How to Make a Graphic Novel/Comic Book – Part 2 (Drawing)

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In my previous post,Putting a Graphic Novel Together Pt. 1 I focused on the process of writing, and how important it is to have a plan when you’re creating your graphic novel.

Without a sense of direction for your work, it’s very easy to get trapped, and when you’ve painted yourself into a corner, your first inclination will be to pack up shop and disappear. Don’t be one of those guys.

You want to succeed, so prepare yourself mentally and physically by getting your stuff together. So many authors storm out of the gate, completely inspired with great stories to tell, only to run out of steam because they encounter problems and flaws they could have easily overcome if they had ironed out the wrinkles in a poorly written script.

One additional thing I forgot to mention in the first part of this series was peer editing.

Definitely get someone to review your script in order to find the problems or parts that don’t make sense to an objective viewer. You’ll hate yourself if you find out halfway through the production of your artwork that there is a plot hole so big you could drive a truck through it. Going back and rewriting something that big absolutely sucks. Don’t let it happen to you.

So now, I want to show you the drawing portion of how I make my graphic novel(s). Generally, I’ll start off with some quick sketches that are done with a Micron. They are the basic page flow and show off some panel breaks.

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You’ll notice all the notes on the edges of the page. Typically I will do that in order to remind myself to do something specific for that panel when I render it in a larger format.

Once I’m happy with the page flow and the concept drawings, I’ll scan them in and blow them up to proper page size.

SIDE NOTE: When I first started El Cuervo, the plan was for it to be a printed graphic novel. Then I switched over to the wonderful world of webcomics, which wasn’t so wonderful to the work I was trying to produce, so I went back to the traditional graphic novel format again. You’ll see my process flip from the traditional graphic novel page to the 6 panel page from time to time. Don’t be confused – I make my way back to the original format in due time.

If you have any questions, just holla and I’ll try and explain better. 🙂

 

Reference Material

Based on the script and the look of the thumbnails, I will scour Google Images and stock photography websites to find suitable reference pics for the actions taking place in the panels/pages. I’ve yet to be stumped completely, but there are times when it is difficult to find imagery that is completely original – so sometimes you have to get creative. I’ve done the following:

• Take personal photos in the required poses
• Position dolls in the required poses

Sounds dumb, but it works in a pinch. I’ve used GI Joes to get the basic proportion and body angles down, and I’ve taken photos of my ugly mug to get the proper expressions I’ve been looking for. You can take photos of your hands, feet, etc. You need that visual reference in order to properly draw the form for your comic.

SIDE NOTE: There’s a notion that an artist must be able to draw everything well from memory – but the opposite is true. Even if you’ve had a lot practice drawing the same thing over and over again, drawing something realistically from memory is an exercise in failure. It’s scientific – your brain meats give you your representation of the object/person from your memory, but fails to attach certain details.

Unless you have an eidetic memory (photographic memory) you will not be able to reproduce a lifelike drawing without making a lot of critical mistakes – therefore, use photo reference! And don’t feel like you’re cheating!

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Here’s a sample of six images I put together for a page. What do a police officer, a crying child, a man in a bowler hat shushing you, a hand holding rope, a man being duct taped to a chair and a gagged little girl have in common?

Nothing other than positions and frames of reference for proportion.

From these six images, I produced this:

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This is from the first meeting between Paloma and Eddie, where he ties her up before he figures out what to do next. Compare it to the above image and you can see all of the similarities, but also all the differences too.

I did the line art in Illustrator, and then I move on to the spot blacks. You want noir? Here it comes…

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Now compare the above image to the original and you can see a HUGE difference. The rendered piece actually looks like a proper set of sequential images. That’s the power of photo reference.

In the next post, I’ll show you how I take these panels and format them in a standard vertical page format to give them more life than this 6 panel grid can offer.

See you then.

Andrés ‘ Drezz ‘ Rodriguez is an illustrator, author, and podcast personality. In addition to creating the comic book series ‘El Cuervo – the Latin Assassin,’ he provides WA readers with periodic articles (like this one) to help improve their comic process and their production.

Feel free to follow him on Twitter, on Facebook or see the various projects he’s involved in at his hub site, drezzworks.

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Posted in Drawing, Featured News, Tutorials and tagged .

4 Comments

  1. great stuff Drezz. i put my stuff together for talesfromswipecity.com in much the same way but with one difference instead of doing sketches from reference I make the reference pictures using poser 10 it helps me a lot because i can have full control of the pre production stuff just like a movie set. when i first began my web comic I did put it together using poser stuff but as time has gone on i have moved to making it a pre production stage and now do drawn and hand color

  2. – drawing something realistically from memory is an exercise in failure. It’s scientific – your brain meats give you your representation of the object/person from your memory, but fails to attach certain details.

    I’m sorry, I don’t trust whoever say things like this.
    I practice at drawing(seriously) for 6 years and until last year i used references, but i realized that with references, my drawing loose a lot of life (I see this in yours too). I’m not satistacted, because is not what I was imagining, is more what i copied.
    So I decided to train to improve my visual memory. I need to learn to draw from imagination, If i want to draw what i want while keeping the drawing alive.

    – Unless you have an eidetic memory (photographic memory) you will not be able to reproduce a lifelike drawing without making a lot of critical mistakes – therefore, use photo reference! And don’t feel like you’re cheating!

    Eidetic memory doesn’t made you draw well, unless you practice.
    i saw people that have eidetic memory drawing just slighty better than average people, but flaws are still there. Greatly. On the other hand there are people with no imagination that can draw perfectly, even if their mind is filled with just words and zero picures.
    Also, don’t being able to draw what you imagine is a myth. Everybody that is capable to produce an image in his head draw exactly what he imagines. When the drawing looks wrong, is because there are mistakes in the picture you imagine.
    Another thing that may prevent you from drawing well is your dexterity.

    • I explained this badly. people with eidetic memory can’t manipulate what they imagine. they just recall wtaht they saw and repeat it without understanding what they see-imagine.
      They can’t draw what they never saw, unless they don’t understand how creativity works.

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