Big process post!
I wrote most of this post part-way into the residency, but ran into some image issues, so saved it to do later. Later has ended up being after I got back the the UK, but hey! Read on for more, including pics of thumbnails, roughs, and a glimpse at the beginning of some final pages!
Before I came to Tallinn, I’d done some folktale research, found a tale type that hugely clicked with me, and written a rough first draft story outline (see the first residency post for more on the project and tale).
The first few days were largely walking, exploring…trying to get a feel for the place, poking my head down alleys, meeting some lovely comics and library people. This all helped me see how the story fit, and whether there were any changes I should make based on the sense of the place.
To my delight, I had lovely conversations with several women who all know the tale type, have great fondness for it, and remember some version or other from their childhoods -so it’s not just an academically-recorded oddity. A couple of days in, I jotted down a second, more detailed outline – a scene-by-scene breakdown.
I followed that with a first thumbnail draft. It was….longer than I planned, at around 75 pgs. In a nice detail, though, I finished it with one page to go in the notebook I was using!
That became my working document, and it showed me what sort of references I needed to find and photograph/sketch while there, what I needed to find out. I’d been walking in Pääsküla Bog for forest references, and wandering around residential streets in Nõmme and Kalamaja. I’d need to learn how to draw wolves, and babies (that’s…ongoing). I needed to get some character designs set.
But mostly, I need to carry on to the next stage of the project. Sometimes, this would be a second thumbnail draft, for myself, but in this case it would be more useful to have something others can read, and check over for me, so I went to larger, rough-but-legible sketched pages this time round, done in a gridded notebook to keep my sketched lines and handwritten text legible!
These are on A4 paper, sketched as spreads so I can think about the design across the page as that’s what the reader will see. (That’s something I haven’t really done before, and am trying because I was so astounded at how thoughtfully composed Jillian Tamaki’s pages were as spreads in This One Summer (crumbs, what a book).)
I made a few changes along the way, as I read through the thumbs and spotted panels that could be improved, or do with a bit more breathing room. I added a few pages along the way, ending up at 81 pages and a story I’m very happy with. It’s also pretty much wordless, which happened almost by accident as I figured I’d just add words where they felt needed, which was almost nowhere.
I did manage to get a first few pages drawn well there, though I may redraw a few panels in those as they’re tentative first pages where I’m settling into the book. Now comes the longer part, as I try and draw the rest without the beautiful freedom to spend whole days on it, like while I was there!