A Grelman process post!
I don’t often make long verbal descriptions of my process—mostly because I reinvent it every time I work and generally feel like I have no idea what I’m doing—but this time felt like I was being pretty straightforward and it might be a good one to share.
Apologies for a giant long post in your Tumblr feed.
First, I write the script. It starts with either an abstract idea (unused ideas: “Chance loses it” and “Chance doesn’t have a modern cellphone”) or more commonly an evocative phrase (“Man, what is my act even about any more”). Once I have that, I work out the beats and flow of the comic half in my head and half on paper. Usually there’s a push-pull with that; oftentimes it’ll take two sessions to get that stuff worked out. Between those I’ll go do something else and a lot of problems will solve themselves in-noggin.
Then the script goes to my iPhone for editing. I’m pretty verbose in writing (cf. this) and I’m still bad at designing images that accommodate speech bubbles, so this last step is for boiling off excess words—the less writing I have going on, the more space I have for the panel’s art.
I’ve heard a number of comedians mention going into autopilot during their act, and letting their mind wander while they perform their sets. Chance is no exception.
I’d put off doing my Grelman for a while, so I kinda went with my gut in terms of compositions didn’t do too too many sketches. Some of them, like the pattern one, I more or less had finished in my head and I just needed to figure it out physically. It should be noted that is a terrible way to design an image and it will usually end in tragedy for you 1, but in this case, things worked out! More or less.
For sketches, I generally go by Sam Bosma’s rule: once you find a thumbnail you like, keep thumbnailing until you find one you love.
With the big starred second panel, I realized that while I liked the front angle better than the back angle, I didn’t like how much the style’s weirdness was jumping between the second and third frame. The first sketch is still fairly naturalistic, and I felt the second frame had to get more stylized for a more natural flow into (what I considered to be) a less stylistically/traditionally-Grelman approach.
Final Sketch and Transfer
If I’m going to do physical inking (as I do for these comics) I’ll usually clean and specify them in Photoshop, then print them out again. Then I transfer the sketches from the printout onto a sheet of bristol using an old, semi-busted (but still perfectly functional) lightbox someone gave me in school.
Scott C came to RISD one time and suggested this process. Said he didn’t want to lose the energy that was in the original sketch by trying to recreate it on the final surface.
Those little “dtb” glyphs are for registration between the layers on the lightbox. Usually I just use an x—but I guess this time I was feeling flourish-y.
When I was a junior at RISD Seymour Chwast came to the Divine Comedy class I was in and talked with us about his process. Somebody asked him what kind of materials he uses, and he pulled a Pilot V Extra Fine pen out of his tweedy blazer’s inner breast pocket and said “this is all I use, you buy them at Target for about ten bucks a pack.” 2
That dude knows his pens, they’re incredible, they’re a joy to make marks with. They are also all I use 3 (though I don’t know if he uses a rollerball or the felt tip Razor Point ones like me (I could feel everyone getting antsy about me clearing that up (yall welcome))).
So the fine linework and all of the stippling were those. I also used some kind of fat Prismacolor-like (possibly actually prismacolor) marker—originally just for the Chance face lines in the last panel, but I ended up trying it out with good results for contour lines in the second one.
I started using the “fb” marks for places I wanted to be solid black while working on another comic. I don’t know if the technical term for that is like “flood black” or “fill black” or whatever but for me it’s “full black”. Which in retrospect is dumb, it’s not like I need to distinguish the amount of black (“mostly black” “somewhat black” “I dunno, kind of black, but it could go either way”).
Coloring and Text
On linearty stuff I almost always do a Threshold filter in Photoshop to turn everything into black and white pixels. With that, you can just select the white stuff, move it onto a new layer, and bucket-fill the areas you want to color. Clean and easy, no weird anti-aliasing or feathering to worry about. And if you need to mask anything off, it’s much easier too.
I made all the speech bubbles and text in Photoshop with the pencil tool, even though I hate doing any kind of lettering with my Intuos. Just feels gross and weird. But it would have been more of an ordeal to lay out the text physically on tracing paper or whatever, so I bit the bullet and did it like this.
Originally in the final panel Chance’s face was going to be his skin tone, but it made the panel too dark. So we got this weird evocative arty color instead.
Anyway cool that’s how I did the thing bye guys love you