Temporarily Switching Gears

I’ve recently come across a bit of a hang-up with working out of Abel & Madden’s Drawing Words & Writing Pictures–I’m missing art supplies! Currently I’m missing an Ames Lettering Guide for, well, lettering, and now I need to get myself a nib pen for inking. Rather than let myself get ahead by going through the chapters “theoretically” rather than “practically,” I’m going to switch gears for a few weeks and work on a project that came up for me while I was at the annual conference for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs.

While going through AWP’s massive bookfair, I met up with the editor of Poets & Writers and asked if he would be interested in a graphic essay. Last semester I wrote a pedagogy paper on incorporating graphic narrative into introductory creative writing classrooms, and it has always felt awkward being in prose–the essay feels like it needs to be drawn out as sequential art. Even though Poets & Writers does not publish pedagogy papers, the editor gave me his card and said he would be interested in learning more. So as of now, until I can get my art supplies and get back on track with working through Abel & Madden, I’ll be putting together a query for Poets & Writers. Wish me luck. :)

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.


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.)


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!

a pink Cross Tech-3 engraved with "Leslie"

Chapter 2: Every Picture Tells a Story

This week’s chapter–though brief–stumped me. It focused on the art of one-line one-panel comics called “gag”s. I’m not a very concise person, and when I am, I take it to the minimalist level. There’s no happy medium for me, so I hoped that forcing myself through this chapter, I might make some sort of breakthrough. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.

thumbnails of homework from last week with bad captions underneath

I tried captioning my homework from last week, but clearly I'm not good at it.

Clicking on the above picture will take you to the Drawing Words & Writing Pictures sister website that I’ve been using as a “Ronin,” where it offers some good feedback on effective captioning.

The homework involved creating my own gag comic, which turned out to be superbly difficult since brief humor is also one of my greatest weak points. So here are some examples of doodles I did while trying to figure out what to draw:

sketch of Leslie sitting on bed thinking of what to draw on a blank page

This is a really raw sketch. (I do like how my leg goes out of the border...)

a really crappy sketch of a comic within a comic

A terrible rendition in the style of Magritte.

At this point, after staring at my terrible doodles, I drew a tiny thumbnail sketch based off Abel & Madden’s advice: “If you are having trouble coming up with ideas, do what the pros do: Explore the classic gag scenarios! A desert island, a psychiatrists couch, a CEO’s office, a drunk at a bar, etc.”

a sketch of a desert island with a single palm tree and the caption: Mount Everest: Post-Global Climate Change

Finally, and idea that wasn't half bad.

So I drew it full-scale in pencil:

the peak of Mount Everest with a single palm tree in a sea of water and an intense sun in the background. The caption: "Mount Everest: Post- Global Climate Change."

I tried to get the peak of Mt. Everest close to how it really looks.

And then I tried inking it:

the peak of Mount Everest with a single palm tree in a sea of water and an intense sun in the background. The caption: "Mount Everest: Post- Global Climate Change."

I'm not sure how I like inking with ballpoint pen. I'm so used to doing all of my inking digitally.

I may have to experiment with types of inking. I know we haven’t gotten tot he inking chapter yet, so I thought it was interesting that Abel & Madden would introduce it in this manner. They give a great overview on different types of pens (suggesting “pigmented” ink instead of “permanent” ink, since the latter has a tendency to fade over time) which I find fascinating. I really don’t have much experience with the physical art of comic-making (since most everything I have experience with is digital) so this was very useful. I’m looking forward to going over inking in depth.

The hardware I used this time around was a Cross Tech 3–a mechanical pencil, black ballpoint pen, and red ballpoint pen all at once. I received an engraved one for my birthday, and I’m loving it. :]

a pink Cross Tech-3 engraved with "Leslie"

It's kind of hard to see, but that's my name engraved on it!

Content-wise, it doesn’t seem like there was a lot of drawing this week, but getting words to go along with pictures in a clever, ironic, or humorous way is much harder than it looks.

I also set up the Sketchbook! If you want to see any pictures in closer detail, that’s where you should go. :)