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Making Rice Boy
My only decent thinking happens while walking. The process involved in creating each bit of Rice Boy, you might say, starts with some walk somewhere, riffing in my head on pictures and places and bits of dialogue. Kind of continually getting infatuated/obsessed with the thing, to the point that I don't fully realize where I am. I am going to get hit by a car one day. I end up with hundreds of sketchbook pages of incomprehensible doodles of monsters and places and ideas, a lot of which doesn't ever get used, or maybe doesn't get used for months and months.

The first really narrative things put to paper are thumbnail drawings: very small visual notes for each page, for my own reference. They are drawn in coffee shops and are very illegible. I think it's much more effective to plan pictures, words, and pacing at the same time like this, and I don't think I've done any pages of Rice Boy without a preliminary thumbnail. The kind of narrative feeling I'm trying to stick to for this comic is most of what I'm trying to get down properly in the thumbnails: storytelling that seems leisurely even though it reads very quickly; brief animatic sequences and big, self-indulgent scenic panels that don't do much but let me develop settings and moods. All in all, a ridiculously inefficient way to tell a story.

Pages are drawn on sheets of 14 by 17 inch smooth bristol, and each page is drawn at 7.5 by 12 inches, so I can fit two pages on each side of each sheet of bristol. Saves money! So I usually pencil, ink, scan, color and upload two pages at a time. I measure out pages and panels and do all that boring stuff I do entirely on autopilot, and then draw the thing loosely, using past pages as reference. For sequences where it's important that some consecutive panels look similar, I draw from right to left, because I'm left handed and my drawing hand would obscure the previous panel. This is not our world, left-handed comickers of the Western Hemisphere! During pencils I often change from the thumbnails- dialogue might be moved, or panels divided or combined to fix pacing.

Then I make a cup of tea or something, and do preliminary inking- panel outlines with micron and ruler and dialogue with micron. I used to do dialogue on a separate sheet, but I forgot why that was a good idea, so it's all drawn on the same sheet now. Lately I'm trying to make the text of some characters' voices slightly different, to maybe give them more of an independent "voice."

All of the drawings themselves are inked with some kind of waterproof india ink and a really skinny, round synthetic-hair brush. I really enjoy this kind of drawing. No matter how precise and perfect the pencils are, drawing with a brush is always a very spontaneous experience. Tiny changes in pressure make huge differences in line weight, and it's very hard to keep your hand still without pressing into the surface, like you would with a pen. This makes it much more effective to ink quickly, so that lines are smooth and fluid, if not always necessarily correct. You can see in a lot of my pages places where the line gets kind of squiggly as my hand shakes, or where lines are way too thick when I had too much ink or pressure or something. I love that! I love that you can see exactly where the artist's hand has been, and how quickly and with how much pressure. It's very much a Zen thing- worrying too much about how it will look will make it not look good at all. Becoming absorbed in the process teaches you technique and efficiency and makes the whole thing just more enjoyable. That's kind of my approach to this comic as a whole, for better or worse. I think brush inking is something like my church.

Then I scan the thing, each page in two parts, put them together and convert the image to black and white (another Zen thing maybe?). All this computery stuff is really kind of boring to me, but I've learned what I've had to to make the coloring look like I want it. Everything is colored a "base color" on a multiplied layer on top of the ink layer. Then, on another multiplied layer on top of that, I add another color or two to cover all of the images. On my example page (194), for example, the main color is a light blue, and the shadow color is darker. The second layer of color helps to unify the color of the whole page. Color isn't really my thing, I'm kind of cheating. T-O-E's face picture gets stuck in last.

And that is how I make comics, so that you can see them. It isn't pretty and there are definitely better ways I could be spending my time, but there you go. It's a Zen thing, I guess. You can see the finished page right here.

Contents copyright 2007 Evan Dahm, robot_community(at)