Aftermath: Finishing a First Chapter
About a month ago, I finished the first chapter of a currently on going comic series called "The Blind King." For those of you who tuned in and have read through these 21 pages, thank you. For anyone interested in reading the story, you can find it here. This was
a bigger undertaking than I was expecting. Now I could laugh at myself a bit with that remark as of course this is a lot of work. But I suppose it speaks to the prospect of how ideas tend to grow beyond our conceivable scope.
I've always looked at writing as being more of an exploratory event than anything else. Sure, it amounts to creation. Everything is in fact a decision by the maker, but despite this, it can so often feel like the scope of a project is outside our control. It's like trying to put into words a dream that, rather than fading away as the morning progresses, only becomes more and more vivid. This project started from a simple vision I received from a simple 30 second song over 2 years ago now. In that time, it has become so much more than the simple faceless mask of a young girl playing chess with a strange being in the woods.
With the expansion of this project, it has become vital that I learn multiple trades in the midst of the creative process. I don't have a team behind me to help make any of this happen. So, much like when I was first conceiving the idea, I started simple.
Much like animation, a realm I am more familiar with, thumbnails are where the process begins. Composition in page layout is especially important for pages entirely reliant on the visuals. I make it a point to remove as much dialogue and text as possible as it forces me to focus more on the actual conveyance of the story rather than simple dictation. If I wanted to write a book, I would have much more success and opportunity simply opening up a word processor. But this is where the world of comics thrives in my opinion.
That brings me to a unique challenge that this story has presented. This story does very little to help the audience understand the full idea. Balancing aspects of what to keep hidden and what to reveal, when, where and how, all come into play as a balancing act of sorts. In the midst of this balancing act though, the usage of visual storytelling is a powerful tool in helping not only to convey future ideas in a subtle way, but to provide a believable sense of vagueness that invites the audience in, rather than frustrate the reader. As such, I placed a tremendous amount of focus on the art.
Simply put, I am satisfied with what I managed to pull off with the linework, taking most of my inspiration from the legendary Moebius and his brilliant, borderline counter-intuitive technique of high-detail minimalism. Some pages came out better than others, and I still have so much to learn and explore to pull off later chapters. This is perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the inescapable principle of uncontained scope. Ultimately, everything is a compromise. Pages will come out imperfect, underdeveloped, or simply missing something incorporeal in nature. One simply has to hope that these compromises will be good enough, especially when time is of the essence, and you need to make the most of what you have. To help alleviate these fears, I heavily utilized some extremely helpful tools to make the process more forgiving.
I cannot overstate the usefulness of grids in these more complex scenes. However you do it, by all means find a way to integrate grids into your work flow. Clip Studio Paint, in this instance, has 3D integration that allows for complete control over perspective. In fact, 3D was used heavily for many different aspects of the comic as a whole.
A good example of how much time these tools can save would be their use in the more complicated shots of chessboards. To be frank, I was not looking forward to the fact that chess was a heavy theme in this story. The 3D tools saved me from this uncontained scope!
From chessboards, to buildings, to a variety of props, this technique is one I recommend everyone learn, if not simply for bettering one's understanding of an object in 3D space. With the nature of the linework as well, you'd be hard pressed to recognize what is and isn't a 3D prop. Illusion is the key to saving time.
Pressing on, we arrive at one of my favorite parts of the process, coloring the page. On the right is the first step in my process, referred to in my layers as flats. This provides a base geometry for me to work off of while handling all the other layers that need to be applied. The first of these layers is the
base color without lighting. A tremendous benefit of digital I've found is the way in which it can transform the approach to applying lighting. As opposed to traditional means where the process of lighting is handled in real time for the most part, and
must be handled all within the minds eye as it develops in layers, digital opens up an opportunity to develop lighting in a more modular fashion. This particular page had 11 layers in particular to create the look of the final page, each one acting as a single aspect of light to create the over all effect. I do, however, recommend learning some of the basics of painting from a traditional mindset as it does help you develop a sense of visualization. If you aren't careful, a page can easily get out of hand the more layers you add, and it is very important to maintain a strong goal to work towards.
And with that...
There is now a finished page, ready for the world to see...hopefully. Despite all the challenge that goes into this work, perhaps even countless hours, or moments of uncertainty as something fails to come through the way you envision it, it is all far from the hardest part of the process. Because despite the challenges and ever looming, unfathomable scope of your excavation-esque exploits of a story you're more or less discovering as much as everyone else, you are still ultimately in control. When you finally put it out into the world, that is the moment you lose control as an artist. There's no telling what the result will be in the chaotic sea of interests and dreams. It's just a matter of hope at that point.
It's a long journey to say the least, but I'm excited for where it will end up. If you're interested in taking a more in depth look at the pages, they'll be available to site members and supporters. Thank you for reading, both this post and the comic, and to all the people who helped make it happen. I hope you continue to stop by every now and again. After all, the journey is just beginning, and we have so much to do...
See you space cowboy...