Unlimited rice pudding
Now that everything’s said and done, it’s time for the final evaluation. I actually stuck quite faithfully to my original concept; none of the basic ideas really turned out any differently to how they had been written in the project proposal. That being said, the only detail that I imagined at the beginning of the project that made it all the way into the finished product was the final panel. Speaking of panels, the final outcome had a lot more than I originally planned: in my project proposal, I imagined there being 4-10, or no more than two pages. I ended up with 21 (18 if you count the time-skip montage as one panel), and three pages. And even then, I was forced to be very economical to get the panel count that low. For example, in the part where the box was opened, I feel like everything happens a little abruptly. We go from the man seeing the dragon in the box, to the dragon reacting in fear, to him petting it, to him hoisting it out of the box, in only four panels. I feel like it would have worked a little better if, like in the first storyboard, the dragon had slowly opened its eyes and then reacted, and then the man had slowly reached for it. As the comic stands, it plays less like a literal representation of the events that happened, and more like a flashback sequence, in that it only shows the essential information. But if that had been what I were going for, then there would be far fewer panels. I still think that it communicates the story well, if not as well as it could have.
Now, how about techniques? I was rather pleased with myself for finding a childishly simple method to make my linework look rougher and more organic. Not only that, but the timing was quite fortuitous, as that line technique proved very useful for this project! I also have a history of writing and drawing my own comics. While I wouldn’t necessarily call any of them good, that background definitely still helped me with this project. The (totally tubular) paint texture technique that I ended up using for this stemmed from the idea of taking traditional materials and digitally augmenting them. In the end, that just meant providing colour and texture from traditional materials to digital lines. I think that this technique worked fairly well, but could have benefitted from having more time spent on it. I could have put more thought into making the textures fit the objects and characters, but it worked well enough. I think I made the best choice of paint for the job. Gouache is versatile and easy to work with, even fun. (The only downside is that it changes colour as it dries, but of course, that wasn’t an issue when I was planning on digitally altering the colour anyway!) I did, of course, try experimenting with watercolour and acrylic, but neither of those worked especially well. For the feel I wanted, gouache did both watercolour- and acrylic-style effects better. In the event that the texture technique hadn’t worked, I would probably have resorted to colouring digitally, since I’ve tried that on many occasions in my personal art and know it works. However, it wouldn’t have had the same atmosphere.
I think the project could have been planned better. True, I was besieged by unforseeable setbacks in the first half, but better time management could have minimalised the impact of those events. In the end, I still submitted it in time, so no real harm was done. I just know to work harder in the earlier part of the project next year. My original timetable suggested that I might be able to start work during week 5 or 6. Ha! How naive I was! As you can see from my ongoing evaluations, I planned what I would do for most days, taking advantage of which classrooms and materials I would have access to. I also went through every change of plan that occurred, and explained the reason behind it. Since the project’s basic concept went through the whole process intact, there weren’t many major changes; it was all in the details.
I think I did as much research as I needed to, and maybe a little more than I needed to. The reason I looked at so many depictions of dragons in popular culture was so I could be sure that I would be going in the right direction with my dragon’s design. I think I did a good job of picking out all the elements that made those designs successful and repurposing them for my own needs. Initially, I suggested that I might help my dragon to look distinct from any other by giving him unique eyes, markings or horn shapes. In the end, I did none of those things, because I thought the design I came up with was elegant in its simplicity. Like I implied when deciding on the colour scheme, I didn’t want to overcomplicate it. As for how easy or difficult the research was, it was straightforward enough. All I had to do was look for benevolent or sympathetic dragons in pop culture. I was already familiar with several of the sources I looked at. I think my dragon’s design, while not necessarily great, serves its purpose well, and is effective in its use of similar principles to those other, professionally-designed, dragons. I think it wouldn’t look out of place next to them, and fits into that context.
I also mounted the three pages, of course, alongside some personal art and another college piece. The latter was already A1, so went in the portfolio as it was. The personal art was surface-mounted, which was straightforward enough once I figured out what sizes each picture should be. The three pages were window-mounted, which was a far trickier process. Initially, I cut the paper wrong, and had to buy some more. Even on my second attempt, there were parts where the cut wasn’t quite straight, or the paper didn’t cut all the way through at first and ended up with a "fluffy" edge, or where I cut too far into the corner. I also would have liked them to be printed out at A2instead of A3, so they wouldn’t look ridiculously tiny on such a huge piece of paper, but that unfortunately wasn’t possible. That being said, I think they look fairly smart, and the personal art is well-composed on the page… as long as you don’t look too closely. If it had been done for a proper exhibition, I definitely would have spent the money to get them printed larger.
Finally, and most importantly, what have I learned for the future? If I were to tackle this brief again, I don’t think I would try to take something as ambitious as a three-page comic from initial concept, to research, to production, to finish in just 10 or 12 weeks. Either that, or I would just work harder in the early stages, so the final part wouldn’t be so stressful. I think that at the end of the day, the final result was good, and like every drawing I do, served in the long run to hone my skills. That rough line technique will definitely prove in useful, for one thing. I think the comic’s biggest success is probably the atmosphere, effected by the real paint textures and monochrome, brownish palette; but the dragon stands out as different.