Chapter 7: Lettering

Since I lack the most important tool for this chapter’s activities, I’m going to have to go through what I learned theoretically and repost once I’ve completed the activities. This does not bide well for returning to work after two weeks of not working out of Abel & Madden’s Drawing Words & Writing Pictures.

Generally, in my experience with lettering, I’ve been predisposed to do it digitally. No only has most of my comics experience come from strictly digital endeavors, but my handwriting always comes out rather scrunched and terrible so even if I could write out my letters by hand, it never really turned out well.

Ever since I was little, about elementary school age, I had a habit of writing in different styles to try and invoke different feelings or moods. So I guess I’m naturally predisposed to this whole hand-lettering business, where you’re drawing each of the letters rather than simply writing them. I never really thought of it that way, but now it just makes sense. And since the lettering is done by the same hand that drew the pictures, there’s a cohesiveness to the whole comic that gets lost with digital lettering. (One of my former professors stressed how much he preferred hand-lettered versus computer-lettered and I never fully understood why until now.)

There’s this nifty tool that comics artists use to help get their letters in the right size and shape. It’s called Ames Lettering Guide. I don’t have one. (Yet.) Which is why there are no pictures in this post. Anyway, the lettering guide is great. It’s this somewhat rectangular shaped object with a disk in the middle with lots of holes drilled into it. Once you figure out how to use it (which Abel & Madden describe wonderfully), it makes lines on the paper in the appropriate size and ratio for you to write your letters! Think of the lined paper you got in elementary school when you were learning the alphabet, with the blue and red solid and dotted lines so that you knew how to make your lowercase letters and uppercase letters. The lettering Guide makes lines like that. It’s awesome, and I’m jealous because I don’t have one and now I’m going to have to scour the art shops in the area until I find one or give up and buy one online.

(Sidenote: The one thing I really wish this Drawing Words & Writing Pictures did was have a supplies list for the entire book right at the beginning. Maybe their website, www.dw-wp.com has a comprehensive list somewhere, but having to go week by week and then “SURPRISE! here’s all of this stuff you need!” before you can move on is really disheartening. I’d have rather searched for all of the obscure necessities at the beginning of the class and have them sit on my bookshelf for weeks than to be reading to move on and then have to stop everything to find this whatchamacallit that it obscure and hard to find in any generic shopping place or arts-and-crafts store down the street. /rant)

The homework for this week involved drawing a comic with no drawings and working on the cookie jar kid comic. I finally got the full size Bristol paper and some pigment pens, but without the Lettering Guide or ink (black india ink, graphic white) or paint brushes, I’m pretty much out of luck. :( Sorry guys, no drawings today. Hopefully I’ll find this stuff early next week and I’ll be able to make up for lost time.

Chapter 6: Getting on the Same Page

(In order to make up for how lame this week’s work is, I’m double posting! But more on that in the other post.)

This week’s concern was laying out the single-page comic, which is a form I’m currently trying to master. The main concern was emphasis on a standard grid layout and how it can maintain a constant beat to reading, and when a few panels are tweaked, it really emphasizes the importance of what occurs and how dramatic the action is. This is all rather implicit knowledge, but it was great as a reminder that a strong foundation in your comic can go a long way. The example pages used in Abel & Madden’s text are very helpful, but since I lack a strong foundation in comics–particularly old-style newspaper comics–I felt kind of lost. Abel & Madden state the action is rather clear and/or humorous, but in reality I find myself lost or confused about how something is supposed to be funny. Perhaps humor has evolved over generations–but that is a conversation for a different place at a different time.

There’s note of title design, and how it can stay static or can evolve for each of a series, which makes sense. The title design helps lay a foundation, so for a serialized work, similarities may be preferred, at least to gain oneself a brand and/or marketability. I’d never really thought much about this, but I do need to spend some more time thinking about it, I think.

According to Abel & Madden: The most important aspect of laying out a comic page is the “live area,” which is basically the area in the center of the page (sans margins) where all the panels and bleeds go. The main thing to remember is not to give your yourself margins in the live area, it’s kind of redundant. The second most important thing is the scale for which the drawings are done. I’ve always drawn my comics bigger than I knew they’d be reproduced (for instance, drawing on 8.5″ x 11″ paper for a book that’s 6″ x 8″, just to throw some numbers out there) but I never really thought if I was drawing at 150% or 200% or anything like that. Standard live areas seems to be in the area of 9″ x 13.5″, but before getting all hung up on numbers, the ratio (2:3 or 3:4) is more important, because that’s the actual layout of the page. American-style comics are generally the former, while magazine-style, European, and graphic novels are generally the latter.

I had to skip the in-class activity because it required a couple of materials I didn’t really have on me. First off, I bought the wrong size Bristol paper last week–I needed to get 14″ x 17″, and I got 11″ x 14″. I could still probably make do with the smaller size and just scale everything, but the math would be a pain, and I really want to make sure I’m doing this the right way. Once I gain experience, I think I’ll feel more comfortable with scaling things to my personal preference. The other thing(s) I’m missing is my architect table and my T-square. The T-square–I have no idea where it is. I know when I got the architect drafting table in high school as a gift, I got a T-square with it, and I used the set every once in a while, but since I really had no idea what I was doing, the desk kind of got turned into a normal desk. Currently it is in my brother’s room, holding his computer. Whenever he gets a replacement desk, I’ll get my drafting table back and it will make my life way easier. Until then… I’ll have to make do somehow.

The in-class activity was basically just to set up a piece of Bristol board for a single page comic–live area set aside, and four tiers with gutters. No individual panels yet; just prepping everything for now. So I’m not too worried about getting caught up later.

The homework was a thumbnail sketch of a single-page comic from a hypothetical comic strip called Chip and the Cookie Jar and how Chip, a 6-year-old boy, is always trying to get the cookies from the top of the fridge. A pre-written script was provided, and my task was to divide the script into beats and then pencil the dialogue into the comic. I divided my paper into a standard 16-panel grid by folding it, and then wrote in my dialogue, along with some cues in parenthesis to give me an idea of what I was thinking.

Sorry its so hard to read, I wanted to keep it light for easy changing.

I’m assuming next week we’ll go further with this. Next week, however, is going to be interesting, and I may be doing a different kind of post. ;]

a bunch of supplies used for pencilling

Chapter 5: Pencilling

This week was a lot of fun! Using Abel & Madden’s Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, of course, I went over the basics of penciling! Some of it was obvious, some of it was new! I’ll give you all a brief overview of the hardware I used and what I learned while drawing and penciling panels this week!

a bunch of supplies used for pencilling

These are all the supplies I got together for pencilling!

I had most of this stuff lying around. The HB pencil set, the kneaded eraser, the tracing paper, the sharpener, the standard erasers, and the blue colored pencil. Plus the mechanical pencil and pen eraser I’ve been using this whole time. I had to go out and get Bristol paper for official inking, and I got that little ruler because I knew it would be useful, and I found an eraser pencil, which I think is the coolest thing ever, but I totally forgot I had because I feel back in love with kneaded erasers.

I also didn’t use the tracing paper this time, but Abel & Madden gave a great overview of how to use it properly–I had never known. I’ll have to experiment with it more. It’s basically the hard copy form of selecting something and moving it around, inverting it, whatever. I’m so used to doing everything digitally that I feel like I’m working backwards. Another working backwards thing is the blue pencil to underlay lines while pencilling before deciding on final lines for inking–it’s a lot like the layers I use online–I always used soft pastels or so to contrast, and when I finally found the lines I wanted, I just traced over them in black (on a new layer). I didn’t use the blue pencil I have because it does not erase. At all. And I looked for erasable colored pencils, and no dice. :( So if any of you know where I can get erasable colored pencils (and not the Crayola kind… I’m looking for Col-Erase or something like that), let me know!

I had always had a sort of skepticism towards physical art–namely because of my dependence on ctrl+z and layers. But after experimenting a bit with the traditional forms, it’s not so scary. You’re forced to really thing and consider what you’re drawing, and to be very careful. You can still be spontaneous, but if you’re sloppy, it’s a harder mistake to fix.

“Classwork”

So the assignment was to pick a panel from my Jack & Jill comic last week and redraw that panel at least three different ways in sketchy thumbnail form. Then I had to pick three of those panels and pencil them on bristol paper. I picked the “Jack fell down” panel.

Here's the original thumbnail of Jack falling down.

Here are my five re-imaginations of the same panel:


I just want to note–I have absolutely no idea why this time around, Jack and Jill are adolescents and not children, as with my original comic. I kept trying to remind myself to draw them small, like kids, but it wasn’t happening. So, I’m sorry, Jack and Jill appear to have grown up a bit.

You can see that I noted with stars the panels I wanted to redraw and pencil. So first I drew the boxes on the bristol paper:

Proof I can draw rectangles with right angles!

And then I started sketching. I started with an HB pencil, but if you’ll see on the picture below, Jack is very bold in the top left. That’s because I had switched to 2B, which is a softer lead but also bolder color.

I really should have been using a HB to start and a 2B to finish... not entirely sure why I switched in the middle; I probably wasn't paying attention.

The first layer of sketching ended up looking like this:

Ready for final lines.

Here’s the process of going over everything, so you can really see the difference between HB and 2B:

I'm drawing an X on the inside of Jack's crown to show that when I ink it, I want that area to be solid black.

Aaand, now I’m done penciling:

"Jack Fell Down" from multiple perspectives!

Now here comes the analytical part. Which panel would be best for the Jack & Jill comic I drew? In terms of keeping the paneling consistent with the comic, one of the two “landscape” style panels would probably be better, just so it wouldn’t mess up the formatting of the whole page. I like the top picture because it works well with the previous panel–we can see that Jack is depressed and shuffling his feet as he heads back home, and it makes sense that he wouldn’t be paying attention and he’d trip over the tree root. The bottom panel is also good, though, because it works well with the panel that comes after, where jack is on the ground, and the crown is next to him and broken. By zooming into Jack and really seeing his expressing on the fall, we really intimately connect with his motion. I tried to draw a zoomed in picture of Jack’s foot as he trips, but I found out I’m really terrible at drawing feet by themselves without context, and I abandoned that. So depending on context and how clear the action is with the panels preceding and following this panel, I think I’d go with my original choice, the top right panel. (As a note, though, once of the thumbnails I didn’t develop and pencil was the same as the top right, but from the opposite perspective, showing both Jack and Jill’s backs, and the castle in the background. I really liked this panel, but I didn’t choose to expand on it because 1) drawing Jack falling from behind would have been a nightmare, 2) both Jack and Jill looked way too old.)

“Homework”

The second part of the chapter focused on figure drawing and a simple overview of figurettes. Figurettes are basically stick figures with some meat to them. There’s blobs for the chest and hips, and there’s some substance to arms and legs and feet and hands. I have a basic understanding of figurettes that I picked up from sifting through art and manga books, as well as from when I attended a summer art camp for a week once middle school, so it wasn’t totally foreign to me. I do know that eventually I should take formal figures classes or some sort of real art class, because while I’ve been making do for now, if I really want my art to grow and develop and flourish, I really need to get some formal training just to expose me to new techniques and foster development.

At one point in the brief discussion on figurettes, Abel & Madden mention that the figure should always be balanced in the center–unless you want them to topple over. This reminds me a lot of my training in aikido, and the focus on posture and maintaing center of balance, so I thought that was cool.

My assignment was to draw a one-panel scene that suggests something is happening while having three planes–foreground, midground, and background–and at least two figures interacting. After a bit of brainstorming, I decided to go with a couple fighting over dinner. I drew three panels of the occasion from different perspectives.

Of course I'm a masochist and pick the most complicated panel to pencil.

I was ambitious and wanted to try the POV thing with depth in a panel, where you pick a spot somewhere off the panel to be the focal point, and all of the straight lines come from that area. Abel & Madden didn’t exactly explain how it works, they just showed a panel that used that technique, and since I have always struggled with depth in 2-D drawings, I figured I’d try my hand at it. This is my first try, so it’s not so great. I must have spent and hour or so on the first run through just to get everything right.

You can tell I moved some stuff around-- I couldn't figure out how to draw circles at an angle so I put a picture frame behind them instead.

And the final product–for now.

Now the lines are much clearer! Used the 2B on top of the HB (Like I'm supposed to).

I ran out of time to do the Extra Credit this week. And I apologize for being late this time around (even if it was only by a few hours).

Be sure to check out the Sketchbook to see the pretty scans of all the penciled panels from this week!