A Week In the Life (and the Lessons Learned)
As I juggled an assortment of deadlines and “comicking” over the past week, I realized the diversity of what I worked on afforded some nice compare-and-contrast and lessons learned.
Having already wrapped up my usual weekly deadlines for Charleston City Paper, I was able to dedicate the weekend to penciling pages for an upcoming sci-fi comic anthology. What stood out while working on these pencils was the unique storytelling possible with long-form sequential art. The page size enables a diversity of layout, with a variety of panel sizes and camera angles to best convey the flow and action. As with comic strips, gutters and page turns enable the ability to build up to ironic or twisty reveals; the longer-form structure expands that build-up from page-to-page to further surprise the reader. I’ve also found my experience doing comic strips lends itself well to treating each page as its own experience that—while a fraction of the whole—can be enjoyed as a complete thought or moment by itself.
I also realized that Penciler Me a) tends to prefer tighter pencils, and b) has little disregard for Inker Me’s future workload at times.
Having knocked out a couple of pages of Rip Raygun, I thought I’d dive into some art just more for me. Still in a comic book state of mind, I decided to create a guest cover design for artist Derek Drymon’s faux comic series Mammoth Stories. I spent Monday evening on the line art, Tuesday on the colors. As an exercise, it was a fun excuse to apply my style to another person’s original creation—my version of the character Man-Myth is recognizable despite clearly not Derek’s style—and layout a more action-oriented piece.
Obviously, cover design differs from sequential art in that it’s (traditionally) a single image. But there’s still storytelling involved. In that cover illustration, you can paint a situation that engages the reader and hints at the broader strokes within the pages within. A cover design also supports an opportunity to weave in typography to further suggest the story ahead.
Every week I provide a drawing for the CIty Paper’s Blotter feature, to complement a story from the week’s police reports. Like a cover design, the image conveys a story, just one accompanied by text that tells the same tale. I get the week’s Blotter fodder each Wednesday, so that’s how I spent that evening. Unlike the cover image, which was more action-oriented, the tone of the Blotter illustration is often humorous. Picking the story from the several options provided usually comes down to what makes an interesting visual. Sometimes a shoplifting story fits that bill, based on what goods were stolen. Other times, the humor comes from a physical interaction or expression. In this case, an inordinate amount of alcohol-induced vomit did the trick.
A day to recharge the creative juices, catching up on TV, and spending time with the family. Remember, take a moment for self-care to help avoid burnout. But you can still keep your artistic soul engaged (in my case, I spent some time studying storytelling in the week’s new comics).
Friday was spent much like how the previous weekend started, with sequential art. Unlike the pages for Rip Raygun, though, the editorial cartoon is a one-and-done sequence of panels. There’s a lot of overlap, but there’s also a more traditional setup and rhythm for a comic strip, one that lands on a punchline. In this case, that sense of buildup-and-reveal of a comic page is distilled to land a quicker—and at times, more powerful—punch.
Now to rinse and repeat.
Thoughts on the differences from comic strips-to-pages-to-images? Discuss in the ShoutFyre forum!
Editor, Artist, Letterer, Colorist Steve is the long-running cartoonist at the Charleston, SC alt-weekly Charleston City Paper, where he skewers politicians and criminals (and criminal politicians) alike with editorial cartoons and police blotter illustrations every issue. Steve was best known his indie comic book (and subsequent webcomic) BOONDOGGLE