Saturday, March 25, 2017

Petra Oelker liest aus "Zwei Schwestern"

Mein erstes Vorabexemplar des Buches

Am 29.03. erscheint "Zwei Schwestern", das neue Buch von Petra Oelker. Es war mir eine grosse Ehre, dieses Buch illustrieren zu dürfen, und nach der wunderbaren Zusammenarbeit an "3 Wünsche" vor einigen Jahren wieder eine grosse Freude, eng mit der Autorin zusammenzuarbeiten. Petra Oelker hat einen unglaublichen Wissensfundus, und jedes Mal, wenn ich an einem ihrer Bücher arbeite, lerne ich so viel über Hamburg und über historische Ereignisse dazu! Diese Geschichte gibt einen Einblick in die neuen Lebensumstände zweier Schwestern während der Reformationszeit. Hier ist eine kleine Zusammenfassung:

Martin Luther hat zur Reformation aufgerufen, die Hamburger sind ihm gefolgt - eine neue Zeit bricht an. Das gilt auch für Reimare Hogenstraat: Sie war Nonne, jetzt ist sie nur noch eine Jungfer ohne den Schutz des Ordens, ohne den vertrauten Halt ihrer Gemeinschaft, ohne das Reglement des alten Glaubens. All ihrer Aufgaben beraubt, muss sie ihr Leben neu ordnen, einen neuen Sinn finden. Ist eine Heirat die Lösung? 
Die wohlhabende Witwe Anna Bünnfeld unterstützt ihre jüngere Schwester nach Kräften. Auch sie sucht ihren Weg in dieser unsicheren Zeit. Ein Testament muss geschrieben, ihr Vermögen neu geordnet werden - gilt es, selbst darin neuen Werten zu folgen?
Beide Schwestern stehen vor der Entscheidung ihres Lebens 

Für den Vorsatz habe ich diesmal ein Panorama Hamburgs aus dem Jahre 1530 gemalt.

Die Autorin wird an drei Terminen aus dem Buch lesen, zunächst dieses Wochenende in Leipzig in Zusammenhang mit der Buchmesse:

25.03.2017 19.00 Uhr   in Leipzig
Lesung zusammen mit Tilman Röhrig
Nikolaikirchhof 3
04109 Leipzig

und nächste Woche an zwei Terminen in Hamburg:

29.03.2017 19.30 Uhr   in Hamburg

Lesung ”Zwei Schwestern”

Literaturzentrum im Literaturhaus
Schwanenwik 38
22087 Hamburg

31.03.2017 19.30 Uhr   in Hamburg
Lesung "Zwei Schwestern und Emmas Reise"
Bücherstube am Krohnstieg
Tangstedter Landstr. 49-51
22415 Hamburg

Gemeindehaus der Ansgar-Kirche Langenhorn
Wördenmoorweg 22
22415 Hamburg
Neben der Reformation spielen auch die heilsame Wirkung von Pflanzen und der Aberglaube, der mit ihnen verbunden wurde, eine Rolle. Hier ist der Baldrian zu sehen, der bösen Zauber vertreiben sollte.

Bei den Lesungen in Hamburg werde ich auf jeden Fall anwesend sein, ich freue mich schon sehr darauf!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Yvain Release Celebration Post # 2!

Welcome back! (detail from Yvain)

I left off last week with sending the first dummy of the entire graphic novel to the publisher. Along with this dummy, I sent a package of concept sketches for the main „cast“ of characters and locations to show how I envisioned the rough thumbnail sketches of the book to come to life. Let's dive into that today:

opening view of part 2 of Yvain
Part 2: Concept and Color for Yvain

While I was enjoying the script and working on first ideas for the pages of the book, in my sketch book I was taking notes about the characters and who I thought they were. I also did a lot of research about the medieval world and the concept of the "Minne" and what courteous behavior and relationships were supposed to be like. This helped me to understand the characters better and to figure out how I wanted to represent them:
Taking lots of notes about the characters and their world...

… then noting down possibilities to distinguish them through forms of layout, design and color scheme...

In connection to that I worked on the main locations and what they should convey, based on the characters that lived there and the scenes that took place there. 

…at the same time working on location ideas: experimenting with different tree shapes for different locations (left), and first ideas for Laudine's castle (right)

Both location and character design evolved together and one influenced the other. But to try to get some order into this post let me talk about one at a time:

Part 1: Characters - Using the theory of "The four Temperaments"

a line up of all important characters in the story

To build the cast of characters I started out with Yvain, for obvious reasons, and pretty much instantly added Lunette and Laudine to the group of main characters. Both of them are essential characters in Yvain’s world and shape his journey. Lunette appears to me almost like a secret main character even because she is pulling the strings in Yvain’s and Laudine’s story and she is fully aware of it.
Lunette is manipulating Laudine – detail from Yvain

I later added Gawain as Yvain’s best friend. Gawain is not as present as any of the three others, but he plays an important role in the book as a mirror to Yvain. In the beginning they both live the same life and have the same goals. Gawain shapes Yvain’s journey by reminding him of the rules he has to follow to be seen as a successful and brave knight.

Gawain is reminding Yvain of his duties as a knight – detail from Yvain

Gawain is also important towards the end, when we see how Yvain has changed through his journey, while Gawain has stayed the same:

At the end of the story, Gawain is still the same – carefree and enjoying the feast – while Yvain is introspective and thoughtful – he has changed and now knows what is important to him. (detail from Yvain)

So I had a foursome of main figures that I wanted to have in the center of my cast and build the rest around. Now once again – as with the slightly awe-inspiring thought that I would now have to come up with sketches for a 128-graphic novel – I was searching for something to help me put order to my thoughts and get started with designing the characters. For this classic tale I thought it would be very fitting to look at a classic theory that was all the rage in medieval times: The theory of the 4 temperaments that had been developed based on Hippocrates' theory of the four humors:
a rough summary of the theory of the four humors (source)

This theory had been used by writers starting in ancient Greece to develop and distinguish characters (and if you look for it, you can still find it in more modern ensembles, think of The Fantastic Four, The A-Team, or The Three Musceteers (plus Dartagnon) for example). I wanted to try and use this theory as a starting point to develop my characters:

Yvain and Gawain:

Yvain and Gawain start out very similar as knights with the sole aim to find adventure and fame. They seem carefree and unconcerned with the consequences of their actions. This fit very well with the profile of the sanguine character. So I started out by designing two more or less flighty characters, with upbeat positive and even slightly ignorant demeanor. 

Gawain I thought of as a sunny boy, a little reminiscent of the cliché of the surfer dude. He’s always looking to catch the next perfect wave, translate to catching the next epic fight:
first notes and sketches for Gawain

Yvain at first goes along with this picture, but from the beginning there is an introspective side to him. I desiged him thinner, not as muscly as Gawain, and with very rigid hair and clothes at first. He is following the rules of his world and not quite clear yet about who he is:
first sketches of Yvain going through his transformation

He then looses Laudine and goes through a time of madness, which pulls him down to earth and forces him to face the results his actions have brought:
Yvain before and during his madness

This fit very well with the profile of the melancholic character. His face gains character in the process of his journey.  His clothes and hair become more individual due to the fact that they are selfmade/selfcut from now on:

First color studies for Yvain before and after his madness...

… and the final color studies for Yvain put together in one concept page.

Laudine and Lunette:

Laudine and Lunette are contrasting characters from the beginning, but they both show the ability to cope with loss, recognize their responsibilites and the choices they have to make to protect them. They both use the powers at their disposal to achieve these goals.
early sketches for Laudine in different moods and for different parts of the story

Laudine carries her heart on her sleeve. She is very passionate and outspoken about her grief in the beginning of the story, and again in her rage towards the end. I wanted to underline this fiery character with color and attributes such as her unruly hair and expressive face. Like Yvain she changes throughout the story, guided (or forced) by Lunette's intrigues to recognize that she needs to curb her temper and make pragmatic and sometimes heartbreaking choices to rule her land and keep her people safe. I showed this transformation by her change of clothes with a veil completely covering her head and neck. Also her demeanor after coming to the decision to marry Yvain changes. She becomes very reserved and does not show her emotions freely again until the very end.
color studies for Laudine before and after Esclados' death

Lunette is the enigma in this story, a sort of mentor who guides and manipulates Yvain and Laudine, and never quite reveals her own desires and intentions. She reminds me of the Puck in English mythology (a famous example would be Puck in „AMidsummernight’s Dream“), a sprite or fairy that is using her powers to cause mischief or help, depending on her mood. 
First sketches and notes for Lunette...

I think it’s apparent that she wants well for Yvain and Laudine. But it’s never quite clear why. She seems to like Yvain for herself. But she willingly maneuvres to help him marry Laudine. There seem to be political motives as well as personal ones, and lots of clever planning in the background.

...followed by color studies...

To suggest Lunettes character I wanted to work with blue shades in contrast to Laudines red ones. This color scheme also suggests water, and night sky, hidden depths and fluidity. I gave her hair intricate loops to suggest the puzzle of her thoughts. Like Gawain, Lunette doesn’t change throughout the story. But unlike him she is aware of every aspect of it and of how her actions influence it.

… and the final design of Lunette in the book - detail from Yvain

Overall the theory of the four temperaments served well as a starting point. Of course, not everything was a fit for my characters, and I completely ignored the body types that were suggested along with the dispositions. But it was interesting to have this theory to go from and figure out where it worked for me and where I had to move in a different direction.

Once I had these four main characters built up, I added the supporting characters and developed them to be distinctive from the main four yet compliment and contrast with the characters they interacted with:

Showing Laudine next to Lunette, Esclados and Yvain, to see how they would all work together.

I am not going into detail on researching and designing clothes and armor here, for more information on that check out the illustrator's note at the end of the book.

Part 2: Locations - With some help from Animation Wisdom

In 2010 I went back to school and took a one year intensive class in animation. One thought from my animation teacher stayed with me especially: If you want the pose of a character to read instantly, the silhouette has to read first. I wanted to use this idea (once again, another starting point) for the main locations of Yvain. For each of the castles I wanted a distinctive silhouette that lay underneath the design and instantly communicated the atmosphere.

For example, for the Castle of Carlysle that Calogrenant rides towards in the beginning of the story I wanted a rectangular shape, sitting solidly in the landscape, to suggest a calm, happy and safe place Calogrenant returns to after his misadventure. I had the idea of a sturdy steamship calmly parting the rolling waves, and went from there to design the sprawling castle sitting in rolling prosperous fields. 

A first sketch of the castle Carlysle: a square shape reminiscent of a steam ship parting the seas...

...the color sketch for Carlysle...

… and Carlysle in the graphic novel - detail from Yvain

I found some beautiful reference for this castle in Britain, here are two examples:

Conwy Castle in Wales...

… and Beaumaris Castle on the island of Anglesey.

For Laudine’s Castle, I wanted to take into account the magic that is a part of her world. The weather stone brings unimaginable storms to her forest and her castle on a regular basis. So she and her people need to be protected as well as they can. Her castle sits high on a cliff peak jutting out of the forest like a lighthouse, a beacon of hope: 
The concept sketches for Laudine's castle.

The landscape with the flat dense forest and the sudden stone cliffs peaking out seems not from this world. A few incredible places I had had the chance to visit came together in my mind here:

The dense forests and sudden stone cliffs of Saxon Switzerland inspired the landscape:
A beautiful view of Saxony Switzerland (source)

When thinking of the houses built into the sides of the cliffs, I was thinking of dwellings such as the ones in Canyon de Chelly in Arizona
White House Ruin at Canyon de Chelly (source)

or a more modern version in Setenil, Spain:
Houses built into the side of the mountain in Setenil, Spain (source)

The Castle in the Woods is more reminiscent of a sturdy farmhouse than a castle, suggesting the rural farming community that lives here. The people are protected by the surrounding forrest, and not used to have to protect their land.

The color study for the castle in the woods...

… and an example of a farm house I had in mind when starting with the design (source).

I wanted the Sweat Shop Castle to have a forbidding and dangerous first impression. I had images from Ayers Rock in Australia in mind to show the strong and impenetrable quality:

Ayers Rock in Australia (source)

At the same time I was thinking of a bear trap or a venus fly trap to hint at the danger hidden inside the castle:

Example of a bear trap… (source)

...and a Venus Fly Trap (source)

During my research I found pictures of medieval castle dwellings, that were built in a circle. These were on a much smaller scale than the castle I designed, but the shape was perfect for what I had in mind for this location in the story:
a first color study of the sweatshop castle

Part 3: Pulling characters and locations together into one world

Working on color ideas for characters and location on the same page, to see how they would work together.

As these first ideas came together slowly an overall picture of what the world would look like began to take shape. By deciding on the different moods and atmospheres I wanted to achieve for each location, and the different character traits I wanted to show on each character, colors and details suggested themselves. Slowly, I developed a whole living situation for different locations and used that background information to design details such as coats of arms, colors and decoration details.

For example, at Laudine’s castle there are dwellings carved and built everywhere into the stone to afford the people protection from the storms. Because of the wild forest and the magic forces regularly wreaking hawoc, I decided that these people lived off of the hunt and what the forest had to offer them. I showed this in the colors they wear as well as the coat of arms and details of decoration:
The color concept for Laudine's castle, showing the impact of the storm as well as detail for decoration, armor, interiors etc.

Another example is the sweatshop castle: Here I wanted to contrast the grey swamp like landscape and the ominous forbidding castle with the lavishness of the demon families' living quarters within. I also wanted to distinguish the colors of this place from all the others in the book, to suggest how removed from reality the family in this castle is:

The concept for Sweatshop Castle including lineup of characters, interior and exterior design of the castle, decoration details and details on the garden. The purple and gold hues are very different from the more natural colors used throughout the book.

When putting together these concepts I included the characters as well to see how their designs and colors would fit with the surroundings I intended for them.

Of course, during this process of developing the characters and their homes, many ideas I was working on fell to the wayside. For example, in my early sketches i experimented with designs and shapes that were much more stylized. Below is a sketch of tree shapes that I worked on which suggested the pillars of a gothic cathedral or angular shapes echoing stone walls:
Experimenting with more stylized tree shapes for each location.

This thought came from researching art and artifacts from the 12th century. I loved how the art was very stylized, formulaic even in depicting items or locations, so they were easily recognizable:
Studying the Bayeux Tapetry: note the stylized tree shape in the middle of the page

However, as my ideas for color and design came together I realized that I wanted the reader to feel as close as possible to the characters and their world. More stylized designs would not have helped here, they would have broadened the gap that was already looming through the fact that this ballad is centuries old. I wanted this story to touch the reader in the here and now, and at the same time keep some of the qualities of the beautiful medieval art I had seen. Therefore I focused on conveying the atmosphere of the places through more realistic and natural shapes and colors, but tried to keep the rich and intricate nature of the tapestries and illuminated scripts in my mind when going to final art (more on that in Post 3):
Color studies for the most important forest locations.

But, as I already mentioned, the process of sketching for the pages of the graphic novel and working on the design for characters and places went hand in hand. So ideas I had for one side of the process sometimes resurfaced in different form on another side of the process. One example is the idea of the tapestries:

While I was sketching the thumbnails for the pages of the graphic novel I found three scenes where a character tells a story within the story. There are endless possibilities to show this in graphic novels, for example a different type of frame, or color scheme, or drawing style … . I wanted the reader to stay with the characters though, and found that tapestries would be the perfect way to visualize the telling of the story without leaving the character that is talking. The reader feels like he is in the room with the characters, listening to the story being told. This, I felt, even added to the realistic feel of the rest of the graphic novel and allowed me to pay homage to the beautiful art from that time:

The master of the castle in the woods tells the story of Harpin. The images on the tapestries behind him visualize the same story.

The slave girls weave and stitch their own story of being abducted to work for the demons.
(For more information about tapestries and how they were used in the middle ages, check out the illustrator's note at the end of the graphic novel.)

Finally, I had the dummy for the graphic novel and an accompanying package of first designs for characters and locations put together. Time to send everything off to the art director and start a conversation about where the graphic novel was developing. Now there was a period of going back and forth, discussing, adjusting and fine-tuning, until finally we were ready to go to 

Part 3: The Final Art

…but more on that next week!  

See you next week!  (detail from Yvain)

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!