Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Making of Our Comic "Justine" pt. 2

(Quick sidebar: I posted a list of some good time Halloween comics reading of at that other blog I keep.)

To continue from the last post, here are some more sketches from the making of Justine starting with the character sketches for Honore. A minor character (his name is actually never said in the comic), this is who Jose started with when he began his character designs.

A lot of good ideas to start with, but the trench coat and sword together were a bit too Wesley-Snipes-as-Blade-ish so we decided to go with a leather motorcycle jacket instead:

Tis good to test out different facial expressions.

Jose's sketches for what our bad guy might look like were all so fabulous I had a hard time deciding which I liked best. Ultimately, we went with G. Jose thought he could do some cool stuff on the page with the longer hair.

But of course we have to have some wolfing out sketches.

You don't see much of the weapons in the story, but in case we did need to show them more, Jose would have been ready. These are some cool looking weapons and I wish I'd written in an opportunity for them to be shown off more. (But alas, I am a slave to the story and can't always have my way.)

Next time, I'll post some of the thumbnails and penciled pages.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Making of Our Comic Justine pt. 1

So I guess we took September off. Yep, that’s what it look likes. Sometimes one needs a hiatus and sometimes one (Jose) hits the busiest part of their busy season of being all artisty and stuff and needs to make some decisions when it comes to time management. And sometimes one (me) needs to stop writing/looking at/thinking about the story they’re working on so that they can return to it with fresh eyes and ideas.

So no updates on the current project, but Jose and I thought it would be cool to do a few posts on the making of our completed project Justine. Actually, tomorrow (or today, or yesterday or whenever the 12th is in relation to when you read this) is the one year mark exactly from when we first posted our minicomic, so it’s timely too. (Have you not read the minicomic? Click here)

Justine for me started way back in high school with a short story about a teenaged girl who is bitten by a werewolf. That story has evolved almost beyond recognition since that handwritten story. Justine has been through a lot since being bitten, and she went through quite a bit of changes as Jose and I figured out how collaborating on a comic works. When we first talked about making a comic together, we'd planned on doing a longer comic story, but somewhere along the line decided something short and uncomplicated would be the best thing for out first venture.

Enough reading! Here are a bunch of sketches from early to final that illustrate our back and forth of trying to pin down the right look for Justine. And in case you’re wondering, the character sketches and all the revisions are from July and August of 2009.

This was Jose's first pass. A good start, but I asked to see more sketches. I also wanted to go for a "natural" hair style. As a woman who travels the globe chasing after werewolves and fighting them to the death, I figured getting her hair straightened wouldn't be a priority (or practicality) for her.

From this page, we went with the third one of the second row.

In the script I described her as wearing a white jacket and read skirt. I think the next few sketches are self-explanatory.

Where to stash the weapons, a practical matter when it comes to wardrobe (I know this from personal experience) and I really liked the choices Jose made here. We lost the ankle and thigh knife holder thingies in the final design and I was sad to see them go.

After sitting on the choices we made earlier for a while, I thought it still wasn't quite right. So pulled out out a sketchbook and gave it a go.

Look at that swagger in the first sketch. Though Justine is a grown woman/werewolf, she looks very young and I wanted her clothing to reflect a more youthful look, somewhere between 16 and 18 years old, which is how she reels unsuspecting werewolves in. Since I recalled flipping through their print catalogues with friends when I was a teenager, I turned to Delia's online fashion catalogue for inspiration.

And here Jose polishes the design and makes them look acceptable for human viewing. He added even more personality to her in the final product and so she looks a bit different in the actual comic.

Ta-da! Color!

So that's how we came to the Justine we see in the comic today. We also learned that, since I already have ideas of what the characters look like, I should give Jose my sketches from the beginning and save him the time and energy of trying to read my mind since he already has so much to draw.

Next time, we'll look at the other characters. After that, I'll post the thumbnails and other fun stuff.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Navigating the Land of Researchia

As I’ve mentioned before, a lot goes into the in-between steps of going from a tangle of notes to a nice, orderly script, and while I’ve touched on research in terms of character and costume design, equally important is researching settings. This isn’t true only for the part where you have to draw what your characters are standing in front of-slash-in-slash-around.

Working on chapters three and four, I was once again reminded how important knowing my scenery is to getting a scene written.

Parque Gulliver in Valencia, Spain.*

If I want my characters interacting with their environment, I can only write so much without having a good idea of what that environments looks like. Not a problem if the scene is set in modern-day America. I know about modern-day America. That’s totally where I live. The problem is that at no point is my story set in modern-day America. Or even yesteryear America.

Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Each chapter so far has required some whole new set of research, but chapters three and four have been especially challenging because the story takes us to a bunch different locations across the world. Whilst I’m enjoying learning about a lot of cool new stuff, the process is almost always either overwhelming because there’s too much information or frustrating because there’s just not enough.

A neighborhood in India's Cochin, Kerala

Specifically I need pictures, en lieu of actually being able to go out and visit these places (oh, how I wish I could jet off to other parts of the world on a whim). Even if it’s a really short scene that will only take up two pages of the entire project, I still need visual references when it comes time to block characters within any particular scene. ESPECIALLY action/fight sequences.

Bokor Hill Station in Phnom Bokor, Cambodia

Hunting down photos, trying to decide what will work best for the story, getting side-tracked by interesting but irrelevant slideshows…it’s time consuming to say the least. I can spend a whole afternoon “writing” and only have jotted for two lines of dialogue the whole time.


Next time I want to write a globetrotting supernatural tale set forty years in the past, someone stop me. Please.

Arial view of Parque Gulliver in Valencia, Spain.

* An important aspect of choosing a setting is to go for the more interesting locale. While it doesn’t need to be eccentric (unless that’s what the scene calls for) some places are just more interesting. When I originally wrote the last scene of chapter three, I’d set it in an office. But, is having an important decision made by a group of suited men sitting in a conference room really so original? I went in a different direction and thought to set it on a playground, and just in case playgrounds in Spain (where the scene takes place) are drastically different from playgrounds in America, I did a google search, and looky what I found! From conference room to a playground in the shape of a famous literary character. It does pays to go the extra mile, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Final Result

After all the artwork has been completed the next step in the process is to add in the panel borders, lettering and word balloons. All of which is done digitally with Illustrator and Photoshop. This last step doesn't take too long since I'm using the computer as a tool.
Once everything is finished I'm left with a finished product ready to be printed or viewed through a monitor as you're doing right now.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Word Balloons ‘n’ Panels ‘n’ Stuff

There is an important question writers must ask themselves. Possibly THE most important question a writer can ask herself: What can I get away with? That’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? How far is the audience willing to stretch their suspension of disbelief? And if I need to push beyond that limit, what building blocks do I need to lay into my story to get my audience to go there with me?

But then writing for comics I find a whole new reason to ask myself “What can I get away with?”

I tend to want to cram as many words into a panel and as many panels on a page as humanly possible. (Think I was influenced by Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, maybe?) I’ve read from various sources that comics creators should stick to no more than five or six panels per page. When it comes to speech bubbles, I’ve read Mark Waid say 20 words is the max, and I believe I’ve read that figure as 30 or 35 elsewhere (Don’t ask me where because I don’t you also don’t have to take my word for it). Usually, I keep those guidelines in mind and mange to restrain myself...

But there are exceptions to every rule.

For that reason, I am constantly running to my bookshelf and flipping open my graphic novels to count the number of words in especially wordy balloons or find examples of more than six panels on a page, trying to figure out what I can get away with. I find the above rules being broken all the time, but then I have to ask myself why did this writer or artist choose to break the rules here, and more importantly, do I have a good reason to do so?

I like to think I do, at least when it comes to putting so many panels on a page. It’s the grid, man. It’s all about THE GRID.

The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller is the graphic novel that got me all hot and bothered for comics. When I first started reading it, I found it confusing and chaotic, but I soon fell into the rhythm and beats of the story created by utilizing a 16-panel grid and it wasn’t just the story of The Dark Knight Returns that opened up to me, but the idea of comics as a unique and dynamic form of storytelling.

In Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen, a 9-panel grid is used. What amazes me about this is that they really put so much in each panel. It’s not just closes up or silhouettes or a fractions of larger images (as is so skillfully done in the 16-panel grid for Dark Knight.) Though they’re small, Gibbon fits full-on action sequences into those panels, and/or a lot of talking.

With the grid comes the ability to exaggerate time, play with repetition and beats, to set images in juxtaposition to each other in columns and tiers and diagonally across the page; and when you break form – putting one big panel in the place of two or three or covering the whole page – there is no mistaking that there’s something significant about that panel. It’s not that you can’t do that with less panels on a page or going at it free-form, but for me, the grid pulls it together in a very immediate way even if I only use it for a few pages out of an entire story.

I know that as a newbie it’s dangerous to look at seasoned professionals breaking the rules and think that makes it alright to go wild and crazy, but I promise that’s not my intention. I just want to do what’s best for my story.

And sometimes that even means only putting 5-panels on a page.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Original Painting

This is a preview/example of what the original pages look like before they get retouched digitally and all the panels boxes and lettering gets inserted. The size of these original sheets measure 15 by 22 inches which is larger than what is traditionally used (11 by 17 inches). I've come to realize that working larger gives me more freedom to create different brush textures and it saves your hand from cramping up trying to get all the small details when working on smaller panels. The idea for working large originally came from researching Nathan Fox work and realizing he works on 18 by 24 inch sheets for his comic work.
If you notice the panels on the left side of the page with the wolf are only inked in with black and aren't rendered like the other two panels. The reason behind this was to separate them from the other panels since they were going to overlap, which seems to have worked. They'll separate even more optically when the panel borders get inserted.
That's all for now, enjoy the preview!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Putting It All Together

As a late-comer to comics (I didn’t get into them until towards the end of college), I make it a point to educate myself about as many of the different aspects of comics, especially – but not limited to – the making of. As they said on School House Rock, it’s great to learn, 'cause knowledge is power!

That song also says something about the mind growing flowers and it’s very weird and it’s best if you don’t stop to thinking about too long. Anyway…

I thought I’d share with you some of the comics how-to videos and articles (and stuff) I’ve found in recent weeks. Most of these are from some of people I’ve read in the past couple of months, but couple are things I come across in random articles and such.

The power is yours!


Mark Waid: Writing 101 (blog post series) and 15 Minutes with Waid (podcast series, a bit tangential.)

Scottie Young: The Making of my Graphic Novel pt. 1 (video journal)


Kazu Kibuishi: Step-By-Step Process pt. 1


Kazu Kibuishi: Step-By-Step Process pt. 2

Doug TenNapel: Making Comics with Doug TenNapel (video)


Alan Beadle: Flattening

Kazu Kibuishi: Step-By-Step Process pt. 3


Blambot: Hand Lettering Comics and Comic Book Grammar & Tradition

Scott McCloud: Lettering Comics in Illustrator (and part two) (video)

And covering many aspects:

Dave Kellett: How the Comic Strip “Sheldon” is Created (video)

Doug TenNapel: Making Digital Comics with Doug TenNapel (video)

Scott Young: To find more of his The Making of My Graphic Novel video journals, you kind of have to pick through his Youtube Channel or blog (start in July 2010) for the entries. Also, check out the posts “The Project Chronicles” as it seems the series started out as regular ol’ blog posts.

The digital age, eh? Information at your finger tips

Friday, May 20, 2011

Panel Progress

This panel is in the mid-stage of development, currently in the ink wash phase. The next step would be to add in layers of black acrylic to darken the shadow areas more and create better contrast. One of the reasons I use acrylics over ink washes is because of its opacity in contrast to the ink wash which will always remain transparent. Acrylics also add in more texture which is easier to produce than with an ink wash.
That's it for now, enjoy!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Talkin' Comics at the L.A. Times Festival of Books

I’m all about trying to increase my knowledge of all thing comics and graphic novels, so of course, this past weekend when I attended the L.A. Times Festival of Books, I was sure to attend the panels on graphic novels and comic books. Since I know what it is to search the Internet for whatever nuggets I can find on what goes into the creation of comics, I’m sharing some of what I learned this weekend with you.

Saturday Kazu Kibuishi, creator of the Cooper webcomic and the Amulet series and editor of Flight, was on the Young Adult Stage (along side Tracy White and Deborah Vankin), talking about his process and answering audience questions. He had a lot of interesting points and here are some things I walked away thinking about after the session.

· Comics have the ability to compress really big ideas into tiny chunks in a small space. He tries to compress as much as he can into each book.

· In his graphic novels, everything is a metaphor for a truth and everything has an emotional truth to it.

· A reader should be able to get the story of a comic book or graphic novel just by flipping through and looking at the art, but if they read it they get to know the story more deeply

· Kibuishi states that if he doesn’t enjoy his story himself, it isn’t working. Trust your intuition. (Authors at another panel I attended said something similar)

· Currently just under 200-pages long, Kibuishi actually drew 700 pages for Amulet 1 while was working on it.

· He treats his characters like they really exist. It took him a while to get to know them, but at this point in the Amulet series, Kibuishi says he works for his characters. They’re exploring themes practically on their own.

· He didn’t go to school for art (he was film student) and learned a lot about creating comics from just doing it. Namely, drawing comics for his school paper where he had to put things out quickly and on a regular basis.

· It’s not just about drawing well—worry less, communicate more.

· As far as breaking into the comic book industry, Kibuishi‘s advice is that you have to be pro-active. You have to have an attitude of “I think I’m doing something worth doing. I’m going to make it work.”

· When working on the Amulet series, it took him two years to complete the first graphic novel, nine months for the second, seven months for the third, and a year for the fourth. (He currently works with one assistant and two interns.)

If you’re interested in learning more about his process, he has a three-part tutorial showcasing how Cooper comes together together and another about digitally flatting comics.

Sunday there were two BOOM! Studios panels. One featuring writers Gary Phillips and Michael Alan Nelson, and both featuring Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon. Now, when you have the opportunity to sit and listen to what the editor-in-chief of what may be one of the fastest growing comic book publishers in the land, you might want to be in attendance.

What I took from here is that while comics is obviously an artistic field, professionalism is still important in the comic books industry and can set you apart. So while you’re honing your craft, you might also want to work on other important qualities (if they’re not innate to you, that is) such reliability, the ability to get things done quickly, flexibility and the ability to collaborate. I know, my fellow artistic people, those things are supposed to be hard for us, but I believe we can do it.

Gagnon also had some advice for breaking into the industry: Plug yourself into the comic book community. It’s a small community and when you start building those friendships whether at a comic book store, online, or what have you, you’re building connections with future industry professionals.

Also, put your work out there. Post your art online—at the BOOM! Studios forum, for example, self-publish whether print or with a webcomic, just do something. No one – not readers, not industry professionals – is going to find you if you’re nowhere to be found.

The folks who participated in the panels had a lot more stuff to say than I can fit into a 800-word post, but I wrote another something over at my other blog about what some novelists had to say. If ever you have an opportunity to attend these types of events, especially if they’re free like this one, definitely make a point to go. Educating yourself is half the battle, right?

In the meanwhile, don’t forget about Free Comic Book Day this Saturday. Find a local participating store here, or here if you’re outside the U.S. and Canada.

(Side note: I finally learned how to re-size the pages for our own webcomic, Justine, making it easier to read. If you previously didn’t click on each page in order to read it, now’s your chance to actually see what all those words are saying.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Short Story Previews

This image will accompany a few other paintings for a short story called "Of Nothing". I've been trying to work on these short stories but working on the comic has taken up much of my time. Who would of thought time management would be kicking me in the pants! But anyway I'll leave this post short so you can gaze into her eyes...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Wanna Know What It's About?

Someone pointed it out to me a little while ago that we never posted a description of what you can expect to read once the website is up.

Since I’m the writer, I guess you can blame me for that.

A part of what you’ll see once the site is up is a series of illustrated short stories and poems (they’ll go up over time, not all at once), but there is also going to be a couple of limited or ongoing series. Here’s the description for Chasing Wolves, which you’ve been seeing some sketches and studies for:

For fifteen years, werewolf Supriya has keep oceans and continents between her and the place she'd reluctantly called home, but when a stray werewolf who can barely hold himself together stumbles into her life, she knows there’s only one place that can help him. Despite her grudge against Sanctuary, there’s no denying the good work its founders do in teaching Weres that they don’t have to be monsters. She herself is proof of that.

After traveling halfway around the world to return to Sanctuary, the last thing Supriya expects is to find the place completely empty. That’s only the beginning of her problems.

An old enemy is out to get Sanctuary, and this time they’re more dangerous than ever. It was bad enough when they just beamed in from the shadows to steal cows, but now those dastardly ninja aliens have the power of time travel at their disposal and they aren’t afraid to use it.

With the help of Archimedes, H.G. Wells, and that guy who played that thing on the wing in that one episode of The Twilight Zone, Supriya just might save Sanctuary, but the space-time continuum may never be the same again.

Merry April Fool's Day, everyone. And to everyone a good night!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Values and Mark-Making

Recently I've been experimenting with ink washes and acrylic to get a specific look/feel for the werewolf comic. This first page was me trying to find different textures and values on top of different surface preparations. The three coatings I used were matte medium which absorbed the acrylic too quick. Gloss medium which worked great for adding textures but left an ugly shinny surface. And finally satin varnish which was the best of the two, right in the middle. I was able to get the textures I wanted and created enough of a barrier that it didn't absorb the paint on contact. Finding the right paper for ink washes was also a bit of a hair puller. I didn't want to use watercolor paper because it's too expensive, so finding an alternative took a bit of investigation. After about the fourth of fifth attempt I found a paper that was smooth enough to retain ink marks and had the correct amount of sizing to disperse washes of ink. The name of my new best friend, Folio Print!

After finding the correct paper and surface preparation I attempted my first study with one of the panels. This study had no surface prep it was just ink, washes, and acrylic. I found out that the acrylic was absorbing too quick and not leaving the brush marks I was looking for. Which I had already known but wanted an example to compare for when I did prepare the paper with medium.

On the second study I inked the drawing and added in washes for values, then I coated the paper with satin varnish. This created a barrier between the paper and the top surface which meant I could add in brush textures without losing any of their detail. There was also a brush I found to create motion lines a lot quicker and more accurate as you can tell on the fist punch. Much better than the individual lines I had to make for the motion lines on the first study.

I'm hoping I can carry the quality of this panel study into every panel from now on for the werewolf comic.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Where Chaos Reigns Supreme! (Inside A Writer’s Notebook)

I’ve posted pages from my sketchbook that relate to thumbnails or designing characters, but I (perhaps misguidedly) thought someone out there might find it interesting to see what my writing “sketchbook” looks like.

When starting something, I usually at some point come up with a very rough, bullet-point outline.

You have to write ideas down on whatever is available. Even if it means scribbling on the back of receipt paper because you were at the registers at work when genius struck.

I may flesh out the outline or go right into sketching out scenes. Often times I go back a forth between the two because as I begin to write scenes I get a better idea of where things are headed, or should head. And of course, as I begin to get some scenes down I also begin sketching out thumbnails so tiny and indecipherable that sometimes I barely know what they represent.

As I mentioned in my post about thumbnails, I’ve been writing dialogue and doing the thumbnails at the same time. This worked for several scenes as I wrote chapters two and three, but somewhere along the line my notes got a little crazy, and it’s hard to sketch out thumbnails for a scene when you can’t track the dialogue because it jumps around three different pages in ten different ways.

It was time to sit down at my computer and so I could turn the chaos of my notes into an orderly and easily read pseudo-script. (It’s not really a script at this point. I don’t even have all the page and panel breaks written in, let alone scene description). I’ve learned from experience that I should put a slash through the sections of my notes I’ve already typed up. I can’t tell you how much confusion that simple practice has saved me from.

I printed out the pages with a wide left margin so I'd have plenty of space for working out thumbnails and then turned the nice, neat, orderly typed-up pseudo-script into this:

Good times.

Translating text into visual beats is one of my favorite things about storytelling through comics, but like any aspect of any creative process, it can be frustrating at times. When I got stuck, I found myself sketching different panel layouts. I basically knew what I wanted to happen in this particular sequence, but the ideas were slow to fully form. (This by no means was the toughest spot I found myself in when it came to writing this story).

Sketching out the different ways the panels could interact with the story kept my brain churning until I finally figured out what I wanted to do.

Another useful trick was to work backwards from a place in the dialogue a few beats ahead of the section that was causing my indecision. This worked for me because I knew what I wanted the bottom of this particular page to look like. Once I sketched the arrangement of those panels, figuring out what to do with all the stuff written before that point pretty much fell into place.

Eventually, I have to incorporate all the chaos I’ve written on the typed page into the script I started on my computer...if I can make any sense of it.

Continuing in this vain, the first draft of chapter two has really come together.

I’m always interested in reading about other folks' creative process and I guess that’s why I write posts about mine. So…what does your process look like?

(A brief note on the names: these are characters who – for the most part – only appear in this chapter. Since they’re minor characters, I didn’t bother to give them real names, but had to call them something. So, no – in case you looked closely at the pseudo-script or notes and are now wondering – there aren’t really characters named Gidget or Moondoggy in this story.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Whole Mess of Studies

After receiving Cacy's reference material, descriptions, and character studies. I put pencil to paper and got to work on getting accustomed with the characters overall look. Getting started this time around was a lot easier given all the work Cacy had already put into her studies. Making adjustments where I thought they needed to be made was the most difficult part in all this process. Such as in Supriya's dress, I took out the designs with the thought I didn't want to have to spend forever redrawing it onto her dress every time she was in a scene. But now that I see the study I'm thinking it looks a bit bland, any opinions?
Creating the features on the three female characters was fun, at first I had attempted creating them without any reference but drawing a specific ethnicity was much more difficult than I had anticipated. So I reference several online pics and combined them to create the different looks of each character. Next time I know to do this step first to save myself some time.
I also brushed up on my wolf drawing skills and they still haven't rusted out since I last drew them in "Justine".
Hope everyone enjoys this weeks drawings.