In producing my last short story comic book, Nod & Sleep (2017), I had 30 pages to paint in one month and three days.
My comic book creation process went through six stages: Writing, Thumbnails, Pencils, Painting, Preparing for print and Advance reading.
Stage 1: Writing
Daydreaming the course of the story
I would get stuck in bed for a few hours each morning last year due to vertigo. Having not much else to do, I ended up writing Henry Badger Interview short comic, while stuck in bed.
I thought I’d replicate the process for Nod & Sleep. Since I had been spending too much time in front of the computer at my day job.
It was surprisingly effective — a little movie in my head, comfortably horizontal — it also helped me visualise the character designs. I just got stumped on one character, Sleep, but one weekend, I had this little kitty sleepover at my studio…
…who was quite keen to see the character fleshed out. So that helped me come up with a character design for Sleep.
Stage 2: Thumbnails
Detailed thumbnails & hot beverage breaks
This was the most time-consuming stage for me — creating something out of nothing. I underestimated how long this would take.
My thumbnails were detailed on purpose to automate the pencils stage. It was likely a mistake to have used pencils to produce tonal values. My drawing hand got overworked and came to a point where it didn’t want to hold the pencil anymore.
Taking several hot beverage breaks and using the mug as a warm compress helped!
Stage 3: Pencils
Proportional canvas dimensions for thumbnails & pencils
It was a straightforward process at this point to redraw thumbnails onto the final paper. The challenge was in trying to reproduce the same energy seen in the thumbnails, but in a clean fashion. Each line has to be precise to a paint stroke so that it doesn’t show through so much under transparent washes.
Working with fully-composed thumbnails that have proportional dimensions to the final canvas speeds up the pencils stage by 25%. Tracing would have likely speed things up some more.
Stage 4: Painting
Small canvas for less surface area
My favourite stage — this is when the atmosphere of the story is set. Working with real paint trained me to surrender some control over my work. Often, about 30–40% of the final output is directed by the physics of the medium. I no longer have the urge to redo pages. It’s quite liberating.
Working with a canvas that is smaller than the actual print size output speeds up the painting process by another 25%. But painting fine lines became a little more challenging. Still need to get a better handle on mixing the right ratio of pigment and water for lettering. Dope sheets are useful.
Stage 5: Preparing for print
Flat heavy object & buckled pages
The final pages were painted on loose leaf 300gsm. If the entire paper surface is not in contact with the glass, the raised areas will appear fuzzy on the scanned image.
Made the mistake of relying on hands to press down the page. Had to rescan a few times before I could start polishing up the pages in Photoshop.
Stage 6: Advance reading
Writing a summary based on early feedback
I invited a few friends to an advance reading of the completed short story comic book. I wanted to hear what the story made them think about. Their varied responses and questions were a great exercise in articulating things that’s just floating nebulously in my head. I usually don’t write a story with an intended specific message. This extra step helped me write up a short description of the book.
It certainly helped me produce this book trailer.