Category: Recollection City

I made the series “Crafting a Story” to show how I make my webcomic “Recollection City” and some work in progress posts.

Crafting a story – You’re never ready, start!

This week I finally started sketching the pages of the prologue of Recollection City.

The reason for this specific blogpost is that I could have started sketching these pages earlier. but I fell into the trap of wanted everything to be “ready” before starting to draw the pages.

2015 09-22 CaS-start

I had been focusing on tying some loose ends together with the story and the structure of it. I was doing the homework of the course I’m doing, Oatley Academy Live. I made influence sheets, did new thumbnails, etc. And that’s all good, but last week I realized I was stalling the drawing.

I made “starting to make the pages” a milestone of sorts in my mind, so it became a bigger deal to start them.

I am someone who loves coming up with ideas, reworking a story, trying out new things without pressure and then I freeze up when anything definitive has to be put on a page. I also know that when I just start and get a move on, this feeling will pass quickly and I will be way more confident, cutting, pasting, erasing and changing stuff directly over my sketches.

But I didn’t start, I wanted to be better at perspective drawing than I currently am. I wanted to have everything designed, colour scripted, completely thumbnailed and explored compositionally.
The perspective drawing was holding me back especially, I was dreading looking at backgrounds being all clunky and awkward. Reminding myself of the fact that part of the reason I`m making this comic is that I will get better at comic making helped a bit. Still, I wanted the pages to be the best looking as they could. Which is why I didn`t start them. (Ironic, right?)

Designing everything beforehand will take a long time to do. Which is fine if you’re making a very short story. It’s even essential if you’re making a one image drawing or painting, which is a different form of storytelling and asks for a different approach. But when doing so many drawings for a story, carefully designing everything before ever making one page ensures you’ll not finish your long form comic in years to come.

I need to start making pages, I worked on the story long enough, I have CTNx coming up as a deadline to have something more to show than concepts, and most importantly, this comic needs to be made so I can put it online for you all to read.

There’s a reason that, in big movie productions, scenes will always be in various stages of development. It’s just inefficient to finish one stage of the process and let the other departments just sit around for a year, doing nothing. With making long comics, this is the same. I needed to realize this again.

Story, colour and getting better at drawing itself will always be part of the process, for the whole length of making this comic.

Keeping this in the front of my mind will hopefully free me up to not see every stage of comic making as a new step and a big deal, but see it as any part of the process. I hope it keeps me focused on reaching other kind of milestones, like finishing scenes or even chapters.

Of course things need planning and design. You need to know what clothes your characters will be wearing in a scene, you need to know which colours to pick when you’re colouring and for your most important panels you might get better results if you explore the many possibilities first.
But you can come up with a lot of these things during the process of making the pages themselves. And not everything is equally important too. A few fellow artists shared that for designing and thumbnailing for longer stories, they’d focus more on their most important panels and key moments and trust that their artistic ability would make sure that the rest looked good as well.

It’s an interesting discovery process of how much you need to prepare beforehand until you just need to say: for the sake of progress I need to call this “enough” and move a scene or page to the next stage. This is what I’ll be exploring in the coming weeks and I’ll keep you updated about that.

Thanks for reading!

Is there something in your life or a creative process right now that you put a mental obstacle in front of? Watch for things like “I will start this when…” If you want you can share about it in the comments. It might help you acknowledge that you need to get over the threshold and start doing something.

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Creafting a Story - Designing villains part 2

Crafting a Story – Designing villains part 2

Hello all, and welcome back to part two of the series about designing my villain characters for the Recollection City comic. If you missed part 1, you can go and read it here.
This week I`ll be focusing on how I designed Alaric, the guy with the brains behind the attack on my fantasy country of Tarina.

Creafting a Story - Designing villains part 2

Alaric is probably the most difficult character for me to get into the head of. He is a middle aged, bitter father, yet very smart and he makes it his life`s work to seek revenge on an entire country. The last bit is not exactly something I have very much sympathy for. But people like this exist, so it`s still a character that can feel real.

You`ve probably heard about the idea that people who do evil things usually often think that what they do is for the greater good. They are right in their own mind.
The story that is told in Alaric`s family over and over again to every new generation is that they were wrongfully banished from the country of Tarina. Feelings of being denied a better life and feelings of anger and resentment have a deep root in this family and they all feel like they have been treated wrongly. Add to this that this anger drowns out much of the love and tenderness of being in a healthy family and you have all kinds of problems.

Alaric, with his knowledge of technology and other sciences comes to the realization that he can use his inventions for “setting things right” and making a new life for the next generation of his family. He alienates people around him (he even left his wife because she was trying to get him to stop obsessing over the past) and drags his daughter with him in his plans. He actually thinks he`s doing Valeska a favour by “finally stopping the cycle of injustice.”

I hope this makes him dangerous enough since he is still operating from ideals and the idea of a better future. In a very twisted way, this is how he shows his love for his daughter.

He and Valeska are the opponents of Bern and his friends. So I tried to make Alaric, in his character and posture, someone who is contrasting with Bern.
Bern feels inadequate to be a leader. He`s dressed very commonly, likes to be amongst the citizens of his city. Alaric is the opposite of that. He is aristocratic, very focused on his “royalty” and qualities as a leader, cold, distant and rigid.

I tried to show that in his design and in the compositions. Here are some of the initial thumbnails I did:

Alaric thumbnails

For my story I need a younger and older version of him too. Here are some of the early try outs:


His face resembles that of Valeska of course. I really wanted them to feel like family of each other, so again, I used the sharp nose, chin and cheekbones. They also have the same mouth and squinty eyes.


Eventually, this is where the older Alaric (after the prologue) ended up:


Have you ever made villain characters? How did you get into their head? Who are your favourite villain characters from other stories and why? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

Thank you very much for reading this post! If you want, you can keep up with the progress on the comic on the Recollection City Facebook Page too. I post little updates and sketches there.
If you want to get notified on new content related to the comic you can subscribe to the Recollection City newsletter.
Or, if you would like to be updated on the blog in general, you can subscribe to the Pencils & Stories newsletter.
If you missed the link to “Designing Villains part 1” then you can read the post about Alaric`s daughter Valeska here.


Crafting a story – Designing villains part 1

Hello everyone, I hope you are all doing great!
I`m back with a new instalment of the Crafting a Story series. This time we are talking antagonists and I`ll focus on one of them: Valeska.


I never really liked coming up with “villains” in the past. They reminded me of animated characters singing about how evil they are. I`ve never really liked the two dimensional ones who are just evil because they like it. (Though even this can be done well, I do have examples of a few instances where I did love those villains)
For my own story I never quite knew where to take the antagonist forces, until I came up with an interesting sounding back story for them. Turns out, I even grew to like these characters.

My villain duo is a father and a daughter:



and Valeska:


Here`s the gist of their backstory: Alaric and Valeska are part of a family of former regents of the land of Tarina but their ancestors were banished from the country. A story full of anger and bitterness now runs through this family and Alaric, who is very intelligent, decides to finally “set things right.” In his long pursuit of this idea he drags his daughter along with him. Both are very smart and good with technology. They have an army of automatons (the forerunners of modern robots) at their disposal with which they attack Tarina.

Once I figured out the backstory I was good to go. I understood these characters better and even developed some sympathy for them. In the end it`s about their father and daughter relationship and how hate and bitterness gets in the way of all that is good in a family.

But how do you design villain characters?

My comic is a more realistic one when it comes to style. But still I wanted to get their character and their antagonistic nature in the comic across in their character designs.
I started thumbnailing the prologue, where the characters are 15 years younger and where the backstory is told. I went with the first images that popped up into my head. Valeska as a child was a very clear image and I pictured Alaric as a weird combination of 19th century scientists and aristocrat characters I remember from childhood series.

This was their starting point:

I will talk about Alaric in next week`s blogpost.

Grown up Valeska in my head was someone who had learned to ignore, and keep inside, all things that could be seen as weak. She is the one who is to practically execute her father`s plan so for years she has been trained to do just that. It has destroyed her empathy and all the plans she might have had for herself. She now only desperately wants her father`s approval and to see their family`s tragic cycle of bitterness to end. She grew cold and hard in both her face and her attitude. A little on the wild and crazy side when she gets on a controlling power rush.


Clothing is always fun too, especially since my comic is set in a fantasy version of the 19th century:


Valeska is doing the hard work during their “mission.” This is why she is wearing protective armour. It was tough to design, since I hardly ever drawn armour, but a lot of hours of research and looking for things that I found cool, but were still practical, later and I ended up with this:


One early morning I was walking to the train station and it was barely beginning to get light. A white building was in front of me, light blue now in the half-dark. It had very brownish and pale colours of yellow behind the windows. That was the exact colourscheme that would fit Valeska I thought. The cool, neutral and pale colours really reflected her aloofness and efforts to keep all emotions in. That`s what you see in the image down below in this post.

I really like this character. I hope she is a three dimensional one with a reason for why she does what she does. She even has some screen time all to herself so you`ll get to know her better then. She is already introduced in the comic`s prologue, which I`m working hard on right now so I have something to show at the next CTNx Expo. When the prologue is done I think I`ll post it online so you all know have a better idea what kind of story and art you`re waiting for. 🙂

In the meantime, you can follow the progress on the comic on the Recollection City Facebook Page. I might post more short ramblings and work in progress there.
Recollection City also has it`s own newsletter
for the people who are interested in the comic only. Or you can subscribe to the regular Pencils & Stories newsletter to receive news about new posts and my work in general (including the comic).


I hope you`ve enjoyed this post. let me know in the comments and have a great week!

Want to see more? Here are more posts about how I designed the other characters:
Designing Bern
Designing Max
Designing Ivory
Designing Robbie

Crafting a story – Lettering

Lately I’ve been making thumbnails for various scenes for the Recollection City prologue.
I have been doing tests for page layouts too to get a sense of the overall style of the comic pages. Now it’s time to look into the style of the text that goes into the word balloons. This is called “lettering.”

2015 02 fonts

Comic lettering generally follows certain rules and conventions. (Unless you deliberately want something different, but why reinvent the wheel, right?) Blambot has some great information on that.
You can use different fonts for things like onomatopoeias for example. Some people use different fonts for different characters or races. I’d advise people to use it sparingly and carefully though, it can get confusing really fast, or it’s so creative it becomes hard to read.

There are plenty of good comic fonts out there. Some free, and some not. To let a comic be completely created by yourself from start to finish, you can also letter your comic by hand. Doing this for every word balloon slows you down of course but it’ll give you the hand lettered feel of old comics. This is the most elaborate way to letter your comic.

For me this is way too time consuming. So, another thing you can do is make a font based on your own handwriting. Making a professional font with the right characteristics of a good design is time consuming and it requires expensive software and specific knowledge and experience to arrive at something good.

There are some websites out there though, which will help you make a very simple font of your own handwriting. For example: MyScriptFont, YourFonts and Fontifier.
I haven`t used them all, but so far I like really Myscript. I have seen people use the others with great results too though.

If you don’t like your own handwriting you could use that of someone else`s to still have a more hand lettered feel. Jason Brubaker released his own hand created fonts on Gumroad this week. He used it for Remind and made a really pretty one for his newest comic Sithrah.

I’m still debating if I want to use my own handwritten font, or a font from Comicraft I have that I really like, it’s clean and legible. I’ll experiment some more.

Question: do you make comics and how do you approach lettering?

In other news: do you want some inspiration for your new drawing or painting? Here is the link to the Creative Prompts masterlist. I added last week`s prompts.

On composition in comics

What’s typical for comics (and some other narrative art forms) is that you’ll be drawing the same characters, props and locations over and over again. For a lengthy scene in the same place it can be tricky to come up with nice, new compositions for each panel.

This is why I spend a few hours this week thumbnailing different compositions for certain scenes. Thumbnailing is, like I’ve mentioned before, a quick and simple way of trying out new composition ideas.


These are for a scene of dialogue on a balcony. Some of them may not make much sense to you sorry about that, I`m a messy sketcher. I kept the thumbnails small to keep the focus on bigger shapes and lines in the composition instead of going into detail. The black ink lines also helps me focus on the breaking up of the picture plane more instead of focusing on lines.

You’ll also notice that each thumbnail communicates a different idea and feeling through it`s composition.

I learned a lot again from this exercise, it even helped me refine the story and have more control on what exactly it is I want to say with a scene.
And I now have a few compositions lying around to draw from.

I’m now thumbnailing compositions for city scapes, since I’m not very experienced in drawing a lot if architecture. It’s given me some interesting new ideas for comic panels so far.

As before, I also added last week’s creative prompts to the master list. Go have a look to see if there’s some new ideas for you there. Maybe you can even use them in a comic.