Some background under-drawings for a couple Happy Samurai pages I’m working on.
My rule of thumb is if the shot is about the characters then I draw them first, drawing the background in afterwards to frame them in the best possible way. If the shot is about establishing a certain setting or composing a shot in a very specific way, then I’ll draw the background first and tackle the characters second. Because I’ve been drawing everything separately (characters, props & backgrounds) and compositing it in Photoshop for the last couple of years, it really doesn’t make as much of a difference what I do first anymore as I can tweak and adjustment everything ’til I get it just right.
No pre-ruled grids or anything. I just lightly rough in the shot and then start plotting or ball-parking vanishing points. Actual vanishing points are plotted when they land on the drawing board. If they don’t, I’m at the point now where I can just eyeball in the grid and be more than convincing enough. All the nadir/zenith vanishing points are just eye-balled in as they’re always way to far way to plot.
You’ll notice that I make every shot a 3-point shot. Some angles pushed more than others. I do it because A) it avoids having parallel lines next to your panel borders—which is really static, usually flat and can sometimes be tangentially confusing—and B) it just looks cooler.
When drawing each background, I have a pretty clear idea of what I need for the panel, but I always draw beyond it a bit so I’ve got some wiggle room compositionally. In the finished panels, you’ll only see a third of most of these backgrounds. Most backgrounds like this take roughly 15-30 minutes to knock out.
Might seem like a lot of work (or maybe not), but the control it gives me over the finished composition means I can get the shot exactly how I planned it, and that’s all that matters to me at this point.
The reference madness that goes on in my studio while working. That’s all for one building!
Thought I’d give you a closer look at one of the production design sketches instead of another desk shot. This is to figure out the street-view and adjacent buildings to The Happy Samurais loft. I don’t worry about doing a super-tight drawing or making a “finished” piece. It’s about planning things out ahead of time, so when the time comes to draw pages with this location, I’m not designing AND drawing. I’m just drawing. That keeps the page from bogging down in the middle of it while I design something. Plus I’ll take these designs into account when doing my layouts for a given scene. Knowing exactly what something looks like means I can chose the most interesting backdrop to set my scenes/shots against.
All finished with the production design (both interior & exterior) for the band’s loft. Here’s a snapshot of all the designs. I may show some of these bigger at some point in the future, but I’m still figuring out what to tease, what to show and what to save for the comic. Now back to layouts and pages.
More production design work for The Happy Samurais. Working on the exterior design of their apartment (building, rooftop, adjacent buildings etc). Gave myself two weeks to do all the production design for this (both interior and exterior). I’ll need today and possibly a little of tomorrow to finish it all off, but I’ll take it. Part of me was always worried I’d get carried away and spend like six weeks on this. Two weeks might sound self indulgent, but I feel it was absolutely warranted. This location is the most important and prominent in the whole serious. Gotta treat the design as such.
Yep, that’s how I lightbox stuff. One copy of my underdrawing taped underneath the actual comic page, one copy next to it (or in this case ON it) so I can see what I’m supposed to be lightboxing a little clearer and a blank piece of copy paper to rest my right hand on so I don’t smear any of the final pencils.
I’m pretty excited about how I’m handling the SFX in The Happy Samurais. Obviously with a Rock ‘n’ Roll comic, sound plays a HUGE part of things. I spent a long time checking out how other people had handled sound/music in comics. I took the best of those elements, added in a few of my own ideas and came up with something pretty different and cool. It’s a complicated process, but the first step is hand-lettering the SFX (rather than go with a digital font). I think it’s gonna come out pretty cool, but the great Nate Piekos of Blambot (who I respect a great deal) told me he doesn’t care for a mix of traditional and digital lettering. That if the SFX are hand-lettered, the balloons ought to be as well or he feels it stands out like a sore thumb and takes him out of the story. Definitely something to keep an eye on as I go forward.