Jenn Manley Lee


I got better

One of the things that have been keeping me busy lately on top of everything else has been prepping art for a new Steven Withrow book, who's two previous books, Toon Art: The Graphic Art of Digital Cartooning and Webcomics: Tools and Techniques for Digital Cartooning with John Barber I also contributed to. This one's about Character Design for Graphic Novels and will be co-written by Alexander Danner.

It's actually Alexander that I've been communicating with the most about this and he's the one that's been putting through most of the image requests. Now, any image just about any image request will require some time so I can review it and make sure it's good to go--just about every page that I post goes up with the understanding that it needs more work, usually just an hour or so, but sometimes more, much more.

I've been terribly amused with Alexander's selections, they seem to fall into two camps, either "I was always very pleased with that panel" or "wow, that needs a lot of work." Below is the most extreme example of the second camp, original on the left (or top), revised on the right (or bottom):

"Forest for the Trees" was an intensely frustrating chapter for me in many respects, one of the biggest was how much trouble I was having with drawing and writing Rande and Grae, which since they've been with me as long as Molly and Griffen was intensely maddening. I learned a lot during it, sure. But, beyond all my other troubles with it, I went through two periods where I suddenly just couldn't draw. Seriously, look above. Though I have improved tremendously as an artist in the past two and half years, I could draw better than that in 2003. The page this panel is from was real painful for me; I knew I was going to redraw it even as I put it up. Of the ten pages of material I have slated to redraw in the first 150 pages Dicebox, about eight of that is in Chapter 3.

The panel above was the most extreme, usually what I mean by a lot of work (well, maybe only a good amount) is the example below:

Minor line re-work all in the computer, the biggest part of the work was revamping the color rendering, I really screwed up this scene in contrast and shadows but needed some distance to see just how and where.

I look on what I post every week as a very final draft, subject to revisions and re-writing. I figure I have the same prerogative as novelists, film makers and other artists, while at the same time if I tried to produce all of Dicebox before releasing it, it's never get done. Besides, getting reactions to the story as it progresses is very valuable. Story and plot won't changed, like I said, final draft, though I have and will do some rewriting, adjusting dialogue and speech patterns. There is an exchange or two I will totally rewrite and I might add a scene back into the monster of a Chapter 3. It was one between just Rande and Grae that I couldn't make work then but I do believe I could now. It helps that I'm so much better at drawing them.