- Assignment 5 submission page
- Drawings and Artwork which relate to this assignment
- The ‘story’ for this work
- Deadline (story, adventure, tension, setbacks) (Story of my life!)
- English Weather (therefore everything!)
- News roundup (war, sport, fashion, arts)
- Short war (seven days that shook the world??!)
- Mundane (a normal life – what surprises are there here?)
- God – creation (6 days) and rest (1 day)
- Holiday or life event
- Spending 7 days in the past
- 7 dates from history… cycle? comparison?
- The same day shown in 7 locations
- The course of a fever – the life of a virus
- The life of a The gastrotrichs
- Apollo 13 mission – 7 days from launch to spalshdown
- 7 Day Virgin Atlantic Tour to India. Found a package deal online which describes a 7 day itinerary (days 1 and 7 are travel by commercial jet)
- Real story: Japanese boy Yamato Tanooka left in forest by parents as punishment. Found 7 days later in a military facility where he used a mattress and had clean water to drink. Interesting to present from boy’s point of view.
This news story is very interesting and has many compelling elements:
- The 7-year-old boy was punished by his parents for misbehaving.
- they left him in a bear infested forest
- he survived without being harmed (a bit hungry) (ie: a happy ending!)
- his father made a public apology on a podium with a microphone
- the the boy is reported to have forgiven his father.
- Many locals joined a search
Left on Saturday, found on Friday (the seventh day)
The “7 Days” are those which he was missing and need not be slavishly translated into a picture per day. However it needs to be kept manageable! I am more attracted to telling the ‘human interest’ story that the news would seek, as well as the ’emotional journey’ that theatre/film would go for.
There are 6 basic emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Surprise. These are not universally accepted but are popular. In this story I would add ‘Regret’ or ‘Shame’ as a distinct emotion – it relates to Japanese culture and makes the number up to 7. It’s not necessary in fact to stick to this particular list of emotions but I would like to be able to divide the task so that I represent one emotion as dominant or representative of each day.
I’ve been recently inspired by the way graphic comics are put together – their use of colour is great at evoking an emotion – an atmosphere.
This would leave the basic brief as follows:
Depict the seven days that Yamato Tanooka spent missing via the emotional states for those involved – the boy, the parents, the search parties and the authorities. Evoke the atmosphere of the situations. Use as many panels as is suitable for each day. Choose a suitable style for the drawing, and colours to support the emotions and atmosphere.
This work seems very clear to me in terms of what it is… but I’m not sure where it fits in categories. It’s a bit like a tapestry… recording a true story in visual form… albeit from a distance and in a style that might be removed from a ‘factual record’.
The format I am thinking is more display work than a book. The idea of a tapestry is most close for me so I’ll call it a contemporary tapestry.
- (Sat 28 May) 4pm. Father told Yamato to get out of the car in the forest near Shikabe. Father drove half a mile away (son ran after cr as it drove off then got lost) then returned minutes later but his son was gone. Dressed in T-Shirt and Jeans with no food or water. Walked to the military shelter. 6pm. Father initially told police that his son was lost but admitted truth after a few hours.
Walked along dark path for about 5 hours until he came to the hut.
- (Sun 29)
- (Mon 30)
- (Tue 31) “Lack of clues”. Two hunters joined search – fresh bear dropping found. Heavy rain later
- (Wed 1) Military support requested for search by locals – they join the search
- (Thu 2)
- (Fri 3) Yamato found in military camp 7.50am. Taken to hospital. Lost 4lbs in weight and had low body temperature.Found by member of Self-Defense Ground Force who had opened a store to avoid rain.
The son forgave his father…
“I said to him, ‘Dad made you go through such a hard time. I am sorry’,” Mr Tanooka told the broadcaster TBS.
He tearfully added: “And then, my son said, ‘You are a good dad. I forgive you’.”
No charges of neglect were brought.
Forest undergrowth is ‘Sasa’ – difficult to get through
On days 2, 3, 4, 5, 6:
- Walked around camp on Sunny days but did not go far.
- Heard helicopters but saw no people
- Heard cries of wild animals
- Believed his family were looking for him
- Heavy rainfall some days (Tuesday night)
- Temperatures dropping to 7ºC
Police said Thursday’s search by more than 180 rescuers, including defense troops, focused on the area where the boy was believed to have been dropped off, and revisiting and combing through the woods.
Having gone through the days to look for events it seems that the story does not happen in equally spaced 1-day-at-a-time chunks. Most of the story is on day 1 with a smaller series of events (if any) on days 2 to 6. On day 7 there is a little more and a happy ending and forgiveness.
It looks like the effective space available in total will not be divided up into 7 equal parts. The sense in the title is that the Yamato was missing over 7 days, starting on Saturday and ending on Friday, and that I can number these ‘Day 1’, ‘Day 2’ etc. Before we get to day 1 there is the preamble about being told to get out of the car and it is only when he is missing that we begin with ‘Day 1’.
I think this is all fine – there’s no need to divide the work into seven equal sections. The title is present in the story. The key is to make sure that the narrative flows in good sized steps from section to section and that the ‘plot’ is progressed within each stage.
Things to do:
- Create the characters – get the look and style of each of the required protagonists down on paper so that there’s a 360º reference to use during drawing.
- Write the words (dialogue) – these are needed to make sure that the imagery includes opportunities for the characters to say them.
- Consider the design/style – there should be a consistent approach to the drawing throughout… how much detail is included in each picture, how framing is used to show emotions, reactions etc. Create the environmental details.
- Plan the layout
- Draw the black (ink) part
- Add the colour
- Add the lettering
1. Create Characters
Wondering if I need the dialogue written out first? Perhaps. But there are the main characters in this story that are obvious so I can start with them…
- Yamato Tanooka
- Yamato’s Father – Takayuki Tanooka
- Yamato’s Mother
- Police (Various, see below)
- The Self-Defense Ground Force person who found Yamato
- Hunters (see below)
- Civilian search team coordinator etc
- Military search team co-ordinator etc
The Police characters
- The officer to whom the parents first reported their boy to be missing
- The officer in charge of the search operation who liaised with the parents
Hunters & Coordinators
- When bear droppings were found two hunters were brought in to help search – they are ‘ominous’ because their presence indicates that Yamato may be in more danger and will need to be shown well.
- Civilian and Military search team coordinators may have speaking parts (giving instructions)
Visual references for these characters…
We don’t see the mother’s face in any images I’ve seen so far… perhaps the father ‘took the blame’ and the attention of the press in order to ‘save face’ for his wife? It would be interesting to continue that convention so that we never see her face in the artwork, by some contrivance.
Write the words (dialogue)
My initial plan raised a question about ‘privileged view’ – does the reader know that Yamato is safe from the first day, if a bit cold and hungry? I had ideas about showing him walking around in the forest in silence (there’s no-one to talk to) encountering things… but maybe that’s not the right focus – maybe I could follow the search effort and only reveal Yamato on the last day when he is found safe.
This is more appealing because it doesn’t divide the attention of the reader – they follow one track. It means that the central character becomes Takayuki – the father – as he will be in every scene.
It would also make the mother a central figure, and she’s certainly there throughout, but I have no information about her – not even a name. The most I’ve seen of her is her hair. This is not so important from the point of view of a representing her accurately but it’s interesting in terms of her presence in the story and I’ve already considered contriving to only show her without showing her face. It would be interesting to try this – to have two central figures where one is never seen clearly!
The milestones in the narrative become as follows:
- Takayuki is angry and tells his son to get out of the car and drives away
- Takayuki returns minutes later and his son is gone
- Father and Mother search, call… their emotions change as the implications sink in and seconds tick away
- They finally call the police (Day 1)
- They initially lie to the police that they lost him while foraging for vegetables (a normal activity for the area)
- Hours later they tell the truth – it was a punishment for throwing stones at other cars and hitting them with sticks
- The next day (Day 2) a search party is organised and the search begins. The parents cannot help – they must just wait. They are numb but cling to positive belief “They will find him” long into the night
- (Day 3) Growing anger – misdirected at his son for not staying put, and the search party for not searching well enough (these are obviously desperation and expressed in private not at other people – he maintains a stoic public face)
- (Day 4) Fresh bear droppings are discovered and two hunters are brought in. The prospect that his son has been taken by a bear breaks his reserve and the anger turns to grief. The hunters arrive with rifles and serious hunting appearance.
- (Day 5) The military are brought in. Takayuki is quiet and compliant but on the verge of tears. He is now blaming himself and asking why did he act as he did? Why did he punish his son in such a harsh way?
At the end of this day it is cold and the rain is coming down heavily
- (Day 6) Stillness. The search continues. Takayuki is calm and imagines his son running to him; running away from him; hitting the cars with the sticks and stones. Takayuki talks to the mountainside as if talking to his son… Yamato is out there somewhere. He is not ready to let go of hope.
- (Day 7) We see the Self-Defense Ground Force person in the camp. Not part of the search party, going about normal activities. It is beginning to rain heavily and he takes shelter in store hut 2. A small figure is inside. The man asks “are you Yamato?” and the small figure replies a timid “Yes”.
- A blur of activity – Yamato being transferred to hospital; media activity; Parents’ joy as they speak on the phone; the deep bow of apology from parents to ‘society’.
- Finish with an intimate moment between father and son – ‘Dad made you go through such a hard time. I am sorry’ / ‘You are a good dad. I forgive you’… this should be matched to the first cell somehow – so that the beginning and the end go together.
This is quite a lot of detail for the rough outline and needs trimming. I would like to skip one of the search days as I think we lose pace – perhaps I can condense two days on to a single day-space as compared to the other days. No dialogue, just waiting on those days.
I need to add some dialogue to this to fill out the story – there are only very few words that are reported verbatim. When this is made into a movie someone can go and interview all of the participants to get the rest of the real words (then ignore them to hype it up!).
The words are here: Assignment 5 – Seven Days – The ‘Screen Play’
Consider the design/style & environmental details.
Objects in the environment that may need to be depicted:
- Cars (Father’s car… I can’t find out the actual make/model!)
- Utility vehicles – police cars, medical, army, the hunters (pickup?)
- Forest – specific plants in the area include. Forest undergrowth is ‘Sasa’
The father is one of the main characters – in my version of this story his emotions will probably be the focus.
Some Sasa Vietchii plants…
Plan the layout (and “Pencil” the artwork)
Each “Panel” depicts a duration of time. The length of time depicted in each panel may vary – a punch happens in a heartbeat, but a whole conversation could be shown in one panel, about 1 to 2 minutes (that might be the upper limit!).
Pace – enable the reader to follow the pace or change pace – give cues to enable the reader to know how much time is depicted in a panel. Dynamic poses are more momentary. People standing or sitting seem to have a longer duration. More dynamic angle o view shows a pacier panel too.
I’ve now sketched out the story over 3 sheets of A3 paper. It looks quite big, I’ve only written the words in the speech bubbles to see how the plan looks. I can see at this point that the idea could be fleshed out to become quite a detailed adventure and could include all sorts of interactions over the seven days, however, I can also see a more precise result coming from concentrating the seven days on the emotional journey of the father.
I looked into the kind of things that parents do when searching for children and is not untypical for one parent to search while the other stays at the last known location… or thereabouts – at base. I’ve used this idea to isolate the father so that I can concentrate on his journey… it has really become entirely his story rather than the missing boy’s – it is his emotional journey and the happy ending that I’m focussing upon.
From the A3 rough-out it looks like the format could work as an A5 landscape book. I’m favouring the landscape orientation because it fits with my expectation of a tapestry… reading left to right along a long, wide length. The story seems to suit 9 double-page spreads which is obtained using the inside of 5 folded sheets. There’s an opportunity to put the first panels of the story on the cover of this but I wouldn’t use the back cover for the final panels as they may be seen inadvertently and there’s a ‘spoiler’ effects then.
There’s a potential technical problem with using 5 sheets as I can see that an A5 Lanscape booklet might be fashioned out of 3 sheets of SRA3 paper folded lengthways then in half for a saddle stitch then trimed to finish. This would provided 11 internal spreads plus the outside covers… 24 pages… and would be the most natural way to make the booklet without paper waste or expense.
On the other hand… the whole thing could translate to a proper tapestry – one long roll or concertina folded of paper.
My next step is the creation of a sketched A5L mockup – I’ll see how it pans out.
As I’m doing the mock-up I’m reading back over the techniques used to construct these comics, in particular the lettering stage. I have a loose script from my A3 rough and the idea is to allow space in the layout for the speech bubbles to be added later. The contemporary method is to draw the ink by hand then add colour and letters in Adobe Illustrator. I might be able to use the technique I found out from the 9 old men of Disney which is to pencil using red or blue then ink over that – the red and blue can be removed after scanning.
I have immediately found that I need to think in several different ways at once:
- Divide up the space for the story
- Show the face of the person who speaks
- Hide the wife’s face (that’s a story-specific idea)
- Allow space for the balloons
- Still fill the balloon space with something as I don’t know where it’s going to fall exactly
My first exercise with the Drive/Baker Street idea didn’t present these problems as it had no text – it was more about atmosphere.
This is a page from Copperhead where I’ve highlighted the cells. It differs from some other comics because, on most pages like this one, one or two of the cells have no box – they bleed off the edge of the paper. Where two cells are unboxed there are normally cells between them to allow for one picture to end and the other to begin. On this page on cell is ‘blasted out’ by the action it contains. It’s quite subtle in some ways but it cleverly allows the energy of that gunshot to be represented.
This technique allows pages to be covered in colour hiding any white paper without drawing attention to this – just colouring the space outside the cells might be a bit artificial.
The real strength of this for my piece is that I can enhance the mood of each double-page spread by bringing all of the colour toning to all of the page areas. This may also enable me to enhance a framing where a pale sky at the top of a cell can have a dark surround outside the cell.
First Draft of Layout
I’ve sketched the whole story in A5 Landscape which will be the final size. I might draw it in A4 and reduce it at the final stage.
This is the front cover of the book. We go straight to the point where Yamato is told to get out of the car. I haven’t explained the reason – a punishment, and a pretend abandonment – for this so perhaps I need to add a line or two to indicate this. It might be enough to leave this hanging until it’s explained later in day 6… might be better though if the Day 6 story has this to reference it.
Must make sure I describe the very edge of the wife’s head to show she’s present at this point.
This page is when the parents realise that Yamato is actually lost… that the pretend abandonment has turned into a real one. Important to indicate growing concern on this page… it is still the middle of the afternoon at this point but there’s lots of green around. I could use red to contrast the green in increasing amounts to bring an edge of danger to the look.
Yamato’s mother needs to be more preset without showing her face here. It would be good if they spoke to each other.
This is the ‘lying’ page – the first cell is the lie and the final cell is the confession. The wife needs to be present again.
Day 2 the search begins properly – lots of locals. Mr Tanooka is to wait in a nearby ‘lodge’ This is something I’ve made up for the purposes of isolating Mr Tanooka with his private emotions as well as providing interior or exterior backgrounds with the help of a large railed veranda.
A friend made the suggestion of putting the face of the search co-ordinator in an inset box on the left page here – this seems like a good idea as it gives the large amount of speaking an anchor and allows us to visualise him when we look at the aerial view.
Day three is about anger. There is a building of tension through pacing and the catalyst for the release of the anger is the arrival of food and water… something mundane. Mr Tanooka regains his calm exterior by the end of the spread.
I’m trying to put no words on this page at all… to convey the moment through atmosphere and drawing.
I feel like the right hand page needs more contrast between the big angry images and the calmer ones… they should have bigger dynamic properties to accentuate the anger within them.
Day 4 is all about the hunters arriving. They come in reaction to the fear that bears are active in the search area. There is a line at the end when they say ‘It’s getting cold’ and the official mistakes this for a comment about the weather but the hunters mean ‘the trail is getting cold’ – meaning that the search for the boy has gone on too long… hope is low.
On day 5 the military arrive… and Mr Tanooka takes the news numbly because he has been crying in private and the help of the military is a bleak hope against 5 days missing.
On the second page I overlapped some smaller frames to ensure they are read in order together as the right hand edge are the final two cells – a closer then a far image of the rain coming down… or are they tears?… certainly bad weather to be lost.
Day 6 is in some ways a repeat of day 5. Mr Tanooka is going over the start – blaming himself for telling Yamato to get out in the first place.
There is one line on this page – Mr Tamooka saying “You have behaved shamefully” and it needs to be ambiguous whether he is saying this to himself or repeating his opinion of his son’s behaviour which gave rise to the punishment.
The final three cells have become a repeating pattern in my work – I seem to like the idea of ‘tracking out’ the ‘camera’ in three frame stages, or as three periods of time. I could look for more opportunities to use this if it seems appropriate.
Day 7 – Yamato is found in the military bunker by chance. There’s a touch of suspense by showing a hand sticking out from between the mattresses where he slept. The store building is a particular shape… a ‘Nissan’ hut?
At the end of Day 7 Mr Tanooka is reunited with his son who is unharmed save for being a little hungry, cold and suffered some trauma. I wanted to show the dramatic change in emotion this moment caused – his complete joy in the moment – and also the flurry of events that surround it – the deep bow of apology, the journey to hospital, the press photographers. The way I’ve sketched it here it looks like Mr Tanooka’s joy is the catalyst or the central focus of this activity which is not completely right – he’s swept along by it too but his emotional reaction is either separate or overshadows the other activity and I need to arrange the page to show that relationship.
The final page might need a location. Father kneeling in front of his son… there is nothing else but the two of them… this sentiment stopped me putting anything else in the scene, but that might be a bit strange. I might need to come up with something, with a place that they can be. The final words they speak complete the story – give it some finality.
Overall this layout has been very successful (I think at this stage!). I think I could do this again to refine the imagery that is required – be more precise about the spacing and size of each cell, and be sure to leave the right kind of spaces for lettering.
It has established which character pictures are required…
- Mr Tanooka (Highly developed)
- The police co-ordinator who talks to Mr Tanooka about progress etc (very definite professional expressions on face an an appropriate uniform)
- Yamato (First, penultimate and final pages in specific poses)
- Self-defense man (Penultimate spread in uniform)
- Search co-ordinator (inset on Day 2)
- An officer bringing the food (appropriate clothes and new face)
- Revision List
Type up story/text as a final reference and finalise – artwork is always better if the text is final, apparently.
- OFC: Mother’s head (include)
- Pages 2-3: enhance ‘growing concern’
- Pages 2-3: Get mother in a conversation with father (still without showing her face)
- Pages 4-5 / Day1: Mother needs to be involved with ‘calling-it-in’
- Day 2: Add inset – coordinator’s face.
- Day 3: Create ‘pacing’ sequence… revise dynamic of whole spread to help tension and release.
- Day 4: This is OK. Decide how the cars are arranged/parked so they match in both cells
- Day 5: Move from inside to outside is clumsy… see if it can be made more part of the flow.
- Day 5: How are people leaving indicated? Or does it matter if he’s not alone when it starts to rain? Maybe that’s better to have a mute liaison waiting with him in the rain.
- Day 6: the style is not good – Mr Tanooka’s head is too big in the sequence… it looks disembodied. Find a better layout – not so much order needed here, random thoughts and memories.
- Day 7: more space around action for various speech
- Day 7 end: Again Mr Tanooka’s head is too big… he needs to be prominent but more lost in the flurry of events unfolding. The one crucial event is him and the mother bowing in apology with a smiling Yamato in front… that can be more prominent here.
- Decide and find visual references – Tanooka’s car make and model [might be a Nissan Quest or Elgrand… but evidence is scarce. I’m using Elgrand]
- Create the lodge – make a simple sketch-up of the building to use as a visual reference for composition
- Find out what an appropriate Japanese-style tray of food/drink would actually look like… these items are seen in detail as they are thrown. [After collecting a few references it looks like numerous small dishes is the key – each part of a meal is served in a ramakin-like dish rather than being all on one plate together. This can look very simple.]
- How to draw a father and 7-year-old son hugging… need a model reference to draw it. [found general images online for reference – interesting choices between seeing both faces or only one]
- Look at the ‘Nissan Hut’ – how to draw it. [I have these images already]
The car used in this 3D model was downloaded from Google 3D Warehouse and was made by drive3dautos.com.
The car has three rows of seats but only two rows of doors – I imagine the son to be sat directly behind parents in row next to back doors. The doors are electric… the driver can open them with a button on the dash… quite a psychologically powerful statement to make to pull over and have the door open and tell the passenger to go through it!
Exploring the car inside for the first page:
My initial impulse when sketching this cell was to draw the car straight down the middle with Yamato sitting in the centre. There’s an option to add a centre seat in this car so that’s not a worry but the view is un-interesting and it naturally gives the mother a place in the frame that I’m trying to avoid in a natural way.
The diagonal view is better – the mother could be cropped out and there’s a nice line showing father and son like they’re next to each other.
The opposite side is also possible.
When I tried a lower angle I think this is it… looking up at the father invokes the viewpoint of the child and the mother is much easier to crop out at this angle without looking artificial.
I also planned to include the child’s viewpoint but this image is much weaker… less faces… the contrived idea to put the eyes of the father in the mirror is OK but it’s Yamato’s point of view which is not used again so is a bit odd.
Continuing with the low theme I tried changing the angle of the later cell where the father looks out of the car window expecting his son to be just there where he left him:
This low angle works well – gives the impression of looking out into the distance.
These two are alternatives – the last giving more scope to be close to the father’s face.
These are exterior views of the car from a distance required
The following one from above for the U-turn moment.
I worried slightly that, in the absence of an actual make and model for the real car that the father was driving, that I would be imposing a standard of living on the family that may be inappropriate. We aren’t told much about them, in fact the story as reported in the UK press and TV lacks anything but the most basic details that are repeated ad nauseam.
One analysis of the report suggests that the traditional multi-generation Japanese family is being replaced with the more ‘westernised’ nuclear family meaning that parenting guides and values are missing and new parents are having to learn by making mistakes rather than by received wisdom. It’s an interesting observation that might apply world-wide; it also might be condescending nonsense as it could be the behaviour of the young children that’s changing as they experience the world in a new order that is unprecedented and acquire instincts that older generations can’t figure out in advance!
Either way, the Elegrand is a large vehicle which might fit both ideas – it has space for an un-mentioned extended family as well as representing an expensive investment for an independent young family.
I considered a smaller car, like a Toyota Yaris, but that could have given an altogether different impression of ‘underachieving’ – a lack of intelligence might have been implied.
I don’t for a moment believe that car size is linked to intelligence… but in an illustration something might be construed by the reader and general stupidity is not something that I wish to suggest. So the Elegrand is right.
The importance of this is only minor – to make sure that it fits the culture rather than looking like a western meal which might break the illusion. I make a sketch of a composite of objects I found on restaurant and take away photos…
Left to right from the top… a big dish of fish pieces, a sauce (soy?), the shopsticks, the heated moist towel for cleaning up; Two bowls of something, four square dishes of other things, a soup. There’s a soup spoon in there too.
Lots of little dishes will fly through the air nicely even before they break on the wall, and the soup can leave a nice stain… perhaps.
These are three father-son hugs I found on Google images which I’ve sketched to see the basic elements of them…
They’re all nice – but I like the second one the most. I need to swap sides to match the previous cell… keep father on the left and son on the right.
I thought it would be a good to draw the artwork larger and reduce it and also to leave a margin around the edge of the page for such things as taping the paper down and as a bleed allowance.
I decided to to a test page through to completion to make sure that what I’m doing at the start works at the end.
I made a piece of card as a page template and drew around it in blue pencil to give me where the edge of my A5 Landscape page will be. When drawing I ran over this border to give artwork in the bleed allowance.
My first rough out of page 18. I found it quite hard to find scenes to put into the smaler boxes… of course this is one of the few pages I haven’t already mapped out and ‘scripted’.
At the inking stage I ‘m still making dramatic changes to half the small panels… this is what happens when you’re not prepared! Apart from my lack of experience with drawing people’s faces I’m please with the parts that I have planned (the centre!) and I’m getting a better feel for the requirements of the inking stage – what needs to be completed.
After colouring in Photoshop and adding the speech bubble in illustrator. (might be possible these days to do the lettering in Photoshop… which might save a step… but I’m not sure photoshop exports the finished graphic as well as above with all the printer’s marks?!)
The finished (test) page has obvious strengths and weaknesses:
- Where black ink has been well used to make depth and define shape it works well
- Where detail has been omitted works OK where it is not needed – the hospital scenes need more clues that they are hospitals for example.
- The first panel is ambulance lights… what shows here is that it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to use this imagery and I didn’t look at any references or how it can be done. The whole panel is a mess because of this.
- The top right panel was going to be a close-up of Yamato’s face, but I changed my mind and started to make it into press photographers… but, as above, didn’t look into how to do that yet!
- In the colouring I tried to experiment with keeping a few specific tones rather than using lots of colours which worked well to tie together the hospital. These are also pale tones which help with a hint of optimism… I can imagine that much of this story on earlier pages will require some much darker tones to carry the emotions that go with those moments.
- The black borders on the panels are very helpful when it comes to colouring… they allow well-defined areas to be made so that panel colours can be confined. A small technical plus.
- When I layered up the colour in Photoshop I simply made the colour layers blending mode ‘Multiply’ and placed them on top of the black and white scanned artwork. The underlying areas of black ‘ink’ remained unaffected in this mode.
Definitely time to make sure everything is planned and in place before approaching the final artwork stage.
My Word and Picture Style
I’ve realised that analysis of my words and pictures as produced would put them in a certain category in terms of how much work is being done by each. When I first drafted the words I did so in a visual layout… this was the basis for both words and pictures – I think I composed both together in one move, as it were.
Scott McCloud’s book ‘Making Comics’ breaks the word-picture relationships down into 7 ways that they interact (or don’t). When I started this brief I was intending to just relate the story, it became the Father’s story because that was the most interesting to me – his emotional journey. I see the pictures as the route to revealing his emotions while the words set the context. Although this is not strictly adhered to it seems to have been my main approach.
I’ve produced two spreads where the father is not present – the Hunters on day 4 and finding Yamato on day 7 – and these whole spreads seem to be setting the background against which the father has his emotional journey.
In putting this story together I’ve kept in mind the idea of reducing the words and panels to as few as possible so that each word and each panel can be more ‘valuable’. This parallels how I like to write – so that each sentence is as un rambling and meaningful as possible (this Blog is not like that – it’s much more stream-of-consciousness because I’m not re-writing it).
There is something else going on though… I’m not just telling the facts, there is a style involved which is definitely driven by existing graphic story-telling, including the techniques I’ve seen in cinema. I’m definitely aiming for a visual experience and I’m telling the ‘untold story’ of the father… his 7 Days.
Re-working the layout
I redrew OFC with new angle for first panel – works really well and I discovered the driver’s arm creates a lot of atmosphere – ‘punching’ through the frame (pun INTENDED), showing a big angry fist up front and creating a leading line towards the boy’s face. The second panel I’ve initially thought here to split into three showing the boy standing in first, nothing in second and the car leaving in third… but as one scene in the background.
I wasn’t sure about this so I redrew the page as a thumbnails three times to look at variances… having two wide panels showing the boy getting out and the car driving off seemed like time stretches… like getting out and driving away takes a long time. I tried making one panel small – showing it from the front of the car – the car huge the boy small.
Then I tried removing the frame – putting the boy in sillhouette and…”Booom” (as they say on trendy YouTube channels these days) this works. Suddenly the whole thing is sudden, unexplained, out of the blue… this is the boy’s experience: from nowhere he is told to get out of the car and it leaves. But it is also the father’s regret later – that he made a mistake… in his anger and without thinking it through.
This is the final layout – lacking the title design and the lettering (and correct scale for boy/car in open panel) but otherwise giving the first page instant delivery to “here’s the problem”.
When Hollywood make this they’ll want to build a picture of the parents and background of this event. Those things could be done in flashback so this is still a valid opening for a movie, if the background happens later.
In my Comic book version I’m dealing with these 7 days only, so there’s none of that.
[Note here: Could the title look a bit like the sun… rising sun… Japanese connection… placed correctly on the horizon? Only fly in the ointment is the timeline which I think is actually 4pm in May,… artistic license, perhaps?]
— I’m finding as I re-draw these that it becomes easier as each one ‘clicks’! —
This is a better flow than the original… the right panel becomes the last one read because the next page continues the sequence…
The open panel start and end allow the colour tone to be ‘bookended’… starting in a calm way and ending approaching panic.
I’m not entirely sure about the faces being cropped here… when drawn carefully the facial expressions will add to the effect… the kind of expression you get when you suddenly can’t find your child… I’ve had this feeling in QD once: strong confidence that they’ll be OK they’re just in that other aisle where you haven’t looked pitched against absolute terror that they’ve been abducted even though that’s a vanishingly small probability.
[ Just looked this up and Japan don’t have a department for dealing with child abduction nor do they keep statistics about abduction rates! Interesting. ]
I’d like to show the child’s absence. Maybe page 3 should be more longshot… showing empty space around the parents? This is hard to do in a vertical strip o maybe I should have three horizontal ones?
This is better for Page 3 – each panel tracks out farther as the parents’ search enlarges. There’s a sense of hopelessness that grows with the vista.
I think the left page panel order still makes sense… it might work better if the father was facing left in the final panel on the left page to stop it seeming as if he’s looking at the right page.
I need to make sure I know how to draw that foliage before starting on the final artwork.
Pages 4 and 5 I started to call the ‘Lying’ spread. The fundamental aspect is that the Father has told the police a lie about how his son become lost. I’ve experimented here with making the panels very discordant shapes, a coffin even at the top of the right page, but I’m not sure now… it’s perhaps too much and rather than adding to the atmosphere it seems to derail the flow of the story.
On the plus side when I re-arranged the first cell to include the back of the wife’s head so that she could still be included here (need to add her to the ‘coffin’ panel too) I accidentaly created a mirror – the father on the left and the policeman on the right are both half off the page and this connects them really strongly.
I think I’ll re-work the panels here to be more flowing and less distracting and try to work around that half-face motif… which is only a linguistic semi-colon away from half-truth!
The father’s hand gripping the phone is also a returning motif from the steering wheel in the first panel on the first page.
These are MUCH stronger with less irregular panels… but also the strength of the ‘bookends’ again – the father and policeman looking seemingly at each other across the spread – creates a lot of tension… the kind you feel when you’ve not quite been honest.
Not sure about the two close-ups o the father in the centre – they clash. Maybe the first one could be waist-up and facing left so that the policeman and the father are nearly facing each other.
This is better. Reserving the face ultra close-up for that special moment on page 5 where Takayuki looks directly at the reader – he is deciding to tell the whole truth at that point.
I’m finding that the blue pencil is very useful for these ‘thumbnails’ (actual size, but rough!)… it gives me a sense of how some colour might affects the spread later.
Day 2 – this is great on the left page – the aerial view of the search party heading out… but the right page has been troubling. There is a part missing because I had tried to jump straight to where the wife is already out searching but father and mother’s different paths must be recorded. The right page is, in fact, plotless… nothing happens and no feelings are developed so there’s an opportunity to introduce the parting.
I re-worded the text ever so slightly and it makes a huge difference to the outcome of the imagery. Instead of the Father saying ‘They will find him’ to himself he says ‘We will find him’ to his wife during the embrace… then he is left alone.
Thumbnails to work out how to make page 7 flow… and to fit the dialogue within frames that made sense in terms of who is speaking and who is listening.
The final sequence is the most conventional arrangement on page 7 that I’ve had so far. I’m also establishing a pattern of book-ending the pages with full height open panels… in this case page 6 is entirely open so it’s reversed… the opening panel is framed.
On this spread a further interesting outcome has occurred in terms of those ‘book ends’ – the first panel is the search co-ordinator… he is active, doing things, co-ordinating dozens of people and making things happen.
The father in the final panel is helpless… he can do nothing except wait. I’ve drawn them from opposite angles – the co-ordinator from below (worm’s eye view) to make him imposing and in charge and Takayuki from above… he is still. This will build over the following days… how helpless he is… cabin fever in his own head!
Father’s expression is important on this page because he needs to smile in sympathy and hope but without looking ‘happy’… not sure how that’s done yet!
Day 3 – my initial plan of this spread didn’t flow visually very well but it did work conceptually… it’s a calm-angry-calm sequence without words(except Arrrggghh). there’s a trigger point for the anger – it is released suddenly. The anger doesn’t subside, it is brought under control. In some ways we end the spread exactly as we started it, but there needs to be a difference (besides the food on the wall)… perhaps Takayuki starts to tidy the mess?
Here are those ideas put into action. This works well. I think he could be holding the glass already in panel 4 before the close-up on the hand and glass. Panel 2 on the right page needs to look more angry… it’s a bit breathless!… and the panels could either line up more or less – either tops and bottoms line up or neither does but one of each seems undecided.
It might be good if they diminish in size like anger calming down.
This is better… reinforce the image meaning with the layout. A different kind of final panel… small and humble.
There’s a great tonal difference between the final panel and the rest of the right page – when the panels are filled with his face and the throwing is happening there is lots of ink around – very black imagery. In the final image the subject is distant and the whole tone becomes paler. Some paleness shows through in the previous panel and keeping this would help mark the change in outward mood (or expression of mood).
I need to add context to this layout. There’s a sense in which it does not matter where this takes place as the Father’s story is kind of set in his mind – it’s about how he feels – and his physical location is not the same as his ‘mental location’. In the final panel I hint at windows… in the first panel I show light from the left: the same windows. In this spread I should use an ‘establishing shot’ – more detail in the first panel so that that established background context will be taken for granted in the rest of the spread.
Interesting observation: The panel to panel transition from Day 2 to Day 3 could be aspect-to-aspect… the Father is in the same position but the viewpoint has moved. Logically he is now in the Lodge and this is the establishing shot for that space… but maybe it doesn’t have to be so unambiguous as that. Perhaps he has not moved in his head because he has not recovered his son… perhaps these 7 days are an instant and an eternity. Maybe it is the knock at the door that brings him to this location and the establishing shot is… nowhere? I quite like this. Come back and reconsider it when this reworking is complete.
I’m reasonably pleased with the layout for day 4.
Examining the text though I’ve found some alterations…
In Panel 2 the co-ordinator can bow to the hunters as they walk forward from their vehicles. This is a non-speaking moment – I find these to be important.
In Panel 3 the initial dialogue begins but the co-ordinator must not be bowing at the same time. It is inappropriate to be speaking and bowing at the same time in Japan – the bow must have a gap in the conversation.
The end of the initial dialogue can flow into panel 4 (we need to know it is the co-ordinator speaking… using ellipsis perhaps) and might be the only time in this story where I show dialogue in a panel without the presence of the speaker in the same panel.
To get the next bit of dialogue to work in time I can split panel 5 into 5a and 5b.
There’s a problem with the sides – the hunters begin in panel 2 on the right… then they appear on the left. I’m staring at panel 2 thinking that I could just swap that one… but I like it that way around!
There are quite a few things that (given a left to right natural reading order) rely on the hunters being on the left… 5a and 5b happen in the order Hunter then Co-ordinator… the hunters ‘move forward’ panel to panel if they are facing right which somehow seems better.
The opposite direction is only dictated by panel 1 – the vehicles facing left. Maybe I can change that?
This is much better. By not clinging too hard to my ‘established pattern’ of bookending the layouts I can create this establishing shot which combines panels 1 and 2 from the previous layout (new panel 1) and orientates everything the same way around… hunters on left. This is the only page when we see the hunters so I need to create them as characters what just stand and carry their guns on their back… ominously!
I’ve already changed the dialogue for day 5 and needs to be started almost from afresh. IT now has 17 panels in order to support the dialogue on this day.
As I re-write the dialogue now I’m adding panel number indicators to show how much is in each panel. This seems to be very effective as I’m solving the problem of how to represent the moments in time at the written stage rather than having to iterate sketches to find the divisions. I couldn’t do this when I started but having gone through the process a few times I’ve got the measure of it in my head more. 16 Panels seems quite daunting though!
This is actually better than I feared – I thought it might get over cluttered but there are several interesting aspects in analysis…
- Transition from panel 16-17 is Aspect-to-Aspect which helps to moderate the pace in this story… waiting is a big part of the Father’s experience and having these moments where the reader doesn’t move on is an added benefit. It also happens to be the kind of panel-to-panel transition which is highly popular in Japanese graphic stories – this slow pace is valued in their thick tomes of graphic novels.
- The centre row on each page is similar – static background, one character action. I particularly like the rail that continues through the three frames on the second page… is there a way to mimic that effect on the first page?
- Originally I was going to have the Father shedding tears in the rain at the end of this spread but he would have to have been alone and the exit of the co-ordinator was clunky. That aspect transition within the rain now brings new dimension to the tears at the start of the spread – it’s poetic.
- There’s now a degree of variety from spread to spread… each has enough to tie it in with the other parts of the story but each has its own character too. This is important for the colouring stage in order to be able to choose colours that are going to work within each spread. It might be that some spreads are duotone to emphasise their moods.
As I go through this I’m considering the eventual style of the character drawing. I’m aware that it varies slightly from page to page and that sometimes I’m using tone and sometimes line. While I don’t wish to eliminte tone entirely – it’s one of the things I find really attractive about the ink / colour work flow – I would like not to overburden the character drawings with ‘realism’. Looking at other comic characters too much detail swamps the bigger picture. Detail should be reserved for the focus of the story points and also the establishing shots.
Day 6 is full of possibilities… the quintessential dream/fantasy sequence. My initial plan was very weak – it neither stuck to the format nor brought something of a different quality to the page.
So – back to the drawing board: The point of day 6 is that the Father is re-living his actions and judging those actions against the misdemeanour for which they were punishment.
Thinking about… what goes through his head? Images of the past and of what he thinks his son is doing now… where he is.
the day is long – there’s a very well-known depiction of the sun rising or setting using a series of tall narrow panels where the sun appears in each a little higher/lower but it’s as if the background spans them all. There are also other interesting images using this format…
…which is interesting because of the range of colours/moods…. can I make those two ideas work together?
What would he see…
- His son – dead… killed by a bear
- His son laughing and playing earlier in the week
- Himself through his son’s eyes
- His son attacking or punishing him in some way
- the search party
- His son’s last birthday party
- His son misbehaving… throwing stones and hitting cars with sticks
- Faceless dead child… for an undecided fate
Possibility of not having a clear order to read the panels in… these images are occurring in the father’s head in random sequences.
This is my rough of these ideas:
There are a few positions I’d like to swap… put the bear two panels right of the dead figure in order to make sure things are out of sequence… it is ‘mad with grief’ more than rational fears.
It’s interesting that the foot of the bed in the first open frame looks a bit like the horizon for the sunrise… I’d like to conspire to make that line up and perhaps some other pictures could have fragments of line in them that continue this trend across the spread.
The background of this page might be black… this would help the first and last open panels both be night do the whole thing would have a completely different feel.
I’m torn between looking for something more expressive in terms of frame shapes and leaving them regimented. The former is tempting because of the possibility of adding to the effect… but leaving them in regimented lines also helps accentuate the contents…. … I think I’ll keep them regimented.
This is the first time where it’s going to be important to get the size and spacing of the frames exact and equal as the pattern relies on that repetition for its strength.
This results in… panels spaced at 23mm centres. 2mm gutter between panels in black. 14 narrow panels across the spread plus the two open panels. There are about 14 hours of daylight in May in Japan.
Something else this has resulted in is non-sequitur panel transitions. In among the images that make sense are some that do not – baseballs, clothes etc. These represent memories that the father fixates upon because of their connection with his missing son: moments of anger (“Pick up your clothes and fold them”) and joy (“You’ve hit a home run, that’s my boy”). Some make sense in the context of the story (like the bear).
This is a whole lot better than the first draft and seems to come with a style of its own. Adding colour might make the difference – bring out the sun and sky more clearly. The one line of speech could go in several places and I might have to experiment to find out where it’s most effective.
A possible shortcut to completing this spread is to electronically copy artwork from earlier pages into the boxes… the glass, the steering wheel… if they’re at the right size.
Comparing this to the formal analysis of comic genre I ought to be using more iconic imagery for the main character and more realistic imagery for the backgrounds… this is the basis of a substantial segment of Manga work and those that came after where the iconic characters are ‘available’ for the reader to become involved in their world. Their world is more detailed, but they are drawn simply so that the reader may put in their own details in place of the artist’s ‘realism’.
There is also the case for personal style. I feel at this stage that I’m holding back because I’ve just discovered a whole new world of illustration inside the comic format… sequential art adds another dimension: time… and I’ve only just got a handle on how to manipulate that new tool. The one thing I think I could add, something that I keep returning to, is the oil-painted backgrounds. Time is short for this project but perhaps using oil-painted textures for the forests, skies, etc would create a personal dimension – a richness of texture that’s my own.
This… in turn… makes me wonder about the ‘messy’ edge style that I have for my characters in other exercises… is that appropriate? I seem to be tending in this one to go more for hard-edged shadows on faces, trying to avoid ‘shading’ where possible, to create clarity. I’m hindered by my lack of life drawing skills but I’m of a mind to continue with that style rather than try to change it now to the looser style. This is based (quite closely?!) on a true story and the character of the father, although not fully known or fleshed out, is a real extant person – not up for grabs. What is being exposed is just one possible route his emotions took through these seven days. Although it is not a tragic story (something that attracted me to it – a happy ending) it resembles Classical Greek theatre in that the audience is taken on an emotional journey. Maybe on the back page I could draw a cast list?
After taking a break from this work and looking back at the Day 6 spread I’m now more happy with it. Coming back to it afresh has dispelled the worries I had about how uncluttered and uncomplicated it was – it has a great look to it and takes the reader on several journeys. I enjoy the spreads where there no words but that one ambiguous phrase “You behaved shamefully” is like adding spice to a curry… it may be small but it gives everything a new twist.
I’ve created a dilemma for myself… I draw all of these ‘rough’ layouts at actual size in oder to take advantage of having the whole double-page spread to work with… that’s A3 paper length. Now I come to thinking about creating the final artwork and a standard process would be to use a lightbox to ink the final pieces from this ‘pencil’ version… but I was also going to make the inked versions bigger.
Something else I don’t have is a bleed allowance on the pencil versions. This means that the edge of the paper is going to be under the top sheet when I ink it. Decisions, decisions. The answer is, of course to work at the larger size throughout (apart form thumbnails)… but this time I think I’m going to take the choice to continue working at actual size through to final artwork in order to make use of and build on the layout work that I’ve already done, rather than feeling I’m starting from scratch.
The final day in two spreads. The changes to the draft version were…
- Adding rain
- Moving two panels to page 16 to make more space for the ‘final tableux’ on page 17.
- Being consistent keeping Yamato on the right
- On page 18 I’m making the small images more iconic as they are ‘flashes’ of activity, not highly detailed
- Mr Tanooka accidentally ended up breaking the ‘4th wall’ by appearing to be in front of the left panels and seemingly looking at the ones on the right.
- I decided to box in the ‘limbo’ panel on page 19 leaving the final panel open.
Page 18 has been revised a few times and I tried various thumbnails of it to see what I liked.
I was orionally looking for ‘unbridaled joy’ so tried involving hands in gestures inspired by footballers who’ve just scored a goal and other examples from the internet.
The trouble was (especially with footballers) that all of these gestures looked ‘acted’ rather than genuine reactions. I couldn’t bring myself to believe that Mr Tanooka would be this expressive outwardly no matter how much joy he had inside him – it would be more contained just as his other emotions through the previous 6 days had been.
Instead I reverted to looking at facial expressions that were controlled but masking deeper emotions, hands not involved. When he chanced in my sketch to be looking at Yamato in the final panel I found what I wanted… although it has been his story in my work… he is focussed upon his son and passes the ‘title role’ back to him at the moment he is found – he steps out of the story for a moment.
The real life media frenzy that marked the day when Yamato was found is alluded to here – recreating some specific imagery that was part of that reporting.
Before next section
- Learn to draw the foliage, inc aerial view on Day 2 (Oil texture?)
- Police officer character
- Japanese writing on Police cars / uniforms (don’t need to be read… adds context)
- Design the lettering – Title and ‘Day’ subheadings
- Draw ‘thin’ smile – sympathy not happy (the eyes have it?)
- Find details for Day 3 background establishing shot
- Reconsider location ambiguity of Day 3
I put this lodge together in Google Sketchup which I was going to use as a reference model for drawing the scenes with father. In the end I discarded the idea of using a defined interior. The railing in a simplified form still makes it to the final cut.
Design the Colour
Overall Colour schemes for spreads.
Sun title – Red and White evoking JAPAN, therefore a white sky
Panel 1: mototone biege, warm but pale… like the ‘safe place’
Panel 2 (the rest of it): lush mid-green, Forest texture. Add haze towards horizon.
This is an early colour test. The sunbeams were very strident when the same red as the sun, but without them the structure disappeared and the sky looked blank… the sunbeams like this satisfy my need to have a richness or colour or texture.
The first panel looks set apart from the second… but I envisage using the coutryside texture in the windows and doorway of the car to show an outside… where Yamato is being told to go.
Interestingly this is the JPEG export (with a test balloon) and it’s far more vibrant… but only after uploading to this website.
This is the PNG again and I can see the colours I chose here!
The car is not an oil paint texture – it’s electronically added.
Pages 2 and 3 (Prelude)
The mood here is that of gradual realisation – Yamato is lost. Left side should start in the same rich green tones as the cover and gradually become colder (like the haze above) as we work our way across to the right. The final landscape should be a mid steel blue with a cold orange sun…
These are cards I’ve written up to take to the ‘oil painting shed’ at the bottom of the garden as an aide memoire for creating each of the textures that I need through the story.
What is emerging is the need to create a slightly fantastic landscape… not so that it is ‘unreal’ but just to reflect the heightened emotional state during the days. It’s a bit like being on another planet.
This effect begins in Panel one where the car interior is normal coloured using Photoshop… fairly normal… but we see the richer colours through the window. In the epilogue the colours return to being all created within Photoshop. It is like life is back to normal.
The forest from the roadside fading to hazy blue horizon.
The background to day 1 – open panels.
The background to day 1 panels where the forest is visible… this is meant to be blue as shown.
The background for the search co-ordinator and final panels on Day 2.
When Takayuki gets angry – this is the background.
This is a small experiment with some ‘splatter’. I thought it might be good to have stuff like this coming towards the viewer.
The first batch of painted backgrounds according to the ‘artwork order’. Auto white balance on my iPhone has made some of them look too blue but that won’t be a problem when I photograph them properly using a proper camera.
Draw the black (“Ink”) part
Rough copy of OFC
This is a quickly processed proof-of-concept to test that my inking process is going to work the way that I want it to go.
Drawing the ink reveals many things that I hadn’t noticed before…
- My pencil drawings are not ‘tight’ – they lack a level of detail that needs to be there when inked. This is not necessarily unusual – some inking artists close that gap… as do colourists… but it matters when considering the end result how much specifics go into the pencilling. If I’m not specific at that point then I need to work harder when inking.
- This is the first opportunity to see the oil textures against the drawn parts. I’ve not finished the colouring yet. I like the contrast but I might need to re-think how I use ink for the foliage… or does it just need a little colouring help?
- My inking style is a bit fussy… I wish I could make it flow more visually… but I think that’s going to take practice.
- Cropping the balloon is not good.
Add the lettering
I’ve been working on aspects of the lettering throughout the process – as it’s me doing it all rather than another artist. I was originally following a ‘traditional’ process of completing each stage cleanly in order to discover and make use of the disciplines in an industry-standard way but, along the way, I found that there are many variants on this process, especially for smaller concerns where the whole work is produced by one person.
Producing the speech balloons at the stage of the initial artwork is sometimes done and can be an efficient way to use space and saves wasting time producing artwork that is later covered by a balloon. I didn’t do this because I think you must need a bit of experience in order to get that right – to allow the right space for the number of words – so I’m adding the speech balloons and lettering last.
A Question of Font
Typwriter: this springs to mind only because of the NEWS aspect. Although typewriters were hardly used to produce any kind of news media they do seem to represent ‘reports’, ‘facts’, ‘dossiers’ and connotate something about ‘true life’. Extensive use in ‘The X-Files’ as the predominant on-screen font may have strengthened or weakened this… associating them now with ‘hoax’ perhaps?! Nonetheless, TYPEWRITER is a possibility.
(OK, let’s keep this simple)
Comic book fonts: This website: www.comicbookfonts.com for example, offers dozens of fonts for use in word balloons. I would love to have the budget to buy one, but they’re £70 and up for a family. They’re a very recognisable bunch – neat but strongly leaning toward the hand-written effect. They are all non-distracting… they aren’t fuzzy; don’t have oversized jaunty block serifs… maybe I know what I’m thinking now…
The font will embody (or at least support / not impinge upon) the following:
- Readability and legibility… it needs to be lettered so that reading the words does not get in the way of the flow of the story. The written words are as few as possible but they are important.
- Serious: this is never a humourous piece.. it’s not jaunty like Fred Basset or Snoopy
- True to life: The story is not fantastical – it is closely based on true life events. The font should refrain from over-dramatisation.
- Neutral emotion: The emotion of the story varies greatly and personally… nothing that is literally Earth-shattering, it’s not Superman, but Anger, Remorse, Numbness, Hope, Joy… the font should not indicate one of these emotions lest it become unsuitable in one segment. The alternative is to match font to emotion, which might be achieved using boldness, italics, balloon styling… but this would be a challenge indeed to accomplish using the font style itself: it might take an overwhelmingly huge number of fonts.
Well… that seems impossible then!
There are features of the comic fonts I’ve seen from looking through the hundreds that are available online that I do not want… I do not want these:
- All caps. This is not subtle.
- …especially those that taper at the bottom… very dramatic!
- Jaunty angles for each letter… the letters end up with a sawtooth baseline which becomes a ‘texture’ of itself.
- Overly ‘black’ lettering – that which creates a too dark texture. Not sure how to define what is ‘too dark’ but I think I’ll know it when I see it. If they are too dark they compete with the picture and may make a paler panel become ‘blotted’.
- Skeuomorphic effects… I don’t want fur, fire, bubbles. lizard skin etc… etc…
Standard print fonts?
Can I use ‘Times New Roman’ or ‘Helvetica Neue’ or similar? I don’t see a problem using these except for the contrast between the drawn page and the text… will the very neatness of the font design be too much of a contrast with the freer style around it? It will be worth experimenting to find out, I think, at a few different point sizes.
Her are some examples of comic-style fonts.
…with Times and American Typewriter thrown in at the end.
Comic Balloon: Is attractive but may be too ornate. It has the flavour of the east slightly because of the italic / brushed look.
Comic Sans: The most infamous font ever… but actually looks quite tidy. It might be too tidy – neither neat enough to be a ‘refined’ font or having enough ‘hand drawn’ look to fit in with the comic look.
Gargle: has a nice balance between lightness, hand-drawn look and tidiness. It might be a little hard to read because of how little space there is between each letter compared to the space inside the counters… it makes it trickier to separate out the letters. This may be a minor problem and might be improved with a tweak to the tracking. At small point sizes the tracking is expected to need tweaking anyway.
Kiddy Sans: is very neat too. It has an odd quirk with all the dots over the ‘i’ and ‘j’ being oversized, which is not attractive creating ‘blots’ especially at small point sizes. It’s even more un-hand written than Comic Sans but works better overall because of the lighter weight.
Komika text: is very neat and a little heavy. It has nothing to suggest that it is hand-written other than in its origin – there are no irregular shapes or wiggles and no ‘overshoots’. It may have reached the other side of the uncanny valley by being a completely refined version of handwriting style. The advantage of this end of the font spectrum is that it might be less tiring to read than something that ‘wiggles’ all the time.
Aside here to note that Fred Smeijers was of the contrary opinion – that the human eye craves the little inconsistencies and that making every letter a tiny bit imperfect [positioned] helped the eye stay awake and interested. I’m not sure on what scale this is supposed to happen but I know that trying to read body text in Papyrus is very tiring.
Ladylike BB: is a great example of a pretty font that’s hard to read. It might be good in very small pieces but would be too tangled-up to use as body text.
McLaren: designed to be a comic-look but also intended to stay neat. It conveys a light-heartedness without being of hand-scribed origin. This probably the opposite way around to that I am looking for… it is too rooted in the mechanical reproduction whilst only possessing the ‘fun’ character of the comic font.
Qarmic Sans: is another very neat form of hand-written font. There are tiny hints of the hand-written in one or two overshooting crossbars; letters have been shaped in small ways to be not geometric in shape, which is very pleasing. The only drawback is that it is a little on the dark side.
Times and American Typewriter: Both of these fonts are highly readable and pleasant to look at. However, neither conveys that sense of the comic ‘looseness’ that makes them fit with the imagery.
So my preferences are Gargle or Quarmic Sans.
I prefer Gargle.
Garle was designed by Ray Larabie and includes 12 styles (3 widths) to make type-fitting easier. Although describes from the conventional point-of-view as a ‘convivial’ font that is good for newspaper comic strips it visually suits my purposes by being tidy enough to not give an overtly emotional expression of its own. Ray Laramie is Canadian and lives in Japan! A happy coincidence.
A question of balloon style… the squashed ellipse (above)… or the rounded rectangle (below) perhaps?
I’ve divided my story into 7 spreads, each is a day 1 to 7, plus a prologue (OFC and Pages 1 and 2) and an epilogue (Pages 18 and 19).
This pattern works because days 1 and 7 have loads to pack in so I’ve delayed ‘starting’ day 1 until the police are contacted and left day 7 only as the initial find by the Self Defense Ground Force. This works out neatly as a spread per day for the middle which I intended to entitle ‘Day 1’, ‘Day 2’ etc.
In keeping with the other principles of design I want not to make a big song and dance about the ‘Day’ title… I played around with different ways to denote the days – dates or tallies (or days of the week…?); also I thought about using a pull-off daily calendar to show the day but this becomes another skeuomorphic effect which I tried to reject for the lettering because it might tend to be ‘decorative’ which is undermining a serious issue.
These are the initial attempt – it just remains to find out if they fit with the finished pages.
I tried the Lettering font first but when it’s enlarged to title size the ‘friendly’ (‘convivial’) element also gets bigger and becomes more dominant making it to jaunty for my purposes.
Combining the elements
I’m putting the elements together to move towards the final article. The way it has happened the lettering is very quick to put in but the colouring takes a lot longer so these are not coloured except for the insertion of the oil-painted backgrounds.
I’m starting only to isolate areas which need colouring as one block colour… usually in beige.
The first page with the sun title drawn in graphically. Questions are…
- use texture instead of white for the sky?
- Ooops… obviously go back and cover my thumb with more texture!
- Is the inking doing its job right?
It’s taking a bit of experimenting to work out the strengths of each part: pencil, ink, colour, layout. I’ve found that I didn’t get the pencil finished enough in the right way which meant that I didn’t have the right information to make the ink stage as good. I went back and tweaked the pencils to help define the shapes better. The pencil doesn’t need to include the last little detail (although it can) but the ink will pick up where it leaves off – so the less it contain the more work the inker has to do.
For me this is about state-of-mind… I need to be thinking about neatness when I’m inking – exact, neat marks and layout boundaries. I’m now using the pencil stage to get proportion, scale, perspective, orientation etc nailed.
I added the red sun in photoshop – it’s the sign I was looking for to indicate the emotional state the parents find themselves in: rising panic.
By this page I’m refining my understanding of what the ink should and shouldn’t do… looking forward to using colouring for the rest. It’s up to me to decide how I represent shadow and I’ve created special cases by my use of oil-painted backdrops. I will probably erase the shadows cast by people on the ground here and add them back in the colouring stage so that I can reveal the texture through the shadow still. I’m indicating that there’s still light around by not having solid shadows.
By this page I’m much happier with what I’m doing and anticipating that I might have to redo earlier parts to match.
The hatching in ink which is highly used in comics seems to have more than one meaning: it can be an area of shadow; it can be patterning; it can be something else… like a directional indicator; and it shows that something has shape, even if there is not necessarily a shadowed area. I can foresee that the same multi-purpose function will be apparent for the colour.
The amount of room left for speech balloons is quite tight on some layouts… like the one above. It sees to be the accepted norm not to allow balloons outside of the originating panel. I’m not feeling inclined to be bound by this… especially when inter-panel transitions are very short in time… and where the adjacent panel in question contains no balloons of its own.
The blue perspective background that I painted is less impactful than I had imagined… I might need more drama in there!
At this point I discovered that I was hesitant about drawing the ‘lodge’ in the background. Having read up about the ‘establishing shot’ and the reasons for more detail in the background – building a picture in the reader’s mind that can be used for subsequent frames – I started to question why I need to establish a location? I made up the lodge – it’s not part of any of the real-life story – it’s a place to put the father alone so that his internal emotions can come out. So… what’s important is representing the father’s emotional state and I can use the background for this without specifying eh look of the ‘lodge’.
I had previously made the above background as an experiment and there are additional alternatives in the same colours. It has a good feel… it’s cold and controlled (compared to the other half of the spread)…
…which is hot and angry. Except for the final panel which could return to the blue background.
The day numbers are clashing with the artwork occasionally… the were designed after the layouts… but it has been occurring to me that they might not be necessary so I’ve left them until I can re-evaluate.
The re-worked layout for this one works better with the panels that diminish in size.
I stuck with Land Rovers (approximately) after wondering if these should be Nissans because it is an iconic look – the serious hunter in his safari vehicle.
I’ve ended up retaining the policeman instead of the search leader (who had the megaphone) because of the uniform – it’s distinctive and opposite to the hunters marking a clear difference in role.
The background for the left page was specifically painted for that layout and just re-purposed for the above page. The dark overtone is great – I need to make sure that the parts that are currently white remain clearly visible when coloured.
I stopped adding background to the ‘lodge’ scenes so that I can go back at the end and make a judgement about how to treat them as a whole.
The rail part was originally going to be a wooden veranda so I’ve shown it as minimally as possible to support that idea without going to town. The first panel on this page clearly shows that it is outside which is enough to make the rain feasible at the end.
This spread developed during the drawing of it… I had sketched the end panels in pencil and really liked the feel of them so I re-draw them in pencil with the intention of retaining the rough texture that created. When I first scanned these parts I noticed that they came up slightly blue – probably just the way that the pencil, scanner and paper interacted – and this looked more interesting than the pure greyscale. I experimented with a few other tones and through this warm orange gave the right sense: restless… surreal. As this spread is Mr Tanooka’s nightmare (not literally… but essentially)… I’m looking to make all of it a little ‘off’.
The warm blue of the storage hut makes a great positive feel for the end – it’s a strong, new colour for the safe space that Yamato found in which to survive.
The inside of these huts are not quite this bare and are actually lined and painted white but I wanted to keep using the colour.
This page has gone through a few variations of both mood and specific pictures and is now at a place where I feel it’s nearly right.
The final page I’ve tried to keep very simple and very clear. I’m wondering about changing the balloons to something else – rectangles or more like captions.
The final panel went through 5 versions, each ‘traced’ from the previous to get to a suitable (emotional) point.
There are three steps left to completion:
- Redraw anything (especially at the start) that doesn’t fit well having got to the end and established more of a story-specific style.
- Make corrections/adjustments to layout and titling for final version.
- Complete the colouring and textures according to decisions I can now make final from the overview
Panels to redraw: (P/)
- P4/1 Takayuki on phone
- P6/1 Search Leader on Megaphone – make Policeman in uniform on megaphone
- P7/7 Takayuki from high angle – better perspective/proportion
- P12/1 Takayuki with tears… face distorted too much… should stay essentially Takayuki even when there are tears
- P13/6 Takayuki looking up into rain (but view from front) – need to study how to draw an upturned face (oh… and add the rain)
- P18/4 Takayuki. Just needs to look more like him!
- P18/5 Bowing needs renovation
- P18/6 Redraw the press photographers
This is simply a more natural looking face and resembles the character to a not unreasonable degree!
- Certainly better as the police… and much more believable perspective. I added more shading to the crotch area after import to Photoshop.
- Less jarringly wrong compared to the original.
That’s better. Looking down too… another subtle clue.
- Both happy and not with this… drawing it much bigger helped me to get it right but it now looks different next to the other panels that were drawn at actual size because of my mis-understanding of the process earlier. I drew the rain three times before I was happy,using a parallel ruler in the end (a big advantage of one point perspective).
This is a huge improvement. At last a friendly face and happy. I had to experiment with drawing eyes to find a simple way to include them in the smile.
Along the way I changed the layout so that only the final frame, Yamato, is in front of this image… it was much stronger.
I found that representing the bow from the front was ‘fussy’ – it didn’t read like the action of bowing enough unless it was very ‘realistic’, which is the opposite of what I needed to do with this very small image. Making them appear in profile solved the problem because now you can see the bow shape. The hard black shading was initially inspired by the need to ensure that the two figures are separate… not one figure. Once I’d tried it it made me think of the ‘glare of publicity’ and went interestingly with the next image.
The mother’s hair is interesting… as I was drawing it I found that the straight lines made a contrast with the father’s curved locks.
I’ve taken hundreds of thousands of photographs but don’t know what I look like doing it! I had to experiment to find out how to draw a photographer – where are the arms, what can be seen around the camera. Interesting facts I found out along the way include: no-one makes left-handed cameras! (except as April Fool’s jokes). I enjoyed making this more crowded… a Press Gang…. makes the previous panel look more lonely and isolated… taking the blame.
- There is no number 9.
There is one problem with the story which I need to correct somewhere. Originally the nightmare on Day 6 was going to be an opportunity to explain why Yamato was asked to get out of the car… the fact that he had misbehaving. This day has become more non-sequential and the clues have been lost. I need to add a few words somewhere that explains the reason for the lesson.
- P1/1 – ”
Father: Yamato… get out of the car. We’re leaving you here to teach you a lesson because of how you behaved earlier today”
Father: Yamato? It was only a lesson for your bad behaviour – you can get back in the car now.
- Day 1
Father: Officer I am ashamed
of my actions andI have not told you the truthlied about why my son is missing… my son threw stones and hit cars with sticks earlier and I just wanted to teach him a lesson…
I like the last one – it fits because it makes sense that the father has to say those things in order for the officer to understand… so that the reader can understand too.
Father: Officer I am ashamed of my lie… my son threw stones and hit cars with sticks earlier and I tried to teach him a lesson…
The artwork and ‘Day’ titles now clash and the question is do I need to re-design these day titles or eliminate them altogether perhaps.
These are better… rounded corners are reminiscent of the clocks with flipping number plates like the old destination boards in train stations and airports.
Skin: all skin colour will be the same base – a typical Japanese skin colour.
Yamato: White T-Shirt, Blue jeans, dark brown shoes, black hair.
Tanayuki: White shirt, beige trousers, black hair, tan shoes.
Mrs. Tanooka: Dark green coat, black trousers and shoes, black hair.
Police uniforms: White shirt, dark blue tie, jacket, trousers and hat. Gold trim.
Family Car: Gold/Beige “Champagne”
Police Car: White upper, black lower (dividing line around bottom of window)
Hunters’ Land Rover Defenders: White (dirty!), black/silver trim, green luggage on rack
Hunters: Camoflage green/black.
Self Defense Ground Force: Green; black boots
Colouring the artwork was a far lengthier process than I had imagined.
In this project the colour is used to support emotional situations including anger, numbness, despair, madness… and finally the calm, clean joy of the happy ending which is rendered in pale, calm colours.
The textured painted background were a strong and valuable part of this process. Sometimes I altered textures in Photoshop to create new moods and enhance perspective. Distance cues were enhanced by changing the scale of the textures… a technique that also was used to impose overwhelming scale…
…in the 4th (bottom) panel enlarging the texture of the background helped to dwarf the characters making the landscape seem huge behind them.
I created a pallet of specific colours for skin, clothes, vehicles etc so that I could use the same exact colours across all of the work. Sometimes I deliberately changed these colour to evoke more of the mood.
Throughout this work (in pencil, ink and colour) a concern has been the choice of detail. Even now I’m not always sure that I’ve pitched the detail level well for each panel but choices have been made at every stage. In colouring there are few occasions when I’ve detailed eye colour and I have never used a lip colour other than the skin tone. I considered using a lip colour on some of the larger images but it was distracting and out of place to introduce a new colour.
Initially I had considered using a lot of colour toning to help enhance the 3D shape of a face or object but I’d used the ink stage to indicate shape quite a lot and when I added colour tones it quite often began to look cluttered. The initial pages have some colour tones and they are effective on the family car above and the very first panel to help enhance the idea of light coming from outside the car… the concept of IN or OUT of the car is helped by adding a light cue.
The Final Artwork – Seven Days
Smaller to show double page spreads… larger pages singly are below (and the words are easier to read).
My Thoughts and Conclusion
Overall I am please with the result although I can see a number of weaknesses in the work which would need much time to correct… My control of the character’s ‘look of their face’ is not good. A few times I felt the look of the father was inaccessible to me as I was drawing. I don’t think it hinders the story because there are other strong cues to indicate who is who, and very few characters to deal with.
I’ve concentrated on the emotional state of the father through the ordeal and I hope that a reader might find sympathy with the father’s feelings – his regrets, fears and despair. What struck me about this story was that 7 days is a long time to have absolutely no idea where your child is and to be involved in a fruitless, large scale search. To have him returned virtually unharmed on the 7th day… what a height of joy that must be?!
One of the conundrums of Japanese culture is reported to be the great importance of ‘face’ – good appearances in all respects. There is an element of the taboo in my story because the showing of emotions in formally regulated in normal Japanese life yet the emotions that Japanese people feel are driven by the same, ancient evolved human mechanism that is found in all countries. Society then teaches you what is acceptable.
The parents were not charged with neglect or similar after this incident and when talking to friends about the story some are very scornful of the parents’ actions – literally abandoning their son in the wilderness… albeit as a bluff to get his attention. Some analysts point to the rise of the nuclear family depriving young parents of the wisdom of the previous generation when they come to learn parenting.
I’ve mentioned all of this because it pertains to what I think is one of the most difficult aspects of this particular work: Audience.
The sequential art / graphic novel / comic genre is difficult to categorise as it has readers of all ages. It was considered ‘low art’ when I was a child (and a Beano reader) but has gone through a revolution in the last 3 decades alone with the rise of Manga worldwide and the acceptance of visual storytelling as something worthy of wider attention. I found myself concluding at one point during this that sequential/graphic story-telling is like a tardis… although it appears to be one of many illustrative styles in the ‘gallery of illustration’ it also seems to contain every other form of illustration within its range of possible styles!
I set out to make this for an adult to read but it also now has the allure of a fairy story – like it is teaching an emotional lesson to a younger reader. There is nothing in it that is inaccessible to children from around age 7… the age Yamato is in this story. The trick with a fairy story is that the sequence of events is remembered and emotional understanding comes later with maturity. But this is also based on true events… it is a legend perhaps.
I mentioned looking at is as a ‘tapestry’ and this lead to the use of the A5 landscape format – to move more towards that feel. It’s audience are those who enjoy truth that is stranger than fiction.