Monday, September 15, 2008

Where the magic happens

I'm going to try and keep this daily posting trend going as long as I can! (I give this one more day before I fail.) The consequences of the trend: GLORIOUS FILLER!

I don't want to share the actual strips as they are completed, since they'll (hopefully) all be online in a few weeks, so when I'm being productive it means I have no stupid sketches to share.

Therefore, being the attention whore I am, I took photos of my work areas. Think of it this way: When I am rich and famous and awesome, you can all come back and look at the pathetic origins of Precocious. See, people one day might care! I'm sure of it! It's blogger solipsism plus artist arrogance! MY EGO IS OUT OF CONTROL!

Seriously, I spent a half hour earlier today Googling myself. I'm link #5 when searching for "Chris Paulsen" and #1 with "Christopher Paulsen." Woohoo! I'm also pleased that an image search for "Bud Oven" hits this blog as result #1. I'M #1! I'M #1! ROCK ROCK ROCK!

Anyway, on to the magical mystery tour...

My drafting table is located at the foot of my bed. If I was a hard worker, I could say I wake up, slide over and start working. In reality, I sit down to work, grow frustrated, slide over and cry myself to sleep. It's awesome in reverse!

While it normally isn't covered in comics laid out in an attention-whoring manner, the thing is always cluttered. The right side is the "staging area" - with templates, drawing supplies, my trusty ruler, a cutting mat and various knives. (This is an upgrade, as I used to keep my knife on the floor by my feet. No, really.)

I use a mechanical pencil for my drawing. It's whatever brand was offered at Costco. It's not top quality, but I'm used to its feel at this point. If you look at the comics, you can see some were done with red pencil lead and some with a blue. This is my damned if you do, damned if you don't situation...

The red lead is easy to find and I have a setting on my scanner allowing me to filter it out. This makes scanning a breeze! Problem is... the templates are no-copy BLUE, so I'd have to draw out my own templates. Also, the red doesn't erase, which is a BIG problem for someone still in the early stages of comic drawing. I don't even know how to draw my characters WALKING yet. If this last strip - with three characters walking in a line - was done in red, it would likely be an unsalvageable mess.

The blue lead is imported from Japan, since America has no use for STANDARD NO-COPY BLUE in mechanical pencils. I have several traditional no-copy pencils, but the constant sharpening drives me crazy. The problems with the blue is the cost and, uh, my scanner's complete failure to filter out THE UNIVERSAL NO-COPY COLOR! Still, a simple "select color range" in Photoshop easily bypasses that issue; and, most importantly, I can *erase* the blue! Despite all the hoops I must jump through to use it, erasing is enough to keep me a solid blue user now that I have it. I'm sure this story was very interesting to you.

If you look closely, you can see my attempt at drawing the comic in a block format in the pile. This format is the only way to fit the entire strip on my scanner at once. Drawbacks here mostly revolve around tracing errors. For that strip, I made the bottom panels too tall *and* managed to trace the template about one degree crooked. What that means is I spend the same amount of time correcting my shortcut as I would scanning the properly-sized templates twice. Yeehaw.

I also tried to fit two of the block templates on a sheet of Bristol board, only to learn I'm about a half-inch shy of the margins I need. The leftover from the sheet I used became a scratch pad for a few illustrations shared on this blog. If you examine the photo, you can see how my "For Sparky" illustration was made in parts and pieced together in Photoshop later. Only an artist would think this is cool enough to share. For everyone else: Doesn't it suck to learn that the magic is all man-behind-the-curtain lameness?

The light table - a brilliant birthday splurge for myself a while back - is where the lettering takes place. Using lines on the templates I bought as a guide, and splashing in some good ol' math, I came to the conclusion that my comic should have room for 14 lines of dialog space. I checked it out by analyzing an Ozy and Millie book and found... 14 lines of dialog space! Win!

With my standard set, I printed out a sheet with guide lines. Come lettering time, I throw the sheet under the comic, turn on the light table and it keeps my pen from straying. With the printed script at my side, I first do my lettering in pencil to see if it will fit. If it doesn't, I'll try to re-write the dialog or cut some lines on the spot. I do my letting with a .08 technical pen. Never one with any handwriting talent, this is still my weakest area. I can only assume I will gain skill through repetition.

For inking, I use a pen I found in a box of my father's art supplies from the 60's. As I am not an expert, my nib of choice is Hunt Globe 513 EF - which is a very adaptable nib, allowing for good control on thick and thin lines. I had used my dad's for years before I stabbed myself with it and broke it. (It was an accident, I swear!) It took months and several rejects before I found my model again. The company that produced the nibs had long since ceased to exist... as it had been gobbled up by pen giant Speedball. Turns out I can find my nibs hanging on a rack in friggin' Michaels now. It's convenient, but it just doesn't feel as special as it once did.

So there's my low-rent operation as it stands. One day I will have a real studio, with proper lighting. One day I will have a professional scanner, which can filter out the no-copy blue. One day I will have an assistant, whose job will be to create block templates correctly and scan my work so I can focus on being purely creative. (I hope.) One day I will be able to switch between nibs with ease - maybe even switching to using a brush like the pros - allowing me more depth in drawing. One day I'll be over my newbie jitters, with muscle memory and enough skill to produce better quality strips in a fraction of the time. One day, Precocious might actually be a real friggin' strip and not just a silly gleam in my eye.

Man, I hope that day gets here soon.

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