SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

Digital art of a character design based off of the medieval cynocephalus, or dog-headed man. (No relation to Dav Pilkey). The men are both dressed in fine furs with felt hats and wear snarls on their muzzled faces. The only difference between the two is that one man is entirely wolflike, fur and all, while the other man has no fur on their face, leading to a very bald complexion.

A Tale of Cynocephali
In the six-month Sequential Arts Workshop (SAW) graphic novel intensive, I’ve been getting meaningful work done on my thumbnails and script. Soon, I will have a complete thumbnailed version of the graphic novel.

As for the cynocephali (or medieval dog-headed men) above, that represents a character redesign challenge I had while revisiting the fourth or fifth draft of my script. The first iteration of this character, named Canicula, is represented by the gray wolfish man. Early feedback indicated that sure, wolf heads are cool, but Canicula looked like he was a werewolf form of Pierre, one of the comic’s deuteragonists!

Hated to admit it but I can sort of see how Canicula initially looked like a wolfy Pierre.

So, I dug deep into Wikipedia for more visual reference. 12th century images of cynocephali are quite rare online, or I simply haven’t found them yet. I landed on this example of a 17th century depiction of Saint Christopher as a cynocephalus from Russia and couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Kermira, Cappadocia St Christopher depicted with the head of a dog. From the 5th century on, it was widely believed in Byzantium that the saint was one of the mythic dog-heads, a barbarian race without the gift of human speech. Nevertheless his depiction as a dog-head had not been the dominant in the Byzantine art, since the Byzantine Church frowned upon the linking of one of its saints with the cynocephali. In the post-Byzantine art, though, especially from the 17th c. onwards, the Orthodox artists several times paint the Saint as a dog-head. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)

There’s something quite arresting about the skin tone, the ears, and the haircut on this artwork. I couldn’t put my finger on it….

Screenshot of Mok Swagger, a character from an ill-fated animated movie called Rock n' Rule. He has excessive eyebrows, lips, and teeth, and he's holding some kind of vaporwave stick. He looks an awful lot like a cynocephalus, with the pointy ears, big curved nose, and ridiculous lips.I don't know. Ask Nelvana.“My name is…Moknicula Swaggercephalus.”

Ah. Okay. Well. This will be my homage to Nelvana’s ill-fated attempt at adult animation, then! Exactly the right level of uncanny valley.

Character redesign: Complete! For now, anyway.

In terms of technical studies I’ve also been working my way through the facial expressions section in Anatomy for Sculptors.

Comics Tip

Managing a Team of One
As I’m independently producing a graphic novel, I’ve come to realize I am doing 4-5 separate jobs, all at once. Just being one person, it might seem easy to keep myself organized, but no, of course not. My brain goes in 4-5 different directions at once. I have to reign myself in and focus on one part of the graphic novel at a time. Above all, writing comes first. Many graphic novelists (and, er, non-graphic novelists…so… novelists) turn to notecards and sticky notes to keep their plots under control. While I adore tactile crafting and drawing whenever possible, I turned to a digital solution.

Trello.com is a free notecard-like sorting system for keeping track of tasks. It accomplishes the one simple thing that I want it to do: Make digital cards that are editable, legible, and can be swapped around. I can access my cards from anywhere. They are also share-able for feedback and if I really wanted, I could invite collaborators.

Screen Shot of a Trello board. It has several columns, including to-do lists, lettering, thumbnailing, and the like. The background is a snowy mountain lake.

I set up my columns to reflect each ‘job’ I have to do in order to complete my graphic novel: Conceptualized, Scripted, Thumbnailed, Lettered, Roughed, Inked, Colored, Polished. Right now I’m very focused on bringing everything into the ‘Thumbnailed’ stage. At the time of writing this I have Act 1 thumbnailed, most of Act 2 thumbnailed, and bits of Act 3 thumbnailed. Trello lets me hop around like a time traveler so I can resolve the scenes I am most interested in first.

If you’re interested in giving Trello a try, and haven’t been traumatized by it yet in a tech workplace, it’s free to use here.

Care to read more?

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Is this Paleoart with some Folklore, or Folklore with some Paleoart?I explored the intertwining concepts of misinformation and natural history in this piece. The story in my head recalled not only mythological hearsay, but also the idea of cryptids. What is Big Foot...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

A Tale of CynocephaliIn the six-month Sequential Arts Workshop (SAW) graphic novel intensive, I've been getting meaningful work done on my thumbnails and script. Soon, I will have a complete thumbnailed version of the graphic novel. As for the cynocephali (or medieval...

Ivalice Zine Entry

Ivalice Zine Entry

This is the work I did for the (completely free!) Ivalice Zine organized by Ashley Cope, whose work on the webcomic Unsounded has inspired me for years. When I spotted the call for entries I jumped at the chance. It was curated so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I...

Want to chat about this?

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 1/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 1/6

I signed up for a 6-month graphic novel course via Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW). It’s very heavily focused on individual study and progression. As for the graphic, I got sorted into the ‘orange’ group, although it seems like I’m just sort of interacting with whomever. I’m doing a lot of sketchy thumbnail work for the course and…making friends! But mostly working, starting with an exercise to help me visualize my entire graphic novel before going in to the nuts and bolts.

Setting Up Benchmark Scenes
Even though I’d been working on Warlock’d for years prior to this SAW class, I picked up a fun exercise that I will be doing for future projects. The idea is to quickly explore the whole book before writing a single line of dialogue. In my case, I’d already written the script, but every time I tried to fix it, it just spiraled into new ideas. So, to stop it from expanding further, this exercise really helped.

 


Warlock’d in Four Panels

Here I quickly jotted down the spine of the story. They turned into jokes because this much truncation lends itself better to humor than drama. These scenes need to happen for the story to work.

 


Warlock’d in Eight Panels

Here I misunderstood an eight page assignment but I still found this helpful to do anyway. It was sort of like mini-thumbnails for fleshing out the four panels above, giving them more context and thumbnails for the actual pages.

 

 


Warlock’d in Eight
Pages
From the four, then eight, panels, I was able to derive a lot of pages that I’m either excited about reaching, or…excited about changing altogether. Hey, not everything’s a masterpiece. At least I know many months in advance that it needs editing, rather than after I’ve fully drawn the page.

 

Takeaways
This doesn’t have to be done digitally. It could be drawn on napkins with ballpoint pens. The point is to quickly jot ideas down and become more familiar with them, even set up a few to look forward to polishing. Spending too much time and polish on explorations is just like vacuuming my cat…Sure, maybe it looks nice at the end, but did I really have to do that?

Comics Tip

Make Friends, and Support Them
Making comics may seem like a lone effort, but without a community, a comic goes nowhere (and possibly never gets finished). Part of paying into the comics community means supporting other comics creators.

Buy and read the work of your peers. Get to know their interests outside of comics. Beta read scripts for each other. Toss money into a comics Kickstarter or two. Go to some conventions and strike up some conversations with exhibitors in Artist Alley. Show up to a weekly local drawing group. Trade tips and resources. While it’s not a one-for-one trade in most situations, being successful at comics means being part of a larger group of people.

With that in mind, here are three comics friends of mine who kindly volunteered for shout-outs, as well as a link to the Sequential Artists Workshop. Check out their stuff!

Digital lineart of an orange with orange blossoms and orange leaves. It is uncolored so that readers can download it and color it for themselves.
But if you’re not feeling extroverted, help yourself to this CC BY-NC 3.0 licensed free coloring page!

Care to read more?

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Is this Paleoart with some Folklore, or Folklore with some Paleoart?I explored the intertwining concepts of misinformation and natural history in this piece. The story in my head recalled not only mythological hearsay, but also the idea of cryptids. What is Big Foot...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

A Tale of CynocephaliIn the six-month Sequential Arts Workshop (SAW) graphic novel intensive, I've been getting meaningful work done on my thumbnails and script. Soon, I will have a complete thumbnailed version of the graphic novel. As for the cynocephali (or medieval...

Ivalice Zine Entry

Ivalice Zine Entry

This is the work I did for the (completely free!) Ivalice Zine organized by Ashley Cope, whose work on the webcomic Unsounded has inspired me for years. When I spotted the call for entries I jumped at the chance. It was curated so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I...

Want to chat about this?

Aesop’s Crow Fable Comic

Aesop’s Crow Fable Comic

A two-page, full-spread comic that encompasses the entirety of Aesop's crow fable. Panel 1: This panel stretches across both pages. On the left page the crow flies. On the right page, the sun bears down. Panel 2: The crow sweats, mid-flight. Panel 3: The crow notices something below! An exclamation point is over his head. Panel 3: The desert island landscape offers up but a single, black-red-and-white lekythos jar. Panel 4: The crow alights the jar. Panel 5: The crow peers into the jar. Panel 6: Closeup of the crow's eye, seen through the jar's round hole. Panel 7: A divider bearing the pattern of the lekythos. Panel 8: A cut-out panel where the crow wobbles the jar back and forth in an effort to get the water inside. Panel 9: The crow appears to be looking at a skeleton nearby... Panel 10: The crow was actually looking at the pebbles around the skeleton. It picks one up. Panel 11: The crow drops the pebble in. Panels 12-15: The crow continues depositing pebbles in the jar until the sun goes down. Panel 16: The crow finally tastes the sweet liquid within the jar! Panel 17: The crow guzzles it like a fool. Panel 18: It's possible that the liquid inside of the jar wasn't water at all, as the crow drunkenly sings into the night.

During a Push/Pull Graphic Novel Workout zoom class I took with David Lasky and Greg Stump, I was challenged to tell an entire story using only two pages. In this ancient story, a thirsty crow must be clever and work hard to survive a harsh desert environment.

About Aesop
Yes, I know — if I fall into a research rabbit hole, I’ll never complete a comic. However, respecting the origins of this fable seemed like an interesting thing to do. Today we so often take these fables as always existing…something that just appeared, like magic, in our childhoods. Aesop was a real human being who used stories to gain favor from his fellow human beings, so I used his history as a pin to inspire the look of the overall comic.

This image from Aesop’s wikipedia article may or may not depict what Aesop actually looked like. Due to its easily editable nature, Wikipedia requires some double-checking, but the sources a Wikipedia article cites are always fairly solid. So, it’s okay to use Wikipedia as a starting point for research! I don’t have any plans for this short comic re: publication, so cursory research was fine for my purposes.

 


About the Setting
Aesop lived in ancient Greece, so I hunted for desert-like areas around that area and stumbled upon the island of Lemnos, Greece. It has lovely dunes, rocky outcroppings, and a fierce sun beating down. Perfect for dehydrating our crow-tagonist and forcing them to be clever. Maybe I’ll visit Lemnos someday!

 

About the Crow
Most people would opt for your standard black crow. I definitely have a fondness for the beaky fellows because a family of them sets up shop in my backyard every year. However, corvids come in a lot of shapes and sizes, so I looked into what sort of crow might be hanging out on a Greek desert island. I found the Greece-native Hooded Crow and felt like its duotone aesthetic was quite nice. The dramatic shifts in tone across its feathers look sort of like the lekythos’s design.

Also interesting: Crows actually do drop pebbles into water to raise the level of it! They are clever problem-solvers. Even back in ~600BCE (Aesop’s time), people were making accurate observations of nature that still hold up today. Perhaps I should do a followup comic of Aesop grumpily discarding all the pebbles a crow put into his lekythos.

 

About the Jar
I could have just grabbed an amphora and been done with it, but I needed something that could stand upright on its own so that the crow could interact with it more. I trawled the Smithsonian Open Access collection and came across this lekythos. A little bit of simplification on the design so it wouldn’t overpower our crow, and there we go! A period-appropriate pottery prop. Aesop himself might have touched one of these.

More photographs of this piece from the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) can be seen here. You’re welcome for the giant, sprawling rabbit hole that the site is!

 

 

 

Comics Tip

Use Stories with Expired Copyright to Jumpstart Your Comics Portfolio
Say you’re not a writer. All you want to do is draw. You could hunt down someone to write a story for you, or you could wait for scraps of scripts from friends or writer’s blogs. But what if I told you, there’s a place where all the greatest works of literature from the past have been carefully digitized and proofread as ebooks…entirely for free? And which can be adapted as comics, even comics that can be sold?

Check out Project Gutenberg!

Works you might recognize that have expired copyright:
The Wizard of Oz series
The Odyssey
The Works of Mark Twain*

Project Gutenberg even has a ‘random’ button that will fetch you a surprise work from their vast selection. Get cultured!

*Twain reportedly fought for perpetual copyright extensions, so this one is pretty ironic.

Care to read more?

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Is this Paleoart with some Folklore, or Folklore with some Paleoart?I explored the intertwining concepts of misinformation and natural history in this piece. The story in my head recalled not only mythological hearsay, but also the idea of cryptids. What is Big Foot...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

A Tale of CynocephaliIn the six-month Sequential Arts Workshop (SAW) graphic novel intensive, I've been getting meaningful work done on my thumbnails and script. Soon, I will have a complete thumbnailed version of the graphic novel. As for the cynocephali (or medieval...

Ivalice Zine Entry

Ivalice Zine Entry

This is the work I did for the (completely free!) Ivalice Zine organized by Ashley Cope, whose work on the webcomic Unsounded has inspired me for years. When I spotted the call for entries I jumped at the chance. It was curated so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I...

Want to chat about this?

Moebius Study Comic

Moebius Study Comic

This page is an exploration into not only the style of Jean Giraud (aka ‘Moebius’), but also my own personal style. At the time, I was looking for ways to pare down the amount of work per comic page. I defined aspects of my style to rely less on painterly polishing and more on reaching a state of ‘complete’ in a quantifiable way. During the coloring of this piece I looked into flatting colors instead of placing them on top of a gradient mapped grayscale painting. I realized that I preferred having more manual control over my colors so that I could push the emotional aspect of colors more, over the ‘realistic’ aspects. My first attempts at defining my own comic style was deeply work-intensive (see below).

 

Let’s see…Overwhelming noise, textures, weird human facial features, colors all over the place,
takes forever to paint…Not to forget the hilarious mispelling of my old homepage url in the corner…
Yeah, let’s not do this anymore! Let’s get simple!

 

Not only will simplifying my style help me produce a long-form comic in the first place, but it will also be easier to pull off last-minute revisions at the end. I developed this new style on this piece during a Zoom class offered by Push/Pull Seattle.

Art software: Photoshop
Lettering software: InDesign
Typeface: Cloudsplitter by Blambot; hand-lettering by me

Comics Tip

Want to examine another comic creator’s style? Here are some small aspects to look out for when analyzing a comic aesthetic. They may seem like superfluous details, but they all add up in a big way.

Layout
How thick are the panel borders? How thin are the borders of speech bubbles and narration blocs? How big are the gutters? The margins? The margins inside of text holding elements? Is text allowed to break the grid? Is artwork allowed to break the grid? I’ve been using rather thick outlines for the panels so that readers notice my layout and where my layout gets broken, but I may experiment with thinner outlines.

Line weight
Does the artist use thin lines? Big, chunky lines? Closed lines? Open lines? No lines at all? I picked up a technique from Moebius of uniformly thin, closed lineart, so that I could quickly and easily fill tool my flat colors underneath. My lines are set at 5px for 1200dpi fidelity.

 

Color Scheme
Does the artist carefully balance their colors for maximum impact? Or, are they a rampaging, zine-spewing punk who slap down whatever’s on hand? As I find harmonious color schemes easier to apply, I usually head to paletton.com to restrict the colors I’m using upfront.

 

Shading
Does the artist use spot black to shade with sharp, dark shadows? Do they use animation-like cel shading? Do they use soft shading? Do they use no shading at all? Do they use a combination of techniques? If so, where do they apply each technique? I leave most of my colors flat, but use a combination of cel- and soft shading on areas of focus.

 

Every drawing style trend is fleeting, so none of them truly go out of style forever. Don’t feel shy about analyzing your favorite comics styles, even if they’re guilty pleasures. Fear neither bean mouth nor sparkly eyes criticism. Whatever keeps you drawing is the best style for you!

Draw However You Want!
And respect your inspirations!

Care to read more?

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Is this Paleoart with some Folklore, or Folklore with some Paleoart?I explored the intertwining concepts of misinformation and natural history in this piece. The story in my head recalled not only mythological hearsay, but also the idea of cryptids. What is Big Foot...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

A Tale of CynocephaliIn the six-month Sequential Arts Workshop (SAW) graphic novel intensive, I've been getting meaningful work done on my thumbnails and script. Soon, I will have a complete thumbnailed version of the graphic novel. As for the cynocephali (or medieval...

Ivalice Zine Entry

Ivalice Zine Entry

This is the work I did for the (completely free!) Ivalice Zine organized by Ashley Cope, whose work on the webcomic Unsounded has inspired me for years. When I spotted the call for entries I jumped at the chance. It was curated so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I...

Want to chat about this?

Bear Berries: A COVID Comic

Bear Berries: A COVID Comic

Way back in March of 2020, we were just still getting used to wearing masks in public spaces. My partner Devin and I wore matching cat masks made by his mother to the local supermarket by the lake. The cashier offered us a silly conversation so I decided to immortalize it in comic form. Sometimes a person is very cute and funny for no other reason than to be human…or was he a bear, like, for real?!

I imagine most stories from the lost year of 2020 will not be very amusing. It was a year of quiet, sweeping change. My focus on levity here is to give the reader a quick respite before they must go about their day.

Art software: Photoshop
Lettering software: InDesign
Typeface: Cloudsplitter by Blambot; hand-lettering by me

Comics Tip

Have you ever had this situation? Lots of fussy objects in the same composition, each requiring its own specific color, but it doesn’t really matter which color? Manually picking different colors annoys me, so I messed with the brush settings in Adobe Photoshop.

Color Dynamics
There’s this Brush Setting in Adobe Photoshop called ‘Color Dynamics’ and if configured as seen above, the brush will choose different colors based on my current foreground color per every press of the stylus. For my own use, I keep the amount of brightness and saturation jitters pretty low, and turn hue jitter completely off. This means every time I lift the brush, and tap it back on the screen, I get a slightly different color — pretty much within the range of what I want, but I exercised zero brain power to get it. And if I don’t like the color, all I have to do is lift the stylus and press it back down for a different one. That’s how I blow through hundreds of not-very-important objects that still need their own color identities. Thanks, computer!

 

“What’s a Foreground Color?”
I’m glad you asked. It’s the color represented by the box in front, and the color that reliably comes out of your brush when Color Dynamics aren’t active. If you check ‘Foreground/Background’ jitter in the Color Dynamics menu, your brush will randomly select colors in between the two colors defined here.

 


If you’d like to try Color Dynamics for yourself on the same panel I did, or create your own strategies for dealing with situations like this, feel free to grab this Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) coloring panel and pop it into the coloring program of your choice. I’d love to see what you do!

 

Bonus chaos
Try ticking ‘Apply Per Tip’…I dare you…

Care to read more?

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Is this Paleoart with some Folklore, or Folklore with some Paleoart?I explored the intertwining concepts of misinformation and natural history in this piece. The story in my head recalled not only mythological hearsay, but also the idea of cryptids. What is Big Foot...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 2/6

A Tale of CynocephaliIn the six-month Sequential Arts Workshop (SAW) graphic novel intensive, I've been getting meaningful work done on my thumbnails and script. Soon, I will have a complete thumbnailed version of the graphic novel. As for the cynocephali (or medieval...

Ivalice Zine Entry

Ivalice Zine Entry

This is the work I did for the (completely free!) Ivalice Zine organized by Ashley Cope, whose work on the webcomic Unsounded has inspired me for years. When I spotted the call for entries I jumped at the chance. It was curated so it was a little nerve-wracking, but I...

Want to chat about this?