All change! Last week another style change took place, in service of a new story/chapter for the book. I’ve transitioned to a looser style, with final line art done with a charcoal-like finish, and the colour done as watercolour. (Click for a slightly larger view.) It turned out that back in March when I went and hid for a week to work on the book, I thumbnailed and roughed a lot of pages (on two stories I think?) in a pretty tight manner, and so I’ve decided that I’m simply going to go in and sketch the final material all by hand, with no elaborate construction work for placing backgrounds (neither analogue nor digital), no measurements, no drawing of perspective grids, etc.
This turns out to mean that I can get the pre-colour work done pretty swiftly on some pages. Rather than take this as an opportunity to sprint ahead and make up some lost time, I decided to do the charcoal+watercolour work, and also to teach myself some new aspects of colour design (gamut masking for those interested*, along with some more deliberate planning of (and attention to) colour values**). The shared image shows an example of a (made up) bit of landscape, first in the rough and then in the final render. Note that this is a panel about 2.5 inches across, so there’s not a huge amount to see in the scheme of things. But the page is made of several of these and has a rather nice look partly because of the narrower “gamutted” choice of palette I’ve used. Took a bit of experimenting, but the idea is that a (half-)day “lost” on learning this will translate into gains later if I use these techniques more… They certainly enrich the variety of the work you’ll see in the book.
Ok, the dirty secret here is that while I have used wet media for the project before, by way of incorporating texture here and there (and you might recall I use watercolour pencils for a lot of my sketch work in my notebooks), I simply don’t have enough time left to do that here. There’s so much extra time needed to be invested in scanning and colour balancing the work, which I don’t have. So all of this is digital, done in Photoshop. Key here are the *wonderful* brush sets of Kyle Webster, which are widely used (I’m sure you’ve seen lots of work done with his brushes – including stuff you probably thought was traditionally done). I strongly recommend his (ridiculously cheap in the scheme of things) brush sets. They make Photoshop a delight for painting.
I’m giving up something else here, in exchange for all this. I normally paint the pages in Illustrator, using global swatches for all the crucial elements. The idea was that toward the end of the project I could redesign all the colour at will if needed, since I can just change the swatches, and then the colour changes everywhere. Moving to painting in photoshop removes that freedom, since the colours are not vector elements any more, with no addressable global swatches… In photoshop I’m closer to actual analogue paint and canvas in that sense. That means that that precision changes are hard to do. I therefore decided that I need to make sure that the choices I make now on this story are at least internally harmonious at the outset, since I don’t have a second pass. That’s why I spent a bit of time getting up to speed on slightly more advanced ideas in colour design. These paints I lay down are here to stay, so better get it right.
It has all meant a new workflow, and I’ve been careful to write down some notes to remind me of the old one I perfected in June and July (I’ll be still be using it for a bunch of other stories), but the last couple of days have meant that I’ve tweaked my speed back up, and with the looser style for these pages I’ve got to slightly less than two full pages a day, which is the fastest I’ve ever been in this final art stage. Sadly, I’m still losing days on other things that take me away from the book, so I’m not making up shortfall on the schedule yet.
Yet. We shall see how this all looks as I move into November…
*The amazing James Gurney invented this. His blog is here.
**This is standard, but I loved reading about aspects of it on Tony Cliff’s site here.