OR, HOW I SPENT MY COVID PANDEMIC…
I’ve gathered together a bunch of photos here that I took while working on the new Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy book,
As The Deer Flies. I started writing the book in spring of 2020, just when the pandemic was starting to get crazy, and I spent much of my lockdown time drawing and scanning and coloring the book – and now it’s available in stores everywhere. Not a bad way to spend a pandemic!
In March and April of 2020, I started writing the script for the new book. Meanwhile, COVID was feeling pretty serious and people started hoarding food …except for manicotti noodles?!
But I didn’t have any trouble picking up supplies for the book: a bunch of new Staedtler pens and six 25-page pads of Canson Bristol paper!
In June, while my editor reviewed the script, I worked on early sketches for the book. I wanted to do fun and interesting things with forest scenes in this book, so I did a lot of nature sketching.
I also worked on character designs at this time. I wanted to make Gus a bit more realistic-looking (but not too much!), so I drew a lot of wolves!
THE FIRST DRAFT
I put off getting a haircut for a long time because of COVID. In July, I ventured outside because I was getting pretty crazy-looking. Little did I know that COVID was going to get worse and I wouldn’t get another haircut for almost a year.
I started drawing my first draft, which I like to do in a very scribbly style, in ink. At this stage, I’m just throwing stuff down to see what works.
For the rest of July 2020 and into a bit of August, I kept working on these preliminary pages and I could start to see the book coming together.
THE SECOND DRAFT
Before drawing the second draft, I needed to create a little cheat sheet so I could remember where to put Frank’s leg scars. Maybe I should draw them right onto my deer model!
For the second draft, I polish things up a little more and make any big changes for things I didn’t like in the first draft. This two-page spread later became the dedication and table of contents pages.
I spent a lot of time on this page, and I looked at tons of images of gnarly old oak trees.
And here’s the second-draft version of that cave image we saw before.
THE FINAL DRAFT
I started work on the final art in early September 2020. At this point, I switch from using plain old printer paper to the nice Bristol paper.
Here’s the final version of that page with the old oak. Looks like I removed the squirrel that was there in the previous draft.
For this book, I set myself a personal challenge to create more detailed forest scenes. This scruffy old tree stump is like many that I see here in Stanley Park in Vancouver.
Here’s our squirrel buddy again, running into a bit of laser-related trouble.
I finished drawing all of the final art pages in early October 2020.
SCANNING AND FILE CLEANUP
When I’m finished drawing, I scan in all of the pages and start working on the computer (in Photoshop). I often zoom in close like this and clean up stray pixels here and there.
Here I’m cleaning up a page that includes a cameo appearance by a Northern Flicker. These beautiful birds are often in our neighborhood here and sometimes stop by the window sill to torment the cats.
Here’s that cave scene again, scanned in and ready for color!
THE COLOR TEST
And here it is again with color – but not the FINAL color. This is from when my partner Janet and I prepared the color test to send to the printer. We do a color test for every book, and we like to use it to try out different color schemes for new characters and scenes, to see what things will look like when they’re printed.
Here I’m testing colors for a new character, this little yellow warbler, and for the skunk cabbage that I added to several forest scenes. (Skunk cabbage is a real plant. I see a lot of it in Stanley Park.)
A few weeks later, in early December 2020, the color test came back from the printer and we could see how the colors would look in the final book. Here, we’re testing different color schemes for Gus and the warbler.
For a black-and-white cat, Crumble sure loves color. This is the set of process swatches that Janet and I use when we want to see what the colors will look like when printed.
COLORING THE BOOK
Now that I know what the colors look like when printed, I start coloring all of the pages in Photoshop. Crumble likes to help by lurking behind my monitor. (That’s a Tim Gough print on the wall behind Crummers. On the shelves you can see some of the portfolio books where I store my original Savage Chickens comics.)
Here’s that Northern Flicker again, but in color! I spent the bulk of December 2020 adding color to the pages.
After coloring all of the pages, I went back and added shadows to all of them. Here’s a page in the process of being shadowed.
In January 2021, I finished the coloring. The final step is to “flatten” the files and put the color and the linework on separate layers of the file. Here’s the opening scene, with just the color layer showing.
With the inside pages all finished, in February 2021 I started work on the back cover. I’m about to draw over top of an earlier draft, using my light box. Note that I use post-it notes to hold my paper in place at the corners.
And we decided to make the book title look more like the earlier books by adding a blockier-looking title font.
In May 2021, I got to see the proof of the cover…
…and the front cover had that fun shiny gloss for the title badge and the lasers.
Working on a book can sometimes make you feel like a bit of a hermit, but this time I actually looked like one when the book was finished. After getting my COVID vaccinations, I got a long-overdue haircut!
In September, I got my advance author copies of “As The Deer Flies”! It’s so fun to open up a new book, and smell that new book smell. I dedicated this one to my friends at the Vancouver Comic Jam.
I’m really happy with how it turned out! (You can see the origins of this scene if you look back at my early nature sketches above!)
With all the uncertainty in the world lately, it was pretty nice to have this book project happening. It kept me pretty busy!
Here’s the final version of that cave scene you’ve seen throughout this collection of photos.
And now that the book is out, I can’t wait for you all to read it! It’s available in stores everywhere, and I hope to be booking some public appearances soon. It’ll be nice to see people in real life again!
If you’ve got any questions about the book or my process, put them in the comments or
send me an email. And I’d love to hear what you think of the book! 🙂