Howdy Hootie fans. This post comes to you from scenic Conway, NH where I am on a little tour of New England with my mom & her husband. It’s early and nobody is up yet, so I’m at the kitchen table in a lovely old farm house having a coffee and writing this post.
We’re coming up on two years of Hootie Comics, and I feel like I’ve really gotten over a hump with my drawings. I’m not struggling so much anymore, and I’m able to get what I want. Dave Sim of Cerebus fame says you have 1000 bad pages in you, and you have to get them out. In my case, it was closer to 100. But the only reason it was even that many is because it took me too long to realize some things. Here’s what I learned, and I think it’s generally good advice for any undertaking.
Don’t skip steps
I tend to record new Hootie ideas as little thumbnail scribbles, rather than written text, because the gags in Hootie are mostly visual. Then I would try to go directly from these to the finished pencils. Big mistake, because the pencils would usually not come out how I wanted them. So I inserted an additional step in between, where I do what I call a “layout”. This means rough-drawing the strip using simple shapes like a child’s blocks. In the layouts I work out frame composition and shadow placement:
Be a perfectionist. Erase more.
I read an interview with Tanino Liberatore where he said something like, “For me, the drawing hasn’t begun until I start to erase.” And I thought, if a guy who draws that well says something like that, I’m not erasing nearly enough.
I had this weird reluctance to erase things that didn’t come out quite the way I wanted, partly out of laziness, partly out of fear that the attempt to fix it would be even worse. Be picky about what you want and use your eraser. You don’t have to erase all the way, you can stop erasing when the old image is still faintly visible. That way, you can use it as a guide.
If you’re not sure, work it out in pencil
Don’t leave surprises for the inking stage. If you’ve done it 100 times before and you know what to do, fine, but if you’re not sure, pencil it.
That’s all, folks. Now back to the sketchbook.