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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Learning Process

When I decided to make a career change a few years ago, there was a lot I didn't know about the comics industry.  For one, the creation-to-print time can span several years.  Some of the projects I first worked on are finally coming out, and it has helped me realize just how much I've learned in a little under two years!

Instead of going back to full-time school to get an art degree, I opted more for the "learn on the job" approach working as an intern.  Nick Bertozzi was my first teacher (whom I continue to work with!)  I've previously posted about my coloring role for the upcoming graphic novel, Stuffed!, and his online web comic, Persimmon Cup, but the very first thing I worked on for Nick was a short story in Strange Tales for Marvel due out this September.  (Pick one up at your local comic book store!)

The short story about M.O.D.O.K. introduced me to such exciting cartooning basics as: Cutting Paper! Ruling Pages! and the all important Erasing Pencil Marks!  While doing such work can feel trivial, it was clear that there was a "Wax On, Wax Off" method behind it (focus Daniel-san!) teaching me what dimensions to use, how to lay out a page, what type of line weight to use in certain situations, and how to letter a page.  It also allowed me to see the art as it was being penciled, inked, and on the off chance that there were mistakes, how to make corrections.  The Strange Tales story also gave me a first taste of coloring in Photoshop.

Not long after working with Nick, I also started working in the Deep Six Studio which introduced me to a wide array of styles and working methods. There, I did a some work on projects like The Alcoholic drawn by Dean Haspiel (and written by Jonathan Ames) and drawing city backgrounds for Simon Fraser's Nikolai Dante.

But by and large I worked most with Tim Hamilton.  Tim's high contrast style means there are lots of ink in the shadows which is perfect for his adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 released this month in beautiful hardcover (available at bookstores everywhere.)  Tim would ink a page and leave the large areas of black for me to fill in which allowed me to hone my brush technique.  While I didn't help out with the whole book, I was happy to have a hand in such a fine piece of work (and I even earned a "special thanks" at the beginning!)  Here's an interview with Ray Bradbury that shows more of the inside of the book:

After a page was inked and the pencil marks were erased, I would scan in the artwork and begin the basic coloring (flats).  I'd learned to use Photoshop from coloring Persimmon Cup, but Tim used different techniques and would apply various effects to a page after I did the basics, so it all was a great opportunity to see things from a different angle.

Another recently-printed project I worked on was a short story drawn by Mr. Bertozzi (also written by Jonathan Ames) for the Next-Door Neighbor Series at Smith Magazine.  The comic appears in Jonathan Ames' recent book, The Double Life Is Twice As Good.  (Nick recently wrote a nice blog post about it.)

So while I didn't get any technical credit for working on all of these projects, I benefited greatly from the experience and still feel a sense of accomplishment when they finally are available to the public!

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