Friday, December 6, 2019

THE SILO RUN (CREATING COMICS: UK Edition! - ENTRY #005)











And with that, The Silo Run is wrapped! The colouring stage was a lot of fun, and I am quite pleased with the final result. Showing restraint in the final colour palette is always a challenge; there is always the temptation to use as many colours as possible! But I forced myself to stick to a simple complimentary palette, the major colours being red and green, with some yellow and orange hues thrown in there to balance between them. To ground the setting in a more realistic world, I kept the colours relatively desaturated. As things get more conceptual, as reality and physics begin to bend and break, I juiced up the saturation. I also exaggerated the ben-day dots and pushed the colours slightly-off register; a meta approach that reinforced the idea of the runner pushing the boundaries of time and space, breaking the borders of the comic itself.

Once again, the most challenging page was the spread on 10 and 11, with all the inset panels swirling around the runner. I had so many colours bouncing around that it was impossible to ficus on anything. So I kept revising it and simplifying the colour, especially in the inset panels, all in an attempt to keep it clear and readable.

But it's not just the colour palette that contributes to the final look. Because digital colouring can be too pristine, and lacking the warmth of analog media, I've been playing experimenting with half-tones and scanned textures. Combined with a slight "misalignment " of the BG colours, the effect resembles old-school comics and risograph printing. Hopefully this gives the story the texture and warmth I was looking for.

Though I had decided that I would use minimal text in this comic, I find myself rethinking it. My main worry was whether or not the storytelling was clear enough to build up to that final moment. I ran it by Natasha for a second look and we both agreed that it works as is. Heck, I may reassess that after a few more people look it over, but I that last line certainly carriers a lot of weight as the only spoken words in the story. I hope that it helps this positive message to resonate with readers.

I honestly can't remember where this idea came from, but it showed up in my brain pretty fully formed. It is one of my most personal stories and it felt really great to have the opportunity to bring it from abstract idea to fully formed story. 

CREATING COMICS: UK Edition! - ENTRY #004

Aw yeah, here it is, my fave stage of making comics: inks! While I usually keep my line work as minimal and expressive as possible, I took on the challenge of adding in extra detail and texture for this comic. The stye of our main character remains stylized and cartooney, but I took extra care to add an extra level of realism to the backgrounds and fabric. My hope is that by starting in a semi-realistic, grounded place, the jump to a conceptual world that bends the laws of reality and physics will be even more jarring and overwhelming; to emphasize the contrast and create a more engaging story.









This is easily one of the most complex and ambitious comic pages I've ever attempted. There were a lot of layers to play around with, and the abundance of special effects and insert panels demanded that I pay attention to every detail, for fear of losing readability. The intent of the comic would be completely lost if the reader wasn't able to focus on anything clearly.

I was also silently cursing past-Nick (the guy who did the thumbnails) because, while he did lay out the location and size of the inset panels, he didn't bother to draw what would be in them. Trying to come up with the content of all these insets was a challenge, especially at this late stage. But hey, I think it worked out.


It was at this stage that I officially decided to remove all planned text and dialogue (with the exception of the final line). I felt that the events were unfolding quite clearly and I wanted to leave a bit of ambiguity with regards to the story of the inset panels, allowing for some interpretation on the part of the reader, giving them space to bring a part of themselves to the narrative. I've invested some personal moments and emotions into this aspect of the comic, and my hope is that it is open enough for others to relate to some of it.


CREATING COMICS: UK Edition! - ENTRY #003


As days fly by at lightning speed, the end of the semester draws ever closer. Progress on my final comic slowed down a bit as I worked on my pitch for James Davidge, and finished up a 24 hour comic to debut at Thought Bubble (more on that in a future Interlude on the blog) but I jumped right back into things a few weeks ago and kept up a speedy pace.


My process for comic-making has been pretty consistent over the last few years, but using the iPad as my main tool has required some experimentation. The stage that messed with me the most was the "penciling" stage. Because I was working digitally, I was technically able to go straight from thumbnails to inks, but I found that I was already adding detail onto a page that hadn't been worked out. As a result, I was doing a lot of drawing and erasing and redrawing.  So I discovered that I still need a penciling stage, essentially a rough stage where I can work out the solid shapes and basic compositions before focusing on the detail.


As I was working on final inks, the size of the files prevented me from adding too many layers. This unfortunately meant that I had to delete some roughs to allow for layers of sound effects, and I really wish I had saved them beforehand. But I believe these six pages give a good idea of what the rough stage was like.


The roughs don't stray too far from the thumbnails but you can see how, at this stage, I am starting to resolve the figure (using lots of photo reference) refining my shapes and silhouettes, and essentially trying to get all of the thinking out of the way so that when I get to the final inking stage, I can drift off and work quick and simply enjoy the finishes, keeping it loose and savouring the details. 


Sound effects are starting to get dropped in at this stage.  Because I am starting to realize that the dialogue will be very minimal, I am really relying on them to create rhythm and texture, and to add an audio dimension to the story.


That's it for the roughs/penciling stage! I'm getting a really good sense now of what the final story will look like, as well as the pacing and emotional arc of the story. Now I've got to add the final lines to these images and keep pushing on towards the colours!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

CREATING COMICS: UK Edition! - ENTRY #002


The Masters in Comics program at University of Dundee is rolling right along! We are doing a ton of mind-bending reading, covering metafiction and formalism, structuralism and comics systems, semiotics and sci-fi, Cronenberg and King (ok, those last two are personal choices!) My head is crammed with new inspiration and insights, and getting to explore some of these in comic form has been quite thrilling.

My personal project for Creating Comics is coming along nicely. Above, you can see my first crack at character designs. I am keeping the style quite simple, pretty cartooney, so that I can really exaggerate the emotion and the form of the character throughout The Silo Run. He definitely undergoes a transformation through the story so I've been playing with how his body reacts and how I can mess with the style and colour process of the book to reinforce this transformation.

But let's dig into the thumbs...


As I stated last week, things start nice and simple with the 9-panel grid, assuring the audience that everything is going to be nice and safe....until I pull the rug out from under them later!


Things are still quite conservative in the panelling here. I'm really focused on creating a sense of rhythm with the panels, like quick editing cuts, Edgar Wright style, to match the preparation of the runner, then follow them through the first gruelling run around the silo.

You can see sound-fx starting to peek in here, and I really want to make them a solid visual presence throughout.


I'm starting to drop some text in here and there as it occurs to me. The tough part right now is thinking about how much text I really need. If you can successfully tell a story visually, without being confusing, and it resonates emotionally, then you have to be sure that you add text that further strengthens these ideas without getting redundant.

You'll notice here our first break from the 9-panel grid, as things jump to the 6-panel. I'm also playing with time here as we see the seasons begin to change around our character. Also, we gradually notice that the character is further and further out of the panel, suggesting his speed is increasing, like "the camera" is having trouble keeping up.


And BOOM, things really start to break open here. As our character's speed increases and the comic begin to lean into its more fantastical concepts, the page layout begins to get more experimental: the character is breaking the border, we have a panel without borders, a panel that shatters and of course, we are now in a double-page spread. The wide panels are ideal for conveying the idea of speed.


Haha, ok, now we are cooking, as our page layout breaks into three full-bleed, widescreen panels. Our character is now trying to break the speed of light and a series of inset panels are giving us the inside scoop on the physical, mental and emotional barriers that are being crossed here. Not all of these panels will be explained as I'd like to leave their translation up to the audience (i.e. the character vomiting, the character hunched over while looking into a mirror.)

Our angle on the character changes as well: at first we are looking at the front 3/4 view, then the character seems to run in front and then pass us, as we see his rear 3/4 view.


Now this. Was fun. As our character races towards their next reality-smashing goal, all of the panels themselves get caught up in his wake, a page absolutely inspired by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's WE3. Once again we have panels featuring various objects and moments of physical and emotional strain, implying all of the ways this journey has tested our character, all of the trials and challenges that are being overcome and the toll it is taking. This is the page where I plan to get experimental with the CMYK values and off-register colours.


And finally, we wrap up here, back in our cozy, quiet 9-panel grid, as our character gets a chance to impart a few words to themselves. It is a quiet, introspective ending to a madcap story so I tried a few different layouts to see which would be the most emotionally affecting. There is actually a third one as well that is not pictured. In the end, I will probably go with the one on the right, as those close-ups really sell the emotion. And that shady panel on the top right of the left page is just too damn spooky for the story!

We were very fortunate to have a visiting artist this week, Anna Morozova, a recent grad of the MDes program at Dundee and an artist with 2000AD! While she did enjoy the layout for the story, she really encouraged me to explore different media and styles throughout. This would act as a challenge for myself, a way to learn some new techniques and could also push the emotional level of the story to new heights.

So with that advice, I move on to the next stage of the project:
  • penciling all 12 pages
  • inking all 12 pages on Procreate (to have them finished and ready to rock if need be)
  • experimenting with various styles on several test pages to see how they integrate with the inks
Lots of work to be done...


Monday, September 30, 2019

CREATING COMICS: UK Edition! - ENTRY #001

Huge life changes have been undergone over the last few months, and Natasha and I now find ourselves living in Edinburgh, Scotland. I've been told by many that this is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet, and thus far, it is living up to the hype!





We've been here for a little over a month and we have a great flat, a bank account, a phone plan, a GP, and most importantly, our cat. Making the move over the pond was one of the most challenging things we've ever had to do, but we are here and we are ready to take on the next challenge: becoming Masters, haha! 



While Natasha is taking her MFA in Edinburgh, I will be pursuing a Master of Design in Comics and Graphic Novels at the University of Dundee. The trail was blazed by fellow Calgarian cartoonists like Jillian Fleck and Dan Barnfield, who both graduated from this program with great things to say about it.



School has pretty much just begun. After a couple years teaching at ACAD (now AUArts) it feels really strange to be a student again. But my mind and spirit are ravenous, insatiable, ready to devour new ideas and inspiration, and to focus all my creative energies on exploring comics and pushing my storytelling skills. I'm also eager to meet and be inspired by my fellow MDes classmates, who seem like an enthusiastic and incredibly talented bunch. Not to mention my knowledgeable and insightful teachers!

I have been tasked with keeping a process journal on the creation of my main project for the Creating Comics class. This will work out great for the blog, as I will be forced to make updates, which will also give you all an inside peek at the process and a way to see what I'm up to in the UK. Everybody wins! So without further ado...


Creating Comics - Entry #001:


I've just begun work on a story that has been locked up in my head for a couple years now. THE SILO RUN concerns a runner who races around an abandoned silo in an attempt to beat their own record time, getting into shape along the way...then maybe shove it in a few people's faces. In the process of trying to beat their own time, they begin to push the boundaries of science and the human body, space and time, leading them to a critical moment of confrontation.


My usual process is up for reinvention here. While I normally script first, wearing my writer hat before moving into thumbnails, I've decided to go visual with this, knowing I need to keep the page count to 12 pages in order to finish, while letting the visuals guide the story. This is good, as my first crack at the script was already becoming unnecessarily wordy. After the thumbnails are finished, I will see what words are necessary to convey the emotion and inner thoughts, providing added layers that support the narrative as opposed to dominating it.


So the first thing I did (after canning my script) was to break the pages into little thumbs, and briefly write a description of what I needed to happen on each page. At this stage, I was already getting ideas on how to do the layout. I'm starting things simply with a 6-panel grid then slowly progressing into double-page spreads as the story reached its grand crescendo.



I also started taking a few scienc-ey notes to ground the story a bit, while not being entirely beholden to science Fact. Y'know, like Christopher Nolan does in Inception.

How do those dream machines work?


Who cares!? Let's throw JGL in a monstrous spinning gimbal room and toss him about!



And here are a couple quick doodles of people running to get my mind thinking about how the body moves as it runs and how I can begin to exaggerate that throughout the comic. Being able to convey dynamism and tension and colossal effort will be integral in making this story work. 

This is a great start, lots of ideas are bouncing around already.


The next steps:

  • rough thumbnails, to get a sense of how the narrative unfolds visually
  • rough character design, so we see what our character could look like, and if they will fit the story
  • a style board: a finished panel with ink and colour that will give an indication of what the final look will be (I've never done this before, I always just deal with each stage on its own, so let's see what happens!)

BUT! That's not all. As usual, survival in the world of art depends on versatility and constantly having your hands in as many cookie jars as possible. With that, I am also working on a comic pitch for my long-time friend and frequent collaborator, James Davidge. In tandem with the above comic project, I am also designing characters for an 8-page comic pitch, which may or may not be included as part of my assignment.


I'm really trying to play with expressive shapes on these characters and I'm enjoying the hell out of these human/animal hybrid characters. Been doing a lot of fashion reference as well in an attempt to bring some personality to my clothing choices. I wonder if my work is bordering on too simple, too cartooney, to adequately match the content of the comic, which centres around political intrigue and a murder mystery, but I won't question the process. Just go with the flow and see what happens. Texture, grit and lighting can add weight to simpler shapes, and that can be experimented with later.

We will see how both of these projects progress, but ideally, I would love to have my work with James be a creatively satisfying and beneficial collaboration, while also being able to create a comic that came straight from my brain, and experiments with emotion and comic storytelling.

So once again, I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too. I find my plate so full it's about to crack... and I'm loving it!



Thursday, June 20, 2019

"LIFE IS A SHORT DREAM"

The first reading of Life is a Short Dream is probably even better without context. With this in mind, please enjoy my latest comic and feel free to read about some of my inspiration and process below. Enjoy!


















Every once in a while, you read something that moves you so much that you are compelled to explore it visually, to wallow in its possibilities, to follow the path and see where it leads. Such an experience happened for me as I was reading Man and His Symbols, edited by Carl Jung.

Jung relates an experience with a patient who had been gifted a book of dreams by his young daughter. The events that follow, and an exploration of the dreams themselves, can be seen in my recently finished mini-comic "Life is a Short Dream". This was apparently a common Roman saying, one that happens to make the perfect title for this story.

This is one of my few entirely digital works, a choice made because of my limited schedule. It took awhile to get comfortable inking digitally once again (I'm using a 13hd cintiq these days) but I really started to enjoy it about halfway through. The ability to refine and carve away at lines using the eraser tool is such a joy and adds something unique to the process. The half-tone dots as a bit of shadow and texture is really fun to work with and I look forward to refining this look in future projects.

In an effort to make the imagery more universal, more relatable on a primal level, I tried my best to avoid Christian imagery, instead researching alchemical symbols and using lots of figure work, which was a blast. Similar to my work on Leighton Reliquary, I laid out the whole story in a full-sized dummy book, allowing more of a free flow to the pacing and layout, less detailed and precise than my usual thumbnailing process.

One of my more experimental ventures into comic-making, my intention is to leave this open enough to allow for interpretation from the reader, to bring something of themselves to this dream journey and see what they make of it. Much like dream analysis, it's a highly subjective experience that should, in theory, offer something unique to everyone, and perhaps reveal something about ourselves.

Determined to create something that meant so much to me personally, and maybe to fight off that creeping sense of imposter syndrome that tends to afflict many an artist, I put this together in a very hectic three weeks for the Panel One show on June 1st of this year (which was as much fun as ever!) It reminded me of my younger days making mini-comics and stapling them together the night before a show, back when the process seemed so much easier and getting an idea on the page seemed more immediate. It was always personal work, fly by the seat of your pants, anything goes...

It was extremely satisfying to get in touch with that feeling again, and I hope it shows.