The first installment of Alkahest Shorts (on Smackjeeves or Tapastic) follows the journey of Gyanda through an outdoor marketplace. I wanted to challenge myself to have a completely silent comic (minus sound effects), relying on the picture to tell the story.
Because it’s a silent comic, you never hear the protagonist’s name. Well, her name is Gyanda! Gyanda’s name means “knowledgeable, learning” in Hindu. As the firstborn girl to a family-run flower shop, her parents wanted her to be able to take on the knowledge of their business and be a proper successor to the shop. Lucky for them, Gyanda has a knack for flower magic and seems to know what a flower needs just by looking at it–unfortunately, she finds this unchallenging and boring.
Which starts off this little short!
The flowers Gyanda is nurturing are all native Indian flowers. The one she magics is actually a super rare flower, Woodrow’s Crinum Lily. Which is one of the reasons she rushes after the fox-squirrel so readily!
In my research, I couldn’t figure out what style her outfit should be. The mother of a good friend of mine let me borrow a seriously intense book on Indian clothing–categorized from region to region, explaining why certain areas wore veils and others did less so, etc. The book was from the 80’s and the pictures that were colored had to be glued into the book. It was a fantastic resource! I hope to borrow it again, soon.
With all the information, though, I realized I didn’t know enough about my character’s family to know which region to base her clothing style after. In the end, because I wanted to get started on the webcomic, I settled for a more rural-generic-Indian style. Since Gyanda’s family had been in Alkahest for several generations, having the clothing be specific to one region wasn’t necessary, but it does make me think.
I love doing research! I can get so involved with it that I never start the final project. As a first, fully-finished webcomic of my stories, I’m very happy with what I produced and hope I continue to improve the world of Alkahest!
Thanks for reading! My next post on this webcomic short will discuss my style and choices in medium. Please look forward to it!
I love to paint and draw, but if I could do one thing for the rest of my life, it would be printmaking. Lithography or etching–I’ve spent hours milling over projects in joyous contentment. Block printing is the easiest to do in my home setting, though, and that’s what I’ll be sharing with you today.
I use linoleum sheets or blocks when I block print. The sheets are less expensive than the blocks, but don’t last long after a series of prints. If I’m doing a commission or a series that I haven’t fully figured out in my sketchbook, I may use the sheets as a test-run. It isn’t impossible to use them for final pieces–I think there is a way to attach them to your own blocks, too. That isn’t in my knowledge, though. The blocks are a lot easier to carve into, and they will last passed your initial series of prints. Of course, you’re paying for that stability.
I bought my stash a few years ago from Utrecht. Here’s a recent side-by-side of the two. It refers to the sheets as ‘unmounted’ and the blocks as ‘mounted’. The difference isn’t staggering with the price, and in bulk, the difference only ends up about $3.00.
Now to the process!!
I always start with a sketch that I’ve inked in black. With block printing, you have to think backwards. So I try to have all my whites and blacks set-in before I start the permanent process of carving out the linoleum block. It saves a lot of time, money, and your wrist to have a solid sketch before you start. Like with sewing: measure twice, cut once (or in this case, color twice, carve once?).
Even when I sketch my picture onto my linoleum block, I shade in the parts I don’t want to carve. This reminds me not to touch those parts. Every bit helps so you don’t have to start over.
My carving tool of choice is this Speedball carver. It comes with 5 different tips, but I mostly use the three pictured here. It’s very easy to change out the tips, and you don’t have to have several tools lying about. They all fit into the hollow handle–so it’s easy storage, and super light! I bought mine at an art store up north, but I know Michael’s Craft Store and Hobby Lobby have some in stock, too. It’s fairly standard for art supplies stores, so I’m sure you can find one!
When I start to carve, I start with my thinner tips to outline details I want to keep, such as the mouth and eyes on the face.
Continue that until everything is carved!
For inking you’ll need a roller (or brayer), baren (or wooden spoon), and some ~fancy~ paper. I have two brayers: one hard and one soft. I prefer the way the soft brayer puts the ink on the block–you can mess around and see which fits your needs better. I did go and buy a real baren for my printmaking kit, but the back of a wooden spoon does the job just right, too. I like how I’m able to exert pressure with this tool rather than a spoon.
Now, there’s a lot of printmaking paper out there. Many textures and colors. Depending on your project or personal preferences will decide on what paper you choose. After a lot of messing around, I found this rice paper very cheap at Hobby Lobby. One side it slick, the other is heavily textured. I use the slick side for my prints. I really like how the ink settles on top of this paper and doesn’t move around.
For ink, I use Speedball’s water soluble block printing ink. I wouldn’t use this near food, but it’s definitely safer to use than an oil-based ink. Since my studio at the moment is the kitchen table, this is a must-have. Also, it’s super easy to clean up! Dish soap and water.
First thing to do when getting ready to ink a block print is to make sure the block and your area is clear. I have a sheet of plastic to set my ink on and use a flat drawing board to minimize the space I need to clean up. And my mom appreciates me not getting ink on her table.
Try as you might, you may still end up like me and have something on your print that messes up a clean finish. I have a plastic palette knife I use to clean off stuff such as this.
For a full step-by-step of the process, please check out the video I did for this project!
Something I’d do differently the next time I do a block print is not have a large area to be inked–it was very difficult keep enough ink on the linoleum for a completely black space in front of the woman. Adding some texture to the black area would probably help the ink hold onto the medium better.
And that’s that! Thank you for reading my blog post, and if you have any questions about the materials or the process, please comment below! I’d love to help!
This manga holds a very special place in my heart where love and the imperfect family merge to make a heartwarming, tenacious tale.
The story revolves around the Fukuyoshi family, a mother and three daughters, who run a Japanese confectionery shop in Kyoto. Their shop has been in the family for 17 generations, over 450 years–the last few generations have been through the women.
As the story takes place in one of Japan’s most traditional areas, immediately you’re thrown into Japan-specific terminology. Such as noren: the cloth curtains on shop doorway or entrances with the families’ brand or crest or calling characters tanuki (as many who’ve read manga are happy to recognize, means “raccoon”). Customs specific to the Kyoto area are even explained for the reader. When the characters speak in round-about dialogue while talking about money, or even (not) holding hands, the narration jumps in to help the reader understand. Throughout the story there are tea ceremonies, calligraphy lessons and Kabuki theater–all very traditional parts of Japan.
Fukuya makes wagashi. Wagashi is a Japanese confectionary that plays an important role in tea ceremonies. The trials the Fukuyoshi family endures revolves many times around the success, and love, of the store.
The madam of Fukuya, the mother of three young daughters, is a tough, shrewd woman who has navigated the traditional business-landscape of Kyoto by herself for the last 10 years. Though it is obvious she loves all her children in her own way, her own expectations of them has caused difficulties in her daughters’ relationships and heartache through misunderstandings.
Eldest daughter and expected successor, Hina, is a reserved, smart young woman with a complete understanding of the shop’s business. Her life has been directed by her mother’s expectations. She’s the perfect example of a Kyoto lady.
Arare, second daughter, is jobless, dreamless, and spends her time drinking and betting with her friends. Her strong personality equals that of her mother which causes them to perpetually be at each others’ throats.
The youngest daughter, Hana, is still in middle school and loves the shop immensely. She’s incredibly observant, and is the voice of narration for the reader to learn about Kyoto and her family. Hana is very tall for a middle schooler, which causes some anxiety for her when she’s next to her crush.
True to some family dynamics, the sisters voice opinions of each other–Even though they’ve known each other forever, their observations are not always correct. As the story progresses, they realize their assumptions were wrong and they’ve hurt their sister from their actions on the stereotype.
The story walks through the lives of each of these daughters, weaving through their daily lives, marriages and loves. None of it comes easy, though, in the culture that doesn’t speak its mind. The end result is that it all culminates in love, familial or for their significant other.
There’s a marvelous 11 volumes to read through the lives of these enigmatic women. A definite must-have as a hard copy!
Do you have a manga you wish you could have in your hands? I’d love to hear what you have to say!
As an avid reader of manga scans, I click through the fan-translated manga pretty quick. Many times, I don’t recall the name of the manga once I click on a new page. Or the characters’ names. Or the plot.
Other times, though, there is a series that captures my attention that I keep going back to.