Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Prince mug giveaway, and Friends of the Prince

Hi everyone,

As Annie works hard to finish inking The Prince, I circulated an early draft of the illustrations among our friends and the response was overwhelmingly positive. A big thanks to everyone who proofread this early copy, especially while I took some stalker-like photos for our upcoming KickStarter videos:


While Olivia, Travis, Suchitra and Ritika took the figurative spotlight, there are so many other people who have supported us behind the scenes, by spreading the word, suggesting ideas, pledging to buy the books, and checking in with our progress.

To show our appreciation of your support, we're giving away a soon-to-be-highly-sought-after The Prince mug ! As you may have seen from a previous post, we have been playing around with mug designs, and now they are finally ready !

All you have to do is choose one of our two mug designs during the next week. We will then randomly pick one name amongst people who voted for the winning design and send the mug to the winner ! And I hope when the time comes, you will support our KickStarter, where the mug will be among the reward tiers.

Castle and Clouds

The Prince's Feast

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Completing the inking phase!

This weekend, I officially finished inking and scanning in all 20 pages of The Prince. In celebration of this, Phu threw a small dinner party with friends. We feasted like princes and princesses.

I've already done a couple of pages in full colour, and in the coming weeks, I'll be working on finishing up the rest. Look for an upcoming post/tutorial on how to go from inks to digitally-coloured pages in Photoshop!

Too blurry to see what's going on?
Stay tuned for actual pages in glorious 1200dpi!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tools of an amateur illustrator

First of all, I want to say thanks to everyone who came out to the auction last weekend to raise money for the Birmingham Free Clinic and Women's Center Clinic! We participated in the silent auction and had a number of bids on our print.


Before the bidding began

Phu plays this down, but I think it's worth sharing - when he started making and selling his photo and recipe books, he wanted to donate the profits to a local cause in the community. He got in touch with the director of the Birmingham Free Clinic, Mary Herbert, and for the past 3 years, he's been an enthusiastic supporter, forwarding proceeds from his book sales and donating items for their annual fundraising auction.

I got the print earlier this week, and will be shipping it out to the winning bidder as soon as we cut the matboard to frame her and make her look all nice 'n purdy.


When we're done with the matboard she's gonna look even purdier

Aside from preparing the print, I've been working on inking all the pages. I'm halfway done and would update with some photos... but we don't want to give away too much of the book before it's done!

So I thought I'd do a post on what kind of tools I've been using in this drawing process. Like a celebrity "What's in her purse?" thing... except that I'm not famous... and it's a pencil case... and there's no cuticle salve to be found.

No salvation for dry cuticles here

From left to right, that is a Uni-ball Signo gel pen (you know it's Japanese because they crafted that baby with a tip whose diameter is precise to two significant digits), a Pentel Pocket Brush pen‎, an old mechanical pencil, an old regular pencil, an old white eraser, and a box of ink cartridges for the brush pen. In the background is a très chic designer pencil case that mon amour got me from the runways of... Taiwan.

Ok yes I know, it's pretty normal stuff... hey, I'm no professional, and I ain't got the fancy stuff. Probably the fanciest thing I have is the brush pen. 


I like it because it's refillable, the tip is durable and just the right firmness for what I'm drawing, and it's portable. It's the main tool I've been using to ink the book pages. You can get a pretty fine line with it, until you're pretty much limited by how steady you can keep your hand while using a brush. For the really fine lines, I use a pen (yes, that 0.28mm marvel of a pen).

Can you guess which one I've had since junior high?


I also have kneaded erasers in my pencil case... to be fair, I think the older almost-black one was darker than the new one even when I first got it. The old one smells kinda weird now, but I keep it due to my irrational sentimental attachment to it.

The other main tool I've been using lately is my printer. Like I described in a previous post, I scan in my pencils, turn them blue, then print them out and ink over them. I've been using an inkjet and printing onto bristol board, because I'm trying to fancy about it.

No exaggeration, it's really smooth

The price of trying to be fancy when you're really not is that you don't have a lot of resources. I have a home office-grade colour printer, which I doesn't take thick paper (like bristol board) very well. If I had done my research online, I would have found the disgruntled reviews by people who were unable to print onto cardstock earlier.

So innocent-looking... until...

My first attempts at feeding bristol board through this thing resulted in failure and passive-aggressive printer prompts.


You started it

While I'm not fancy enough to buy a new printer with the ability to print on thick paper, I did come up with a solution for this.



Attention all you Epson Expression Home XP-400 Small-in-One™ printer owners out there. You can get it to print onto thick paper if you trick it into thinking it's taking regular paper. I taped a thin strip of scrap regular paper to the edge of the bristol board, and made sure it was flush with the bristol board when the paper feeder caught it. Works on the first try every time I use this method. Voilà.

This still doesn't mean we're friends

That's it for this post! If you're still reading this, hopefully you gained some valuable niche knowledge about printer troubleshooting... if that's not the reason you're still reading, thanks for being an awesome friend or acquaintance or stranger with enough interest to make it to the end :)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Print auction for Pittsburgh's Birmingham Clinic


Through my good friend Sara (the topic of a previous post) a few years ago I learned of the Birmingham Free Clinic in Pittsburgh and their great work with providing health care to underserved populations. I've donated a few small things in the past for their annual auction. This year, Annie wanted to donate a full-sized print of a page from The Prince for the auction.

If you're in Pittsburgh, the auction is in LR6 of Scaife Hall on the University of Pittsburgh campus, at 6:30PM on Saturday February 1st, 2013. Come bid on Penguins tickets, an iPad Mini, and other good stuff to support a good cause !



Saturday, January 11, 2014

Before The Prince, there was Crusoe

The Prince is not my first attempt at publishing a story. No, it seemed I had wanted to tell stories since I was a kid, and I wasn't slowed down by physical plausibility, logical consistency or conventionally-accepted grammar.

And thanks to my Mom's meticulous memento-keeping habits, I have proof from the fabled days of middle school:

The whole book was done in pencil, then inked in red, blue and a bit of green. Apparently this would be the first of many thrilling adventures. I can't recall exactly how long it took, but it was many weeks.  If there was a mistake in the inked version, I would rewrite the whole page.

Ah, the classic "Once upon a time" opener. You can see the corrections I made using Wite-Out correction fluid, and my teacher's corrections in pencil.

The story moves quickly. By the second paragraph our protagonist Crusoe (any relation to a much better-known character ?) already received his task of slaying the dragon of Black Mountain. Ten-year-olds do not have time to lose. Don't let the fact that his horse is named "Jolly" fool you, this story is not a peaceful one. The action picked up quickly:

Then he said, "You are a very dangerous monster, I must kill you !!!" Crusoe drew his sword and fought bravely. But the Fire Dragon was very big and strong. Crusoe's strength was giving out and he fell to the ground.

As you can see, Crusoe was a man of action, a heroic figure who conveniently announces his intentions. Though perhaps he could have benefited from a bit more aerobic training, falling to the ground from exhaustion during a fight is a little embarrassing !


Black Mountain was clearly a metaphorical name, since the mountain is not colored in. (CORRECTION-- my Mom tells me I didn't want to color in the mountain, afraid that the page will bleed though and I will get ink all over myself).
More illustration. For a proudly talkative man, Crusoe had no visible mouth. Maybe he was doing a stoic stiff-upper-lip thing. It's also a bit odd that Crusoe faced *away* from the castle even though he had just arrived there. Maybe he was checking the surroundings to make sure he wouldn't be ambushed ?

A twist !!! The Fire Dragon turns out to be a prince who had been transformed by an evil wizard-prime minister Crome who usurped the throne after the prince's father died. Crusoe traveled to confront Crome at Richmon (not to be confused with the more conventional RichmonD!).

"But Crome was transformed [into] an owl and flew away. Crusoe took a bow, an arrow, and shot it. The owl fell down and it transformed into an egg. Crusoe broke the egg and it was transformed [into] a needle. Crusoe broke the needle and Crome was dead."

I'm sure this scene would have the budget of a small city if this was adapted into a JJ Abrams movie. If it was a Peter Jackson movie, it would be a small country.


An early attempt at cartography. I think I was getting impatient with the third act and needed to explain how Crusoe could get between places so quickly. Perhaps he had learned his lesson and built up aerobic capacity? He seemed to be walking everywhere, environmentally-friendly, but slow. I'm sure it's so he can keep his horse Jolly, well... jolly and just left him/her in the stable (CORRECTION-- Mom: "It's because you couldn't draw a horse !"). There were also an angel,  more transformations, and well... more violence.

After his adventure predictably ends happily, Crusoe was invited to administer the country he had just saved. I'm sure my parents were relieved that my career aspirations included civil service and not just vigilantism and poor transportation choices.

So there you have it. Thankfully I have since left illustration in Annie's much more capable hands, and my narrative skills have improved over the years.

See you next week, when Annie will write a post that will likely *not* involve dragons.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Completing the pencilling phase!

Happy new year, everyone! The end of 2013 marks the completion of the first phase of our book - the pencils for every page of The Prince are now all finished! Yay!

When Phu and I met up this weekend to discuss the book, we shared stories about our holidays. He went back to Seattle, I went back to Toronto, and we both met up with friends and family who asked how the book was coming along.

Flying out of Toronto, back to the Burgh

It sounds like Phu has already taken a number of pre-pre-orders from friends for "deluxe" editions of our book. And my awesome friend Jess, a true connaisseuse of cards, put in a big order for some of our holiday greeting cards. We're really so lucky to have such supportive friends to share our excitement with us!

On the right, the final page of our book!!

What does 2014 bring? Now that all the pencils are complete, I'll be inking and digitally colouring the pages. The luxuries of 4th year med school will likely allow me to finish this at a faster pace than I finished the pencils over the past year. Phu will be working on finding a suitable printing company to produce our final product. And finally, as complete these steps, we'll be lauching our Kickstarter campaign to fund our project... Keep following our blog for more updates!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A short meeting of the minds

This week I made a short trip to Toronto to see Annie, who had gone home to take a well-deserved break, and to see Pikto, a well-regarded printing press in Toronto's Distillery District. Pikto had printed several of my photobooks and my cookbook in the past, and we were considering using them to print the final version of The Prince.

Pictured is Travis, my good friend who perhaps against better judgement agreed to drive me 350 miles in sleet, snow and rain only to be attacked by a tripod from H.G. Wells' "War of The Worlds". Thankfully, instead of death and destruction, the tripod only delivered messages of welcome and Pikto's production quality.

The Courtyard Kitchen on display in the Pikto gallery.

Annie served as our enthusiastic tour guide through Toronto's many neighborhoods, including Kensington, where we encountered a possible future business partner. That is, if we ever decided to found a restaurant instead of publishing books.


As our Director of Merchandising, Annie also made a soon-to-be-highly-sought-after The Prince mug.

After a year's worth of work, we're almost to our goal of seeing The Prince in print. I hope your year had been full of adventures, with many more to come in 2014 !

Warmest season's wishes,

--Phu, Annie and Travis