Sunday 3 January 2021

Using Lists in Comics


One of my favourite things to do with a comic is to take a basic idea and come up with a list of related things that go with it. Sometimes it's obvious that I'm doing that, because the drawing is in the form of an actual list.

One of my favourite list comics

Let's Be More Subtle

It doesn't have to be written. In my recent Area 5.1 cartoon I decided to build an image around my list instead. It less obvious and rewards the reader when they spend time searching through your drawing.

A less obvious list

Here, the list is based around stereotypical objects collected during a night out. I think I also had in mind to include a street sign, but I started to run out of space. The traffic cone definitely had to be there.

I hadn't intended putting the cow in the shopping trolley/cart, but I didn't have room to put them next to each other. I think the result is funnier for it.

Finally, I added the Jan 1st calendar on the wall to make it relevant to the new year. So happy new year folks.

Friday 24 July 2020

Cartooning - Looking For Improvement

Sometimes you can come up with a good idea, you've drawn it to your best ability, but it just doesn't look right. It might be that there's a problem with the logic, or the scale, or just something that goes against our pre-concieved ideas about how something should work.

Often we don't find out about them until it's too late.

What's Not Right!

The car on the left is the original drawing which was meant to demonstrate my pointless invention, the pizza wheel. The more I looked at it, the more it just looked wrong, and it doesn't take a genious to realise this italian bread based food couldn't possible hold a car up like that.

The Original Image The Corrected Image
The corrected image not only looks more convincing, but it drives home (excuse the pun) the idea that using a pizza for a wheel is stupid.

Scale Issues

Sometimes you can put images together that bind with some people because they have a very fixed idea in their head of relative size. I have a few examples of this.

Example 1
This image was copied from a picture I found on a google image search and I wanted to replace their giant robot head with that of my comic hero, Bender. Then I threw in a load of other sci-fi elements in amongst the junk, plus an old washing machine (just because).

Bender's Head Problem

Now, the Death Star wasn't a problem, because the mind can reason that it's far away. But a giant Bender's head started to raise questions as to how big my little green men are. To be honest, I hadn't given it much thought, it was just a tribute. It could have easily been fixed by adding "Oversized parts, our speciality" to the sign.

Example 2
The next example was posted on Reddit. I hadn't really given relative sizes much thought, and my ignorance got the better of me. (And boy do those guys let you know when something's wrong!)

Can You Spot It?

 Okay, here's the second from to Starwars - A False Hope. I just needed to make the scene look congested, so I threw in as many vehicles as I could find. (some I'd already drawn in previous cartoons). Can you spot which one is wrong?

Well I drew one of these Juggernaut Carriers from the Clone Wars, but my reference image had no figures for scale, so it's way too small. Easy mistake to make, but the ubber geeks are very defensive about their canon.

That little mistake gained enough down-votes so that the comic was essentially buried!

So What's The Answer

  1. Consider your audience, are they picky?
  2. Know/understand what you are drawing.
  3. If you break the rules, have a reason or explaination.
  4. Review your unfinished work with a friend.
  5. Ask yourself the question "is there anything wrong here?"

Monday 29 June 2020

Fan Art (...and how I got it)


As a small-time, tin-pot, have-a-go comic artist, there's nothing better than getting a bit of recognition for the time and effort I've spent producing stuff. We give it away for free, so getting the odd word of encouragement really goes a long way.

I'm very lucky, I've had a few artists recreate my Area 5.1 aliens as fan art.

My first fan art created by Pip Another fan art from Amalock1
A recent feature in McGrenivan's Comic

It's fantastic to get featured like this, and it seems that my opening comic really appealed to people.

How to get Fan Art

Well, exactly how you go about getting fan art is unclear. I can't tell you what to do, but I can go through some of the things that possibly resulted in these artists taking the time to honour me this way.

These are:-
  1. Have characters that are unique and easily recognisable, no matter what drawing style is used.
  2. Be supportive to other artists, especially those who are following their own path.

Be Unique

I do a couple of cartoons, Area 5.1 and Funstreak, and you'll notice that all my fanart come from Area 5.1, and that it's easy to recognise my characters. I use relatively simple shapes and colours that stand out. That green is very unnatural and all pieces of work use that exact same colour along with the red hands and feet.

In short, my Little Green Men were designed to be simple.

My first Character Sketch

Be Supportive

Secondly, you need to get into the community spirit and support new artists. Most don't really know what they're getting into and find that the busy world of a cartoon site means their work quickly moves off the main page and gets lost in the huge amounts of work from established toons. Trying to get noticed is difficult, especially if you don't fit in with the typical popular content. It's so easy to associate lack of comments with the idea that your work isn't very good.

Looking at the artist comment that McGrenivan submitted with his Comicbook Ad parody the sentence that jumped out at me was,..
"Special thank you to a few guys who have inspired me to continue this otherwise fruitless venture"
Now to me, that seems crazy coming from such a talented and humorous cartoonist. If you've not seen his work then please check it out,.. and more importantly add a few comments here and there. That's really all I did,.. I'm just passing on what Paztoid did for me when I first started out, and I remember how it kept me going when I doubted myself.

Share the love!

Saturday 4 January 2020

Choosing Cartoon Frame Dimensions


Multiple frame cartoons often require quite a bit of planning and pre-design in order for the frames to successfully fit together. It gives you a traditional comic page style look and they tend to be interesting and varied. Often I have created a mock-up, a bit like a thumbnail as a way of working out the aspect ratio of each frame drawing, and decide how much space is needed for text.

Once I have all of my images drawn up, I can replicate the frames in ComicLife and put it together along with the dialogue. Here's a few that I've created in the past..

Some of my traditional examples

This was great, until you start to look at the modern mobile friendly sites and how our multi-frame images now become a problem.

Welcome To Instagram

Sites like Instagram are designed around the mobile phone, and they are the modern way that people consume. We'd be foolish to ignore this as a place to upload our cartoons, but there's a few things to be aware of:-
  1. Consider that everyone is going to be viewing on a 5 inch screen, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to upload as a single traditional image if you have multiple frames. Images will be too small and any dialogue will be illegible. (So, upload your frame images as a multi-image posting.)
  2. Instagram reformats uploaded images as a square picture, only it's not very smart about it. Any rectangular pictures will be cropped and you will have no control over how it does it. (Time to switch your frame aspect ratio to 1:1 square.)

Dare To Be Square

While I admit a square frame doesn't look as nice, it makes life easier in lots of way. Planning is easier, everything's square, so it's just a matter of deciding how to fit inside a standard layout. Odd number of frames still don't fit together that well, but it's no more a challenge than before. The comic sites are also becoming more mobile friendly, so it makes sense to ensure that you can fit everywhere.

Here's a couple of odd and even frames examples..

Some of my square frame examples

So, if you haven't already switched to square frames, what are you waiting for?

My latest cartoon available here -->

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Cartooning - Drawing the Crowds


A couple of years ago I blogged about drawing a crowd of santas at a party. I'd included a link to Tom Richmond's article about drawing a crowd scene, but the two scenes weren't very alike.

Latest Funstreak showing crowd in the background

My latest Funstreak cartoon uses many of the techniques discussed in Tom's tutorial, but in a simplified way. This doesn't mean you don't need to put much thought into it. It's well worth considering the dynamics of a crowd as you draw.

Stepping Through the Process

A crowd of people might just be a bunch of ovals to represent faces, but there's a number of things to do in order to make it look convincing:-

1. First we need to consider the density within the packing. People stand shoulder to shoulder, or with slight overlap, which leaves some gap between their heads.

Spacing Between Heads

2. The people behind will position themselves between the heads of those in front to get the best view. This gives a loose hexagonal packing pattern when viewed from above, or if the crowd is on a banked surface.

Loose Hexagonal Packing

3. People are also different heights and sizes, and tend to bunch in an irregular way, so we need to randomise the pattern a little. (I've also reduced the overlap heights.)

Randomising Positions

4. Faces at the top of the crowd block will appear smaller than those at the bottom. This establishes distance. Try to keep the size change a linear progression, so work on no more than two rows at a time to help keep consistency.

Using Reduction - Each Row Back is 90% Size

4. The usual distance effects will apply, so details will diminish and colours may darken or desaturate. In my example I didn't add any details because they're too far away, but I did add a little cell shading.

The Example From My Cartoon
 You can also see that I packed the crowd much tighter than in my previous examples. I really wanted a sea-of-faces with bodies only really visible on the front few rows.

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Getting To The Point


When you start cartooning you soon realise ideas come in all sorts of ways, but this is the first one to come to me in a dream,... I could see one of my son's friends skateboarding past the house holding onto a rocket by way of propulsion. (It's perhaps best not to analyse this dream for any meaning!)

.. anyway, he got a little way past the house and then let go of the thing. It then arced across the sky towards a housing estate. I have no idea what happened after that, but the uncertainty and the jeapardy appeal to me. I really don't need to know!

My main challenge to take this idea and turn it into a comic using the minimum number of frames.

Keeping Frame Count Low

In the past I've wanted to get complex ideas across, or have a wordy dialogue. This has often pushed me to draw way more frames than I'd wanted, or needed to. I just need to get to the point.

So taking a leaf from writers, I've decided to cut the wind-up and get straight to the point. This means distilling the idea and my original humour angle into just what's important.

Consider my first notes:-

Frame 1: Scene starts with alien #1 riding skateboard, holding rocket.
Alien #2: "Hey where did you get that?"
Alien #1: "It's one of the rockets from the ship."
Alien #2: "Let me try."
Frame 2: Alien #2 starts riding skateboard
Alien #1: "Okay, just don't let go of the rocket."
Frame 3: Skateboard hits a stone.
Frame 4: Alien #2 takes a tumble and lets go of the rocket.
Frame 5: Alien #2 gets up thinking everything is OK, while rocket heads towards their ship.

My fix:-
  • Drop frame 1,.. we don't need to know both aliens have tried skating, just that one of them triggers the event.
  • Keep frame 3, we need to show what causes the problem.
  • Then we can jump straight to frame 5, because we don't need to see the tumble.

The Results

The dialogue needed to be changed, and I limited it to just what was important to the idea.

The Completed Comic

The final frame became very important. I added some dialogue to show the panic as alien #1 runs to save the UFO, and to help portray Alien #2's dazed state. I also drew the sci-fi version of birds flying above his head to help reinforce this idea.

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Funstreak Cartoon - Misheard Idioms (Malapropisms)


I had an idea about basing a cartoon on idioms that people commonly get wrong. I built a list of them, but I couldn't think of an idea that would work. So I created a couple of sentences, not really knowing what else to do with them...

“I hate being treated like an escape goat, it puts me on tender hooks, and for most people it goes down like a damp squid. I decided to nip it in the butt and extract revenge on this person, and it turned out to be a blessing in the skies."
"You'd better tow the line" I told them, "or you'll have another thing coming". Exactly how I do this is a mute point right now, but it'll certainly be no holes barred”

It's too wordy to use in a cartoon, so I decided to change direction and just focus on one.

Choosing An Idiom

Escape goat appealed to me and triggered the most ideas, but before I started work, I did a quick google image search to see if anyone had already drawn my idea.

Some Other Ideas I Found

OK, so I wasn't going to be unique here, but I wondered if I could do better.

My first thought involved using goat as a get-away method for a bank heist, but I thought it might be slightly confusing, so I rejected it in favour of a jail breakout scene. A prisoner would be using a goat's butting ability to burst through the jails boundary wall.

Before and After Adding Foreground Bricks
When I'd nearly finished, I stood back to review the overall composition. I thought I'd made a mistake, the goat was too far over to the left of the picture, leaving it looking imbalanced. But it was rectified once I'd added foreground bricks bursting out of the wall.

Oh,.. and when doing research for images I made a mistake by searching for "goat butt". Who'd have thought there'd be so many close-up pictures of a goat's rear end available!!!

Cartoon available here -->