Pencils… where do I even start.

The idea of sketching out a full book of around 230 pages is incredibly daunting if you think about it too hard. So don’t.

Instead, break down your 230 pages into a manageable, day-by-day schedule/quota, and then distract yourself by thinking about how happy you will be once this process is finished!

For me, project planning and time management have always been fun parts of the creative process. This probably sounds a little sad but it just happens to be how I am. Nothing makes me happier than knowing exactly what my schedule is going to be until the next deadline hits. It takes the anxiety off huge tasks like this, because once everything’s been broken down to feasible daily steps, all I need to do is hit quota each day to finish the marathon.

(Scheduling/quotas is a whole other post which I’ll write it eventually.) For now, PENCILING:

Some things I really enjoyed about penciling “Atana and the Firebird“:

  1. Seeing my characters starting to inhabit the empty pages is incredibly fulfilling! I’m a very visual person, and as much as I love writing, nothing beats the feeling of turning words into lively pictures.
  2. I can draw loose and fast and not worry too much about the nitty gritty details of line-art yet! I sketched out the whole book with a default Photoshop hard round brush at 4pt and it saved me a lot of time from worrying about having tidy, perfect lines.
  3. I had fun editing my thumbnails as I pencil! Sometimes in thumbnail stage I draw redundant panels and unnecessarily repetitive shots; in the pencil stage I can merge some of these repeating panels and make the comic easier to draw (and read) down the line.

Some things I should really pay more attention to before starting to pencil next time:

  1. SAVE SPACE FOR DIALOGUE. It’s hard to guess how much space dialogue takes up in the thumbnail stage, so get the text in there ASAP when you start penciling, and revise compositions accordingly!
  2. Drawing a rough floor plan/room design at the thumbnail stage. Sometimes the rooms are simple enough that I can make it up as I go. Other times I am left weeping at my drawing desk.

There are other surprise challenges that popped up along the way too. There’s a variety of costume silhouettes in the comic, and I had to learn – while penciling – which poses I can put certain characters into without disrupting their shape. I think for every comic project there’s going to be different unexpected challenges that nobody foresaw in the writing stage; for me, making a healthy amount of improvisations is part of the fun (and you can feel extra proud of yourself after).

Something that is inevitable: you’ll get better at drawing as you keep penciling your book. This is excellent for obvious reasons. But it also makes it a little hard to look back on the first chapters I drew without wanting to immediately redraw them all, or at least make little adjustments here and there. I’m hoping that this just means I’ll keep tweaking and improving the art as I continue to the inking stage.

Overall I had a lot of fun penciling my first graphic novel. The pace I set for myself was unfortunately a little breakneck, but only because I scheduled a 2 week vacation in the middle of the process. But this also meant that each day I was moving significantly along the plotline, and so one of the best things was getting to wake up and think “and today I get to pencil [scene that I’m excited about]!!” Herein lies the benefits of writing a self-indulgent script.

Despite my enthusiasm to Get Things Done it was impossible to always hit quota. Some days are simply rougher than others, and I can’t always be drawing at the same consistent speed. I’m happy that I learnt to identify these rougher days and let myself relax and take a step back when I needed. Rest is an important part of the creative process that I’ve been putting more emphasis on over the past year, and I always make sure to schedule plenty of buffer time between my personal deadlines and my actual deadlines.

To end, a little comic:

Till next time,