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