Sketching a scene

Norm, Cate and I met up a few weeks ago to discuss the scene where Josh meets the bullies. We needed a new approach to the scene,  as the old way wasn’t working.

We sat in a cafe and threw some ideas around; in the end, we’d come up with this.

new bullies scene ideas

Doesn’t look like much, I’m sure- let me zoom in a bit…new bullies scene first thumbnails

The idea was to have a number of tall panels with a continuous background, and different scenes playing out at different times.

Continue reading “Sketching a scene”

How text and pictures interact (and sometimes don’t)

After finishing all the pencils outlines for the book, Norm and Cate and I stumbled on a problem.

One of the most important scenes in the book wasn’t working. We couldn’t decide if it needed text or not, and when we tried to add text it wouldn’t fit.

Here’s the draft version of the sequence- it’s where Josh meets the bullies for the first time.

pg14 - pg15, draft with colour
pg14 - pg15, draft with colour (click to enlarge)

There’s no text. The pictures can hold their own, mostly- there are some problems though. It’s a little hard to read in between the panels. The fact that each panel is the same viewpoint gives the sequence a plodding feel- there’s no excitement. It would have been great to have the bully skateboarding in from left to right (the same direction as we read words)… but then he would have to reappear from the right and chase Josh towards the left, which would look odd.

Norm thought some text would help, so we tried it as another option. You can see Norm’s love of Westerns in his choice of words (…in an earlier draft we had a town hall clock off in the distance showing the time as High Noon).

pg14 - pg15, draft with extra words (click to enlarge)
pg14 - pg15, draft with extra words (click to enlarge)

I felt that the division of the panels, coupled with short snippets of text, gave the sequence a plodding feel. It’s a little like watching a silent film, where the text and pictures are divided. The actors move, then a slide with the dialogue comes up.

I did the final version of the pencils anyway, hoping that we’d come up with a solution. Norm and Cate worked on some shorter text.

pg14 - pg15, final pencils with shorter words (click to enlarge)
pg14 - pg15, final pencils with shorter words (click to enlarge)

We still weren’t happy with it- it was too hard to tell who was saying what, and was even more plodding.

Time for another try. We cut out the text entirely, and grabbed a bit of Odin’s dialogue from the previous page instead. It seemed to fit the images better. However, it was a bit hard to tell that it was Odin speaking when he wasn’t on the page.

pg14 - pg15, final pencils with Odin text (click to enlarge)
pg14 - pg15, final pencils with Odin text (click to enlarge)

A font change made it a bit clearer (…we’d like to have the Norse Gods speaking in a different font throughout the book if possible).

pg14 - pg15, final pencils with Odin text in different font (click to enlarge)
pg14 - pg15, final pencils with Odin text in different font (click to enlarge)

I still wasn’t happy with the images- they weren’t dramatic enough. This is the crux of the book, this is what makes Josh go off on his adventures. The bullies have to be mean enough to set the story in motion- and the meaner they are now, the sweeter Josh’s victory will be at the end.

So. It was back to the drawing board for me. I met with Norm and Cate and we sketched a new sequence of images. I’ll show you some next week.

How to Draw Bullies

There’s a bunch of bullies in the book that badmouth and boss and generally behave like bumheads.

In the original storyboard Norm and I had the idea to make them faceless and shadowy, shown only in silhouette until the final pages. If you can’t see their faces they become creepier… the reader can add whatever face they want to the bullies. We thought this would be clever.

When we saw it as a picture, it wasn’t clever.

Here’s one version of the faceless bullies (with an early version of Norm’s text):


One problem with making them faceless is that you can’t quite tell how old they are. They’re supposed to be around Josh’s age, maybe slightly older and bigger- but here they look like teenagers.

It’s a good viewpoint, but it’s too terrifying, particularly when their age is unspecified. And the obvious threat of physical abuse is not appropriate for a children’s book.

The original was worse-


Here you can’t tell how old they are at all. They could be 30. Horrible. It needed to change.

Now, the bullies are shown for what they are- nasty little boys. The sequence below is from the colour roughs.


Wolverine was fun to draw in this sequence. He could finally show some expressions other than very happy and happy.

(Norm and Cate are still negotiating over the text for this sequence, so I’ve left it out. You’ll get to read it in the final book.)