Drawing for Myself – Making a Mini-Comic
So my perspective has been changing on a lot of things over the past 12 months in regards to my art and the tools I use to make comics. Long-time listeners to my audio projects like Art & Story, Thunder Punch Daily, and maybe even the Comics Are Great podcast no doubt know about my affection for the 102 Crow Quill as an inking tool. This past year I’ve been experimenting with the Pentel Color Brush Pen to do a series of semi-daily warm-up sketches. Over the year I’ve learned quite a bit towards making the brush do what I want it to, as well as new ways to think about my illustrations when I let the brush do what it “wants” to.
My perspective has also changed in terms of how much time I need to finish a project. I’ve often lamented at how laborious and time consuming it is to make comics (and it is!). However, this past year of exploring the brush pen through my warm-up sketches, as well as some client work I’ve been doing, has taught me that I can achieve satisfactory results in a reasonably shorter time than I used to need, especially if I use the modified style I’ve discovered through the brush pen.
(This is not to say that I’m abandoning the crow quill or my previous art style–please bear with me as I build my point)
So I asked myself: If I can pull off a decent warm-up sketch with the brush pen in 20 minutes or less, and I’ve had little trouble fitting that into my workday, what’s to stop me from doing the same with some comics pages? Why not take the “Drawing for Myself” series and apply it to some actual new comics that I can share (and sell)?
I simply cannot take on any new comics projects that I draw in my previous style. That is still way too time-consuming to handle, given my prep work on Kids Read Comics and my freelance and teaching workloads. But I could fit something in if I use my freelance art style!
Last night I decided to create a new 8-page mini-comic and complete it in a week. Gave myself one evening to write the story and thumbnail it out. I started out with nothing, no premise, no pre-designed characters, not even the glimmer of a theme. I just asked myself “what would Anne want to read?” and began sketching characters.
I paced around for about an hour until I found a theme and premise that sounded fun, then I jumped in to the thumbnails. Normally I do two rounds of thumbnails. The first round are about 2″ wide by 2.5″ tall per page, and are extremely loose and crude. This round is more about page layout and “feeling out” the story. The second round are about 5.5″ wide by 8.5″ tall, and here I take a much closer look at my moment and acting choices with the characters (more on my thumbnailing process can be heard in the Art & Story podcast series, Your Comic From the Ground Up episodes 2 and 3). This time, for expediency’s sake, I stopped thumbnailing after the first round. This was to keep with the kind of loose and fun flow I’ve been using with my warm-up sketches, where I often don’t even know who the character will be until the pose has been established in the loose pencils.
This means that my dialogue is not complete before I’m drawing the pages, which is a bit unusual for me, but I’m confident that I’ll find a good rhythm and discover cute means of delivering extra character through the dialogue when I get to the lettering stage.
Some more arbitrary rules I’m setting for myself, in order to keep the production time to a minimum: No straight-edge work, no precise perspective, I can only ink with the brush pen, and I’m limited to 10 minutes of penciling per page. These are limitations, to be sure, but they’ll also mean that the story will be done in time. And I will no doubt learn a few new storytelling tricks as I try to work within those constraints!
I’ll be posting the finished comic online when it’s done. Depending on how well it turns out, I may even do a screen printed cover for it to sell in the Tiny Astronaut store.
If this idea of belting out mini-comics is interesting to you, you should check out episode 92 of the Art & Story Alive! comics podcast, where Kevin Cross leads a discussion about a really neat mini-comics project, the Mini-Comics Dumptruck!