This is the very early part of the process where I begin designing the characters based off the rough outline I have for the story. I usually write the story in conjunction with the design/illustration phase because they feed off each other so well. The raw idea sometimes comes from an image or a drawing of a single character or it can come from a single sentence, or verbal conceptual idea. The writing then instructs the drawing and the drawing feeds back and instructs the writing. I suppose this is the benefit of being the writer and the illustrator as usually the writing is completed and illustrations are filled in after the fact; however, this can pose a challenge as well being that the writing is not in stone and allows for much variation and meandering. I think the visual aspect of illustrated stories (hence being illustrated and not novels or short stories) plays a stronger role than many give it credit and needs to inform the very construction of the story.
Here are the first few pages of the Captain character. Like I said in my previous post, this story has some of the same themes as “The Island and the Plough.” The main characters are going through a similar sort of learning, exploring the world around them, but yet have a bit more wisdom than the naysayer villagers. That said, he needs to be reminiscent of a boat captain, but not too stereotyped. He also needs to seem wise, but eager to learn anew as well. He is not hardened by the bitter landscape or the cynical villagers so his face needs to be somewhat kind. I fear already that he begins to look much like the character from “The Island and the Plough” so it may be that the beard needs to go. This is one of the most fun parts of the design phase, but can also be fairly frustrating. These are just four of the twenty plus character pages I have done for him. If the “what I think I want” phase does not work, then I often go in a radically different direction, maybe tall and thin, or short and beardless, perhaps younger even and begin to veer far away from what I had originally envisioned. That type of process usually helps to refocus what is working, what is not, to bring a vision of it I may have yet thought of but also help show me from what to stay away.
I will post some concepts of the village and landscape next.
While I sort out the ISBN registries for “The Island and the Plough”, and navigate the intricacies of publishing a picture heavy book to the many eBook formats that are out there, I am busily working on writing and roughing the designs for my next project which I will begin to post about very soon. I am super excited about my next book, as the story is really getting to me. Everything is falling together pretty well. Interestingly, it certainly has, unintentionally, some of the same themes as “The Island and the Plough” but in a very different way. I have a pretty strong outline completed, promising concept sketches, and a few ideas for page spreads that I think will look really great. I have yet to find a title that suits it but I am sure that will come along in time, but for posting purposes I will refer to it as “Salvador.”
The basic concept is a story of a fishing boat captain and his young ship mate, Skip. The two are amidst a sleepy fishing village perched at the rocky cliff’s edge where the land meets the ocean. Their ship is but a small, single sail boat that barely seats two, not to speak of nets full of fish. The captain also has an old tugboat, in severe disrepair, that he wishes to fix up and use because it is larger and could get them to deeper waters and carry more fish. The naysayer villagers laugh at his inability to catch fish as well as his dream of using the tugboat for fishing. Whilst readying themselves to push out one morning, a very unlikely new friend washes ashore. The story unravels into three parts as the Captain and Skip adventure out to include high sea sailing, wrangling/wrestling with nature, and a hunt for an unusual treasure which can only be had with the help of their newly found friend, all while the cynical villagers laugh from afar.
Until then, I leave you with this book page layout-mock up of “The Island and the Plough” until I bring more news of a release date.
Madame Lynch appears at the Brigham's front door.
Illustration Friday’s topic popped up as “Fluid” and I immediately thought of a past project I was working on about three years ago. The villains in the story shed off black, inky, fluid as they moved about. Unfortunately, this was one of those projects I just had to let die as, every time I sat down to work on it I drew a blank and struggled endlessly trying to achieve what I wanted. It definitely taught me how to learn to let something die. I have to admit that I really want to complete this project, but am not regretful that I dropped it. It allowed me to clear my head and start over on several other projects since. I still love the story and the concept, so I am sure I will return to it in the future. The manuscript actually came together quite nicely with the exception of one plot hole, as did some of the initial pencils of each page. But, when I sat down to some of the very important page layouts, to finish the ink for each page, or do the final treatments (and this book had a lot of “effects” involved) it just never looked the way I wanted it to and unfortunately the mood and plot of the story relied very heavily on the visuals. I hope to add it back into my queue of projects sometime.
The basic set up for this page is that Benjamin Brigham is a rotter and just a really nasty little child. He plays horribly (really horrible, some times life threatening ;p ) pranks on people, is grouchy and grumpy, and puts up a fight to nearly anything his parents or teachers wish him to do. After being thrown from several schools and scaring away countless nannies and sitters, his parents receive a letter in the mail regarding the most prestigious academy for troubled youth that guarantees perfect results. Madame Lynch, the administrator of the academy has come to collect young Benjamin.
I am quite excited to say that I am nearing the very last stage of “The Island and the Plough.” Editing and formatting proves to be quite an arduous process. I had a first round of contact sheets proof-printed and had a few people review them. One person in particular who is a writer/director (on the film side of things) had some really great final editorial remarks. I decided to take a few into account and rework some small things here and there, adding one extra idea right at the climax of the story which I think will really accentuate the central tone and punctuate the climax better than what I had.
Here is my nearly completed, revised set of contact sheets. I apologize for making them so small, but being so near completion of this project, I still don’t want to give away the story. But there is something very interesting about viewing the pages at this size. It gives a very clear sense of the progression of tone, contrast and balance, not to mention a great macro view of each page’s composition. It brings the process to a full circle back to a “storyboard” format to really review it once again.
I am still in the throes of deciding how exactly to distribute this project as contacting/meeting with agents and publishers is a very slow process. Many of the people I have talked with, even in the publishing industry, still suggest self publishing. At some point I will be doing a small run of prints for proofing purposes as well as for family and friends, which I will make available to sale.
Here is the more or less final character design for the protagonist in “The Island and the Plough.” He is a father, but I want him to have a weathered and wise look, so the thick beard adds that I think; however, it is integral to the story that he learns and is not too wise, so I still want to maintain an innocence which I think can been achieved through the large simple eyes.
Character design for Fiep from “The Island and the Plough”