Mike Dawson Comics

April 8, 2013

MoCCA Table Talk: Inspiration to Inking

Filed under: process — Mike @ 12:48 pm

I was at the MoCCA Arts Festival all day Saturday, and it was pretty great for a number of reasons. The Table Talk I participated in, along with Brendan Leach and Josh Bayer, was very well attended. We had a very in-depth discussion about our processes which went on for over an hour and fifteen minutes, and as far as I could tell, most of the audience stuck around, despite the fact that they were standing the whole time and we were talking about nibs and what kind of ink we like using.

I recorded the talk on my MP3 recorder, but haven’t had a chance to listen back and see if the audio is usable yet. If it is, I will post it later this week as an Ink Panthers Show PRO-T.I.P.S.

For the purposes of the talk, we each took photos of our work in various stages of completion and walked through how we make a comics page. My pics are below.

I started off explaining how I’m knee-deep in the middle of making a new graphic novel. I don’t write a script or thumbnail the book beforehand, though I do keep a rough outline of the general plot-points of the story, which I continually add to or delete from, as the thing evolves. I’ve actually found the best method for me to keep my thoughts in order is to maintain a couple of different Notes files on my iPhone.

When I reach a given scene in the story, I’ll think about it more deeply, and will write out some dialogue on scrap paper, like this:

The above dialogue happened to actually be before the page I took photos of, but it’s pretty much how my scripts look. Then I’ll do a rough pass on “pencils”:

My pencils are very, very loose, and highly subject to change as I work on a page. I realized during the course of the discussion that the reason for this might be just because I’m used to using blue-line pencils, and they pretty much suck for drawing detailed drawings anyway, so I just taught myself to do the majority of the rendering in ink out of necessity.

Here are the panels all drawn in:

Then I put in the word balloons:

And begin drawing. I start with the figures first. At some point I realize I’ve messed up with how I initially drew the word balloons:

So therefore:

I clean things up on the page. I talked about how my approach these days is to try and get the pages looking as close to finished as possible, using white-out or rubber-cementing new pictures over mistakes. I am trying to do use Photoshop as little as I can. We talked a lot about that, and I hope I made it clear that for me it’s just a personal preference. For me, a big part of making comics is just to satisfy my own needs to draw a certain amount at a certain standard on a weekly basis, and in the past when I was working with Photoshop more, I felt like I was taking more shortcuts. I’d spend less time on the drawing, knowing I could spruce it all up later digitally. One unfortunate thing about the MoCCA talk is that both Josh and Brendan don’t really use Photoshop a lot either, so there wasn’t anyone there really representing the digital approach to making comics, which of course is entirely valid.

Here is the page “cleaned up”

And here it is with the top two panels looking a lot closer to being finished:

I hang my pages on the wall next to my drawing table as I work, so I am able to see how it builds. I can see the page spreads, and it’s easy to find earlier pages for reference. I can’t fit the whole book on the wall, so I just keep up the sections that I’m currently putting together.

And here’s the stack, so far:

Another exciting thing that came out of MoCCA, was that I had a chance to talk with Secret Acres about when this book might be published. We’re looking at it coming out roughly a year from now, which means I actually have deadlines and due-dates to start thinking about, which should be excellent motivation to push me through the home stretch on this thing.

April 5, 2013

This weekend: MoCCA Arts Fest

Filed under: conventions,process — Mike @ 9:03 am

This weekend (well, tomorrow), I’ll be at the MoCCA Arts Festival in New York City. I only have plans to be there on Saturday, though late-breaking enthusiasm for the revamped show has me wondering if I can somehow show my face on Sunday as well.

I will be participating in this year’s programming.

TABLE TALKS – located in the Moving Image Lounge off the Main Floor

11:30 Comics Process: Inspiration to Inking
Join Brendan Leach, Mike Dawson and Josh Bayer as they discuss the process behind writing a comic beginning with research and inspiration, to inking and finishing a comic.

Josh Bayer traveled to the future and drew the above charming (but accurate) illustration of how our talk went.

I’m very much looking forward to this talk. I took some photos of my process as I put a page together, which was a fun thing to do. A sneak-peek image is below.

Hope to see you there!

February 18, 2013

Progress Report

Filed under: Freddie & Me,life,process — Mike @ 8:02 pm

Angie Bongiolatti, the main character in my new book. Things are going really well with the story, and I’m at the point where I’m really eager to show off more of the comic to people, but I’m going to resolve to keep myself in check, and really aim for having a book come out that hasn’t previously been published online or elsewhere.

Been thinking a little about how this approach has been changing my writing habits. I’ve definitely edited myself more doing it this way, which I think has been to the benefit of the story.

A bunch of other recent things:

I found this photo, and was reminded once again of what a cool guy I was in High School (that’s me on the right, dressed as a “swashbuckling accountant”)

Also uncovered a lost diary, which reveals that the photo of my sister and I in New York City, which I put at the end of Freddie & Me, was taken only 19 days after we’d moved to America. When I wrote the book I couldn’t remember when the picture was taken, so I just labeled it “circa 1987″. When I create the “director’s cut” of the book, I’ll correct this. I’ll also include the information that on the following day, December 27th, I apparently went shopping all day, and all I got was some trousers and some glue, which I found to be “dead boring”.

My daughter drew this, and it made me laugh.

This fact seems more “alarming” than “fun”, right?

February 29, 2012

Troop 142 – earlier draft

Filed under: process,Troop 142 — Mike @ 8:00 am

This may be interesting to see all in one place: here’s an earlier draft of Troop 142, that I spent quite a lot of time on, drawing and inking, and then ultimately ended up almost completely scrapping. There are a one or two pages that I salvaged for the final book, and I published an excerpt from this in the Awesome II anthology. You’ll also see that lines of dialogue made their way into the final book, though in modified form.

It cuts off abruptly, because that was the moment I lost confidence in what I was doing, and decided to scrap everything to start over. I think a lot of the drawings in these pages are nice, but it was the right decision to toss it all in the trash and go back to the drawing board.

Some of the scenes worked well, I thought, such as Mr. DeMaria chewing out the two Davids in front of Alan, and I recreated those pretty close to the same in the final book. Other parts, like the heavy discussion about religion and free-will, felt clunky to me, and I axed them from the story (instead, now the boys have a very frank discussion about which way is the right way to wipe your butt).

I have even older versions of the story than this, including a very NSFW early-early draft from about the year 2000, which I will dig out and scan at some point.

August 5, 2011

Still working…

Filed under: comics,process — Mike @ 12:23 pm

Just so’s it doesn’t seem so much like I’m not posting drawings anymore, here’s a recent pic. I’m also still working on my Ain’t No Power comics, but taking a minute to step back and think about it some more. There’s something nice about diving straight into a new full-length story, but there’s also something appealing about catching my breath for a minute and taking some time to let the story develop.

It’s interesting – creating Troop 142 was such a rush. I’d gotten the story thought out enough in my head, that I was able to just power on through, writing and drawing the whole thing in a relatively short period of time. It’s made me realize how precious that sort of momentum is. It’s not easy to create. I don’t think it’s possible for me to operate at that level on a constant basis.

So, I’m figuring, Troop 142 is about to drop, maybe I should pause and try a couple of different things for a few months. I’m going to be doing a ton of traveling in the Fall, going to all sorts of cons. Maybe I should just enjoy the downtime.

May 25, 2011

TCJ Talkies – with Jessica Abel

Filed under: process,TCJ Talkies — Mike @ 10:28 am

I had a great conversation with Jessica Abel about writing, storytelling, and teaching comics, posted over at The Comics Journal.

We talked about a lot of interesting things, but one topic that stood out for me was the concept of “teaching” writing, and the prejudice out there against the idea. It seems like it’s more acceptable that the craft of drawing can be taught, but the craft of storytelling cannot. I get the sense, and can be guilty of this myself, that people think writing is more some “magical” thing that either someone can either do naturally or not at all.

I understand intellectually that there’s a difference between learning tools to write and having a “voice”. Presumably the voice is the part you can’t teach. Or, if you can, you can only help someone “find their voice”. I don’t know… obviously I don’t teach, so I don’t really have much first-hand experience. Either way, I was glad to get into this with Jessica and hear her ideas about this topic.

October 15, 2010

Drawing a Crowd

Filed under: process,Troop 142 — Mike @ 2:56 pm

I had a good time today drawing a very crowded picture of all of the scouts from all the troops up at Pinewood Forest gathering for a farewell campfire. For most of Troop 142, I’ve focused on a small group of Scouts from a single Troop, but occasionally I want to remind readers that there are a lot more kids up at the camp than just my main characters. Anyway, I used my phone camera to record some of the stages in my drawing.

Here’s a quick clip at the beginning:

Drawing some of the Scouts in the foreground:

More progress:

Drawing more Scouts, with embarrassing Meatloaf soundtrack:

Once I finished inking, I scanned it:

Here is is after I finished things up in Photoshop:

And here are a few details:

July 30, 2010

Troop 142 – Did you Wuss Out?

Filed under: press,process,Troop 142 — Mike @ 2:23 pm

Four new Troop 142 pages posted. I love the word “wuss”. Is it regional to the New York area, or is it widely used? I used it around my Scottish Uncle once, and always thought it was amusing how he pronounced it (woose, like “Moose”) with his thick accent.

In other news, Troop 142 #4 got a mixed-to-good write-up over at The Comics Reporter. Obviously I wish the review had been 100% totally positive, as Tom Spurgeon is one of my favorite writers about comics, but I’m still psyched to get to read his response to the book. And, he’s not wrong about some of the criticisms he made, especially that scene where the Dad’s discuss Scouts and atheism. It felt clumsy when I wrote it, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt totally confident about it.

Having wobbly scenes like this go out into the world is one of the big downsides to my approach to writing combined with how I’m releasing the pages (online and in print) as I finish them. I’m certainly look forward to the day I start editing/revising this thing as a whole.

June 5, 2010

My Kid Could Paint That

Filed under: process — Mike @ 11:53 am

Watched this movie last night. What starts off as a pretty interesting documentary about the relative value of art, sort of starts to devolve into a story about whether or not the little girl is actually the one painting the paintings, or if it’s a hoax. I give the filmmaker credit for including material showing his own inner conflict about pursuing the hoax storyline, and generally showing us that he wishes he could believe that it was all the little girl. There’s definitely food for thought there, but in the end I kind of wish that he’d chosen not to release his movie, since it became more about the mystery, and less about modern art. It’s just one more layer of scrutiny into this little girl’s life.

I was thinking though, that a more interesting question than simply “did the girl do the paintings?”, is the question of “why would it make the paintings any less valuable if they weren’t painted by a four year old?”. Whether or not she painted them, don’t the actual paintings themselves remain the same? What gives them value?

This does get addressed, I’ll admit. I just wish the film could have remained tightly focused in this way. One scene I really liked was when the gallery owner who sells the paintings, who is a photorealist painter himself, speaks of his own frustrations in an art world that deems his work, which takes him months, less valuable than an abstract painting which took far less time. Do we value art based on the hours that it took to create? Like an hourly rate? Or, is there no practical way to quantify what’s good and what’s bad?

May 28, 2010

Troop 142 – Wednesday Concludes!

Filed under: process,Troop 142 — Mike @ 12:21 pm

Four new Troop 142 pages posted, wrapping up the fourth chapter in the story, Wednesday. Three more to go…

This means the book is more than half-finished, which kind of helps me get over a mental hurdle, where before I couldn’t really see the end in sight, now I can. Obviously there’s a way to go, and I haven’t even thought about starting in on major edits, revisions, and additions to the story – but clearly real progress is being made.

I know that I’ve probably talked before about my writing process, but I want to stress that for me, there’s no other way to write except for the approach of completing each page as I go. I’m just not able to script or even thumbnail things ahead of time. It doesn’t work for me. The best I can do is make notes in the margins of the pages, and write down ideas on my iPhone when they occur to me outside of my studio. I do have an outline of the general story arc written down in a word doc, so I’m not flying completely blind – but that’s just very loose, and I keep changing things as I go.

The approach makes me nervous, because there are likely some ideas that get forgotten because I don’t write them down. And also, I know that many pages that get finished might get tossed in the end. This has definitely happened in the past.

I think the truth is that I’m only able to really write while I’m inking a page. I can spend those hours at the table, inking, and let my mind dwell on the story while it’s not distracted. If I was to sit at a computer trying to write a script, I’d keep stopping and checking my e-mail or playing Scrabble. If I was to try to do some thumbnails, I’d get frustrated that I was wasting valuable drawing time, where I could be getting a page done. I’ve tried these other approaches, and have never been successful. I used to feel self-conscious about it, but in the past year have just decided to embrace it.

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