A few days ago at about 5:30 in the morning I reached the second major milestone in the creation of the Vampress Luxura: Sword of the Apocalypse graphic novel. I am very happy to report that all of the thumbnails for the entire 660 pages have been completed!
Thumbnail sketches for all 20 chapters of the Luxura Graphic Novel.
The thumbnails which are also referred to as layouts are rough sketches of what will eventually be illustrated in each panel and on each page. The purpose of a thumbnail is to create a preliminary image that tells the written story. This image is used as a guide prior to creating the final artwork.In the movie industry these are called story boards. They are essential in transforming the written story from words into pictures. An artist must read the script and then devise the best way of conveying the action, emotion and setting of the characters and the story.
Character and setting guides for the first two chapters
Before drawing the thumbnails, the first thing I did was to determine which characters are in the chapter, where they are and what exactly they are wearing. Where a person is, usually determines what clothing or costume they have on. If Luxura is in her lair she would most likely be dressed more comfortably as opposed to if she was in the Sistine Chapel, which is where the story opens. The setting is of primary importance. Every setting should have a meaning to the story as well as to the characters. It also helps the story when you establish where each character is standing and or moving within the scene. This is done to add more credibility to what is going on. The goal of a good story is to suspend the disbelief of the reader. By putting just a little more thought and preparation into the who, when and where of your story, it will help the reader become concerned with the why and how.
With the characters, costumes and settings established, I then went about the process of telling the written story with pictures. One of the unique aspects of doing this for comics and graphic novels is that you also have to make accommodation within the artwork for the word balloons and story narrations. When I was a student in Will Eisners sequential art class, Will would instruct us that when we are doing our thumbnails or page layouts, we should also draw the word balloons. I decided to take this advice one step further and place the actually text into each and every panel.
Putting the actual dialogue that the characters are speaking in each panel helped me more accurately determining how much space I could devote to the art. It also allowed me to make sure that I placed the characters in the right positions as far as which of them is speaking first is concerned. Often in comics Ive seen instances where the characters were drawn in the wrong place and the letterer had to compensate for that mistake with some creative word balloon placement. One of the major goals that I have for this comic is ease of reading. I want the persons experience of reading my comic to be completely effortless. That way they can more easily engage with the story and the characters.
A panel from the thumbnails with the text included.
Placing the dialogue directly into each thumbnail panel really added value to the comic creation process. For the first time since starting this project, I am actually able to read and see the entire novel and get a true feel of how the story flows and the emotional impact of the characters. It also helped me to refine the original story and make it even better. Some things that worked when they were in written form just did not translate well when they were turned into pictures and adjustments had to be made.
The actual thumbnails are extremely rough and in some cases a bit sloppy. They are by no means some of my better art. This is because while doing the thumbnails my main and only goal was strong and effective story telling. Making the art look good will come when I get to creating the actual pages. But at this stage the most important thing that I wanted to accomplish was strong, effective and clear story telling. After reading over the novel in the thumbnail form, I am even more excited now than ever to get to the next phase.
Now that all the thumbnails are complete, the next step is to shoot all of the photo reference. I will be using live models for all of the main characters as well as props, scale models and costumes. The purpose of this is to achieve a greater sense of realism especially for use in the coloring. Ive used models in the past and have found that when an actual person depicts a character, they add a lifelike quality that only a real human being can convey. So If you or someone you know are interested in having your likeness appear in my Graphic Novel keep an eye out for when I start the Vampress Luxura Graphic Novel Casting Call.
Until then, please remember…
Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right
- Henry Ford.