MANNA- THE GRAPHIC NOVEL PROJECT

With the completion of the Cartooning certificate program at George Brown College, work in cartooning and illustration did not end. A new prograam, focusing on the graphic novel, was created at the college and now all work is dedicated to ongoing efforts in that area. The text and images below illustrate some of what has been accomplished already. Like SARGASSO, this is a substantial undertaking, more in the fact that unlike the former piece, where the illustrations supported the text, the illustrations here dominate the text.

MANNA CHARACTER DESIGNS

MANNA is a coming of age story set in the Netherlands mostly during the Second World War. It features two central characters- Pauli, a riches to rags girl who befriends Hilde, from an artistically and financially richer background and almost two years her junior, in the last few years before the outbreak of war in 1939. Together, as they mature, they endure the Nazi invasion and occupation and struggle to survive in a world that becomes darker and more hostile with each passing day. It is a macro to micro kind of story, with the events in the lives of our protagonists set against the massive events reshaping the world around them. For anyone who had relatives who lived in Holland during the Second World War or anyone who has read or known the story of Anne Frank, it is not hard to imagine the kinds of things that will be dealt with in this narrative. Originally designed as a short, (six to eight), page story, it has grown- through the encouragement of several people who have seen the plan of the thing- into a massive undertaking that will easily breach 100 plus pages. Like SARGASSO, it has required a lot of research, filling my shelves with many new books on all aspects of issues related to it or the war in general.

Below is the character sheet for the two leads. Pauli is in yellow ochre, and her palette will be consistently made of warm, sometimes bright colours. Hilde will be wearing greens, blues and cooler or pastel related colours. Her red hair is a factor in this. They are presented here as they appear at the beginning of the story, which is in late August, 1938, before the events of Munich and Chamberlain's 'peace in our time.'

MANNA CHARACTER SHEET

Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015. Coloured marker on illustration board.

 

PAULI PORTRAIT

Copyright C.A. Seaman 2015. Graphite on paper. This image is full sized.

 

MANNA- TITLE PAGE SPREAD

A full colour title page spread was planned for the book, according to the script I wrote in the winter/spring of 2015. It was not going to be completed at the time, as I was planning to concentrate on the pages afterwards for the course work. When I was asked to participate in Big Art Buzz's presentation at the Canadian Pavilion in July, 2015 as a guest artist, that changed. I was to do a demo and said, with everything else going on, I wasn't interested in creating something just for the exhibition. I went to the instructor of the course and said I was going to include the spread now as a part of the final project and as the demo piece for the show.

The individual pages were to be 10" wide and 15" high, which when reduced would be compatible with traditional graphic novel formats. Thus, a two page spread would be 20" wide by 15" high, or twice the width. Based on the research done on clothes, bikes and aircraft, the final composition was designed first in Poser, and then drawn onto sketch paper at full scale. I only applied shading to the girls in the original drawing, and thus, that is the only part I've shown below.

In case you are wondering about the bike, it is a construct based on a Hungarian design, modified with wooden wedges shoved into the metal rims of the wheels to replace the rubber tires which would have been likely confiscated by the Germans during the war. Packages of food from a 'hunger trek' into the country fill the basket and rear pannier. Neither Hilde or Pauli are wearing socks, but Pauli is wearing some cut down boots, likely from a Dutch worker. How Pauli got them is a matter for speculation. Hilde's shoes are improvised sandals cut from worn out saddle shoes popular at the end of the 1930s. Both coats are period accurate. Hilde's hair is short, typical of her style anyway, but also practical in the later months of the war, when water, soap and shampoo were all in short supply because of the occupation forces' closing of the borders around the Netherlands not liberated in Operation Market Garden, (September, 1944). How Pauli keeps her long hair looking nice is another matter for speculation.

 

MANNA TITLE PAGE SPREAD LEFT SIDE

Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015. Graphite on paper.

 

The composition was designed to have nothing of importance down the centre, where the gutter between the pages would be. I still had to make it interesting enough not to make this design choice obvious, however. The final piece had to hang together and hang apart. The picture below, taken at the show in Brampton, show the piece on the board, after an application of watercolour washes, filled in later with more aggressively applied gouache.

 

 

The sky was finished with coloured pencil. A tip: Prismacolour's Light Cerulean Blue is a perfect match for Winsor & Newton's Cerulean Blue! Blending was achieved with colourless blenders by Prismacolour and Derwent, the latter being better for covering the illustration board, which was Canson watercolour paper based on an acid free board support. The problem when working with this material is that little white spots where the paint or coloured pencil don't reach really stand out when the work is scanned. The Lancaster bomber below, dark in colour, was problematic in this area, looking sparkly when scanned later. A solvent like Turpentine applied with a brush 'solved' the problem, filling the gaps nicely. Another tip: get the orange scented solvent. It's a lot easier to work with in the studio.

Other problem areas include the tree line at the edge of the field. More grey and even pink went into that area than green. A little green goes a long way. Green is very difficult to work with in art, often being far too intense when applied out of the tube. In the distance, make it as blue grey as possible, and if warmth is needed, a soft pink from Derwent will tone down the problem spots. The amount of paint on the board caused mild warping, which is slowly levelling out after months of touring about in flat-pack portfolios. Applying primer to the back did not help straighten the board. I will have to deal with this again as at least three more pieces are planned in this format for each section in the book.

In historic details, this whole scene is a bit of a construct fantasy. A cordon would likely have been put around the field. Guards would be standing by organized piles of food. The danger of overshoots and missed drops was very real during Operation Manna/Chowhound in 1945. Looting was also a concern at the time, although incidents of it seem to have been very few. For the sake of providing a way of setting up the title in an homage to Will Eisner, who used creative ways to introduce his graphic stories to readers, I did what I did to make it work. The characters just happen to be excited speactators like their real-life counterparts from the war, enthusiastically waving at the aircraft with their last bit of energy.

The Lancaster itself is a real aircraft, but the squadron markings are not. 642 Squadron never existed. TZ was never used. I have not seen tails painted in bold orange and blue patterns. (Can you guess the symbolism?) I created them all after doing research and deciding with the instructor of the course it was better to create a fictitious unit for equally fictitious characters than use a set real squadron numbers and unknowingly make an OTU into a Bomber Command Squadron and have someone from a society in the UK point it out nicely or otherwise. I have explained to some who feel such research and detail is overdoing it in art, that those interested in this kind of material take such things very seriously. In short, if you are not interested in trying to make it real enough, don't try historic themes in your graphic novels.

 

MANNA TITLE PAGE SPREAD IN PROGRESS

copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015. Watercolour, gouache, coloured pencil and graphite on Canson watercolour board.

 

Here are two shots of the girls in progress, showing watercolour washes underpinning the final job done in coloured pencils. Pauli's legs were very skinny here. They were beefed up a little in the end. It was noted, though, that she would have been thin anyway. At this point in the story, the average food intake for the Dutch was equal to 250 calories a day. We average over 2,000.

 

 

The decorated sacks- assuming the armed guards I mentioned earlier are off-screen (^_^)- sit on the ground after having been organized by workers on site, who had to dash out onto the field and grab what they could between drops. Piles of uncollected sacks lie in the distance. You can see I have started building layers of colour here, combining washes with coloured pencil to fill in areas of detail. Note the grey of the buildings in the background. The intense green you see here was virtually gone by the time the piece was done.

 

 

The Lancaster below in close-up. The aircraft was painted black underside. Canadian-built Lancasters had shiner finishes than British-built machines. Whatever the finish, the effect of reflected light from the ground would have meant anyone creating this subject in art would be using little black in the colour. Greys, blues and earth tones dominate. Even white, in places. Solvent was used to blend the colours. Grey is used for the sacks falling from the bomb bay. Most of the food was dropped in cases or bags that once contained cement mix, chosen to withstand the impact of being dropped from 150-1,000 feet in the air. Look up some video on www.youtube.com to see how it was done.

 

MANNA TITLE PAGE SPREAD detail

Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015. Mixed media on watercolour board.

 

The final piece, once done with text. Imagine this in the book...

MANNA TITLE PAGE SPREAD

Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015. Mixed media on watercolour board. 20"x15"in.

 

SAMPLE PAGES FROM THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

With the title spread done, it was now time to work on two pages of actual imagery and text. These pieces were even more important than the title spread, because while it was understood that such pages would need special attention, like a select cover for a comic book by a famous artist different from the hard-working souls creating the interior pages, the regular pages would have to be done in a consistent style that would not change through most of the rest of the book. So, while the title spread was a big undertaking- more painting than illustration- the art for the other pages would have to created carefully in order to create what will be the 'look' of the final piece.

As before, using the models of the characters created in Poser, I made sets and 'shot' scenes based on sketches done on mock layout pages. Poser gives me the opportunity to move the camera and search for better angles before committing scenes to paper. From there, I drew out the page in full size and transferred it to the board for inking.

 

MANNA PAGE FOUR

Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015. Mixed media on illustration board. 10"x15".

 

This scene shows the drawing board with original sketches, the Poser images in a Corel Photopaint layout, and the beginnings of the drawing for the page together. The original sketch to the right is at publication size, forcing me to deal with what can actually be put onto page without becoming carried away in a larger version with details that will be lost once reduced in size.

 

 

Closer views of the sketch, with notes, and the final drawing. The final drawing is actually the second version. In the first, I accidentlally drew Pauli walking into Hilde's house- and into Gottfried. You can see the set up in the Poser version above. The lesson here is to have extra eyes look at the piece before you put it on the final page. Luckily, I saved the model from earlier and noted how I must have fixed it after rendering the pose that ended up on the page. Why it didn't make it onto the page is a mystery, but once it was pointed out, it was fixed. You can also see the quick sketch compositions were changed in the final. I was not happy with the profile view of Pauli, knowing future panels would require me to use it. It was looking at pages from THE SPIRIT in the Cartooning class that showed me the way. You can see how I also changed the panel sizes.

It's all about process....

MANNA PAGE FIVE

Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015. Mixed media on illustration board.

 

Click here to return to Current page

 

All text and images copyright C.A. Seaman 2015.