(A diary of the making of this chapter, which begins with the first day’s work at the bottom, and moves up)
September 20: Page one, at last!
After the slow process of the last few chapters, I’ve resolved to be more spontaneous, and allow myself fewer “re-do’s.” Here’s the first page, drawn in one try, without any additional rough versions. I changed the composition from the rough I’d done for the mockup, from this:
To this, the pencils for the final page:
Before diving straight into the washes, I did a little digital experiment with tones, just to see how it might look, leaving the ground white and darkening the gate in the FG almost to black:
Good enough, so I did the same thing with washes. I made some other changes first. I added the professorial figure with the cane, on the right, to reinforce the academic setting. Then, digitally, I adjusted the lettering on the gate a little, because it felt out of perspective to me (by the way, that’s Latin for “knowledge is power.”) Final page:
Looking at it now, I think I might digitally darken the washes, and erase the pavement lines, to leave the ground a solid white shape with darker figures against it — more like the digital-tone version above. That’s more of the graphic look I’d like for this.
September 11-14: 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:
Then I spent a few days sitting at a table at Boston Comic Con. Didn’t exactly work on this comic there, but I drew studies from old photographs as background:
This was fun, made me feel like I was working on the project in some way, and that last one I actually sold at the show.
There followed another couple weeks where I couldn’t get to work on this at all, then I found a little time to finish up the set of scribbly thumbnails I’d started before the Con:
(somewhere in there I also did this rough sketch test of wash over conte crayon:
At this point I felt like I had a decent thumbnail sense of the story, but as I’ve learned in the previous 3 chapters, this “one image per page” style of storytelling is very exacting as far as the page turns and the pace/clarity of the story, so I set about to draw full-sized roughs of each page, from which I would then create a mock-up/dummy of the chapter.
I did a set of roughs, here they are laid out in 2-page spreads:
Here they are in a pile on the floor:
I laid these out and printed them out as a little booklet…
I took it to the BCR meeting, got some valuable input from Heide Solbrig. The issue is, are her reactions to the classroom images clear, and then, is the communication between moon and protagonist clear? I don’t want to be OVERLY heavy-handed, if the reader has to do some work and piece the meaning together, even based on what happens in the next chapter, but at least give the reader a fighting chance of understanding what I mean. So some changes are needed. But then… Another 9-10 days without being able to work. When things cleared up….
…I added some pages, to make the story clearer, and made a new dummy:
Here’s the revised layout. I fiddled with the projected moon images & her reactions, and added 2 new beats to her “conversation” with the moon after she leaves the classroom. The page count increased from 23 to 27 pages.
Some of this works better, but some places are still not quite clear in meaning, I don’t think. It’s frustrating to me, also, because I would really like to get away from the shot-by-shot “storyboard” approach to narrative in this comic, but I don’t seem to be able to do it, and each new page that I add just increases that faux-cinematic feel. But, given a choice between less-cinematic-ness and clarity, I’m not confident enough to risk un-clarity.
Anyway, I did some more revisions, still in the same two sections of the chapter: reactions to the projected images, and the interaction with the moon. Plus, not sure the conclusion of the chapter works, either. The point is that when she returns to the classroom it’s with a new determination to learn the scientific facts about the moon, so I’m going to add a “close-up” of her hand taking notes. Again, more “cinematic” storytelling, but… (see above paragraph).
So, I added a few new beats, the page count ballooning to 31:
This is getting pretty insane, so I decided I’d better wrap up this phase and get to the final drawings. Plus, it seemed to be working better. BUT I did want to trim it down, eliminate unnecessary pages. It was getting kind of complicated, changing the layout of the book over and over, so, though I felt it was close, I decided to cut up the pages separately so I could move them around, and finalize the layout, now reduced back to 27 pages. Hopefully I can cut a few more out along the way.
Finally I can start drawing the chapter. I want to be able to work faster this time, for two reasons. Of course to be done sooner, duh. But also to keep the freshness of approach. I’m already worried that, for a few of these pages, I won’t like the final version as much as the rough!
August 8: little toe in the water
(spending a lot of time searching and saving images like these… obsessive, but valuable)
(yes, that means something to me)
August 7: toe in the water
At this point, I have so many other tasks and projects keeping me from focusing on this (and on drawing in general), that my goal is just to keep my head and hand in the project just a little, by doing something every day, however small. I’ve been gathering up a lot of reference visuals of the college gates/seal which we’ll see in the first page::
(I have lots more)
Then some scribbly studies:
August 6: Testing the waters
I’m trying out a technique of pencil and ink wash only. I want a soft effect, like that achieved by Manuele Fior in Mademoiselle Else, which also seems inspired by the Nabis, Munch, the kind of art that I want to evoke:
Of course not working in color, as Fior was, will be challenging. Have to figure out how to get that softness without graying-out the whole page.
August 1: the baby’s getting smaller!!
I worked more on the thumbnails. I have a decision to eventually make about the story in this chapter. The woman goes to a class and sees a lecture on the moon which inspires her, that’s basically what happens. But I have another idea, in which she is at first horrified to see her beloved moon “dissected” by the images on the prof’s magic lantern slides. She runs out in horror, and sees the moon in the sky looking down at her; it’s look, this time, tells her no, you must learn about me, and so she goes back in. I go back and forth on whether this last complication in her “learning process” is too melodramatic, or will come across clearly. Anyway, on this day I scribbled out some more thumbnails, trying to figure it out. Again, so rough that by the time I’m posting this I can hardly decipher them myself. And yes, it’s about 20 minutes of work, at most:
July 31: still baby steps
I’m not getting full days of work these days, because I’m doing some MICE planning. After those preliminary sketches that had to do with the first or second page, I decided I’d better thumbnail the chapter before getting too involved in any one page. These thumbnails are so scribbly that I doubt I’ll even be able to understand them in a few days.
I’m also thinking about the first images, the “establishing” images of the college campus:
July 28: baby steps
I have the beats of this chapter in my head, but nothing on paper yet, not even thumbnails. The setting now is a university campus, in the period setting. This comic isn’t set in any particular place or time, just vaguely Victorian or Edwardian period, in a setting that looks like America or England. It’s not a realistic story, so I can take whatever liberties I like and considerate an alternate reality if need be.
But nothing jarring. I want it to feel like the past, in a recognizable reality.
Anyway, I have a lot of thoughts about the feel for this chapter. Once again I will change medium, and I think I want to get away from hard blacks, and go with a gauzier, grayscale feeling. Maybe drawn in pencil and washes. A visual style of early Modernism, such as the Nabis or Maurice Prendergast:
I can’t say that Prendergast is a favorite, but you always run into him in museums, and there’s one of the early images in this chapter, which I want to model a little on Prendergast, and the parade-like crowds he always featured.
So, without giving much thought to it, I begin the work for this chapter by doing some sketches for what will be the background of one of the first few images (with our protagonist in the foreground, but I’m not drawing her yet).
This is done by first drawing with a brush dipped only in water, then applying ink from a brush pen to the wet area: