Responses to more questions from the ask box. There’s a lot more after the break.
Q. naydshiko asked you:
Hi, Boss lady! I absolutely love your comic. It’s obvious that you spend an enormous amount of time on getting everything just right, and it always is worth the wait! I just had one question: How do you decide on panel organization? Is there any good rules of thumb to use when trying to draw a sequential comic?
A. Thank you!
I work out panel organization in thumbnail form in tandem with finalizing pages of dialogue. That helps me figure out where establishing shots are needed, where I need room for a lot of dialogue (everywhere), where it makes sense to focus panels on environment, where I should focus panels more on character faces, expressions and reactions, where dramatic angles might be appropriate and so forth.
I’m probably somewhere near the bottom of the list of comic artists to ask for sound advice about organizing panels, though. I’ve done a lot of things the wrong way where certain practicalities and conventions are concerned, and I still have a lot to learn. Here are a few basics, though:
-Keep readability foremost in mind. As the author/artist, you know how the story goes and what panel comes next in the sequence, but try to look at what your doing from a reader’s perspective. Ask yourself (or others) if your thumbnails or penciled pages make sense and communicate what you intend before getting too far into the art process.
- Don’t clutter it. Content is necessary and details can be great, but it all amounts to visual noise without negative space. Gutters or frames between panels and negative space within panels are just as vital as paragraph breaks and punctuation are in writing.
- Flow is important too. Keeping things moving left to right and down the page, and utilizing the art and panel arrangement to signal the reader where to look next mitigates confusion and helps progression feel natural. Thinking of the comic page as a singular composition, even though it’s segmented into frames, can aid the approach.
-Timing and contextual importance impact panel size. A shot of a lone character looking out over a vast landscape is probably intended to be evocative, and might call for the reader to pause in looking at it. A wide panel or even a panel that takes most of a single page probably makes sense for such a thing, whereas a fast sequence of events might play out in a series of narrow panels like rapid clicks in time.
-Camera angle changes are important for practical communication and for effect (nothing but straight on shots and talking heads in profile gets pretty dull), but think before swapping angles. Don’t do it just for the sake of making each panel different. Sometimes it makes narrative sense to maintain the same angle and focus between consecutive panels. If in panel #1, the action is moving to the left, and in panel #2, the camera rotates 180 degrees to view the scene from the other side, the action will now be moving the opposite direction. Consider how jarring and confusing that can be as you’re reading along.
—Study how successful comics handle panel arrangement for different types of scenes.
—Will Eisner and Scott McCloud have books in print that famously myriad principles of comic making and can be very helpful.
—A brief internet search turned up this tutorial by Renee Lecompte, which does a nice straightforward job of explaining some fundamental aspects of panel layout.
Q. for some reason, I’m really curious as to what the character’s mothers look like. Namely Mordecai’s.
A. This was posted as part of a sketch dump a while back. His mother, Zippy, is on the right -