In February I did some more work on the forest sequence, where Jay and Pippa start to rekindle their relationship as they walk through The Dingle.
In March I did some more pages, part of a key sequence in the first section of the graphic novel that riffs on issues of truth & subjectivity in autobiographical work.
I was disappointed not to complete more pages than that. One problem was simply having to work: paid projects had to take precedence for more weeks than I’d hoped. One of the pitfalls of freelance work is you can’t choose your own deadlines. This led me to think about doing a Kickstarter, so I could fully focus on this graphic novel. I started to do some research, interviewing some people who had done successful Kickstarters about exactly what was involved. It soon became apparent that a Kickstarter is more or less a full-time job for the period where it’s up and running. They also need a lot of prep to set up, and a lot of time after the money’s been raised to make sure everyone gets their rewards. Because I needed to focus on earning money, the Kickstarter itself would have to wait until the Summer. In the meantime, I can keep prepping.
Another problem was self-doubt regarding the direction the project was heading in. This led me to come up with new scenes, new elements, and a new project title. Because my work is fairly unique, and my art’s not that great, It’s easy to feel that like I’m wasting my time – and therefore need to change direction.
Happily, after six weeks of working out the details of this new approach, which I saw as a gradual evolution of my original concept, I came to my senses. I started to see the strengths of my original idea again. All I need to do is execute the script I’ve already written, and get on and draw the damn pages.
The cover became the fulcrum for all these creative doubts. Having a cover which sums up the work is an important part of my creative process, but I struggled to come up with anything that worked for me. This was because I was having doubts about the project as a whole. I felt that, though the pages I’d done so far were good, there’s was a certain spark of magic missing. I struggled for a while to put my finger on what it was. Finally, I realised that the way I was rendering the main character was the key to this. It would be useful at this point to restate my original goals.
i) Defining and exploiting emotional, physical and intellectual responses to comic book storytelling, as opposed to pure prose storytelling.
ii) Exploring the primacy of text, or otherwise, in the comprehension of popular comics.
iii) Manipulating typography to exploit the burred area between the visual and verbal qualities of lettering.
iv) The effect of writing directly onto the comic page in comics font, using text and image as appropriate, avoiding panel descriptions of any kind.
v) Accurately conveying human experience by depicting reality, memory and imagination interchangeably
The authorial avatar is really just a placeholder for a limited bandwidth of ideas relating to the character it represents, ideas that become more nuanced and complex in combination with other visual and verbal elements (such as the words in dialogue balloons and captions). That gives you a fair bit of leeway in how you render the avatar itself.
The approach I’ve have settled on will help me reach goal iii) and v). Goal iv) is fulfilled by how I’m making the whole graphic novel, and some of my other comics work. It’s a challenging technique, which needs a lot of discipline and a firm narrative framework in which to riff, but I’ve found it leading me down some exciting new directions. Goal iii) will play a part in how I draw the avatar, and the autobiographical scene I’m working on is part of that. Goal i) is more of a backburner goal in creative terms. I’ve been focusing on that through my comics scholarship. In practical terms, I need to focus on the core graphic novel right now: rendering and lettering pages of artwork. I can always address more of these prose issues after the graphic novel is complete.
The focus of our coursework this term was very apposite, especially the pitch, cover, title logo, illustrator design work, and InDesign comic template preparation. I personally find it hard to work on a project unless I can picture how the whole book will look and feel, and visualise an audience who’d be interested in buying it. Without at least considering that side of things it’s easy to get lost in the detail of what you’re doing, and make a finely crafted work that no-one cares about when you’ve finished. I believe in letting artists be artists, and I find visualising and refining covers and logos and pitches a really important part of the creative process. It helps you to find the core of your work, a cohesive theme from start to finish. Having that in place actually help you experiment with your narrative and artistic approach; you can take more risks because you have the confidence to know that as long as you don’t branch too far away from the core themes the story will still work. Creating a graphic novel is a journey, but you need a map and a compass to get to the end in good shape. The pitch, cover and logo help to fulfil that purpose in creative terms.
The cover art has the kind of texture and tone I want, but I’ll continue to refine it further using elements from within the comic itself. The logo I’ve chosen is deliberately straightforward and deliberately eschews any ornamentation, slickness or polish. I want the cover to embody a work of literature or art, not a commercial comic book. I feel that approach runs through the whole book and give it a distinctive and cohesive personality. Seeing the comic in InDesign template form woke me up to a few storytelling tweaks that I need to do, and the amount of work still left to be done. I’m really looking forward to getting properly stuck into this project next week and generating a lot of new pages. I feel I have a really good idea on how to progress with speed and clarity from this position.
Designing a poster for Comichaus was fun and made me thing about marketing. I would probably have used my poster for one of my more commercial projects if Comichaus hadn’t decided to use it in their own campaign. With this kind of work you simply want to be noticed and remembered in a way that makes people feel good about the work your advertising. It’s an interesting challenge, and I enjoyed hand inking the poster a great deal.
It was also fascinating to learn about Madefire, something I wouldn’t normally be exposed to. I found the online tools fairly straightforward to use, and saw how you could develop it to create something that goes far beyond the confines of a physical comic or traditional graphic novel. I’d like to do a project like that at some point, perhaps using VR, but for now, I want to concentrate on experimenting with the medium of printed comics. I feel there is fresh ground still to be broken in the realm of traditional comics.