Friday, October 14, 2011

9 Panel Grid

How fine a line can you get away with using a 9 panel grid?

I'm in the midst of a challenging SF story in which I'm using the grid and almost every panel is packed with activity. I worked up this test panel as a style test and I kept questioning how thin I could go with the inks. I used a stiff Japanese nib (a zebra I think) and a 0.1 Micron.

Working "half up" is certainly essential for the amount of detail I'm going for, however it adds to the difficulty of knowing whether the lines will be too thin when shrunk back down. I printed this off at actual size and it felt pretty good. However, it's kind of hard judging it alone, without 8 other panels surrounding it.

I was reading here about how Moebius was facing the same issues when he dipped his toe into American Comics with Silver Surfer. His thin lines would often completely disappear - granted, printing reproduction has come a long way since the 80's. Perhaps I should be more concerned wiht how it will look on an iPad.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ligne claire

I've been toying with an open line style for a very 2000AD inspired short story and it's been a real challenge. I think what makes it so difficult is that you can't get away with suggesting information, you actually have to provide all the details. Feng Zhu talks about this here:

I've been looking at a lot of HergĂ© and Moebius for inspiration. It's kind of mind boggling to read that Moebius often works straight with pen - and that “there is no such thing as a mistake”

File this image under "not healthy for artists who arn't Moebius too look at"

Monday, August 1, 2011

Oh, the Horror - 64 color palate

Back in May when I was coloring my mock EC cover, I decided I wanted to emulate the look of 1950's color as much as possible. I read up on the limited colors that were available at the time and googled to see if someone had made a photoshop palate of these (64) colors. On that day (Saturday, May 21st) I didn't find what I was looking for, so I decided it would be faster to make one myself. I took a half hour and used this chart as a guide. It worked out fine, but I found the colors a bit too vibrant and wanted to give it an older, yellowed look so I overlay-ed some yellow and was off to the races.

Well - a couple days later (Monday, May 23), I fired up twitter and did a double-take - everywhere I looked someone was retweeting Ed Piskor's post where he presents a 64 color photoshop palate, which he made the exact same way I had! It was very surreal.

His version was much tidier then mine and it's what I've been using since! Thanks for sharing Ed!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Inking struggles

These past couple weeks I've jumped into inking the two new stories I've been working on. Here is a list of my concerns so far:

1. Graphic Design - Within each panel and for the page overall. Keeping the shapes interesting, contrasting, and clear is a real tough battle. I've been experimenting in photoshop with the pencil tool, as it allows me to test out a whole bunch of different relationships between light and dark - also it's easier to work white over black.

2. The tools - I spent a good portion of one session struggling to get my tools working right. My ink had gone watery and I couldn't get a line out of my crow quill without dipping it in water constantly. When the tools don't feel right it's very difficult to concentrate on the lines I want to put down.

3. Vision - I kept leaping into panels without a solid vision of what I wanted them too look like. It's hard to be satisfied when you don't really know what you want.

4. Time - I've already spent hours on these pages and I can't help but feel anxious to see them finished. Also, working in the morning means I always have a deadline , so the ticking clock can stress me out.

5. Inking for color - I find it hard to know what too leave for the coloring stage and what needs to be present in the black and white art. I'd like to try a purely black and white comic soon - and see how I fair without the security blanket color provides.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Working in the morning

In May 2010, I decided to try out a morning routine for my personal drawing time. This seemed like a really crazy idea at the time, as I was not a morning person at all. Nevertheless, I was tired of working all day, and most days not drawing until 10 at night - so I figured it was worth a shot. I set the alarm to 5am and gave it a shot. Well, it's July, 2011 and I haven't looked back! In fact, I now have the alarm set for 4:30am and sometimes even 4am.

Here are some pros and cons of my new lifestyle:


• I draw every day (almost without fail). No matter what happens in a day - overtime at work, family commitments, etc. - I have already logged my time at the board while everyone else was asleep.

• I solve problems better in the morning. I may be a bit groggy when I first sit down at the drafting table, but once I've got some coffee in me and cbc classical in my ears - I'm ready to tackle the page.

• It's quiet. The phone isn't ringing. The house is still. The internet is even boring at that hour. It's a great work environment.


• I'm kind of a square at parties. I get pretty tired around 9:30 and If I can I'll go to bed by 10.

• If I have some good flow going at the board - come time for the day-job - I have to stop. I do miss the ability to be able to keep working (through the night)

• Conversely, if I had bad flow at the board - living with that all day can be quite painful. (although the brain often works away at solving these problems when I'm away - so maybe this is a pro as well)

I still wish I had more time to work with, but that's a common complaint. If you are a creative who waits til late at night to do your thing - I recommend at least trying a morning routine. Give yourself a few days or weeks to get used to it - It could be worth it!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Repitive Strain Injury (RSI) and YOU

For the past couple years I've been dealing with repetitive strain injury (RSI) in both my wrists (well forearms really). It's been quite frustrating to deal with and taking long breaks from extra curriclar work (comics) just depressed me and didn't help much. Here are some things I've done that have helped - I should note that from reading stuff online it seems that no two instances of RSI are the same - so keep that in mind.

*Ideally you avoid these measures by always taking breaks (see number 4 below)

1. Doctor / Physiotherapist - I went to both a doctor and a physiotherapist. They ruled out carpal tunnel and tennis elbow and set me up with some stretches.

2. Braces - When I draw or use a computer I wear a wrist brace like this
Its ugly and gets uncomfortable - but it really helps the tendons. When both wrists were bad I wore them on both hands. When my whole arm was feeling bad I would wear an elbow brace as well. Thankfully, I'm down to just one brace on my drawing hand.

3. Stretches - I've tried a whole bunch of things. I kept up a good regiment with these stretches - but ultimately found they didn't help a lot. I used a resistance band to strengthen my wrists for a while, but eventually ditched the band in favor of 5 pound weights.

I do repetitions as in the above video EVERY morning, first thing before I draw. I actually keep the weights next to my drafting board.

4. AntiRSI software - This application has made a HUGE difference. It monitors your keyboard and mouse (or tablet) input and forces you to take micro breaks (I have it set to 12 seconds every 4 minutes) and full work breaks (6 minutes every hour). It can be very annoying to have to stop but the benefits far out-way the annoyance - and it's free!

5. Fat Grip - Scott McCloud's post on this very subject matter has this at number 1. And with good cause. I've got all my tools taped up and it is way more comfortable. Try it out!

6. Avoid Touchscreens / videogames - My wrist pain is really a result of very small movements of my tendons. I can place tennis with no pain at all, but scrabble on the ipod touch had to be deleted. Videogame controllers are also bad news. I spent a month paying for one night of COD with the guys. Lesson learned!

There are more things I've changed - and I will probably get around to writing about this subject a bit more in the future.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


I've been working on my first new sequentials since I took more then a year off to study. I'm quickly realizing that whatever my old process was, it doesn't really apply anymore. I've been doing my best to compartmentalize the steps, but I can't help but feel overwhelmed by all the different concerns - draftsmanship, storytelling, design etc.

It helps to look at the process of other artists. The Work in Process blog is a fantastic resource too study. I only wish you could pause between the different stages or manually cycle through them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Modern Vintage

I'm a big fan of art that looks/sounds old, but isn't old!

I love the idea of digging into the past and finding some warmth and humour in outdated production techniques. It's something I'm trying to tap into with my new comics work.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Oh, the Horror - Title Design 2

I refined the rough title treatment. I tried my best to keep an eye on spacing and character weights and all that important typographic stuff, but sure enough some issues arose. I decided I'd do the drop shadow for "Oh, the" in photoshop as getting it dead on was a major pain. I liked the treatment for "Horror" but I felt the character weights were too inconsistent.

The end result:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Oh, the Horror - Title Design 1

For my EC Comics Homage I wanted to try my hand at some hand-lettered type. So I cracked out the graphing paper and found a bunch of reference for the title. Here are a few things I looked at. First up, title cards from Batman the Animated Series.

I also looked at some older horror movie titles.

And of course I had a good look at the EC titles themselves

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Oh, the Horror - Pencils and Perspective

The big struggle with this image was figuring out the perspective. It's a 3-point perspective image and I used the shortcut described on James Gurney's blog to get my grid in place. This method keeps you from having to keep track of vanishing points that are way off your canvas.

*Note to anyone using this trick - If you are curious how to fill in the holes left in your grid (see this image), just temporarily extend your markings up or down off your canvas using a piece of scrap paper, mark off those missing lines and you're in business. Thanks to Mr. Gurney for clarifying that for me.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oh, the Horror - Thumbnail

This is a thumbnail for a fake EC Comics style cover. I used the storyteller app to randomly get an idea for a morality tale typical of EC. The theme "Beggars can't be choosers" captured my imagination and I started with these sketches.