Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A Private Asylum Detainee

Hi ya!  I'm all cheery today because the sun is out... Wait a minute - it's just gone in again... Damn - here comes a nosedive!  Right, before I suffer one of my famed mental collapses I'm going to share with you what I have been up to of late.  It is probably easier if I show you, but what it comes down to is manipulating, modifying and utilising a series of images my graphics-orientated collaborator Angela Fox (link over in the right hand sidebar) came up with quite some time ago inspired by my third book in the INSTITUTIONALISED series: A Continuum of Discipline.  The idea had originally been for an illustrated version or even graphic novel, though that was before it bloomed into 250,000 words of course!  But in some ways I can blame (if blame is the right word) the artwork for the expansion of the storyline, since each and every picture - though not necessarily perfect in terms of the idea  I was trying to put over at the time (especially if not perfect )- more often than not triggered a whole cascade of new ideas, which in turn at times spawned yet more images.  And the series I have been working on this week is a case in point.  

I do not have enough original Angela Fox material to do a graphic novel justice, and even to fully illustrate certain turning points and key scenes within a story arc requires I be economical with the images and extract as much as possible from each one, which in turn means adding in certain elements, many of which I will have to create myself de novo.  Hence in this (as yet unfinished and incomplete) series three of the four images presented here are clearly derived from the same original.  

 The series starts with all those familiar elements, the straitjacket, the uniformed nurse and the nurse, governess or wardress's thin, whippy punishment cane close to hand.  But in its  modest little way the series seeks to go further - and in attempting that I think it well illustrates something of my approach and the different elements I seek to incorporate within my writing.  In this case the story is caught in the act of developing beyond the usual accepted concept of straitjacket bondage within the context of institutionalised corporal punishment and discipline.  For example, as the scene develops it gradually becomes clear that it is actually the humble window (which has taken me the best part of a day to get right, in its various incarnations incidentally) which is destined to take centre stage, upstaging the straitjacket, the uniformed nurse with her cane, the padded cell per se and the rest.  But, you see, this was not necessarily the case at the outset when the original image was conceived (based on a moment in one of my books) but it is nevertheless the direction towards which the imagery has since propelled me; that was the way it worked, and still works.  I am absolutely knackered and even these few images still need a lot of work - especially when it comes to the speech balloons, which have proved cumbersome, ugly and difficult to work with.

One glaring error can be seen  in the very first frame.  In subsequent frames I have adopted a convention of rendering the nurse's speech in white to help differentiate it, but have neglected to make the appropriate changes in that first frame - damn!

Anyway, Needless to say I'm laying these out to dry here to garner comments, tips, criticisms and ideas.  So don't be shy, get writing / emailing! 

But, hey; I am happy... I think...Hang on though; the sun's gone in again.......... 


Orage said...

"I have neglected to make the appropriate changes in that first frame - damn!"
Never mind about that, it's perfectly legible anyway!
You know what? I'm happy too, for your sake and for ours! I like very much the pictures and the speech, what could I comment upon, honestly?

Toyntanen said...

It is the speech balloon style that I think doesn't work though, Orage.

Looking at actual comic books makes me think I could get away with a lot smaller text size, considering the picture size (which I completely underestimated). This would allow for a different style of speech bubble, which I will experiment with on the next couple of frames. Of course if it comes out looking better I'll end up redoing all these, but that's part and parcel of it!

Tonight, since I got home, late evening, I found myself tampering with the 'Beyond The Barred Window' website. I started by having another go at removing the horrid purple and grey footer - and that was where I had intended to stop. As it is I have only just finished, having virtually redesigned the current front (or entry) page - well, the background anyway. Take a look; see what you think.

Orage said...

Phew, you've been tampering all right! Do you sometimes go to sleep?
We'll need some time to read all the spanking mags readers' letters!

I do find the speech balloon style quite to my liking. I can't understand why you say it doesn't work! Now put in a much smaller text size, if you like but remember some readers are no chicken of the year, ha, ha, so the first thing you'd have to do is an inquest: "You've been reading my blog for some time, I'd just like to know how old you are...". Probably much appreciated.

Anyway, let's stop the banter: why would it be interesting for you and unnamed purposes to "get away with" smaller text size?
Remember I know nothing of the toil and trouble you face, so be patient with me, please!

Toyntanen said...

Hi Orage. Well, I only sleep for a few hours. I'm usually at my best after 5; the 8 hours that most are said to need would actually leave me feeling just as tired as before I went to sleep. But if I get up and get on with something as soon as I first wake up I am full of energy; don't know why.

The spanking magazine reader's letters scans presently on the website are only those previously posted here, but presented all in one place and in a more logical arrangement which should be more convenient, easier to find and easier to search through. Once the website is more complete, scanning more of my collection will give me something to do on rainy afternoons - and I can then, as the collection grows, play around with categorising and grouping various subject areas together in various ways.

This afternoon (I've just come back from the gym, some 750 - 800 Kcals lighter) I am not alone in the apartment and so feel a little inhibited from playing around with the graphics. So... (have you noticed how all of the sudden everyone interviewed on radio and television starts off their reply with 'so' - or is it just me?)... So I'm going to be putting together a new banner for the top of the website's opening page, because that will not seem so 'dodgy' to my spouse's somewhat limited view of things. And I'll be interested to hear you and other folk's opinions.

As for the comic-book / graphic novel stuff: I made the text large to allow for it remaining legible if and when I shrink the frames down to size. The idea being to group several together as a 'page' as in a real comic book.

But I hadn't taken in to account how large the original image were - meaning I needn't have made the text so large. This in turn infers I can go for smaller, less intrusive speech bubbles, perhaps filled in block colour (white probably)since the bubble itself will not obscure so much of the image.

The latter is probably not so important in the case of the present images, because not much is going on in a pictorial sense. But in others I have on my computer, there is a lot of story potentially being told by the image itself, with a little prompting of the reader's imagination by way of a bit of well-crafted dialogue. And it is that aspect - the well-crafted dialogue - which is key to this sort of thing; it is a real skill, and it is not a skill I'm at all sure I possess. We will see.

Right! Got to get on now... See y'all later!

Madmonkey said...

Not sure about the redesign of the website. I think I liked it better the way it looked before. I particularly dislike the background (the picture itself and the way it has to tile to fill the body of the page), the bold red text, and the redundant picture and menu links. I've tried it with a solid background and I think that looks much better. You might want to try it with a fixed position header and menu so people don't have to scroll all the way back up to use the menu links. I like the changes you made to that annoying footer.

Orage said...

I agree with Madmonkey, I just lacked the technical words to express myself.
The background hampers the easy reading of the text and I also dislike that red colour you have chosen for the text.

Toyntanen said...

Hi Orage and Madmonkey! Thanks for the feedback and input,

The red text you dislike is a symptom of the same problem, Orage; the original green text did not show up well against the new background. And the white text used elswhere didn't show up at all in some sections against the bars in the original version of this paticular backgound (which I imagine you didn't see).

The tiling Madmonkey doesn't like I was forced in to using. I can adjust the image to fit widthwise but it will not fill the page lengthwise if I use the ''no-repeat' atribute. I can easily enough fill the background with a solid colour or black as you suggest, Madmonkey but that seems a little boring. I think I would like to persevere a little longer with the idea of a back image, but perhaps try something a little less obtrusive, something fainter or perhaps transparent with an appearance akin to a watermark or something. But whatever I decide, I can do nothing about making any changes until monday as I am away from home with only my 'smartphone' for company (which is why my spelling maybe a little 'off' – no spellchecker!).

I really like your idea about making the header and menu bar static, Madmonkey. Perhaps a similar tatic could be applicable to the backround image, avoiding all that horid tiling? But I'm on a bit of a learning curve with all this and am not at all sure at present how to go about it. What little I know came out of one of those 'HTML For Dummies' books I read on the beach while on holiday back in 1999 and have since passed on to my eldist daughter – I kid you not; all the rest has been 'suck it and see' (as the bishop said to the actress).

By the way: did either of you see the 'bars only' background image I tried for a couple of days before the latest incarnation? If so; what did you think?

Thanks again for the feedback, guys – most appreciated!

Orage said...

"the original version of this particular backgound (which I imagine you didn't see)."
Of course I saw it, but how can I be expected to remember it now?
IMO the bars only background would be all right; what I don't understand is why you had to add that smiling figure and above all that sort of sickly green sheet of corrugated iron you call tiling.

Very British, all those jokes about bishops and actresses, nothing of the sort here; of course Roman catholic priests are supposed to stay well away from the pleasures of the flesh.

Toyntanen said...

Hi again Orage! Well, that background image clarly really doesn't work then, because that "sickly green sheet of corrugated iron" is actually a long corridor of prison style doors stretching out into the distance. But that is not what Madmonkey was refffering to as 'tiling'. The term 'Tiling' refers to the way an image - smaller than the intended area to be filled - is repeated multiple times to fill in the background (in this instance). Another way of achieving the same is to 'stretch-to-fit', which of course creates a distorted imaged if the aspect ratio of the image and the intended target differs markedly (as is the case here),

"Roman catholic priests are supposed to stay well away from the pleasures of the flesh," Certainly! I am sure they do - just as I have confidence they managed to do so in those Irish Church-run Laundries in the past.

Orage said...

"a long corridor of prison style doors stretching out into the distance."

I've been trying to see them as you intended them to look, but no way, sorry!

Toyntanen said...

Well therein lay part of the problem, Orage. I use the past tense,’ lay', as that particular background image no longer graces the website, at least as part of the main portion of the pages; I have retained the bars portion of the image for the time being as part of the header and footer.

Anybody interested in viewing a close-up of the original image can find it on my Deviant Art page: http://toyntanen.deviantart.com/art/The-Corridor-360787089

I will be experimenting further with different background images at a later time. But for now I have gone back to a block of good ol' solid black for simplicity (I have also changed the text to a shade of blue which I hope works better than that glaring red).

For the present, though, there are more pressing problems to be dealt with. For example another reader / visitor has emailed me pointing out I have two sections on the website which have the same content not quite as simple as it sounds - there are some subtle differences. He also said that the layout of some of the images looked untidy and some of the larger pages loaded too slowly.

Well the downlink speed and the visitor’s computer has a large bearing on the latter point. The page - 'Nurses Uniforms, General' - houses by far the largest collection and takes circa 45 seconds to fully load here via my 5-ish Mbs broadband system (actually rated at 8Mbs - not particularly fast here in the UK, at least not in London) and aging single-cored-processor based computer. While that is a little on the long side, one can scroll down while the page loads pretty rapidly - not unlike the experience I have had of the various Tumblr blogs (a growing listing of which may be found in the right hand sidebar - and I have added quite a few more recently, by the way). But I have taken to heart that particular issue - and the related point that not everywhere in the world is as fortunate as London in that regard (not even some rural areas of the UK) - and will be doing a lot of rearranging once I have a few more sections uploaded. Ultimately the solution will probably involve the creation of more sub-areas, as I have already done within the 'Strict, Domineering Nurses' section, having created a new page: 'Grouped Photosets'. The untidiness of the layout of some of the images I can address by cropping the thumbnails (which will not affect the full-sized images one gets by clicking on them). But I also want to crack on with my little comic book project, experimenting with another speech bubble style – which I can do while new images are uploading to the website - so it’s a bit of a balancing act.

By the way: can anybody out there tell me how to make the header, menu bar (and perhaps any background image I might yet use) static on my Weebly-based website, ie so that the header and menu bar stay in view while the page content is scrolled down through?

Orage said...

I've just seen your Deviant Art picture. Ahem, can I say it's far much better than the mere bars you've retained? Now don't you think the nurse figuring on it should have a stern and not a smiling countenance?
A lighter shade of blue for the text perhaps, as it is it hurts my eyes.
As for your last question, I'm no expert, you'd better ask Snooz about that.

Orage said...

Sorry, far better.