Thursday, November 14, 2013

what I learnt about making comics from the ETHERINGTON BROTHERS

From left: Lorenzo, Robin and me

Hello there!

Last Sunday, as part of the Singapore Writers Festival, I attended a special workshop on drawing comics. (Check out my earlier report here.) It was conducted by the super awesome Etherington Brothers from the UK. They're known for a whole string of fantastic comic books, such as Baggage and Monkey Nuts. You can check out more of their work on their website here.

Let me just say that NOTHING beats being in the same room with Robin and Lorenzo, and learning directly from them. They're incredibly funny, helpful and fast with suggestions on how to improve your art and story ideas. If you get a chance to hear them speak, or attend one of their sessions, you should definitely go for it. It's an experience to remember!

But meanwhile, I promised to share something about what I learnt from them, and here it is. It's a story idea I worked on at their workshop. We only had a few minutes to think up something, so it's not fantastic, but it does illustrate the main points. Here we go!

Start by creating a remarkable character. First you pick a character type (girl? boy? animal? alien?), and then you give this person the most boring, unsuitable, painful occupation you can think of for him or her. Finally, choose a hobby for this character, some activity that this person is absolutely passionate about. And there you have it! A character with both something to dread, as well as something to look forward to.

This is the character I came up with. His name is Bookworm! :-)  

Draft out a short story or funny scenario around your character, using thumbnail sketches. This is also a good time to plan your comics page, to see how you'd like to arrange your panels in order to tell your story better. 

My story idea (refer to the thumbnail below): 

Top panel: Bookworm is at work in the vast Valhalla Library, when he discovers that Thor's book is overdue.

Middle row: Bookworm tells his two disappointed friends (Comicworm and Gamergirl) that he can't play hide and seek with them, because he has a job to do. Then Bookworm goes to see Thor, who is enjoying a warm soak in his bathtub. Thor is most unhelpful and yells something rude at Bookworm.

Bottom row: Bookworm is most annoyed. But as he walks away, he has a naughty idea! Last panel: Bookworm and his friends are hiding in the Great Garden of Valhalla. Bookworm has taken Thor's hammer! Now Thor has to search for them. The cheeky Bookworm and his friends get to play hide and seek after all! 
Think of ways to pump up your key panel. This would be the one panel on your page that conveys the most exciting action, or it could be a panel with a big plot twist, or where the momentum of your story changes. You need just one really captivating key panel on every page, and it's worth spending time to make sure this panel stands out from the others. 

I picked the last panel of my story, where Thor realises that he has to go search for his hammer. You can see Bookworm and his two friends hiding in the garden. We didn't have much time to complete our artwork, so what you see here is just a more detailed thumbnail that I did.

There you have it! The essence of what I managed to learn during this exciting workshop with the Etherington Brothers. As you can see from my sketches above, my drawings have lots of room for improvement. Which is why I've been collaborating with my two sons, the Bosco Brothers, for our book covers and illustrations, heh. They practise a lot, and their work keeps getting better every day. Do look out for our new Super Cool Books titles, coming out soon.

If you'd like to learn more about writing your own stories, you can also check out School of Magical Stories (ebook or on our iPad app), which explains how I create stories for Super Cool Books.

Take care, enjoy drawing your own stories, and have a good weekend!