Last time I posted a little about what goes into putting together the art for this site, and so this post will delve a little more into the specifics of the process. I think it should be understood that this is the way I work. There are as many different ways to do comics as there are comic artists, and I feel strongly about everyone finding the method that works best for them.
As I said last post I read over the script a few times to get the feel of the story, the characters, and to note any reference needed for the piece. As to reference, James brought up an interesting question in the comments last time. If you’re dealing with a fantasy or science fiction story where a world is being created, how much reference is actually needed? The general answer is, it depends. The specific answer for this strip is, quite a bit. Greg and I are creating a world of our imaginations, but it’s a world based on the design and technology of a historic period, the Victorian Age. Staying true to that means we need to adhere to those basics as a starting point for our extrapolations. For instance, if we want a flying riverboat, a good place to start would be with a riverboat design from that period. Then we can push it and pull it and add things to it to make our version of the boat one that fits in the world we’re creating. The fashion, the technology, the architecture of the time needs to be researched so we can use them as the basis for the design sense of our make believe world. It goes a long way to solidify the believability of the strip.
Once the set-up work is done I begin to lay the story out. I am adamant about telling the story visually. I tell every writer the first time I work with them that I will not change their story. My job is to interpret the script visually. But, if I find a way to enhance the story, to make it read more clearly, or to enhance the drama intended, I may make changes in the panel directions. I might add panels, combine panels, change the angle of a shot, move in closer, move out wider, anything it takes to improve the storytelling. If the change is drastic I’ll always contact the writer and the editor and let them know what I have in mind, so I can get their approval. In this specific case, Greg is such a visual writer that I don’t often have to do that. Sometimes he’ll call me before he writes a scene to get my input on how it might be staged. That’s one of the reasons this collaboration works so well. We have a mutual trust that we are both heading in the same direction with the same goal in mind.
I could go on about storytelling for days and I’ll come back to it at a later post, but let’s move on.
Once I have an idea of how many panels will be needed for this specific day’s work and how they will be arranged on the page, I take a sheet of 11×14 2 ply Bristol and pencil the boarders and the panels. Then I begin the actual drawing.
Lately I’ve been drawing the individual elements of the panels on vellum and then use a light box to compose them on the board. I like drawing on vellum because of the way the pencil glides on the surface, and the fact that it’s translucent gives me the option of trying different poses and positions for characters without having to redraw everything. I’m sure many of you know that this can all be done on a computer graphics program as well. Maybe someday I’ll move to that, but for right now, I’m comfortable with this.
When everything is transferred to the board and I’m satisfied with the position and size of all the elements, I’ll tighten up the pencils making minor changes as needed. Nothing is engraved in stone. I may make changes in the art throughout the process. I’ve replaced entire panels even after they’ve been inked and colored if something doesn’t work. For me, that’s the biggest advantage of working on the computer. The artist has the ability to make changes at any point without too much fuss.
So, we have our board laid out and the pencilled drawings are tightened up. We’re ready to move on to inks. And we will…
Until next time