Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Comic Storytelling Workshop basics

A few weeks ago I was an instructor at the 1FW Workshop where I was asked to lead a small group discussion about comic storytelling. In the year prior when I was an instructor, I didn't do much prep for my small group talks, expecting that they'd be a bit more like round-table discussions...but this year I wanted to come prepared.

So I loaded on my iPad the script, layouts/pencils, inks, and final colors/letters to be able to show my process and help demystify the process before opening up to attendees' specific comic storytelling questions and concerns. In this post, I'll share those materials, from the FCBD story: 'The Tale of the Wild Wolf'

This 8 page story started with an outline/script. I tend not to over-write, or even break down beats into panels. I'm bad with denoting what is a word balloon of dialogue, what is narration text, and what is description for me to know what's happening. But that's also because as the writer AND artist, I can be a little more loose with this process. It's like an idea purge. I'm just trying to get it all out before I worry about how it fits into panels or what scenes are on which pages.

I'll then print out my script and mark it up with pencil to make notes of where page breaks seem like they fit. Sometimes that's based on experience of knowing what could/should fit on a page, while other times, it's just a gut feeling that the break should be...there. I may doodle up some thumbnails or make notes about some bit being its own panel...but I leave a lot of that for the next step.

I'll then start pasting all the dialogue and narration into a photoshop template I have for my pages, giving each page the text that my marked up scrip calls for. I almost always break my panels on the 1/3 lines of the page, and then make decisions about scenes and how they'll fit. Sometimes the most important bit in a scene needs to be a certain shape (tall, wide, big) and then I have to just puzzle in the other panels around it--other times it's about needing a certain number of beats (this happens and then I need two reaction panels, or I need to show the before, during and after of an action)

I draw characters and panel backgrounds on copy paper often drawing those elements separately, then scanning them and combining them in my page template. That way I can resize, rotate, and manipulate each element individually (the various parts of the drawing tinted different colors gives you a clue as to what are different drawings). The wolf photo on page 6 was a cheat after I'd already drawn a wolf there I hated, inked it, and woke up the next morning with the deadline looming feeling the need to change it...and hopefully in my next step, I didn't make it look like a photo trace, but a seamless part of my artwork...

I print out each of my page layouts and then tape them to the back of bristol board. On my lightpad I'm able to see through the surface of the bristol to use the printout underneath to guide me as I ink..

Here I add all the texture and line weight, pattern, and density that helps turn a pencil sketch into a real inked panel. And making sure that I applied all my stylistic mark making to the wolf on page 6, it doesn't look out of place or an overly photo referenced panel compared to the others.

With the inks finished, I scan them and then color them digitally. This story has a large flashback, so I gave it an orangey-sepia style color story. With the colors set, I also add the balloons and dialogue boxes and make final polishes to the lettering. 

2020 Appearances Coming Soon...

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Model Building Workshop Session

A few weeks ago I was an instructor at the 1FW Workshop. And as a hands-on demonstration, led a group in building an architectural model. My goal wasn't so much to show how useful they are––both for drawing complex geometric perspective from any angle, but also in exploring a space for the right composition...but instead to show that it was possible for them to make these themselves. That the time commitment isn't outrageous, it doesn't take a lot of building knowledge, or special materials, or expensive tools.

In this blogpost I'll go over the basics of what I showed them.

I started with photos of some of my Mouse Guard architectural models. I wanted to give them a smattering of some that were interior and some that were exterior, some that had little applied details (used just for geometry) and some that had lots of paper textures applied. Some were only a few pieces of cardstock, and some were much more complex plywood that had to be cut and drilled with power tools to achieve. The point was that you can make these as complex and detailed or simple and basic as you have the time, experience, and tools for.

Then I announced the project itself: we were going to group build a tower. I loaded my iPad with Google image search results of various towers. I tired to get a variety of towers. Ones that were widest at the base and tapered smaller all the way to the peak. Towers that had a wider top level, towers from various cultures, towers with function, towers that were decorative, and symmetrical & asymmetrical towers.

And our goal wasn't to recreate one of these exactly, but to pick out design choices we liked as a group to include into our model.

Next was the presenting of materials:
Cardboard (single and double corrugated––all scavenged shipping boxes), rulers, x-acto knives, a cutting mat, a pack of basswood scraps (purchased at a local hobby store), sandpaper (using up discs I have for a palm sander that bit the dust years ago) and 3 types of glue: Hot Melt (not pictured) for anything structural, Super Glue for anything that required finesse, and glue stick for applying paper patterns and details to flat surfaces (I'd usually use spray adhesive here, but to cut down on mess, I went with glue stick)...

And lastly, sheets and sheets of patterns and textures and building elements I cobbled together from Google image searches printed out on copy paper.

For my models, I'd print these as-needed and to the exact scale my model required...but for the workshop I just came prepared with a half dozen sheets of shingles, brick, stone, tiles, pavers, arches, wood elements, windows, doors and more.

The group was well attended. My only regret is that to get them started, I spent a lot of time building a lot of the first section myself instead of having them get in there and get into it faster. But, I did put knives and glue and paper and trim in their paws and got them making decisions about our tower.

One of the things I tried to impress on them was how rarely I measure using numbers. I'll cut something to a length that I like...say a wall, and then use that to trace to make the corresponding wall. Our use my thumb on a ruler as a depth gauge to mark out a piece. Sometimes setting the model down on a fresh sheet of cardboard to mark out the size the 2nd floor should be so that it overhangs the walls of the first floor. It's something my Dad taught me when woodworking, and something I still use to this day when building something for myself.

The session was a few hours and we got a good hunk of work done (unfortunately I don't have a photo of where we were when the group had to disband for the next workshop event), but we kept the space set-up so that in the free-work time later that night folks could come back up and continue to push the model forward. And with the help of some of the students (some that were in the first session and some that joined us anew in the evening) we finished this tower model:

If you have more interest in my architectural models, I have a YouTube Playlist here showing several of the models, materials I used to make them and how they helped me illustrate my stories:

2020 Appearances Coming Soon...

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Thankful for Mouse Guard contributors

While Mouse Guard is known as being my one-man show when it comes to the main book, I am so very thankful for the huge community of artists who have helped flesh out the visuals to the Mouse Guard books in their contributions of pinups, Legends of the Guard stories, and variant covers. Hopefully the volume of work in this post not only inspires all of you about the Mouse Territories and what lies beyond (and ahead), but also to show that no Guardmouse stands alone (even me).

Jeremy Bastian
(Pinups in Fall & story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Guy Davis
(Pinups in Fall & story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Rick Cortes
(Pinup in Fall)

Mark Smylie
(Pinup in Fall & story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Geof Darrow
(Pinup in Winter)

Stan Sakai
(Pinup in Winter & story in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

Craig Rousseau
(Pinup in Winter & story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Nate Pride
(Pinup in Winter & story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Sean Wang
(Pinup in Winter)

Jane Irwin
(Pinup in Winter)

Alex Sheikman
(Pinup in Black Axe & story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Sean Rubin (story by Alex Kain)
(Pinup in Black Axe & story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Duncan Fegredo
(Pinup in Black Axe)

C. P. Wilson III
(Pinup in Black Axe & story in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

S.M. Vidaurri
(Pinup in Black Axe)

Mike Mignola
(Pinup in Black Axe)

Serena Malyon
(Illustrated the Alphabet Book)

Ted Naifeh
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Gene Ha (Story by Lowell Francis)
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Terry Moore
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Katie Cook
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Jason-Shawn Alexander
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Karl Kerschl
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

João Lemos
(Epilogue in Legends of the Guard Vol.1)

Alex Eckman-Lawn 
(story by Nick Tapalansky)
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

Ben Caldwell
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

Christian Slade
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

Rick Geary
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

Jemma Salume
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

Eric Canete
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

Cory Godbey
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

Bill Willingham
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

Jackson Sze
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

Justin Gerard
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

Dirk Shearer
(Epilogue in Legends of the Guard Vol.2)

Mark Buckingham
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.3)

Skottie Young
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.3)

Hannah Lavender
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.3)

Nicole Gustafsson 
(Story by C.M. Galdre)
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.3)

Dustin Nguyen
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.3)

Kyla Vanderklugt
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.3)

Mark A. Nelson
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.3)

Jake Parker
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.3)

Ramon K. Pérez
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.3 & Variant Legends Cover)

Becky Cloonan
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.3)

Ryan Lang
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.3)

Aaron Conley 
(Story by Fabian Rangel Jr.)
(Story in Legends of the Guard Vol.3)

Lauren Pettapiece
(Epilogue in Legends of the Guard Vol.3)

Humberto Ramos
(Variant Legends Cover)

Eric Muller
(Variant Legends Cover)

2020 Appearances Coming Soon...

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