Meet Some Real Characters!

Let me introduce to you….

Belle Hecock, who is Burrell’s mother:

Aunt Hattie Zeller, who is Belle’s sister:

And Uncle Edward Zeller, who is Hattie’s husband:

Here are the models that subjected themselves to my picture taking, posing, and imposing!

Fortunately, they are all family, so I can torture them as much as I like. And I think they sometimes enjoy hamming it up for me.

Found the Ol’ Choochoo!

Took a day trip last weekend to North East, PA where we found a wonderful little train museum for… ta da! the Lake Shore Railroad! They have two passenger cars that are identical to the one in which our hero Hecock traveled to Niagara Falls, NY. I’d like to share a few photos I took of the INSIDE of the cars (I’m so excited!)

All of the seats had a private room with their own toilet. That’s better than what we get today! Some of the rooms could open up to the next to create a small suite. You’ll see this one in Chapter 3.

Isn’t this a fantastic rail car? It was always the last car on the passenger trains and was primarily used by celebrities and Presidents and such. But if it wasn’t occupied, I think it would have made a great viewing car. It’s in this car that something mysterious takes place in Chapter 3.

And Luck of All Luck… the museum had a display case of nothing but train passes! I found an authentic RR employee’s pass that would have been extremely similar to one given to Hecock for his trip. He worked for the Lake Shore Rail, ya know? Want to hear something spooky? The name on the pass is J. Miller. That’s my husband’s name!!!    (I can almost hear the theme song to the Outer Limits playing.) Well, back to work!

Where Do These People Come From?

If you have ever pondered the question “Gee, how does she draw the same character in so many different poses?”

I have models. I tell them the story line, ask them to imagine what is happening, and then tell them to REACT impulsively to the scene. I like lots of exaggerated facial expressions and over-acted movements so that the camera captures an image I can turn into a “cartoon” figure. For example, on the first page of chapter 2. Scene: Hecock is holding his new baby cousin, who is obviously wet. First here is the photo of Steve, my Hecock model:


I do an ink drawing, changing the clothes, and, of course, drawing a baby in his hands rather than a rolled up sheet! I have to tweak the facial features because Steve has a longer nose, and a square jaw, unlike the slightly upturned nose and angular jaw of Hecock. You may have noticed the drawing is a mirror image. It worked better with the page layout to flip the image.

Next, I will show you Finzel’s model.

Setting the Set

Been a long time, old friends! Here is something you may find interesting. Atleast I did, when I realized just how much preliminary work was required to produce a chapter that takes place inside. Interiors. Here’s the progression of creating interior multi-room settings for Chapter 2:

Let’s start with the story board, which is a collection of thumbnail size drawings to lay out the composition of each frame on each page. This is the story board for pages 22, 23, 24 and 25. I’m not too consistent in the detail of the thumbnails. Sometimes I just need some stick figures to show placement, while other times I want to remember expressions on the faces or furniture placements that I thought of.

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Let’s deal with Page 24. There are three frames on the page. The first one is a view from the living room through the dining room, into the kitchen where Aunt Hattie is talking (i.e. the speech bubble coming from the doorway.) It occurred to me that I don’t know what the house looks like or how the rooms fit in the home’s floor plan! I had to come up with a house, a floor plan, and architectural details. I found antique house plans but the floor plan was all wrong for the flow of the story, so I had to recreate the room layout. (Yes, I became an Interior Designer!) Here is the house:

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Is that the coolest front porch you’ve ever seen??

I pulled the image of the floor plan into photoshop and proceeded to redraw the room layout to make the rooms fit the action and flow of the chapter. (i.e. Aunt Hattie moves from the kitchen into the living room with coffee. Those rooms had to line up so that you could see her coming through the dining room from the kitchen.) Here is the final floor plan. I printed out 15 copies, two on a sheet because I use one per page layout, and write “director’s notes” on the plan to show where my characters are, and from what angle I want to view them. I also added rectangles that represent the furniture. This is more like writing a movie script than a book!

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Now I was ready to start drawing the scenes within the frames on the page. Until I ran into another step I hadn’t thought of… consistency. I had to make sure that if someone was sitting in a certain chair in two different frames, there better be the same window behind him, and the chair better be the same as well. Consequently, I drew all the room interiors of each frame. All empty rooms… no people. So here is page 24 so far:

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The first frame is a view from the living room, through the dining room, into the kitchen. The second frame is a close up of the kitchen doorway. And the third is the other side of the living room, with the big bay window and window seat. Hecock will be sitting in that chair.

Next the fun begins, adding characters, shading everything, then overlays of transparent color, and finally wallpaper patterns and fancy rugs. This isn’t exactly the typical method for graphic novels. Nor the fastest or most efficient. But it is the method I developed in Chapter 1 and I have to keep it consistent throughout the whole book. As I work, I’m always thinking of ways to improve, but those will have to wait for the next book.

I’m still here!

Writing my fingers to the bone… working on chapter 5. Let’s see how many clichés I can use to describe the situation:
I’m knocking myself out writing, because you know that an idle mind is the devil’s playground. I try to get up at the crack of dawn, but since I’m not a morning person, I’m as dense as a London fog, and by the end of the day I’m pooped. Although I’m armed to the teeth with expressions of the era, they are as useful as a lead balloon if I don’t know have the story developed. But being an artist, I say anything goes! So after I take a few minutes to play my guitar, it’s time to get over that hump, get back on that horse, and get the ball rolling again cause the game is on the line!

Anyhoo, the story is coming along nicely.

A Little Steampunk With That, Sir?

Just keeping in touch… my head is spinning like Hecock on the rope! As in a whirlwind, I’ve written Chapter 2, sent it off to my silent partner, and I’m half way through Chapter 3! As it turns out, looks like chapter 2 is almost entirely dialog! Tonight I’m starting on the storyboard for chapter 2, working with the page layouts, and deciding things like how many frames on each page. It’s an exciting process much like putting together a film: My mind creates “still shots” that help tell the rest of the story that is not told in the dialog between characters. I have some wonderful turn-of-the-century rooms, furniture and bric-a-brac to include in my scenes this chapter. I have to say, it was a challenge to have snow, snow and more snow in every frame of chapter one and make it look interesting! Now I can have some fun! Steampunk, here we come!

OH, and meet Finzel!