I've been avoiding working on this page, because it's a bit intimidating to get the perspective right. But I couldn't put it off forever, so in the intervening months, I've looked at a lot of restaurants and taken a lot of pictures to try to figure out how best to pull it off.
Using a combo of references, I drew out the following mock up on my computer:
I settled on 4 panels rather than the original idea of 5. I printed this "sketch" out at full size to use as a reference.
From there, I made a pencil sketch of the scene:
And then refined it a bit:
Then I traced/drew it out in pencil on the good paper:
And then got to work inking the bad boy.
It's not as "clean" as I'd like it to be, but it's done (except for all the other computer processing I have to do...)
This week I worked on a couple of inserts. These images aren't complete pages, but they will be used to fill out 2 pages. As such, I wound up making them about 2 times bigger than they will be once they are incorporated. It's hard to draw small! First up, C ponders at his desk. Probably a bit too much exaggeration on the perspective...
Next up, a mock up of a couple of head shots.
And the inked image. I didn't get it quite as simplistic as I was thinking, but it's close.
The text is purely for fun. It'll be cut in the final image.
So with all the panels more or less how I wanted them, I used a lightbox to redrew the images.
Here's the pencils with initial inks (pen).
And finishes with the brush:
Mark! brought up a good point: C should be very terse and to the point, except when he's playing the buffoon for M. With that in mind, it occurred to me that he'd also get much more terse when closing in for the kill. Although he's still playing a bit dumb, C is very much conveying "I got you, you bastard." in panel 4.
And since I really want to make up for some lost time, I worked on another page.
The following brickwork (or at least portions of it) will serve as the chapter breaks.
I was originally going to draw one or two bricks and then copy them in PhotoShop. But that seemed like too much a cheat, so I went ahead and drew the whole page.
I started by creating a blue line guide. I knew I wouldn't keep the brickwork quite so regular, but I still needed something to go by.
Here's the thing. It's easy for me to love Montressor as a character; he's such a slick and smarmy snob. But it's also important to remember: there's a reason Calimbo is after him. He slowly walled a man into a cave. Hand drawing each of those bricks one-by-one gives you an appreciation of how evil Montressor is---and why he has to be caught.
Once again, I couldn't make it to the studio, but I did have some time to work on the Calimbo comic. I saw Mark! in person recently, and he was gracious enough to provide some overall feedback to the comic. I think his exact words were: "I wouldn't line my birdcage with this garbage!" He's always so helpful!
Here's an updated page that takes into account some of his feedback. I'm not quite happy with all the white, as I think it hurts the mood, but it's DEFINITELY easier to read. I'm thinking I might stagger the boxes so that they are set off even more in terms of who is speaking. In case it wasn't obvious: C always speaks in italics, while everyone else is normal font. (But hopefully the context of the dialogue is clear enough that you can tell who is speaking.
As you can see, Mark! helpfully (ahem) pointed out that M was not using his left hand to smoke--so the whole page got flipped.
Another issue: I drew this page long before I decided that C's smoke is white and M's is black. So I'm still trying to think of a way to fix the smoke in this panel. Part of me wants to re-draw the whole thing, but I have to resist the temptation, or I'll never get done.
Here's the original for comparison.
Another page of edits. Mark! pointed out that M wouldn't refer to himself in panel 9 as a murderer; and he'd be more curt with C. I went one step further: M thinks of himself as a "helper." I also updated panel 8 to make it clearer that C is deflecting (by pretending he doesn't understand why M is upset).
(May still re-think the white on black text in panel 5.)
Mark! demanded that I add more "yes's" to this scene. (He actually said "more yes-es and no-s", but I think it better reflects the scene with the boss if they are all yes-es.)
I modified the artwork a bit in this one. I moved some text around to make C appear more rambling. I removed the text blocks in panels 2 and 3 and relied only on free-floating text (and white on black again...). Finally, I updated M's dialogue. Here, he does refer to the action as murder, but I left it in for the double meaning.
Made some other minor edits as well. Those took a couple of hours, but they are less visually thrilling.
I realized that the year is already 1/4 of the way gone, and I still have a ways to go before I complete the Calimbo comic. So I dashed out a few scene sketches, which will save me time in the long run. I threw these together at home rather than in the studio. Here C is talking to the Medical Examiner.
This is a transitional page. We start with C thinking about the case and transition to M starting to freak out.
Here we see C waiting to confront M (although he will claim that he was there for another reason).
Maybe it was the time change, but I spent more time in the studio, but seemed to get less done. I finished inking this page, where M decides to go tamper with evidence.
And I started on the rough for another page, where C leads M into his trap. This is pretty rough. I'm still pondering the images for the upper tier (currently the 1st 3 panels).
For those following closely at home, I think I've decided to combine these two pages:
Here's the pencils:
As I mentioned last time, this page is meant to be reminiscent of this earlier page (where C looks for evidence). My original thought was to have the 2 pages be almost identical; but that seemed a bit lazy and a little too "on the nose." So I went with something that reflected the earlier page. That makes more sense to me anyway, because C and M should always be opposites.
Click on images to enlarge.
STEP 1: THE IDEA
The first step is probably the hardest. How do you come up with an idea that will be fun and fit on a card? There are thousands of Christmas cards out there already. Luckily, since I've been making Christmas cards for awhile now, I actually have a set of ideas to fall back on if I can't come up with something new. This one began as a doodle in one of my sketchbooks several years ago. You can see that the idea was pretty fully-formed from the beginning (that's not always the case).
STEP 2: THE SKETCH
Next came some sketches. I wanted this image to be a bit more realistic (as opposed to "cartoony") looking. So I hired the best looking model I could find to play Santa. He's not too bright, but he works cheaply and he does what I tell him to do.
The nice thing about using a "model" is that I don't have to think too hard about which side of the hand the thumb goes on or how folds bunch up on clothing, because I can just look at a real world example. I also looked at some real fruit (as you can see in the photo above).
I drew the image in pencil on some scrap paper. At this stage, I'm working out a lot of the details (like hands). I try to make all my mistakes on scrap paper first, so that the final artwork is largely pristine. Once I finished the pencil sketch, I "colored" it in with a black magic marker. This sketch would serve as a full-size template for the "real" artwork.
I initially thought I would have more background elements, like a chimney and stockings (as in the doodle), but I abandoned that idea as the image was starting to get cluttered and I wanted to keep the focus on the main idea.
STEP 3: THE DRAWING
Using my mockup as a reference, I redrew the image on Bristol paper; it's a heavier weight paper that is good for both pencil and ink.
STEP 4: INKING
With the pencils done, I next went over all of the pencils with ink. Some people think this means “tracing,” but it’s not. Inking adds a whole different character to the image. I often start off inking with a pen and then go over (most) everything again with a brush. Using a brush lets me vary the weight of the lines and to create big dark areas. Ultimately, inking helps make the image look more polished; and it makes it easier to reproduce. Unfortunately, it can also remove some of the "spontaneity" of the image.
Once I was done with the black ink, I also used white ink/paint to create "shines" on the fruit and the bowl. White ink is kind of a pain, because I haven't found one that is easy to use and does a good job of covering black ink.
Once all the ink was dry, I erased any left over pencil lines.
STEP 5: SCANNING
Next, I scanned the picture into my computer. This process turns the image into a digital computer file. The paper was larger than my scanner, so I had to make two separate scans and then stitch them together with the computer.
STEP 6: USING PHOTOSHOP and ILLUSTRATOR
I took the scanned image and opened it in a software program called Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. These programs allow me to manipulate the image and make it ready for printing.
STEP 6a: FATTENING
I showed the card to JoAnn. She said Santa was too skinny. That's another problem of using models! So I used Photoshop to fatten up our hero (can you see the difference?).
STEP 6b: COLORING
I was initially going to print the card in black and white; but when I showed it to JoAnn, she said it looked too depressing in black and white.
So I decided to color the card. I won't go into the whole process, but essentially coloring requires creating several different layers of color in Photoshop and then merging them together.
STEP 7: PRINTING
Printing in color costs about 6 times as much as printing in black and white, and there are more things that can go wrong in the process. I'll spare you the gory details of dealing with printers, but luckily, it only took one extra round to get this one right.
STEP 8: MAILING
Then JoAnn and I addressed, stamped, added something witty like “Merry Christmas,” and dropped the cards in the mail. See how easy it is! Anyone can do it!
If you didn’t get a card this year it probably means we don’t love you we don’t have your address. Send it to us!
Finally got back to the studio after over a month of being away (for which I blame Mark! and Hard Traveling Hero). And boy, was I moving slowly. Luckily, the last time I was here, I did manage to (very roughly) sketch out several pages, so I wasn't starting cold. It always helps not to have to stare at a blank page. You may remember this sketch from last month (done in pencil on scratch paper, but full size):
I almost stopped at this stage. This page is meant to be a bit of a comic relief/character moment, so I thought that a lighter touch might be called for. But ultimately, I can't help myself, and I finished it up with brushwork:
Here's those same pages I showed the other day, but this time they have the panel borders and word balloons. These are still mock ups for me, so they will definitely change somewhat now that I see how I need to work around the text.
scene of C being reamed out by boss
I think I've decided to drop the panels from this one altogether and just have floating C heads, like they are buzzing around M.
I had originally planned to show this scene from the side. Partly, I rejected that idea as too corny; partly, I thought this image would work better.
Thumbnail (this is the sideways view...not that you can really tell with this little information):
At this point, numbering the pages has become a bit pointless, as I'm still tweaking the pacing. In this scene, Calimbo is putting the puzzle together in his head. I'm of two minds here: 1) use this image to contrast M's contemplation (or freak out); or 2) use this and similar images to show C putting the whole puzzle together, maybe even spacing them out throughout the story.
Here's the thumbnail, which better explains how I might overlap other images onto this one to create a "puzzle" effect.
Here's a sketch that I used to work out the positioning, et cetera. It's subtle, but I actually tilted the head slightly for the final image.
Here's an initial ink version. I often start inking with a pen, and then go back with a brush. I prefer the fluid look of a brush, but I don't always trust that I can make it work. I tried out a new whiteout method for this page. It's an acrylic paint that does a decent job of cover-up; unfortunately, when I went to erase, I wound up smearing it. So, next time: be patient!
I think Mark! might be right: that C looks more sinister than thoughtful. I made the smoke come out of his nose, because I thought it might suggest that his brain was working; besides, so far, I've only shown him holding the cigar, but not actually smoking it.
Last week it was Montressor thinking; this week it's Calimbo's turn. I haven't quite decided about how I'll use this page, as I'd like to show C thinking many times throughout the story, maybe with each time "filling" in the puzzle pieces, with images like those shown below. These are some sketches for other scenes that I imagine "floating" around C as he thinks.
Left side: C examines the dead body while the M.E. explains how he died.
Right side: C and another officer examine the footprints left at the scene.
Something like this (below), but with each repetition of the thinker, we add another puzzle piece.
Well, this page turned out to be a lot of trouble. I did as Mark suggested (sorta) and used more of a downward camera angle. I still think panel 3 should have M much smaller. (My original intention was to have 4 panels, but I decided I couldn't fit 4, because I can't draw small!)
I used a small pen on this page for the tiny shadow lines. I was trying to balance the pen and brush, but couldn't quite pull it off in a way that looks organic (i.e., that the two methods blend well).
The idea is for M to get smaller and the panel to get darker each time. I kept making it darker and darker, trying to maintain a hint of the background detail. I was only partially successful. I may be able to touch things up with white in Photoshop, but I hate doing that.
Here's a couple more pages that will serve as scene changes/chapter endpoints. This first one is a blow up of the statue on M's fireplace mantle. It not only points to M (in the scene), but it also mimics C's posture in the closing panel. And thirdly, it has a kind of Viola! posture, like a magician revealing his trick.
Because of their simplicity, these were both drawn at 1/4 scale, but they will be full pages in the final story.
Here's a draft of a page where Montressor ponders his options. It's three panels zooming out on M (not 3 guys sitting next to each other). I think I'll shrink him some more in panel 3.
This is the page where Calimbo has finally caught Montressor. Of course, he still has to prove that Montressor did the murder, but here, Montressor's ego gets the best of him. Original thumbnail sketch:
Working out the details on scrap paper:
And final version:
Some other pages I worked on...
These pages will be used as "chapter breaks" but they are also little symbolic (or sometimes just fun) images.