The original concept of Thinking of Utopia was actually just a short story assignment from my high school senior English class. I didn’t give the story another thought until two years later when I was introduced to some new music. One song in particular got me thinking about that short story I once wrote and so I went and dug it up. In addition to finding the story I’d submitted, I also found notes that I’d written about the characters that weren’t covered in the version I turned in. I soon decided to make that story into a comic and came up with the title a few months later.
Over the years, I jotted down many different ideas and scenes for Thinking of Utopia, but in no particular order. I eventually gathered all my random tidbits and took on the task of collecting them all into one file and putting them in chronological order. Once I’d accomplished that, filling in the gaps came next. I worked on events that will take place much later into the comic for a good while before my mind finally focused on the beginning. I was so happy when I finally had enough material to start breaking it up into “volumes” and “acts”.
Once I have a portion of the comic written and sectioned off, I move on to the next step – sketching thumbnails. In this stage I am making very rough sketches, two pages per 8.5 x11 sheet, and focusing on figuring out panels and overall layouts within them. Depending on the scenes, sketching can either go by very quickly or can really bog me down!
Thumbnail sketches then make the actual drawing process run a bit more smoothly for me since all the layout work has been thought out already. Sometimes my mind runs off and conjures up ideas that I can’t get my hand to cooperate with on paper. This can slow down the drawing process since I have to look up reference photos. I have a few references books within arm’s reach, but sometimes I can’t find the right angle to what I feel is a difficult shot for me to draw. That situation leads me to performing a balancing act on my desk as I have multiple books open to be able to piece together the shot.
After clearing many eraser shavings off my desk, the inking process comes next. For the sake of making the remaining steps more streamline for myself, I use a table-top light box to trace my final ink lines onto a clean sheet of heavy stock paper. This saves me the time of having to clean up sketch lines in Photoshop if I’d inked the original drawing.
Once the ink has dried it’s off to the scanning bed and into Photoshop. I color the pages in layers and add any shading or highlights next. If I need to achieve a particular effect (like under water scenes), then I work on that next. Finally any text is added that wasn’t hand drawn and then the image is re-sized for the final web product.