Behind the scenes of the 29 Day Comic Project

Yesterday’s post of page 28 concluded the GONE storyline and I wanted to wrap up the month with a couple of posts that took a look back at the project and just what went into it. For today’s post I thought it might be interesting to take a look behind the scenes and show how each page was created.

Rough ideas as I tried to work out what the cover should feature.

I pretty much stuck with my normal process for creating a page and started with thumbnails, then roughs, tighter pencils, then inks which are then scanned and cleaned up in the computer before the textures are added. Here’s a closer look at the whole process:

Thumbnails
I usually figure out how tell the story, the overall pacing and panel composition in very rough thumbnails. As you can see from the picture below, these aren’t always legible (I can sometimes go back to a sheet of thumbnails months later and have no idea what I was thinking at the time!). I tend to use the same process for my comic work that I use when I design publications – so using a pencil I’ll roughly draw out all the pages in spreads (in order) and get down what I think will go on the page. The benefit of using a pencil for me is that I can go back and erase something that doesn’t work at any point.

Scripting pages consisted of constant hand written story and dialogue that I then typed up in Google Docs and edited there.

I worked on the thumbnails constantly throughout the project and that meant a few revisions as I tried to pace out the story (you can see my notes written beside the pages). One of the things that I found out through this process is that I tend to do all the writing and pacing well in advance of any artwork and that takes me awhile. Since I was constrained by doing one page a day, you’ll notice that I was 14 days (and therefore 14 pages) into the project when I realized that I needed to alter the overall pacing of the story to get it to break down into a more formal three act format. This meant inserting a new page five followed by the four page “interlude” where the bank robbery is described. Once I had that figured out, the story seemed to flow better.

Overall, I really wanted to break away from the solid grid that I’ve used so far with the On the Verge stories. Around the start of February I went into my local comic store and purchased the first bunch of the new BATMAN comics with artwork by Greg Capullo. I was a huge Capullo fan back when he was doing the monthly Spawn comic and I think his first batch of Batman work is so much better! It’s really cool to see how much his art has matured. Anyway, I’m sure this really influenced my panel choices on this project and it was a nice change of pace.

Roughs and pencils
I tend to use a couple of ways to draw a page and it really depends on what’s happening on the page for which I use. I rough out pages at a fraction of the size – usually in pen but sometimes in pencil depending on the type of drawing involved. I like using pen since it requires me to draw directly and not erase anything. I find that I get more interesting linework and compositions this way. When I use a pencil it’s too easy to erase something awkward and that means losing something interesting.

You can see in the images below that I’ve done both here (and erased too, oops!) as well as some of the scripting for the pages. Some of the drawing is pretty tight and some is really loose. From the rough stage, I scan the art, enlarge it in Photoshop to the proper specs, then print that out and transfer it to watercolour paper where I tighten up the drawing. This double hit of drawing essentially lets me be really loose with the roughs and get some interesting drawing down on paper and then refine the drawing and add in more detail with the penciling on the watercolour paper.

For this project I tried out something that I’d been thinking about for a couple of years – I worked at 50% the final print size. Usually most illustration and comic art is done larger and then reduced for print since this allows for greater detail in the artwork, but I was curios about going in the other direction and what that would do to the linework. This was the perfect project to try something like this out since I was turning out a lot of art in such a narrow timeframe and the smaller art size meant not as much page to cover. All-in-all I was happy with how the final artwork looked, so it might be something that I’ll explore again in the future.

The arrows between the pages were for me to figure out the overall flow (shouldn’t I already know that?).

Inks
The final bit of analogue work before I jumped on the computer to finish things off was inkwork. I normally use a combination of quill, brush and pen for any inkwork and I was looking to change that up. I find that I really rely on the line quality that I can achieve with a quill quite a bit and I’ve probably done this since I was about 15. So I made the overall decision that I could only use a pen and brush on this project and this meant that my linework had to evolve – something that I think started to happen about halfway through the project. In fact, by the end, I think I was starting to get a much cleaner line but greater variety.

Colour and textures
As I mentioned during my weekly project updates in February, I made the decision at the last minute to add colour/texture to the artwork so that it looked more like the rest of the On the Verge artwork that I’ve published online. This meant things were a mad scramble for the last week-and-a-half of the project. The only thing that was new about this process was my decision to go with completely black & white art which is (again) something I’d been toying with for awhile but hadn’t found the time to incorporate.

Lettering
This project gave me the opportunity to try out some different typography ideas. I didn’t start the project intending to do something more typographic on some pages, but when the opportunity presented itself, I thought it was worth exploring. Comics have such a rich typographic language that I think often gets overlooked in the homogeneous computer lettering that seems to currently dominate the industry. I’ve always been curious about how I can mine that visual language and tell a story just with the lettering alone. The “interlude/bank robbery flashback” of pages 8-11 starts to explore this idea.

Conclusions…
This project really forced me to just draw. There wasn’t a lot of time to really worry about all the little details and it’s interesting for me to go back and see how things evolved over the course of the project.

So that’s it for today, but be sure to tune in tomorrow for my final thoughts on the whole project!

About jason

Illustrator and graphic designer. When not working full time as a Senior Graphic Designer, I am usually working on the graphic novel On the Verge: the Arrow of Time. Artist on Andrew Jackson in Space and The Sisters.

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