Juliette is a slice-of-life, ensemble/character-based comic; the title character is a young woman who returns from Paris for a visit to her provincial home town, where she confronts family problems and secrets, and has a brief romance as well. Jourdy’s watercolored artwork is lovely, reminding me a bit of Brecht Evans, a bit of Sarah Glidden. The leisurely pace allows for subtle comics storytelling: Jourdy gives her characters plenty of “alone time,” breaking down sequences of character interactions into small, precise moments, or focusing on details of the mundane but evocative architecture of the small-city setting.
While the visuals are almost sugary in their prettiness and the tone is gentle, Jourdy’s approach to characters and story has dark depths as well. Most of the characters are depressed or frustrated with their lives and choices, though over the course of the story they manage to connect and communicate, creating an overall mood of optimistic humanism. Within this gentle atmosphere, there is a good amount of variety: quiet, reflective sequences, slapstick comedy, witty dialogue, romance and sex, and a bit of tragedy as well. Jourdy particularly excels at large group scenes with competing and overlapping voices: Juliette’s extended family dinner party, her mother’s art gallery opening, and several scenes at the local bar where her slacker love-interest is a regular. A pleasant and affecting read, with an easy pace, but full of incident and never dull. Hopefully this comic will be published in English someday, but in the meantime if you can struggle through the French, it’s worth the effort.
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.
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!
So more studies:
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:
Alright! On to the Jack in the Box.
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:
Yeah! I didn’t redraw page 5, but added some black:
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.
Here is the line-art with pencils erased:
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:
Scan of the line art:
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.
Line art inks:
With ink washes (applied directly to page):
(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).
So I went back in to add more atmosphere with washes:
…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:
Then, digitally combined with the line art:
Another layer of ink washes, for specific shadows:
And finally, a separate layer for the wallpaper pattern:
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
I started doing more refined pencil sketches for the first two pages of the chapter. Page 1 is the “establishing shot” of the building in which the scene takes place:
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.
Re-thumbnailed the page, changing the angle and making it closer to the window of the girl’s room (plus a few more rocking-horse doodles):
Okay, that looks better. Then, on to page 2, A thumbnail:
And a full-sized rough sketch:
January 30-31: Jacks-in-the-box
Another toy to be featured in the first pages of the chapter (as we “move in” on details of the bedroom). Here’s some reference:
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.
‘(Note: the above is just a doodle of the character when she’s older, though the hair is wrong, not a sketch for ch. 2)
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):
Back to the present-day, and here’s some sketching of the location (interior) for this scene, the girl’s bedroom:
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.
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.
Actually, one more sketch:
…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).
Here’s the next in the sequence, page 6:
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:
Preparing to draw what (I think) will be page 7. I don’t really know for sure how the pages will be ordered: though I have a plan, it might very well not hold. Since it’s one image per page, I think there will be a process much like film editing, where I have the “shots” and can play with different ways of ordering them.
Anyway, I felt a little uncertain of some of the perspective (though I’ve drawn this same scene several times by now), so I did a free-hand perspective sketch of the location:
The part I’m finding tricky for some reason are those brick things that slant down the roof from each chimney. But I think I have it, more or less, so here is the penciled drawing for page 7:
Still playing catch-up, in a way, after the 3 month layoff. I’ve done pages of moon studies before. But now I am a little more purposeful, because these studies are for pages I am actually about to draw: the gradual appearance of the face in the moon. This page of sketches is not in the correct sequence. I also took the opportunity to use black acrylic instead of India ink for the night sky. I think I like the texture of it.
Here they are rearranged into a rough sequence (and I copied and pasted the clouds in, where necessary for the flow of it:)
It won’t be a strip like that in the final — though looking at it makes me consider whether it should be. I’ll draw the final versions now, taking a little more care with the placement of the clouds, and making their shapes more consistent. And lighten up those craters a bit, next pass. Of
Completed the new version of page 4, with a more dramatic angle to the roof, and a bigger moon for more “presence” (the page, and the story, are about the moon, not the building, after all). I used acrylic paint for the building and the moon, conte crayon for the clouds, and India ink for the sky. Here it is, the raw scan above, and with photoshop touchups below:
In Photoshop I darkened the black of the sky, then added more contrast in the roof, and lightened up the craters in the moon a bit. It ended up looking like this:
Here, by the way (below), is the earlier version of the page, for compare and contrast. An improvement, I’m pretty sure (though I kind of like the big cloud in the older version better than in the new. Oh well.)