How SP-Studio inspired me

  • In this thread I want to tell you, how SP-Studio influenced my life so far and how it inspired me to my own artwork. So this is basically an extended "Who are you". But because this will also include stuff that would fit better into the "More than just pictures" section, showing unedited and edited SP-Studio pictures and finally some own drawings, I decided to place it into "Life, the Universe and Everything". Later it was moved into "Our Art", which I personally find the least fitting.

    Also, because this thread basically tells a coherent story, I decided to colour the text to distinguish it from the comments.

    (I edited this post to make it clearer, what the whole thread will be about.)

  • I always had artistic aspirations - I liked to draw and to make up stories. But then I got the impression that, although I like drawing, I'm not really good at it. In addition, I found out, that some of the most talented painters could hardly make a living and died at a young age. Writers on the other hand, seemed to be more lucky. So I decided to work on becoming a novelist, although it didn't feel completely right yet.

    Alas, the problem with writing is that - at least in Germany - there are not really places where you can learn how to do it. Of course, there are literature studies. But they are about analysing the works of others and then are occupied with the so-called world literature, which I always found quite boring. I was more into adventure stories, fantasy and most of all science fiction. The other thing ist, that they normally focus on literature that is seen as historically relevant for a certain nation an not on stories that are particularly entertaining.

    The next difficulty is that as an author you don't get paid during writing but only when you're published. Only the most successful writers - who already create revenues with their previous books - get money in advance for a new book project.

    So, after taking all that into consideration, I came to the conclusion, that I would have to learn on my own how to write a novel. Then I would have to write it. And then I would have to convince a publishing house to publish it. Which meant that I would have to bridge many years before I could earn the first money with a book.

    What I made of that situation, will be the topic of my next post here.

  • Hey David. As you said you plan for this thread to feature your artworks, I decided the Our Art forum might be the better place for it.

    Looking forward to see it.

  • Actually, my own artwork will be the smallest part of this thread and only appear right in the end. I thought it might be confusing for a thread to be listed in the own art section and then not featuring any own artwork for weeks. My plan was to tell you more about myself, then to explain and show the evolution of my artwork from the SP-Studio characters here and later create a separate thread for the actual, completely original artwork. Maybe it's not common to have to many threads per user?

  • Let's get back to my story:

    I decided, it would be the best choice to pursue a career in the publishing industry. So over the next couple of years I tried various ways to get into it.

    First I tried to study, but I quickly found out that wasn't the right way for me. After that experience I wanted to serve an apprenticeship but I never got more than an internship. During this time ironically I found hardly the time to write something. On the other hand I was introduced to a variety of graphics software: first Freehand, which doesn't seem to be used a lot anymore nowadays, then Photoshop, Quark Xpress, InDesign and Illustrator roughly in that order. Thus I mainly trained my artistic skills in this time rather than my literary ones.

  • After several years which weren't very successful career-wise, I decided to study again. I was already 28 at that time. To open up my opportunities a bit, I chose media sciences, but obviously I overshot the mark because that study covered almost every medium except books.

    Finally, towards the end of that study we could choose between different elective modules. One of them was about continuing a media literacy website aimed at pre-teens. To promote that, a comic book containing entertaining but also informative stories was to be produced. And although I never had been much into comics until then, that seemd to me to be by far the most interesting thing in the whole study and the closest to my professional aspirations.

    And that university project is where I first learned about SP-Studio ...

  • Actually, my own artwork will be the smallest part of this thread and only appear right in the end. I thought it might be confusing for a thread to be listed in the own art section and then not featuring any own artwork for weeks. My plan was to tell you more about myself, then to explain and show the evolution of my artwork from the SP-Studio characters here and later create a separate thread for the actual, completely original artwork. Maybe it's not common to have to many threads per user?

    I see, so, sorry about that. I feel like this is still the best place for the thread as your story is related to your art. As for one user having several threads, don't worry about this being a problem.


  • Then I will not let it bother me. - Here's how my story went on:

    I had known South Park before participating in that seminar. Indeed I have been watching it from time to time from the beginning of its broadcast in Germany, but wouldn't consider myself a huge fan. Without that university project I probably would never have searched for something like SP-Studio.

    That website had already been in operation for some years when our team took over, so I also don't know who first came up with the idea to use SP-Studio for illustrations on the site and on promotional material. But that we had something to build upon and didn't have to find out everything by ourselves was definitely helpful.

    One reason to use SP-Studio in the first place might have been to make the website more kid-friendly. The other one was that in our study nobody was supposed to be exceptionally good at drawing.

    As for appealing to pre-teens, that only worked to a limited extent. For many of our target group on the one hand the drawing style seemed to be already to childish, on the other hand they were still to young to know South Park. The current operators seem to have chosen instead to use less illustrations and therefor hire a professional illustrator to create original artwork.

    For our creativity in contrast, SP-Studio meant an enormous boost. Especially in creating our comic book we were conceded many liberties. The creators of the previous comic book had been good at conveying technical facts regarding the internet and entertainment electronics but their stories weren't exactly exciting. They also didn't fully use the visual potential of SP-Studio.

    To make our comic stories more interesting, one professor got the idea to write parodies on movies and TV series and make the educational message more subtle. That came in handy for me as I always watched a lot of TV but don't no much about technical stuff. I Was always more of a late adapter and an additional reason why I always wanted to work with books is that they were the least technological thing I could imagine.

  • I sort of took the lead in that comic project, because I was the most experienced in working with graphics software. Over the years I had acquired quite some proficiency in working with InDesign. I had gotten quite a good training in one of my internships to begin with and then had played around with it almost every minute of my spare time for several years. I find it's such a flexible program, practically everything I like to do can be done with it. During my study I used it to write my papers and create presentations, because I find Word or Powerpoint simply annoying. So InDesign was the obvious choice for our comic stories, too.

    We cropped the SP-Studio characters in Photoshop and then arranged them on the backgrounds. And of course we added speech bubbles and boxes for the narrator's text. The result looked like this:

    This panel is from a parody on the Lord of the Rings. Hobo and his friends are geocachers ranging the outskirts of a town called Middlefield.

  • Since my move to a new home is getting closer I don't have much time for other things right now, so I did not notice your thread until now. But this is a very interesting read! I always enjoy stories about how people use the SP-Studio.

    Regarding your thoughs about different types of creative jobs: Since my husband writes novels and my initial plans were to become a traditional artist I know those problems very well. We realized apart from talent, training and networking there is A LOT of luck involved when you want to earn money with your passion. So we are currently earning our money with different things. But it's still importsnt to follow your dreams because who knows what will happen when the right person looks at your art?

  • For me, so far, it was the hardest thing to find out what I really want to do. Which I only succeeded in quite recently. How SP-Studio helped with that will actually be featured in more detail in the course of this story. I hope you will still regard the stuff I create as art, when I come to that point. And indeed I hope to find the right kind of nerdy people here who can find pleasure in it.

  • Back to my story:

    Often we additionally used graphics from the alas meanwhile defunct Open Clip Art Library. Quite quickly I also found out that a lot of image editing can be done with InDesign on South Park style drawings because of their symplistic design, although probably no professional designer would do it that way. For the same reason it was quite easy to draw smaller objects completely in InDesign. Over time I started to use InDesign as a fully-fledged vector graphics editor.

  • In the beginning my panels were mere collages of the SP-Studio characters and the custom backgrounds. Only from time to time I extended them in Photoshop or recouloured them to make them more believable as part of the same room.

    These panels are from my first try to create a comic story with SP-Studio. It's a parody on the Twilight movies. I called the characters Edgar and Stella. In retrospect I didn't succeed in integrating the technical message but in regards to image editing and storytelling I think it wasn't that bad. Although I guess that Stella wouldn't really have such a colourful room. During the later stories I discovered she's quite emo.

  • My first add-ons in InDesign were minor details like this:

    This unlucky guy downloaded music illegally. Of course, he got incarcerated for such a heavy crime. There were a prison uniform and even ball and chain for the character and a prison cell as a background but I felt the need to add prison bars to make the scenery complete.

  • For certain objects that I drew myself, I also had to modify the characters. Here the hobbits are digging for their geocache, only to realize its owner never intended it to be found.

    There was no shovel available on SP-Studio, so I drew one myself. To enable the guy to hold it, I also drew him a new thumb.

  • Then there where cases where the characters were supposed to interact more with each other, like Edgar and Stella here holding hands. I think, I did this in Photoshop, actually.

    I also drew the background here. For the Christmas decoration I used graphics from the Open Clip Art Library. I had not mastered perspective yet, although when I later payed more attention to South Park I saw that they actually cheat with perspective quite often, too. I'd actually rather call the background a set like in a film production, because the way I drew it, the characters would have been able to walk around the desk for example. Creating these comics inspired by movies and TV shows, I realized that I had actually always been influenced more by them than by books. For example, when I came up with a story I had always quite a clear vision of how everything should look. Maybe it was because most I ever watched was produced in America that I never saw that as a realistic job option and thought about going into the publishing industry instead.

  • Sometimes the story required the characters to take a different posture.

    This story was about cyberbullying and, well, attempted murder. This little girl is Lea who is rehearsing for a school play. In her role she is able to fly which is achieved by her hanging from a rope. But the second cast cut the rope to get her role. Luckily for Lea, she didn't get hurt.

    For her landing, I drew her feet that looked like she was sitting on the ground, either because this feature wasn't available in SP-Studio back then or because the custom feet didn't stand out enough in my view.

  • For this story I drew most of the set and props myself with only some objects stemming from the Open Clipart Library. And of course, the characters are still from SP-Sudio.

    It became a trademark of my stories to start with an establishing shot. They could become quite elaborate. In this story (actually the second part of a three-parter) the effort in fact paid off because I could use the set in almost every panel.

    The run-down guy on the stage is Bloggum from my Lord of the Rings parody. Over time I came to like certain characters from my stories and started to re-use them in stories that were rather based on a wider genre than a specific movie or series.

    Actually I just realize it's quite meta to have someone design a set within a set in a story that is centered on kids lining up a play.

  • Sometimes I wanted the characters to show more emotions. Like Bloggum's mom who is very proud of her boy's performance in the play. To achieve that, I changed the position of her arms.

    This might not look exactly impressive, but it made me realize the potential of drawing characters in InDesign.