Futureshocking week 4 Schedules and Perspective

This week I’d planned to talk scheduling, and techniques for working flat out.

The fact that I was late to arrive and that the Irish writers Centre didn’t open until later than it was supposed to is just one of those little things designed to show you man plans and god laughs.

Usually what happens – as I’ve done each week – is I have a topic in mind. I decide to do something slightly different, I ask a question and I get sent on a tangent.

So, the plan: talk schedule and pencils.

I’ve devised a system for scheduling that helps me work. And when I’ve slowed down it’s always coincided with me abandoning my system.

The first part of the system, is a monthly schedule (I’ve blogged on this before).

I have an entire year planned out, in a grid – every month has 25 boxes with each box representing a single page. In an ideal month I’ll do 25 pages – but I’m happy to settle for… well, whatever number of pages I’ve got to do that I, paid to draw.

Step one though is to decide what’s Realistic number of pages for you – I draw all the time, but I also look, after my kids, so, depending on school holidays I set my limits higher and lower. This is really about setting expectations and making sure you’re not discouraged if you don’t hit 25 pages. If you know if advance that you’re only gonna get five pages done (a perfectly decent amount if you have a day job) and you hit that it’s going to feel good. )

Every project gets a colour, and as I complete a page I mark it off the calendar. And I keep going, by the end of the year you have a complete record of the work you’ve done.

Part 2 of this system is to use the pomodoro technique – there are apps for this, but it boils down to using a 25 minute timer to do a task and once you do take a five minute break. Repeat four times, and then take a longer break before starting the cycle again.

The aim here is to concentrate on a single task in that 25 minute work period. You’ll be amazed at just how much time is wasted and how much you can do in 25 minutes.

It’s a pretty simple system, but using it, I’ve been able to hit 49 pages per month on occasion (I wouldn’t recommend it. Though as I happens, I enjoy doing more work rather than less. And I still had time for a bit of a life)

Covered a little bit about character design and silhouettes, and making sure that characters have distinct shapes – Overwatch (the video game) is a good example here, where the character’s traits are often a reflection of their physicality. But also this holds true if you’re designing spaceships or vehicles – if you have a large space battle between three warring alien species you want to be able to quickly read the shape of the ships.

The reason silhouette is so important is that we see the outline of things very quickly – and a good distinctive silhouette can scale up or down to any size and still be readable. This is true of characters and vehicles.

Sometimes it helps to start thinking of character silhouttes in terms of the basic shapes – square, circle, triangle, etc. And then the feel, soft, hard, flowy, etc. These can help unlock ideas.

We also talked about pencilling, though focused on some basics of persepective.

There’s plenty of great books on the subject and it’s too intense to cover in the short time I had, but I quickly covered the horizon line, one point perspective and using it as a way to draw crowds.

The horizon line is the distant horizon as seen from your eye level. If you look up or look down the horizon line doesn’t change – it stays at your eye level (even if your eye is looking up or down).

If you’re drawing crowds, and the crowd are all the same size as the viewer then every person standing on the same flat plane (ie the floor) will have the horizon intersect where their eyes are. This is a pretty powerful way to fool your eye into thinking you’re seeing in 3d.

The horizon in the panel basically tells the reader where they’re viewing the action from as well as their orientation – so a horizon that’s tilted – what’s known as a dutch angle – makes the reader feel off balance, and if you make everyone else react as though they’re off balance…

Well, now you’ve got the basis for a Klingon Bird of Prey attacking the Enterprise.

Moving the horizon up, places the reader higher up – as though they’re looking down on the action. Here, instead of using the eye level as a way to hang people off the horizon, we can use some other stable measurement – for example, the size of the persons head, and so, in this example, the people (who are all identical in size) are measured TWO heads below the horizon.

The same rules hold true for moving the horizon down, here you may find it easier to make the horizon intersect, for example, the bottom of an ankle, and draw everyone relative to that.

Other objects can be similarly placed, for example, a field of (in this example, badly drawn) horses..

(horses are a little more complex to place on the ground plane because, while you can think of humans, essentially as flat – 2d – horses have four legs which tends to benefit from thinking of their legs like a cube for placing on the plane)

edited to add: You can, of course, mix and match things on the horizon. As long as it’s consistent. So here, average sized human, a taller, hairy bear like alien and a small robot – the human is placed one head below the horizon, the bear-man the horizon intersects at this shoulders, and the tiny robot is measured using his height, so he’s one size below the horizon, placing multiple copies of them in the image is just then a simple job of placing the measurements and drawing them hanging from those measurements – I’ve added a very simple ground plane and some background to complete the illusion.


We also talked about story telling, and choregraphy of a battle – between three different armies, and using the travelling direction of each army seems like a cunning idea – one from the left, the next from the right, until you get the third, which you then realise needs a new angle (straight towards the reader in our example case).

We talked more stuff, about trying to get depth into a panel, so it feels immersive, but that’s as much as I can remember for now!

Author: PJ

PJ is a Belfast based comic artist, and has been for some time.