Max and Mouse – A Comic Strip

In the last couple of weeks, while I’ve been resting, I’ve read a couple of excellent books about comics written by a guy called Scott McCloud.

These books are currently used in undergraduate sequential art courses and I can see why! They are brilliant! (Sequential Art is just a posh word for comics, graphic novels and any other combination of words and pictures which carry a narrative.)

I was working my way through the second book “Making Comics” when I saw an exercise Scott put into the notes sections for the first chapter…

McCloud, S. (2006) Making comics. 1st edn. New York: Harper Collins

This looked like wonderful fun! I picked the mini-plot about the dogs…

“Dog eats dog, dog burps, dog figure skates”

I began with 6 boxes…

Then I hashed out a very quick initial version of my comic strip…

Initially I planned for the Figure Skating panel at the end to tie in to the name of the strip and of the two dogs who I called Torvil and Dean after the world class figure skaters of the same names. I still remember their World Figure Skating “Barnum” performance in 1983 where they were scored a perfect 6.0 from the judges of every country. It was just a fabulous dance.

The third section of the dance still brings me out in goosebumps. I think it’s the way their dance perfectly captured the spirit of the music and the hearts of the audience at the same time. The audience begin to clap and you can just feel the joy of the moment reverberating around the stadium.

However, when I showed my mock up to my son, he had no idea who Torvil and Dean are, so the joke fell flat. I knew I was going to have to rework the art anyway so I thought I’d find a way to rework the joke too. I began with the line art…

Once I had my joke and line art finalised I then added some greyscale tones to increase the clarity and give the stip some more visual interest. I did the foreground first…

…and then the background…

Finally I tried to bring my image into Photoshop (PS) to finalise the tones and balance the whole thing out, but PS failed! I use Photoshop 6.0. It’s too expensive for me to use Photoshop Creative Cloud since the payments go on indefinitely and are way too expensive. It feels like catch 22 sometimes because I can’t get a job using PS (despite working with it since 1996 back when it was PS 4.0) unless I am up to date with PS Creative Cloud and I can’t afford PS Creative Cloud until I have a job!

Anyway, after some investigation it turns out that the new update to Windows 10 has permanently taken away my ability to use Photoshop 6.0 – so that software is simply not available to me anymore. It was a real blow. Fortunately though I also have Manga Studio 5.0. I was able to get this updated to Clip Studio Pro (the new version with a name change) and I have been learning how to use this newer software. It’s actually excellent and can do all of the everyday stuff which PS can do, plus the user interface is much much better! So, after a bit of installing and faffing about with the new way of doing things I got my image finalised – phew!

PS: Then I went to put up this post only to find that WordPress have now closed the loophole I was using to use the Classic Editor! So I had another new system to learn! It seems to be the way of things at the moment – a new year, new flowers, new software! I’m just going to go with it. 🙂

Here’s the final comic strip…

Developing Characters for a Comic Strip

I began thinking of writing a comic strip a couple of years ago when I heard some people in a queue for the post office talking about the funny things children say. My first go at a strip on this subject was the simple one-panel strip above.

However, as I thought about it I wondered if it would be better to develop a set of characters in school and work from there. I could make each character a bit larger than life and really push their characteristics. At first I thought I might call the strip “The Little Plump Teacher.” so I began to design a little teacher around the title…

However, this direction didn’t work out. Firstly, the children were going to be the stars of the strip, not the teacher and secondly, I wanted each child to be very different from every other – with different personalities and different looks. I had been doing some reading on character design and one of the things the pros do when creating a set of characters is to make each individual have a very obvious and individual sillhouette. This gave me the idea to make my school a school for animals!

First I just played around with my ideas on a page of my sketchbook with some thumbnails of possible characters.

Then I made some quick character sketches.

At this point I decided I didn’t like the snail character “Smole”. This was partly because his personality overlapped a bit with my duck character “Duke” and partly because I didn’t like the shape.

So I created a different sixth character, “KittyKat”, a cat.

By this time I was happy with my little class, so I made some more formal character designs digitally. Here they are, ready to delight and amuse. I can’t wait to see what kind of adventures they might have!

An important side-note: Although the children I’ve taught have told me some of the most funny and heart-warming things over the years (enough to fill several books) I’m not going draw on any of that in order to protect their privacy and maintain my GDPR obligations. These characters are not based on any children I have ever worked with and the stories in the strip won’t include anything that has ever happened in a school I’ve taught at.

A School Comic Strip Preview

 

This is a quick, preview of a comic strip I’ve been developing.  It’s set in a fictional school where all of the children and staff are animals. (All of the characters are completely fictional too.)  In a later post I will go over the process I went through to develop the idea and the characters. This is just a taster.

Here is the rough sketch…

Once I had my rough layout I redrew it all digitally…

Then finally I added tones and textures…

 

Things I can’t do, and things I can’t stop doing…

A few weeks ago I started to try to paint my beliefs about faith and love.  I drew some sketches and felt quite excited about it.

Well it turns out that I just can’t do it.  I’m not blocked, artistically or otherwise.  I’ve been sketching other things quite easily.  It’s not that I’ve lost interest in the painting either – I still want to do it.  It’s just that I can’t I think it’s because the subject is really at the very centre of what matters to me.  Any effort I might make feels like it’s nowhere good enough.  The task is simply beyond me.

In the past people used to apprentice to a craft and eventually, if they were good enough, they might become a master craftsman. To be admitted to the guild rank of master they would have to produce a particularly fine piece of work which demonstrated their mastery of their chosen craft.  This was called a ‘masterpiece‘.  I think, for me, the test of being really able to paint one day will be, to be able to paint this picture I have in my heart – my masterpiece.

 

“In other news”… sadly I was refused permission from my local council to sell my paintings online from my home.  Although I own my place it’s a leasehold and the lease conditions don’t allow it.  In a way it was good to have that question properly answered.  I will continue to paint of course, but it will be, as I’ve been doing so far, strictly for pleasure.  I’ve got a job interview tomorrow so we’ll see how that works out.  It’s at a school I’ve taught at before – a really lovely place – and it’s only for a couple of hours a day which I think I can manage pretty well despite my pain condition.  I think it’s going to be fab if I can get the job.

 

Finally I want to post a picture.  It’s only a doodle, a bit of fun really.  I was watching Criminal Minds the other day.  I love learning about how and why people behave in certain ways and in this TV show they often talk about that.  While I was watching it I started doodling – I just can’t stop drawing (and also, I don’t like to watch the scary bits).  So, after I scanned it in, here’s what I ended up with…

 

justice_web1

 

By the way – my son says when I tell a joke I should have some kind of sign so…“This was a joke!”

(When I tell him something’s a joke in conversation, he replies.. “Very nearly Mum.” and pats me on the back. LOL)

smiling ball