The Story Begins

And so it finally begins. This is the first page of the Conjurers webcomic. And a new page shall follow every Monday. Thanks to all who waited an awfully long time for me to get my duff of the fence and get this webcomic part started.

And, as this arc is obviously named “Savachia’s Tale”, this first chapter of comics will follow the young street magician right up to his journey to the Conjurian. Which is to say this first story leads right into the first prose novel.

Once a week is not much of an updating schedule, but between cranking out another daily strip and a couple other book projects, it’s about all I can swing…for now. Rest assured, this first arc is plotted and revised so I know where we’re going. And there will be twists. Not everything is as it appears. This is the world of magicians after all.

Some pages from the Moleskine


Thought I’d post some quick thumbnails from the sketchbook. Currently I’m scripting the entire story arc for the first episode of the webcomic. Once that’s done I’ll start the breakdowns for each page.

The above image is a definite scene from page two. I’m learning as I go that I’m just not going to get as much into each page as I thought. Taking a cue from Freakangels, I’m going for bigger panels with concentrated drama. Originally I thought the panel above would be on the first page. Not the case. Pacing will be key, as will character development. The trick is to hook the reader enough to come back without becoming a melodramatic cliffhanger.

The image below is a quick sketch of one of my favorite creatures from the story. It appears in the opening chapters of the Novel, and will also appear in the webcomic. It’s just a skull, spine and arms shrouded in decaying robes:


I’ll keep posting images from the sketchbook along with my initial outlines for the webcomic. Try to document my process, including all the horrendous errors and wrong turns the writing will initially take.

Webcomic Process: Grayscale

Here’s another look behind the curtain on making a webcomic, or at least on how I do it. This is the grey stage. It’s the hardest part for me as I always want to charge ahead and splash colors all over everything and be done with it. That always ends in a mess.

Not that this won’t end in a mess, but by having a process in place, I’ll be able to improve the art over time and get it to where I want it. In this step I flatted all the figures. That means coloring them in with just grey.

After that, I throw in some subtle shadows and highlights. Subtle is the key word and it’s the hardest part of this hardest part.

The backgrounds are combos of vectorized photos and some square brush work. I’m trying to push the style towards something I’m not comfortable with which means further away from attempting to draw pure realism. A little abstraction adds some energy methinks.

And you can see just the inks in this post from a few days ago:

The Webcomic is Real!

As most of you know, I’m hard at work on polishing up the pitch for the novel. At the same time I am also working on the webcomic side of things, simply because A: I want to launch the comic this year, and B: I want to include a sample in the novel pitch.

So I thought I’d share the inks to page one of episode one. I’m not completely sold on the style, but I think I’ll let it improve and grow organically from here on out. Also, haven’t made the final decisions on colors, but I do know I want a painterly effect for the backgrounds (that’s why I haven’t drawn backgrounds in some of the panels.

And on a side note, I need to go clarify the about page. Bit confusing on what exactly “The Conjurers” is.

Cover Process – greys

In this step I dropped in subtle shadows and highlights. Keyword “subtle”. I always make the mistake of hacking in shadows and highlights and the end result is usually a horrid mess. Over the years, I’ve studied other painters and comic colorists and learned how just a slight color change makes a huge difference. For now the name of the game is control and preventing myself from rushing.

This step will get some more tweaks until I’m relatively happy. Then on to texturing.

Book Cover Process

I have a few processes going on right now because, well, I’m working on a bunch of them right now. This is a step from the sample cover illustration from the novel. At this stage, I’ve laid down all the flats. So now, I can focus in on specific areas one at a time.

It also makes it easy to select certain areas later on. If I want to lay in lighting effects behind the playing card, I can click on that layer and use it to mask out whatever is supposed to be behind the car.

In the next update, I’ll show you what it looks like with all the grey shadows and highlights finished.

Webcomic Cover Pencils

Rough photo of the rough pencils for the webcomic cover. This is Savachia, the star of the first story arc in the comic. He’s a secondary character in the novel (an important one though) and we’ll get to see how he ended up in the Conjurian in the first webcomic series.

He’s a little bit of David Blaine and a dash of Criss Angel. More importantly, he’s not what you initially think.

Illustration Process: Flatting

Here we go with the boring part of this illustration: flatting. In essence I’m blocking in color, or in this case, grays. Each major section of the illustration gets colored in with a flat color (hence “flatting”) and they’re each on their own layer. There are several advantages to this approach.

First off, I can adjust the tones until I get the atmosphere I want. And get the focal points where I want them. Second, having each element on its own layer makes the detailing and texturing steps a lot easier.

It looks sloppy but here’s the flat stage:


Another illustration

Here we go with the second sample illustration from the novel. I’m doing a bit better recording the process on this drawing. This drawing shows the arrival of Christopher Aggler and the two spying faces of Alex and Emma. Here is the scanned inks:


As you can see, the drawing had to be scanned in two parts and pieced together in Photoshop. I line up the two scans as best I can then use the eraser to “blend” the seam. After that I mess with the levels to get nice, crisp line art:


Once I’ve rid myself of the blue pencil lines, I convert the image to grayscale, select the gray channel and fill it with black on a new layer. Now I have all the black lines on a transparent sheet which makes the coloring process easier.

In the next installment I’ll show the flatting process (insert yawn here).

Progress on the Illustration

Making some progress on one of the sample illustrations for the novel pitch. The first image is the start of the flatting process. Each element gets painted in with its own solid color. For this drawing I’m working in three sections: foreground, middle ground and the background. By keeping the elements separate, it’ll make it a lot easier later on to establish depth and get the tonal range right.


In the illustration below, I’ve finished the flatting and have started working on the lighting and textures. And you can see where I started adding some fog in the middle ground. That’s when having the elements on separate layers makes things easy.


Hopefully the next installment will have the finished piece.

Illustration Process


As you can see, this is not a continuation of the previous post on my illustration process.

This one is titled “The Gate” (you can see the inks for this in the main post at the top of the page). I’ve scanned the final drawing in and have started the painting process. I would love to color these by hand with just ink washes, but I don’t have the setup to scan in final product. So I’m recreating the same technique in Photoshop.

At this stage, I’m laying in my greys and only focusing on getting the tones right. Then I’ll build up the shadows and lights with light washes until I’m reasonably satisfied.

The edges are sloppy for now, as I’m creating a custom border for all the illustrations. Needless to say that’ll go on last.

Building an Illustration, Part II

Continuing off the sketches I posted last time, here are the pencils for the actual drawing:


And a little closer up:


As you can see I’m keeping the pencils almost as loose as a seagull. An that’s hard for me. For years, I worked for hours creating spandex tight pencils before whipping out the ink.  My main focus is on the composition and the lighting. And those are two things I’ve always slacked on in the past.

And if I’m being perfectly honest, if the novel sells, I’ll probably re-do the sample illustrations. Just like in writing, re-drawing what you think is a ready to go layout usually brings about better results.

One last pic. Here’s the beginning of the inking process. I’ll have more details and pics on that in the next post:


Also, in the coming posts, I’ll write a bit more about the tools I’m using on this project.

Building an Illustration

I’m creating three or four sample illustrations to go along with the sample chapters from the novel. Thought I’d share the process from doodles to completed drawing.

This first one is popped out of chapter two: the arrival of eleven strangers to the mansion, focusing on man in particular. Choosing what to illustrate is the same as rewriting a chapter. You have to whittle it down to what’s important, or more importantly, what moves the story forward.

If you look in the top right corner of the page below you can see a thumbnail idea for the final drawing layout. The rest is just playing around with details until something sticks.


Here’s another page showing more of the main focus of the illustration. I’ve decided to go with more of a worms perspective, so the straight on guy in front of car is out. Although I think the sketch of the character is on track.


Also wanted to mention a charity cookbook project. I contributed a cartoon featuring Doug and Sophie. You can click on the link below to learn more and hopefully donate:

A long and winding road.

Hark! A new post! Indeed it is. Rather staggering when I look back at when I first started “The Conjurers”. It has been a wild road. Between then and now, I’ve published two books and have another picture book wrapped and ready for release next fall. Wedged in their also is book one for “Fussbucket” and of course the daily chronicles of Doug and Sophie.

So where am I now? In short I’m finishing up another from scratch pitch for “The Conjurers”. It consists of three chapters of text and a few sample illustrations. And that is what I’ll be documenting here, starting now. There’ll be posts on the re-writing process and, once my agent has something to show, bits and pieces about the hopeful sale of the novel.

mansion1_detail Let’s kick it off with the most recent piece of art. These are the preliminary inks for an illustration of the mansion at the beginning of the book. I’ve gone around the block multiple times on what style i want to use, and I think I’m close. The initial drawings are loose, sketchy but detailed inks. From there I’ll scan it in, add some grey washes in photoshop and a stylized border to fit the tone of the book. Seems like a lot of work to make a drawing look relatively haphazard and a touch sloppy.

Stay tuned. Lots more to come.