Drawing Comics Pages Out of Order
About a week or so ago, Michael Grabois on my Facebook page asked my why I don’t just sit down and draw each comic page in order from start to finish.
I sit down and do a number of thumbnails or layouts, maybe for the the entire book. It depends. When I have finished those layouts, I have had time to get away from the earlier page designs. After days or weeks, I can look at them with a fresh eye and see new ideas or mistakes I did not see before. If I sit down and do one page at a go, I do not have the advantage of distance and reflection.
Drawing one character at a time over a large swatch of pages keeps character and costume design consistent. This is especially important when you are juggling a large cast with many costume changes.
Drawing one scene at a time: ditto. If I am working on a monthly comic of only 22 pages, and sets like The Daily Bugle are already established, this is not such a big deal. But when working on a 140 page graphic novel like Gone to Amerikay, I not only have to do period research, but I have to accurately depict that period, and to create new sets every few pages. Pull pages which have the same set designs and draw those pages as a group, and this task is made easier.
Ink and correction fluid take time to dry. I ink large areas at one time. There’s no reason to sit and wait for that to dry. Just move on to the next page and keep working.
Some pages are much harder to draw and are far more time-consuming than others. On the two assignments I am working on right now, there are four double page spreads. Each spread takes roughly a week to draw. That’s only eight pages produced in one month. In order to keep production steady, I pull those double page spreads and move them to the front of the production line. Then I chip away at them, sometimes for months at a time. I draw an hour here or an hour there, while working on easier pages. Over the course of several months, there’s no discernable drop in production, because I am producing easier pages steadily.
A book which is front loaded with establishing shot settings will get bogged down early. If I have to pull pages 35-40 and work on those while letting pages 4-10 sit so I can still move forward, I will. It’s demoralizing to see yourself slipping behind. Give yourself a break once in awhile and do an easy page to keep moving.
Sometimes I can easily figure out what to do on one part of a page, but may want to rethink another part. I set it aside and come back to it later while moving on to something else.
Detail work and certain types of rendering can be hard on the digits after a long day: I get sore. Switch over to some other task (such as spotting blacks) and come back to detail work later.
Sometimes I get bored, and move on to something new. If you push yourself to keep producing on a page toward which you have developed unenthusiastic hostility, you are unlikely to do a very good job on it. Set it aside and tackle it with a clear head.
OK, that’s why I draw comic pages out of order.