Monday, October 19, 2009

Dead Pets Pencils - Episode 2, Page 2

It's been about a year since Dead Pets was printed in the Guardian's now sadly defunct Comic section, it doesn't feel anything like that amount of time. It's always interesting, and slightly alarming, to take a look back over work that was drawn a while ago, more often than not all you can see are the dodgy bits of drawing and where you would do things differently. The thing that strikes me most about this page right now is that there's fourteen panels on it. Fourteen panels?! What was I thinking? Artist me punches writer me in the gut. Good thing my gut is generously cushioned.

I'm not fat, my chest has slipped.

One thing I wanted to make sure of with Dead Pets was that there was always something happening in every episode, that the story was always progressing and that it took a little bit of time to read even though there was only 3 pages every week, one of which wasn't a full page. I also wanted to take advantage of the weekly format and the opportunity to have some sort of cliffhanger or unresolved moment at the close of every episode, hoping the readers would want to come back the following week. I don't know if I was successful in achieving any of those things but that's how I hoped it would be.

Here's the inks for this page. I cheated a little and used a very slightly modified copy of panel seven for panel 3 once it was all scanned in.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dead Pets Pencils - Episode 2, Page 1

I absent-mindedly sketched this rough idea for the opening panel and there was something about the point of view that appealed to me so I decided to go ahead with it.

I thought I'd try knocking up a model of the layout in SketchUp hoping that it might save me some time and that I could print off a picture from the correct angle and work over it. I was wrong about the time saving element but it was a very helpful thing to do. Once I'd knocked the model up I realised that the view I'd chosen was such an extreme, exaggerated one that to have it match the rough I'd need to tweak the depth of field on the camera in SketchUp. This distorted everything but I thought it looked okay and helped add to the feeling of being high up and that it was a large house. Anyway, here's a screencap of the model.

I printed off a blue line and worked over that, here's the final pencils. Sam's mum and dad appear to be missing from the pencils, I guess I must have drawn them on another bit of paper and added them in later on.

These are the uncorrected inks, you can see that I started to spot the black squares in the chequered pattern on the floor and then stopped. I thought I'd leave it and give myself the option to drop it in at the colour stage or even use a different colour. If I'd filled in all the dark squares it would have been a fiddlesome nightmare to separate them out in the colouring stage should I change my mind about what colour I wanted them to be. In the end I made them blue rather than black so I was very happy I didn't fill them all in.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Birdman Doodle

While rooting through my pages of art on Dead Pets I found this doodle on the back of one of the pages. I have a terrible tendency to faff about doodling or making marks in the margins and on the back of the work I'm actually meant to be doing. A two-headed birdman, don't know what I was up to there, I have an inkling that I may have had a Huzzah in the back of my mind at the time. Pardon me for not cleaning up the scan but I've got some work to get on with and posting this is just another way of doodling in the margins.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Dead Pets Pencils - Page 3

Here's the next page of pencils along with the inks, pencils are a lot rougher than the first two, I think I was winging it a bit with this one, there might have been a more tightly penciled version but if there is I can't find it. I don't why I drew Godfrey the dog in front of the cross on panel 3, it's messy.


You can see in the inked version I got rid of him for clarity's sake. The last panel changed a bit, I was never truly happy with the drawing of Sam, the boy, in that panel. I was right not to be happy, the final version of him scarpering is better, at least I think it is, but it still bothers me. I turned Frazzle, the cat, so that he has his back to us, and decided to have all the characters in silhouette, it probably made more sense to have them looking at Sam and made his running away a focal point.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Dead Pets Pencils - Page 2

I've been neglecting my blog again, partly through laziness but I've also been busy working on some comic strips for educational books with Rob Davis and Geraint Ford. I'll post some bits and pieces from that soon but seeing as I've got a bunch of pencils from Dead Pets Society sitting around I'd scan them in and post them here, my plan is that it'll give me something a bit more regular to update the blog with while I work on these strips with Rob and Ger. 

Here's the pencils for page 2 of DPS (I posted page 1 quite a while back). I was probably trying to be tight with the pencils at this stage, I was still finding my way with everything at this point. If memory serves, I left more to the inking stage as time went by and I became more comfortable drawing the characters. Dead Pets was inked with the Kuretake brushpen that I like so much. I did fix a lot of mistakes, clean up the artwork and fill in areas of black on the computer once the art was scanned in though, that tends to be a quicker, easier process. I would usually blow up my thumbnails and print them off in light blue and pencil over those, I think I did that here but there's a lot of blue lines so I can't really make out what's what.


If you'd like to read a couple of full episodes in colour then a previous post has a couple of links to them on the Guardian site.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Draw Serge!

Lovely man and top illustrator, Jonathan Edwards has set up a blog called 'Draw Serge!', so I did.

I think he came out looking more like Johnny Cash than Serge, oh well. I grabbed a few pics from the internet for reference, one of them had him standing atop a church or cathedral with a gargoyle or two behind him which seemed so appropriate that I nicked the idea. That's a 500 franc note he's lighting his cigarette with, he famously burned one on a TV show as some sort of protest against high taxation. Whilst looking for pics I found he had a much-loved dog called 'Nana' who looked so lovely I had to include her as well.

Do visit the Draw Serge! site and check out all the other fine contributions from the likes of fellow Huzzah contributor, Rob Davis, the wonderful Simon Gane and many others. And, if you're an artist, why not jump in and contribute a Serge!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Huzzah!! Noir

Exciting news! Huzzah!! Noir has gone live, Ian Culbard has started it off with a lovely page...and so, another adventure begins. Click the logo to go see.

Don't worry, Huzzah Noir!! does not mean the end of regular Huzzah!!, they're running in tandem. Have a gander at the latest contributions from Rob Davis, Colin Fawcett and Paul Harrison-Davies, they're a treat!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Huzzah and the Big Baby of Death.

I made my third contribution to Huzzah!! recently. After what Rob had the Baron say in this panel, I wondered what could possibly 'kill death itself'. I thought it may be that the sibling infant was the opposite of death and if it came into contact with the big baby 'o' death (BBOD) something interesting might happen. Having the BBOD ingest its sibling meant I could get a joke out of it and refer back to when the Baron rescued the infant from Xog. It also was an excuse for me to have a go at drawing beams of light shooting out of an evil child.

Hmmm, reading that last paragraph back to myself only confirms my suspicions that talking about Huzzah!! and what's happening in it makes you sound like a gibbering loony.

I've been slowly building up to doing the maximum allowed of 3 tiers per page, per Huzzah!! so this is the first whole page I've drawn although it's actually spread out over two pages as the first panel is the last panel of page 26. Here's the roughs I knocked up in Manga Studio. Everything was done in Manga Studio this time around. Occasionally, I might use a bit of Photoshop as well but there wasn't a whole lot of colouring to do seeing as there's so much solid black. I fancied the idea that the BBOD had been given some toys to play with and the fact that he'd just learned to speak meant alphabet building blocks, of course!

I went with the fairly rough pencils and decided I'd wing it a bit. Not sure if that was a good idea as I wasn't very confident throughout the making of this page, it took ages to finish, much longer than I expected and I was late in posting it. Lots of black with almost no backgrounds would lead you to think there'd be less drawing involved, that it'd be easier to get done, but it didn't work out that way for me with this page.

Next, the final art, put together as a whole page, that's how I drew it and worked on it but to see it in context, visit Huzzah!!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The DFC - Comes To An End

As you may have noticed, the subscription button to the DFC website has been removed from the blog, the sad news is that the comic will end at issue 43. The current financial situation hits everybody, even big publishers like Random House. I'm sad but not completely surprised, it's always a big risk trying something new and different, and starting up a new children's comic in the UK is not an easy path especially if you avoid the shiny plastic toy with free comic TV tie-in mentality that is all pervasive in children's comics these days.

I'm sad that the Dead Pets won't get to appear in the comic itself, I was looking forward to being in there along with all my fellow DFC buddies. On the positive side, I was lucky enough to get to write and draw my own twenty-four page comic strip, have it published in the Guardian and get paid for it! I'm very lucky to have had that opportunity.

I think that everybody involved should be proud to have put out a weekly comic, with no ads and all original material for the best part of a year. Anybody that's ever been involved with something like that will know how much work it involves and how difficult it is to do. There's a lot of juggling and planning and dealing with artistic temperaments involved for the editorial team. I'd like to thank David Fickling for making it happen, Ben Sharpe, my editor, who was been an absolute joy to work with, he was incredibly patient and helpful even when I'm sure I pushed him to hair-pulling frustration at times. I don't know if he's aware of this but he is known as 'Lovely Ben' to me and many others. Thanks to Will Fickling and all the other people in the office that worked so hard on making the DFC what it was.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I had to...

I'm a little bit late in mentioning this but my latest contribution to Huzzah!! is up. It's been a huge amount of fun doing these but that doesn't mean to say I'm not daunted by the setting, it's not the kind of thing I'm used to drawing. And that's all the more reason to take part, being pushed out of whatever comfort zone I may have!

I'm also taking Huzzah!! as an opportunity to experiment with and learn how to use Manga Studio, the first piece was all done in Manga Studio, or at least as far as I can recall. The second was all Manga Studio apart from colour which was done in Photoshop as I was pushed for time and there were a couple of things that I wasn't sure I could do or didn't know how to do with Manga Studio but I knew I could definitely do them in Photoshop. I think there's never going to be a one-stop shop for comics, in terms of software, there's always something one program can do that another can't.

Here's a rough for the first plate I did, this one came together in an ad hoc manner, I had a rough thumnbnail layout that I scanned in, then I added elements and then I changed my mind ooh, about a few hundred times and eventually, found the final picture, probably not the best way of going about things. Click all images to enlargificate:

The finished plate:

This is the second plate, I worked this one out more solidly than the first so I didn't spend so much time 'finding' the drawing. I had to work in a 'what are you doing here' at some point, and this seemed like the perfect time! And a double one too, bonus!

I can't wait to see what paulhd does next! To see it all in context, visit Huzzah!!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Laura 'Bloody Mental' Howell - Strip-A-Day

Oh, just remembered I wanted to point you in the direction of fellow DFCer, Laura Howell, who has embarked on her second Strip-A-Day Spectacular! Go see!

(Of course, she's chosen the shortest month of the year to to do it in! lazy can you get?)

Me, next week...

Well here I am blogging about not blogging, humble apologies and that.

I've been a bit busy but not for much longer, this'll be me next week...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Moleskine De Juan Berrio

Andrew Wildman highlighted this video on Facebook and I had to post it here, it's too damn good! I didn't know of Juan Berrio's work before this but I'll definitely be investigating further...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dead Pets - Page One - Pencils

I'm still busy finishing the last episode of the current Dead Pets story. I'm probably going to milk what bits and pieces I can for this blog. Sorry, but I've been working on the strip exclusively for a while now so there's not much else I have to show or talk about!

Here's the pencils for the first page of the first episode. I began this page by knocking up a rough perspective drawing in Manga Studio EX, printing it off in light blue and then I drew over that. I've used a couple of applications to help me out whilst drawing Dead Pets - SketchUp for help on a couple of perspective heavy panels and Manga Studio for the same and the occasional rough breakdown too - virtually all of Dead Pets was drawn and inked in the traditional way (paper and brush and pen) and the lettering and colour are all digital. I'm toying with going all digital but I'm having trouble committing fully to working that way. Some old habits are hard to break.

I sought out a bunch of photo reference for the van on the web, I find cars and vehicles difficult so the more reference the better! It also looks like there's a few places where I've redrawn the odd bit or moved elements around in Photoshop.

I wanted to set up the situation as quickly as possible in this first panel of this page, my aim was to avoid having too much preamble. Here's a family, they're moving into a big, old house, one of them is a young boy and his only friend in the new place, is his dog. I tried my best to make sure that something happens, in each episode and that the story progresses in some way and that each episode ended on a cliffhanger or moment of suspense, however slight. Three pages per episode (one of those truncated by about a third) isn't a huge amount of space to work with but limitations are good, you have to think and learn to work within them and hopefully, be creative with how you do that.

That squirrel ends up causing a fair bit of trouble for poor Godfrey, the dog. If only he knew.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dead Pets - Sample Piece

Before being given the go ahead to start, I did a sample piece to give a general idea of how the strip might look. The characters changed a little from this initial piece, Frazzle the cat, in particular. Part of this piece was used for the Doodler section on the inside of the Comic in the same issue as the first episode of Dead Pets. Here's the pencil roughs, I can't remember but it looks like I might have drawn them over an even rougher scribble that I printed out very faintly as a guide.

These are the more finished pencils, I was definitely drawing over a blue printout of the previous picture here.

The line art, inked with a Kuretake brush pen, which I may write a little something about in a future post.

And the finished art - I coloured it and added the window shadow on the computer.
It was while doing this sample that I realised I didn't want to have the dead pets slightly or semi-transparent but to suggest their lack of solidity by having their linework in colour - apart from a few details here and there - and no shadows cast on them or by them. There is a shadow on Gus the snake in this picture but I was still working out what the rules were at this point. I'm still unsure as to whether my ideas to make them seem ghostly are entirely successful but I didn't want to go down the see-through route, it would have been a pain to deal with technically and far too time-consuming. Not that doing colour holds on the linework of the pets is a speedy process either, as I've discovered.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dead Pets Society - Online

I've just spotted that a couple of episodes of Dead Pets Society are now available to read on the Guardian website, episodes two and three, to be precise. They've been put up in a click through format of a panel or so at a time, it works quite well, especially on the build up and ending of the third episode.

It can be difficult to keep surprises and significant moments from view in a comic strip, it's natural and pretty much unavoidable to look ahead or take a page in as a whole entity before reading it, often without even noticing that you've done so. There's ways and means around that but you can't always use them due to space constraints or how the pages fall.

With the format in the newspaper there's only one turn of the page and that happens after the first page, which I think I managed to take advantage of once, or maybe twice, but most of those 'moments' take place towards the latter part of the episode, the weekly format suggests you build to some sort of cliffhanger on the last page and set people up for next week's episode.

Knowing that the reader takes in the page as a whole is also one of the wonderful aspects of comics, allowing for dazzling page layouts, interesting compositions and design, so it's not all bad. It's just one of the many aspects to consider when creating comics. You can choose to ignore it completely - nevertheless a decision has to be made.

Right, I'd better get back to working on the last episode (number eight), I'm beginning to bibble on here anyway...

Thursday, January 08, 2009


It's deadline crunch time so I've been quiet for a little while and probably will remain so until the end of the month.

I've just popped my head out to urge you to visit HUZZAH!!, the successor to Who Killed Round Robin? I've been invited to take part and I'm excited (and not to mention a little daunted) by the whole thing.
I won't go into what it's all about here as it's explained on the site. I haven't been able to contribute yet but will do once Dead Pets is done and dusted, around the beginning of Feb. Go see the lovely, unfolding comic strip being created by my fellow participants.

I've just realised that this is my first post of 2009, so let me wish you a belated Happy New Year!