Letters

June 27, 2012

Books to read…

I’m influenced by comics(pshhh-what?). And I’ve been making a series of work heavily influenced by that medium, dubbed, You Germs (YG). I see those pieces as individual works. But I’m also hoping to build them into a credible, albeit unconventional, story of sorts. They stand a bit between a typical comic art and traditional painting – a pretty literal expression for where I am with my work at the moment.

But, as of late, I feel like I might be short-changing the project by not getting more practice in with more traditional story-telling in comic form. What’s the good of being influenced by comics, graphic novels, and sequential art if you’re incapable of stringing together your images into a plausible, compelling, and hopefully interesting story? I say not much good at all. And the YG series, though interesting to me, detailed, and visually pleasing, there isn’t enough to “read” for you, with only about 6-8 panels made, at the moment. Sorry. I know. Jesus would do better…

Fortunately (unfortunately), my regular model for the female character in the YG Series (my lovely wife), has been out of the country for the past two weeks (the unfortunate: I miss her terribly – See you Friday, Dear!) and I’ve used her absence as an opportunity to take a break from that and fast track a project that I mentioned at the beginning of May. It’s a short story, titled Letters, that I’m turning it into a 26-page comic masterpiece… or so I hope.

Practice sketches.

It’s written by a fella called in his native homeland of Peoria, Illinois (and I suppose anywhere else) by the name of Andy Hobin. He’s an MFA candidate in creative writing at Virginia Tech (here’s something he wrote for The Rumpus) and quite the talent for poignant prose that is simultaneously beautiful and gutting. And Letters is no exception.

Because it’s a short story and not a comic script, I’ve been spending most of my time thumbnail-sketching and working my way through the essentials, cutting it down and working on the pacing. It’s been pretty exhilarating not to have to worry so much about content and just focus on performance – a state of mind I take to much more naturally, I believe (fear).

The interesting part coming up quickly, now that I’m finishing the prep sketches for the comic, is deciding the final format and medium of the story. I’m leaning heavily towards doing it in actual ink on bristol board. The “traditional way”. The only other two comics I’ve done (Bloodlines and A Faux’s Parachute) were done completely with digital tools – except for some pre-sketching – to help increase speed and editing ability, which I felt I needed at the time… but I’m feeling strong and confident in my inking ability – seeing as it’s been my favorite medium for about two years now – and my new found love of the brush are pushing me to do this thing “right”.

Messy desk.

But it’s nerve-racking. It’s all too easy to screw up a page that has so many parts – text, panels, figures – all to be coordinated into a cohesive whole. So, I’ve been practicing with some already sketched out pages that I had done for a comic idea I had two months ago. It’s on hold for the moment because I want to get Letters up and running first. But I started a few pages for the project a month ago (called Art in Conversation – hopefully more later) before I decided that it would be best to do it digitally. It’s a journalistic-type project with lots of updating, so speed is key, therefore the page sketch I did was just going to sit and collect dust. Might as well use it for practice! That way I’d have no problem screwing up a page I wasn’t going to use anyway.

I can’t say the page I did was a “winner”, but I think it was a good first start. I’m looking forward to giving trying it out on some live pages for Letters!

I did learn one important thing in the process: that the quality of the final page is very dependent upon how good the original sketch you’re inking on top of is. The page I was working with was actually quite sloppy, so I’m pretty sure I can make immediate improvement on that note.

But I’m going to be looking at a lot of Craig Thompson to get as much help as I can. The guy is a comic stud; particularly in his economy of mark and composure of his pages as a whole. I’ve been reading his new book, Habibi, and words can’t express how beautiful this guy’s stuff is…. it takes a few pictures, too…  hell, just read his book. You’ll understand.

Practice page for inking.

Postnote:

In case you’re wondering what I’m listening to while I work (who wouldn’t?):

Tomorrow, In a Year Silent Shout by The Knife

More importantly, here’s what I’ve been reading:

Habibi by Craig Thompson
Metamaus by Art Spiegelman
The Beast Trilogy by Enki Bilal

I do have to say, I owe some thanks to U. M. for letting me borrow so many of his graphic novels (seen in the first pic, above). There’s a lot of good stuff there. Probably going to humble me for a while.
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