Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kevin Cannon Guest Post + Giveaway

                                           Kevin Cannon Guest Post + Giveaway

Kevin Cannon is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob for the fabulous month of March.  The snow is melting and the temps are rising here in Minnesota.  Kevin is a cartoonist and a graphic novelist and he has written a guest post about how he creates and envisions his books.  This is super interesting guest post and I think you will agree.  Read on to learn more about the process of creating a graphic novel.

                                           CRATER XV PROCESS POST

There is no right way to produce a graphic novel. Some cartoonists will begin by drawing directly on the page and watching the story flow from that, while others methodically script every panel out before putting pen to paper. I'm more of the latter. For Crater XV -- my latest graphic novel, which follows the misadventures of aging Arctic pirate Army Shanks -- I planned the entire book out beforehand, a process that began with writing out fragments of scenes on scraps of paper and arranging them in order on my bed, and culminated with me sitting down and writing one full chapter per night for seventeen straight nights.

Once the script was out of the way, then I could focus on the fun part -- the actual drawing -- which is what I want to describe during this post. I didn't keep good photos or scans of my actual process working on Crater XV, so I'm going to invent a brand new panel just for Book Snob.

STEP 1: Rough sketch

I'll begin by doodling directly on the script until I have a rough idea of what each panel will look like. I might go through a few different sketches at this stage until I find the right shot. Better to experiment now when each drawing takes only a handful of seconds than to have to redraw a whole panel later and risk wasting an hour or more.

STEP 2: Rule the border

Cartoonists usually work at 150-200% the size of the printed artwork because then their art looks crisper and cleaner when shrunk down. This also means that we need to draw our lines a little thicker than usual because they'll eventually be cut down in width. My standard panel size is 8.2 cm wide by 7.3 cm high.

STEP 3: Lettering (Part One)

The sad truth about modern comic books is that most artists simply leave room for word balloons and then have some outside firm drop the text in, almost as an afterthought. This creates stilted, inorganic artwork, and often the lettering doesn't reflect the tone of the art; it just floats on top of the artwork like some strange garnish. Indie cartoonists, however, know that lettering is part of the artwork itself, and so we prefer to letter directly on the page.

When text and art are incorporated onto the same drawing surface, not only does this allow the lettering to feel like it's living in the same plane as the art, but playful interactions may occur as well. Words and balloons may hide behind a character, for instance, or a balloon may spill off into the next panel if what's being said is simply too much for the borders to handle.

There's a danger, though, in getting too bizarre with lettering. For simple dialogue I like to stick with simple lettering. In these cases I want the reader to be focusing on the art and the characters, and ignore the lettering as much as possible. Only when the narrative calls for it do I draw attention to the lettering.

For this basic lettering I use a ruler to mark out 4 mm for each line and 2 mm for the space between each line. I pencil lightly using a hard lead to block out the balloon, then go in with a softer lead to put in tighter letters. If I get to the end of the line and find that I don't have enough space, I'll usually just make a little star at the beginning of the line, which is a signal to ink the letters narrower than how they're pencilled. If I have room, I may also make a vertical line to signal where to begin each line. These marks save me from having to erase a faulty line and write the whole thing over again.

Normally I'll jump into inking using a Micron 08 for the roman letters and a Micron 1 for the bold letters. If a word is especially large I'll outline it using a Micron 005, which allows me to get nice, crisp corners. But with this sample image some of the artwork is going to cross in front of the lettering, so I'm going to wait to ink the lettering until the last step.

STEP 4: Penciling

 Now that the lettering is on the page I can begin to draw the art around it. I'll start with my hard lead again and block out the basic shapes, using my thumbnails as a guide. During this stage I may make last-minute decisions about adding or deleting elements from the panel. At this stage, for example, I have a better sense of how much information I can fit in the background without it distracting too much from the foreground.

When everything feels like it fits, then I grab a softer lead and do the tight pencils. These are the lines I'll be inking over so I want to make them as close to the final product as possible. At this stage I'll make some changes on the fly, as well as doing some detail work (like in the faces) that I didn't bother with during the loose pencil stage.

STEP 5: Inking

Like a lot of cartoonists I started out my career by using a brush. Brushes are nice because you can easily get different line weights depending on how you much pressure you put on the brush or at what angle you hold it. But lately I've moved to using pens exclusively because they're more predictable and you don't have deal with washing them like you do with brushes (I'm lazy). But I still like to have that varied line weight in my art, so as a compromise I use several different pens, each with a different nib size. 

I'll normally start with the outlines of characters and shapes, which are the thickest lines. Here I'm using a micron 08 for the balloon border and a micron 05 for the character outlines.
Next I'll fill in basic interior lines using a micron 01.
And finally I'll take a micron 005 -- the thinnest nib I can get my hands on -- to add the intricate detail work like the fibers on Army Shanks' sweater or the chain on the walrus' monocle.

STEP 6: Lettering (Part Two)
With the foreground inked, I can now safely go in and ink over the lettering. Like I said earlier, I'll use a micron 08 for the roman letters but then outline the bigger letters with a .005 (and then fill them in later).

STEP 7: Erase
Then I'll erase and scan the image and do any last minute clean-up or changes using Photoshop. And that's it, the whole process from script to ink. Now just repeat this process 3000 times and you've got yourself a graphic novel!

Thanks Kevin.  This was awesome!!

If you would like to buy a copy of Kevin's graphic novels please go to:
I linked to his page where you can find all of his comics and graphic novels.  Go check it out.

You can view all of these images and more at Kevin's website:

If you would like to try and win a copy of Crater XV please click here:  Crater XV giveaway