One thing that I think I always notice and appreciate in comics is when a book can keep a consistent style. I like to see a single artist stay on a project through it's entirety. I often demand characters to look consistent from arc to arc and certainly page to page. I do make sure I keep a consistent style within each specific project, but I try to make sure I branch out and push myself in new directions when I take on a new commitment. My longest running project is far and away Public Education, so I thought it would be interesting to look at how consistent I've kept the look of my most popular work.
"Entertain Us" was the first Public Education I posted and was in the intial ten or twenty strips I pencilled before trying my hand at inking. This isn't one of the few remaining strips I inked with the calligraphy pen, which was more a failed experiment than a real start. I inked this strip with an.05 Micron, and I've been using fixed tip pens on Public Education ever since. The character designs are all there and solid and I even still abbreviate desks with the same trapezoid and rectangle combination. The only real adjustment to the characters is the amount of lines denoting hair I've given Mr. Owl and Julia. I also don't make the mistake of turning both collar points inward unless Mr Owl is facing straight at the reader. The biggest difference is in the scanning, I scanned in a gradient which brought in a soft gray tone for the paper. These days I always scan pure line art and only read colors as black and white. It gives the strip a cleaner look (which is ok) and makes the strips easier to collect into books (which is crucial).
You can see the pure white background of the strip I finished tonight. Mr. Owl's hair cut has dropped from eight lines to six and Julia has four lines coming out from either side of her part. This is much more elegant than the broom like mess she has on the first strip. I also have modified the word balloons in my strip. I found early on that the balloons were cluttering my strip, I took out the balloons and just left tails to show who was speaking. I don't know that I've seen this done before but I like the way it looks. Sound effects or panels with one character normally abstain from any sort of word balloon.
The overall look of the strip has changed very little, but I'm happy with the minor tweaks I've made over the past couple of years. Public Education has always been a strip designed around immediacy and caricatures of situations, and I hope that every change that ever occurs continues to work towards those ends.
Until next time.
- Jon O