Friday, April 20, 2007

SE7EN: Anatomy of a Panel (episode one)

Cartoonist Jesse Hamm recently wrote a brilliant LiveJournal post regarding why comic book writers shouldn’t, if at all possible, tell the artists what to draw. The main rebuttal to which seems to be that many comic book illustrators are incapable of telling a story visually. This to me raises the question “who is hiring these people and why?”

Thankfully, I was rarely given any specific panel descriptions by David Mack in his script for SE7EN: ENVY. Most often there was just a simple sequence of actions performed by the character John Doe, and I had to visually match it however best I could to Mack's superb narration.

After reading the script through a couple times and taking some notes, I laid out the pages as small pencil sketches, marking the possible placement of text in red pen. After sending the page layouts to Mack, we worked on the details over the phone, making sure we were in agreement about how the story would be told, and the mood it should convey.

The following is a step-by-step of how I created the dominant panel of page four: (click images to enlarge them)

Using my original thumbnail sketch as a guide, I drew the basic drawing in ink (using Sakura's Pigma MICRON pens on cheap printer paper) and scanned it to Adobe Photoshop at 600dpi.

I then added a flat layer of bright color and a mid-gray layer of shading to the line art.

During the making of SE7EN: ENVY, I created a few dozen hand made paper & ink "textures" using brushes, sponges, sandpaper, woodblocks, and whatever else was on hand. In order to the give the book the dark and gritty feel of the movie, I then combined the textures with the artwork as low opacity Photoshop layers.

I decided to make the background red (I don't plan ahead with color or even give it much thought while I'm doing it), then combined it with the line art , adding in the texture, gray shading and colors.

So far, everything had been flat shades of color, grays, and black. But this is where the real details start to take shape:

I painted some heavy shading for John Doe's body using the Photoshop brush tool, then added a second round of texture - including some "blush" color to the skin. Note that only The Box on the shelf doesn't have texture of some kind.

Now here was the difficult part for me: Adding the blood in all its forms. Blood diluted in water, blood smeared across surfaces, blood trickles, blood splatter, blood soaking through gauze, and raw bloody meat. At this point I'd never done anything quite like this before. But all the comic book stories I've illustrated have been experiments. That's what makes them fun.

Although I added some scanned splatter I'd created in ink, for the most part I painted the blood in thin watercolor-like layers using the brush tool again.

And here's the result:


Once I'd decided to letter SE7EN: ENVY as well as illustrate it, I came up with the look of the captions by tearing dozens of post-it notes into various shapes and scanning them, where I then added some splatter texture and a subtle "aged" color in addition to the text itself.

Here's the finished page:

Thanks for having a look, and check back soon for another episode of SE7EN: Anatomy of a Panel.

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Blogger Brian Churilla said...

Holy Christ on a stick. That's pretty admirable. Didn't realize how much work you were putting into this story. Talk about a labor of love! Looks great. Really looking forward to reading it.


9:46 PM  

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