Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Flight 8 is out TODAY.

Today is the day. This is going to be a good, long post. Don't worry, there'll be plenty of pictures!
To start: above is the final, full color version of Page 1 of my story "The Hollow Men" in Flight Volume 8.

I don't know what else to say, except that I'm SO excited that the book has finally hit shelves. I hope you'll buy a copy and support the last hurrah of this series. I can't emphasize enough how many great stories by other great artists there are in this volume. For all of us, this is bittersweet. For the veterans, this is the curtain falling on years of work and companionship. For me it is the strange feeling of having to say 'hello' and 'goodbye' at once.

Over the last few posts you've seen how this page has come from sketch to thumbnail, to black and white, and now to final. As the work progresses to final I have less and less to say about it. I hope the final story speaks for itself. And I really, really hope you enjoy it. The hope that something that I've done might mean something to someone is most of the reason I do this in the first place.

A friend of mine (who got her copy before I've gotten mine!) sent me this photo yesterday, and (I'll own up to it) I teared up. It's real. I can't believe it:

I could play this off like I'm too-cool-for-school, but really...why bother? You only get one first, you know? Today I just feel so thankful. You all know who you are, and you get a shout-out in the book...so I won't belabour the point. But, thank you...really and truly.


On Process:

Based on the response from the last few posts, it seemed there might be some interest in looking more deeply into the process of how I work...or how I worked on Hollow Men. So I'm going to indulge and show you guys how this really, truly starts.

Below are some scanned pages from a little moleskine notebook I put to use when it came time to plan out this project. Blurred text is because I use my sketchbooks as prayer-journals and I was expressing the full-extent of my panic to an embarrassing degree :p
The rest is the frantic note-taking and shorthand I use when I don't expect to be showing anyone what I've been working on. I didn't proof read this, so you get to see all the mess I make before I settle on a direction.

At the beginning I was asked "what story do you want to tell?"
So, naturally, I panicked. I pulled out all the half-baked, partially complete stories and character designs I'd been sitting on and summarily dismissed them all. It didn't feel like time for any of them. So on an idle thursday in November, I took my anxiety for a drive and prayed for an idea.
A little daydream crept back in. It had originally occurred to me a year before when I was riding my bike through the forest around my aunt and uncle's home;

A boy paddles a canoe down a silent river in the woods, there are serpents in the water.

That was it. A story started to grow up around it. I think in moments, bits of color, visuals and emotions. The feeling of it washed over me and I pulled over the car to take notes.
That's how this mess always starts.

I should also mention that working on something this large (I've only ever done, at most, a 7-page comic before) and this important to me was a new experience. Much of the process was just any panicked attempt to wrangle this together.
I immediately started to sketch characters and play with themes. Before I got to the layout phase, I was burning through pages of sketchbook jotting notes...little designs, themes, ideas. Occuring, iterating, and discarding. I'll show you some of that later.
I sketched and jotted and eventually wrote a script. When I was finished with that I decided the script was too confining, and the problem was it wasn't true to my process: I was thinking in simultaneous visuals and bits of dialogue, not pages of text. I had to start thumbnailing or I was going to lose this thing.

So I accidentally came across a method that really worked for me. When I thumbnail I HAVE to keep it small and messy. If I get too big, I get intimidated by the size and start to feel like I have to render out characters. Nothing is more poisonous to getting thumbnails done well than a preoccupation with rendering characters or scenes. At this point, beyond the basic concept, they aren't the point. This is about story, speed, flow...pace. Bringing the reader through your narrative in a way that makes sense, doesn't confuse, and (in layout alone) makes them feel the story. That's about light, dark, composition, panel placement and size...not so much pose and facial expression. This is bullet point time. No sentences allowed.
The crux of this (for me) is trying to think through these things symbolically. Moving the reader through intense moments at a quick pace, slowing them for a beat with a large panel. If the character is feeling overwhelmed: overwhelm him with composition. If you want to feel the physicality and tension of each limb...get close in and claustrophobic. There's no rule here...I had to feel my way through it. But it is, without a doubt, my FAVORITE part of making comics. No other medium works quite the same way.
I had to iterate quickly and keep it sketchy. If I went digital I would noodle. And I needed some way to experience the flow from page to page. So I found a small moleskine I had around and didn't have a use for (it was so tiny...who uses that?) :p and the idea of sticky-notes occurred. With the moleskine I could dedicate each small page to a corresponding page of the comic. And with sticky notes I could stack, remove, move around panels and pages.

So that's what I did! And it totally worked for me. So below are a few scans of what I think are the first eleven pages of planning. It's still the truest form of the comic. After that I had to tidy up come thumbnails for approval. After that point the process is almost automatic...nothing to it but to do it...the challenge at that point is not screwing it up! :p

Anyways, hopefully this is interesting to someone.

It's a beautiful day in Providence...thank God for sunshine. Much love to you guys...thanks for your support and comments...they help keep me going! I may post more on the process of character and concept design later. For now: It's summer! GO PLAY IN THE SUN!




rachel xs said...

I just have to say, that this is not only inspiring but completely reassuring.

Inspiring because your artwork is beautiful; the kind I hope one day I'll be able to create!

Reassuring because your process isn't as rigid as I have always been told plot-driven comics should be! Your original, one-sentence idea probably told me more about the story than any summary ever could.

So thank you for this post!! I love seeing how other artists begin their process.

p.s. I, for one, ALWAYS use those little moleskines! Way less intimidating than a big sheet of expensive paper!

Gueph'Ren said...

In this day of elation, I ask you to please indulge in such feelings. Be glad and be happy, we sure are for you.
It's very inspiring to see the proces you use to make your comic. It goes to show that there are many ways to do one thing. But, of course, your work as a whole is inspiring.

Unfortunately we don't get much books around here, much less books in english, and even less comic boooks (in english!); could you tell me if Flight can be bought on the internet?

sarah said...

Your comic looks absolutely beautiful. And it makes me sad, again, that there will be no more Flights. I can't wait to read this one, though. :)

Gabi Dimaranan said...

congratulations on having your story published on one of the best volumes there is dedicated to graphic novels!

i'm really excited for you, and i'm gonna save up for a copy of this one (it will be my first -- and ironically last, thanks to the surprising info that vol. 8 is their final book).

thank you for posting your work process. me and my friend's actually working on a story and we were groping in the dark on how to get the whole idea moving...and stumbling upon your blog again inspired us (me especially). it also gave us a clearer idea of how to tie down our messy ideas...

plus it really inspired me that you do prayer-journals as well. it's really encouraging to see a fellow artist ranting to God in the midst of a panicky-fit on paper. haha!

much thanks! it's been a while actually since i dropped by...the last time i checked your blog was when you posted the Jellybot: Lizzie post...so seeing you posting the work process for your flight comic was just timely!

more power and God bless you! :)

ollwen said...

I've been working mostly training illustration/animation/programming, but would love to more towards comics. I haven't had a clue about process, and tend to get bogged down in character design when an idea hits, so this process-view is really eye opening for me.

Also, I love that prayer is part of your process. Something I always neglect. Congrats on Flight, and great post!

The Lady Nerd said...

Congratulations! The colours look gorgeous, especially in the first panel. It's rendered, but not super sharp - it has a very dreamlike quality to it.

Y'know, it's a funny thing how artists tend to work better under pressure. It's as if the panic button has some direct link to creativity. Hah! I'm glad I'm not the only one who's intimidated by large expanses of paper! My early storyboards for animatics were the size of "postage stamps" (as one friend put it). I've upgraded a wee bit to four 2:35 to 1 panels, but it gets any bigger than that, I get twitchy.

PS - I put your idea of tonal composition from your last post to some good use this week. I had a rush storyboarding job and I tried out that method in my thumbnails. Made a big difference. Thank you! :)

Raphael said...

Hey Nicolas

Thanks for sharing your progress. It gave me the last kick, to start my own project. I think it will also be born through lots of prayer.
And you confessed me to do something I never did before: Order something from abroad. I'm sitting here in Switzerland and I hope Flight 8 will be here soon :-)

Greetings and thanks again for your honesty and passion!

nicholas said...

Thank you so much for sharing your creative process. I love how you approach story telling. We all need to be slaves to the story, and not get caught up in noodling an illustration. I look forward to seeing more of your creative process.

Steven Roberson said...

I just stumbled across Flight 8 and loved your work in it. I really appreciate your process and the integrity it has with your faith. Thanks for the inspiration fellow traveller!