End of the week, and it’s been a busy one.
I’m in a play that’s on in about a week – A Christmas Carol
, and I’m playing Marley’s Ghost, which means I essentially get to be as scary as possible while covered in more chains than a fetishist’s pushbike, which we all know is what Christmas is really all about.
I’ve also been writing a short story – 5,000 words in, and I’ve reached a point where I’m uncertain as to whether I’m really going places, or wandering hopelessly off the point in the pursuit of pretty lights.
I also finished off a short comic, a four-pager, based on a lucid dream I had about a month or so ago. One of the most intense, vividly-rendered dreams I’ve ever had, in fact. I’ll let the comic tell the story (it’s posted on The Boy with Nails for Eyes‘ Facebook page
, and in a revised form on my shockingly neglected Flikr page
). In the fullness of time, I’ll sort out a proper home for it.
Here, I wanted to show some of the stages the artwork went through as the comic was being put together. I suppose what follows does contain spoilers, but that the point of the comic wasn’t to tell a story, but rather to capture an experience. In that, I guess it is to more narrative-driven comics what poetry is to prose. In any case, spoilers are spoilers; I doubt they’ll spoil the experience of reading, but now’s the last chance not to.
Making a page
As ever, I used Bristol Board paper. I began by pencilling in the images using an F pencil. (I think I heard somewhere that this is an uncommon choice, but I like the fact that an ‘F’ leaves sharp lines but doesn’t smear when erased. Plus I’m willfully wayward.)
At this point the panels all have pencilled borders; however during the drawing process I decided that I would leave the edges of the panels without drawn borderlines. This meant that the artwork would bleed into the paper rather than being sharply divided. This would make the images leach into one another in terms of their flow, hopefully giving them a suitably dream-like quality.
The first stage after the pencilling was the application of an inkwash. I use diluted Windsor & Newton Indian ink – it’s waterproof, so I can work over the dried ink with more layers without the first layer running. The next image is what followed after the application of a couple of inkwashes, the first a broad wash using a large brush, using a fine brush to pick out the details afterward.
After the inkwash dries, I erase the pencil lines that are leftover, just leaving the wash and the remaining pencils beneath them (for this reason I tidy up the pencils as much as possible before applying the first wash – afterwards is too late, trying to rub out through the ink will at best fade it or at worst smear it). Then I start working into the inks with progression of pencils, moving through heavier and heavier tones before finishing up around 5B or 6B. Some highlighting with chalk pencil and a little white acrylic follows .
The next two stages happen together, but I thought it’d be interesting to present them separately.
In Photoshop, I add a few light effects. I haven’t got images for this bit but, roughly, this is done by creating a ‘light beam’ layer mask. A vertical line of white dots of varying sizes is drawn on a black background. For extra variation in the resultant beam, the dots can be set to 50% opacity and drawn overlapping. Then wind effect is applied, several times, before a motion blur is applied in the same direction. I don’t use a set amount of blur; it depends on the length of the beams I’m after.
This mask is then applied to a layer of bright yellow,set to a suitable layer style such as overlay or screen – again, it depends what look’s required. I then free transform the mask to fit the image and mask out the bits that aren’t required, and this is the result.
Following that (or, more accurately, at the same time, but what the hey) colour is added. This is something I generally feel out differently each time, but my general technique is to build up layers of colour with different layer styles, so that their interactions with each other and with the grey tones create a variety of tones, bringing depth to the image. I use layer masks to restrict some effects to certain areas (colouring the trees below with a light wash of green for example), also altering the levelling and saturation of the results as I go.
Finally the text is added. In this case, I began with a typical serif font, but found that the overly neat, ordered look didn’t fit the story. A swift check at dafont
revealed PhontPhreak’s Handwriting
, which almost perfectly suited my purposes. I say ‘almost’ because I found the stems of letters like ‘d’, ‘h’, ‘l’ and so on to be too short to be easily discerned from the other lowercase letters (the ones that eschewed vertical ambitions), while some letters, such as ‘u’ and ‘n’, were rather small in comparison to the others. This required going through adding longer stems and altering individual character sizes by hand, but the effect of this (admitted slog) was to make the font look still more handwritten than before. I still don’t like it would deceive anyone who looked carefully, but the legibility was improved, which was the central point after all.
Anyway, all that being done, the full thing can now be read on Flikr
. I (semi-)regularly post things like this to The Boy with Nails for Eyes Facebook group
, including preparatory sketches and images-in-progress, so ‘like’ or whatever gubbins it is or will be when the whole system’s replaced, if you want to keep up to date. Cheers!