I’ve been spending a lot of time working on my comics and volunteering at the IPRC, a local Portland non-profit dedicated to making DIY printing accessible to folks. I wrote about it at the Big Cartel blog!
Showing the process from idea to sketch to finished comic.
As I wind down the first run of my weekly comic strip Waves to start working on long-form narrative comics, I thought it would be fun to share the process that a given strip went through. I’ll be showing the steps behind making Personal Pan.
The Initial Idea
I drew Personal Pan in September 2017. It’s the first comic that I didn’t draw digitally. It’s based around this silly saying my partner and I say to each other, “Any pizza’s a personal pan pizza if you’re hungry enough.” With that spark of an idea, I wrote out a rough script and potential taglines:
Panel 0: Federico’s Pizzeria shop establishing
Panel 1: a tool-y guy saying “I’ll take your largest pie. Every pizza is a personal pan pizza if try hard enough.”
Panel 2: a gigantic pizza gets rolled out
Panel 3: the guy is passed out with only a little bit of the pizza eaten
– Training for the World Pizza Eating Contest
– Drive-Ins, Drive-Ins, and Drive-Ins
– Tune in at 8pm for my new show on Food Network: “I’ll Take Your Largest”
– The pilot for “Big Eats“ did not get picked up by any TV networks.
Here’s the initial sketch for the comic from my pocket sketchbook:
I must have drawn this at dinner with my partner because I wrote down how much the meal cost, ha. Also, I think my handwriting has gotten better since then! The initial sketch isn’t too far from the finished version. It has some cursing in it, which I removed because I try to keep Waves comics cuss-free. There’s also the pizza chef, who I cut because they weren’t really needed.
Designing the Characters & More Sketches
I took that initial sketch in my pocket sketchbook and redrew it in my larger sketchbook to get a better sense of what the main character would look like and the setting:
When I drew this comic, I didn’t really have a sense of what my style is. I still don’t, really. But you can see me trying out different character designs and styles of drawing people and the backgrounds.
By drawing the panels with some sort of fidelity, I got a better sense of what worked and what didn’t. I’ve also got some notes on what panels could be combined, what needed to be emphasized, and what needed to be fixed. I’m not quite sure why I drew the panels in the third version in a wacky order instead of using a new page.
Here’s the finished version:
Looking back on this comic a few months later, I still like it. It’s pretty dumb, but my sort of dumb. There are some blatant issues I see now. The final panel’s pizza crust extends past where it should. The black levels and general fills are not great. The lettering is bad. And the corners of the panels are sloppy. Finished, not perfect. It’s reassuring to look critically at the comic now and see what I did wrong.
In the comics I’ve drawn since this strip, my process has largely stayed the same. I write out the script, doodle the thumbnails, characters, and settings, and then I draw the finished version with pencil and then ink. I’m looking forward to seeing and sharing how my process evolves as I continue to learn and grow.
Comic and illustration highlights from last year
At the end of each year, I’m going to put together a journal entry of my favorite illustrations and comics that I made throughout the year. What follows are my highlights from 2017. I’m just starting out and only have four months to pull from, so I’m not overly confident with my ability. Nonetheless, here they are!
Castle of Cagliostro Watercolor
2001: A Space Odyssey Poster
That’s a Wrap
I’ve been working diligently at refining my style and growing as an illustrator and comic artist. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m proud of the art above. It’ll be pretty neat to look at my favorite pieces from each year as time passes.
Looking back on how 2017 went, and what I want to accomplish in 2018.
A year is a nice amount of time. It’s long enough to accomplish significant things in one’s life, but it’s not too long as to forget the details of it all. I believe there’s value in reflecting on a project or period of time to see what worked, what didn’t, and what can be done better the next time around.
Globally and politically, 2017 was deeply upsetting and frustrating. I don’t feel like it’s my place to say anything more than that, so I won’t.
Personally, 2017 was one of the best of my entire life. I got married, feel like I have a better understanding of myself, and started a job that has been special and wonderful.
Creatively, 2017 was a year of discovery for me. I started the year with a laser focus on writing. I stayed focused after NaNoWriMo 2016 by continuing to write short stories. I still think about the stories I wrote, and I want to revisit some of those worlds and characters in the future.
What pulled me into writing started to fade. I felt like I was lost in a sea of words, unable to express my vision without using visuals. I still enjoy writing, but I decided to shift my efforts to studying film. I learned about video editing, took a class on recording audio, wrote some scripts, volunteered as a production assistant for a local show pilot, and finished some short projects of my own. I also watched more films than I ever had in the past, which filled my creative bank account more than anything else in my entire life. I’ve slowed down my film watching in the recent months to study and read comics, but I truly love cinema.
As I tried to materialize the scripts I wrote into actual projects, I kept hitting this mental and financial barrier. I don’t want to ask people to do free work for me, ever. I believe people should be paid for the work they do. So I would put together budgets and plan out how to make it all happen. Making a film, even a short, micro-budget one, is an incredibly difficult task that requires the coordination of many people. That’s a difficult hurdle for me to clear because I thrive creatively when I can be alone with my thoughts and projects. Attempting to bring the projects I had in mind from the page to life felt, and still feels, like something I’m not capable of doing yet.
During this time of feeling stuck, I became good friends with Zach Link, a neighbor of mine who illustrates and makes comics. We would talk endlessly about our love of manga, among other nerdy things. The more we talked and hung out, the more it dawned on me to revisit illustration and making comics. It’s a medium that is fairly accessible–just a pen and some paper will get one pretty far. Also, this may sound like an odd thing to think about, but I want what I spend my free time doing to be something I can do for the rest of my life. I, hopefully, will be able to draw for the decades to come.
Growing up, I used to draw quite a bit. I’ve read comics and manga for most of my life, and my enjoyment of it has stayed steady. I had a few bouts in the last five years of taking drawing seriously, but it never stuck. Zach and I talked quite a bit about it, and I decided to go for it. I’ve managed to draw every day since September, and it has been really special and important to me. I’ve been working hard to grow as an illustrator so that I can more easily express my ideas visually, as well as studying the art form of comics. I don’t feel confident in my abilities or style yet, but I can see that I’m getting better (which I couldn’t tell as easily while writing prose).
I enter a mental place of bliss while drawing that I haven’t before. It’s that sense of calm that makes it all feel right. Plus, with comics, I get to integrate writing with drawing. It’s a win-win in my mind.
I shifted around quite a bit creatively in 2017. I discovered so much about myself and what I want to be spending my time on. I’m aware and grateful that I have the privilege of exploring different artistic mediums to discover what feels right for me. I’m at my best when I’m creating things. It brings me an immense amount of joy, and it allows me to express myself in ways that I may not even be aware of at the time.
If 2017 was the year of discovery, I want 2018 to be the year of growth. I’m going to focus on learning and becoming the best comic artist and illustrator that I can be. I’m going to continue to learn the fundamentals and keep drawing every single day.
What I Accomplished in 2017
- Wrote two short stories and four pieces of microfiction. Lunar Space Colony is the short story I’m most proud of. I’m going to revisit it in comic form in 2018.
- Wrote, shot, and edited a short film about isolation called Hanging in There.
- Watched just about 100 films.
- Drew every day since September.
- Participated in and completed Inktober 2017, a month-long challenge to complete an illustration in ink throughout the month of October.
- Published 10 comic strips as part of my Waves webcomic.
What I’m Setting out to Do in 2018
- Draw and self-publish a ~40-page comic.
- Put together a book of my best illustrations and sketches at the end of the year.
- Post my artwork on social media regularly. I want to get better at being consistent and sharing what I’m working on.
- Start a monthly newsletter to collect the best of what I’ve done for folks who are interested.
- Continue to draw every day.
- Study figure drawing and color theory.
- Set up an online shop to sell some comics, prints, and other merch.
Thank you so much for following along and supporting me. I truly do appreciate it, and I’m going to keep doing the best that I can!
Am I cursed or something? I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie in the theater and didn’t experience one of these distractions.
November was one heck of a month. I got married and will be starting a new job in December. I managed to continue to draw every day, and I’ve still really been enjoying it.
After taking some time to think about it, I’ve decided that this will be the last What I Enjoyed post. It puts a strange amount of pressure on me to write one larger blog post at the end of the month instead spreading it out throughout the month. In the future, I’ll do individual posts for things I’ve enjoyed.
I can’t stop listening to this song, so I thought I’d share it.
The music released by Johnny Jewel and company on their Italians Do It Better label continues to enthrall me.