sigune: (Dungeon King)
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Happy birthday, Severus Snape!

Because all my plans for birthday drawings have gone awry, on the occasion of Snape's birthday I'm going to dig up what used to be an old favourite and share my comic-making process. Does anyone remember "How Not To Draw Comics"? I did these entries where I documented the making of my first ever complete comic in 18 pages - which was, would you believe it, a Snape comic. I worked on it for years, mostly because I drew a page whenever I felt particularly inspired - which, seeing as we are talking about me, Little Miss No Idea, wasn't very often. My way of working was incredibly chaotic.

Ten years or so later, nothing much has changed.

The reveals for [community profile] hoggywartyxmas are up, so I can now officially admit to having created Great Balls of Snow. (Being me, I'd actually put my NAME on the title card. I was so very tired at that point I didn't even realise I'd sent a SIGNED entry to an anonymous fest! D'oh!) I have to say, I had a ball working on this thing. It wore me out completely, but boy, was it ever so much fun. However, I felt very bad about it, because I missed two deadlines and was afraid [personal profile] therealsnape would start to think I was a total flake or something. No. I'm just chaotic and slow. (Not when I'm doing my job! Seriously. But when I'm making comics and stuff... Ack.)

Anyway -

Below the cut: lots and lots of images! Lots and lots of sketchy Snape! Developing ideas! Rubbish! If you're interested, and you haven't read the comic yet, I'd say, read it first. It's complete in 41 panels (not pages - just panels), here at Hoggywarty or on Tumblr if you like. And then come back for the Making-Of :).

So. I received my recipient's prompts well on time, because TRS is like that, and I thought: "Plenty of time! Plus, I have a holiday during which I can draw a lot!" This was very stupid of me, because I always plan to draw a lot during my holiday, but I never ever seem to get any work done, what with my visiting friends and family and going to school and such.

Anyway. The problem was NOT inspiration. One of the prompts was "snowball fight" and I almost immediately knew I was going to be doing something with that one - because seriously, Snape + snowball fight = bliss. I almost immediately knew it was going to be a comic. That was the first problem. I'm not an idiot, I know how slow I am, and comics, people, are a LOT of work. They are also tremendous fun, which is why we keep making them. But I pretty much knew I was in for a load of trouble.

I tried very hard to change my own mind and just draw a single picture of a snowball fight, but... It just doesn't work that way. I knew I could do something really nice with a comic, and - well, when I know I'm onto something, it is always best to roll with it. And, like I said, I did have plenty of time. So I got to the first phase of my comic-making process, which is: doodling.

I doodled in several different places; I'm sure I've forgotten a few in the meantime. The main ones were an A5 blank Moleskine notebook (The Hobbit Edition :P), an A4 Moleskine sketchbook, and, well, my lined notebook at work :p.

This is the A5, where - because I have my priorities straight! - the first thing I did was figure out Snape's costume. I just LOVE wintery Snapes. You can make him wear thick scarves and socks and fingerless gloves, and I always give him my old history teacher's amazing coat, even though he should probably be wearing a thick cape or something. I don't know. Snape in winter wears that coat. Below, he is showing off his thermal underwear. I believe he wears this all year because the poor man is forced to live in a dungeon. But if there is going to be billowing robes and lots of action, you are actually going to SEE them this time.

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Amidst little pictures of Alba Snape, you see me trying to figure out flowing robes and reacquainting myself with Minerva McGonagall, heroine of this story.

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Here is more Alba, and a cat, because I thought it would be nice to start the story with Minerva in het Animagus form walking through the snow. This idea got cut because it would take a lot of time to work out (because I draw cats so very badly), plus - my approach to the plot changed. More on that later.

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More searching for Minerva... She isn't wearing a cardie here. If I remember correctly, I gave her the cardie first because it suits the image I have of her based on the books - she's not really a snappy dresser and a cardie seemed right. It also suggested that the cold outside felt, well, less cold to her than it did to Snape. Anyway, she is a bit dressier here:

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For Snape, I was already focussing on action poses, because his look was pretty much fixed. McGonagall's cardie is back.

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This is from my A4 notebook - these are things I doodled in class. I often don't seem to be able to focus very well when I'm drawing; I think I drew these when I was working on my Arthurian Christmas card. I often switch between whatever I'm doing and my obsession of the moment (in this case: Snape).

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Ah, this is the Snowtotum. I think I drew McGonagall at school, but if I'm not mistaken, I wrote the Snowtotum thing down just before I left home to go to class. I knew I was on to something and jotted it down so as not to forget it. So at this point I knew that McGonagall was going to win the snowball fight by using this spell. The idea was that she knew the spell was going to set Snape's teeth on edge to the point of distracting him completely. She would be saying "snowtotum" to make him lose it, while actually casting a non-verbal "nixtotum". Eventually, I thought the explanation of this was, well, baggage and strictly speaking unnecessary. So you can think of it what you like. Maybe it's a wonky spell that nevertheless has great effect - or maybe she really is saying one thing and casting another.

You can see by the "ATCHAA!" (if you can make it out) that Snape's diatribe against the "ungainly" spell was going to come at the very end when he has been, um, unsnowed or dug up or something. It's only later that I decided that the diatribe was going to be the reason for his undoing.

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The snowball fight was shaping up into a real duel, a Western-style sort of face-off, only with snow. What I was thinking was, I'd place this in Harry's sixth year and things are becoming very serious for Snape-the-spy. So the context is Christmas, yes, but it's a bit ... threatening and dark. Snape has been snow-duelling his colleagues pretty hard as a sort of training exercise. Like, he doesn't really want to drill them and remind them how serious the war is and all that, but he is still worried that they aren't actually trained duellists and they are no match for the Death Eaters.

Also, being under great stress from his spying business, Snape needs an outlet. He is an excellent duellist and he truly enjoys the fight (also because he tends to win). The advantage of a snow duel is that he can be as violent as he likes without there ever being any really serious injury :). Only, his colleagues, who are really a bit pampered, think he goes too far. McGonagall is really the one person who is sassy - and competitive - enough to take him on.

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Around this time, we are getting to a point where the deadline is beginning to draw near, and I really should be getting things on paper. Yes, I have a lot of doodles and a clear idea of what I want to do, but I haven't started drawing yet. You see there is a bit of writing as I figure out how I am going to tell my story and get to all the juicy duelly bits with the flowing robes. My initial idea was always to do a "proper" comic with speech bubbles and all that. What I like to do in comics (and I think I do it better than when I try my hand at prose) is to show character through action. Ideally, I don't have a lot of text, but plenty of expression. Only, that approach demands a LOT of images, and images just take more time. They are also more difficult to correct - at least to me. So before I can start drawing, the story and text actually need to be fixed. In the page above, I was trying out a way of telling the story in text and illustrating it with panels, which would really have been easier than a regular comic. But I didn't like it because there is too much telling and not enough showing. So it was back to the idea of a more classic comic.

At this point, I was thinking I'd draw everything in pencils and add a light watercolour wash. I started with this page thinking it was going to be part of the final comic. But ... I dunno, I didn't really like the pencils. It didn't feel right to me at all.

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It's probably at this point that I thought: "hang it all, I'm going to draw with a ballpoint pen". My teachers have been strongly discouraging me from doing that because ballpoint pen fades rapidly. But I just love the feeling of drawing little lines with a ballpoint pen, of being able to create smooth lines with lots of thin ones one over the other. The direct trigger for the ballpoint pen comic was two Snape heads I'd sketched in my A5 notebook, which in my head I call my "tender Snapes". I just feel that there is a tenderness in this way of working that expresses what I wanted to express in these drawings, which is, my love of this character that I can't seem to shake off. So there, ballpoint pen it had to be.

I had one great worry: my recipient specifically asked not to get something bittersweet or hurt/comfort. Now, bittersweet and hurt/comfort - that's pretty much my fanficcy thing. I had instinctively been approaching this story as a bit of sweetness and friendship as an antidote to a very dark context. And I was worried that although this made perfect sense to me, my recipient wouldn't be very happy with it. So I had to try and alleviate the atmosphere without doing away with too much of my premise, because the premise was the thing that made everything work for me. That is when I sarted thinking about how I could play up the comedy.

The next thing I put on paper is this, which, if you have read the comic will be very familiar. At this point, the first Hoggywarty deadline had already passed, I think.

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This felt exactly right, except that the dialogue needed finetuning. Trouble was, I really needed to get started on the final images, because how many deadlines can you miss without being thrown out of a fest?! And I would really, really, REALLY have hated that, because I knew I had something. It was just very difficult to get it onto the page just right.

In the bits above, one panel suggests that Snape feels his Dark Mark at one point during his conversation with Minerva. She notices this and has some inkling of what he is going through and how he is trying to de-stress by having these crazy snowball fights - and that is why she doesn't dare to tell him the others are fed up with his violent approach to a jolly tradition. This got scrapped because I felt it was probably too dark.

Because I was really happy with this first part, I started drawing it. I did my best to be clever about it and make my comic as flexible as possible, so that I would be able to do some editing if needed. Therefore, I drew each panel on a separate piece of card. Most of them were A6 size; for larger scenes (most notably the snowball fight) I used A5. I drew the speech bubbles, but decided to letter by computer so as to be able to change the dialogue as needed. Working like this allowed me to change the sequence of some panels at the last minute and to rewrite bits of text.

I have one last sketch page to share, and that is the one of Snape and his footbath. That is one I had some trouble with because it involves a chair. I am so hopeless at perspective that chairs make me break out in a sweat.

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Pretty much all the other panels I pencilled directly onto the cards and inked them more or less immediately. The card was very smooth, to allow for maximum ballpointy effect, but it wasn't great for watercolouring. So I decided on watersoluable markers, which I rarely find a use for, but which allowed me to work fairly quickly here.

And one very early morning everything was done.

Well, that was the story of that comic. It eventually got done and TRS accepted it. And all was well ;).


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January 2017

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