I’ve been drawing my Retrofit book for a couple of weeks now, and thought I might share some of my process with you.
Firstly, here is my desk. It is very tidy.
Next, this is the view out of my window. I can (and do) stand here for a very long time just watching either the clouds or the rain or the birds or the things moving in the wind. TRUE FACT: the row of roofs on the front of SMOO 6 was drawn from this very spot. Fascinating, I’m sure. Anyway. It’s a good place to stand and stare when you’ve got something else to do.
The comic… Although I have an idea where this particular story is going, and a rough idea in my head about how each page will play out, I’m still making a lot of it up as I go along. I do this by scribbling on bits of paper and thinking and wringing my hands and prevaricating a lot.
Then I rule out the page and draw things. I’m drawing at just over A4 size at the moment, at about 125% (I think) of what will be the print size. You can see a finished page and its thumbnail in this picture:
My process at the moment is quite stripped back. Other than a pencil sharpener and a ruler, my only tools are a 4H pencil for light outlines, a 6B pencil for ‘inking’, and an eraser.
I’m trying not or over-draw things before I get to the ‘finished page’. I guess the analogy would be with music – trying to get as close to the energy of the first take, warts and all. I’m tired of putting myself in situations where I’ve over-complicated an approach to drawing that makes me sad or anxious or angry when it goes wrong. This, for now, feels a good way to draw. I find it very mindful and relaxing*.
Here are some finished pages:
I’ve done about 16 pages now, so I’m about halfway there. Once I’ve done all 36 or so in this way, I might go back and add a bit of texture with the side of the pencil – some shadows, motion, that sort of thing. Then I’ll do the lettering. I’m keeping a note of the written narrative as I go a long, but sentences are coming and going. It’s an act of distillation - a bit like poetry, I guess – where you balance what you need to say with words for the story, versus what you’ve already said with an image, versus what they might say together, in harmony or juxtaposition.
The story is going to be called ‘Grand Gestures’. It’s fictional, but may also be the most personal thing I’ve done to date, so there we go. It’ll be out in the Spring.
*I’ve come to love the process of drawing. But that doesn’t mean I’m not wracked with the usual self-doubt, besieged by self-criticism, demanding unattainable standards of myself or wanting to pack in the whole thing and live in a hole – I am still a cartoonist, after all.