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)




(xposted at STL Drawing Club)




guy after Saint-Ogan



For what it's worth--
A young cartoonist emailed me for advice and here's what I wrote back:

...As far as advice, here's some (not having seen your work--I mean, I don't know what kind of comics you're trying to make?): Self publish your work in minicomics you can sell or give to people. Everything that's come my way--jobs, friends, wife--directly or indirectly, has come from the minicomics I've made since high school. Putting stuff on the web is OK but does not substitute for seeing your own work in a booklet. It makes you re-evaluate and get better. Set deadlines, get things finished, and move onto the next thing. Don't get bogged down in some big nebulous project that never gets done--this is a mistake a lot of young cartoonists make. Set modest goals--a 4 page story, then another, then another--and get them done. If they're lame, it's OK, make the next one better. Then put your work in front of other people, and you'll be able to tell if you're getting across.

The most important thing is making pages of comics, and just arrange your life so that you're doing that often, and enjoying it, and before you know it you're a cartoonist, and things will work themselves out sooner or later. They say it takes 10,000 hours (about 10 years) to gather the skills for any complicated line of work. That seems like a lot, but it's not so bad, and you just have to put the time in.


Latest Focus Book

This was the last "Focus Book" of 2010.  It was a pretty rough year of working! Will it every get easier? No, it won't; why do you think it would? No resolutions, or anyways, same old resolutions. Back to work...