To start with, I will do a number of very rough sketches to gather some ideas for the page I am working on. After I am fairly confident with the direction I am going, I will do a more finished thumbnail composition in order to gauge if the page is working.
Even though this thumbnail is only a couple of inches in size, I can gather a pretty good sense of whether the images and composition are working properly. At this stage, I am also planning out how many panels are to be on the page, as well as their respective sizes and flow.
After the thumbnail, I roughly draw, with a blue pencil, the page to its actual size. The blue pencil can be easily removed later when I scan the final drawing into the computer, so I do not need to worry about erasing my lines.
At this stage in the process I rethink the actual composition and make alterations as needed. As you can see, I decided to change the third panel from a close up of the man's feet on the stairs to a close up of his face looking up. This accomplishes many things, but most notably, it adds to the emotion of the scene since you are seeing the character directly. Also, by having the man looking up, it better anticipates what happens in the bottom panel.
I will now go in and make an ink outline over the pencil. In a way, this is the most important stage of the drawing, even though it probably takes the least amount of time. By laying down the ink, I am essentially committing the drawing to its final form. The ink outline provides finality and decisiveness, allowing me to mentally shift from the composition to the actual rendering.
I now start filling in the drawing with cross-hatching. This step of the process is by far the most time consuming, and yet at the same time, I find it to be the most enjoyable. I will try to talk in future posts about cross-hatching in more detail, but in short I liken the process to painting. I slowly build up each section layer after layer, adjusting the value and texture in order to delineate each shape from its neighbor.
The drawing is nearly complete, however, I still want to add the snow as well as to make a few minor corrections. In order to do this, I use opaque white ink and a brush to go over the black ink. After the white ink is dry, I am able to draw over it if needed.
I then scan the drawing into the computer, remove the blue pencil lines, adjust the image levels, and make any last minute changes. As you might notice, In the above drawing I had the man's breath visible in the cold. However, after adding the snow, I realized that the breath was lost and appeared as confusing white blotches. I ended up removing the breath digitally.
This page is now basically complete! There will be a little bit of text that will be layered on top at a later time, but for now, the art itself is finished.
So, on to the next page...