Page 4 of the Robert Smalls graphic novel took ages! Much longer than I’d planned.
Here it is: Page 4: From Script to Page.
The main changes from the script are:
As I mentioned in a previous post, I decided not to include the midwife who may have been present so there was a stronger focus on Lydia and Robert.
I also cut this sequence down from two pages to one. I felt there wasn’t much “action” in this scene and two pages might have been excessively slowly paced.
I wanted the final image to be very simple, so decided on a cuddle rather than a feed.
Finally, after having done more research into the living conditions of house slaves as opposed to field slaves, and already knowing that Lydia was well-liked by her Master, I realised there was a strong likelihood she had an actual bed instead of the pallet and rags of the field hands and that I had been imagining her to have.
I worked on this page slightly differently to how I did page 1. In page 1, I drew the whole page as a whole page. For this, I laid out the page and sketched in the roughs, then each panel was made into a separate file that I worked on individually, and then added back into the main page. I did this mainly to avoid the file size of the whole page becoming unworkably large as I worked on it but it did make it harder to gauge the flow of the page. I could keep switching out to the full page view and see how the panels would look in situ, but it wasn’t as natural as working on the page as a whole.
Here, I’m showing full pages in progress, composited from each panel at each stage.
The first and second panels were where all the time went.
For the first panel, I was looking for good reference photos of 511 Prince Street; the house Robert lived in as a child. I wanted photos that weren’t too obscured by foliage. After a bit of searching, I found a good clear photo online and drew the house from that.
It was only after I’d finished the linework that I realised the architecture didn’t quite match up with other photos I had of the house and I had, in fact, drawn the wrong house. The photo I’d used had been incorrectly labelled. While it was a similar house, it was recognisably not the right one. I kicked myself for not having noticed sooner and set about drawing the correct house.
(I have saved the drawing of the wrong house and it will probably be making an appearance as a different house later in the story, so it’s wasn’t a waste of time!)
A problem I’m having is spending too much time and being too finnicky with details in individual panels. I find it really hard not to. I find it hard to leave backgrounds less detailed without thinking they look bad. As panels 1 and 2 establish the house, which I see almost as a character in Smalls’ story itself, I’m happy to allow myself the extra time I spent on these two panels… but I need to find a way to speed up my drawing of buildings and backdrops in future.
In future, forcing myself to draw using fewer layers will allow me less room for error and experimentation, but will allow me to work quicker and force me to be bolder with initial choices, rather than being timid at first, then pushing things like colours further than they started by using adjustment layers. I think this will be good practise for me and will also help keep file sizes down.
Panel 2: I made the decision to draw the buildings in proper 3-point perspective, drawing grids and everything rather than eyeballing it as I probably normally would. Again, for these panels establishing the house, I wanted everything “proper”.
Compounding difficulties was the fact that when I started drawing the house, I had absolutely no reference images of the rear of the house. I was trying to reconstruct it and infer details from aerial satellite images and Street View images from Google Maps, and a couple of pictures I had of the side of the house, all of which were largely obscured by foliage.
It was when I’d finished roughing out the house that I found an image of the rear of the Prince Street House and (I’m rather chuffed about this) I’d gotten the rear view of the house almost spot on! It just needed a couple of simple alterations!
The last couple of panels were fairly straight forward. I wanted to include the “Haint” paint in the background, and give Lydia and Robert space to breathe and be still in the last panel. By the time I finished this page and posted it, the #BlackLivesMatter protests and riots were well underway in America following what has since been declared the murder of George Floyd, and as a result of that, I made a post addressing releasing the page in the midst of this.
In future then: I must be bolder, faster, and more confident!