GONZO: Thumbnails into pencils

Hello all! I’m Anthony, the artist on the upcoming GONZO: a Graphic biography of Hunter S. Thompson with writer Will Bingley, and I would like to share a few, small tidbits about my process with you today. This is actually my second post – the first showing a transition from pencils to inks can be found here. My reasoning behind deciding to show that one before today’s, which describes a transition from thumbnails to pencils, was purely an aesthetic choice. So I apologise to any chronological fusspots out there in Internetia. Cool?

And thus… the genesis of my page begins upon receiving the latest batch of script from Will. Always a pleasure to read, I scribble and doodle ideas and initial page layouts in the margins on a second read through. These can be barely legible to anyone but me, but it is a shorthand for my eyes only that I use for speed and brevity.

The image on Flickr

The next stage is to take these sketches and translate them onto pre-printed thumbnail templates of about just under 3 x 5″, which are arranged as double spreads. It’s at this VERY important stage that I work out my storytelling and pacing for a sequence of pages, and along with that individual page/panel design and composition. I even scribble dialogue/caption placements into these, which to me are an integral part of composing the pages, the language of comics being the marriage of word and picture. These finished thumbnails, again not the prettiest of things, are my map. They are the foundation of everything that comes next. They are also useful for spotting any problems that may not have been evident at script stage. You get the idea of how crucial they are.

Next up, we move to the pencil stage, which for my work is the rough stage. Here I take the thumbnails as a guide and calculate exactly the amount of space to give over to each panel based upon firstly narrative importance and what we want to do in terms of pacing, but then also taking into consideration what is to be depicted within the panel, and very importantly how much physical space should be made for any text. As you can see, I actually letter in the dialogue in order to perfectly calculate the required space. But then, I have control freak issues. I also very much enjoy playing with sound effects which are very much part of the comics language. The trick is to be selective in your use of sound effects, saving them for narrative reasons or to create mood. Finally, you might notice that my pencils aren’t the neatest of examples, the reason being that I like to keep them loose so as to still “create” at the inking stage. That said I still go pretty tight on faces, hands, detail shots and wherever else necessary.

Now if you would like to open this link in a new tab please, you can see my previous post showing a transition from pencils to ink. Not a huge amount to say here except that I ink onto bristol board using trusty old indian ink, watered down for more control. I use pens for panel borders and sound effects and some inorganic details, and try to use brush for most all else, as it really brings the pages to life. This for me is the really fun bit!

So to finish, what I guess we can take away from the above is that the trick to comics, like with most things, lies in the planning. Prepare well, laying firm foundations at the start, and you make your life easier as you move through the various processes towards the finished page. However, we aren’t finished yet! This is a black and white and GREY book! In my next post I’ll share with you a transition from ink to greytoned/lettered, the final finished product.

Till then, please feel free to check out my art blog for some examples of finished colour pages by me.

Take care, byeee!

[Ed – GONZO: A graphic biography of Hunter S. Thompson is available to pre-order from Amazon for £11.24 via our store under the category of 'Graphic Biographies']

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