I’m currently working on a new graphic novel for release by BHP Comics and written by Jack Lothian (known for his screenwriting on Skins, No Offence and many others). I’m not going to give anything away about the plot, except to say that it’s a very different book from my recent offerings, and it’s a surprisingly emotional one. The main character is described in the script as An Old Lady, and the first half of the book is a slow, meditative piece that builds up to an unusual halfway point. I know, I know, very cagey, but I don’t want to give too much away at this point!
Anyway, as I often do, I decided to share some process stuff, so below you’ll find a breakdown of the creation of the first panel of the fourth page.
This is the bluelined thumbnail sketch for the panel – really rough, but enough to let me know generally what angle I’m going to be working on and the rough dimensions of the panel.
Here’s the ‘layout’. This is drawn at actual size, and while I was doing this, the bluelined construction stuff didn’t exist yet, so ignore that for now! This is where I ‘bulk out’ the thumbnail and get a sense of the weight and perspective.
And here’s the newer bit for this book. Since there’s a lot of surburban environmental stuff in here, and given that there’s little dialogue, it was important for me that the backgrounds (something that causes me a lot of grief, generally) were solid and could fully encapsulate the main character rather than being just ‘backdrops’. I decided to build most of the major ‘sets’ in SketchUp, something I’ve used before very rarely. I have a SketchUp document, which I’ll post at the end, that contains all of the sets I’ll need. I can just move around the full document as needed and choose sets and angles to match the layouts. I can then export that to Photoshop and use it to construct the panel, drawing new perspective guides off it as needed so that I can add in more detail.
Here’s where the layout and SketchUp panel meet – the bulking now fits in with the solid 3D environment I’ve built, and this lets me really start getting to grips with posing the figure. She’s at her dinner, on her own, so she’s quiet, but not necessarily sullen. Just on her own.
I don’t always do this additional panel, but I wanted to get that pose right, so here’s a ‘pre-final’where I’ve tightened up the pose and the lines for the figure to make sure I’m happy with it before moving on.
Here’s the final with the previous stages overlaid so you can see the development.
And finally, here’s the finished lines. I re-drew over all of the SketchUp lines – it would be fairly easy if I just left the model lines as they were, but I need that hand-drawn line over the top for me to feel like it’s complete. The SketchUp lines are too clean, and this ties the environment to the figure well.
That’s it really. Working this way is teaching me something about the scale and weight of the figure that I’ve often missed in the past because of the disconnect between figure and backdrop. Having a 3-dimensional space to work in means that you really have to think about the scale of the figure, and how to construct a pose that fits with the environment. It means that I’m basically working with larger, more solid figures that I have done previously, and I’m really like the results.
Here’s the full SketchUp document I mentioned. Besides the two semi-detached houses, which I downloaded from the 3D warehouse, I built all of the sets. It’s a weird construct, impossible in real life, but it includes bedrooms, kitchen, living room, two different close or stairwell constructs, a street with a construction area, a back yard, a street with shops, and a supermarket.
I can just move around this as needed, choosing angles and exporting them to Photoshop CC. While there’s no way of getting a live-linked version in PS, I can use linked files, so if I go in and change them in SketchUp, I can update it really easily in Photoshop.
I’ll maybe pop up a process post about how I construct a digital page using this method, we’ll see!