Thursday, May 16, 2019

Recently I was able to create the visual script for the remaining 16 or so pages of the fifth chapter of my in-progress graphic memoir.  Thought I'd share a few images.
In this first one you can see the underlying grid I use on all my pages.  It has two layers.  One is the six-panel grid which is the basic design spine for my book.  Of course, I do not follow it on every page, but it is the rhythm that underlies it all.  The other layer you are seeing is grid that breaks the page up into 12 even sections horizontally and vertically, with gutters.  This helps me to divide the pages away from the six-panel grid in an even way (I can easily find halves, quarters, thirds, sixths...).  And it helps guide me in drawing straight lines.
Anyhow, you see me roughly placing the words, which have already been written and edited a bit in a Scrivener document which is words only.   Anything could change at this point, but what I'm aiming for is a sort of movement from the upper left down toward the right.
Next is a different page, but one step further along in the process.  I have drawn in what I think are likely to be the panels. In my book, the narrator's vioce is external to and above the panels (totally cribbed that from Fun Home).

This next one (also a different page) is almost done but not quite.   That middle block of words is being said by a friend to me in the past (roughly 2003 or so), and though she is pictured on the page, she is pictured in 1996, so I don't quite know how to "balloon" that dialogue, or where to point it.  She is depicted in 2003 on the previous page, so maybe it will read clearly, or maybe I can point a tail in that general direction but I'm not sure yet.  I will have to look at the spread to see.
Plus, this is the sort of page that makes my head spin with nerves and my heart jump with joy.  The images in the first and second and start of third tiers are from 1996.  The dialogue is from roughly 2003), and the very last panel is from 2005 or so.    THIS is why comics is, I think, such a miraculous form for memoir!!!!!  You can't do time like that in purely prose (of course, I'm not sure I can coherently do it in comics, but I think it can be done...)
I also like the verbal and visual rhythm of "no" on this page's draft.  :-)

And there you have it... a glimpse into my drafting process.  NONE of this is final art, of course.  I'm just getting the story together and practicing various visual styles as I go.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

"Eliza" by Tommi Parrish

I love the look of Tommi Parrish's work.

When you read the whole thing, watch the lawn mower.  What goes on outside this room... why is it included?  So much here!

I hope you'll enjoy "Eliza" which appeared in The Believer as much as I did.  So much to study!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

New MFA Preparing Author-Artists of Graphic Novels and More

An MFA program worth learning more about if you are interested in studying this sort of thing.

The website says: "This is a two-year residential program, launching in fall 2019. Graduates of the program will be prepared to work as author-artists of graphic novels and picture books, professors of illustration, critical writers on popular culture, and curatorial staff in museums, libraries, and auction houses."

Just thought I'd pass it along in case anyone was interested, as it sounds REALLY cool.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Another Example of iPad sketching from TV

In my last post I talked about how I'm taking photos of actors in motion and tracing them to learn more about head and face composition.

Plus, because I am doing it on my iPad in Procreate, I'm learning more about the tools there as well.

Here is another example, worked from an episode of Brokenwood.

This is a really fun process for messing around and helping me get a feel in my drawing hand for the distances and shapes of things.

Plus, it makes me feel like my TV watching time isn't a "waste" of time. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Sketching from TV to Practice Heads

I know that I have learned the most about drawing by practicing with live subjects out in public.  You have to be quick, you can't fuss, you observe and make a drawing and move on.  Hours and hundreds of sketches have helped boost my confidence and my skill.

But I still really suck at drawing heads and faces.

And I'm not even aspiring to make a head or face look like an actual someone.  I'm just trying to get basic proportions right inside of my own comic style.

I also know that tracing some of the comics artists I most admire has helped me learn new and exciting ways to draw things.

So I decided that tracing photos of heads/faces in action might help me.

I do this while watching TV, just to make it a bit more fun (and to get more value out of my TV-watching time).

I take a picture on my iPad of a favorite actor.

I load that photo into Procreate on a layer and then drop the opacity so it is barely visible.

Then, on a new layer, using whatever tool seems fun, I sketch the head, tracing the contours of the photo.

Then I play with shading to try to understand volume better.

Here are some examples from Wire in the Blood.

This is all just for practice, of course.  But I do find myself having aha! moments about shadows and structures, things I've read about and tried, but could never quite make work.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Current Workspace

I'm hard at work on the second complete draft of my graphic memoir.  So I thought I'd share a little about my work process for this stage of the practice.

The first full draft of the project exists on notecards.  I used a drafting technique I learned at The Center for Cartoon Studies during the wonderful graphic novel workshop taught in the summers by Paul Karasik.  Basically each index card is a thumbnail of a page.  It includes brief, very rough layout sketches, and a list at the bottom of what each tier of comics on that page will convey.  It is a fast and complete way to work through the story without committing too much time to script or art that might just get tossed.  I completed a 320 page rough draft version in about six weeks.

This second full draft is much slower (I've been working since the first of November, I have about 200 pages sketched in six months), but still rough and faster than a final version would be.  I am spending more time working out sketches.  And I am writing the script.

To keep things moving quickly, I am doing it all digitally.  And since I'm most comfortable and experienced as a writer, I am creating my script in my trusty tool, Scrivener, on my computer, while creating the page drafts on my ipad in Procreate.

As each page is drafted, I print it out, and put it in a giant binder, which I then use for continuity reference as I go.  Plus, it's just cool to see your project growing!

When I finish, I will have a script draft that matches the rough draft of the comic.  And then I'll see what seems like the best way for me to move along to the next draft. 

I know that the way I write involves many drafts of things, and I already have a long list of changes I will need to make in draft three.

I keep noticing how similar the process is to when I wrote my mystery novels.  And, of course, how different the process is, since I'm working in a completely different medium.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

On Four Panel Square Comics

Recently read this interesting article on four panel (square) comics and why they are sort of exploding as a format, particularly on the web.

This is the format I want to use for my much-fantasized about (by me) comic "Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from Batman '66."

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

A New Writing Resource and Upcoming Online Series on Memoir

I just discovered this new online writing resource:

I've only begun to look around, but what I'm finding looks like smart, usable stuff, delivered in nicely-sized chunks for maximum usage by busy writers!

Check it out here.

And if you are interested, as I am, in memoir writing, they are doing a free, online "memoir summit" starting April 11 and running for a week.  Each day features an interview with a different memoirist.

You can find out more and sign up here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Webcomic and Video Immersion Project

Such fascinating work people are doing in comics!

Here is a web comic and 360 video experience about a child's life in the Central African Republic.

You'll also find a link to a documentary video on the making of this work.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Sketching a Bobblehead Batman

I have a Bobblehead Batman on my desk, right near my computer screen.  I really can't do anything on my computer without looking at him.

He reminds me to be fierce, undaunted, and work for justice, no matter what "the authorities" think. 

He looks better than this!  My proportions got a little off.

Still it was fun for me to work on the shadow shapes, something I don't think about often enough, and which really do help make a sketch come alive!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Sketching a Carving of St. Francis

One thing that Jill Badonsky draws inspiration from, she told us at Sketchkon, is sculpture. 

I love a carving we have of St. Francis.   Here I took some liberties to bring him to life.

What carvings or sculptures do you have in your home or workplace or town that you might use as inspirations for drawings?

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Sketchkon Sketches #16 The Los Angeles Zoo Part Six


They were asleep in full view and no one was around.

These were my last sketches of a fantastic sketchcrawl!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Sketchkon Sketches #15 The Los Angeles Zoo Part Five


I struggled drawing these.  I tended to make them look too human.

The Roz Stendahl, our guide for our sketchcrawl, advised to study the shadow shapes, especially on the face.  That would help us see the real animal in front of us, and not fill in with human features.

This helped!  You can see the progress, I think.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

SketchKon Sketches #14 The Los Angeles Zoo Part Four

The African Wild Dog.

I had the great pleasure of seeing a pack of these on a safari in South Africa in May of 2018.  The guides there told us such a sighting was quite rare.

There coloration reminds me of my own Dutch Shepherds.  Stripes and blotches designed to help them disappear in the shadows...

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Affinity Publisher: A Quality Alternative to Adobe InDesign?

Many of you have heard of and used Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer, programs which are pretty widely reviewed to be every bit as good and in some cases better than their counterparts, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.  Because of the price differences and because Affinity's products include full-featured iPad versions, many people have switched.

Affinity products each cost about $50 for the computer version and $20 for the iPad version. One-time purchase.  Updates free. 

But there has been no alternative to InDesign... which has kept many people who wanted options stuck in the Adobe creative cloud.

BUT Affinity released their FREE Beta version of Affinity Publisher a few months ago, and I just found out about it.  HOORAY!!   I hope to download it soon and start to poke around.  I've been panicking about the cost of an Adobe subscription... so this option excites me!

All the reviews I've read so far praise this Beta as a robust competitor, though clearly in early stages of design.  It does some things InDesign doesn't do that people like, and it lacks some features people miss.

If you need more in the creative cloud than Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, and of course if you've worked in them forever and are perfectly happy, paying that subscription price could be for you.  But if you are a newb or looking for an alternative, then buying these programs is surely more cost effective.  Even if you purchase all three for both computer and iPad, the total cost (without coupon or sales) is $210 (assuming that Affinity Publisher is priced like Affinity's other programs)...and since Adobe is $53 a month, well, you can see you even out in about four months.

Anyhow, I won't stick in a bunch of links, as you can Google for yourselves and check out reviews or demos or tutorials or whatever as you like.  Tons of things exist on youtube.  I am fond of the tutorials/reviews done by Brad Colbow.  And Affinity itself has lots of vids.

Mostly I just wanted to share!

I'd be really curious to see what others think if you check this out.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Real Life on Valentine's Day

A little sketch I did around Valentine's Day last year.  The hilarious card, the water bottle, the coffee pods, the sticky notes, the family photo, the dog brush, the cleaning solution for puppy accidents...

real life.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Sketchkon Sketches #12 The Los Angeles Zoo Part Two

I spent a lot of time observing the double-wattled cassaway.

This is a bird I have never seen before.  Roz pointed it out as something she had seen as a child, but not since.

It was so strangely put together--a real treat to try to draw!!  Also, frustrating!  Because my brain didn't know what to make of it!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Sketchkon Sketches #11 The Los Angeles Zoo Part 1

When Sketchkon officially ended on Sunday at about noon, a bunch of us took a trip to the Los Angeles zoo to sketch.  Roz Stendahl served as our fearless leader.  She's a master at sketching live animals in places like zoos and local fairs.  Check out her blog for loads of great information on all things about keeping a sketchbook!

I had just purchased a uniquely shaped sketchbook at the Kon and I decided to take it along to the zoo.  I thought it's format would force me to think differently about what I was seeing and how I would place it on the page.  And it did!

Sometimes my sketchbook pages get messy.  You can't always stay neat when standing at a fence, in the sun, being jostled by crowds

Sometimes it was just so crowded I would sketch a shape and move on. 

Other times, I'd find myself with lots of elbow room and time to toss down some colors.

None of this sketchbook work is, for me, about creating beautiful pictures.  I want to observe, learn, and record the animals.

“Instructions for living a life. 
Pay attention. 
Be astonished. 
Tell about it.” 
― Mary Oliver

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Sketchkon Sketches #10 Day of the Dead Work with Models

On the Day of the Dead, we had a whole evening of celebration, including time to work with the live models from Dr. Sketchy in L. A.

I have no practice, beyond one six-week class several years ago, drawing live models.  So, no surprise, I'm not very good at at!   I wonder how much better I would become if I could only find a class in my neck of the woods...

Thursday, January 31, 2019

SketchKon Sketches #9 Learning Life Drawing

Veronica Lawlor did a terrific session basically designed to teach us new ways to approach life drawing.  You can see from the sketches I made during the workshop that it included things like blind contours, non-dominant hand sketches, one-line drawings, and so on.

She emphasized that getting rid of "normal" habits of seeing and drawing would open up our drawing skills.

After some warm-up lessons, we sketched poses.  The models from Dr. Sketchy's were great!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

SketchKon Sketches #8 Jill Badonsky Workshops

Jill Badonsky, an artist and author whom I've admired for many years now (I love her book entitled The Awe-manac) did several workshops at SketchKon 2018.  Sketchnotes of one of the sessions and some of the sketches I drew from her instruction are below.

Next up, a one-line drawing of five different kinds of flowers in a base.  I think, in fact, we drew this with our eyes closed...  I added colors and the box around it later.

Then she had us draw all sorts of things with our eyes closed, from memory, from our imaginations.  This is just one page of dogs, technology, purses, and birds on a wire. 

The big-eyed puppy at the bottom was drawn upside down without looking at the paper.

Fun fun stuff.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

SketchKon Sketches #7 Some More Sketchnotes

Some more sketchnotes from SketchKon 2018!  Really a great conference.  And there's one in the works for 2019!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

RIP Mary Oliver

"Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it."

~ Mary Oliver

One of my most favorite poets, spiritual inspirations, reminders of how to life well.

So much to read by and about her, to learn from.  I recommend it all.

But in particular, these are great places to start.

An essay from Brain Pickings about the commitment to creativity.

An episode of On Being about  listening to the world.

And, of course, her poetry...

Thursday, January 17, 2019

SketchKon Sketches #6 Some Sketchnotes

While at SketchKon 2018, I sketchnoted every session I attended.

Here are a few.

Sketchnoting is a great way to help yourself pay attention, stay focused, and capture elements of a presentation or workshop that have the most meaning for you!