Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Entering the swamp Thumbnails

I had a little bit of a fail this week. Totally missed the fact that we were supposed to have TWO characters, so this one only has one. Fail. Anyways, these pages develop the knight character picking up a massive great sword and delving into a thick swamp.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Working on the story for Chapter 2 of Box Boy  The Box mob has taken over the dump, and all the boxes are being rounded up as prisoners - Just sketches here!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Mini Lesson from Mini Me

The pic above is mini me circa Sept 1966.  Ironic in that I feel EXACTLY this strong today as I battle the end of this flu and wrapped up in blankets is how I've been spending my days.

All right, no class because of the flu, but I want you to work.  Looking at Babs offering this week she's getting there but it struck me that we can ALL LEARN FROM THE STRUGGLES SHE'S HAVING!!

Barbara's first scene takes place in a Tucson Arizona Train Station-- so rather than just try to draw stuff out of your head, jump on the GOOGS and see what kind of pics come up.

The first thing that strikes me is that the Tuscon Train Station is pretty damn clean.  That shouldn't surprise me since I've been out west and I do know things are cleaner out that way.   I guess I've spent too much time in Boston/New York train stations.

So is there anything here to help us?

I like this one because it's got some things Babs didn't think of in her shot-- the texture on the floor.  Clocks, those ticket cattle roundup ropes, an ATM or other kind of machine.  Framed shit on the wall.  A schedule.

A lot of little details that could be added.

I'm a sucker for signage too-- and the thing that stands out like a sore thumb on Babs page is TUCSON TRACK 2-- it seems so sparse.  It should have a WARNING STAND BACK 10 FEET or some other such nonsense on it.  Or TICKETED PASSENGERS ONLY, or a homeland of public safety warning so that people with bombs in their shoes take them off, etc.

A google search can help.

So Googs reveals that TUCSON  is a pretty immaculate train station.    So forget what I said about trash.

If you want trash-- look to that bastion of culture-- Paris France;

And I thought the French only didn't wash themselves.

So it's YOUR story-- but if its set out west (and if you're going to be homeless why wouldn't you go someplace clean) then be as accurate as you can, but USE REFERENCE to add those little details you wouldn't think of.

So todays lesson...

and if that doesn't work

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Practice with Ryan in Addict in AZ

I worked on this a bit over Christmas vacation, trying to get a train behind the characters. It's supposed to be moving in the first panel, then stopped. I don't think it works. Andy, I didn't get to fix all you mentioned, such as trash, benches, more people rushing about, etc. I'm so slow doing this work electronically! Anyway, the final panel, which isn't filled in, contained people at the train station, and I realized I am still unsure about lining up necks!!!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Marilyn Critique

Marilyn sent in this page for review;

There is something nice to Marilyn's choice of shots-- I like the compositions and the way she keeps elements off balance.  It's almost like a hand held camera type of film.

But now getting to the critique;

Like I discussed in class-- we're not going to get much into lettering because honestly we could fill six weeks with just lettering.  Does that surprise you?   It surprises most cartoonists because lettering is the afterthought and that's the biggest mistake creators make.

When you are composing your panel you should factor in where the balloons are going to go because they then balance out the panel.  They should never look like they are squeezed in and that's the problem here.

What do we do when we've not given enough space for the lettering?  Sometimes we have to crop, edit or move things in a panel to fit our balloons in.  Factoring what dialogue is going to be said in a panel during the composition stage will ensure that you don't have to worry about moving things around after it's drawn.

You also shouldn't be afraid to cover artwork, because the words are just as important as the pictures.  Remember a commandment I once wrote;


Here is where I would place balloons-- there are plenty of areas in the panel where they could go.

Same thing here-- move the words coming out of the TV up-- when it sits between the TV and the bed on the floor like it is in the original take it looks like a carpet with dialogue on it.

Move it up, have it start midway at the door mark and over the window-- but notice it doesn't fit inside the door or the window-- it breaks the plains of both-- that's important.  Dialogue coming from any electronic device is traditionally held in a square balloon with a lightning bolt pointer.  It gives the impression that the "sound" is tinny.

All right-- this is not about balloons though, so back to the storytelling of the page.

The flow from panel 1 to panel 2 is fine because the dialogue brings in the subject of the dog, so as a reader we get that we're now looking at the dog locked in the bedroom.

The storytelling problem comes with panel 2 to panel 3.  While the story itself makes sense, the dog is happy about a vegan Thanksgiving after hearing bout the Korean dog farm, we as a reader are confused as to how the dog got into the kitchen.

It goes back to Jim's page I showed earlier in the week, if time passes we need to have some kind of break from the scene or a narration box in the bottom panel that says "LATER".

You could also alter the second panel to have someone poking their head in the door asking if the dog wants to come out and that would work if the dialogue they delivered was something like "Hey boy, dinner's over do you want to come out now?" (and maybe a LATER in the top left of that middle panel.

It's critically important that we think through our pages before we take them to final.  

1- Does my reader understand the location?
2- Does my dialogue and the images move the story forward?
3- Is the transition from panel to panel smooth?  Think of it like a film.  Each panel is a shot in the film, if we treat this sequence like a film we begin by a family happy to see Vegan Thanksgiving (must be California ;) ) then we cut to the dog and then we cut back to the kitchen and the dog is there too.  If you were watching that you'd wonder who let the dog out (insert rap song here).
4- Did I leave enough room for my balloons and they not appear as afterthoughts?

There's a lot of hard work in this page, and it shows. 
The storytelling is almost there.

Marilyn also mentioned that she's struggling with scanning her pages in two parts.  I don't think there is anything worse than scanning in pieces and then trying to join them together.

In the past I've recommended the Mustek 1200 ED Scanner and a few of you have bought it.  It's out of production now but you can still find them used for around $100.

Staples also offers some 11x17 scanners, also known as Tabloid scanners, and price wise you should be able to find one for under $200-- the time you save buying one of these will be well worth the investment.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

CLASS 1 Continued

Dan sent in a great question related to class last night;

I just thought of when you said in the last class that hand writing letters and SFX digitally is harder then on paper. I've thought that before, but honestly assumed it was because I didn't know what I was doing. 

So why is "traditional" easier, especially when it comes to lettering sound effects by hand?
Lettering is much easier digitally-- but I'm talking creating lettering for sound effects on a tablet.

Because we've been doing it for MANY MANY years and digital is new.

Let's look at it this way-- I make some killer scrambled eggs.   I'm not talking the dried out over done eggs you're getting at your local diner.   I make great scrambled eggs, not boasting, it's truth.

How?  I keep the frying pan on low-- I gently stir milk into the eggs, I use a wooden spoon to move them around in the pan in a very slow manner and I use a pan I've been using for years which works great and really keeps the heat even.

Great eggs.

Now let's put me in the middle of the woods with a campfire a tin pan, a big metal fork and some powered milk to go in the eggs.

It's not going to be the same, it'll be close, but it's not going to be the same.

Now give me a few years of ONLY making eggs this way and I guarantee you I can get those eggs to be pretty close.

Digital is the same way.  You're working with new tools that are similar to the ones you're used to like that tin can and open fire are close to my controlled stove heat and my favorite pan.

Give it some time, and practice and you'll get better results.


Good first class-- the video to the class for the full lecture and demonstration has been emailed to the registered students.

To recap some of the more important parts;

1- As you are about to prepare your project assemble your components!!  It's like trying to make a complex gourmet dinner and you throw out the cookbook and then wonder why it was so hard to do.
So what do you need for components?

  • A- A well thought out plot or script-- if you don't know where this is going how can you possibly know how many pages a scene has or what a character motivation is?

  • B- A cast of characters-- I use real people or actors for my characters that way I know how they "sound"-- this will not only help to keep the characters clear in your head it will make them that much easier to draw consistently.

  • C- Reference Materials-- settings, vehicles, clothing, etc-- you can't draw it out of your head nor should you!

  • D- Thumbnails!  Draw out your plot or script in small layouts to figure out where stuff is going to go before you face that big blank page!  If you're laying out a particularly complex page try doing a first draft where the panels are all the SAME SIZE just to figure out the shots you want, then once you have that figured out you can then get "fancy" with different angles and panel sizes.
Ask yourself with each scene the following questions:
What is the important element, prop or action I'm trying to show in this scene?
Does the progression from panel to panel flow cleanly and logically?
Are my characters and setting clearly defined?

It's important to see these things from the eyes of a reader who doesn't have all the knowledge about the project that you do.

In the above example by Jim we have a nicely drawn page but the message is slightly muddled.

To help clarify things a bit....

Move the background in panel 1 down and flatten out those tables a bit more.  The complex perspective he's using doesn't aid the initial introduction and that book that's lying on the table needs to be more prominent if the female character is going to refer to it in the scene.

In comics we call this mistake the "magic trick" -- in that a prop or element just appears out of nowhere.  It's confusing and disjointing to the reader.

He's got those great distillery bottles all around so in panel 2 let's break from shots of the whole characters and get a closeup or her hand holding one of the bottles.  This allows us to give our readers a closer look at what's in the room.

Panel 3 I would drop out the woman and give us a tighter shot of the man here.

Panel 4 I would increase the size of the bottle so that we see the woman through the distorted image of the bottle.  This also gives the sense of the congestion of the room.

Panel 5 I'd have her reaching for the book so we eliminate the magic trick.

Last panel I would bring the book in closer and show just her hand on it- give the reader a chance to see what this book is about.

Jim's next page has some beautiful elements to it but there is a big misstep here.

The way it reads;  A bike a wagon and a horse rider all come to an intersection, the horse goes through first, the wagon takes a left and the bike rider follows after him.

Panels 1 to 4 all work.  

Panel 5 is the stumble because now as we change the angle of the shot seeing the bike rider trailing behind the wagon another wagon and a building appear out of nowhere (magic trick) because it seems from the first two panels that Jim has established a North By Northwest type of intersection in the middle of nowhere.

You see a reader calculates subliminally how much time is passing by the panels you lay out before them.  So with panels 1 to 4 we assume about 10 seconds have passed.

What Jim was trying to get across was the idea that Panel 5 is a few minutes later and that's where he crashes and burns.

There are a couple of ways--
The first, and I would say the worst, is to have a narration balloon that simply says LATER up in the top left corner.
I don't like it, you don't like it, but it works.

Another way to do it is with a change to another scene and a page break. 
So we would cut away from the bike following the wagon to a scene of two other characters interacting somewhere else in our story (remember how in another class I discussed the benefits to sub plots and supporting characters?  This is one use of them).  Then we can come back to this EXACT panel now riding into town and it all makes a lot more sense.

Because the reader fills in time.

The reader assumes that the bike rider is still riding while we cut to another scene and they are perfectly willing to assume it's later when we come back to them.

Neat huh?

Speaking of time...

Babs compelling story of addiction and how it affects families is something I'm looking forward to reading.
Don't be afraid to treat your work as drafts-- ask yourself those questions from above, most importantly WHAT am I trying to show to my reader?

So in this case we open our story with our librarian retiring and enjoying retirement.  On the left you see Babs original take while on the right are my minor tweaks to make it stronger.

Panel 1 at the top-- lot of dead space, so I simply took her idea of having the retirement being covered by the local paper and moved it to that space.  I also googled Boston Globe Front page to make it look more like a paper's masthead.

Notice that the font in panel 1's story and in panel 2 is the SAME FONT-- that's because we're still reading the newspaper in panel 2.

Panel 2 I recut and brought the camera in tighter-- there was too much deadspace around the original and by getting in closer we see the character more and it's a stronger panel.

Panel 3 Babs shows the retiree lying in bed, the trouble here is there isn't enough information in that panel.  In retirement you sleep?  Don't we all?   Is she enjoying it?  Is she dead?  So in my take I stuck an ALARM CLOCK at 11 right in the reader's face, made the retiree nice and comfy in the bed and a big window behind her showing it's clearly daytime-- now that's retirement!

Panel 4 is great the way it is, I simply resized WEEK TWO to match the other weeks and put them all in narration boxes.

Panel 5 is a little unclear, if you don't know what clam shucking is you might think she's been put out to sea with an anchor-- but the big change I made here is I enlarged the figure so she breaks the plain of the shoreline.  Having her head hit the flat line is a bad idea, you want it to be clear that she's not under something and there's no reason the figure SHOULDN'T be bigger, you have the room.

On the next page Babs gets into why the character doesn't enjoy retirement but I think it's too rushed.  I think it would be better to continue what you're showing here and play up the downside to retirement which is what first seems thrilling (sleeping until 11) now becomes mundane.

You could do this by having Week Four she's sitting and smiling in her yoga class, Week Five she's sitting with a circle of other retirees who are all yammering on about stuff that she doesn't care about and maybe you see a SLIGHT drop in her smile.

Week Six she's in bed again but now her eyes are open and it's dark out-- she can't sleep.  Week Seven she's standing next to her bike and the tire is flat.  Week Eight she's shucking them clams but it's raining, then we could show her at a speed dating social event where she's wallflower like standing off in the corner saying to someone "this was a mistake, I'm too old for this" etc.

GRADUALLY showing us that she's not enjoying retirement and also giving the reader an understanding as to WHY she isn't.  Most of us don't think retirement through-- you have no place to go now-- what do you do with your day?  You sleep in everyday?  Makes it hard to sleep at night.  And so on.

By doing this you get into the characters situation better and you invest your reader.