Here’s my part of a panel from Hereville 3. (It’s from page 128, if you have the book and would like to compare.)
I usually don’t use photo reference for figures – it’s difficult to prevent photo-referenced figures from looking lifeless, at least for me (other cartoonists do it better). When I use a photo ref and the resulting drawing looks like it was photo-referenced, I think of that as me “getting beat up by the photo.” But some poses are just too hard to figure out without reference. This three-way hug is definitely one such pose.
So I made my housemates Matt, Maddox and Sydney pose for for this photo (Matt is the girls’ dad), and used that as the basis for my drawing. Even with the photo, there are still differences between the reference and the final image – although there are also bits that are very similar (compare Fruma’s hands to Matt’s). The biggest change was Mirka’s entire figure, and turning Layele’s head so that readers could see her happy expression.
I think I’ve gotten much better at not letting source photos beat up my drawings. In the first Hereville book, there are some drawings that still make me wince because they look so obviously drawn from photos.
Here’s an example from Hereville 3 (in progress). It’s from page 45, a panel in which Mirka is running fast down the porch stairs.
As you can see, it involves work not only by me, but also by my wonderful collaborators Adrian Wallace (who draws the environments) and Jake Richmond (who does the colors). We also use a computer model of Mirka’s house which was created years ago by Mr. Matthew Nolan.
Transcript of image:
In the script I wrote, Mirka was in the house, and then the next scene began with her running through the woods.
When I laid it out, I thought it would be better storytelling to include a transition panel. So I scribbled a little stick-figure of Mirka running down the porch stairs.
Then I did a slightly more detailed version, so that I could look at the page layout and see if I liked it, and also so that folks like my editor and Adrian Wallace (who draws the environments) could understand what I intended.
Months later, after I had completed writing and laying out the entire book, I did an “underdrawing” showing Mirka’s pose and (hopefully) correctly sketching her proportions.
In the underdrawing, I drew Mirka lifting her skirt as she runs down the stairs, which helps make her look more desparate (and is also more realistic).
Using the underdrawing as a guide, I did a much tighter drawing of Mirka running down the stairs. And using THAT drawing as a guide, I drew Mirka again, in the final black lines that get printed in the comic book.
At that point, I send the page to Adrian Wallace, who draws the environments around Mirka. One tool Adrian uses to create his drawings are 3d computer models of the environments. Adrian often creates the models himself, but in this case he used a model of Mirka’s house which was created years ago by Matthew Nolan.
Adrian merges his background with my drawing, and then the whole thing is sent to Jake Richmond. Jake first goes through and does flat colors on everything, using a horribly limited color palette I chose in consultion with Jake.
After Jake finishes laying down the flat colors, he goes over the colors again, this time adding highlights and shading.
And finally, the completed panel:
I can just make up outfits on the fly, rather than stopping drawing pages to design an outfit, but the resulting clothing tends to be extremely repetitive and bland. Much better to try and think the outfit through, and wind up with something that doesn’t look exactly like all the other outfits I’ve drawn Fruma in. (Although it’s clear that Fruma likes horizontal stripes, since I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve used horizontal strips in one of her outfits.) I haven’t shown Fruma wearing boots before, but this story takes place in the autumn, so I think boots make sense.
I like this outfit; it seems to occupy a point partway between frumpy and pirate.
Here’s a scene that I ended up 90% rewriting, between a very small Mirka, years ago, and her Mom. I like this scene, but what I replaced it with fits better into the larger story.
These are what I call my “stick figure layouts,” where I don’t do any actual drawing, but I figure out the final script and the layout.
If you’ve met me at a comic book convention, you may have noticed the little herd of toy pigs decorating my table. I bought those when I was drawing the first Hereville book, to help me draw the pig character! I took hundreds of photos of those plastic pigs, from every angle and height, and used them as reference while drawing the comic.
You can see a pattern on the pig in the photo above. This was contributed by one of the two small girls I live with, at some point when I wasn’t in the room to stop them. :-p
I didn’t use the models during book 2, since the pig only appeared in one panel. But I still have the little herd of pigs, and when they’re not appearing at cons they stand in my drawing area, near a Peppermint Patty figure.
So Hereville 2 is nearly done! I’ve drawn all the story pages and the cover, and I just finished penciling the title page a few minutes ago. Jake is blazing along on the colors. I want to go back and revise some drawings I’m not happy with, but basically, my part is done.
After all these months of drawing, it’s hard to imagine that eight days from now I’ll turn the pages in and have no more drawing to do! What will I do with my time?
(Answer: Begin writing Hereville 3. But I also plan to do some more of the things I haven’t had time to do in the last half-year, such as blogging and laundry.)
Anyway, here’s the penciled title page, subject to the approval of the nice folks at Abrams:
I always enjoy seeing what Jake’s colors look like without my drawings and word balloons getting in the way.
Warning: The images below contain some spoilers regarding the plot of Hereville book 2. Then again, so does, you know, the actual cover to the book.
So when I started work on the cover to book 2, everyone (“everyone” in this case meaning me, the folks at Abrams (my editor Sheila and book designer Chad Beckerman) and my agent Judy Hasen) were agreed that we wanted a cover that looked enough like book 1’s cover so that it would be obviously in the same series at a glance, but different enough so that no one would mistake it for the first book.
So, things to keep from book 1’s cover: Big round object. Tiny Mirka (or Mirkas). The banner for the title and author lettering. Things to be different: Everything else.
So I thought of every cover idea I could and sent quick sketches of those ideas to Abrams. Pretty much all of those ideas were variations on “meteor shooting through space, Mirka sitting on or being dragged along behind it.” But I also threw in a few not involving a meteor, because I didn’t want to forclose other possibilities, even though I was pretty sure we’d wind up with a meteor.
Then the folks at Abrams discussed it, or perhaps consulted their magic eight balls (a not-unlikely subject of a future Hereville cover), and agreed that they liked a shooting meteorite dragging a panicked Mirka best.
We also sent emails back and forth playing around with several color approaches. I showed them a few possibilities — sky blue, dark blue, red, etc — and although I was secretly hoping for red, I thought they’d choose blue (a more conservative choice), and I could live with that. To my delight, they chose red.
So now knowing the subject of the drawing and the color scheme, I did some more sketches and sent them to Abrams:
I do these sketches not only for Abrams’ sake but for my own — it’s hard for me to feel that I really know what I think about a cover composition unless I first sketch it out.
On Monday I’ll post the final cover art!