Indeed, this project has taken a lot more work than anticipated and I anticipated a lot. However, my editor and publisher want to get it right. Doing things outside the box means a lot of growing pains and learning as you go. Been a ton of that.
So, as it goes right now, I’m streaming words for book two, as you can see in the photo. Yes, that’s a tiger with a rabbit in its mouth and it’s not what you think. Unless you think it’s something more than a tiger with a rabbit in its mouth. Then you’re on the right track. I have a solid, working outline of book two. Nine chapters in, I’m discovering lots of cool bits that don’t show up when you outline stories. The focus on book two is getting the words down, fast and furious. Type it into the box with all the circuits and such, cut of the jagged edges and send it off to my ridiculously patient editor. By that time she should be sending me the manuscript for book one. That needs final line edits, final art direction and final, final art.
While things have been delayed quite a bit, the good news is we’re figuring out this odd way of slipping from prose to art and art to prose and a few variations in between. The other good news is that there won’t be a delay between books. That, right now, is key. And the first webcomic companion will finish its run soon. There’ll be another companion right after that one, which should be much less experimentally. More on that later after I finish torturing my Lamy on this draft.
So, in the little cracks of time between rewriting and illustrating the novel, I manage to patch together these DeD collections. Usually I spend twenty minutes a night browsing through the archive until I have enough strips for a full volume, about 128 pages with three strips on each.
Then, in those same nooks of time, I design and finish the cover. That’s where I am now, and here is the initial art for volume three. Still needs a few tweaks. It takes a while when you only spend a few minutes a day on it, but I hope to have this out by December.
Not Final Art
We’re now in the process of Frankensteining together book one. Still some edits, nips and tucks and art changes to be done. But we’re getting to the point of seeing where everything goes and what goes where and making up rules as we go.
On the art side of things, I’m laying out the structural thumbnails of the finished art while also finalizing the style. So far, I like the layout of the shots, but the art became to rigid and lifeless. Mostly because I was so focused on getting the perspective and anatomy down, the line work became mechanical. The good thing is that, as long as I have a solid foundation, I can easily focus on redrawing the characters and such with more vitality. Part of that is creating a character reference sheet. Get their sizes, looks and styles down. Here are the latest samples from that sheet of the three main characters. Still some more tweaking to go.
Shooting a small flock with one stone here. I used this shot not only to highlight the mood of this scene, but to visually set up a few things for later. Avoiding spoilers, so I won’t point them out. However, they are not necessarily plot points I am foreshadowing, but more like markers that will demonstrate how much has changed a little later on.
Another drawing to set the scene. No sequentials or dialog on this one. A bit more traditional in the sense that it’s just a visual for the scene. It’s more to set the tone of Emma’s darkening journey. On the left side I used a cutaway technique to make the page appear torn in the shape of the entrance into the theater.
Here’s a two page spread from chapter seven. Might have to makes some changes if some of the prose ends up on the left side. Again, spoiler filter on, so I won’t divulge exactly what this scene is. This two page spread accomplishes several things. First off I can visually set the mood that flows from the text. Second, I can show all the important bits instead of spending several paragraphs describing what you see here. And my favorite bit, I can drop in Easter eggs that relate to book two.
Here’s the opening to chapter seven. When last we left Alex, he was locked up in the tower. So when it came time to switch back to him, I decided to go right into sequentials to give it that movie feel. Unlike comics, I decided, for the most part, to keep the panels a uniform size, much like a movie screen. When each panel is the same your mind tends to run the images together, just like a film. I think, at this point, I would only change the panel structure if it was integral to the storytelling.
One type of illustration that seems to occur more often than others is the end of chapter spot illustration. For whatever reason I like to include some drawing or sequential at the end of chapters. In one sense, it’s a natural way to plow from prose into a drawing and “end scene”. Ideally I want the drawing at the end of a chapter to make the reader want to turn the page or, as in the next example, leave them with an “uh-oh” foreshadowing moment.
This piece comes at the end of another chapter where two of the characters are heading into ramshackled theater. A cliffhanger that sticks in the readers mind until we get back to these two people. In this particular scene, I didn’t want to darken the whole page as I did with the interior shot of the tree. Like I said, that’s a technique I don’t want to overuse, because it’ll lose its impact and too much of white text on black is annoying.
Instead, I surrounded the two characters with almost completely black buildings to achieve the same sense of dread.
This book started with an empty toolbox for blending illustration and prose. As I go along certain techniques pop up, but I don’t want to over use them. It also has to make sense within the context of the story. Here for example, two of the characters are walking into the rough section of the city. Dilapidated factories, boarded up shops, anything that represents the collapse of the magical industry. Instead of bloating the prose with description, i decided to “wall in” the text with the buildings surrounding the characters. This, again hopefully, not only conveys some of the description visually but also mirrors the characters experience. And it was also a chance to slip in a bunch of magician references.
Continuing on from the last piece I posted, which was a sequential scene of the characters approaching the tower. Here we are on the next page, and I’ve overlayed the prose onto the scene inside the tower. The illustration naturally lent itself for this, and again, the large black space not only allowed room for text but helped carry over the looming, shadowy feel from the preceding tower drawing.
I’m trying not to overuse this technique, because other than this instance, it feels like cheating or kind of lazy. it just happened to work with the feelings I wanted to project in this scene.
Had to share this one for all of you reading the speed drawing experiment that is the Conjurers webcomic. You can probably guess who the boy is falling out of the sky. Completely different style than in the comic, but I think his general essence comes through. Keep reading the webcomic to see how he gets here.
This is a two page spread from chapter five. There will be a bit of text above the drawing on each page. I wanted an introductory drawing of the city for the reader. Now, I could easily spend weeks just adding more and more detail to every nook and cranny, however, time-wise I had to stay focused on what this spread needed to accomplish.
Using a distant vanishing point, the drawing creates a sense of depth as if you are riding into the city. The same view as the main characters. So while there are no panels or dialog on the page, hopefully the picture tells at least three hundred words. Leaving out the sky was not so the text would be clear on a white background, but to give it a pop up book illusion, as if the buildings are standing up and out from the page. Maybe it works or maybe it was a cool idea with poor execution. Let me know what you think.
Quick screen crap of my process. This is a two page spread at the end of chapter five. Inking and flatting are done. Now I’m adding hard line shadows. After that, I build up the more subtle shading then add some texturing. The text will flow around these illustrations and below the two panels on the right page.
I’m getting more comfortable with this process, mostly from doing it a lot. I’m usually a mess, never doing the same technique twice, but a project like this needs consistency.
Moving along with the art from chapter four. This posted piece is a two page spread. The previous page is all prose ending with the kids entering the carriage. You flip the page and voila, you get to see what they see. I needed to accomplish a lot in this spread. First off, I’m setting up the interi
or of the carriage (it comes up again later) but more importantly, I get to show a little of what the Grubians do as opposed to just chatting about it in the prose.
Meanwhile, the dialog helps set up some more important elements, all set against a static background where the characters move from panel to panel, hopefully giving it a cinematic effect as opposed to hopping from panel to panel.
A while back I posted some concept sketches of puppets. Thought I’d share how they ended up and why I used puppets. In chapter four of the novel we happen upon some characters, who, while they are major characters, also happen to be travelling puppeteers. That profession may or may not be a cover for more nefarious endeavors. No spoilers.
So this presented an opportunity to drop in critical backstory and, being that parts of the novel are illustrated, what better way to sneak in said bit of backstory by illustrating the puppet show. The prose transitions into the sequentials I’ve posted below. It is a very rudimentary creation myth as told by puppets.
Of course I would find a way to work puppetry into the Conjurers. This is an origin story told with puppets. And this part of the novel uses sequential art, so you get to watch the puppet show.
Wow. What a ride. To be fair, I’ve been a big fan of both these creators for a long time, so getting this was agiven. But man, this a crash course in how to do comics. Like holding a movie in your hands. Highly recommend not missing this title.