Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Anatomy Lessons

Well, following on from Dave's thread ("The Key"), thought I'd do a post following the creation of a page...quality aside, let's begin...
As I've just completed a Silver strip, I'll use that as an example. As I wrote this myself, I worked in an unorthodox way: I wrote down the basic beats that the plot had to hit and assigned a page to each, although I did commit the cardinal sin of switching locales on the same page (or else I'd Havw to do an extra page to facilitate the switch). Hopefully the switch is subtle enough that you'll only know there's been a switch when you read the caption. I'll use a specific page as an example for all stages, except the comparison between pre and post-black spotting (as I forgot to scan the same page before blocking in the blacks!)

I usually thumbnail a few pages on a sheet of A4 at roughly 3 inches each in scrawly scribbles that probably only I can decode as they're just placeholder to remind me of the images in my head, but quite often what I end up drawing can be quite different. I only scrawled a few lines of dialogue here and there so had to leave space for text later as I only had a basic idea of what I was going to write. The nature of the panel requirements usually preclude the necessity for multiple page layouts, although there is probably something to be said for a few different takes.
I start a page by ruling the borders and then ruling the panel borders with a Berol or Pentel: experience and my thumbnails usually guides me pretty well as to how much space I'll need per tier. If I was lettering onto the art, I'd also do all the lettering first (EC-style) and do the balloons after the pencilling but before the inking. In this instance i wasn't lettering so cracked straight on with the pencilling. I usually pencil a page a day over the weekend for me to ink through the weeknights: I usually start on a Saturday morning as Jonathan Ross starts on Radio 2 at 10.00 and usually finish around the end of his show at 1.00, sometimes earlier and sometimes later. There's been some discussion over how tight my pencils for myself are: I'd class them as layouts as really only the figures are usually properly detailed, but others tell me these are complete pencils. What I class as full pencils must be ultra tight!
I usually a start a page (both pencilling and inking) with the easier or more fun panels and get into things for a while before tackling some of the more involved work, so I never complete a page sequentially. Currently I usually try to ink about two hours a night, completing a page over two nights. Sometimes I surprise myself and ink a page in a night and other times I end up nearly doubling the time spent on inking, all depends on what I'm drawing. The fewer panels per page, generally the quicker it is to complete but it all depends on what I'm drawing.
As I'm useless with a brush, I inks with a variety of Pilot pens...I can get a consistent line and as the nibs wear down (the ink last far longer than the nibs), I switch back and forth but generally try to keep the same new pens in use for the main drawing of each strip. A set of Pilots used to see me through an issue of the Jock but generally wear out a lot quicker now. Brand new pens started to thicken out about two thirds of the way through the current 12-pager. Again, I use the Berols and Pentels for ruling lines as I find ruling lines knackers Pilots really quickly.
Many artists ink all the heavy blacks first and work out from there but I save that stage to last. Once all the details are inked, I'll erase the whole page and go in with permanent markers or Sharpies to block in the large areas of blacks, using older knackered out Pilots that I can only use at a certain angle to edge into the linework. Once this is done, I'll do any cleaning up or spotting effects using Tippex pens...I used to use the standard bottles but the brushes would frequently clunk up, resulting in lunar surface-like deposits of correction fluid that often needed to be chipped away. With the bottles now using sponges instead of brush tips, I find the pens much better all round.
And then, the page is done and it all starts again...

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Anyone For Scribbles?

Well, pretty good well as kicking back a bit and catching up on some reading, still managed to get quite a bit of art done and I received a cheque for my upcoming Back Issue article. Being tied up today meant I got caught up on inking the final page of Silver two days ahead of schedule. I managed to complete the line art for the cover to Pjang #3 and was a bit unsure about it but Rol likes it so I'll colour that asap. I won't post that here as that's his to reveal so I thought I'd post some other bits I've done this weekend...

Asbo Adam has morphed into Asbo Avenger but the bug has spread around the office. Above is the original version of a superheroine version of one of the officers (she didn't like the face or the cape, leading to the much better disco version posted previously) as well as two versions of another officer. She asked for the manga version but when I pointed out that manga characters just look like manga characters rather than bearing any resemblance to actual people, she decided she wanted a superhero version too. The detective is for a (non-work) project with yet another officer and the top picture is of a colleague in our section. She wanted a picture but a "nice one", hence a fairly straightforward depiction. I actually quite like's not a spot on likeness but is close enough to be recognisable, I suppose. She's very pretty in real life so I've probably not done her justice but as a drawing, I quite like it.

Coming soon, a post using an idea nicked from Dave (who I always suspected was making it up about Bar-nolds-wick but now I'm sure when I heard Barnolds-wick being discussed on telly...much like Slawit...)

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Drawing My Arse Off

Phew!! Pretty knackered at the minute as I've been knuckling down and keeping to a pretty strict drawing schedule of about two hours a night of inking Monday-Thursday and at least a page of pencils a day over the weekend. Mostly this is fine (sometimes if it's a panel light page I can pencil or ink a whole page in just a few hours) but once or twice over the past wo weeks, I've stayed up really late (1.30 one Friday night after I got in round about 11.00pm!) to keep on this schedule, usually if I've lost a day to visit the cinema. Quality issues aside, I'm happy with the schedule and amount of work completed at the moment. I only have two pages on inks and one complete page of pencils and inks left and I've completed the Silver strip, then next month I'll knuckle down and start some more samples (if I can think what to draw!).

I still have to complete the cover to Pjang #3 too, which should be a fun job although I have to see if I've left enough room in the layouts I've started as I may lightbox things to move them down slightly. I've also said I'd do some artwork for someone working in our office. Adam's a great guy who is the local anti-social behaviour officer and a former comic reader, particularly liking Green Lantern and the Flash. I've turned him into a superhero called...Asbo Adam. The whole idea makes me giggle, particularly as this character will be run in the local full colour newsletter mag to all council tenants and will be involved in a competition and colouring activities for the kiddies (ahhh!).

I've done a few pics so far but this has led to two other officers requesting to be turned into super heroines! One requested a manga version (so it doesn't look like her, just like every other manga female really) and the other said she likes disco: resisting the initial urge to emulate Dazzler, the result was pretty similar anyway. Adm is also a comedy writer and has had interest in a few scripts and ideas he's written and I'll be working on a few illos for a 20-set hard boiled detective idea he's working on. Should be fun but I tried using a sharpie to see if I could emulate the heavy blacks of a Milt Caniff/Noel Sickles style strip but failed miserably so it'll be back to the Pilot pens for that.

I was also asked to produce a poster to go in our reception area, which will be printed in colour at A3. The good thing about this was I was given the necessary time to draw it in working hours so I was effectively paid to draw, so that was a welcome project. I came up with about ten rough variations on a theme, which were cobbled together and off I went. Drawing took from about 8.00am-10.45am (bar the odd interruption from intrigued co-workers) but I then coloured and lettered it at home, dropping in the required logo as necessary.

I scripted all but one page of Silver yesterday so hopefully, Silver, Pjang #3 and the detective illos will all be done within two weeks...
PS Uploading the third image above seems to have altered the colour drastically fr some reason, the original jpeg has all the proper colours..that bloke still looks like Vernon Kay though...

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Trek or Wreck?

Well, this week's biggest movie is the new Star Trek film and I duly went to see it, excited by the trailers but fearing the ghost of the original cast would loom over the proceedings. I grew up loving the original series and love the TOS movies (particularly II, IV and VI) but the rest of the shows are dull by comparison so I wouldn't class myself as a Trekkie...but Kirk is the kind of leading hero you rarely see anymore. So what was the film like?

Well, I won't reveal spoilers as it's too early to publicly discuss but the film opens really strongly. You're thrust into things not knowing who characters are, what's going on, when things are, etc and this works incredibly well to guide us into the journey of Kirk from rebel to captain. You need no knowledge of Trek at all (though there's a few nods to fans in the details) and the whole thing is given a nice lick of polish (though those of you who thought the bridge of the Enterprise looked like a mobile phone shop will at least know what brand they sell after this!). The effects are great, there are no slow bits at all and the action pretty much carries on throughout the entire movie.

There are surprises: a larger role for Uhura than expected, a surprisingly good Scottish accent by Simon Pegg (though his wife is of the Scottish persuasion so he should have plenty of practice!) and a more pivotal role for Leonard Nimoy than expected. The new Kirk is pretty good actually...never quite reaches Shatner's easy charm but ably fills his boots otherwise. Quinto is great as Spock, at no point making me think of Sylar (so that's a feat in itself!) and Uhura is likable for the first time (she always seemed so confused on the TV show and undeservedly up herself in the movies).

There are a few niggles: Karl Urban pulled off a great DeForest Kelly approximation as Bones but still came across as kind of bland and the weird facial skin of Kirk and Spock's five O'clock shadow become weirdly distracting. Similarly, the perennially youthful Winona Rider seemed suddenly aged and the internal debate about whether they aged her to be believable as Spock's mum or if that's her natural look threw me out of the film in places (though that may say more about the random thoughts that distract me in films!). The plot doesn't really kick in until midway in a really fast-spoken info dump and I was like "Was that the plot they were just explaining there?". The second half of the film kind of steam rolls on to a satisfying but not great finale. There were a few jokes but nobody laughed at them.

So, overall? Great fast-paced reinvention but lacking the deeper plots and characterisation of the earlier films...

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Arty Farty Had A Party

Been a few tumbleweeds blowing through here recently so thought I'd post a quick update and after rejecting a post about how much I hate public transport (when really it boils down to the people on public transport), gonna revert to the old art posts again.

I picked up an issue of Crikey! to read on the train and enjoyed the article on Romero, who used to draw both Axa and Modesty Blaise. I've never read any Modesty but always liked the idea but the density of the recent collections can be off putting...I think I need to look at them again for another considered choice for a purchase. I thought I'd try a Modesty Blaise pic but don't like her usual hairdo so changed it, resulting in a fairly generic 60s gal instead. Dunno if I'll ever get around to colouring this as it's only so/so.

After a few quick points for Rol (a logo to send to Dave and thumbnailed cover designs for Rol's approval), work continues apace on Silver. I lost some pencilling time this weekend due to catching up with pals in London but still managed to complete two pages of pencils (plus the Modesty pic). I was quite chuffed to manage a whole page of inks tonight and realise that's due to few panels with minimal backgrounds. I'm still worried about these pages being panel heavy but I'm trying to keep the page count as low as possible as I want to get started on submissions next month. I've worked out the general plot for this story but still need to complete all the layouts but I reckon another six pages will bring the page count up to 13, which will probably run alongside a touched up reprinting of the last Silver one-shot, probably with a short new conclusion to that long-forgotten cliffhanger.