Visual Scripts and Scrivener

Some interesting posts about ways to write comics using "visual scripts" in InDesign, and also another post about using Scrivener to write fictional comics at J. Abel's blog. I used Scrivener to write Ganges 5, and it went great. I highly recommend this program if you think it's the kind of thing you need. You can download a trial and use it for 30 days. Work through the tutorial that comes with it and you'll see how well-crafted an application it is. But it might be more than you need. If you're already writing a lot but your problem is organization and flow, then look at Scrivener. If you problem is you're not writing anything, you can probably just use a simple text app and get to work.


Too Many Things at Once

Trying to work on too many projects in one day can be bad. There's a line I always think about (I forget where I read it): "Context switching is expensive." Expensive in terms of energy burned trying to get back "in gear" after switching contexts. Comics work involves many levels of nested problems and projects and it gives the brain a good workout to keep track of all the levels of tasks and problems. So don't make it worse by switching out whole projects/contexts too often or you'll get mentally tired quickly, and begin to feel exhausted and cranky.

Having a Routine

If you are feeling anxious, you should sit down and ask yourself why. If the answer is "I don't know what I should be doing right now," maybe you should think about having a daily routine. Then the answer to the question is simple: you should do whatever comes next in the routine. Do whatever comes next, and don't let your anxious mind fool you into coming up with new things to worry about to distract you from your routine. You might start to think "No, the real problem is I don't know what I should be doing with my life!" This is probably not true. You probably do know. Go back to the routine and laugh at yourself. But if you really don't know what you should do with your life, you should sit down right now and figure that out.


Some sketches

These are from 2010 or so -- pretty sure I drew 
while these at the coffee shop with Dan Z and the STL drawing club. 
I don't think these are great sketches or anything, but it's been a while since
I put anything up on the blog.


John P

John Porcellino process posts: One, Two, Three



Pomodoro Technique

Read about it here. Try it and see if it helps you. Works for me. Keep it simple.


Wrong How

What also helps is realizing that it's not that "someone is wrong on the Internet," it's that most of the time they're not even wrong. After remembering that, somehow it's easier to just get back to your work, which is the right response anyways to whatever it was that riled you up in the first place.


The Most Greef

...for me anyways. Followed by postpro and finding mistake after mistake after after ∞. Haven't got practical systems for these yet is the problem, I guess?



This is a sketch for a 6 foot tall Glenn Ganges, which is the last thing the world needs.


Body of Work Thumbs

These are the layout pages for "Body of Work." (You can read it here.) 

I'm in-between projects right now and trying to clean up the studio (AKA the living room), so I may as well post some junk like this.

I had a hard time with this assignment (for an exhibition at Parsons about polymath cartoonists) but I eventually figured something out I was happy with. Here's some tricks I learned about how to approach assignments that work for me personally:

1) start building the story around whatever emotion you're currently feeling in your life (annoyance, frustration, hostility, etc.)
2) make it recursive
3) "death"



Layout Templates

It used to be that whenever I tried to figure out a page directly onto the big sheet of paper, there was so much erasing and so much daunting, expensive white space that I would get psyched out. But then I figured out this system of using these 8.5x11 copy-paper templates, and then there was less pressure to get it right the first time. It was easier to dive and do the "shitty first draft." 

This is one of the page templates I use to figure out a page of comics. I draw most of my comics -- the "Ganges" stories, especially -- with 4 rows. When I'm starting a new story I usually print a few of these out on copy paper and sketch on them. Sometimes I figure out a page pretty much exactly right the first time, but often it takes a few tries. Or I'll just sketch scenes and characters in the boxes and not worry about where each panel is going to go until later. For a few years now I've worked this way and it's become second nature.

****  This link will take you to a .pdf of the file, ready to print out and get started.  ****
(You can make your own 3 row, or whatever, templates for yourself, obviously.)

Here are some older examples of this:

I have tons of these. Here's some from the "Jeepers" era:

But this created a NEW PROBLEM, which was the tedium of translating the thumbnails* onto the large piece of paper to do the final drawing. Then only about a year ago I figured out a trick:

Scan these layout pages back into the computer, and then enlarge them to the right size (for me, a row is 10cm tall, 30cm wide). Print them out again. You can only fit 1/4 of the page on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper, so you have to use 4 sheets of paper. 

So you get something like:

Then you use that to lightly trace the big, basic shapes and placement of elements on the large sheet of paper. And then I ink in the panel borders and lettering, and now all that's left is getting the drawings right.

Now, I realize that this seems like more work than just looking at the thumbnails and sketching in the shapes! Maybe that works for you. But for me it's somehow less daunting to do all this, and do the tracing. Because all of the computer stuff is so easy for me at this point, it takes less brainpower than eye-balling it. There's less erasing and mistake-making, and thus fewer chances to get frustrated.

(Looking back, I'm embarrassed that I didn't figure this out more quickly.)

There's still a lot of erasing and re-drawing and fixing to do before I have pencils that are ready to be inked, but this trick gets me quickly through stages of layout that use to give me a lot of trouble. 

You may not have the same troubles.

*I call these 8.5x11 copy paper layouts "thumbnails" even though they're obviously bigger than the thumbnails of any known mammal.


Moments Strung Together

"What is your story? No story? Here's what you do. String together moments - think sequence. Think poetry. Think painting. Just let the "melody" come - let your mind focus on the images that move you - the words that flow through you. Composing any story, song, anything - always involves chasing half remembered dreams, ideas, memories. How does one compose a story or flesh out a story that is already forming in one's mind?"
-Frank Santoro
(sign up for his class! see here)





Homage to King

My page in Kramers Ergot #7 was a homage to Frank King, who drew countless beautiful Sunday pages involving flying up and looking down on the landscape below. There are many examples just in the pages reprinted in the Drawn and Quarterly anthologies alone. I went to these to see how to draw the landscape gracefully from up above and was amazed at how many times King had his characters flying on Sunday.

Ganges #3 also is a kind of homage to the "daydreaming" Frank King pages (in both Bobby Make Believe and Gasoline Alley) with some Little Lulu love in the mix. That's how I thought of it, anyhow.

(crossposted to the Balloonist)