dreaded word which has taken the world by storm, has sent some rude awakening calls for ordinary folks the world over. Job losses, bankrupcies, frustrations and depressions abound.

And I am no different.

A part of the (so far) growing Indian IT industry, whose main clients reside in USA and Europe, it was impossible to be completely immune from the global meltdown. Luckily for me, I am still holding onto my monthly paycheque (It’s not AS brutal in India in terms of layoffs as in some western cultures), I was still worried.

Then it struck me.

Can this recession time be a blessing in disguise?

I have been sketching and painting for many years. In the eariler years, I had made some comics as well. But these comics were without any direction and real content. In my college and university years, I made many sketches (primarily portraits) and oil paintings (situations). One common factor amongst all these artworks was that they were always copied from various photographs and faithfully reproduced on paper / canvas. Even though many people around me liked them, it did not really satisfy me.

The recession and resultant free time gave me an opportunity to contemplate and think, to tinker with the part of brain clouded under stringent IT project deadlines.

First I tried out my hand at a small short film, followed by a claymation film, which proved to be quite an enriching experience. Making these films was the time when I discovered that I could write some interesting stuff, too.

More stuff about the making of my comic coming up

The Art Maze to Get Lost Into!