Dog on a Ledge: drawing a comic page
It’s been a while since I’ve posted previews from The Lengths, other than quick glimpses and hints on Instagram (I’m howardhardiman on there, in a shocking display of wit).
Stupidly, I’ve been too busy drawing comics (and moving to the Isle of Wight and having back trouble) to bother you with lots of posts about making comics. Here’s an attempt to remedy that a little!
Rather than show you finished pages, I thought it might be vaguely handy to show you how ridiculously inefficient my process is and show you one of the most spoiler-free pages from issue 8 in progress. The final issue, so finding spoiler-free pages was tricky!
I write scripts very loosely on the first run through, sometimes as little as:
Page 12 and 13: awkward raunch montage.
Which, in issue 4, turned into this:
Awkward raunch. The Vorticist thing just kind of happened. I had a feeling it might. It’s one of the things I find enjoyable about writing for myself, that I can have a story in my head and because I know the settings and the characters, I just need to get it down quickly. Writing for The Peckham Invalids was an entirely different affair, which involved making sure that whoever was working on the artwork was as in love with the characters as I am, so they can make sense of my nonsense scripts.
Anyway, for the page I’m going to talk you through, the script is quite spoilerific, so I’m not going to show you that. A couple of ugly quick thumbnails got the general shape of it, done tiny enough to be a stick figure on an L, basically.
Because this page is echoed a little later in the story, there’s a lot of space, and I wanted to put Eddie right into the margin of the page to reflect how he’s feeling pushed aside in his own story. Melodramatic as ever, the only bit of the free-running he’s learned from Tony that he uses is the opportunity to mope on dangerous ledges.
I use a 0.5mm Faber Castell and a 2h lead to start this kind of loose, quick sketch, then used a Palomino Blackline to give him shape and shading.
Measuring out the proportions for the figure involved a fair amount of stopping, standing up and then slumping forward sulkily, so that rather than look for a reference photo, it’s more something you can feel in your own body.
I’ve joked before that I learned anatomy through being promiscuous, but that’d only be convincing if sex was actually vorticist. It took me ages to feel comfortable drawing people, and part of what helped was going to the gym. You learn how the muscles are put together more closely when you’ve felt them ache. And, of course, the opportunity to stare at muscular men in the gym and when they’re being weird in the gym’s shower and sauna shouldn’t be missed.
Incidentally, the gym Eddie and Nelson go to is modelled on the one I used to go to, where it was cruise central and half of the time you’d go into the sauna and be chatting to your gym buddy and then someone next to you would start wanking. I used to take great delight in turning and saying sharply, “Do you mind?!” which usually scared them off.
You can also spot when I was having trouble with my arms because the elbows on the characters suddenly became the most realistic part. At the moment, I seem to be fixated on the curve of their lower backs now that I’ve got three slipped discs (annoyingly, not from gym or drawing or anything, just one of those bastard things).
Anyway, while we were musing about people wanking in the gym, a bit more detail about the landscape behind our dog on the edge has emerged. I went to Tower Bridge and took photos, then didn’t allow myself to copy them because that would have been too sterile for this moment, plus Eddie’s not exactly seeing things clearly.
At this point, I had another think about eye-tracking on the page, to look at how the reader will be guided around. The vanishing point for the bridge shifted slightly so it all points to his cock. The buildings behind him frame and guide you to the phone as well as giving (I hope) a clearer sense of the drop in front of him.
At this point, inking begins. I use a 0.3mm UniPin Fine Line which, I now realise, is made by Mitsubishi Pencils. Sounds a bit like when there was a weird batch of e’s going around called Mitzies that were making people sick. Except not poisonous. And a pen. The thicker line’s from a Sharpie fine point pen. Let’s just move on and think about set squares, eh?
As you can see, I’m still feeling my way through some of the details here. the Blackline pencil does what its name implies pretty well, but it doesn’t get you ready for how stark black actually looks on the page, so I prefer not to stick to it too religiously.
See? I told you it was loose. The buildings grow and get some hints of details. The thing is, I only want them to be hints, like it’s in soft focus. Too much detail would mean you were trying to see in their windows rather than worrying about Eddie’s precarious footing and his equally unbalanced state of mind here.
Finally, the Pentel Brush Pen comes out and it gets messy. There have been points in the story where Eddie’s life has become detached, and in those sequences, the artwork becomes crisp and clinical, mostly done digitally. For this, however, he’s actually paying more attention to himself, so the kind of loose and messy style of the first couple of issues is back quite abruptly.
After this, I’ll be returning to the same page to get it to a point where I can use it for printing. For that, I use Manga Studio, which is also how I do my lettering, but I’ve been waffling on for an awfully long time here and I’ve got lots to do! If this process post seems to have been useful, I might do a Manga Studio one, but I’m keenly aware that I’m quite rubbish with it, compared to most, so I might hide my shame instead.
Um, yeah, I hope it was at least vaguely useful.
If you’ve enjoyed this and you’ve not read The Lengths, why not remedy that (and help me pay to get the rest printed!) by heading to http://cutebutsad.bigcartel.com and picking up the story so far?