Back on Track!
Like Robyn said, let's get this blog back to its original purpose: tips on COMICS PRODUCTIVITY!!!
I just finished another issue of my comic book Phase 7 and it only took me five months to do it (as opposed to the issue before this one, which took a year and a half, or the issue before that, which took a year). I did 48 finished pages in 131 days, averaging a page every 2.7 days (and YES, I was IN SCHOOL for 3 months of that). What caused this jump in productivity? Well, I approached this issue in an entirely different way, so I thought I'd share some of my ideas, since I think they might be helpful to others:
1) One of the main things I focused on was LOOSENING UP (and/or SPEEDING up) my penciling. I mean really, let's face it, they are PENCILS. They are NEVER going to be seen by the reader! After it's inked, they are gone! So they do NOT need to be that tight or crisp or detailed. The information needs to be there, so you know what to ink, but if you already know how to ink something and it's in the background or something (the leaves on a tree, books on a bookshelf, etc) save some time and just don't pencil it. I penciled my entire issue on the subway train, riding to and from school and that looseness didn't hurt at all. In fact it probably HELPED!
2) I know this will make some of you cringe, but I decided to NOT rule out all of my lettering. Sure, it does not look as clean and "professional" but my handwriting is extremely legible, pretty straight and I can not even tell you how much time this saved me. And actually, after doing a few pages, I decided to do the ENTIRE ISSUE without using any rulers whatsoever. (It's a MINICOMIC, you know?? Does it NEED to look "professional"???) All of my lettering on the cover and in the endpapers, etc. were all just hand-pulled lines, which makes the whole book seem more organic and less cold and robotic. I really think people should try this out. If you can still write your speech bubbles and captions LEGIBLY without ruled lines, it will save you SO much time.
3) My Mantra for this issue was, "No one is going to look at that, keep moving." I think I have a tendancy with my comics to obsess over the smallest details. And granted, in some work that is really important and endearing. I like having at least one project going where I am doing my most absolute precise work (for me, "Basewood") but for this comic, it was just supposed to be a fun, quick read. So I consciously tried to speed up my drawing. Thoughts like, "Well, that's not exactly what that room looked like, I had another bookshelf over here" were shut down. Instead I thought, "The reader is going to look at this panel for a fraction of a second, so don't get overly involved in it. Give just enough information to get across the setting and the characters and the action." I got it to a point where I could pencil a page in 2 hours (1.5 of that was on the train) and then ink it in 3 hours. This down from 10-70 hours pec page for Basewood (!?!)
4) I also tried to take out as much cross hatching as I could. This is especially hard for me, because I love cross hatching. But it takes a lot of time and energy, and frankly, doesn't make the images that much stronger. Instead I tried to use more areas of pure black (STRONGER! FASTER!)
5) Rapidographs! I used three Rapidographs for my A) Panel borders B) Word ballons and C) Lettering and that also really seemed to help speed things up. It's a lot faster that dip nibs which you have to dip and clean constantly. Faster! Faster!
Anyways, I was really happy with how the issue turned out AND that I was able to turn it out quickly. In Comics, (as with any other story-telling format) THE STORY is the most important thing. And I don't think my story suffered any from this quicker art approach. If anything, it probably benefitted from it! (Not... so... stiff...) You can see my progress chart and a brief blog entry about the issue over on my site, as well as samples from the issue.
Now get out there and DRAW!!!!