|The Process of CHEW.
By Rob Guillory
When writer John Layman approached me to draw CHEW, a comic whose protagonist is a psychic cop who gets visions based on what he eats, I knew Iíd be drawing some really crazy shit. Turns out I was right. Every new script Iíve gotten from John has been one pile of insane on top of another, and I love it. John always throws something new and bold at me that stretches my artistic vocabulary. Besides that, itís just plain fun to draw.
First off, I feel it necessary to note that I am pretty anal about every step of my process and am constantly looking for new ways to optimize efficiency. The process Iím presenting here is the bare-bones gist of what I do for every page, but it is always subject to change as the situation calls for it. Flexibility comes first, of course.
Below is a page of script from CHEW #1 (debuting in June). The first step is to read the script, obviously. I typically read the script three times or so, using the first couple passes to familiarize myself with every page and to begin to visualize how each will look. The next pass is a hands-on pass, where I write directly on the script, making notes to myself about panel size and dialogue spacing. In this case, youíll note that next to each panel Iíve jotted down general notes about each. I approach each page as a jigsaw puzzle, looking to find the right combination of space usage and aesthetic goodness. At the top corner, youíll note a rough thumbnail of panel arrangement.
From here, I work up a more polished thumbnail, just working it all out on paper. For me, Iíll say a good tight thumbnail works out about 95 percent of any layout problems that I ever have. Thatís why Iím incredibly anal about this stage. Coincidentally, I kinda hate doing them. Probably because theyíre actual work.
Now, unfortunately, I donít have a scan of this page at the pencils stage (because clearly, I am a douchebag who just never got around to scanning it), but below is a sample of what it usually looks like. My pencils are usually pretty rough and pretty dirty (hence my not scanning them). I find that I focus far more on energetic gestures than anything else. Mission #1 is to ensure that there is no gray area in story-telling. EVERY page should be readable without text. After that, #2 is to make sure it looks good. I think that reversal of priorities is the difference between a Sequential Artist and a Pinup Artist.
Technical Fun Fact: I pencil using a technical pen filled with red graphite. A lot of artists use Blueline pencils, but I find them waxy, hard to ink on top of and a bit hard to see (which is the point, I know). Red graphite serves the same purpose, is invisible to scanners and easier to see.
I leave my pencils fairly rough, since I like to fill in details with ink. Iím an Improv Inker, which is a nice way of saying I like to make it up as I go along. I like the spontaneity of adding in gags and scenery on the spot. I work mostly in pen (mostly Faber-Castells and Microns, nothing fancy) for line work and fill in blacks with a Pentel Waterbrush filled with ink.
Next up, I scan everything in at 1200 DPI in Black and White Lineart mode. (Another Fun Fact: Comic Artist Kody Chamberlainís studio is right across the hall, and I periodically bug him to use his badass Epson large format scanner! Socialism rocks!)
I color everything in Photoshop, keeping characters and environment on separate layers. In this case, the background wall in Panel 2 was done on a separate sheet, since several of the panels on the next page would be variations on this one. Occasionally, Iíll add textures or graphics when the page calls for it. In this case, I overlaid an oil stain texture over the background wall and ground to add a grimy touch. I also used some old ink splatters for the blood stains.
And thatís pretty much it. I can knock out about 3-4 full color pages a week (with no side projects). Fairly efficient, but again, Iím always looking to speed up my game.
I hope this has been informative, or at least amusing. Feel free to check out my site at www.robguillory.com, the CHEW website www.chewcomic.com and be sure to pick up CHEW (Diamond Pre-order code: APR09 0337 Chew#1) in June. There isn't another comic like it on the stands. I promise.
Comment on the making of CHEW.