Friday, October 23, 2015

No Character Design Sheets!

Is it okay to break the rules?

Well it's not really a rule, but having character sheets is an important part of the comic making process. At least traditionally. Having a character sheet makes so much sense. It's the way to make sure that a character's continuity is maintained from page to page. It's useful, practical, professional, and...

It doesn't work for me. It's hard to admit, but for me, character sheets predict the failure of a comic and how soon I'll lose the motivation to create it. I find myself having to decide between either having a nice set of character sheets and no comic, or minimal (or zero) character sheets and a comic that I can't stop drawing. I'm totally going for the second option.

Mascara had extremely minimal character sheets. There were no full body sketches, just the head of each character in front, side, and quarter views. I drew it in an hour. Then I started on pages. Mascara does have continuity issues, and I blamed that on not having good character sheets.

Looking back I see that I was growing as an artist, so even if I did have good character sheets, my style was going to change because I was improving. For Mascara, continuity was not going to happen. The characters were going to look different from chapter to chapter because I was getting better.

While working on Mascara I also made Couture. Couture had very minimal character sheets. I did add one full body sketch, but that's as detailed as it got. The way I drew the characters in that story didn't change although the character sheets were basic. It also helped that the story was short.

After finishing Mascara, I had all kinds of ideas for new comics to make. I drew detailed character sheets, but I didn't feel motivated to continue the stories. I did create Wings, and that story had detailed character sheets.  However, drawing the pages was difficult. I was slogging through it.

When Wings was done, I moved on to a story that I now call Lovely Riot. Well, I've created all kinds of character sheets for that one, over and over... And I changed the title a few times too. I thought that I loved the story. I wrote the script for the first few chapters and planned it from beginning to end. The problem came when I started trying to draw it. I barely had the motivation to get out three pages.

These are all sketches of the same character. The more I tried to create character sheets, the less I could decide on what I wanted!:

I realized that having a story I wanted to draw didn't mean that I would draw it. 

Near the end of last month, I got an idea for a new comic. I immediately drew the cover for it, and when I finished, I knew I was in love. I planned the plot, and started the script for the first chapter.

Right now, I'm about eight pages in, and I get more excited with each page that I create. As for character sheets...ummm...there aren't any.

The way I check continuity is to look back at previous pages, and fix what does not match.

I'm not saying the comic artists should ditch character design sheets. What I'm saying that the process of creating is very personal, and sometimes what's typically done doesn't work well for everyone. It's okay to break the traditional process sometimes.

I'm not sure what it is about character sheets that leads to failure for me, but I do know that I get more done without them.