Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Yvain Release Celebration Post # 1!

Yvain is in stores today - time to celebrate!

Yvain is being published today! To celebrate its’ release I have put together a series of posts about the different stages of my work on the book. Today, I'll start with sketching and layout, next week I will share how I came up with the concepts and colors for the book, and in week three I will talk about going to final art. In the posts I will share some sneak peeks and talk about different scenes of the graphic novel, so I wanted to warn you that there might be some spoilers here. I will try not to give too many details away. OK, let's get started with

opening view of part 1 of Yvain

 Working on Yvain - Part 1: Sketching and Layout

Step 1: How to sketch for an entire graphic novel

Until I got the manuscript for Yvain I had illustrated picture books and MG/YA books, and created two graphic novel short stories of my own:

two graphic short stories I wrote and illustrated for the "Flight" Anthologies

So I was wondering how to start sketching for a 40-page manuscript that was supposed to turn into a 128-page graphic novel. First I wanted to let the story sink in, so I read and re-read the manuscript, just enjoying it. I took notes and jotted down some first thumbnail sketches in the margins to hold on to ideas that struck me immediately while reading:
reading the manuscript and making some first notes

At the same time I read a wide variety of graphic novels, from classic ones that were close to the subject matter like "Prince Valiant" by Hal Foster to more recent and experimental ones like "Dans mes yeux" by Bastien Vivès. I wanted to immerse myself in this art form and study design, pacing and storytelling through sequential imagery (and of course also just enjoy reading them!).
just a few of the graphic novels I read while working on Yvain
Then, I decided to start out with some simple math. I had heard that for movie scripts a page of script averages a certain amount of screen time, so I tried a similar approach here: if I had 40 pages of manuscript and 128 pages of graphic novel, for each page of manuscript I would have 3-4 pages of graphic novel space to work with. This was a great help to get me started with thumbnails. I would take the page of the script and have my certain number of pages allowed. With that in mind I started laying out the design of the page, sketching the sequence of frames and roughly jotting in what would happen in each frame and which dialogue would go where:
sketching the first thumbnails and planning the page layouts

From the first readings of the manuscript I had already noted spots where I wanted to achieve certain things, for example a surprise, a density of events, or a climax. For example, when Yvain first sees the lion and the dragon fighting, I knew I wanted Yvain to look off the bottom of the page towards the page turn...  
Yvain looking off to the right at the bottom of the  page...

 … and then the page turn to reveal the dragon and lion fighting in a full spread.

…towards the lion and the dragon fighting.

I wanted Yvain to see the dragon and lion just a split second before the reader sees what he sees, and I wanted that image to have a big impact. So it was clear to me that I needed a spread for that. I had to take this into account when planning out my 128 pages.

So, of course the math was just a starting point that helped me to sketch a very rough outline of the entire story and stay fairly close to the page count.

Step 2: Experimenting with Layout Solutions

Experimenting with different layouts for pages 4 and 5 of Yvain...

One thing I love about comics is that every part of the art serves to tell the story. The way the frames are designed and put together, the choice of what is shown in the frames and what the reader will have to add in his imagination, the magic that happens when the eye moves from one frame to the next and the brain fills in the information of what happens in that gap, the way the dialogue is integrated into the art and carefully placed to suggest passage of time, all of that comes together to create a facetted experience of the story in the readers mind. I wanted to make sure to use all of these elements to tell the story of Yvain.

… and the first rough layout of pages 4 and 5 put together.

In terms of the layout of the pages, I wanted to make sure to use it to create the atmosphere I felt a particular part of the story needed. For example, When Yvain talks to an imprisoned Lunette through a wall, I wanted to come up with a page design that hinted at the pattern of a brick wall, but showed both characters during their dialogue. I came up with a series of frames all the same size, alternating Yvain on the outside and a glimpse at Lunette trapped in the dark behind the wall:
Yvain is talking to the imprisoned Lunette through a wall.

This way I wanted to enhance the state of mind the characters are in, Yvain oblivious and focused on his own problems outside, meanwhile Lunette desperate and losing hope in the darkness of her prison. Towards the bottom of the page Yvain is finally engaged in Lunette's story, and to show his interest I had him turn to the wall and moved in closer in the last frame.

Another example is one of the fight scenes. In this particlar scene, the lion has been trapped to keep him from joining the fight. We see Yvain fighting his opponents, and struggling more and more. At the same time the lion is struggling to get out of his prison to run to Yvain's aid. To enhance this trapped feeling and the increasing pressure, I let the frames get smaller and smaller and interlocked them, interchanging scenes of the lion with scenes from Yvain’s fight, so towards the bottom right corner of the page the action gets tighter and tighter, until the reader turns the page and the tension is released on the next page. 
Yvain is struggling while the lion is desperately trying to escape to help him.

These are just two examples, if you are curious about a specific scene please don’t hesitate to ask via email or in the comments below and I will do my best to answer your question.

Step 3: Checking Rhythm and Flow of the Story

This is something I usually do with books I illustrate and it turned out very useful here too. When I had these first ideas set down I put together a rough dummy of the entire graphic novel. I first read through it like reading a book, turning pages and taking notes on how the story flowed. Then I put everything up on a wall to take a look:
The first dummy of the entire graphic novel up on my studio wall.

Reading through this dummy on the wall gave me yet another perspective of the story arc and how it was achieved in the images. Using both these approaches I changed scenes around, moved dialogue and images from one page to another, gave an action of a character more space and time etc. At the same time I edged closer to adjusting the page count so it was correct.

Finally, I took my thumbnail page layouts and started sketching in more detail:
Planning a fight scene with thumbnail sketches ...

I had been working on character and location sketches parallel to the thumbnails (more on that in Process Post 2) and used those now to finetune my ideas for each frame and sketch the characters with detailed body language and expression:
… refining the body movements and action in the larger sketches…

…and finally dropping the more detailed sketches into the layout.

Finetuning the pages still included adjusting the layout, pacing and placement of dialogue.  When all this was done, the dummy was ready to be sent to art director and author for a first review and discussion.

The composed dummy ready to be sent to the art director.

OK that's it for now, next week I will write about working on concepts and color for the world of Yvain. Have a nice week and happy release day!
See you next week!


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