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.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Perspective Notes on Marilyn's Panel

You may remember this panel from Marilyn in our last class....

Well I think I dropped the ball in not going through this one, but in my defense I was waiting to hear if the path the second character was walking on were steps or a slanted path-- because it makes  a difference.

Well, Marilyn clarified that it's a slanted path so let's walk through how to put this in perspective.  Overall I think it's a successful illustration and honestly you could get by with this even though some of the perspective is faked.  It looks good, but let's see how we'd make it comply with perspective.

1- Establish the vanishing point-- in this case I took the road and drew the lines (blue) back and where they intersected (black X) becomes our vanishing point.  I draw the horizon line (red) across the page.  You don't need it, but I put it there because it helps me to "see things" correctly.

2- This illo is a 1 pt perspective piece because we are up against the paneled wall.  That means the ONLY things that would go to a vanishing point are those houses down on the road, the road and the planks of the slanted hill character #2 is walking down.

3- I finish out the perspective for the houses simply by tracing more VP lines (blue) at the top of the first doorway and at the roof peak.  If all your houses are the same, like track housing, they would all follow this blue line.

4- For the planks, or path-- there is NO vanishing point for the ANGLE of the slant.   That is completely up to the creator (you) so I followed the line you established for the angle (green). 

5- To establish the width of each plank I went on that green line and I evenly spaced black hash marks (you might have to look closely to see them).  They need to be on this OUTSIDE line of the path (where I drew the green line), and as I said they should be EVENLY spaced apart. 

6- From each black hash mark I trace a VP line (purple) back to the established vanishing point.  They will naturally get more narrow as you go from the line of the path closest to us to the far line.

And there you have it-- email me if you don't get this completely and I'll clarify.
It's actually fairly simple.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Perspective lines--Mike

I did this drawing a year or so ago for the cover for Cry of the Snow Leopard, and I wanted to check out how well I did with the perspective.  This is a dramatic scene where Prof. Brewster is being attacked by wild dogs and is saved by the appearance of a snow leopard.

The red line at the top is what I think the horizon line is.  My intention was to have the viewer looking down on Brewster and the dogs, and also down on the snow leopard.

I've drawn in the lines, and I clearly messed up in several places, although I did a few of them correctly.  I'm not sure about the line I drew on the SL's ears.  

Buddy Bites

2-pt Perspective

Tried 2-pt perspective. Story takes place at a college, so here's the school library.

Library Scene

Perspective panel - Jim Riel

A panel from my next Analysis of Evil page

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

perspective and sequence practice

I have three rough drawings of a section of my story. Perspective has me somewhat baffled, but I'm wondering if the flow of sequence makes sense, goes to fast, or what....

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Keeping it in perspective and cheating on my homework

Perspective confounds me.  I mean I get it practically (most of the time), but academically I'm lost.

I am short on time and lacking in creativity this week so I decided I would just snap a quick picture before nap time and use it as my panel. So yeah, the perspective is on point (because when you can't draw for beans reference saves the day)... just don't ask me why.  

I dropped in the neck (pink), head (blue), and foot (green) lines as we were shown.  That puts the vanishing point not only in the panel, but also behind the far character's head.  Maybe that's right and I'm just a rebel, breaking all the rules with my unapologetic in-frame vanishing point. Or maybe this isn't even a one point perspective shot. How should I know? When it comes to understanding perspective... I don't.

What do you expect from a hack that cheats on her homework? The babies are cute though. I demand full marks for that.

Thursday, November 2, 2017


Storytelling is the single most important element of comic art and it's also the hardest.   A complaint I've heard many times over from editors is that new artists they discover can draw really well but they can't tell stories.

That's what this class will focus soley on.

Above is a page of sequentials from Sally Scott.  Click on it to give it a "read" -- and remember most storytelling should be clear even without words.

While there's no arguing that this is drawn well the storytelling is faulty because we go from seeing two characters walking on what looks to be a very tall bridge suddenly in the air or jumping (up or off) and then a shocking surprise with a white background.

So how does this read?

To me I read it as they jumped off the bridge and they are now dead and we're seeing them as they come to the realization that jumping off said bridge was probably a bad idea.

Panels have to flow into each other and then those panels have to flow into a page and those pages into a story.

As creators with EVERY panel we need to make some choices;
1- Choice of angle-- what is the best shot-- what adds drama?  What makes sure we get the information to our reader?
2- Choice of content-- what needs to be in said panel?   What elements are critical, what elements are ornamental and what can be eliminated to make the story clearer?
3- Choice of body language & expressions-- what are the characters feeling?  How are they reacting to the actions or dialogue in the panel?
4- Choice of moment-- which MOMENT should we capture to carry the story.   If you picture your panels as connected frames of a film it usually leads to successful storytelling.

So in this case here we have a long shot of two characters walking on a bridge in the first camera setup, then a medium shot of the two characters either leaping or falling followed by a medium tight shot of them reacting to something.   It's awkward.

So Sally gave it another shot...

Now she has the two characters on the ground with bushes and a bridge behind them.  She caught the sequence at the point in which they've landed.  Still doesn't work for two reasons-- the pose, although accurate, looks silly and second because she has that black bush behind them and the bridge is so far behind we don't get the sense that they've only jumped a few feet-- it's almost a superhuman leap if the bridge is that small in panel 2.

Let's consider the actions these characters are taking;

STEP 1- They're up on the bridge.
STEP 2- They're in midair.
STEP 3- They've landed.
STEP 4- We zoom in closer as they react to something.

Sally has to show four actions in three panels which is why she's having hiccups in the visual narrative.

It's not a bad idea to do it this way, because STEP 3 is a very odd pose, almost like they are looking for a bathroom in the woods, so eliminating that isn't a terrible idea and you can do that by showing them coming down through the air closer to the ground.

So I would go with something like this-- which now shows the speed line indicating they're coming from the bridge (even though the bridge is still too far away) and they are just now touching the ground gives them a more dignified pose by choosing this shot.

THIS class will be all about nitpicking storytelling-- you'll be making sure your work is clear in its storytelling from panel to panel and then page to page.  It's the most crucial part of the whole creative process.

Expect to draw and redraw panels and pages to ensure that you are delivering clear and concise storytelling.


Online course, Eight-session course, $348.00
Wednesdays: 11/29/17 - 01/31/18, 6:30PM - 9:00PM  (NO Class on Xmas and New Years Weeks)

  • Wed Nov 29

  • Wed Dec 6

  • Wed Dec 13

  • Wed Dec 20

  • Wed Jan 10

  • Wed Jan 17

  • Wed Jan 24

  • Wed Jan 31

This class is a video SKYPE style class which will be recorded each week and available to registered students for a limited amount of time so that if you have to miss a class you will be able to follow along.

This class will encompass a variety of topics to build your comic book art abilities covering writing techniques designed to help you jump start an idea, to anatomy and figure drawing lessons and into at least two full weeks of (drum roll please)... PERSPECTIVE.

The focus of the materials produced in this class will be writing and pencil art.  Not getting your pencils fully rendered and "figured out" before you go to ink is one of the biggest mistakes new comic artists make.  We'll crush pencil art in this one.

OR PAY IN INSTALLMENTS 4 payments of $87.00 over the 7 week course.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

CLASS CALENDAR for the next session

With one class left here is the proposal for the next session which is all about STORYTELLING.
Let me know if you have an interest or availability for this schedule.

  I did some new 40s clothes for Janice (Dr. Brewster's secretary) and some passersby:

Character Faces

This week I worked on different expressions, and made the characters more distinct. Tess has a more oval face-shape, and her teeth usually show. Emily has different glasses now, and her face is more rounded. For Ben, I worked on drawing his face first before adding the beard.
Top: Tess ; Bottom: Emily


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Updated design for Emily

I wanted to make the point that she's not necessarily an untrendy dresser, but she dresses to blend in, and is very buttoned-up. She majors in a male-dominated department (mathematics) and although there are other women in the dept. who dress more femininely, Emily chooses not to. She always pulls back her hair, even though it's very curly and sticks out. She dresses like she's going to a mathematics competition, which is her default "uniform". The school's insignia is on the front pocket of her blouse. Because she's very practical, she wears a belt with her khaki slacks and comfortable flats constantly.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Greg Bird Warrior Bard Character

This guy is completely unrelated to the characters I posted before - he's from a different project I'm working on.

Basically a humanoid bird character who wields an axe bladed lute and casts powerful healing magic. He's a bard, so he likes performance and is intended to look very colorful and conspicuous. I included an ink-only version and one that has been given flat colors (no shading or anything).

Note - the wings are intentionally located lower on his back then they probably should be. There's a story reason for it, but yeah, it's a specific choice I made.

Ink version

Flat colors version

Daniel Haddock | Clint expressions and pages

First I did some pages, edits Andy recommended(that did make the page better), and a second page mock up. These are sketchy because right now I am focusing on page flow. Directing a story properly and then rendering later on. I don't want to spend all day doing a bad page only to realize it's low quality after spending hours reinforcing bad technique. And also I did some facial expressions for Clint Yamamoto.

I did some snow leopard drawings a while ago, and have added new ones here.  Also some more elaboration on Tamas the Henchman and Verna.