How much can I get done in 3 weeks?
Turns out the answer is: "a lot."
Hello from Castrum Lusitania, my fortress in northern Portugal. Welcome to another edition of our weekly newsletter.
As you can guess from the title, I managed to get a lot done in the first 3 weeks of this year (I’m being exact because I’m writing this on the 21st of January). As I wrote in the previous newsletter, usually nothing really ends on 31st of December or begins on the 1st of January. Circumstances (finishing a batch of pages in the last day of the previous year) simply made it easier to keep track of how much I did since the new year began. And I was pleasantly surprised.
So I thought it would be interesting to go through the process and break down why so much got done.
Pencils, pencils and some more pencils
Of the three weeks of 2023 we already got behind us, roughly two of them were spent penciling Phenomena pages. 24 of them.
After spending a few days reading the script and doing layouts (see more here) I begun penciling the pages. I usually aim at doing at least 10 per week, but the content of what I’m actually drawing allows for some variation. And it is during the penciling stage that said variation can be bigger.
Several things contribute to that. The basic fact is that I only pencil what needs to be penciled. Meaning, everything that needs to be in a specific place and well rounded so I don’t screw up things when inking. Whatever I can get away with as I pencil, I do, as it is simply a practical step that the reader won’t see.
As an example, if there is a lot of action in those pages, I’ll go through them much quicker than other types of pages. That’s because there will be a lot of speed lines - which are simply annotated in pencils and only really drawn with a ruler in the inking phase. And with speed lines, often comes the absence of backgrounds, which is ALWAYS the most time consuming thing to draw.
And these 24 pages have two big action sequences that allowed me to pick up some serious speed. Here’s a panel I’m particularly found of with speed lines roughly penciled in. Notice also how Spike’s body pose and head or the monster’s face are much more neatly finished than other bits:
Despite some quick pages, there are enough establishing shots in this batch. These take longer to pencil than to ink, usually because of its complex process, like drawing grids and the constant use of references.
Here’s the process on one of those panels: The first scene I’m working on takes place near the big London Eye (I went literal on this one). Brian enjoyed it so much when he first saw it that he wanted to do something set in its vicinity. For a panel like this, I went to Google Earth, used the 3D model of the city and played with the camera until I got the angle I want. Then, after laying down the horizon and grid, I drew what I saw there, super imposing all the Phenomena-ness over it. I apply this process to any location that is a part of the real world (London here, Toronto on Book 1), using a combination of preliminary design work, improvisation in the layouts or pencils stage or previous pages that already showed the place. In this specific case, I use my own spread as reference to what goes where in terms of Phenomena additions to the real world London.
Seeing places from different angles is something I really like to explore. It allows me to give the reader a sense of dimension, scale, relation between objects and characters, draw different levels of detail depending on the zoom - basically, really flesh out the worlds I’m creating. And in this scene we get to take a good look at that Eye in more than one occasion, like you can see below:
The rest of the pages have a lot more action and some sweet dialogue bits. One of them takes place before everything explodes (literally and figuratively). It’s really cool and expands Spike as a character. Of all of the things and people I got to create in Phenomena, Spike is my favorite to draw. Nothing beats drawing his face up-close.
I also got a really big double establishing shot but it was much faster than the London one. I’d say it took me little more than the first establishing shot shown above, which is only 1/3 of a page. I can’t show you that one yet, but the more organic nature of the designs I did means it takes a lot less time to draw than an ordinary city, with its straight lines.
And that’s how I drew 24 pages in less than 2 weeks - which prompted my wife to tell me: “If you had no daughters you’d draw 100 pages per week.”
When it comes to inking, things vary much less, though. All those speed lines eat a lot of time, so I won’t be able to ink as fast as that. But that’s a matter for the next week.
What else happened
I also wrote a script thing for a thing that we’ll discuss one day, but that shall remain wrapped in mystery for now. It’s part of something that I’ve been working on and off for a few months now, so it all quickly fell into place. I was going to write an overview but I found myself with the script half written. And when you catch a wave, you better ride it.
I also broke some ground on another idea - that I also can’t talk about. I know, it’s not right to leave like this, but in the future when I write about it and link to this newsletter, you’ll know you’ve been here for the whole journey. Which I appreciate very much.
Since I got a bit ahead of my own schedule, I’ll be going through some of the many open tabs on my laptop today and tomorrow - something I’ve been putting off for a few weeks (months?) by now. My Safari looks ridiculous. A lot of them are things that caught my attention (new artists I found, movies, books) that I need to see how/if I can use and on what. There are also YouTube videos that require full attention, meaning I can’t watch them while I draw (usually this means Japanese stuff) and interesting articles I want to read. Those worthy will be shared on the next newsletter.
We’ll talk again soon!
Thanks for reading CASTRUM LUSITANIA! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
There's something absofrigginlutely magical about seeing the structure underneath the masterpiece! I LOVE this stuff!👍🏾🔥👏🏾