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.)