Drawing A Complete Story – Things I’ve Learned

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Written by Julie Nick

(Originally posted on her website. Re-posted with permission)

If you missed it, I recently published a story I have been working on for the last while. I adapted Edgar Allan Poe’s Silence (A fable), public domain, into sequential format. It’s available to download here (pay what you want). Let me know what you think.

Below are a few things that I’ve learned while drawing my first complete story:

It makes more sense to start with the hardest pages and work my way down to the easier ones. That way, even if I’m behind on work, it’ll be easier to speed through the later ones. Hard could mean a splash page with tons of detail, or a page where I have to draw animals/water/weather, or one with a challenging perspective. You’d think that’d be common sense, but I worked in sequence on this story.

Inking takes me a long time. I’ve gotten more comfortable with it, but still takes me about a day to ink a page with a lot of detail, on top of the day it takes me to draw it. Need to take that into account when setting a deadline. Might start to pencil looser to save on time, and also help with learning to ink better, or as Declan Shalvey put it, drawing with ink.

Editing! I didn’t consider having to clean stuff up or straighten panels after I scanned the pages. Also having to put the artwork on a template in Photoshop so the pages all had the same spacing and it all looked slightly presentable. Would never consider going digital, but I can imagine digital artists don’t have to do this since it’s all set up before they work. This took me about a day.

I learned to draw a lot by necessity, like hippos and lightning. Research pays off. But faces and shadows are still hard. Goddamn faces.

I should take more time doing thumbnails. I had a very clear vision from the start of this project, but ended up changing two pages that were originally planned as splash pages. I thought they would make good beats for the story but since I already had 4 splash pages to start with (to immerse the reader into the story), adding 2 more in a 12 page story felt a bit self-indulgent. Also wasn’t happy with my initial layouts for the last 3 pages and ended up reworking them.

– Also, I should definitely ease up on the number of splash pages. They’re impactful, but time-wise they take forever to draw and ink. I know they should be used sparingly but my stupid brain kept seeing them.

A project is a huge investment, I need to be careful about what work I take on. Unfortunately for now, I still need a day job to pay the bills so that leaves very little time for me to work on projects. This story – 12 pages – took me about 4 months to finish because I work a few hours in the evenings and on the weekends that are free. I prioritize working on my art, but also need to have some sort of a social life otherwise I’d go nuts! Would love to be a full-time artist so I could draw 10h a day, but it’ll be another (at least) couple of years before that happens. Also, personal stuff happened and I was out of it for about a month.

Finishing a project is a mixed bag of feelings. Like I said, I’ve been working on this for about 4 months so while it’s great to have it done, it’s definitely strange to have it published for people to download and see. I guess you get used to it. Focusing on the next project helps, so Onwards!