Building a Closet

I noticed a slight deficiency around here in terms of new art, so I thought I’d peel some skin back and show some bones for a little bit.  Closetworld is a webcomic written by Matt Yocum that went online a little while back.  As pretty standard procedure for all my projects, I make sure thumbnails are approved by the writer and/or editor before I actually begin work on the page.  Below are the layouts for the first four pages of Closetworld, and the finished sequentials for comparison.  As usual, click to biggify.

Aside from camera placement and shot angle, two other very good uses of thumbnails are the preconception of Shadow Placement and Shorthand of Expression.  Figuring out where your shadows go in this miniature version of the page saves you a lot of time and ink.  It’s not just shadows really, but blacks in general.  If the page reads smoothly as a small sketch, there’s no reason for the finished version to be weak compositionally.

As for shorthanding expression — it can get tedious when you’re already drawing the page and you need to keep checking the script to see if the emotion on your character’s face fits what he’s saying and doing.  If you indicate this in your thumbnails ahead of time, you save yourself quite a bit of hassle later on.

Behind the Pluckery (Part III)

Continuing what I had started back in October, I’m going to lift the curtain on the thumbnail-to-inked-page process on PLUCK, my weekly webcomic for Zuda.  The whole season is going to be some 60 pages long, so if nothing else I’ll have a collection of fun little posts to look back on and be ashamed of learn from.Picking right up after page eight’s quaint little cliffhanger, our POV switches over to Pluck’s on page nine (above), and we see the king for the first time.  I originally wanted to show some sort of banquet right behind the king’s throne, but as I thought about it later on it made less and less sense for the king to let his subjects see he was all human like that.With Pluck getting a little too cocky on page ten, I wanted the king to put him in his place and to have a somewhat sinister air to him, hence the heavy shadow obscuring him in panel 3.  I changed character sizes in panel 4 and 5 mainly to make room for word balloons, but the layouts from the original thumbs are pretty intact.Panel 3, I felt, needed to be punched up a bit to give a bit more immediacy to the king’s words, so I scrapped the original shot and zoomed in on the king doing his best Uncle Sam.  I then made the amulet panel out to be the only predominantly black one in the page, to give it a bit more weight.  To mirror it in panel 7, I made Pluck’s frock blacker than usual, letting the amulet stand out a bit more in the overall layout of page eleven.

Once I started page nine, it had already been agreed that Gabe’s brother Matt would be coming onboard to provide lush colors for the comic.  So there’s a steady and very slow transition of me doing less and less blacks so that the line art can let a bit more color in.  Gabe is pretty hands on with the layout process and usually does his own set of layouts that I later build on, but we’ve gotten to a point in our creative relationship that we can pretty much riff on each other’s ideas very freely.  We’ll probably be moving in together soon as well.

Be good.  Go here.  Read PLUCK.

Behind the Pluckery (Part II)

Zuda’s October competition ends in a coupla days.  Things have been crazy exciting so far, so I figured I’d do a bit more blabbing about what qualified as work behind our entry… just to take my mind off things for a bit.

pluck thumbnail 5Pluck page 5I was honestly thinking about showing a bit more of action in this page, like an actual sequence of moves, but space constraints would have forced me to make them too small and possibly a bit muddled.  Instead, I settled for showing key snippets of how violent the battle was, because that’s all we needed to know anyway.

pluck thumbnail 6Pluck page 6This page required a different approach than the first five because it’s the first daytime sequence in the comic thus far.  Not being too comfortable with it all being too bright, I made sure to play with line weights to at least hint at a sense of depth.  There’s an occasional big black shape to add character to each panel, but having to limit my use of them took a bit of doing.

pluck thumbnail 7Pluck page 7I walk away from this page fairly pleased with myself and my use of the hand as a gestural tool.  To be totally honest, as I was just learning to draw, I was one of those guys who would use any and every excuse to obscure a character’s hand because I dreaded having to draw them in.  Not saying that I draw hands perfectly now, but I’ve surrendered to them often being a indispensable tool for expression sans dialogue.

pluck thumbnail 8Pluck page 8Let’s just ignore my failed attempt at a Bryan Hitch-style camera lens flare and move on to panels 4 and 5, shall we?  The thumbnail will tell you that i planned for the characters to appear a lot bigger in the middle panel, but it killed too much of the castle’s… regalness (yes, that’s a word now)… if you can call it that.  Not too happy about how those small figures ended up looking, but I guess it carries the action across.

The last panel was actually a bit of an issue because Gabe and I needed it to act as a strong enough hook to make people want to read more… but without over-dramatizing the scene.  The script actually had the king saying something to Pluck, and we also thought of Pluck sheepishly introducing himself.  Ultimately, we decided that a relatively subtle one-point perspective shot would emphasize that all eyes were on Pluck, and his looking up would show that not only is he being looked at… but actually looked down upon.  Fidgety hands and a sheepish grin helped bring the panel home.

Anyway yeah, that’s what went into the PLUCK Zuda entry and my layout process in general.  Was it good for you too? *huff

You can read the first part of this commentary here.

If you haven’t yet read the comic, I’d really appreciate it if you checked us out and dropped us a vote.  Enjoy the comic here.

Behind the Pluckery (Part I)

As most of you guys have probably already gotten sick of used to by now, I like to post sketches and such just to share a bit of the process behind certain projects.  Here are the rough thumbnails for PLUCK, along with the finished fully inked renderings.

pluck thumbnail 1Pluck page 1Though the roughs for page one were pretty much what I wanted to go with fairly early on, this still took a bit longer than I wanted because I was actually designing the characters right on the page.  I had done a handful of prelim sketches to get some looks down, but I wasn’t really happy with any of them.  I’m a big fan of HBO’s Entourage though, and it may not be apparent to anyone other than myself, but I imagine Pluck’s mannerisms and speech to resemble that of a young Kevin Connoly.

The black outlines for clouds in panels 2 and 3 were afterthoughts, but I hope they helped to add a bit of weight as well as frame those beats in the story.pluck thumbnail 2Pluck page 2I imagined Dreda to have black hair initially, but I found it fit the character better to have her be a dirty blonde.  The negative silhouette of the knight on the horse was a late addition to this page, as I felt the thumbnail needed a bit of clarity.

pluck thumbnail 3Pluck page 3This was easily one of my favorite pages to do, since it’s the first time it becomes apparent that we’re dealing with a fantasy story.  And I gotta say… nothing pisses me off more than pretty boy knights, so I was just snickering as I was putting this together.

pluck thumbnail 4Pluck page 4The last panel of this page came out a little less dynamic than I would have liked, but I think it’s somewhat clear anyway.

A coupla big influences on how the art for PLUCK came together was Mignola’s Baltimore and Tony Moore’s run on Walking Dead.  I don’t have any grays in it at all, but I thought this a threshold version of a grayscale image.  Granted that most black and white stories are either horror or crime, a comedic fantasy needed a bit more hatching for some midtones, so I looked at some  old copies Xenozoic Tales I still have.  It’d be great to come back to this and slap down some gray tones myself though, so I guess we’ll see…

I hope you guys found this interesting.  I’ll post the second half of the commentary in a coupla days.

You can read the actual comic here.  We’d really appreciate your votes!