Somehow I had it in my head when I pencilled this one out that it would be relatively simple, unfortunately it ended up being the proverbial greased eel. The end result is solid enough but there’s no way it can justify weeks of hiatus; while there may be artistic merits to the work it’s also entertainment. Entertainment with readers. Readers with limited patience who I’ll wager have a hard time maintaining interest in a conversation spanning across a month and would rather spend their time with Batman or watching funny cat videos on YouTube…
To anyone who is still following I really am sorry for the slow output and continual broken promises, speed is by far my biggest weakness but I’d still rather delay than churn out something unremarkable which I’m deeply unhappy with. Anyway, rather than moping about my inadequacies again or making more shady promises I thought I’d do something different here and provide some insight into how I work while considering how I might tighten things up in the process:
The rough pencil plan which I start with (above, left) based on the script is perhaps the easiest part of making a page, I sometimes end up wrangling with the layout a bit but it’s usually over and done with in a day. Anatomy tends to be wonky while the linework itself is immensely crude but since it’s all going to be redrawn it hardly matters, what’s important is that I get a sense of the overall thing and whether it works compositionally before beginning proper.
Conversely, ‘inking’ (pictured above right) is typically the most difficult and time-consuming portion of the process. Previously I’d draw out each panel individually with fine liners but since realising I’d have a far easier time doing the same digitally I now work over the layout in Corel. The new approach affords me more control and makes mistakes – of which I make many – much easier to reverse, on the downside though it tends to bring out my obsessive side. Given the option to redraw things as many times as I like means I can often lose focus on the bigger picture and end up repeatedly reworking a nose/eye/hand/miniscule detail, whereas on paper I’d get it down and that would be it – no going back.
To my mind at least the quality of the art has risen over the last several pages or so thanks to the new methods but I need to be stricter as to how I allocate my time and avoid being tempted to overcook irrelevant minutiae.
Stripping away the linework – and inadvertently creating some seriously trippy imagery – you should get a sense from the two stages above of how I build up colour. Given that this scene is saturated in sickly greens the palette isn’t as complex as some other pages but I still ended up putting in a lot of effort.
I start out with a base green, apply midtones, then work in shadows and highlights from there with the dodge and burn tools; I know that professionals often start with the darkest areas first and work up to lighter tones from there but I find the mids give me a greater sense of balance as I build up the layers, providing a kind of anchor I know not to stray too far from. Keeping everything in variations of green struck me as somewhat monotonous and unrealistic so you can also see how I’ve overlayed other colours in the second image to make certain features such as eyes and Scratch’s prosthetics standout.
Something I’ve additionally begun paying more attention to recently is lighting. Besides the regular greens being a little strong on their own adding the sense of a lightsource/s creates a far more interesting visual atmosphere; note the cyan highlights applied in the left image via brush selection and translucent gradients, in this case giving the characters a paler complexion along with the sense of cheap and nasty lighting overhead. For similar reasons I also applied a dark blue tinge to areas of heavy shadow to enhance the feeling of depth.
Finally, the last image (above right) shows two irregular effects I applied in this case: the mirror and the HUD overlay from Scratch’s viewpoint. The reflection was a simple affair only requiring some overlayed gradients and highlights, unfortunately getting the HUD right proved considerably more taxing, being largely responsible for the last day or so of delay. Unlike most other features it needs to look computerised rather than organic/living but on the flip side it has to fit with the style making it a mind-boggling contradiction to draw up. It took a few tries but the end results I hope are at least serviceable, appearing precise enough to be a computer readout with a suitably rough edged look to prevent it from jarring with the rest of the comic.
Putting aside smaller foibles I feel like my methods and techniques have evolved into something I’m fairly comfortable with, as ever the bottom line is the need for greater efficiency. With future pages I need to be more aware of where the time goes, which details are necessary and which are superfluous. I’ve seen others with less time produce far more than me at a higher standard so it’s not a question of whether it can be done, I’ve just got to keep refining and work towards a more respectable output.