Onwards to the third story in my collection of comic short stories based around paintings. This one will be ‘The Snack Bar’ by Edward Burra. He’s not an artist I’m particularly familiar with, and it is difficult to get an anthology of his works. This particular painting hangs at the Tate Gallery so it is fairly easily accessible, and his caricatures lend themselves to a comic book story. What will this one be about? I’ve got some ideas swilling around in my head but I need to pace it and plot it out more carefully. I will spend some time working on this for the foreseeable future but I intend to limit the story length to 10 pages or under this time.
And I’ve also migrated from my mouse to a Wacom Bamboo pen tablet. It didn’t take a lot of time to get used to, and now I don’t use the mouse anymore, except for occasionally selecting/dragging text around, which the pen is still somewhat clumsy with. It’s a very good pen tablet but not an extremely high-end one, so I don’t know how good it is for illustration work. I find the nib a bit rotund and possibly not nearly as responsive as I’d like it to be, but then this is my very first pen tablet so I don’t have the faintest notion what the expensive models are like. I don’t see myself getting into digital art in a big way at all, and will still do all my drawings traditionally. The tablet itself is very small and perfect for my needs, I cannot see why I would never need an A4 sized tablet. Anyway the website will most likely change a fair bit over the next week or so as I get to grips with scripting again and catching up on the latest HTML standards.
Now that some time has passed since finishing Nighthawks, and while I am slowly mulling over my next story and wondering whether to make it a (mostly) wordless comic, I’ve had a bit more time to mull over Nighthawks and the lessons learned in the process of plotting and drawing the story. I realise I do not spend a lot of time on the artwork, personally the story is more important and the artwork merely serves as a vehicle for conveying that story to the reader. There are some panels I wish I had been more careful with, but I am not about to go back and change it now. I should be thinking more about my next story and the new drawing style I need to utilise. Today is also our 10th anniversary; time really flies. Tonight, I will drink a toast to another happy ten years.
I suppose that writing and inking a story in the stream-of-consciousness, mostly unplanned, extemporising way meant that Nighthawks became a few pages longer than I had originally envisaged, the feedback I have received so far suggests that the story still seemed fairly seamless, each page segued into the next one without too much disjointedness, despite the weeks I sometimes left between drawing and planning each page. I had a rough plot in mind and although I wasn”t completely sure exactly how I was going to end it (until the very last page), I already knew the sort of low-key ending I wanted. The story was always going along the lines of Joe, the solipsistic waiter, who lives inside his own head, and strives to create an impression of a somewhat more exciting life. Perhaps the reader would empathise more with Joe as there was never any question about him being a dangerous stalker, only perhaps a rather creepy one. The title of Hopper’s painting, Nighthawks, also carried with it a sort of subconscious suggestion as to the type of story I would write; marauding hawks and their prey, set in the central scene of a lonely flourescent-lit diner late at night – the sort of greasy spoon that I would usually take pains to avoid but never cease to be fascinated by nevertheless.
While I have never particularly admired Hopper’s technical skills as a painter, the Nighthawks painting has a special resonance for me, partly because the diner seems to me like a safe port in a storm. The entire street is dark, the surrounding buildings are closed, shuttered off, unavailable to the viewer, but the corner diner is brightly and starkly lit, and there are people in there. None of them seem to be interacting despite their proximity to each other, each seems lost in his or her own thoughts. The Nighthawks, hunter and prey together, are closed off to one another in the isolation and loneliness of the big city. I made one subtle allusion to the title of the painting when Joe writes about the woman and describes her as a ‘poor, lost bird’ lost in the frozen night. He might as well have been writing about himself.
It certainly took me a while to wrap things up, and I can only breathe a huge sigh of relief that it is all over at last. I ran out of steam with the Nighthawks story a fair while ago, and only kept going because I did not want the work to go to waste completely. I was bored of the story, sick of the drawing style and worried that the plot did not have enough momentum at every single point. It just seemed to drag on and on. I was also nearing the bottom of my ink bottle, and yet my natural inclination to be frugal kept me dipping my brush and smearing the sides of the bottle to utilise every remaining drop. I was tired of doing the art work, and I think this shows in many of the panels. The compositions look tired, basic, undramatic. It was all done very hurriedly, more of a sketch than a finished piece of work. I never thought that drawing the inside of a diner was going to be terribly exciting, but I grew tired of it faster than I anticipated at the beginning. I wanted to develop the character of Joe the waiter a bit better before launching the story properly, but this resulted in a lengthy preamble.
I did not plan this as well as the Card Players, admittedly. I started off with a script but I started to extemporise quite quickly afterwards and thus abandoned the script. I kept a framework in my mind, but eventually, the text and word balloons were only added after I had drawn and inked the panels. I scanned the images in and then just typed the words in on the fly. How not to draw a comic book short story…. And as I had many other things going on in my life at the same time, I sometimes took very long breaks between drawing two pages, which resulted in a somewhat disjointed feel. Still, I hope I managed to smooth things over in the end. It is still a little messily put together, but I”ve never been one to be very meticulous over my work. I just hope that it is a reasonably coherent and enjoyable little story. Please – let me know your thoughts.
Back from Germany and in the last week I only managed to work on two pages as I had too many other distractions. I really hope to finish Nighthawks by the end of this week; I’ve grown rather tired of it now, and I think it shows in the artwork. I don’t feel the same sense of satisfaction that I felt when I was finishing off the Card Players, I suppose I am not too certain about how this story will be received by readers. So far I’ve not received much feedback about it, which may be a good or bad sign. If you, dear reader, have got this far, please take a spare few minutes to drop me a note and let me know your thoughts. But the good thing is, the ‘Nighthawks’ panel is done and it is also on the title page.