It’s one thing to know how to do something, and quite another to pass that knowledge along to someone else. For a while now Greg and Eric have suggested that I write a blog post on process, how the visual side of this opus is put together. When you’ve done something every day for a long time you really don’t consider how you do it. You just, well, do it. Sometime write down instructions, in detail, on how you brush your teeth. See?
When I began to consider what I might write, how much detail I should include, I realized that I couldn’t do it in one post. Maybe if I broke it into parts it would be more digestible, less like watching grass grow. We’ll see.
When I receive a script I give it a read through, just to get a general idea of what the story is about, a quick overview. I’ll set the script aside and go do something else for a while. Coming back to the script, I’ll read it again, this time paying attention to possible research that will be needed. This could be anything from locations to props to costumes. Years ago I drew Blackhawk for DC. The series was set in the late 1940’s and took place all over the world. I’m a stickler for accuracy and spent a great deal of time doing research for the series. As I said this was a long time ago (prepare yourself now) before the internet! All the research had to be done either at the library or in a book store. It was easy for Mike Grell to write, “A street in Singapore, 1947”, and quite another to draw said street accurately. Suffice to say I became a pretty good researcher.
Then I consider characters. Are there existing characters in the story I’ve never drawn before? Are there new characters to design?
Then I go about gathering my research, becoming acquainted with the characters, or doing model sheets for new ones. Next, I pencil tight thumbnails of each page on 81/2x 11 sheets of paper, blocking out storytelling, and in some cases, making sure I nail a certain pose on a figure so I don’t have to struggle with it later. It’s easier and faster for me to do it with a smaller image than it is with a large one. Then I enlarge the thumbnails and transfer them to 2-ply Bristol board using a light box.
Everything I’ve just written is true, except when it isn’t.
I have adult ADD, and my focus and patience can be erratic, to say the least. So, depending on my mood, I might work the way I just wrote about. Or, I may do loose thumbnails on any scrap of paper lying around, or I may do the thumbnails in my head, or I might even not do any thumbnails at all, pick the most important image on the page, figure out how I want to present it, and build the page around it.
I may do the research at the beginning, or do it as I go, when needed. The same with characters. I might do sketches before I start, just to get the feel of them, or I might just block figures in on the page and fill in the details later. If I don’t do thumbnails I’ll sketch panels on a piece of vellum, adjust size if needed, and transfer them to the board via light box where I’ll tighten them up. Or I may draw individual elements of a panel separately and compose them as I transfer them to the board.
Confused yet? Imagine how I feel.
So, consider this an introduction to how I approach things generally. I pretty much fly using only instruments. Next time, I’ll rewind and talk specifically about Lady Sabre and how this particular strip comes together, in as much detail as you like. This might take a while.
Until next time