It’s On: Inking Amelia

I’ve heard back from the “powers that be” and although I’ve got a list of revisions a few pages long, it’s for the most part relatively minor stuff… so, I’ve received the AOK to begin inking.  After months and months of penciling, it feels really good to break out the old brushes and nibs.  This first page allowed me to get reacquainted with a whole bunch of tools: brushes, pens, nibs, litho crayon, even doing white rain on black with a razor blade.  I probably won’t be posting pages of this until the book’s done–if even then–but here’s page one, unscanned (obviously) and without grays:



Craft: How to Quickly Create Page/Panel Grids

I recently answered a message board post from someone wanting the convenience of those pre-ruled comic book pages that you sometimes see for sale in art supply stores, but wondering if there existed a similar product that was actually printed on decent paper.  The notoriously fibrous nature of that paper has been a complaint among comics folk for years and as a result I’ve never known any working cartoonist who actually used those pre-lined pages.

I took a quick look at the Blue Line Pro site this morning, though, and it looks like they are now offering pre-lined pages on Strathmore 300, 400 and 500 series bristol board–that paper being pretty much the “industry standard” best bristol around.  It’s pricey though: the 2-ply 500 series breaks down to about $4.00 a sheet, vs. $1.88 per sheet if you buy 23″ x 29″ sheets of the exact same paper and just cut it in half yourself.

I’d add one further strike against the pre-lined paper: if you use it, you’re forced to use that 10″ x 15″ page area that people just insist on using.  This is a huge pet peeve of mine.  I’ve never understood why people so dogmatically insist on not just that particular page size, but on that particular shape.  Both the 10″ x 15″ size and the resulting 2:3 vertical-to-horizontal page shape are just the results of historical accidents (the former because of companies trying to save money on house board, the latter owing to the size you get when sheets of standard newsprint were folded and cut to make the first comic books) and, unless you’re doing a monthly serialized book that’s got to fit in those standard comic book racks at your local Android’s Dungeon, there’s no reason–zero–to adhere to this size or shape of page area.

So, if you want to save money on paper and not be confined in how big you work and what page shape you want to use do you have to laboriously measure out your panel grid on each and every page you use?  Absolutely not.  Here’s a tried and true method for being able to quickly create your panel borders on each page as you work:


Basically, what you do is–at the beginning of your project–you set up your drawing board with guide marks for the grid patterns that you use the most:

  • You start by running two pieces of drafting tape straight down the horizontal and vertical sides of your board, as I’ve done here.
  • Then, lining it up with the tape, place a blank page onto the board and tape it down.
  • Now, decide what size and shape you want your page’s “live area” to be.  In this case (the board is set up for Ameila) I’m working at just under 11″ x 17″, which is about 180% the size the book will be printed at, and just about the maximum size page that will fit on my scanner.   I’ve measured that out and marked it on the tape, shown here as the square highlights I’ve added in Photoshop, and similarly outlined the page shape in blue.
  • Next, figure out what the grids are that you’ll be using most frequently and mark out those as well on your tape.  In my case, I’ve made marks for a standard nine panel grid (Photoshopped on here in green, with tape marks highlighted in circles) and an eight panel grid (in magenta with circular highlights).  By using the green horizontal guides and the magenta vertical guides, I can get a standard six panel grid.  Note that I’ve got two marks each, which creates the panel gutters.

Once you’ve gone to the trouble of setting that up initially, for each new page you work on, you can just slide your t-square along the vertical edge of your drawing board and create the horizontal panel borders as needed, and likewise slide your t-square along the horizontal edge of the board to create vertical panel borders–a process that takes, literally, just seconds.

(As you can see by the bulletin board in the background, I’m using this time while Amelia‘s off to the editors to do some writing on Oyster War.  Act I, peeking out on the left, is coming toghther nicely; Act III on the right… not so much.)


Comic Strip: The “5” Royales

Here’s a one-pager I did for fall’s issue of Signal to Noise magazine.  I posted some bits and pieces of this a while back when it was in-process, but now that the new issue on the stands here’s the entire strip.

The stirp is an introduction to the ’50s soul/R&B band, The “5” Royales, who hail from right here in Winston-Salem.  The Royales aren’t a household name by any stretch, but they should be to anyone who’s interested in modern music.  The Royales’ influence runs via two conduits: first, James Brown pretty much modeled his first band, The Famous Flames on the Royales’ sound and in fact scored an early hit with the Royales-penned tune “Think.”  Second, the playing of the Royales’ guitarist, Lowman Pualing, was very innovative for the time and was emulated by Steve Cropper (among others) who was a founding member of the Stax Records house band, Booker T & the MGs, and provided guitar on tracks by folks like Wilson Picket and Otis Redding.

An interesting aside here is that this is a job I did mainly because I thought it’d be fun.  I hope I’m not bursting any idealistic young freelancers’ bubbles here, but smaller specialty magazines don’t tend to have the budgets of, say, The New Yorker, but sometimes–as in this case–the opportunity to do something really fun and interesting outweighs monetary considerations.  I this case, though, I managed to have my cake and eat it too.  The original art for this was displayed at a gallery show here in Winston–and sold!

Anyway, here’s the strip–enjoy:



Sketchbook 12/11/08

As per my “vow” from last post, I’ve switched here mid-page to pencil–and I’m not really sure I like the results.   There’s something sort of stiff and labored about the pencil sketches, I think because the maleable nature of pencil–somewhat counterintuitively–tends to make me more fussy about putting down a line.  I’m also pretty much using the pencil as if it were a pen, laying down dark outlines and then shading in areas.  In short: I’m fighting the tool I’m trying to use.  I’ll soldier on with other tools, but I’ll likely have to return to using My Precious (by which I mean, my Rotring art pen).



Sketchbook 12/10/08

I felt like I was getting stuck in a rut drawing hands, so I drew some dogs.  I’m definitely, though, stuck in a rut drawing only in pen.  I hereby vow to sketch more in other media…



Sketchbook 12/04/08

I’m on some sort of hand-drawing fixation lately.  Spending an evening drawing hands from the current issue of TIME Magazine has become a sort of weekly ritual for me now.



Finished Penciled Pages for a GN: The Weigh-In

One thing most folks who aren’t cartoonists probably don’t consider much is the sheer mass of  the many, many pages of finished artwork cartoonists wind up with.  I’ve got tons of pages lying around my studio, and I only manage to produce a book every few years.  I can’t imagine what artists who, say, pencil a monthly book for DC do with all this stuff.  Out of curiosity, I thought I’d get some “stats” on the now-fully penciled pages (yay!) for Amelia: This Broad Ocean, my current project (with Jason Lutes and Sarah Stewart Taylor, of course–doing layouts and writing, respectively).  So here’s the completed heap:


The pages on the bottom there that are sticking out are two-page spreads that I’ve done on single sheets of 23″ x 29″ sheets of bristol.  (The other single-page art is on the same sheets of bristol, but cut in half.)  Out of curiosity, I decided to weigh the whole lot.  Although the stack was far more than my little postal scale could handle, I loaded them on there in smaller stacks and it looks like they weigh in at just under ten pounds.  Similarly, it looks like the stack’s measuring in at just under an inch and a half:


I’m not actually even sure how many pages there are at this point, since the numbering is somewhat off, owing to a number of scenes being inserted later between previously existing pages.  Like the other Hyperion GNs, I think this one will be 80 pages total, but that includes various non-art elements like title pages and study material in the back.  My guess is maybe 70 pages or artwork total.

I’m also not really sure why I’ve bothered to weigh and measure these pages… Maybe it’s just borne of lugging pages for sale around to conventions, or having to find places to store this stuff in my studio.  Or maybe I’m just hoping that I’m making good progress toward doing my two thousand pages of bad art that, according to Dave Sim, I need to get out of the way before I start producing anything good.


Sketchbook 11/29/08



Sketchbook 11/28/08

Lately I’ve been doing a ton of either life drawing or drawing of hands and drapery from photographs, but spending too much time drawing from life to the detriment of drawing from imagination should be avoided just as much as the (more common) opposite situation.

So… I decided to do another “grid” page in my sketchbook as I do every once in a while.  In this case, I divided the page up, did a quick “contour scribble” in each panel in non-photo blue pencil, and then with ink tried to coax some sort of creature form out of each.  The bulk of these are pretty uninsipered, but I do like the rightmost creature in the third row.



The Jhonen Vasquez Comics Journal Interview… or Not

I just finished reading issue #292 of The Comics Journal–which features a fantastic interview with one of my favorite cartoonists, Kim Deitch–and noticed in the upcoming issues section that a scheduled interview with SLG’s Jhonen Vasquez appears to have disappeared without a trace.

From issue #291:


Now, from issue #292:


I guess if it’s been cancelled it may be a good thing.  I’m no theologian but I’m pretty sure that a Jhonen Vasquez interview in The Comics Journal is one of the seven signs of the apocalypse.

On the other hand, if it’s just been bumped to a later issue (which is most likely, I imagine) I guess we can assume–based on Jhonen’s quote below from an older Suicide Girls interview–that he’s finally completed his autobiographical GN about making a sandwich:

DRE: … It’s not like The Comics Journal ever talked about you.
JV: No those people would never come near me. They’d come near me if I was unknown, doing terribly and writing a very matter of fact series about my true life experiences making a sandwich.

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