This is a worksheet from my late elementary years (3rd to 5th grade), somewhere between 1985-1987.
As you can see, I was taking shortcuts even then. But I’m glad I found this, because sometimes talented kids do the sloppiest, slipshod garbage, and when I ask why they’re not doing their best work, or not using their crayons when instructed to color, their answer is usually, “I don’t want to.”
On reflection, that’s a pretty good reason. As an adult, coloring is something fun for me. It’s why I make a comic. But to a kid, crayons are a way of life. Sometimes they just want a break, and it’s hard to force a kid to have a good time, just because that’s my perception of how coloring should be.
I guess I “didn’t want to” draw a nice picture that day. Sorry, Ms. James.
So for this edition of Weekend Kids, I thought it would be fun to show how I do my comics. It’s also fun for me, because this required me to scan my comic at various stages of completion, and it’s cool to flip through them and see how it grows.
Yesterday’s post, Matt and Brian #1: Dictionaries took a relatively long time to make. Normally from start to post, my comics take from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Dictionaries took about four hours. As you know, I like to post something epic on Friday, so I knew it would be a big one going into it.
The one thing that always intimidates me is the same thing that is the big hairy monster for every artist and writer – how do I get the picture out of my head and onto a piece of paper? We know it’s there, and that we can draw or write it, but sometimes we think – it’s right there! Why can’t it just draw itself! Or can’t I just plug my brain into a scanner?! But it doesn’t work like that, lol. And so just like everybody else who does this, I just have to force myself to sit down and draw SOMETHING, even if it sucks.
For the Friday comics, I usually do a quick sketch to map out the big shapes because they tend to be more complicated.
Next, I do a complete line drawing of what will become the final comic. Any mistakes stay until the very end (when I fix them in GimpShop). The one unusual step here is that I usually don’t add the dialogue bubbles until the characters are done to make sure they stay bright and clean (that my hand doesn’t accidentally rub across them while I’m working on the other parts), but in this case I had to include them at the beginning because I had an element that isn’t usually in Mister G Kids – a background. As any artistcan tell you, backgrounds are a bear. If you want something to be back there, you have to plan ahead. So for anyone who likes spontaneity (like me), you have to commit to it or you will have a heck of a time adding it later.
I also had to make a decision about using a ruler for the perspective elements, but I usually decide against it. Even though it would be more accurate, it ultimately takes away from the whimsy and childishness of the drawing, and crooked bookshelves that lean and bend a little bit kind of have a Roger Rabbit anthropomorphism and disproportion to them (remember his car?), which I always like for non-human elements.
I also had a little accident here that resulted in me switching the characters around. I drew the words before the kids, and for some reason, I drew the punchline higher, and since I’m the taller kid with the big head it made more sense to put me under it instead of Brian, as I had sketched out in the first idea. But I ended up getting the punchline, so it’s ok!
Next I got in all the color for the main focus of the comic, and committed to the basic shapes of the books.
Next, I made a full pass on all the remaining color. I ran into a dilemma here – I have trouble getting even coverage on brown, but I didn’t want to press harder on it so that these big rectangles wouldn’t be so dense that they take focus away from the characters. I’m ultimately not happy with it, but art is compromise.
The last old-school step is doing all the outlining with a heavier ink line, and shadows with ink and a 6B pencil.
Everything up to this point, I do in my “studio,” which is my kitchen table. It’s covered with markers, pens, pencils, paper, and stacks of kids quotes. It isn’t used much for eating anymore, lol. But I like drawing there with the air conditioning blowing right on my face. For some reason, I sweat a lot when I draw. I think I worry about failure, about making sure each comic is as good as the last one, and worrying always makes me sweat. So I guess it’s Flop Sweat like from my days as an actor, haha!
So anyway, I then move into my “office,” which is my bedroom, where my computer and all that jazz is. I scan the drawing, and open it up in GimpShop, which is a version of the free GIMP software that is configured to be like PhotoShop for people who prefer that layout. I recommend it for anyone who is looking for a way to get functionality without paying the heavy price for PhotoShop.
At this point, I crop it, I increase the contrast, and I saturate the color. I also fix any mistakes. Finally, I pick an image size. This is really weird, but I’ve found for my WordPress theme that horizontal lengths that are multiples of 430 pixels work best. I know that sounds crazy, but if it’s not a multiple of 430, sometimes it looks blurry on my home page. I’m crazy. It might all just be imagination. But that’s what I do.
(I want to note that I went back and cropped, leveled, and saturated all of the other steps above just for the convenience of making the proportions similar so it’s easier to see the progress.)
So for the final product I wanted to put in some of those “READ” posters I remember from the 80s. The only ones I could find on the internet are more recent though, so they are all anachronistic to the setting of this story, which would have been around 1983-1985. The LL Cool J one in particular is from 1997, but it’s frickin’ hilarious so I had to put it in. On all the posters I pulled the contrast way down so they wouldn’t distract from the dialogue when you look at it for the first time.
And here’s the final product:
I hope you had fun reading this! See you tomorrow!