Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Anduruna in 2nd Life

What is 2nd life? Well, it's like... It's like a video game. I think. Where you can have a house and stuff. There are also ponies and you can make piles of coins, called 'McDucklings'.

...Okay, so I know virtually nothing about 2nd life. This distinction makes me uniquely unqualified to start a Dreamkeepers-oriented community in there.

Fortunately, there are some DK readers who actually know what they're doing- (this bails me out so often...)

So I'm pleased to announce that there is indeed a Dreamkeepers 2nd-life community in the works! If you're a DK fan on 2nd life, this ought to be just up your alley. The effort is being spearheaded by Viscount Gyaku Darkblood and Rennac, so contact either one of them in there to be guided to the Anduruna region, and have a good time!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New Digital Heaven

We're approaching the magical month of December - and you all know what that means...


No! Well, yes. But-

It's the 5-year anniversary of Volume 1's first printing! 8 D And there's a big, fun announcement to commemorate the occasion:

Graphicly. Dreamkeepers is on it.

If rainbows aren't currently shooting out of your eye sockets, then odds are you don't know what Graphicly is. Let's see... Does anyone remember my 2009 article,
where I was fantasizing about what the ultimate online comic venue might look like? Well, this appears to be it. It's basically taken our book downloads and put them on steroids. Steroids- take 'em, kids!

The Graphicly editions can be read on a dizzying array of devices - phones, tablets, desktops, you name it. They link in to facebook and twitter. They allow readers to rate their books, post reviews, and even leave panel-by-panel commentary for fellow readers to peruse. The reading format uses print-resolution graphics to facilitate panel-by-panel zooming. And perhaps best of all, the Graphicly format allows us to cram all kinds of special features into the digital books.

Liz and I recorded audio commentary tracks for the special-feature editions, included the original Volume 2 script, and I even dug deep and found some ANCIENT material back from before Volume 1 was published - deleted Volume 1 scenes. The deleted scenes had to be scanned in from some papers I dug up, the original files were lost a few years back. But they are finished, colored Dreamkeepers scenes.

We're really excited to have our books available in such a slick format - thanks again to everyone who has been reading & supporting us over the last 5 years. It's been very difficult, very fun, and I'm looking forward to presenting a lot more stuff over the next five!

...And speaking of new stuff, we are making headway on Volume 3- in fact, I graphed it. Check out some progress samples in our latest Sneak Peek:

Also, we're selling hats now. Um... Hats. Thought you'd want to know.

And for the last news tidbit: As people from July can attest, my reply lag in art accounts has been atrocious this year. I can kinda keep up with e-mails on roughly a monthly basis, but I'm really face-planting elsewhere. Because I'm beginning to grudgingly admit that I'm not all-powerful, and I can't accomplish everything everywhere at once, common sense is gradually seeping in to my decisions. So we've invited the Dreamkeepers staff to help us answer questions and reply to messages in the accounts. They know as much non-spoiler stuff about the series as me, so the only real difference will be questions getting answered faster for everyone.

Commission-wise, I'm currently working on Slot 3 for November. Last month's commission is finished and delivered, so watch for it to pop up in here as soon as I take some time out to post it.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sneak Peek #23: Chapter 8 PENCILED

OH HAPPY DAY! The pencils for Chapter 8 are completely finished! Dance party commences in 3... 2... 1...

Hmm. That never seems to happen the way I imagine.

But anyways, we’ve passed a nice milestone on V3 production, and if you wade through all my yammering here, there are pretty pictures to prove it.

I imagine some may be wondering just how close we are to finishing not a chapter, but the damn book. After all, it’s not like you guys get to curl up with new material every time I slap myself on the back for hitting a milestone. Well, to give you a snapshot of our progress, I made… A GRAPH! …No, it’s not boring. This graph is extreme. Note the rad text and exclamation points, please.
So as you can see by the bro-tacularly intense graph, we’re not out of the woods yet.

…Though I will mention that the end of Chapter 8 is already 89 pages in to Volume 3 - and Chapter 9 has a good 43 pages in and of itself waiting for me to get rolling on. Volume 1 was 98 pages total - so a part of our production time is due to the fact that V3 is big. Just friggin big.

There’s still a stretch to go - but since the commercial was finished this spring, our production has been going at a great rate!


…Mildly frustrated. Turns out the work of animating every frame was actually the easy part. Now that it’s done and ready to roll, hunting down a venue is proving bizarrely difficult. Sales reps and ad execs quail at my approach - e-mails go unanswered, phone calls vanish into an abyss, and… A 3rd item here would make for a nice rhythm to my complainy sentence, but I haven’t actually tried using a telegraph.

I never imagined it would be so hard to get people to take money and do their jobs. Perhaps those I previously contacted weren’t serious about hosting the commercial, and instead wound up losing an office bet when I actually came through with a finished piece to air. The world will never know.
Meanwhile, I feel like a kid with a loaded shotgun in front of a pinata - EXCITED - but then the thing keeps inexplicably firing blanks. I just want to take my damn shot.

…I do think I’ll track down a venue for this thing pretty soon, but experience has taught me not to announce anything that relies on other people until after they‘ve actually delivered.

There - now that you’ve been forced to taste the bitter sting of my disappointment, it’s time you were rewarded! Here are some teaser images from Chapter 8 so far.

Though the pencils for Chapter 8 are done, they were completed in an obsessive haze at the expense of a lot of other tasks. As a result, I’ve got a run of miscellaneous things to sweep up before ripping into Chapter 9:

Getting caught up on e-mails and the poor, poor, utterly neglected art account comments, 3rd quarter records and taxes for Vivid, the Prelude que is dry and needs refilling, need to get rolling on Commission slot #3 for November, of course get started making the Halloween beads for the winners this year, and if I’m going to at least attempt a new forum, now’s the time to get that rolling as well, before I fall into the sweet oblivion of endless Chapter 9 sketches. Also - I should possibly think about doing the dishes.

I’ll need courage for that - everyone please wish me fortitude.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Contest Results!


The results are in! It has been nothing less than a spectacular year for the contest. Trying to judge between the entries has been absolute hell for me - there are simply too many deserving pieces to make any 'right' choices for the awards. But regardless, choices had to be made. Check out the winners featured in the site gallery: But by all means, check out the rest of the entries too! Everything from pumpkin carving to animation to illustration to CAKES are featured this year. While doubt over my capacity as a judge may well linger, there can be no doubt that Dreamkeepers sports some of the most creative and fantastic readers of any fandom.

Thank you again to everyone who sacrificed their time and creativity to help put together such a powerfully fun gallery!

More prizes are still to be distributed- keep an eye on the DA group's journal today to see who wins the reader-selected awards and huge stash of DA points!

Adding to the festivities is our annual Halloween Prelude special: Because this homage was inevitable.

Small confession to the winners, I've been so focused on pencils lately that I haven't yet made the award beads... (Or replied to art account messages in months... ARG) I'll be crafting them in the next week or two, so I'll have to ask for patience while I get the prize packages ready. ...And I will get to messages in here EVENTUALLY, I just have a lot of things on my plate at present. Must eat them.

But in the meanwhile, I expect everyone reading this to eat excess amounts of candy today, because Halloween only comes around once a year. Have a great one! 8 D

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sneak Peek #22: David Heaven - Blank Paper.

And, after months of procrastination, I FINALLY caught up with my e-mail inbox today! That question you asked in July has now been definitively answered.

…I’m still waiting for it to rain medals outside.

My reply rate would likely be better, save for my dark, all-encompassing obsession of the past few months:

No, not that one -Volume 3 penciling.

I don’t have much to say at present, but progress is going good! Over 3/4 of Chapter 8 is now completely penciled and in the early coloring stages. I plan to have the all drawing for Ch. 8 finished by Halloween.

A few of our Prelude sketch updates were requested in a non-vanishing form, so along with those here are some samples of what’s been cooking:

Since I’m at a good point for a brief intermission, I’m taking care of some side-errands: E-mails, the fabulous Sneak Peek update you’re currently enjoying, creating the annual Halloween art, designing this year’s mystery sticker, hosting the contest rules, knocking out a couple of commissions, a small run of Preludes, and that assassination I‘ve been putting off.

So for a couple of weeks I’ll be attending to my grab bag of ‘you-should-really-be-doing-more-than-just-Volume-3-drawing-David-and-when-is-the-last-time-you-shaved’ items.

But once those are done, it’ll be time to finish the pencils on Chapter 8, and jump at last into the final Chapter of the book.

…That would be Chapter 9, for anyone of the non-counting persuasion.

In the meanwhile, keep an eye on our blog for the upcoming Halloween announcements, and watch our art accounts to see the appearance of our first completed commission.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Commissions Opening!

If you’ve been waiting for Dreamkeepers commissions to open, hark: Sales go live on our website next Saturday, August 20th.

This is very probably the last time we will ever open commissions online to all.

Prices, options, and FAQs are at the bottom of this blog - but before getting too excited, be sure to read about your potential wait time.

We’ve had commissions closed for years, and many people have been waiting for a chance to have artwork created by us. After they’ve waited so patiently, I just don’t have the heart to turn anyone away and tell them they’re excluded. For this reason, I’m not using a slot system, or auctioning a handful of spaces, or using any mechanism that would omit people. Instead, before our audience gets any larger, we’re opening the floodgates.

I’ll be selling commissions to any and all who want to have one. And then, because I don’t have infinite capacity, I’ll close them - probably forever. Future readers will simply have to miss out, this is for our current readership only, those who’ve found and supported us as we’re starting out.

But here’s the catch:

I still intend to spend most of my time finishing Volume 3 - and, after that, finishing Volume 4. I’m planning on doing perhaps one commission a month - which, if you do the math, means very, very long wait times, measured in years.

Purchasing a commission will be the equivalent of buying space in a long, exclusive waiting list. So be aware of this element before making any purchase, and don’t buy a commission if a long wait is unacceptable.

That’s the major downfall - everyone who wants a commission gets to buy one, but the wait time on the actual art will be undoubtedly long. (As a side bonus, the longer you wait, the better an artist I’ll be by the time I create your illustration.)

The upside of this plan is that it gives hordes of people a good motive to keep me from dying - something I’ve always wanted.

Though I do enjoy commissions, I love creating books even more - Dreamkeepers is what I want my focus in life to be. So, as mentioned above, this is very likely the last time I will ever open commissions like this. Get ‘em while they’re hot!

The wait list will be organized first come, first served. We will announce to the e-mail list earliest and then twitter the exact timing when commissions open on the site. After we get purchases organized, we will e-mail everyone a number, so they know where they are on the list. If you don’t get a number e-mailed to you within a week, be sure to contact us and make sure we got your order logged.

Here are the general commission categories:

Doodle - $5.
The Doodle is just that - a very quick, rough pencil sketch signed by David. This is good for people that are on a tight budget, but still want to get some custom artwork and a signature.

Character illustration
Character illustrations include up to two characters in the initial price - more characters can be added for $10 each. The illustration has no background, or very simple background elements.
Rough sketch - $15
Finished pencil lineart - $30
Finished colors - $50

Full Background, Anything goes
These are the illustrations we’re most well known for - pulling out all the stops, and making a show-stopper. Anything you can imagine fitting into an 81/2 by 11 sheet, we can do.
Rough sketch - $35
Example: Imagine the finished lineart example below, but sketchier and with less formed details.
Finished pencil lineart - $50
Finished colors - $85

Finishing Previous Work- - $25
If we’ve created line art for you in the past, whether at a convention or from previous commissions, we will add finished colors to the illustration for $25.

Now for the FAQ’s - please read through these before e-mailing questions:


But I don‘t have enough money for a commission right now! I‘ll miss out forever, this is terrible!-
If you’re running low on money, don’t worry too much - we’re giving you guys plenty of time. We’re not going to close the door until after Christmas, sometime in January. So there’s plenty of time to earn some cash, or even use some Christmas money or something. And if you still can’t come up with enough, at least buy a $5 slot. Then when we get to your spot in line, odds are good that enough time will go by that you can afford to upgrade your commission to something better before we get started.

But I don‘t know what I want for my commission yet!-
That’s fine - in fact, we’re going to request that nobody tell us their commission ideas until we’re at their number, and actually ready to start their art - if we’re juggling 50 different ideas in our heads at once, that would be a lot to keep track of. So you don’t even need to have your idea for a commission finalized yet - just buy your spot in line, and we’ll see if you’re ready when we get to your number - and if you need a bit more time to decide, we’ll just do the next person on the waiting list and then come back to you.

Isn't there a way I can get a commission sooner? -
Actually, yes. We make exceptions when we're present at conventions. Conventions are the magical bubble outside of our limitation rules.
Convention commissions are drawn at conventions only, so they're limited to black and white pencil drawings, no color. We are also limited by time - we can't do take-homes, so it's first come first serve. Conventions are also exempt from waiting lists - while we’re at conventions, we ignore any waiting lists we adhere to at home.
Er... What kind of content do you allow in commissions - what if I wanted something possibly naughty? -
If you're tentative about an idea you're interested in, odds are very good that it’s perfectly fine. Just go ahead and buy your spot in line. We've been around the internet a few times, and nothing is going to shock us or weird us out. We can be open to some adult content assuming the customer is of legal age. And if, for whatever reason, we do in fact decline to undertake your commission, we’ll be sure to get you a full refund. We *might* decline, but we won't ever judge.

What if I get tired of waiting and want a refund?-
Once we get payment, that money could go towards book printing, marketing, or any number of things. So we’re going with a no-refund policy, unless of course we for some reason decline to do your commission. But that means definitely make sure you’re willing to wait before you make the purchase.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sneak Peek #21: Swatches Galore

Volume 3 is back in action!

It seems as though trivial matters have delayed us at every turn this year - finishing a commercial here, a few jaunts to the hospital there. At one point I had to chase down a squirrel. (He was too lazy - he needed a lesson in survival! Liz and I cornered the hapless creature on a doorstep, thus proving humanity’s superiority to squirrel-kind. Feel free to share in my pride.)

But with all of that behind us, production on Volume 3 is now proceeding at a healthy clip. I’ve been knocking out pencils for the last few weeks, and I’m approaching the halfway point of Chapter 8‘s linework. But you know what’s more fun than hearing me prattle on?


Here are some warm up sketches I did when getting into the latest scene, getting a feel for some poses, props, and cameo characters.

The preliminary blue-sketches for one of the panels on the page.

We asked Namah if she wanted to be in Volume 3 or not, and she had this to say.

This is probably smashed down in size here in our blog - we’ve got a larger version up in our DeviantArt, FurAffinity, and Inkbunny accounts.

Some of the background characters will be recurring in future scenes and even future books, so it was necessary to do a lineup of swatches. We’re considering having these characters acting the part of a community charity outreach staff. I think they look the part.

As you can tell by the panel above, there’s a lot of work involved in this book - though production is in full swing, it still isn’t going to be done soon. But ratcheting Prelude down to half-speed is really helping, I must admit I’m noticing a big difference in how much book work I’m able to fit into a week now. So keep an eye on our blog or twitter for the occasional sneak peek, and you’ll have a front row seat as we get ever closer to a release date.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

15-Second Commercial!

First, the best news I could hope to share - Liz has recovered and is back home from the hospital! Thank you again to everyone for the support and goodwill we've received - words are inadequate to encapsulate my gratitude.
I asked the doctors to cast a charm on us warding off evil and guaranteeing eternal vitality, but it turns out that's not specifically covered in medical school. They couldn't even give us any health potions. So though adversity may not be eternally banished, we've generally got the hang of working around it and getting things done regardless.
And speaking of getting things done, slightly-less-but-still-exciting-and-skippy-good-news: Our 15-second commercial animation is finished!

For a brief blast of animation, click thus:

It's a relief to have it completed. Especially in light of my old articles
exhorting the importance of effective marketing, I now feel less like a hypocritical loud-mouth. I'm just your every-day average loudmouth.
Admittedly this commercial took way longer to produce than I originally estimated... Partially due to 'Fun-Tyme With Life Events!' but also largely because I was too optimistic in calculating the workload.
I have to offer profuse thanks to the Association of Seven for their help on the production - without them, I'd still be coloring frame after frame, thinking to myself, "I wish I had a bunch of badass art ninjas to do my dirty work for me." But instead, I'm back to something that really puts a gleam in my eye -

- penciling Volume 3.

I just finished the second scene of Chapter 8, and with no more distracting commercials or commissions, we're rolling on the rest of the book non-stop until it's done. Though we had originally planned to open Pre-Orders this summer, we have decided to hold off until more of the book is completed - we’ll be sure to announce when that time approaches!

Not that it will be terribly soon - we've still got the rest of Ch. 8 to pencil, all of it to color & shade, and all of Chapter 9 to tackle, which is over 40 pages in and of itself. But production will at least proceed unfettered from here on out. Keep an eye on our twitter, we'll announce the next Sneak Peek of production progress there.

Meanwhile, it's time to plaster this commercial all over creation.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Anthrocon Absence

Better you hear it from me than from Peter Jennings - Dreamkeepers won't be having a dealer's table at Anthrocon this month.

Liz is still in the hospital, and without The Smart One around it was decided that an unsupervised David would have far too much opportunity to instigate disaster running a table alone.
The original plan was to open Volume 3 Pre-Orders at Anthrocon, but we're going to postpone Pre-Orders as well. There's simply not enough of the book finished to justify selling it. We had planned to be further along in production by now... This delay hasn't stopped us, but admittedly it has slowed us down quite a bit. We're not even finished with our 15-second commercial yet, for crying out loud...

...But it's ALMOST done! Every scene is completely animated, rendered, and ready to roll except scene one - and I'm finishing the cel shading in there this weekend. I'll post a video of animated production samples soon.

So despite setbacks, we're still moving forward - Even while hospitalized, Liz has made this directive clear, and I'm not about to defy the will of someone who would be exonerated by the sanity clause. ( )

After the commercial is finally knocked out and locked in the 'done' bin, we'll be pulling out all the stops and going full-bore on Volume 3 production. Prelude is currently on a bi-weekly schedule while Liz is recovering, and we've actually decided to keep it bi-weekly even after she's better, until V3 is done. I love updating every week, but the last two years has seen more finished Prelude than finished Volume 3, and the graphic novel is overdue. The books are the meat and potatoes of the series, after all, and the next installment really needs to be our primary focus until it's complete.

Though confined to the hospital at present, Liz is vastly better, and table or not, wants at least David to attend Anthrocon in her stead.

As a result, this will be the first time ever that I'll be loose at the convention without being confined behind a table. There may be photos.

I'm sorry to everyone in advance.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Unsolicited Advice!

...Always the most fun to give. Although it's not entirely unsolicited - I was recently asked by a young reader to share advice about art careers and life in general. Asked for my two cent's worth, I then proceeded to commence a pennies-and-assorted-change bombardment on a massive scale. It's mainly common sense, but as that's frequently in short supply and never provided by our education system, I thought I'd post my 'I'm-getting-old-can-you-tell' ramblings here. Enjoy!

What advice would you give someone who was looking to go into the art field, or really any type of career?
Most of my classmates in art college were there because they loved to watch cartoons and play video games. So when their high school guidance counselor asked them, 'What do you love to do? That should be your career!' They said, 'Oh, cartoons and video games - I should be an artist!'
Wrong. If they had spare time, odds are they'd be watching TV - not drawing. Loving to watch TV is not the same as loving to sit and work on drawings for hours. This seems obvious, but so many kids fail to make that basic distinction. It's like if someone loved to swim in pools - and then made the mistake of thinking they must also love to install chlorination hardware. Except one could likely get a job working with pool equipment if they were even moderately bright and a little motivated.
But a career in art, especially in non-commercial independent art, involves passionate commitment and grueling work. If the person doesn't love that work, they'll be very disappointed as soon as they realize fame is not imminent.

Here's how to choose your direction in life:

(1) Become Good At Doing Things.

What do you enjoy *doing*? This should be an actual activity, one that involves work, effort, and personal satisfaction. If you don't know what you like to do just yet, that's okay - but be doing SOMETHING.
You may learn what you like by finding what you don't like. I did professional studio animation and freelance art for a year after college, and utterly hated it. But I was still doing something - and it's essential to get in the habit of targeting and accomplishing goals, of being active, and of striving to do your best. Just as long as you are in fact doing something.
Learn to be effective. Even if you're working at McDonald's, then kick ass at burger flipping.

(2) Know What You Want.

This actually comes second, after learning to do things. A lot of people know what they want in life - big houses, leisure, respect. But if they aren't good at doing things, they'll never get what they want, so what they want doesn't really matter.
Once you're good at doing things, then you're mobile, you can take action, you can take yourself places. And THEN it's important to decide where you're going. If you're in the habit of doing things, you'll have a good chance of knowing what you enjoy and are good at doing. If not, then you at least have some basic interests - everyone does. Research and pursue your interests with vigor so you will learn, within that arena, what precisely you would like to do.
Think about what you want your life to be like - but be realistic, visualizing unicorns and golden mansions never made a lazy man rich. But with an informed picture of the world, think about what kind of life you would like to live - what ideals would you embody, what work would you enjoy, how would you change things for the better, how would you feed yourself, how much do you want to earn, and how can you be worth it? Once you get a clear realistic vision of what you want in your life, and you're in the habit of doing things, you can start doing things in the direction you want to go.
One note, though - you spend nearly your entire life on the road, not at the destination. So make sure that not only do you want the destination, but you want and will appreciate the road you're taking.

(3) Strive. Fail. Learn. Strive. Fail. Learn. Repeat.

Being relentless is essential. Far more important than talent is persistence. Everyone fails, unless they're taking easy street, which generally goes nowhere. So don't be discouraged by setbacks. Get used to failure - it's not a bad thing. As long as you learn from it, and don't let it permanently demoralize you. Life is hard and painful - you'll need to build up your willpower to get through it. So when you get knocked down, get back up again, and keep at it. For as long as it takes.

(4) Be Happy.

Like I said, life is mostly working towards your goal, not getting it. So learn to enjoy your work and yourself, and even learn to enjoy tackling problems the best you can. Generally speaking, most people will have a pre-set level of misery in their daily life. Even if things are going okay, they will still find something to be unhappy with, because they've subconsciously selected their level of happiness.
Happiness does not come when problems are gone, or with success, or from a spouse, or approval, or from anything else. You will never find happiness. You have to learn to create it, and then you'll have it by your side to help you weather the storms.

And that's about it for advice - that, and read. People smarter than you and I have written books, and we can benefit a lot by taking advantage of that fact.

...I would consider turning the above content into a book all it's own, but I think I'd be violating the copyright on Brian Griffin's "Wish It, Want It, Do It."

Thursday, May 19, 2011


For the first time ever, Dreamkeepers has official T-shirts! Swing by our site to check out the dozens of designs:

Though originally I was planning on designing very promotion-oriented shirts, when I finally sat down to draw, none of those designs struck me as fun. Who wants to walk around with a giant web-address pasted across their chest? All that invites is dangerous finger-poking from those who misunderstand reality. Instead, I tried to create shirts that would actually be fun to wear around. The designs are bold and colorful, but don't utterly dominate the entire outfit - just enough to add a touch of animation-reminiscent flair. If you look through our selection, I hope you can find a design that fits your tastes. And, actually, our shirts are customizable.
If you visit our Printfection store
you can choose from 32 shirt colors to customize your design choice. And if you'd like our designs on a black or white shirt, we also print through IndyPlanet.

We've been wanting to have shirts available for years, so it's nice to finally have everything set up. 8 D

One note: We will NOT be stocking shirts at conventions since it’s tricky trying to guess which sizes people may want, and we don’t have the space to cover our table with every shirt design and size, so if you’re interested these are available exclusively online.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dreamkeepers - the show?

While drawing our cleanup animation the other month, I felt like working to a DVD. I was in the mood for something specific, but couldn't quite put my finger on the title. It was a cartoon, something animated. It was kinda creepy and spooky, but had a lot of adventure and fun. It was dark, violent, but colorful and vivid, and - Ah, shit.

I wanted to watch Dreamkeepers -which doesn't exist as a show. Fail.

...So I animated faster.

I'm not alone in pining for animated DK entertainment. It's a question we're asked frequently: "Will Dreamkeepers ever be a game or a show?" Something tells me that a blitzkrieg ad campaign featuring our sparkly, fully animated commercial isn't going to make this question quietly fade away.

So I suppose I'd better answer it! Will Dreamkeepers ever be a show?

Obviously Liz and I, even empowered by the Association of 7 (not a numerically accurate title), can't single-handedly animate an entire Dreamkeepers series. That would require far more cocaine than I'm willing to take. For the foreseeable future, our focus is solely on publishing the best comics we can possibly create. So your short answer is:


-Incoherent grumbles-

*Door slam*

*Fading footsteps punctuated by disturbing giggles*

*Nonsensical Twitter posting*

*Prelude Update*

But that doesn't mean the idea of a DK show has never been considered over here - far from it! Read on for links to past DK animations, a discussion of our first offer regarding a DK show (it was preliminary but yes, there was one), and our attitudes toward future possibilities and selling out while smoking cigars and wearing monocles. (Monocles - I am for them.)

Traveling back through the murk of time to the origins of DK, I was actually developing it in my college days as a television pitch. Back in 2004, the entire idea was to have a spectacular, genre-smashing cartoon series, to make the kind of show that kids would love, and adults would have to pretend not to. I even went so far as to animate the pitch. It's now online and publicly viewable for the first time ever:

I poured everything I had into making something awesome and distinctive - I researched dream lore dating back to Mesopotamia, spent a summer drafting animation-friendly character designs and personalities, constructed story arcs and possible pilot episode ideas, developed and incorporated ideas from my previous projects (more blogs on that in the future), looked up information about pitching television shows and how the industry worked, and sought out a visiting artist with experience pitching concepts in the biz.
What I learned from him was eye-opening. Although I don't remember the precise wording, our exchange might have gone a little something like this:

"Gee Mister, you sure are swell! So do you really think I can pitch my show idea?"

"Sure bucko, go for it! Jump right on in - if you're lucky, they might rip off your idea and change enough things to use it without your permission - but you'll be getting your feet wet! If you're really lucky, and just bathing in cascading torrents of good fortune, they might tear your idea apart and rework it based on their whims or whatever happens to be 'in' at the moment, and actually give you some creator credit. Wowie Zowie! Are we dancin' yet or what?"

"Erm... Yes, we're dancing. I don't know why. Where are we?"

"Ohio! And I am leaving as fast as I goddamn can! So have fun with pitching shows - after you get taken advantage of for a decade or two, you may actually get some sliver of creative input on something, if you really learn to kiss ass and spend your every waking moment networking like a desperate whore. Cheerio!"

Perhaps not a fastidious transcript of the exchange - I forget where my secretary left the minutes. But you get the gist.

I'd already poured a lot of myself into the project, and didn't necessarily want to see my efforts misappropriated. But even more importantly, I had come far enough in the development to grasp what Dreamkeepers could become. I was enticed by a clear and compelling vision - a vision of something amazing, dark, vivid and unforgettable.

Especially at such an early stage, it would have been very easy for the general idea of DK to be pitched and subsequently solidified into something schmaltzy and awful. Just imagine a typical network exec playing with the vague idea of animal cartoons - in a Dream-Land-Place! Rainbows, stars, and imagination, here we come! But uh-oh: Look out for those baddies, the night-time-mares. They cause CAVITIES! So kids, be sure to eat your Dream-Veggies, with Mace and Stink! (Whip was too violent a name. But Mace was fine.)
Liz: "Mace and Stink... Awwww."
There was a risk of Dreamkeepers being engineered specially for a 1:30 pm timeslot to distract toddlers while Mom escaped to the grocery store browsing the aisles lost in memories of better days, days without Play-Doh in the carpet, without snot on the fridge handle, without wall-eyed Mace sippy cups dribbling apple juice all over the couch.

Watching an Animaniacs tribute by the Nostalgia Critic recently, (
), I was reminded of the limitations inherent in traditional television. The interviewed writers were reliving how thrilling it was to work on Animaniacs, because of the freedom they enjoyed when creating. Though censors would still swoop in and muzzle things senselessly, the creative team had comparative latitude & was thus able to craft a truly standout show. The realization which struck me as sobering was that they all remembered this experience as a rare and singular period in their careers - a period which existed solely under the powerful shelter of Stephen Spielberg's explicit favor. Without, arguably, the most powerful man in Hollywood fighting for them, they never experienced that level of freedom and fun in cartoons again.
Considering the multitudinous mediocre shows and cartoons which parade across television, it's perturbing to think that network-level restrictions on creativity are par for the norm. And these are the writers from Animaniacs, a show which was legendary for its success - if they can't get a gig with some creative elbow room, what are the chances for an outsider? Unless Stephen Spielberg had fallen out of the blue and into love with me for no reason, my chances of zipping from Ohio college to creative freedom in the television industry were dim at best.

More than anything else, It was my vision of Dreamkeepers - a vision of something captivating and unique and worthwhile- which guided my decision to kill the pitch and strike out for the territory of wild, unrestricted creative freedom - comics. And thus we embarked on Volume 1. (Cue LOTR journey music.)

Having total control over Dreamkeepers has been immensely rewarding & effective - I wouldn't backtrack for a second. Even if we'd successfully pitched the TV show as college kids back in 2005 that fuzzy, compromised possibility doesn't hold a candle to the fascinating monster growing up under our fingertips today.

Plus, who knows? As we continue seizing the helm in comic form, it's possible Hollywood could take an interest in the Dreamkeepers we've defined: the dark, layered Dreamkeepers of today... After all, that's already happened once.

Back in 2008, we received a message from a California company which shall remain nameless:

TO: David Lillie
I work at a literary and talent management company out of Los Angeles called [edited out]. Along with the management side of the business we also are a production shingle and have produced a variety of award winning movies such as [edited out] and most recently [edited out] . We represent some of the hottest screenwriters, directors and creators in Hollywood, but I digress.
Currently we are looking for comic book/graphic novel properties to set up at various studios or networks and I absolutely love the look/premise of Dreamkeepers. I would love to speak to you further about this. Please let me know if this is something you are interested in doing.
Hope all is well.
Best regards,
[edited out]

Great to hear back from you. I would love it if you could send a copy of DreamKeepers to my office so I can take a look at it and discuss with a few of my colleagues. I think it has the makings of a high concept animated franchise. If it is possible to send over a package please let me know and I will give you my address. Again I think the ceiling is high for an idea of this level and I look forward to game planning with you in the future.
[edited out]

You may be wondering why you're only just now hearing news of this offer, three years after the fact. Many artists our age would scramble half-crazed to the nearest rooftop and begin screeching their news to the masses at even the hint of a licensing offer - and don't get me wrong, we weren't lacking in optimism over the message. But we try to make a point of representing Dreamkeepers with solid work rather than hot air. I've bumped into too many people over the years who boast up a storm and can't deliver a raindrop, so it's my desire to avoid hollow braggadocio like the plague. In fact, the only reason we're mentioning this offer now is because I believe it qualifies as history at this point, and it's pertinent to the subject at hand.

And in retrospect, it's fortunate that I didn't begin crowing from the mountaintops over the offer, as it wound up fizzling. I wrote back expressing that we were open to the possibility and mailed a book out, and then dropped the matter to focus on Volume 2, which seemed more important. I could have pursued the company's interest with additional follow-up, but it didn't feel right - my gut was telling me that this wasn't the time. (Besides, there were some elements to the offer that made me suspect IP Farming, a risk both from Hollywood and especially some comic publishers - but that's another topic.)
I felt (and still feel) that we needed to focus on building our readership & our story, allowing it to continue maturing and developing without any severe jolts into new media. The time may come when we will pursue the chance of a DK show, but I could tell this wasn't it.
Which leads to the natural question - when *will* the time be right to pursue a DK show?

Maybe never. We're having a blast creating our story in books, so for now that's our focus. And it's utterly fulfilling - I could see myself being content creating books and nothing else for life. But the thought of animated Dreamkeepers is undeniably exciting, and I'm not about to place arbitrary limits on where our story can go. If there was a solid chance to render DK relatively intact in animated form, I would likely take it.

I mean, if the perfect deal came along, with angels gently crooning while a major studio bent over backwards to give me total creative control, a prime timeslot, and unlimited budgeting for a 3-season contract including a complimentary carousel and free cherries for life, of course I'd backflip (metaphorically - a real backflip attempt would end in horrible disaster) and agree.

But perhaps I shouldn't hold my breath waiting for the perfect scenario.

...To be perfectly frank, I'm not totally against "selling out".

What exactly do I mean by "selling out"? Am I preparing to skewer the Dreamkeepers we all know and love so I can frantically suck the sweet, sweet dollar bills that gush from it's mortal wounds?

Well, no. I'm not plotting to compromise my artistic integrity. But there's a fine line between "artistic integrity" and "artistic snobbery."

What's better - an imperfect show that gets created and exists forever, or nothing seen by no-one wrapped in self righteousness?

For an example, take a look Jeff Smith's comic 'Bone'. It's a colossal creative achievement, and in the world of independent comics, it's a titanic icon... Meaning in the world of normal people, it's titanically never been heard of. If you asked the average school kid today what 'Bone' is, they'd throw their X-Box 360 at you as punishment and leave to watch Spongebob on Nickelodeon.

But Bone had a chance to be on Nickelodeon, too. Jeff Smith and Nick were actually in development at one point on an animated version of Bone. However, Jeff Smith pulled the plug on the project because Nickelodeon wanted to include a Brittney Spears song somewhere in the feature.

Now, perhaps that song really would have been a terrible addition to the film. Maybe it would have been cheesy and incongruous. But what about the rest of the movie? And what about the millions of kids that never saw the rest of the movie, because it never existed? Even if Bone had become a mediocre animated feature, how many kids would have discovered a great graphic novel through it?

The creator of "V for Vendetta" groused about how immature and inferior the film was compared to his masterpiece of comic book genius - but I bet he sold more comics after that movie than before. And each sale was another receptive reader experiencing the work who otherwise wouldn't have even known about it.

My point is, if an artiste' is thinking about what's best for their ego, then being too good for everything & better than everyone is always the right choice.

But if they're thinking about what's best for their work & its potential readership, carefully weighing options becomes important.

Now, I'm not saying we'd approve absolutely anything with any company at the drop of a dime. Sometimes a production can be so awful that the tedious experience of suffering through it makes an unforgettable imprint on the viewer, blighting by association every other element of the franchise.

For instance, 'The Wild Thornberries' show could have been derived from a brilliant graphic novel for all I know. But if I ever stumbled across that graphic novel my mind would connect to memories of traumatizing boredom and irritating voice acting, and I'd keep stumbling right on by, just praying I didn't find 'Kids Next Door' books across the aisle.

So for any future opportunities we may encounter, there will be a balancing act - the more control we would have over the writing, casting, and production of a Dreamkeepers show, the better. But if we had no control, and the company seemed flippant or inept in their treatment of the concept, it would be time to weigh pros and cons pertaining to the overall well-being & long term viability of our readership and franchise.

I hope you've enjoyed this hypothetical journey into the magical land of Whatiftopia - but I've got some non-hypothetical drawings I need to get working on.

As enchanting as the thought of a DK show is, I must admit that I retain a fabulous affinity for the medium of books - I love reading them, I love creating them, and I love publishing them.

And who knows - if our graphic novels do well enough, maybe someday Vivid can forge into independent animation. We'll certainly find out.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Creators MIA!

Creators MIA!

Things are happening in the land of Dreamkeepers - read on for links to tutorials, reviews, and youtube extravaganzas in beguiling German accents!

It may have been easy to miss these recent news tidbits since I've been MIA for the past two months.

Not "Missing in Action" - "Missing in Animation."

Burrowing happily in stacks of paper keyframing and tweening away, I've been neglecting the internet - sorry to everyone for the interminable delays on e-mail replies, the ghost-town art accounts, the long lines on facebook, and the fire-and-forget impulse twitters. The twitters are Liz. I have no control over that.

But I should be coming up for air soon, because the animation is done! Or at least, all the animation involving pencil and paper. Ta-daa!

...If you wait, I'm sure the trumpet fanfare will sound any moment here.

With the commercial animation's line art completed, the next step is coloring. Thanks to our kick-ass freelancers, that's already well underway. We're still embroiled in production, so it'll be a while before we take a serious breather and show some animation samples online. But in the meanwhile, keep an eye on our art accounts, we're posting some of our fancier color swatches in there. Plus, here are the tutorials and fun I promised up above:

Color Blocking Tutorial!
Designed to help out our freelancers, we decided to make it a public tutorial blog, because why not? If you fancy coloring comics or animation frames, swing on by.

Make Your Own Light-Table!
All the animation I was yakking about above, and which we are currently coloring? I made it on a lightweight, collapsible, affordable light table of my own design and construction. If you'd like one for yourself, here are instructions for building one.

Youtube Dreamkeepers Montage - in German!
If you thought reading DK was like watching an animated movie before, wait until you see this. A German reader (I LOVE IT WHEN HE TALKS!) orchestrated this youtube montage of comic scenes, complete with a beautifully timed soundtrack - check it out!

Dreamkeepers Comic Review by an Aeronautical Engineer
If you ever wondered what a rocket scientist would think of our graphic novels, now's your chance to find out.

More postings and fun are on the way this spring - including Adventures in Egypt, (with grandma photos), animation samples and previews of our commercial, a blog covering the oft-asked-about possibility of a Dreamkeepers show, and we'll be posting our old 2005 animation for the original television pitch. Additionally, we've been filing & discovering caches of old David artwork in our apartment, including the pre-dawn concept development from which Dreamkeepers originated. So, at some point in the future, we'll be revealing that as well.

'Till then, thanks for your patience, and enjoy the weekly Prelude updates!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Build Your Own Animation Light-Table!

For those who've been keeping tabs, you know I'm in the midst of some traditional (hand drawn) animation.

But without access to a studio or a professional light table, how does one go about animating their own cartoons?

If you said "computers" then SILENCE! I like to keep things Neolithic around here. Next you’ll be denigrating my hunter-gatherer skills.

Liz & I have animated without the benefit of studio equipment in the past, using whatever was at hand:

Upside down reptile aquariums.

Glass coffee tables.


Not the most sophisticated setups - but using what we had was more effective than complaining about what we lacked.

However, for this recent endeavor I didn’t want to compete with a psychotic lizard for aquarium privileges.

Expressly for this project, I threw together a light table of my own design. It had to be lightweight and collapsible so I could carry it to and from work, and set it up anywhere. It took less than a day to build. Considering my way with tools (using them as creative implements for injuring myself in the mocking shadow of prefabricated furniture) I'm fairly amazed that I was able to pull this off.

Here it is:
It’s extremely simple to use - just stick a flashlight or something underneath it, put your paper on top, and go to work.

For my fellow old-school animation aficianados, here’s how to construct one.

The most expensive part is the fiberglass/plastic clear stuff. I got mine at Lowe’s for about $50. Aside from those clear plates, all you need are hinges and glue. That’s seriously it.

This is the design sketch I made:

Here are some photos of how it works:

You’ll need five plates of plexiglass - measurements are in inches, and if you don’t use my dimensions very precisely the world will end:
The Base - 15 x 15
The Drawing Plate - 12 x 15
The Stand - 6 x 15
The Filler (So the hinges are aligned for folding-flat action) - 4 x 15
The Stopper (So the Stand can’t slide back when you’re drawing) - 2 x 15

I also used a broken scrap to make a corner on the Drawing Plate, so the papers have something to sit on without sliding off. Just an FYI, we use normal 8 ½ x 11 paper, with no peg-holes, and no animation peg-bars. I find it’s faster to just line the paper up and start drawing, and use scotch tape to keep things aligned during cleanup animation.

I purchased the thickest plexiglass available, 1/4 inch, for maximum durability. I didn’t have to cut it to size, either - there was a guy at Lowe’s who used a cutting station to chop everything for me!

Then I bought four simple hinges, and some superglue - specifically Loctite super glue and Loctite glass glue (I used both).

The rest was pretty simple - very carefully, I lined the pieces up and glued them together one by one, pressing with my full weight for about a minute on the chunks being glued. Make sure you get everything squared off, and the hinges are facing the right way and stuff before you do the deed, because this glue is no joke.

I initially thought there was no way that glue could hold metal onto glass, and thought one of the hinges would pop off on the first night. But this thing is holding together nice and solid - so, voila!

Add a flashlight or two, and you’ve got a transportable, collapsible light-table, which works even better than the expensive easels they had at my old animation job. And it certainly beats struggling for supremacy with vindictive reptiles.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tutorial: Color Blocking

So, I’ve been rebuffing all tutorial requests lately by claiming that I’m too busy with Volume 3 to take time out. But in the process of getting our freelancers started, I wrote out this tutorial for them - thereby scientifically PROVING that I am full of shit. And knowledge! So here’s a tutorial on color blocking!

Freelancer Color Blocking:
Directions, Examples, & Tips.
The Ultimate Gentleman's Guide to Coloring Inside the Lines.

Hello! Thanks for helping us with the coloring for this book, you completely rule, [INSERT NAME HERE]! I feel a deep personal gratitude, [INSERT NAME HERE], a connection which is surely unique between myself and you. [INSERT NAME HERE], I hope you enjoy these completely personalized instructions which I have written especially for your eyes only. [INSERT NAME HERE], you are my best friend.

But enough of my totally genuine personal sentiments, here are some fun-filled directions!

1) Exemplary!
Here are some examples of easy, medium, and hard pages. We also show the background coloring versus the detail layer separately, so you can get an idea of what generally goes into each layer.

Page with 'Easy' level of background work.

Page with 'Medium' level of background work.

Page with 'Hard' level of background work. (+5 exp. points.)

Example of basic 'background' layer colors.

Example of the 'detail' colors, a separate layer above the background layer.

2) Maintain Proper Altitude.
Be sure to stay in your designated layer for every page. Some pages you may be contracted to do, for example, the background layer only. If you get done early, don't do any 'bonus' work in the detail layer. Even if it's out of the goodness of your heart, we may have someone else already working on that layer of the page simultaneously. To avoid overlap and keep from wasting anyone's efforts, be sure to stick to the correct layer.
Many of the layers included on a page will be locked-the lines layer and the text bubble layer are two examples. These layers are finished and are only there to guide you in the remaining work. If a layer is locked, please leave it on lock, and don’t alter it.
Another layer related note - if your version of Photoshop has the ability to use nested layers, please don't utilize it, because we're running Photoshop version 7.0 and such things are foreign and terrifying to this antiquated relic.

This is an important one. Before you start blocking in colors, you need to get the right settings for the paintbrush & paint fill tools. They are often on a default setting that, for color blocking, sucks. The whole point is to meticulously color the shape underneath the pencil lines - but if used with wrong settings, paint fills and brushwork can gradually expand or 'creep' the original shape beyond what you colored.
Make sure the paint-fill tool has the 'anti-aliased' box UNCHECKED.



Open a random photograph file in Photoshop and experiment to see what I mean. Leave that venomous little box checked in, and click-fill some pink somewhere. Boom, a chunky area of pink occurs, just as planned. But, keeping the mouse in the same place, click the fill tool again. And again. And again. You'll see the area of pink gradually creeping larger and larger and larger before your eyes. EEEK. You can see how this tool setting would be a threat your meticulously shaped color blocking. Leave it unchecked and preserve the precision of your painted areas.

Likewise to protect your color block shaping, you have to fix the brush tool. In fact, it won't even really be the 'brush' tool anymore. Right clicking on the tool, change it from the 'brush' setting to the 'pencil' setting.
The brush tool, even when dialed down to the absolute minimum 'softness' or 'feathering,' still creates the tiniest bit of feathering on the edges. We don't want that, we want the edges to be totally hard pixels with no softness at all. It makes it way easier to select and mask different layers & effects when we get to the shading stage. Feathering is the enemy in color blocking, so be sure to stick with the 'pencil' setting!

Be sure to switch the ‘eraser’ tool on the pencil setting too.

4) Coloring in - and under - the lines.
Technically, you don't want to color *only* inside the lines. In the shading stage, the lines will be lightened up a whole lot - sometimes they almost disappear. So the colors that you block underneath will really be doing some heavy lifting in defining the final shape. You want to color inside and also underneath the lines - just as long as the color doesn't spill totally outside the lines.
Small tip - if you turn down the opacity on the lines layer, you can see through to how your color blocking is fitting the shapes easier.

5) When in doubt, go neon.
Sometimes there will be squiggly pencilly blobby things that absolutely defy definition. What in the hell was David thinking when he drew it? Scientists are performing tests, but we're still not quite certain. If you come across strange shapes or tidbits like this and have no idea what color to use, just use like a screamin' neon green or pink. We’ll have a layer titled ‘Questions,‘ and paint your neon stuff onto that layer.
Using a crazy neon color still gets the work of defining the shape finished, and is a good shorthand technique to tell us 'Hey, not sure what this is, but at least it's colored in.'
If the shapes are colored with hard pixels and no feathering, we can easily play with the final color choices over here before shading.

6) So cool, they're HOT!
Some hot-keys that I've found incredibly time-saving with color blocking are:
The tab keys [ and ]
Check 'em out! they automatically change the brush size of your pencil tool, so you don't have to slog up and use the slider bar every time. The tab keys kick ass - if you have a tablet of some type, you can probably customize its interface to correlate to those hotkeys. And just FYI if you're ever shading, holding down 'shift' while using the tabs will adjust the feathering on the brush tool. Spiffy keen.
Also, the 'x' button automatically switches between your active colors, and holding down the spacebar will let you click and drag to navigate through the image. There are tons of other hotkeys too, so if you find yourself getting slowed down by a repeated manual action, hit google and see if there's a hotkey that could make your life easier.

Sneak Peek #20: Grunn Sayuhz

Well, the glitz and glam of our December announcements are behind us - hype aside, February is cold. SO COLD.

Other than that, progress is going pretty good! We've been working on Chapter 8, and the first scene is penciled and ready for the color department to cut their teeth on.

With their help keeping progress rolling, we'll be freed up to do some animation for the 15-second commercial. I'm hoping to tackle the entire thing within February, sling the frames off to our colorists, and be back on Chapter 8 pencils before anyone has time to notice.

All of this will keep us pretty occupied, of course - so to help field questions and comments while we're busy, we've recruited Grunn. Deftly bringing you the answers you need, welcome to the first ever installment of...

Grunn Sayuhz.
Q: hey question ever thought of doing a cross over
Grunn: Huuuaaghmmmm…. Pretty gudd.

Q: *reads* hahaha, good thing I read the journal. I was going to ask if you were going to have volume 3 at AC. I suppose, in a manner of speaking, you will.
Grunn: Wawl, theh… Ur… Stawp askehn thingz at meh so fast.

Q: I want confirmation of boobies and ass before I preorder!
Grunn: Muhhhhh... Hm. Yup, yah. I gotsum on mah wawl.

Q: WHOO HOO!! Alright Dave and Liz! same price as the last two for hard copies?
Grunn: Uhhhhh... Uh, therz also boobs in heyah.

Q: Thanks for the kind gift guys, but I'm goin' big and savin' for the book. It's too much too spoil reading even a few pages into the next book. Man 40 pages... Do you mind if I ask you two - how long did it take to complete Chapter 07 from scratch to the final product? Oh and have an awesome Christmas this season! *thumbs up*
Grunn: Raight. Dunn-lowds. Uhh... This wun time, I dunn-lowded some prutty gudd boobs, um, there waz garls on 'em uh course... Buht mainly I wuz lukkin' at theyz-

-And that concludes our first, last installment of 'Grunn Sayuhz'! Utter disaster. Watch for the DVD release coming this fall, with behind the scenes special features and cast & crew commentary.

Though Grunn has failed miserably at answering questions, we unfortunately aren't faring much better - it takes us forever to get back to folks much of the time. Rest assured though, if we're quiet, it means we're busy making fun stuff! ...Like 'Grunn Sayuhz'.

We'll be certain to update once the commercial is finished, and announce some fundraising aimed at helping us get it on the air. In the meanwhile, enjoy the unnecessarily elaborate Preludes and wish us luck!