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This Entry Will Evolve a bit more

Okay, since everything is everything, nothing short of absolutely everything ever has a beginning or a conclusion, but we generally structure our narratives about little tiny subsets of everything with a beginning, a middle, and end, and then perhaps a little analysis and/or moralizing and politicking.

This little subset of everything "begins" with this comic from sgnpcomix:

"Yeah," I think, "I can do that. I can grab a pen and a piece of paper, draw some simple panels, write in the dialog by hand, scan it, post it, have done with it and have created and shared something.”

Of course, I didn’t follow these very simple and workable directions.

Instead of drawing anything, I dug up something I drew months ago on notebook paper (in a notebook I was using as a journal) while we were living in Western Australia:

There it is. I didn’t read around in the journal near this page, so I don’t have any personal context for this drawing. I have no idea what I originally intended for the dialog balloons. Quite probably, I drew this page breakdown without any idea of what would go in the balloons. I do that a lot. I just start drawing and work out how the arrangement leads the eye to all the bits I want the reader to notice and in the correct order. That second part can be the deal breaker, to which any neophyte cartoonist can attest.

I go by the motto, “Use the tools at your disposal.” I’ve got a pad of tracing paper and a mechanical pencil, so I used them to clean up the original drawing, thusly:

I scan the tracing paper. I like the look of it. Heck, that could be the comic. Of course, I won’t hand-write the letters. I want it to go down smooth, and I have many fonts that go down way easier than my handwriting. I’ll do the text in Photoshop, and that’ll be it. Boom!

Of course I didn’t stop there. I was just getting warmed up.

Normally, I’m working from scans of pen drawings. Cleaning up these kinds of scans is no big deal. Generally I tweak the levels a little bit to darken the darks and lighten the lights, then I threshold the image. Thresholding takes an image with multiple hues and tones and makes every pixel pick a side. White or black?

I control the threshold between white and black with a horizontal slider. Drag the slider to the left, and white expands. Thick and continuous lines grow thin and fragmented and the drawing fades to white. Drag the slider to the right, and the lines get thicker, growing together and obliterating details. A black digital mold propagates across the page until the recognizable images become a non-representational assortment of black blobs.

Run threshold on a pen and ink drawing, and I end usually end up with some clean “inks” that I can use in a coloring process that simulates painting the color behind the black outlines of an animation cell. Like this:

I think that looks okay. That could be the comic. This is the usual route I take with scanned drawings, so it doesn’t save me any time or have much to do with my original inspiration of doing a quickie comic. Still, put in the words, and this could be my finished product.

Not yet.

I liked the look of the pencil drawing in the scan of the drawing on tracing paper. Pencil drawings don’t do so well when I put them thru the threshold ringer. They either get too sketchy and hard to decipher, or they get murky as all the places where I smeared graphite on the surface of the tracing paper with my hand and fingers start turning into sheets of black haze obliterating the lines of the drawing. Either way, the quality of the pencil drawing that I like gets lost in thresholding. I wondered if I could somehow merge the cleaned up pencil drawing with the color I laid down behind the thresholded line drawing. I put the pencil drawing on the level above the blobs of color and reduced the opacity of the top level so that the colors on the underlying level started to show through the pencil drawing on top. Behold:

Enh. No real improvement over my usual method, and now I’ve spent far longer on this comic than I would have normally, and I intended to be quick about it. The time I’ve put in on this project now stretches over a couple of days.

Finally, I desaturated the color blob level and ran it thru the sumi-e (Japanese brush and ink painting) filter. I took the result and put the thresholded pencil drawing (which I now have labeled “inks”) down over the top of it.

Yeah, I like the look of this. Rough around the edges, but detailed and packaged in a manner that I find pleasing. It strikes me as something done quickly but with confidence. It took an absurdly long time to come up with this look, and now I’m wondering how to get something like it without going about it in such a circuitous manner. We’ll see.

And then there’s the matter of the empty dialog balloons.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 7th, 2003 07:34 pm (UTC)
I've missed the Foo Do- er, Lion!
(Deleted comment)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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