Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Ouch!" or "Then it's writing instead!"

These are the tendons of your shoulder. Notice the bunch of small tendons that connect the clavicle with the shoulder blade via the acromion and the coracoid process.

At least they DO connect the clavicle with the shoulder blade if you DO NOT try to ride your bike on icy ground. If you DO ride your bike on icy ground you will slip in a turn, fall on your right shoulder and the little guys get ripped, turning your right arm mostly useless for over a week. And that's most likely the point where you'll discover how much drawing and painting with your left arm sucks.

Well, I'll have to wait a week or two until I can continue to work on the artwork for the graphic novel. I'm also not going to work and I'm going to try to use at least a bit of the free time to make some progress with my story. Typing with only your left hand is slow but it works. And if I'm thinking about it, perhaps right now is a really good time to do some writing anyway. I'm still at the point where I have to find out how exactly I'm going to flesh out my story.

I really have to thank all the great people on the internet who provide us with their thoughts and experiences about their own projects. For the last few month I was roaming several blogs and forums and tried to get an overview over the complex thing that creating a graphic novel is. I've started to create a link list on the right menue strip but I also want to expressly point you to my favorite findings. Nate Simpson does an epic job over at Project Waldo. It's well worth to read his blog archives which are full of honest and meaningful posts in which many times I found my own doubts and questions expressed. I also recommend Kazu Kibuishi's Boltcity Blog. He's a real pro with several graphic novels on the shelves and he does not only share his experiences with his Amulet graphic novel but also writes a lot about storytelling and writing. And only a few days ago I discovered Jason Brubaker's reMIND Blog and instantly loved it. Jason also loves to share his experiences and although the current incarnation of his blog is only a few month old there's already a lot of information about workflows and the creative process piled up. Well, and I probably don't have to mention that their projects alone are more then a good reason to visit their blogs and enjoy the wonderful artwork.

My own quest recently lead me to the question which role writing plays in my creative process. For the first chapter I hadn't written anything in advance. The scenes just came naturally to me and I wrote the dialog directly into the layout. However, I currrently don't have the feeling that the dialog suffered from that workflow. That's the thing I would expect from that kind of workflow: that the story tends to be told visually and that the dialog feels arbitrary. I think that I somehow managed to avoid that but I'm not sure if this is a workflow to keep. A few days ago I transcribed the dialog of the first chapter into script form in order to be able to hand it over for proof reading and I started to see what script writing might be all about. To be honest, it has always been a big mystery to me how people are able to deduce a visual storytelling experience from a screenplay. Maybe it's the same mystery like with composers who write their music with notes. I never was able to draw the direct connection between a written page of screenplay and let's say a movie scene. Ok, sure, the actors have to say something. But hey, we have a camera here and we'll have to figure out where to point it on in the first place, don't we? Well, after bringing my first chapter into script form it suddenly began to feel less weird to work that way. It felt a bit like the other side of the same medallion. And it felt fast! Rewriting aside (I did a lot of rewriting in the chapter 1 layout, too), I might be able to do in two or three hours what took me 25 hours in the layouts (meaning that I had the character interaction of the first chapter only after having finished the complete layout. Of course a lot of these hours were consumed by the painting process). With decent panel descriptions I might even be able to do a lot less experimenting in the layouts and save time.

Well, I'm right in the middle of a learning process here and I think I will just have to try it and see what's happening. I guess it's a good idea to do some writing on the second chapter now especially since my injured shoulder keeps me from doing anything decent on the visual side anyway.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chapter 1 layout completed

After some very busy two weeks and nearly 25 hours of work I've finally finished my first draft of the layout of chapter one of the Wormworld Saga OGN. It consists of 71 panels and will be 1024 pixels wide and 20000 (!) Pixels high. On my screen that's 5,4 meters! Or to put it in other words:

That's a whole lot of work in front of me! Creating the layout was a fantastic experience though. To be honest, I was a bit afraid of my own courage when I announced the graphic novel project. But now I'm very happy that I have finally started. Telling stories with pictures is just great and I'm feeling a bit like a movie director. I'm totally getting into the flow when I'm working on the panels. Here are some sneak peek panels from the layout for you:

As you can see, I've gotten relatively specific in the layout. Basically I have already planned the major lighting idea for each panel in tonal values. I became douptful in the middle of the process if it's worth the effort at this stage but I think this detailed layout will come in handy when I'm going to create the final art. Another advantage of the approach definitely is, that the layout already reads like a real comic and that the mood of every scene communicates quite well.

I yet have no idea how long it will take me to create the finished art for the first chapter. I'm quite intimidated by the sheer size of it. I've already thought about cutting it in half. There would be a nice opportunity right in the middle of the chapter that would make for a clean cut. On the other hand, that would leave the first chapter with a lot of exposition and little story progress. I want the first chapter to be really good and satisfying for the reader in order to raise the appetite for more. Therefore I think that I will keep the long version and just live with it.

At the moment I manage to work at least two hours every day on the project and I try to do between 8 and 12 hours at the weekend. That this doesn't quite work out I can gather from the ToDoList software I mentioned in the last post. There I have counted 35 hours of work on the graphic novel in two weeks. This little program is really helpful for keeping track of your effort. I was even able to estimate the finishing point when I was half through with the layout. As soon as I have started to create the finished art I will watch my progress closely and hope to be able to estimate the completion date of the first chapter soon.

I would love to start with the finished art for the first chapter right away but I have to do some work for another project first. That one is also very interesting and I hope to be able to make an announcement during the next few weeks.

Thanks for your interest and stay tuned!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Revision is progress!

I'm starting to get really excited about my graphic novel. I haven't enjoyed working on something so much for a long time. I have made some significant progress with the story today. I have scraped a lot of post its from the wall and replaced them with new versions.

I have completed the first of the three parts of the story and currently it's divided into 7 chapters.

That's less then I thought. Well, we will see how accurate this estimation is. The first chapter will teach me a lot of valuable lessons in this respect. I have started to draw all the panels of chapter 1 into a single photoshop file.

The idea is to draw every panel the same size and then paste them into the layout document and to stretch them there into their individual sizes. Still a lot to experiment here. I have already worked a bit on the layout file and my experience up to this point is, that this method works quite well with pure action sequences but not so good with dialog. The reason is, that I often have to insert panels in order to get the right amount of space for the dialog. I guess, I will have to work out the dialog directly in the layout document.

Probably it would be a good idea to work out the whole story in thumbnails first before I start to create the final artwork. At least that's the way the pros seem to do it. However, I'm really curious how much time the different parts of the process take and therefore I've decided to finalize the complete first chapter just to get an idea, how time consuming the whole project might become. To track the time on the different tasks I installed a cool little freeware tool called ToDoList. It's very helpful for counting the time which is spend on different tasks. You can configure the features to your needs. I'm only using the time counting feature at the moment but you can also set deadlines and document your progress on different tasks in percent and much more.

I hope to be able to show you some artwork soon. I sure will have to avoid spoilers here, but there are a lot of characters and location designs to create. So, even if I cannot show you final layouts I should have at least something for you to look at.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

'The Wormworld Saga' Online Graphic Novel

Welcome everybody in 2010!

This year is going to be absolutely crazy. My biggest personal challenge will be to create an online graphic novel out of a story that I'm working on for quite some time now. Inside my head 'The Wormworld Saga' is just fantastic, I tell you. Unfortunately, that's something you won't believe me until you have seen it for your own. That puts me into the uncomfortable position of the one who has to get all the stuff OUT of his head and fashion it into a form that's hopefully as fantastic as the stuff INSIDE his head. I have no idea if that will work. Honestly! I guess, we will just have to find out.

On my website I've already summed up what has lead me to the decision to create an online graphic novel in the first place (please follow the link in the paragraph above if you're interested). On this blog from now on I want to document the steps that I'm taking on my way. I'm going to write about the creative process, the planning, sketching and painting of the graphic novel but also about other related stuff like promotion and marketing. I'm doing this for the first time so prepare yourself for beholding a good portion of trial and error here. Of course, your feedback is very much appreciated. So, please don't hesitate to tell me just anything that comes to your minds along the way!

In this first post I want to show you some of my first steps in the production of the graphic novel. The first thing is my trusty notebook, which I started in 2005:

By the time I started this notebook the story was still very rough and I had just began to collect ideas to flesh out the first framework. There is a lot of rejected stuff in these pages and it is quite interesting to revisit my notes and to see how things have evolved over the years. I filled this notebook to the last page and it spans from 2005 to May 2008. I started a new notebook but I somehow have the feeling that when the first notebook was full, I arrived at a point were taking notes did not feel like the right instrument anymore. The framework was layed out and I had to take the next step. Well, I did not really know what to do with the material back then and therefore I started to do writing experiments. I wanted to take parts of the story framework and flesh them out. I was not really happy with the results. However, now that I know that I'm going to do a graphic novel I need an instrument to develop the story further and to bring it into a form that can serve as a base from which I can then create the sequential art. Right at the moment, this instrument is The Wall:

I have taped a long piece of packing paper to a wall near my studio and I'm covering it with post its. On the small area on the left I'm currently collecting characters and their motivations and conflicts. On the big area on the right (you are seeing only one half of the full size) I'm laying out the plot. The yellow post its carry plot items, the pink ones carry problems that need to be solved and the orange ones carry notes on ideas and themes. Right at the moment the work is quite straightforward because I'm working directly from a story synopsis for the first journey that I've already finished last year. However, I'm already discovered some points were the story has to be changed. The post its come in handy because they are easy to be replaced.

Right at the moment I'm working on the whole storyline and I'm still prepared for changes. However, the plot for the first two chapters is ready and I'm going to start on the sequential art as soon as possible. I'll keep you all up to date!