Six weeks. That’s how long it took me to get step one done on my web comic. Hmmm… maybe it wasn’t really step one; maybe it was step one in the drawing of it. Either way it was a tough step.

What this step included was character design and and character illustration. I decided to take a whole different approach to drawing a strip than is normal for a comic. I don’t have the time to draw a daily strip so I’m going with a different approach. A cut, paste, and manipulate approach.

I started with the characters faces. I drew six different views of a character’s face, scanned them in, and colored each of the faces in Illustrator. I then drew three different poses for said character, scanned them in, and colored each in Illustrator. I then put each head variation on each body variation. I did this for four characters. That’s a lot of heads and bodies to draw, color, and bring together.

To help with the construction of the eventual strip I had to pay special attention to characters’ eyes and mouths. I made these separate from the faces so that I could manipulate them when putting together a strip. I can change the expression on the characters’ faces by changing the mouths and eyes a bit. I don’t want to endlessly draw each character’s face over and over for each new strip. I couldn’t do it. At least not for free.

Having the characters look at each other as they interact in the strip is important so I constructed the eyes in such a way as to be able to change the way the eyeball is looking. This took some more time but will save time in the future. That’s what this was all about. Saving me time in the future.

It was tough sledding though. I’m not a fan of character design and working on only the nuts and bolts of the strip with no finished product in sight was hard for me. One of the reasons I like making art is because I like to finish things. Finishing a piece is often the most satisfying part and slogging through all the stuff you have to do to get to finish something is what stops most people from ever finishing anything.

After I finished the first two characters I almost gave up and threw in the towel. My strip is about conversation and is mostly talking heads so visually it’s tough to do something interesting. I grabbed a few of the strips I had written and tried to use my two finished characters to make the dialogue come to life. I couldn’t. It looked awful. All of the variation I had drawn into the characters was negated by the sameness of each panel.

I was frustrated and nearly gave up at this point but I left things for a few hours and then came back to it to try again. I abandoned my ideas of literal storytelling with the pictures and concentrated on making the strip look good. I varied the sizes and positions of my two speakers with no regard for how they were literally moving around on the stage. The dialogue was literal enough without the staging having to be so too. I put together a couple of strips with looser staging.

That seemed to pull things together for me. That and changing the characters’ expressions a bit more. It took me weeks to get those two characters finished so seeing a couple of strips nearly finished and generally to my liking gave me the motivation I needed to get the other two characters done. Two men and two women. They have no names yet. And so far the men have on weird masks and the women weird hats. That makes things more interesting for me.

The best character I designed was the last one. That’s because I built her in Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is a vector graphics program which uses points to make a line (sorta like connect the dots). When I scan my art and bring it into Illustrator it uses thousands of points to make the lines in my artwork.

The same line that Illustrator’s “Autotracing” makes with twenty points an actual person can make with two. So I made a character’s head with the minimal number of points I could. That’s cool because now I can use that basic head and manipulate a few points to make a new character. Wider jaw – shift these two points, bump in the nose – shift this point, and on and on. Once again this is all about saving work in the future.

Now I’m tired of working so much now to save me work in the future. The characters are well under way and I can start finishing some strips. I still have no idea what it’s called or where I’m going to post it but I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them. Right now I want to finish a couple of paintings and then a couple of strips. I haven’t gotten to finish anything is six weeks and that is fatiguing.