Friday, September 14, 2012

Tools of the Trade, or Does Size Really Matter?


   Although this, of course, is a load of garbage, it took me a while to REALIZE it was garbage. How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and any number of other books out there may tell you differently, but when it comes down to it (as I think DC art director Mark Chiarello said), the only right tools are the ones that feel comfortable. When it comes to my own comic work, one of the things that makes me feel comfortable is working pretty big. Finding the right size to work, however, has been a pretty long process of trial and error. I started, like most other people, on the standard 10x15 comic page, but as my hand started to atrophy from cramping, I decided I needed a better solution. As my style changed, I made two big changes: I started using watercolor paper, and I stared working on single panels at a time, enlarged to a much bigger size than would fit on a regular comic page, like so:

  As you can see, I was working pretty big. However, as I got more serious about producing work at a professional level, one of the things I really needed to be concious of was speed--and working that big is VERY slow. especially at the start, when I was a lot less confident in my inking, I was essentially drawing every panel twice, as I was filling in all of my black areas so I could see if they'd work or not. There was also a psychological aspect to it as well, where if I was only focusing on one panel, as opposed to a full page, my satisfaction level stayed constant. In other words, since each individual panel felt like a full illustration, if I got 2 panels done in a day, I'd felt as though I'd accomplished as much work as if I'd finished 2 full pages. It made me very slow. I worked this way for the first 9 pages or so of Dead Meat Chapter 1, but I needed to get faster, so I decided to go back to working on an entire page, at the standard 10x15 size. You can see the size change here:

The size of one panel vs. the size of a single page

  definitely sped me up, but I again felt like I was very cramped in the space I had to work, especially since as I got more confident with my inking, i liked to be a lot looser and use a bigger brush. SO, when I started issue 2, i went back to the old method: One panel at a time, enlarged. And It Took Forever. I fell right back into my old psychological habits, and it took forever. So I took a step back to re-evaulate again and this is what I determined: I needed a way to work big, but fast, and eliminate the psychological block of working on one panel at a time. Can you guess how I solved that problem? Anyone? Well after months of trial and error, the idiot switch finally moved to the off position....AND I JUST USED BIGGER PAPER! It's like when you go to an arena for a concert or a game, and your seats are right near the entrance, but you end up walking around the entire stadium instead of 30 feet in the opposite direction. Except now I have a new set of problems, as this paper is too big for my scanner. WILL I EVER WIN???? So there you have it--part of this game is figuring out what works for you, what makes you comfortable, and what maximizes your efficiency and quality of your work all at the same time. There's no right answer, there's no wrong answer, you just gotta try things out till it feels right. If that sounds like too much work, though, there's always this to fall back on: Until next time, Eat Dead Meat!

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