My first new “Palindrama” in 8 years! Between 2007 and 2009 I did a weekly webcomic, “Palindramas: Palindromes, Cartoonified.” Each week I created a cartoon built around an original palindrome. The entire text of the cartoon might be a palindrome, or just the punchline or caption. Formats varied between strips, panel gags, and full comics-pages (or even multi-page stories), and even a couple of animated GIFs. You can see some of them here. After a while, my brain started to hurt from coming up with these things, so I retired Palindramas. But this year, seeking a submission for the anthology, “One Page Stinkers,” I decided to try my hand at palindrome comics again. I came up with two Palindramas, to fit the theme “heat wave.” You can see it in the latest issue of the anthology… or right here:
(A diary of the making of this chapter, which begins with the first day’s work at the bottom, and moves up)
September 11: testing the media
While working out the rough dummy, see below, I took a few moments to test the media I plan to use in this chapter. Basically, pencil with ink washes. I experimented with trying to get a slightly grungy texture in the washes (trying to look more like a printmaking look). I tried using litho crayon and then smearing it around with the wash. Eh, I don’t think it’s the way to go.
August 9-September 13. Interruptions & progress
This was a little over a month during which “one thing or another” kept me from getting much work done on this project. I tried when possible to do a little bit here and there on it, just to keep my hand in and my mind on it. As of today, I’ve gotten somewhere & hopefully back on track.
First, a few scribbled thumbnails:Continue reading →
(This is a diary of the process of creating chapter 3, updated bottom-to-top. So, if you want to follow the whole thing beginning to end, start at the bottom and scroll up)
July 10-13: page 7
For once, this page worked out on the first try. Here are the finished inks, as the kiss commences:
July 5-6 (and peeking ahead to July 23): page 6
This is relatively straightforward compared to what came before, because it’s a “closer-up” view of the couple, meaning less background (phew!). The boy leans in for a kiss, puckering up.
My last rough in the mock-up was extremely close, but I decided to move back to a medium view, so as not to lose the body language. Started with a couple of sketches/roughs:
Then launch into a final version…
Not happy with this so I abandoned it. It felt to me a little like the direction of his “lunge” was wrong, like he was going to miss her. Also I had him too close, and I didn’t like the way his nose overlapped with her hair. So try again:
I decided also to not make the background shading a uniform gradation (referencing the lamplight from above-right, and getting darker as it moves to the lower right corner), but left light between their faces, so as not to mess up their contours, and let the “light” between them work emotionally.
Basically I like this, though I wasn’t completely satisfied with the expressions. I like him closing his eyes and puckering up, but she looks more terrified than I had intended. I wanted her to be nervous, maybe ambivalent, but not obviously against letting him kiss her. For some time I intended to re-draw the face, but then (and this was a couple weeks later on 7/23), I tried the simple fix of just adding eyelids so that she’s not so bug-eyed:
Voila! Two tiny lines change the mood completely!
June 28-July 5: tackling the background on pages 2 & 5.
Pages 2 & 5 are the same scene, a frontal, full-shot (I hate using cinematic terms for comics, but it is convenient), of the two on the bench. The only difference is that in page 5, he has taken her hand in his. There is a fair amount of background space above and around the image, and I struggled with it already in page 2, moving on from it in an unsatisfactory state. Now, I’ll try to solve the problem of the background, first by doing a new version of page 2:
I tried a different approach to the cross-hatching, dividing the background up into irregularly-shaped sections. I got the idea from this Franklin Booth illustration:
My version obviously looks very different, not as elegant, cross-hatched instead of just one-directional lines. I was also trying to gingerly suggest the receding space with the directionality of the cross-hatched sections, and having them get smaller toward the top of the image.
I then moved to page 5. I made the cross-hatched sections a little more neatly.
At this point I decided that there were too many extraneous elements in the picture, the whole “middle plane” behind the bench, but in front of the cross-hatched background, with the truncated view of the light pole, the chain and posts; just clogging up the composition. I also decided that the vaguely-outlined trees in the background weren’t necessary, and were a tentative “splitting the difference” between a more representational and abstract background. I removed them in Photoshop:
I made some other changes as well, darkening the suit, so that it stands out more from the background, and changing the eyes. moving the pupils so that they are looking more downward, at the awkwardly-held hands. I didn’t bother to remove the chain from the right-hand side… because I knew I’d be drawing the whole thing over.
Now, I’ll do a new version of each of the two pages simultaneously and try to finally solve the background problem.
Pencils and line-art:
For the backgrounds, I tried a more restrained approach, closer to Franklin Booth’s: not cross-hatched, but one direction of lines in each “tile”:
By this point, I’d kind of lost my ability to judge how well the background effect was working. But I got some feedback saying it looked too much like a “parquet floor.” I went back in to page 2 digitally (copied and pasted the background, moving pieces of it around so it created a sort of cross-hatching):
Then added cross-hatching (with real ink) to the background of page 5:
I took the originals in to the Boston Comics Roundtable meeting, looking for more feedback. People seemed to like both, and to think it actually worked to keep page 2 with the “parquet floor” look, and page 5 cross-hatched, since the change in background could actually work to reinforced the change in the characters’ emotions after the “hand-hold.” Perhaps just out of fatigue, I decided to believe the feedback, and leave them as they were.
Oh, but I wasn’t happy with the faces in the latest version of page 5, so digitally I pasted the faces from the previous versions in. I had hoped to have all my “final” pages for this project be complete on paper, but I wasn’t about to re-draw the whole page again in hopes of getting the faces right. And so:
And I called it a day on pages 2 and 5!
This is a fairly simple page… EXCEPT for getting the hand gesture right. The rough version made it look a little too threatening:
It’s supposed to be a hand tentatively but gently moving to take her hand. NOT this:
From an early age, I thought I was good at drawing hands. As a result I’ve gotten a little lazy over the years as far as learning to draw hands really well. Time to remedy that.
Starting with some photos of my own hand in various positions:
Then, sketches from same:
Then, a lot of sketches of the page, trying to get it just right, with the hand clearly reaching for hers, but the fingers more relaxed, not too claw-like:
I liked the last one, and did some Photoshop touchups on it, for a final rough version:
Moving on to the final version. Or what I hope will be the final version:
Not satisfied. Composition lacks drama. The hands are too small .
Better but not quite good enough. The final version, more delicately inked:
June 22: page 3
A different angle on the couple, as they furtively/nervously look at each other without daring to actually turn their heads. Pencils, and inks started:
A different approach to the background shading, because I didn’t want to deal with all that cross-hatching. This is more abstract (though the light from the upper left places it in space with the lamp above them). Runs the risk of feeling like a gray wall behind them, I guess, but it has the virtue of simplicity.
I think the shading on the boy’s face is a little messy, under his eye and around his cheekbone. I may work on cleaning that up in Photoshop eventually.
One challenge is visual guidance for drawing a “Gibson Girl” type hairdo for my character, since Gibson hardly ever depicted women with very curly hair. I guess that since he was presenting usually the ideal, fashionable young lady, and crinkly hair was not in. The only examples I could find are these two (below), and both of them are Gibson drawing lower-class dames. And still the hair isn’t as curly as what I want.So I had to develop my own approach to drawing the texture of her hair, as best I could in a “Gibson-esque” style.
Jun 21: page 2
I started in, penciling and beginning to ink this page, which is a closer look at the two characters sitting on the bench in the park at night. The idea is that they are very young, on their first “date” unchaperoned, and both of them nervous to the point of near-paralysis.
I was immediately dissatisfied with this, for one reason: the boy is supposed to be way taller than the girl, adding to the awkwardness, and I had drawn them arond the same height! So I abandoned this version. Here is the next version:
Now the big challenge here, as in most of the pages in this chapter, is how to handle the background. I wanted to emulate the loose, thick-lined cross-hatching of James Montgomery Flagg, as seen in the example below. But here, I am not sure it works, maybe because it’s not an abstract setting, as in Flagg’s, but meant to denote a darkened space, where you can see the darker shapes of a couple trees through the hatching. I know I am not done with this page!
June 20, revisions to the mockup
Much like the normal “thumbnail” stage of a panel-page comic, this is where one can judge the pacing, compositions, etc., and make changes.
First off, I think there needs to be a more dramatic change in composition between pages 5 & 6. Both are frontal views of the couple, the second a little closer. I think it should be a lot closer, so from this:
(also more emphasis on the “puckering up” expression on the boy’s face, to make sure we know a first kiss is imminent).
The other problem I had with the original mockup was that I felt the transition from page 9 to page 10 was a little abrupt, and didn’t make the girl’s obsession with the moon dramatic enough. So I decided to add another two pages, basically the same as 8 and 9, but “moving in” closer on the face of the girl, then the face of the moon:
I added these in, re-printed the mockup, and was ready to move on.
June 13: Mockup time
As I did with the earlier chapters, I feel I can’t really get a handle on the flow of the narrative without creating a mockup, so that I can simulate the experience of actually reading this chapter.
Since I’m at an early phase of drawing the pages, I need to do quick, full-size roughs of each page to create the mockup.
I started with a chapter title page, since I think I’ll probably have them in the finished book.
Then, starting with page 2 (I can use the finished page 1 in the mockup):
(I didn’t like the moon face in this one, so i re-drew it and pasted it in with Photoshop:)
I laid the pages out for a booklet, then printed them out as large as I could (across the length of 11×8.5), flipping the pages over to print again, since I don’t have a duplex printer. Then stapled it, and voila:
After looking at this mockup and mulling it over for a few days, I saw some things I definitely wanted to change. A very valuable step in the process.
June 1-6: Confronting the characters & planning the rest of the chapter
Page 2 of the chapter is a closer angle on the two characters on the bench, so I have to get serious about their physiognomies, costumes, gestures and expressions. So, sketches ‘n’ studies time:
Spent a few days away, with only sketch pad and a few pens. A good opportunity for intense character studies. Trying to capture awkwardness of a “first date,” for a young couple from a Victorian-like culture:
doing a little casual thumbnailing as well so i can anticipate the various gestures and expression. Using a brush-pen for hatching practice:
Numbers to remind myself which page each sketch is meant for:
May 25-29: Page 1 ink.
A real challenge for me in this first page (and for the entire chapter, actually), is that my style models — Gibson, Flagg, Booth, etc. — didn’t draw a lot of night exteriors, or a lot of landscapes with heavy foliage, so I’m on my own as far as what kind of shading and mark-making to use for all this dark foliage and sky backgrounds. The exception to this is Franklin Booth, with images like these:
And especially this one:
Since the real challenge is going to be how to handle the pen-and-ink shading in this complicated night scene, I start doing studies for the page in ink:
There’s just a lot of different things to shade/describe here using the ink: pavement, grass, leaves, trees… a lot of page to fill. Finally I decided to simplify the composition, make it more centered and head-on. I want it to be more like that third Franklin Booth, with the couple at eye level, the trees against the night sky. It’s not really that much less complicated, but at least, for instance, I’m not drawing grass from above, or trying to contrast the leaves against the grass. Everything is sort of on its own plane, which makes it easier to be methodical about assigning different types of marks to different elements. This is the final rough:
The horizontal stripes for the ground is a direct swipe from Booth, as is the approach to the tree-trunks. I still have made something of a jumble of the leaves against further-back leaves and an unclear delineation between leaves and night sky. But it’s close enough…. One more nervous energy sketch. mostly to figure out how to do the sky:
May 25-28 Page 1 pencil sketches
To be honest, I’m posting these studies quite a while after drawing them, and I can’t remember what it was that made me keep going over and over the composition with slight variations. It seems obsessive to me, but I know there was something I was trying to get!
May 23-25: Still sketching!
Foliage studies drawn from life with a Rotring art pen (EF tip).
(this last one is from an old photo)
May 17 – 22 Meanwhile….
While copying from Gibson and Flagg, and drawing from old photos, I also did a few sketches, getting ready for whenever I actually get started drawing this chapter. Character sketches and studies for the first (and most challenging (I think) page). which will be an “establishing shot” of the young couple sitting under a gas lamp in a park at night.
And also a sketch for page 7 (I think it’s going to be page 7), as I nervously or wisely make sure I have a handle on the gestures and actions upcoming. I like this sketch! Now I just have to worry about capturing it as well in the final version!
May 15-22: Learning from the masters (and trying to apply the lesson).
Copying like this, I realized how good they are, especially Gibson. The line work in his faces is so delicate and precise, never simply shading, they also describe the curves and planes of the face. It’s hard to use that many lines in a face, and not “age” the face, keep it glamorous and pretty.
I felt pretty good about the line-work in my copy, but I really wanted to capture that period feel of the Gibson original. I didn’t think I had it. She looked more like Jane Fonda in the early 70s, than, say Mary Astor, who the orginal looks like to me. And so… obsession:
I love this one by Gibson, it’s called, “The Last Day of Summer,” (the original is on the left) and the expressions and poses of the two characters are wonderful. I definitely didn’t quite capture it: the haunted look on the faces… the way you can feel them pressing against each other, his cheek on her shoulder, her head leaning on his, as they contemplate the end of their summer tryst. But… still… i learned something in the effort.
I then decided to apply whatever I had absorbed from Gibson & Flagg, to more work from old photos. I chose this one:
She doesn’t really look like how I picture the character in “Lunatic,” but she has an interesting face, and also curly hair — and short hair, which is pretty unusual for the period. Anyway… I spent a long time drawing from this photo, trying over and over again to get a likeness, capture the expression:
Awful. Head is out of proportion to body and bad likeness. I’m happy enough with the figure/costume, and the background cross-hatching… but definitely more work needed!
I decided to try a “close-up.” First an abortive attempt:
Then one I was finally happy with.
Still not much of a likeness, but my favorite drawing so far in this effort. Now, to “put it all together:”
Still not the likeness I had hoped for. But I think I’ve probably done enough from this picture.
May 10-12. Still warming up, drawings from old photos.
I’m not sure why I was working so slowly (it’s a couple weeks later, now). I might have had some good reason, but I was probably just procrastinating.
May 8. Getting started: thumbnails and some old photo studies
Getting down to work on the actual chapter. Starting with thumbnails. This is a shorter chapter, with a quicker pace than the last one. It takes place on a park bench, on a summer’s evening…
Very rough thumbnails, but they will do.
Next, I will grapple with the stylistic challenge of trying to emulate Gibson, Booth, et al. And also, start to figure out the character’s appearance as a young woman, hair style and costume, as well as her face. To get into this, I start doing some sketches from old photos of Victorian young women. Not looking for specific models for her appearance, just general period style and look:
Here are the photos I was working from:
Prelude: inspiration and stylistic research.
I’m changing styles and/or media for each chapter of the book. Each chapter of the book corresponds to a different period in the character’s life, so hopefully the technique and style employed will resonate with the mood I want for that period.
For chapter 3, I decided to switch to pen and ink, and to let inspiration come from the classic illustrators of the turn-of-the-century, or early 20th century, especially Charles Dana Gibson and James Montgomery Flagg. The heroine of the story is a young woman now, probably late teens, and the chapter depicts a romantic encounter, so it seems that Gibson, whose cartoons and illustrations were largely about romantic relations among young couples in that period, would be appropriate. Taking into account that Gibson depicted an idealized version of young late-Victorians, I don’t mind that, because it has an ironic application here.
Of course it’s no easy target to try to emulate Gibson, Flagg and others of that ilk. I don’t intend to copy any style, exactly, but to have the “feel” of the illustrations of the period, as shorthand for the feel of the period itself.
Anyway, I began to collect images from the internet by the artists I wanted to look at. I pulled hundreds of images, here are a few:
Charles Dana Gibson:
James Montgomery Flagg:
Those are the main two, but I collected images from some of the other good illustrators of the period (and a little later).
A 1950s shojo manga I bought online from a Japanese auction site, a relic of the era of kashihon, inexpensive rental libraries through which many manga books were distributed in impoverished, post-war Japan.. “Hoshizora ni uta e ba (If You Sing to the Starry Sky”) by Masai Akiyosha. Here are select pages, and my non-Japanese-reading commentary/ guesses at what’s going on. First, the cover and page one of the story.
The cover appears to be by a different artist than the interior. Perhaps 勝山ひろし – KATSUYAMA Hiroshi?
This post will contain all the material that I produce while working on the 2nd chapter of my comic Lunatic: from thumbnails and sketches to finished pages. Lunatic is a wordless story, with one image-per-page. I’ll add new material to the top of the post as I do it.
April 19-May 5: Crawling to the Finish Line
Other nuisances of life interfered, and it took me ages to do the last page I had to do. Not actually the last page of the story, but a transition page, to indicate that it’s morning in the last sequence. It’s a repeat of an image I’ve drawn twice now, of the exterior of the girl’s house, roof, chimneys etc. I’m getting kind of bored of drawing it, so I want to come up with something fun to do with this “morning” version. A different angle, to begin with. First, a light pencil sketch, just for composition:
Thinking of ways to make it interesting, I think of using masking fluid to define the clouds, with a light wash for the sky, shading the clouds to show the dramatic light of the sunrise. A bunch of wash studies:
Letting the ink wash pool up at the bottom (on the tilted drawing table) accidentally makes that “burst” effect happen when it dries. I decide to try and make use of that for the sunrise itself.
On to the final version. The masking fluid is gooey stuff and hard to apply with precision. I don’t really want to muck up a brush with it, so I used a pencil eraser to draw the cloud shapes with it:
Brush on the washes, sloppily so that it pools up just above the roofline.
Once this is all dry, I peel off the masking fluid, so that there is a white edge to the clouds, with the darker shading in the middle.
Ilm not sure if the wash effect feels like a sunrise… or is the building on fire? But I’ll go with it for now. It doesn’t have the dramatic lighting that I want, though… so I add more gray wash to the front of the building, and some cast shadows on the roof:
Good morning, right?
That’s it for chapter 2, but there is one thing that bugs me (there are actually probably lots of things that will bug me, but this one is bugging me now). The face of the girl on page 16.
Looking at it, I realize the problem is that I drew the mouth too far to the left, and it looks funny. Though I’m trying to avoid digital corrections as much as possible, I sure don’t want to redraw the whole page, so I just nudge the mouth over in Photoshop. From:
I think that’s much nicer. Or if I want to really cheat I could try to use the mouth (or the whole face) from the earlier version of the page:
Something tells me there is a lot of fussing yet to come in the future of the “finished” chapter two!!
April 14: Mock-up time
As soon as I had linework done on (the first version of) page 16, I wanted to put together a little mockup of the chapter, to see how it flowed. As I did with chapter one, I printed them along the 11″ of 8.5 x 11 sheets and folded them. The small size is kind of fun, and it’ll be tempting to print it up at this size, though I’ve been planning to print it larger.
Generally, I think it read well. I am not sure if framing the moon in the little circles of black on pages 8 & 10 is going to work, but that’s an easy fix.
April 12-20 Slowing down toward the (chapter) finish line
My pace / discipline really starting to sag in April, due to a combination of external and internal factors. It happens.
Anyway, I sketch out the last page of the chapter (there were some previous sketches of this, if you scroll down, as well. but this one is more precise as far as composition):
And onto the inked line art (I didnt document the pencils):
Not thrilled with this, mainly because of the face. Also, I didn’t take enough care with the background of furniture, toys etc in the room, and I think it messes up the composition, drawing attention away from the characters.
I did one more little sketch, just of her face:
Look closer? Okay…
And re-drew the page. Line art:
That’s all well and good. But as I looked at it, dissatisfaction returned. Not with the drawing, but with the composition. The characters are too small in the frame… a lot of wasted space, and it dilutes the impact/”reveal” of the sleeping girl.
To test my hypothesis, I simply cropped the image differently:
Quite a change, no? In some circumstances, I might just go with the digital crop. But not today… I really want everything to work on paper, not just digitally. And besides, I’d lose the “rough edges: of the lines and washes.
So back to the drawing board, with the new composition. Line art:
And I have nothing more to add on the topic.
April 2-4: Oy, a new challenge.
Page 16 switches locations slightly, to the hall outside the bedroom. I am forced to reckon with the perhaps nonsensical architecture that I’ve created.
How is the house laid out? Where would the stairs be? What would the proportions feel like? I know, I know… probably best to figure this stuff out before I start drawing the scene, but who can be bothered right? So I’m retroactively trying to make sense of it, not my strong suit:
Of course maybe no one will pay attention to such things. Or maybe they will… and LAUGH at me!! Obsessive now:
Do I really solve the architectural question? I don’t know, maybe I just gave up. Anyway, it pretty much ended up looking like my earliest sketch. Here are the final pencils:
The inked line work:
And voila! Here it is on the drawing board:
And scanned, with hopefully the levels adjusted well:
And after all that… My rational brain failed me around the drawing of that rail at the top of the stairs: is there room for a person to get through there? Does the sloping-down ceiling of the roof read as perspective, making the figure look way too large?
Y’know what? I think this time I’m going to have to live with it, plus whatever little tweaks I can manage on Photoshop.
March 29-30: spreads
The next four pages are two sets of spreads. In each, the moon is on the left of the fold, girl on the right, looking at/reacting to the moon.
I didn’t grab many process moments along the way, so here are finished inks/washes for these four pages (plus a couple rejected versions):
I didn’t like the expression — kind of a banal, friendly look, and I wanted something a little more mysterious: compelling but aloof. So, drew it over:
Okay. Then, the girl looking up at the moon from her bedroom window:
Then the moon does THIS:
And the girl:
I didn’t completely love the expression on HER face this time, so I tried it again:
Better, and good enough!
Here they are as spreads. As you can see, my idea is to break up the repetitive rectangle format that the images have followed so far:
March 24-28, sketches for the rest of the chapter.
My main concern for the next few pages is facial expressions, as it’s a back-and-forth of reactions between the Moon and the Girl.
Then, I also started to look past these pages to the next sequence, and sketched some for it. Sketches of the girl’s mother, who will enter the room (which morphed into sketches of the girl, older):
And of the final page, in which the girl has fallen asleep against the window, as her mother enters in the background:
Happy with that last one.
March 21-22, re-drawing page 8.
Line art, ink over pencils:
That was a color scan, here it is in grayscale:
The color adds a warmth to it, though, for sure. Though, as I said before, not sure I’ll be able to print in color.
March 20, after, a long hiatus:
I took a break from this project for a few weeks, during which I drew a short comic for the upcoming BCR anthology (so I don’t feel guilty about it).
During this time, looking at page 8, I decided it looked a little too squared-off and I wanted to spice up the composition a little, change the angle.
Moon face studies, and thumbnails for page 10:
A sketch for page 10:
A roughed new version of page 8:
February 25-26, page 8:
Basically the “reverse shot” of page 7 (ohhh I hate using cinematic terms, but I don’t know how else to describe it). Here is line art:
And, with washes:
February 23, page 7:
Touchups to the washes, in 2 stages (warning: subtle differences); I used white ink to put in the cross-bars of the window frame. I wanted to be able to draw her face as a whole, then obstruct it afterward:
Final (except nothing’s final, ’til the book is printed. And even then…?).
February 22-23: page 6
Finally, we meet our heroine as a young girl… sort of. Feet only:
This is a black-and-white image of course, but this is a color scan, so it adds a tint. Which I like. It makes me think about printing it in color, though that would be very expenseive. Anyway, here it is converted to grayscale, as it will probably end up:
I really like this image, but I decided to try it another way, with the feet closer to the picture plane. I scanned it once before finishing the shading (“state one”):
Here’s the color scan of it with added shading, for a more dramatic composition, and to indicate the light from the window above (even though it’s kind of nonsensical, probably, as far as how the light would really go):
As you can see, between the first scan and the second I smudged ink on the picture (above the hem of the nightgown on the right). Here’s the image with some touchups, and converted to grayscale:
I think this second version of the drawing is more dramatic for being a “close-up.” But I don’t have to make a final decision until I’m actually assembling the book.
More sketching/studying for the next 2-3 pages:
My idea for the moon, is that, as the girl ages, the moon’s face will change to reflect the image that a child of her age would have of a friendly or beautiful or funny face:
At long last, after moving around the room looking at toys and bedclothes, the next pages will introduce the character (re-introduce, since we met her as a baby in the last chapter). Gearing up for this with sketches and studies.
Still trying to find her face as depicted at the age of 8 years old or so. Curly hair seems to be winning the day (resisting the easy fallback of a little blonde girl, which would probably be the stereotype Victorian child, I’ll make her hair black and curly, so that her ethnicity is a little more open to interpretation).
But at first, we don’t even see her face. We see:
…feet. Which ain’t so easy to draw, for me. Especially from behind!
And working toward the actual composition of the page, including a stuffed animal bearing mute witness:
And an actual rough of the page:
February 15-19: Do-overs.
I felt that page 2 (the “wide shot” of the bedroom), didn’t capture the shadowy, night-time feel. I wanted to beef up the blacks, and rather than go back into the page with more ink, I bit the bullet, put a print-out of the line art onto the light-table, and re-inked the page, with heavier blacks:
I think it’s stronger than the earlier version. I added washes. Again, I kept putting more layers of gray wash down to get it as dark as I wanted. But I don’t think I really know how to handle this yet: you can damage the paper and lose the ability to control the tone, and I think that’s what happened in that lighter patch above and to the right of the door. But… working this way, I’ve got to be willing to live with accidents and imperfections.
One more step, to add in the wallpaper pattern:
Okay! But now that I was into all those heavier blacks, I started to feel disatisfied with some of the other pages in this sequence… so I used the same process and redrew two of them!
I had a good time being a little more reckless drawing this page, and I like the crazier linework. Washes:
Needed a little more tones, to make the horse stand out a little better, etc:
All of this is still being inked lefty, by the way, because I am digging the unrulier line I get with that hand. Washes:
And a little shadier:
This was all fun to do, and I like the way they turned out.
It suddenly came back to me that the reason I wanted to use gray ink washes for this sequence was to get a delicate quality, appropriate for a child’s bedroom & toys bathed in moonlight. Now, I feel like what I’ve done has added a little bit of the “scary toy” feeling to things. Is that just as good? I’m not sure. Luckily, I’ve got everything scanned (and backed up on another disc and in the cloud) at lots of different stages, so when it comes down to it, I have a lot to choose from. That’ll be tough.
February 11-13: pages 4 and 5
Moving on to page 4, the Jack-in-the-Box detail of the room. A rough sketch:
Then another, to adjust the composition, moving the jack-in-the-box left so that the head is closer to the center of the page and you can see more of the books:
Work in progress on the drawing table, penciled and inked. With one nice ink drop on the bed-post, oh, well.
The ink washes go on in layers, from light to dark. Here’s the first layer, an overall light gray:
Moving faster now, I didn’t resort to doing ink washes on separate pages via light-box (because I was satisfied with the way they turned out applied directly to the original.) I moved back and forth between pages 4 & 5, as I waited for the layers of ink wash to dry. Here’s page 4 on the drawing table:
Page 5 line art scanned:
And here is page 5 with all the ink washes applied:
And pag4 with final ink washes:
February 10-13: Page 3
After the wide shot of the room, three pages of details, moving around the room. Bear with me for all these versions. It’s f***ing endless. Here’s a photo of the line art, inked, on the drawing table:
Gray wash process. First an overall light gray (which will serve as the “white” of the page once other wash layers are applied) (i premixed 3 different tones of ink wash in separate jars):
Next, added another layer to darken in the figure of the horse. I also wanted the horse to have spots that are lighter than its overall tone, so I used masking fluid to create those. Actually I didn’t particularly care if the spots were lighter, I just liked using the masking fluid:
Finally, more wash to darken everything, and peeled off the dried masking fluid:
Here it is, scanned:
To be honest, I can’t even remember what it was that disatisfied me about the above version. Probably again, that it’s a little too pale and doesn’t feel like a dark room at night time. At any rate, I went through the same process I did on the previous page, using a light box to create new wash layers on separate pages:
Stack ’em in transparent layers over the scan of the line art, and voila:
Well, I do find this richer and stronger. I even the white gaps in the washes on the horse, resulting from imprecisions in my light-boxed layers. So I’m done with the page. Or am I? Don’t kid yourself.
February 6-9: Page 2, many stages.
(note on above: I wasn’t satisfied with the washes, because I think there’s too much light. This is supposed to be a room at night, dark, with a diagonal section lit by moonlight thru the window).
…but I felt I’d only muddied things up. Irretrievably. Luckily, I’d scanned the line art, so I tried a different method, applying ink washes to separate pages, using a light table over a print out of the line art.
Here is the ink wash for the overall lighting of the room:
Another layer of ink washes, for specific shadows:
Here is the line art combined in Photoshop with the three layers of inkwash:
This method gives me a lot of flexibility. Too much flexibility, in fact, as I can try so many combinations. Here, for instance, is the scan with the first layer of inkwash applied to the page (that is, the fifth image from the top for this date’s entry), combined with just the darkened ceiling from that separate layer of inkwash, four images up from here.
If you’re confused, you see why I may be overdoing the “flexibility.” But I push on… Stay tuned.
February 3: Page 1, finally.
The exciting moment. Pre-season is over. Now, it counts. Pencil to paper, then ink… the final page.
Oh, I lied. First there was a false start: I penciled, but realized I hadn’t gotten the composition exactly right. Not a dramatic-enough angle.
Rather than erase, I started over. Got the composition right. Here is an in-progress shot with just the line art. Again, penciled by right hand, inked with left:
And the finished page:
I was painstaking with applying the ink washes, using several “coats, ” like glazing in painting, letting each coat dry, then applying another, to get the tonalities where I wanted them.
February 2: ink sketch for page 1
I did one final pencil sketch, then another version in ink and inkwash… since that’s the media I’ll be using for this chapter, and I want to get used to it:
I penciled this with my right hand, and inked with my left. I kind of like the wiggly lines my left hand makes. Overall I’m happy with the quality of the drawing, but I screwed up the composition… didn’t get enough of a dramatic angle.
January 31-Feb 1: page sketches
What bothers me about this is that it’s too similiar to the first page of the previous chapter, another look down a block of rowhouses. I tried to vary the architecture, but still.
Okay, that looks better. Then, on to page 2, A thumbnail:
And a full-sized rough sketch:
January 30-31: Jacks-in-the-box
Some scribbly sketches:
Thinking that I want to do something different: still with a classic Jack-in-the-Box feel, but with a little variation. It popped into my head to do a Cossack Jack-in-the-Box:
Again, I don’t need to nail it down at this point, just get a basic idea of what it would look like, and go back to it fresh when I reach that page. (afterwards I googled “Cossack Jack in the box” and there aren’t any images of one, so maybe I’m being original!)
January 27-28, 2017: Toy-time
Studies for the rocking horse in the bedroom scene. Here are some of my reference photos (there are lots more, I’m kind of obsessive about gathering reference):
The thing is, a lot of those Victorian rocking horses are very naturalistic — but if I draw a naturalistic rocking horse, it won’t look any different than if I was just drawing a horse. So I will go for a more stylized design:
I like this last one (inked with left hand). I’ll stop now, so I don’t get stale on rocking horses before it’s time to draw the actual page.
January 26, 2017: sketches, ink wash
Now that the sequence is thumbnailed, I went to work on more refined sketches of the characters. Since I plan to draw this chapter using ink and wash, I started working with that medium.
Drawn with left hand; the reaction of the mother on entering on the final page of the chapter. This was going to be a maid, but I decided to make it her mother, again to play down the idea that she’s wealthy. There’s no reason she shouldn’t be a wealthy character, but there’s no reason she should either. So even though it might be more fun to draw a big mansion (and easier to draw a maid’s uniform than figure out what a Victorian-era mother would be wearing in the early morning), I don’t want this story to be about the fantasy of wealth. So mom gets the part.
January 25, 2017: more detailed thumbnails; architectural decision sketches
I drew larger thumbnails, so that I could see more detail and get a better idea of the flow from image to image:
One question I’m having is the depiction of the house. I started drawing a rather large Victorian stand-alone house. I wanted to differentiate this location from the row-houses in chapter one. But I don’t really like the way that defines the character as wealthy. I’d rather have her be middle-class, which would suggest that she and her family live in a more modest row house (since they’re urban). So I sketched a block of row houses with hopefully enough architectural differences from the opening scene to make clear we’re not in the same exact location:
Sorry about the bleed-through from another sketch (which I drew with brush pen, the following day).
January 24, 2017: Rough thumbnails, reference material and sketch for bedroom interior.
Scribbly, yes, but I understand them. At this point, I am laying the chapter out at 15 pages. For comparison, here’s the thumbnails for this sequence from way back when i first “wrote” the story, a couple of years ago (the character was a boy, then):
Here is some of the reference images I downloaded for this setting:
Here’s a couple pages of doodles from some time back, not sure when. On the top page, I’ve circled the ones that relate to Lunatic.
I found the bottom page in a pile of papers, I’d forgotten about those drawings. It was kind of an important find, because in the intervening months, without realizing it, I’d changed the character’s hair from dark to blonde. And I think I’m changing it back to dark thanks to finding those sketches.
Juliette: les fantômes reviennent au printemps (Juliette: the ghosts return in spring) is a 240-page French graphic novel, published by Actes Sud in 2016. I don’t know much about Camille Jourdy : she’s done a lot of children’s books, and had a previous series of bd albums, Rosalie Blum, which I guess was successful, since it was adapted as a film as well.Continue reading →
As I said, I wasn’t satisfied with the baby’s expression on page 8, so I drew it over. I could have just redrawn the face and paste it in on Photoshop, but I really want the pages to be presentable as originals as well.
Anyway, this marks the end of the first chapter of “Lunatic,” in which the main character is an infant. I’ll now move on to Chapter 2, which will start with a lot of thumbnails and studies…
Okay, enough prep… ready to start on those last two pages of the chapter.
…and NOW ready to go. I will do the two-page sequence, of baby seeing the moon / baby reaching for it. Pencil, conte crayon and India ink, with white acrylic for corrections: Drew the second page first (page 9, in the current layout), because it was the one I was more nervous about getting right:
…and I think I did get it right. I wanted them to be exactly alike in terms of composition, so I used the light table to lightly outline, then took it off the light box and went ahead with conte crayon and ink on page 8:
I like the picture, in and of itself… but I don’t think I got the expression right. The transition from 8 to 9 is to much. The first page should show her beginning to react to what she’s seeing, leading in to the gesture on the next page.
This might seem like a bad day to be drawing babies (before we inaugurate one tomorrow), but doing some studies for the “reverse shot” from the moon: the babies’ reactions. Lots of sketches, trying to work out the composition, and, importantly, that reaching gesture. And the facial expression.
I’ve fallen off the “post every day” wagon this week, so here’s the work I did for this story over several days:
Continuing to work on the moon images for this sequence, as the clouds move over it, and the face is revealed. I had penciled the final image (page 7, if the current layout holds), but I went back to work out the previous two (mostly so that I could have the cloud shapes consistent). These are all done with black, white and gray acrylic paint, and conte crayon for the clouds. A first try at page 5:
I decided to reject this, because I wanted more clouds in the frame. Next try:
This (above) is after touch-ups in Photoshop, to darken the black and flatten out the texture of the black acrylic, as well as the warps in the page, which showed up clearly in the scan (as you can see in the top image).
I decided that the eye and smile were too pronounced here (spoiling the impact of the “reveal” on the next page. So I went back in with white acrylic and obscured them a bit:
With these done, I went back to ink the final image of the sequence:
Over the next few days (the holiday weekend), I only managed a couple scribbled sketches. Since I decided to draw the baby reaching for the moon (literally), after the face appears, I had a new idea for a final page of the sequence, baby’s point-of-view with her hand in the foreground. Here is scribble of it, with some scribbled thumbnails next to it as a bonus:
I’m thinking that image might work better without the architecture between hand and moon, just black.
Then, unable to sleep one night, I did a few more sketches, some in preparation for finishing up this baby/moon scene, others in anticipation of the next scene to come. This is all quick and dirty, but I’m being a stickler for completism — and also, these little scribbly sketches are an important part of the process. So: