Sláine’s face is much too big, and Judge Dredd’s face is very poor, but Rogue Trooper still looks okay – doubtless because I’d not drawn him before and therefore had to pay attention (couldn’t let Mister Gibbons down).
Still doing layouts. Here’s a three page sequence where two of the main characters in the book, Ethan and Katie, first meet. The actual size of these page thumbnails is 45mm x 65mm. Any smaller and I can’t get enough detail, any larger and I start getting bogged down in detail.
This first page is mostly silent, with just a couple of balloons in the final two panels. Ethan is running away from some cows, trips on a tree root, and lands in mud. Then he sees Katie.
My first decision is that we have to see clearly what Katie looks like and maybe get a clue about her personality. So I will need a full length Katie panel and a Katie close-up panel. The full length Katie will also need to feature Ethan. These will be the final two panels on the page. They will have to be relatively large panels, so now I have to fit the six panels I need for Ethan’s flight into the rest of the page. Here’s a scan of some of the schemes I tried (there are others but they are even more obscure than these):
I did quite like number two, but the top six panels would have been too deep, and I wanted to use a four by three panel grid on one of the following pages anyway, so that was out. Number one seemed okay, the landscape shapes would be better for showing Etan’s running/falling poses.
Then (never one to leave well alone), I decided to move a panel from the previous page onto this one, but I was able to keep the same design by splitting panel four into two, both panels focussing on the tree root on which Ethan catches his foot.
The final design:
The second page in the sequence shows Ethan and Katie talking to each other. During this chat Ethan gets out of the mud and brushes himself down.
I’ve got this idea at the moment where I want to give every balloon its own panel, which is obviously a non-starter, but I still try to keep to the spirit of the thing by at least having a maximum of two balloons per panel.
So on this page I will need a minimum of seven panels to accomodate the dialogue. I start doodling and realise that I want to show Ethan and Katie together in the same panel after Ethan has got to his feet. And I think it would be a nice visual to have young Katie sitting on a big fallen tree trunk, so that she is looking down at Ethan in a childishly pompous manner. Which will need a large(ish) picture.
Here’s my initial sketch:
I would have liked to have that extra panel (panel five) to keep control of the balloons, but there were two strikes against it – I don’t like having two full width panels on a page if I can help it, and it would mean that the following panel might be a bit cramped as it features Ethan and his giant balloon (which is why it will be a long shot, and also to remind us that we are in the woods). So the large panel will be even larger. And have four balloons. But this big panel will be doing a job, as the next page will have twelve panels and I don’t want the thing to look cluttered, so I forgive myself and press on.
The final layout:
The only action on this third page is that Katie stands up, everything else is chat.
Before I do any sketching at all I decide that this will be a page with four tiers of three panels, all the same size. This will allow us to show a good range of facial expressions as we learn more about these characters.
The initial drawing:
As I worked on this I did toy with the idea that they might start to walk along together, just to have something going on, but it didn’t feel natural so I dropped it.
The final design:
The Last American was my first work after several years of being ill, and to say that I was lacking in confidence as I started the book would have been an understatement.
So my process on the first two books was to start by drawing the pencils on layout paper, and then to ink each panel onto its own piece of layout paper.
I would then assemble these panels on the reverse of a sheet of Arches 140lb Hotpress watercolour paper, using thin strips of masking tape to hold them in place. Then I would use a lightbox to do the ‘proper’ inks, and then colour the page with Pantone markers.
Just to add to the madness, the lightbox was six inches deep and a real pain to use.
But confidence was gradually returning, and when the time came to start book three I was feeling much better about myself and the work. And along the way I’d also discovered double sided tape (the artist’s friend), so was no longer too bothered about screwing something up – I could just do another panel/part panel and stick it on the page.
So I was finally able to drop all the lightbox nonsense and to start working directly on the board, like a normal person, and eventually came up with this page, still one of my favourite pieces of work (apart from the panel at bottom left).
All the inking was done with Staedtler Lumocolor Marker Pens, sizes Medium and Small.
Here’s another picture I made for a fanzine interview, and jolly good it is, too!
I think the shoulder eagle has taken exception to all those dots and tiny circles I was drawing on everything at the time- and who could blame him?
After several false starts I am finally in a position to draw all sixty four pages of this book without us ending up being evicted.
After a couple of read-throughs of the script (taking note of any sequences that I might struggle with), the first task is to create the page layouts. I did do the original layouts for this book several years ago, but I have decided to do them again as I have only vague recollections of my thought processes at the time.
Writer and creator Ben Dickson has written the script as a plot with dialogue (my preferred format), and has only indicated where he thinks a panel should be large or full page. So I now go through the script and break it down into pages, making special note of where the full page panels will fall, including the extra ones that I think are needed to emphasise important stages in the story.
There is a lot of toing and froing at this stage as I try to accomodate these full page panels as well as my preference for starting a new page when there is a change of scene – it’s a bit like squeezing a balloon, but finally I have it knocked into shape and it’s time to start breaking down the pages into panels.
Here’s the script for page one:
As this is the first page, it is important that we get a good look at Ethan. Because they return later in the story, we must also get a good look at Ethan’s pursuers. And it is also important to choreograph the chase so that we can believe that Ethan can hide from the gang.
I work out how many panels are needed by drawing a line of boxes and doodling in each box in turn, getting a feel for the rhythm of the page:
While I’m doing this, at the back of my head I’m wondering where exactly is this happening, and I decide that the scene starts as Ethan emerges from an alley between some shops. He is then chased down the alley and emerges at the back of the shops. I’ve got him hiding behind some sort of recycling/rubbish bin, but I’m not really happy with this, it’s not so easy to show, so I decide that there are garages round the back of the shops and Ethan can duck into an open one that’s full of rubbish. So here are the final doodles:
So we have ten panels – Ethan bumps into the gang; Ethan runs down the alley; the gang pursue Ethan down the alley; running Ethan looks into the open garage; Ethan hides in the garage; the gang run past the garages; Ethan has a peek; Ethan peering out of the garage; Ethan looking relieved; Ethan back where he started.
Next up is laying out the page. I print out thumbnail templates for working out layouts, but I always have a quick doodle to see if I can find something that feels ‘right':
This seems to fit the bill. I like the four panels at the bottom of the page, and I can have a juggle with the rest:
And here’s the final layout. I’d forgotten about a close-up of the gang, so I’ve shoehorned it into the top tier:
Only another sixty three to go…
Did this a while back.
I very rarely associate things I’ve drawn with a particular place, for some reason this always reminds me of when we were living in Haywards Heath. Ah, the Blue India…
I’ve just been trying out my new scanner. Each of these heads is supposed to be a different setting – but I think they all look the same. Must be me…
Sometimes you do a piece of work and you feel like you’re finally getting somewhere, and this ABC Warriors cover from 1983 is one such piece.
It was drawn on watercolour board, inked with Edding 55 pens, and coloured with watercolour and gouache.
I was very happy with this when I drew it, and am still fond of it. I was especially pleased with the shadow on the little boy’s left arm, far and away my favourite bit of the picture. Obviously, being me, there are bits that I don’t like that much – the way the shape of little boy’s hair fits so neatly into Hammerstein’s right leg, or the clunky way I’ve drawn the foreground rocks – but, overall, one of my better efforts.
Here’s (yet) more things I’d completely forgotten about, headshots of 2000AD characters drawn to accompany an interview in the old fanzine BEM.
Just in case you don’t recognise them (I was struggling a bit), they are, in order: Dan Dare, Stainless Steel Rat, Sam Slade, Johnny Alpha, a Harlem Hero, Blackhawk, and Mach Zero.
Happily for me, not so much for the readers perhaps, I was given the job of drawing the six full colour strips in the first two Judge Dredd annuals.
And I got to do the cover for the second one, seen here. It’s not great but it’s as good as I could do at the time, so I was happy with it (but what a strange decision to make that jetpack almost the same colour as the sky).
Any shortcomings in the artwork are certainly more than made up for by the bold design – the green background and classic Dredd logo work very well together.
I wasn’t happy with this picture while I was making it and time has not healed the wound.
I will admit to liking the general composition and the drawing/colouring of the dinosaur (apart from the teeth), but everything else just went to pot.
It was commissioned in the early eighties as a cover for the dummy first issue of a magazine which was to be called Zarjaz (what else?), but, as far as I know, the project didn’t get much further – hardly surprising, with this aberration stinking the place up.
These were some of the last things I did before I missed several years through illness.
As well as being fun to do, it was an opportunity to ‘fix’ stuff that I felt I hadn’t done justice to in the original comics, particularly the Judge Cal serial. I was very happy with the cover for issue eleven, ‘firing on all cylinders’, as the saying goes (although the figure to the left of Dredd’s eagle is rather letting the side down).
I grabbed these images from The Grand Comics Database, an excellent comics resource.