Thursday, July 10, 2014

Comic Page Creation Part 2: Drawing the Page


Part 1 is here| Part 3 is here

Okay! Part two of my convoluted and time-consuming process for making comic pages: drawing the actual page! Again, we're looking at page 124 of the Wayward Queen.

Once I've settled on a thumbnail, it's time for penciling! First step is to grab my trusty non-photo blue pencil and make an unholy scribbly mess. Doesn't matter how ugly it gets at this point, it's non-photo blue, it's all gonna practically disappear when I scan it. I use the Prismacolor Col-Erase non-photo blue pencils because they're erasable (I think Prismacolor has a different brand name outside the US...) The paper I'm using is a Strathmore 400 Smooth Drawing pad, which takes ink surprisingly well; a lot of pages have been on 9x12 inch paper, but recently I've been transitioning to 11x14 inch paper so I have more room for complex scenes.

Pro tip, DON'T sharpen the blue pencils in an electric pencil sharpener, they'll gum up the works and ruin the sharpener. (Learned this the hard way.) (Same goes for most colored pencils, unless you have a sharpener specifically intended for colored pencils.)

Full confession, I'm usually drawing this stuff straight out of my head (studies and reference would be nice, but take a lot of time that I don't generally have when it comes to cranking out comic pages.) Sometimes I'll pop over to the mirror if there's something I'm just not getting ("wait, how does the hand go if someone does this?") Sometimes I'll grab my copy of Peck's Anatomy or my "Ecorché" app if I need to get really specific and accurate with musculature. (I love that app, by the way.) And of course if I have to draw a very specific item and I'm not sure what it looks like, then I will take the time to go hunt for reference. I don't like copying refs exactly (so boring; also there are copyright issues if it's not from life or my own photos;) so what I usually do is compile a bunch of relevant images from as many different angles as I can find, and use them as a general guide to make my own image. (Examples of things that definitely needed reference are that 1930's taxicab on page 49*; or Carnage's guns, which are invented hybrids, but I looked at a lot of vintage revolvers first because I have no clue about guns.)

*(Do you have any idea how hard it is to find reference for a New York taxicab for the very specific time range of 1935 - 1937? Yeah. Page 49 was delayed for ages on account of that damn partially-visible cab.)

Perspective is largely eyeballed, unless the vanishing points are somewhere on the page. Usually they end up way the heck off the page, probably somewhere in the neighbor's apartment. So figuring out perspective generally involves imagining where the VPs are and waving a ruler around along imagined lines from the invisible VPs, and then stepping back and trying to decide whether it looks plausible or does anything seem weird… Yes, this is something I'm still working on. Yes, some pages are REALLY wonky. Yes, actual perspective exercises and drawing buildings from life both help a lot with the eyeballing, I should do more of both.

I also try to figure out the approximate size and placement of word balloons in the blue-pencil stage (totally guesstimated, no way am I hand-lettering this jazz. There have definitely been some pages where I guesstimated wrong and didn't leave enough space, but I'm getting better at this.)

Anyway. The blue-pencil stage lets me make a HUUUUGE mess of construction lines, mistakes, and corrections without affecting the final scan. So this is the ugly nuts-and-bolts phase. Sometimes I'll draw multiple versions if it gets totally screwed up and so covered with blue I can't tell what's what anymore. But hey, screwing up and fixing it is what the blue-pencil phase is all about!

I could probably go straight to ink from the blue pencil phase, but it's usually such a confused mess that I like to do a nice clean pencil drawing first, over the blue pencil. Nothing fancy here, just a regular #2 pencil, kneaded eraser, and my handy kneaded-eraser-on-a-stick for pesky small areas. (I also have a pink stick eraser, but I mostly use it for removing weird schmutz or unusually stubborn spots, because it sometimes smears unpredictably.) I tend to keep the pencil very light so it won't show too much in the scan. Black areas and shading are only vaguely indicated; I'm the one doing the inking, so I don't need to spell it all out.

In the case of page 124, I ended up drawing two versions - I didn't think version one was quite dynamic enough, so I redid it. (I try not to get bogged down in redoing pages, but sometimes you just gotta start over.) Just for laughs, here's the original rejected version:

Coming up next: Part three: Inking!

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