A few weeks ago, I attended GRAPHIC here in Sydney. It was held at the Opera House. Besides a couple of posters, there really wasn’t much in the way of promoting the event. Thankfully, I could tell the difference between tourists and comic geeks (it’s subtle, but one holds a camera, the other a portfolio).
I booked myself into a couple of seminars – one which was a three hour workshop. The event was run by a number of Australian artists in various fields of illustration, and some degree of passion for comics. The object of the workshop was to create a ‘zine – a small, half-A4 sized independent comic. Each artist had a table of people like me. My table was headed up by Pat Grant. He was a pretty cool guy with a Mambo-esque style to his art. He worked predominantly in graphic design.
We did a couple of warm-up exercises. One which I found particularly enlightening. He told us to look at an object or person, and study it for a little while. We then had 5 minutes to draw as much detail as we could. I chose a nearby coffee cup.
Once that was done, he told us to draw the same object… but this time he gave us 1 minute, 30 seconds, and finally 10 seconds. The aim of this exercise is to “iconify” or get used to drawing an object, so that you can create symbolic version of it for your designs. We actually recognize objects in the abstract before we notice the details. It’s one neat trick which makes graphic design so interesting – we take advantage of this quirk of our own meaning-making nature.
Other tables were getting themes for their ‘zines, but Pat was a fan of letting free reign reign free. But he said “if you absolutely must, just throw a window in your comic”.
And so the idea struck me. The first task I felt I had to complete was to get a reference shot of the action I needed. I asked Pat politely to take a couple of picture of me posing. Others from my table looked on intently, wondering why I just couldn’t draw what I wanted. Even Pat had some objection, but humored me. I posed a couple of ways, not entirely sure of the angle I might need yet, and he took a couple of good pics.
There’s me above, posing for the reference in what is fast becoming my “comicking” uniform. (I think I need a haircut, and to work out a little. hmmm.)
And so then I had to thumbnail.
I had no macbook with me, or wacom, so it was good old-fashioned pencil, paper and pens. Which meant I needed to practice drawing from the reference poses a couple of times to see what would work in terms of the frame. I kinda knew what I wanted when I thumbnailed – a view from behind the character so the object would be flying away from the viewer – but I tried a couple of other poses, in case the emphasis on the object might have been better.
I decided to stick with my original plan, and did the first ink.
Happy with the angle, the pose, the sketch in general, I now went about assembling my page. I redrew the thumbnail to A4 size, used the above preliminary inked sketch as a reference, and positioned the panels appropriately. I then inked it all, having to use a thin artline pen, and a thicker marker for the shadow in the last frame.
I realized lettering is not my forte, tho there was some discussion to the level of personality it gives a piece. Most were very opposed to using fonts. Personally, I would rather my readers be able to make out the story than quibble over what’s artistic or not.
The finished ‘zine was then made by scanning everyone’s pages, and printing two pages per front and two per back of each A4 page. They were then organized in order, and we each stapled a handful, and personalized the covers (which were designed by each supervising artist).
Here’s my “printed” page (along with someone else’s work opposite).
I enjoyed the workshop so much, I’m keen to get more involved in events such as this. I hear there’s an international 24 hour comic day coming up the weekend of October 2nd and 3rd. If you’re in Sydney and have not yet seen anything organized, wanna join me? Comment below, or send me email! Would be super-keen to get together with a couple of Sydney artists, if only to egg each other on.