Training up a new colorist…

Back in 2003 I hired a colorist, Jean Fioca (used to be Elmore). Having someone else handle the coloring was wonderful, and Jean was great at it. A lot of the coloring tricks I use now I learned looking at her work on my characters.

I’m considering hiring a colorist again. I’m busy enough to justify it, and would love to see somebody willing and able to express themselves through the colors, rather than just going through the motions the way I do. But don’t send in your resumés just yet… the colorist I want to hire is already getting on the job training. She did the flood filling and shading on the last two rows of today’s strip, and almost all the floods for next week. She’s still learning the swatches, and doesn’t know which backgrounds to drop in without coaching from me, but I can tell already that she’ll work out fine if I can keep her interested.

I am going to have to raise her allowance.

My 12-year-old daughter, whom you may know from sandratayler‘s Live Journal as “Kiki,” is my apprentice colorist. She has had some classical art training using pastels and watercolors, but has next to no Photoshop experience. That didn’t stop her from pencilling, scanning, coloring, and shading a picture of Link last week, using Adobe Photoshop Elements. She was coloring using a technique she copied from me — lassoing areas to be shaded and darkening them with the flood tool and swatches that looked right. And the shading DID look right. The girl has a good eye.

Sandra was concerned. “She’s been working on that piece for DAYS now, Howard.”
I checked to see what she was actually working on. “It’s not a problem. She’s trying to darken her pencil lines, and they’re in the same layer as the colors. She’s going pixel by pixel.”
I told Kiki what she was doing wrong, and suggested that since correcting line art in this way was no fun at all, maybe she’d have more fun coloring some clean line art for me. For pay. She was sitting next to me at my computer within 15 minutes.

Naturally, I have some concerns:
1) I don’t want her art style to be mere mimicry of my own. I have to encourage her to experiment — at least once she has the basics down.
2) We are going to have to strike a balance between “Kiki’s Style” and “Staying On Model.”
3) Criticism of Schlock Mercenary may extend to the work she does, and she is not nearly thick-skinned enough to be reading some anonymity-emboldened, blogtarded wannabe tear her work apart.
4) Saddling a 12-year-old with this level of responsibility is a life-changing thing. She may end up with a job skill, or even a full-blown career. Then again, digital art may end up forever poisoned for her.
5) She is not old enough to be famous. Or so says me, anyway. I don’t mind fanboys stalking me down at the comics shop, but the first fanboy who stalks my baby girl is going to to discover that he can breathe through the gurgling hole where his nipple-piercing used to be.

I’m not asking for advice. I already have approaches for numbers 1-3 above, and Kiki and I will be talking about #4. Number five… well, let’s just say that if I have to go to jail because I killed my colorist’s stalker, the comic strip will end. No stalking, okay?

53 thoughts on “Training up a new colorist…”

  1. I had a coworker once who had the whole “creepy/intimidating guy” thing going for him. His favorite thing to say to a boy coming to pick up his daughter for a date was, “I’ve been to prison, son, and I’d have NO problem with going back.”

  2. Also, just as insurance, you might want to build the buffer out to, oh 3-5 years, with time off for good behavior.

  3. Oh, Come on, Howard. You have more self control than that. Wait until you get home, then suggest to the fans that you have a stalker problem. With description. Stalker disappears and your hands are clean.

    Problem solved.

    1. The next morning, one of the NASA dudes blearily stares at a screen and wonders where that new satellite came from, and why it seems to be in geosynchronous orbit above that “meteor strike” he heard about on the radio on the way in.

    2. I have to admit I’d be wiling to help with that plan, especially if we could somehow work in “Ominous Hum” and “THOOOM” Just for ironys sake.

    3. I’m in.

      And I live just a few blocks from you, Howard.

      My oldest daughter is 6. The more creepy guys who stalk young girls we can get rid of now, the fewer I’ll have to deal with later.

      1. Shoot the bastards. Better yet, shoot them in a state like Georgia where you can easily convince a jury it was justifiable homicide.

        1. Or shoot them in the chest and hand them and the gun off to a South Carolinian, like myself. Plant the body, instant self-defense shooting!

          *Lurking Schlocker in the Southeast, by the by.*

  4. Congratulations to *both* of you. I don’t know if you anything remotely like this in mind when you left the “day job” and decided to stay home with Schlock full-time, but how many fathers get this type of opportunity to really do something real and meaningful with their kids? And, to turn it around, how many children get to do something at that age which really *matters* to their parents?

    I hope it works out wonderfully for both of you, and that the “down side” of your point #4 doesn’t come to pass. But I suspect you’ll be keeping an eye on things, and if it looks like it isn’t the responsibility for Kiki, you’ll do some assistant switching. 🙂

    All the best!

  5. My baby sister (who is 14 now) came home sobbing after a date with her boyfriend. It was touch and go for waterboarding the boy for a while there. I know how you feel. 🙂

  6. This is the same baby girl who, if she follows in her mother’s footsteps, you will be walking down the aisle in … oh … about seven, eight years, and she’ll be making you a GRANDFATHER in less than a DECADE?


    Congratulations on identifying some pretty important issues that could come up if she becomes your colorist. She’s going to have some cool stories for junior high school, having a ‘job’ at an age when her peers’ opportunities are limited to babysitting and lawn mowing. It’d be wonderful if this gave her confidence to better deal with all the emotional crapola that happens in high school.

  7. Now, when you say she did the last two rows, are you saying she did the glow around Tagon?

    Honestly, her work on today’s strip looks fantastic. I’m looking at it, and seriously, it’s impossible for me to tell you didn’t do it, and if you’d not said anything, I would never had known.

    As for possible stalkers, I think it’s safe to say that there are plenty of people who would be more than happy to look the police in the eye and say “He was here all night officer”.

    Tell her good luck from the lot of us, and congrats.

    Soon we will have an heiress to the Schlock dynasty.

    Soon she’ll even be able to claim a book to her credit, since it won’t be too long for her work to make it into a dead-tree edition.

  8. Totally cool about your daughter working with you. Is the way it used to be, where kids would learn their parent’s trades. Sure, she may not follow you and your wife into authoring/publishing but just knowing what goes into running a business will be worth so much college courses. Really wish I’d had a chance to learn how stuff was done in the real world, before getting out of high school. Even now, the whole concept of my own business is so confusing and such, I’m still working an hourly job.

  9. 1) I don’t want her art style to be mere mimicry of my own. I have to encourage her to experiment — at least once she has the basics down.

    Instead of raising her allowance, offer her a “guest cartoonist” week!

      1. considering

        that Bil Keane’s “kids” are older than Howard, and the strip’s actually been drawn by the kids for years (first by “Billy” and currently by “Jeffy”), it’s an eternal guest strip/family business at this point.

    1. I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to offer her a chance to sell her artwork via She’s gets a chance to work on her own style and to be paid. Could also allow her to take commissions.

      1. Please. You know full well we’d pay 100 bucks for a stick figure drawn by one of his kids How does our rabid, credit-card kiling fanom help her?

        Ok after 5 pieces, Howard could pay for her college, but besides that?

        Oh great. I just mentioned a money-making scheme in front of Howard. We’re doomed.

  10. Congrats and best of luck to your newest employee!

    But I have to confess the first few lines left me terribly confused. “Colorist” for me, first brings to mind “someone who colours hair”. So I glanced back at your user icon to make sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. You are in need of a colorist, and my vocabulary now has new depth. 🙂

  11. “the first fanboy who stalks my baby girl is going to to discover that he can breathe through the gurgling hole where his nipple-piercing used to be.”
    It took me a few seconds to work out the mechanics of that but when I did….

    You have to respect appropriately psychotic violence.

  12. I don’t mind fanboys stalking me down at the comics shop, but the first fanboy who stalks my baby girl is going to to discover that he can breathe through the gurgling hole where his nipple-piercing used to be.

    +1. 🙂

      1. Two methods leap immediately to mind:

        1) use the nipple-piercing as a 10-ring, and aim there with a large-bore weapon of some kind.

        2) Use a capacitor-powered magnet (quick pulse of really, really strong magnetism) and apply it to the subject’s back. Don’t rip the piercing off. Pull it THROUGH.

        Sadly, I only have the prerequisite equipment for one of these two methods.

        1. Having had a stalker I offer this advice:
          Teach Kiki how to use a club, i.e: base/softball bat, that gives her lots of potential protection. Point of best contact: knees, going the wrong way. Followed by hip joint and/or elbows. Then she can look the officer in the eye and tell him/her she was afraid for herself. Also teach her that bad people lie and that they won’t kill you or Sandra or her sibs, which they will in an attempt to gain control of her.
          Personally, I think all children should be taught the last. It takes a lot of power away from the bad guys.

          1. That second to last sentence should read:
            “Also teach her that bad people lie and that they won’t kill you or Sandra or her sibs, which they will say they will do in an attempt to gain control of her.”
            I was writing with passion, sorry for the grammar.

  13. Very cool! Here’s hoping things work out for her!

    If you ever need a backup backup coloreist, drop me a line. Glad to lend a hand.


  14. Hehe

    I have to say your daughter has amazing talent. I can barely handle a paintbrush let alone do this computer stuff.

    Also I would be more then willing to implement a certain scenario:

    Mwhahahahaha. I know I have a very twisted sense of humour and I like my father I have a mean streak a mile wide. Most don’t find that part, the mean streak, out; you have to be special to bring that out and stalkers of my favorite web-cartoonists daughter :)… well lets just say no one has seen me at my meanest just yet 🙂

    Oh and thanks for all the info and input on the Hordes Howard I have a nice little force of Skorn building up 🙂

  15. That is really, really cool. I hope she is interested enough to keep it up. Hm… I think I was about that age when I started painting…

    Will she keep the name Kiki in this capacity, or will she be accredited with her name?

    Now, it is posts like this that make me feel sorry for some bloke in a few years when she starts dating…

  16. Good luck to you both! It’s fantastic that she’s got the chance to do this with you. I wish I had a chance to work with my dad, but high voltage switchyards and kids don’t mix… well, not when OSHA’s looking…

    Tell her the fans agree that she’s been doing a great job so far!

  17. This Shouldn’t Be a Surprise…

    Leave it to Schlock fans to concentrate on the “violence” aspects of this post, rather than the “artistic/familial” ones. Hee.

  18. That’s kinda funny. I was actually sitting down on sunday reading the strip and I did think to myself, “wow, hotay did an excellent job on the coloring on this strip.” Seriously.

  19. OT: Arithmetic error in your latest post?

    I’ll start off by apologizing for this off-topic comment. Your “EMAIL HOWARD” link leads to a blank page, and I didn’t want to be scooped on my very first nitpick after two years of error-free Schlock.

    The latest strip (Saturday 14 July 2007) includes the line, “The margin of error in your guess at your own age is bigger than the age of my whole species.” The guess in question is 12 million years, and the margin of error 1% (in either direction, I assume), or 240 000 years.

    Wikipedia on “Human Evolution” claims that anatomically modern humans probably began 400 000 to 250 000 years prior to our present, already outside the 240 000 year range. Dating things with respect to Schlock’s present, which I assume to be quite a bit into our future, should widen the gap further. (If you would cue the triumphant drums of successful nitpickery, yes, just like that, excellent)

    Otherwise, thanks for a really awesome webcomic, and thanks for getting me into webcomics.

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