Making a comic

I made a comic for my dad’s 60th birthday recently. It’s the first time I’ve made a comic and the first time I’ve ever really dealt with making something in print. It was a lot more work than I expected, so I’ve got a whole new appreciation for comic book artists, inkers, colourists and writers. I basically learned a bunch of stuff that in hindsight should have been really obvious.

I screwed up:

  • My margins. I just assumed that if I worked on Bristol board with an even margin on everything, I’d just be able to make it fit nicely when I scanned it and set the page. Of course, the physical paper size of Bristol board does not in fact match the aspect ratio of the classic printed comic book that I wanted to create. Thus, I have margins on the top and bottom of pages that are too large. Obviously.
  • Where to focus my energy. I thought the colouring was going to be the bit that took forever. That, and cleaning up the line work and all that fiddly stuff.  Turns out, Photoshop makes that stuff really fast if you just watch, like, 2 youtube videos and keep a simple palette (even then, I made some compositions overall too dark while others were too light). The bit that took me forever was figuring out what to actually put in the panels and then the physical act of hand drawing them. I should have applied what I’d learned from my actual career and lead with the user stories and got that bit down before worrying about the UI.
  • The subject and style. Rabbits are basically expressionless blobs. They are terrible visual subjects for storytelling. I’d have had an easier time if I’d gone more cartoony and/or more fantastical.
  • The story telling. I am not a writer. I do not know how to construct a story. I can barely string a blog post together. Comics are apparently 99% creative writing and creative writing is so, so hard.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make another one – maybe if someone gave me a story to draw? – but I’m glad to have tried it.

XOXO, trying new old things

Back from XOXO. Noticed Andy Baio tweeting that some folks quit their job the day after getting back from the festival. I wonder what they left to go and do? Probably something they don’t consider work.

I can sympathise. If it wasn’t for the fact that I a) took 6 months off last year, attempting a little freelance, nearly going completely bonkers and b) actually sort of like the routine of a proper job, then I can see the appeal. I’d love to spend more time on non-work things. I don’t, though, inevitably because I’m embarrassed that I’ll do whatever it is as badly as I do my day-job.

However, I have been trying to do more non-work things on the side and just ignore that fear as best I can.

When I was a kid, I drew a lot. I wasn’t even totally bad at it. I drew and painted so much, art college was not an entirely crazy direction I considered. That never happened, partly because I had a really bad art teacher towards the end of my foray into taking art seriously that she totally put me off for years, and big part of me has always regretted letting that happen. Regretting is, of course, stupid, because I have a really good life now and I enjoy the work I do and blah blah blah wouldn’t be here today, etc. But still, I do wonder sometimes.

Matthew Sheret started a “30 days of music” to get out of his writing rut. I played along and found setting aside a little bit of time to think about some music every day very relaxing.

I started a “30 days of drawing” to try and have the same effect on myself on a thing I wish I did more of. It’s partially worked. On the one hand, I have drawn more in the last couple of months than I have in the last 10 years, but I haven’t managed to finish the 30 days, partly because I was spending too long on each piece. I guess I failed at sticking to my own rules (quick, non-precious, drawings), but it has succeeded in making me not ashamed to try something and I’ve had better outcomes than I thought I was capable of. I genuinely thought I’d forgotten how to draw and paint.

Dormouse

I’m going to keep doing this. This is a thing that I do now.

The Christmas Bunny book prop & illustration work

One of the things I enjoy doing that isn’t web related is illustration, and last week I was asked to create a set of illustrations and a book prop for Patrick‘s short-film, The Christmas Bunny. The film was shot this weekend past, and is in the editing stages, but I thought I’d share some photos of the prop and illustrations.

Tooth Fairy book illustration

Children sleeping book illustration

See the rest of the shots on flickr.

Making the book

For those interested, the illustrations were drawn on white bristol board and inked with fast-dry black pigment liner, and then scanned and printed on to light-weight (80gsm) cream paper and cut to size with a craft knife. I then had some trouble figuring out the best way to attach the pages to the ancient book we found on ebay, without permanently damaging it.

I ended up bracing the illustration and text pages with extra blank sheets on either side, binding the edge with masking tape. Then I used some partially dried glue stick (pritt-like) which I could pinch pieces off and roll into sausage shapes and press into the masking-tape spine, to create a malleable, but strong, join for the pages to move on. No super-glues I had seemed to work as well as this rather Blue Peter-esque technique. The best thing about the glue-stick solution is that it rubs off the paper anywhere that it shows, so the join is seamless.

It was a nice little project and I’m really glad to have been able to contribute to the film in some way. The first two illustrations and title are used as the introduction to the film, with a narrative voice-over and music, and the final illustration is used as the outro. Hopefully I’ll get to do some more illustration work in the future.