I’ve realised my initial approach to the art of Alien in the Outfield might just be a little old fashioned and possibly not the best way to hit our swiftly approaching deadlines.
Using Jacks script and rough sketches as a guide, I pencil an oversize page layout on A4. This means that when the final artwork is reduced to US Comic Size, the extra detail makes me appear to be exactly a 15% better pencil ninja than I actually am!
On these pencilled panels, I cut and paste odd scraps of artwork I like from sketchbooks, chop characters from their backgrounds and move them around the panels until I’m happy with the collaged composition.
Once I’m happy with the pencils, I trace the assembled pages in ink using a lightbox. I use 0.1 graphic pen for background, 0.2 for foreground detail and 0.7 for principle outlines. Lastly, I use ink and brush to shade and add contrast. I established and stuck with this simple system to give my inks a consistent look and it seems to work pretty well. Finally, I feel like I’ve found a practical use for my OCD!
It is only at this stage I scan the inks for digital scaling, lettering and some very minor graphic tweaks.
In an age of clean lines and Photoshop, this masking tape, gluestick and scalpel triage may seem like a messy and unnecessarily drawn out process – but being able to take my time over the first issue in this way has allowed me a feel for the style and rhythm of the book in a way I’m not sure the quick digital shortcut would have allowed. Also, despite devoting many hours to extensive character and concept art, I have still found that our cast continues to stubbornly grow and evolve – even over the course of a few pages.
This meant that the first issue had the feeling of a circuit track, as I repeatedly returned to the beginning to refine my earlier drawing and incorporate yet another newly discovered hairstyle, physical tick or visual cue. For me, the sense that a narrative artwork is a living, growing entity in itself is one of the reasons I love the medium. Taking the long way around lets me play in that sandbox for just a little longer.
Going forward from issue one, I won’t have the luxury of this leisurely approach as we’ll have just three months for each subsequent issue from blank page to print! This means my pencils may need to be much rougher and I’m currently experimenting to see what digital inking process works best for me.
I know many people who produce beautiful digital artwork – and much of it I would be hard pressed to identify as anything other than real-life pen and ink – but I’m still hopeful I can keep this series as defiantly and atavistically analog for as long as possible.