Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Half Way to Ten

Hi! Here's page 5. Click to enlarge. I'll write some stuff underneath the image.

I took a family vacation in the middle of this one, hence the two-week turnaround.

This was the toughest page so far. The first time you draw a thing is always the easiest time, because you don't have to worry about consistency and you can tailor designs to meet compositional requirements. But the second time you draw that same thing, your right brain has to call your left brain in on the action, and things get ugly real fast. This page is almost all stuff you've seen on previous pages, but from different angles (the palanquin, the sister, the rocks, the dude's armor). I think I may worry a little too much about consistency -- people probably aren't counting how many grooves are etched into some guy's gauntlet. Anyway. Major time sink. Podcasts come in handy.

Come to think of it, every page has been the toughest so far. Sometimes it feels like I'm running a marathon while tied to the starting line with a bungee cord. Each step takes more effort. I'm like Steve Martin in the Three Amigos, held against the prison wall by weighted chains. "Gonna make it! Gonna make it! Gonna make it! Notgonnamakeit notgonnamakeit notgonnamakeit!"

I wonder if I should try to get in touch with other comic artists? Maybe I could benefit from a little back-and-forth with a kindred spirit or something. I can't exactly start cold-calling my heroes, though. And even if I did, what would I say? The only time I've ever talked to one of my comic idols was a couple of years ago at the Seattle Comic Convention. I ran across Paul Chadwick, and nobody was talking to him. He was just sitting there at his little table, bored. Paul Chadwick! I'm not a go-up-to-people kind of person, but for some reason I went over and mumbled something about how he helped me get through my teens. I'm pretty sure I turned beet red. I told him I grew up in Eagle Rock (where Concrete is set), and he was like, "wow, Eagle Rock!" I couldn't really think of anything to say after that, so I scurried away. Not a real confidence-builder for old Nate.

I get the feeling I don't have enough to show to be taken seriously by a pro at this point. Maybe after ten pages? Do any of you guys ever fantasize about showing your stuff to your heroes? What's your best-case scenario? I guess if Mike Mignola said something like "I really like the way you draw creatures," I could probably just go ahead and call it a life. Or if Bryan Lee O'Malley called me "cool." That's at least two months' worth of dopamine right there.

Hm. Well, on to page 6! I'm stoked because I get to draw two new characters, including our heroine!


  1. I love the steep perspective in all the panels here, and all of the crazy detail (what DPI do you work at, seriously?) is interesting and textural without being cluttered or confusing. It's early but so far the dialogue is seeming more natural than Stareater, too.

    I fail to see how your stuff could be taken not-seriously, but IMO talking with people who have experience doing what you're learning is always a good thing. Then again, I'm a noob, so. :)

  2. Hey Audrey!

    I think I'm drawing these at 3300 x 5100, which translates to 11" x 17" @ 300 dpi. My computer starts to choke on anything much bigger than that, because I'm cuckoo for layers. When it's printed out on a good printer, you can make out a lot more detail than is apparent here. Like, you can see the little bits of the guy's armor in the first panel, instead of a mushy blur.

    Thanks for the comment! I hope all is well at the old coal mine.

    And again, I am so, so sorry for that Stareater script. I'm literally cringing with regret right now. Ugh.

  3. Hey, man, thank you for this blog. I've been at it with my own comic for 9 years, very slowly building up my skills. Haven't come near what you're producing here, and it's a real treat to read what goes behind work that's as finished and polished as this.

  4. Wandered over from warren ellis's blog. I started doing comics last year, and only really got moving this summer, so I can sympathise. Also, you're doing very intricate stuff here....I wonder if, at least in the begining, quantity will serve better than quality. My boss, Carla Speed McNeil, says that the ultimate goal is to be able to do one finished page a day for a month, and that if you can't do that, don't even bother trying to get into comics (or something like that).

    Why don't you print out your work and show it around at the next comics convention you can go to? Last year I went to ComicCon in Baltimore with my portfolio, expecting to be laughed at (I was 19 and female and had only been doing comics for a few months), but Mike Mignola actually took my portfolio and left the table for ten minutes to go find his editor at Dark Horse and show him my work. I ended up making more connections and getting more professional advice from all the people in comics I idolized in two days than I'd had in my whole life. And I landed myself an internship with the woman who's teaching me everything I know about comics.

    So, it's really worth a try. I'm excited to see where you'll go with this, and I'll keep checking back.

  5. Wow, that Mignola story kills. So rad.

    You make a really good point about the importance of speed (and yes, I chuckled when your boss' middle name turned out to be "Speed"). I've always been self-conscious about how slowly I work, and have always suspected that it signified some kind of self-indulgence on my part.

    I think you're right that a page a day is necessary to break into the business of comics. The question seems to be whether the business of comics is really a place you want to be. I don't think I'd enjoy my life too much, nor would I be all that happy with my work, if I got sucked into that grind.

    I've heard that the European ligne claire artists get about sixty pages done per year (still faster than me!), while most manga artists bust out something crazy like 1200 pages per year. That statistic used to make me feel like the French guys were just lazy. Lately, I've started feeling like if you're going to approach this as an artist (as opposed to a factory worker), it should take as long as it takes to be good. In the end, nobody ever rags on Vermeer because he only made a few dozen paintings.

    Not that I'm Vermeer. But anyway. I figure if I just keep my head down and continue to apply gentle but constant pressure, I'll cross the finish line eventually.

    I really like your work, by the way! And only 20. Terrifying!

  6. Augh, I love franco-belgian comics! I immigrated to America from france when I was four, and my brother comes to see us for holidays and always brings me a stack of comics. They are real works of art arent they?

    Unfortunately it seems like no one can tell me about the european comics industry from an american point of view. All of my professors at MICA sort of shrug their shoulders and look uncomfortable, with the exception of Jose Villarrubia, who just gives me more comics to read.

    As a senior in college, it terrifies me to think of producing so few pages in a year, as I have to really support myself. I have also found, tragically, that with a lot of artists (myself included!) who get bogged down in the art, the story REALLY suffers. I don't want to name names, but it seems like a real risk to me. On the other hand, I don't want to get into mainstream comics just to become a machine and pump out thousands of pages. Many of my professional friends seem to have fallen into this, even the ones I have admired since I was twelve. I think striking a good balance between art and story is crucial, with the scales tipped a little bit towards story, is good. My approach is to do short, quick (twenty pages max) mini comics. With each one, they are an experiment, and with each one its obvious how far I progress in terms of confidence of visual style and story telling.

    This is just my approach though, and very personal/individual to me. Your pages are *beautiful*, so who cares if they are self indulgent? I enjoy them immensely!

  7. WAW! amazing to see this... nice post..thanks for sharing....

    Are you scared to be alone at home need security

  8. xevv - Yeah, I know what you're saying about art thriving at the expense of story. To avoid this, I try to keep the writing completely separate from the drawing. I've written the script in a movie-style format, and run it by my wife a few times to be sure it'll hold up on its own (you may want to find a more objective editor than your significant other, but it works great for me). The most dangerous temptation when you're writing your own work is to add scenes merely because they contain stuff you want to draw. You can end up with a series of set-pieces that don't actually advance your plot. I do that constantly. Writing is hard.

  9. Seattle Comic-Con! I live in Seattle!
    and, because I'm reading this backwards, you seem to be considering using a flatter... and I'm trying to get into comics coloring/design!
    I don't have any samples to show, but maybe you could post (or email) some large line-art and see if having them flatted helps?
    my email is joe.flood (at)

  10. GREAT GREAT post and awesome comments as well!!!