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Writing & Presentation
Drafts and Revisions:
2. Panel Layout
Dialogue Balloon Positioning:
Anatomy of a comic page:
o Examples of hybrid styles between east and west can be found in Alternative or Independent comics. Some examples:
· “I Kill Giants” by Joe Kelly and Ken Niimura.
· “Scott Pilgrim” by Brian Lee O’Malley
· “Demo” by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan
· “Blankets” by Craig Thompson
· Create a plus-shaped grid to overlay onto a character’s face. Using this grid as a “ruler”, you can apply features like a Mr. Potato Head. Using this technique you can move features around fairly easily until you find the sweet spots.
· To practice individual facial features (eyes, nose, mouth) etc., draw them individually until you feel comfortable applying them to the grid above.
· “Skeleton figures” come first when drawing bodies. This will make it easier to apply changes. When comfortable, this step can be combined with the next item:
· Fill in details of limbs (AKA “Sausage figures”), like those faceless wooden dolls. Try to break down every limb and joint into simple shapes like squares, rectangles and cylinders.
· Apply finer details to your characters (faces, hands, fingers, etc.).
· Then, finally, fill in details like clothing.
· Size ratios = Estimating a character’s height by comparing the size of their Head vs. their Body.
o “The ideal human” is traditionally considered to be 8 Heads tall.
o The average adult is somewhere around 6-7 Heads tall.
o Children might be around 4-5 Heads tall.
o Chibis are around 2-3 Heads tall.
· Proportion tip: A person’s arm span from left fingertip to right fingertip is often equal to their total height.
· Another proportion tip: To make a character look cuter, give it more baby-like features. (Big eyes, small nose/mouth, and so on.) To make a character appear intimidating, do the opposite.
· Body Language: Do the characters’ poses convey their emotion? (For instance someone slouched over might seem depressed at a glance, or standing tall with their shoulders back will seem confident.)
· Rendering spaces in three dimensions. The three dimensions:
o X-Axis = Width: Right to left.
o Y-Axis = Height: Up to down.
o Z-Axis = Depth: “Inward” and “outward”, (AKA toward you and away from you.)
· A ton of information on drawing in perspective can be found on YouTube. In most instances, you can get away with drawing in One-Point or Two-Point perspective. When you’re used to the technique, you’ll be able to eyeball it.
o Each “point” in perspective represents the line on a horizon where lines seem to converge somewhere on the Z-axis. As you practice, make a habit of looking for vanishing points everywhere you go, from the interior of a room to walking along a street.
· When drawing in perspective, treat each building and object as simple shapes. (A building can be a cube, for example.) Once you get the hang of this, filling in surface details (doors, windows, etc.) becomes easy.
Techniques and Discipline:
Practice (Getting your hand to obey you):
· Training your drawing hand can be time-consuming and repetitious, so any chance you get to have fun while practicing is very useful. In the end, all you have to do is put in those hours, like the basketball player shooting hundreds of baskets per day.
· A good mantra to keep in mind when practicing with real-life subject matter: “Draw with your eye, not your memory.” Real life is full of rich details that sometimes go against what we think those objects “should” look like. In other words: Draw what you see, not what you think you see!
o This is to help build your mental library for when you’re drawing comics, when you likely won’t have time to look at reference.
o By observing the world around you intently, you can even practice this without a pencil in hand.
· Draw a bunch of short stories, 5-20 page length.
· Draw several copies of the same object next to each other. The objects can range from simple to complex – the goal is to boost your consistency.
· Draw the same face with different expressions. Do this with as many different “characters” as you can, and with different camera angles.
· If you can, practice drawing objects and people in person, rather than from photographs or from a screen.
· With time, make a list of what you’re comfortable drawing vs. what feels difficult to draw. Continue developing your skill with the easier things until they become almost effortless, then switch to what you feel intimidated by.
· Practice drawing cubes and rectangles with 1-Point and 2-Point perspective. Then, pretend the shapes are buildings and try to draw a city block, complete with small people.
Checking your work:
· The “mirror trick: Periodically as you draw, hold your sheet of paper facing away from you, against a light source like a lamp or window. You should see your drawing mirrored, revealing areas that can be improved which slipped past your notice. Even expert artists like Da Vinci used this technique.
· Always sketch lightly and perform checks like the mirror trick before filling in details. That way, you have less work to erase if you want to make changes.
Relationship between Speed vs. Quality:
· Art quality in comics can be important, but never at the expense of speed. If we only have one week to draw a chapter, for example, it serves the story better to draw 100 medium-quality pictures than 10 high-quality.
o For this reason, getting comfortable with your drawing hand is very important.
· An extreme example of Speed vs. Quality is the “24-Hour Comic”, an event where participants draw 24 pages in 24 hours. This exercise forces creators to decide what is, and isn’t, important to draw within that very short time frame. (I did it once - while it was a valuable experience I definitely wouldn’t want to do it again!)
· To further illustrate this point, the work of Jeffrey Brown is notable because his earlier art could be considered to be unrefined, but his stories are numerous, well-constructed and interesting to read.
· Professionally speaking, a good goal is to be able to draw at least one page per eight hours. After that point, you can decide whether to spend more time on quality per page, or whether you’d like to draw even faster. (Remember, many manga-ka draw 18 pages per week. Even with 2-4 assistants, that’s still notable!)
· Working on one’s own, I would recommend only key panels should receive special attention.
· DVD Series: “The Story of Painting” – Sister Wendy Beckett
· Light pencils, maybe 2H or higher, for your under-drawings
· Micron Pens for finishing art
· A Triangle Ruler for measuring panels.
· Larger paper for your pages (I like 11”x14”)