Admitting Defeat & Starting Anew

Since I’ve been kind of quiet on the blog lately, you may be able to discern that I’ve been extremely busy. I’m still getting used to my workload for my new job, and the adjustment period has been interesting. Don’t get me wrong–I absolutely love what I do. But I think I love it so much I don’t realize that I’m managing my time poorly (and spending too much time grading).

That being said, I’d had to waive the white flag of defeat. At this point, I’m unable to devote as much time as I need to on the MOOC on Comics. Hopefully they’ll offer the course again, when I’m well-adjusted enough to balance my time a little bit better.

Lately, I’m mostly been enveloping myself in getting back in touch with other forms of art I’ve had to set aside while I pursued higher education. I’ve reacquainted myself with my violin, and even helped a friend set hers up. I bought a ukulele and have been slowly teaching myself the major and minor chords. Most of my time with the ukulele has been sewing, though. I just finished making a gig bag from scratch. And now I’m in total Halloween mode.

With respect to drawing and comics, I’ve taken to sketching things I see in real life. This happened a lot during my Orientation process at my new job. Sketching and doodling helps me focus, and thankfully my colleagues knew that some people are like this and didn’t think I was rude. As a result, I sketched a lot of the speakers, and gave those sketches away.

The sketching has been really relaxing and is helping me practice more real-life drawing. Which brings me to my next endeavor:

The Sketchbook Project.

Brought to my attention by a friend and fellow artist, I immediately fell in love with the concept of getting a sketchbook and filling it with whatever I wanted–and then having that sketchbook go on and live it’s life in an Art Library. How cool is that?

My plan is just to carry the notebook around and sketch people and things that I see from day to day life. I’m trying to keep this simple, because if I get too ambitious I’ll probably bonk and have to start over. I should be getting my sketchbook in the mail in a few weeks. I’ll keep you all updated on my progress.

As for my writing life, I’m still keeping up with my weekly column at The Drunken Odyssey: Gutter Space, where I write mini-reviews about webcomics and graphic novels. I’ve also been doing some research on a full-scale graphic novel I’d like to write. Part of me thinks I could use NaNoWriMo as a springboard for getting this project off the ground, and part of me realizes I may be getting ahead of myself. Baby steps.

More updates in the future, and more accountability!

Prismacolor markers set out to color Wrong Planet

Chapter 3: The Strip Club

First things first: the title of this chapter is amazing.

Moving on:

This chapter in Abel & Madden’s Drawing Words & Writing Pictures focused on stringing together images in sequential art. It gave a brief overview of variations in rhythm and pacing in terms of music, which resonated (haha) with me. I had never thought to represent the movement of graphic narrative in terms of beats. Extended beats occur with longer frames, extra beats are added with each new frame. There’s a delicate balance between creating suspense and tension and delivering the kick at the right moment. I’ve been doing this somewhat subconsciously since I started drawing comics (ah, the benefits of reading), but I haven’t paid too much attention to it. There’s also attention to line-of sight (how your eyes follow movement in the panel) and how to keep your readers focused by using full-shaded black and white space.

The first drawing assignment called for post-it notes. Since all of my post-its are in bright, obnoxious colors, I opted to do a little arts and crafts and cut squares out of index cards.

Scissors cutting out squares from index cards

High tech and sophisticated.

Once the stack was cut, I had to make a few panels describing each major event in a sequence. (Clicking each picture will give you a zoomed version so you can see it more clearly. Even so, they’re thumbnail sketches so don’t expect stellar quality.)

five sequential images pencil sketched showing a rocket launch

1. An astronaut launches his rocket...

pencil sketches showing a moon landing

2. lands on the moon...

sketched images showing a flag planted on the moon

3. and plants a flag.

sketched pencil images of returning to fanfare from the moon

4. He returns to much fanfare...

pencil sketched images showing arriving at the wrong planet.

5. but then realizes he has gone to the wrong planet.

Drawing all of these pictures wasn’t a big deal, what was harder was working with just myself to smooth out the narrative and pare it down to as concise as it can be. Since I was the one drawing all of it, there weren’t many transitional drawings that needed to be made. But here’s how I progressed:

the five previous images collaged to tell one story

The whole space saga laid out

the space journey with some frames removed

I cut a lot of the unnecessart frames... and I guess the top two could be removed also.

six panels of blasting off, planting a flag on the moon, and returning to the wrong planet

The final six images to tell the story of The Great Space Mistake.

Notice how on the last pictures, I paid attention to the arc of the ship (going up to go to the moon, then arcing downward to leave) on the top row. The bottom row is a little iffy in retrospect… there’s a lot of white space, which is kind of jarring; I added one of the Mars rovers to further underline the fact that he’s not where he needs to be. After seeing the final product, my brother lamented that there were no parachutes on the module. I didn’t want to get too anal about getting all of the actual details of the spacecraft correct (honestly, a mistake like ending up on the wrong planet would be totally impossible given our current technological space capabilities) but that was a detail I probably could have added. Clearly, it’s not perfect. But at the time, I decided it was good enough, and ran with it anyway.

I decided to mount it on black construction paper and actually ink the whole thing with real markers. It’s been a while since I broke out the Prismacolors.

Prismacolor markers set out to color Wrong Planet

All set to ink!

Leslie inks Wrong Planet with a sharpie

Inking with a Sharpie, which is a terrible idea. "Permanent" marker isn't colorfast, and over time it will fade. I didn't have a pigment pen thin enough, though, so we'll have to see how this looks later.

Leslie gets ready to ink with a Prismacolor black marker

I apologize for the fuzzy quality. At the time I thought the photograph was clear.

The whole process was actually rather relaxing. The blacks all turn out to be slightly different colors, which is an effect I like. I also love how Prismacolors end up looking like watercolors. Figuring out how to make the stars was interesting; I wanted to use a white gel pen but apparently all of my white gel pens are dead, so I used white out instead. It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done. At first the landscape of Mars was light, but I thought that looked weird so I filled it in. I’m still not totally happy with the Mars frames (their whiteness is rather starling… I could have filled in the left one with some parachutes… the right one could be left white for awkwardness…) but as is, I’m rather pleased with the whole.

an inked version of the Wrong Planet exercise

Tada! Final product!

The next part of the chapter dealt mostly with thumbnails. The term thumbnail always kind of messed me up, I guess. I thought thumbs were just the tiny version of the image you can click on in order to see the whole thing (see Sketchbook). But I guess in the comics world, thumbnails (aka “layouts” for those of you who like superhero-style comics) refer to the sketchy page before the final product. With that definition, I’ve been doing thumbnails this whole time! I draw the crappy sketch that doesn’t look like much, but once I’ve figured out where everything is going, I can fill in the blanks and really put detail in it. By looking at the progression above, you can clearly see how my panels went from sketchy and vague to more concrete and detailed, and finally, inked.

For my “homework” I had to do some brainstorming and come up with a gag comic one might see in a newspaper comics section. Because humor is incredibly difficult for me, I spent a lot of time just staring at the page wondering what on earth I could make a joke about.

Leslie's pen hovers over a brainstorming area.

I seriously couldn't think of anything for the longest time. It's hard to brainstorm by yourself.

I ended up just picking something (how a parent may react to a report card) and hoping for the best. I sketched out “pessimistic” and “optimistic” responses for the comic, since I wasn’t sure which I would prefer.

two comics on top of one another with differing punch lines

Deliberately sketchy and vague for easy fixing.

In the end, I ended up detailing both thumbnails more concretely. They both have similar structures and deliver punch lines at the expense of the child. (I promise, I love children. Don’t think I don’t. I just seriously had no idea what to draw. As I’ve said time and time again, I’m not good at self-contained humor.) I liked the idea of the parent being in shadow and out of the frame, so I worked to exploit that. In the end, it’s still very sketchy and contains errors, but it contains most of the information needed to complete a full comic if I wanted.

a darker sketch of two comics

A little darker and more detailed.

I wish I had read the Extra Credit, “How to Read Nancy before this assignment, because it outlines different types of humors and gags used in the Nancy comic strips and how to analyze (and therefore emulate) the craft for one’s own success. Next time I’ll try to implement what I learned from the article.