A small triumph, but a milestone for me. I've completed the line art for The Book of Esther, my 26 page humorous graphic novel adaptation of the Bible story, for Bible Society. It's taken a lot longer than it would have taken had I been working on it exclusively, but squeezed in between Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, Socks gigs, and other jobs with tighter deadlines, I've got the 26 pages pencilled, inked, lettered, and collated as flat line art pages, and sent to my publisher for approval at last.
It's become something of a labour of love, and I really have strived to make the art as good as I can. I know my limitations, and I have to play up to my natural comedic style and treat it as a virtue, but I think I've made this a pleasure to read. Of course I still have the colouring to do, and I've proven very good at making that job take longer than it really ought. But if I can get that done by Christmas I'll be delighted.
The script was commissioned a whole year ago, just before Christmas, and I got it written and delivered in March. I then had a little wait to have it approved and get the go ahead to draw it. My plan for August, while up in Edinburgh doing the Socks every night, was that, instead of doing classes in the day and knackering my voice, I'd draw the Esther strip instead. With that plan well thought through, I took my portfolio and a fresh pad of Bristol Board to Scotland with me.
And I returned a month later with the portfolio unopened. Of course. I should have known I can never do anything but promote my show when I'm in Edinburgh. What was I thinking?
I began pencilling Esther in September, interrupting it to turn around the 4 page Feeding Of The 5000 in October, and some time towards the end of October I finished pencilling the lot. I inked all 26 pages in fits and starts through November, and finished inking the final page on Monday (Dec 5th). I then managed to take two whole days to scan the art and assemble the Photoshop pages, relaying the voice bubbles to fit, cutting and pasting the various step-and-repeats that appear in the strip, spotting in the blacks, and cleaning up the bits that needed it. Voila, we have a black and white fully lettered comic book.
How long's it really taken? When there's nothing else on my desk (like it used to be back in the day, when Mark and I shared a studio in the 90s) I'm pencilling three pages in a day and inking at the same rate. (Realistically it's been a page getting pencilled after a day of booking Socks gigs, and a page getting inked after days spent adding up receipts for my accounts, etc). The script was produced slightly faster, from notes to layout in about a week. So, spread out as it was, these 26 pages represent approximately 26 days solid work. Which, if it weren't for the colouring still to do, would be exactly how it should be. (That is to say, that's what I quoted for, so I'm actually earning the right amount of money doing this. Well done me.)
I'm hoping to do more along this line in 2017. Fingers crossed.
Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here.