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23rd Jun 2007

How it’s done

I should be getting back on track shortly. I’ve been running around between work, home and my dad’s house for the last couple of weeks and really had very little time for drawing. Or for thinking about the story, which is probably more important. I don’t have a script. I have a rough idea of the shape of the story, and I try to work a couple of scenes ahead in my head, with events coming into sharper focus the closer I get to drawing them. The flood and clearing up after it have taken up most of my mental energies over the last couple of weeks, so upcoming scenes just haven’t been able to clarify themselves yet.

It occurs to me as I write the above that some of you might be interested in how I go about creating The Ulster Cycle. I have, it has to be said, a fairly peculiar working method.

gridAs I said before, I don’t have a script. I’ve tried writing scripts, but when I have a script I’m happy with I kind of feel “job done” and can’t motivate myself to draw it, and I’m a creative megalomaniac so I don’t trust anyone else to draw it. I also don’t pencil. For some reason my drawings lose a lot of the life and spontaneity the more preparation I put into them. Ever since I started doing life drawings in permanent marker I’ve felt my best drawings are done quickly in indelible media. I did some minicomics in this style about ten years ago and found it liberating. Having spent the last year or so trying to prepare an adaptation of The Cattle Raid of Cooley, the central story of the Ulster Cycle, and getting well and truly blocked on it, I decided to break the mental logjam in this tried and tested way.

My only concession to preparation is a grid drawn in black marker (see left), dividing the page into two, three and four tiers and columns, from which I trace the panel layout onto A4 printer paper in red biro, having given some thought to what note the page starts on, what it finishes on, how many and what size and shape of panels I’ll need to get from one to the other. Then I just start drawing, mainly still using my trusty red biro. If I’m lucky that’ll be the only tool I’ll use, but I usually also have recourse to a bit (or a lot) of Tippex. On occasion, particularly early on, I’ve used a pink highlighter pen for tone, and in one instance finished a panel in black biro because detail and depth were getting lost in red. Dialogue is roughed in as I go. It’s not unheard of, if a panel goes badly, to redraw it on another page and paste it over the original. Below is what the pages look like when they’re drawn.

pages

Then I scan the page in RGB colour, greyscale it, and darken it by adjusting the brightness and contrast in Photoshop. Heavy biro drawing sometimes crinkles up the page and creates shadows on the scan, but these can be removed by deleting the red channel before I convert it to greyscale. The lettering is done in Photoshop using a font I made from my hand lettering using High-Logic Font Creator, and sometimes I’ll take the opportunity to redraft the dialogue.

I decided at the start not to use word balloons, but to connect the dialogue to the characters with a simple tail, like Brian Talbot did in the original version of Luther Arkwright, and Eddie Campbell often does in his autobiographical strips. It’s a stylistic thing that appeals to me for some reason. More artists should do it.

Anyway, that’s how it’s done.

Posted by Posted by paddybrown under Filed under behind the scenes, Ness Comments 8 Comments »

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    The Cattle Raid of Cooley

    Ness: a story from the Ulster Cycle

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