Sunday, 24 January 2016

Building a Web Comic (Part 1)

This is my first post of the year, so happy belated new year. I've been pretty busy putting together a new comic, which has taken a lot of time and mind-space. But it's been an interesting experience, so I thought it would be good to blog about it.

Coming up with an Idea

The whole thing was inspired by Shiela's Yvonne comic, which is always a single frame with a simple sheep drawing. It goes a long was to show that simple doesn't mean less.

It got me thinking that I should try something similar, and came up with the idea to parody or lampoon the idiocy and non-sense of modern life using aliens. I started out by making a list of the things that annoy me, things I find stupid, or things that I think are just wrong. But it's funny,.. at first I couldn't think of anything for my list. It was as though I was suddenly the most content person in the world. (and I knew that wasn't the case!!)

So I did a few google searches to find what other people find annoying, and all those repressed irritations came flooding back to me. Now when something that happens that makes me angry I make a note it on my phone for later.

Designing the Characters

Initially I set about drawing possible alien designs and we blogged about this last month...

My blog from 23rd Dec
Shiela's blog from 26th Dec

We came up with a few good ideas, but nothing really hit my remit of being really simple to draw. After-all Yvonne was just a cloud shape, with a few lines for legs, and a T shaped head. If I couldn't keep the design as simple as possible the drawing overhead would be too high to sustain.

A week or so later (after a bit more thought), I came up with a really simple design which was really just a face with arms and legs with eyes on stalks. This would enable me to focus on facial expression, dialogue and minimal props.
My initial alien design I drew on my iPad

Developing the Character

At this stage it seemed like I had everything in place to make a start, but it's best to spend a little time re-drawing your character, using different mouths and eyes (because it's mainly these two things that carry the expressions). My idea was that if I put together a "kit" of body parts then either of us could build comics using as standard file and they're look pretty consistent.

Not having done much cartoon work I found some facial expression cheat sheets on Pinterest that really helped. Soon I had half a dozen mouths and eyes which I thought would be a good start.

A selection of eyes

A selection of mouths
And then I added all of the other body parts to see the completed alien, and to check that it all works together.
The completed alien

Developing an Idea

The next bit requires quite a bit of thought... how do you turn a simple list of things you hate into something funny? We found in practice that the existence of the list started ideas bouncing back and forth, initially by email. But ideas were then scattered about emails, so I moved the list to a shared folder in google drive and we started entering comments and counter-ideas directly. (It really helps to have somebody to discuss your ideas with)

For example we'd start out with a simple bullet point...
  • dog poo on the paths 
I then came up with an idea for a series of frames..

2 Aliens walking dog like things - one is clearly huge (you only see the lead running upwards)
1st Alien (with big dog) “Do you ever not clear up afterwards?”
2nd Alien “Well, if nobody’s watching I just leave it”
1st Alien “I find somebody always notices” - Picture a huge dump with legs towering above it. 

Shiela then added her comments in purple..
This is really funny. But the laugh for me was at the start when you described the lead going up in the air implying a massive dog. The line about clearing up is very funny, but then it lost me - I don’t think it needs any more because it’s implied, or people have already jumped to their own conclusion

And then I replied in blue.. 
Yeah, you’re right, it doesn’t need that last picture.

I now had the basis for my first cartoon strip which would consist of 3 frames and the dialogue listed in my original idea. In the next part I will take you through how to pull the idea together, and finalising the design as a comic strip.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

copying to learn?

I thought the best way to become better at this was to copy characters that I spot and like. Now I'm getting the urge to pick up a pen when I see a nicely-drawn character.

Almost immediately I felt the need for a wider pen. The widest one I have is 0.8 which seems pretty thick but in these examples the thickest (single) lines look pretty thin. Plus colouring in Mickey's ears was laborious. Actually not in a bad way - I started to see what these people are getting out of the adult colouring books!