Monday, November 29, 2010

SHLPTE - A Brief History

I finished inking Issue 2 last week! Everything is scanned in and laid out in InDesign, I'm doing grayscale now (as well as penciling Issue 3). I should finish up lettering this weekend, and I'll post a link to a .pdf of the new issue next week.

My home and studio is in Astoria, NY in a fantastic apartment I share with great friends. My room has peach walls with a turquoise radiator, making the room look like a Mexican restaurant. My landlord, who picked these colors out, then purchased drapes for the apartment (which is entirely peach or that blue-purple Gamecube color) that are a beige/brown floral pattern with...wait for tassel fringe. I considered including photos, but someone might be eating. The woman in my life suggested they looked something out of Saddam Hussein's love palaces.

Thus, my room and studio is "Saddam Hussein's Love Palace and Taco Emporium." I just call it SHLPTE (pronouced 'shlup-tay'). I believe I am the mayor here on Foursquare. I do love the way it looks with a full wall of inked work on the magnetic boards.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


This first month or so, transitioning into this new role, has been rough. In as many ways as it seems like living the dream, it is not. This is because I never leave my apartment. I'm here. All the time.

I have the life of an iguana.

I live in a box. I have a lamp. I have a comfortable rock that I sleep on. There are little things for me to do. Sometimes food comes in. Sometimes people take me out to play with me. Here I am, in the box.

I'm probably not going insane. The flexibility in the hours of being an iguana is a major draw.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Set Design - Methuselah Hub (Cross Post)

In addition to this blog I also have a sketchblog that I update fairly regularly, and will be doing some cross posting between for some of the process posts that are relevant. I'll continue posting my life drawing and work from my other illustration projects there as well, since I do work on other things in addition to this project.

In any case, one of the inbetween stages of the graphic novel process that doesn't fit neatly into any categorized step is designing each of the settings. Not only important to catch the mood of both the scene and the setting itself, but also important to know exactly where everyone is standing, where they are moving to and from, and what parts of the room we need and maybe don't need to see. I usually do this after I thumbnail, and as I pencil. I try to work out the settings a scene or two ahead of where I am; far enough ahead not to slow me down when I get to pencil I page in a place I haven't designed, but close enough that the place is still fresh in my mind for drawing the entire scene.

Attached is one of the concept pages for the hub on the Methuselah, which is basically the equivalent to a bridge or CIC. I made a couple changes on the fly while drawing this current issue but all the major ideas are there, from both a mood perspective and from an overhead layout of where everything is.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Adjust For Volume

One of the ongoing changes in my process is exactly how many pages I'm willing to work on at a given time, specifically penciling and inking. This can be a tough balance to find, because most artists (or just me) are a bit crazy to begin with. Too many or too few pages seem to bring the crazy straight to the surface.

I didn't really start drawing PAGES until I went to college. Before then I drew little comics in sketchbooks and more often than not, on the backs of school assignments. For most of my early page drawing days at SCAD, I usually penciled and inked one or two pages at a time, tops. Rarely were assignments more than four pages anyway, which at the time seemed like a lot. The idea was we were learning and there was a lot of noodling. "Is this guy going to end up standing on the panel border?" "Is that an awkward crop? "Is that face too boring?" (ed. note: In college the answer to these question were yes.)

For me, there is no surer way to spend half an hour drawing and redrawing a fingernail than working on one page at a time. "No no, this fingernail isn't right. No." Shit takes FOREVER. We're not saving the world people! Leave that to the guys on the pages.

So I started ramping it up. In one of his essays in PulpHope (a book everyone should own), Paul Pope explains that he works on 16 pages at a time. Two rows of eight hung up on the wall, and he spreads around working on the stuff he does want to and the stuff he doesn't. At this point I had already started hanging my pages up to work on them, just so I had immediate reference of what everyone was wearing and where all the furniture was, and I gave 16 pages at a time a shot.

16 pages for inking worked great. The information is already there, and inking goes relatively fast. Also, a wall full of inked work just looks cool. It's fulfilling to see it all there. 16 pages for penciling was an entirely different matter. This is where I discovered I may or may not have ADD.

Drawing that many pages at once was the road to madness. There's just so much god damn artwork on the wall that, personally, I can't focus on any one thing for too long. "I think the horizon line is gonna be...oh shit! That fingernail clear across the room is wrong! Let me fix it while I'm thinking about it. Okay. You know what this fingernail needs? I just...oh shit! That ear clear back across the room is too low! Let me fix this while I'm thinking about it."

And the answer? Around 10. I draw in spreads but the first and last pages are on their own, and I invariably end up with an odd number anyway. In a 22 page issue, doing half and half just breaks down conveniently. ALSO. Even if the first half of the issue didn't go well, I feel refreshed knowing that I have halftime. It makes me feel like a football player. You can always get pumped at halftime, come back out on the field and win this thing!

Of course, if a scene doesn't end on pg 10-11 spread, I'll usually put up the additional pages to finish the scene out for continuity's sake. I keep the sports metaphors though so I don't want to think about it.

Everything else I handle on a per issue basis. Thumbnailing all gets done by issue to maintain pacing. Digital tone goes so fast it also gets done by issue, and for simplicity's sake I do my lettering by issue as that point it's already scanned in and laid out, so I might as well.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


"The two worst strategic mistakes to make are acting prematurely and letting an opportunity slip."

I've been working on the story and characters that evolved into Benthic for nearly 11 years. In early 2009 I began penciling what is now the first chapter (I originally wrote the first 16 pages of the book as a one-shot) and over 19 months completed the script, the pitch, and the 32 page first issue. Meanwhile I had also been working full time, for much of it 50-60 hours a week, as well as other various projects and freelance illustrations. Benthic was moving slowly.

Honestly? The frustration was mounting. On one hand, I had a pretty good career coming together in the custom furniture industry. I'd been a cabinetmaker on the shop floor, I'd been in administrative roles, I had sales experience. Recently I had moved into a key production role in one of the top custom furniture companies in New York. On the other hand...yelling at material vendors on the phone is, believe it or not, not why I had put myself through art school. My life was unfortunately moving in the wrong direction faster than it was moving in the right direction.

Everything changed three weeks ago.

I'll save everyone the gory details. The transition was far from smooth, but a situation emerged where I could draw full time for a finite but considerable amount of time. This is the chance I've been waiting for. I hit the ground running on Benthic, which brings us here.

About the Blog-

How do you make a graphic novel...and what happens to you when you do?

Benthic - Below the Surface
is a dual purpose blog. Like the other "making of a graphic novel" blogs out there, it will document the process (and progress) of making and publishing a graphic novel, as both a writer and as an artist. I'll be reviewing all my methods, what has and hasn't worked for me in the past, and reflecting as those methods naturally evolve.

However, I will also be documenting myself as the subject of a social case study. What happens when someone who has worked full time for five years, in both a blue collar and white collar setting, suddenly and unexpectedly finds themselves drawing comics full time? What actually happens when your chance comes to make the dream come true? One month ago I was working 60 hours a week in Manhattan, had some level of disposable income, and hated my job. Today I work from home, I'm broke, and am completely self-employed. The first three weeks alone have turned my world upside down. How will I adjust to this massive lifestyle change? We'll find out.

I'll be updating twice per week!

About the Comic-

Benthic is a science fiction story about a submarine captain on a misguided revenge quest. It is 152 pages total, black and white, and the 32 page first issue is online and available to read. The project also breaks into six comic issues; the first and last issue being 32 pages, and the four issues in between being 22 pages each. I am currently looking for a publisher, but I fully intend to self publish if needed.

The projected completion date is March 1st, 2011, with a drop-dead date of March 15th, 2011.

As you can see, the first 32 pages are complete. Beyond that; as of today I am doing final touch-ups on the pencils for the 22 page second issue (pgs. 33-54), which I expect to begin inking Friday or Monday. If you're not familiar with comics or my work, "final touch-ups," translates directly into "hands and mouths I didn't finish drawing earlier cause they were a pain in the ass." Issue 3 is being thumbnailed.

I'm extremely excited about the project, and equally excited to share this journey. Stay tuned!