Tuesday, January 20, 2009


(Thumbnail roughs for pages 40-47 by me
The Hound of the Baskervilles © 2009 SelfMadeHero)

When I started 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' I rushed out and bought a Moleskine (mol-a-skeen'-a) notebook. I've always wanted a Moleskine notebook but never been brave enough to draw in one. I usually work on loose sheets of office paper. As I've scribbled furiously over the past few months I've come to suspect that the reason I draw in blue pencil and the reason I wouldn't normally dare draw in Moleskine notebooks is because I have commitment issues when it comes to drawing. I can screw up a sheet of office paper, I don't have to scar a sketchbook by tearing out a page. And drawing with blue pencil, well, there's always been something less permanent about blue pencil over regular HB graphite. If you rub out blue pencil you still see the trace of your mistakes, but its not the horrible gray mess that graphite leaves behind (no matter how good your rubber is). And besides, its blue, and as all sensible boys know, blue's the best color there is. So that's the theory.

'Hound' from about forty pages onward has been scribbled in my blessed Moleskine notebook. As Holmes would correctly deduce, it took me till page forty to brave it. I didn't throw off all my clothes and rush head long into the roaring surf. I daintily dipped my toe. But hey, no turning back now.

I draw a cross in the center of the page and then allocate a page to each quarter giving me an eight page overview across two notebook pages (as above). I then scan these pages in their respective segments and import them into Manga Studio. I then roughly layout the lettering and work my pencil up accordingly - I figure out all my composition at this stage. After I have rough pencils I finish off the lettering with speech balloons and then return to ink the page.

I divide up my concentration throughout the art process. I don't work everything out at the pencil stage. I work briskly at this stage because I keep to mind that all I need is a roughly plotted course. So onward I go. I don't hang about because I know that I can come back to it at the inking stage and everything wrong will be right again. It's something to look forward to.

Inking can sometimes be equal parts tedium and joy. Tedium when you've plotted that course all too well in the pencil stage and the imagination at this point is sitting there in the back of my skull like some over-excited dog wondering why we've suddenly stopped playing. And joy when I find those parts of the drawing where I couldn't be bothered to figure them out at the time. Which is why, when I'm working to a tight deadline, inking is never tedious.

It's a golden rule. If I get stuck I don't stop. This is where the eight page overview comes into play. I know what's happening over the next eight pages. It's not un-navigated ocean. I know where be monsters. So if ever over those eight pages I get stuck I move on to the next panel. A panel I can draw. The complicated drawing gets thrown to the over-excited dog at the back of my skull like scraps from the kitchen table, and by the time I've finished drawing the easy panel, the panel I can draw, the problem returns to me magically resolved and I return to the panel I couldn't draw earlier and the sated over-excited dog takes a quiet nap.

It's then a quick export into Photoshop where I color the page up, re-apply the lettering with live type and that's that. Job done. Off it goes to my dear old chums in London town, to SelfMadeHero, where the book is laid out and proofed before it undergoes any revisions and finally goes off to the printers and hits the shelves in May!*

*The latter part of this process I greatly underestimate because by this point I'll be rushing headlong into the roaring surf and scribbling frantic thumbnails in my Moleskine for the next Sherlock Holmes adaptation Edginton and I are undertaking - A Study in Scarlet (due out in October this year).


james corcoran said...

Hello Ian

I too probably use a blue pencil for the same reasons,and have a pile of half started moleskines with offending pages torn out.What you've shown of Holmes looks brilliant!Really enjoying Huzzah! too.

Best wishes James

Unknown said...

Excellent, I love seeing breakdowns! Also good to be able to read in more detail what we were chatting about earlier this morning.

I've learnt to move on to another page or panel instead of fighting with something for too long, it would seem obvious but it can be difficult to break out of the one page at a time mode of thought if that's what you're used to. I'm glad I tried mixing up my method a little, I think it's helped me to speed up some.

I look forward to the inking stage, there's still a lot of decisions to make but there's also a craft element to it, there's something relaxing and meditative about it especially when you get in the zone.

I'm rather fond of the old Moleskine and blue pencils too. I also have the same problem with fancy sketchbooks, it's the silliest fear but very real. I often get a mate to draw something in a new one first and that goes some way to breaking the spell.

I. N. J. Culbard said...

The really valuable thing about drawing in a sketchbook is, I've learned, it forces me into just getting those ideas down on paper. A blank page has to be navigated, you have to start somewhere. But know always that this is just the beginning. You can change your composition on the page if it doesn't work etc.

I endeavor to make the most out of every part of the process so there's always something to look forward to along the way. Inking's the part where you can either rob yourself of some of that joy if you've done it all in the pencils (ie: pencils so tight they may as well be an inked layer) or you actually put some of that craft you talk about into it. So that's what I mean with regard to tedium and joy.