This is a panel from the latest comic I'm working on—seen previously in loose sketch form. It features a doodle character of mine who had a cameo role in my first ARGH! comic, but has never played a major role. He's the namesake of this blog, and I use him as the preloader of my Jinx the Monkey website. It's Drip, of course!
I can trace Drip back to a single page of a sketchbook, back when I still lived in St. Louis. Probably 2003 or so. Again, as weird ideas come to me, I was playing around with the idea of a character who constantly dripped water from his nose, maybe even drinking it again in some strange perpetual cycle of waste and energy. I remember also thinking of a more pitiful character who was constantly thirsty but couldn't drink the water it dripped. But that seemed a bit mean for a cute design. You can see here he took many forms.
I then did a small painting of him, at the time using the word "drop" instead of "drip." Not sure why, as drip is the more fitting sound effect.
He's appeared subsequently in numerous pages of my sketchbook, and in the doodles of many a boring meeting. He evolved into something that looks more like this. No, arms, two legs, a simple circle head with a bee-like body, two tiny wings.
I just recalled I posted a doodle on this blog: Caught in a Drip. So, it's long overdue that he appears in a comic. I'm happy for the little guy. I'll be wrapping up the comic next week. Two colors this time, blue and orange.
My good friend Peter H. Reynolds recently blogged about his favorite pen nib, which included a photo that inspired me to take a moment to document my work space. This is a wee corner of the messy room that my wife Loren and I share as our studio. I try to keep it reasonably neat. Right now I'm in the midst of planning out my next comic for ARGH!, which you can see here scattered about my drawing table.
I'll be doing final pencils tomorrow night and on my way to inking in no time (no worries, Félix!). It's gonna be a fun one, with fire monsters! Here is my favorite pen nib, the Subway Stub. I use it for almost everything, except for fine line work. It rolls on the page nice and smooth, with a varying weight.
And here's the assortment of other nibs I sometimes use (or have collected over time). The two compartments in the middle are all Subway Stubs. I've collected 50 or so.
Anyway, hope you liked this brief tour of the old studio.
I recently began exploring a character I developed a few years ago. As part of the process, I was able to trace back to the original doodle that got him started. Keep sketchbooks, people! It's so much easier to look back when you work in sketchbooks. My characters are almost never premeditated...they just happen. One day I was drawing different head shapes and must've thought it would be funny to draw a character with a milk jug for a head.
As with most characters I develop, they end up popping up again and again if I'd enjoyed drawing them—often over long periods of time. You'll see the head pretty much stays the same, but the body changes.
Here I decided he should be a wholesome character (what's more wholesome than milk?), so I dressed him in a boyscout uniform.
And here he appears again, several pages later in my sketchbook...same idea, but a different take.
This drawing is the most refined of the bunch. You can begin to see his personality showing through. And his design is more fleshed out. I'm a firm believer in drawing a character over and over to allow its soul to emerge. So many characters are designed without personality because they are rushed. Or personality is considered after the fact. It appeared this wholesome milkhead should be kind and responsible, but modest and unsure of himself.
It was at this stage that I thought I would try him out in a comic. It's possible an entire year passed between initial doodle and comic. The story plays out below—basically, a one-page story of a scout whose good intentions go awry.
Now for most characters, that would be solid ground to stand on. I had a character I liked, and a decent idea of how I would use him—to put him in situations where he tries to be a good samaritan, but would be forever plagued by bad luck. This comic dates from 2005 (3 years ago), so I'd obviously lost touch with the idea. Until the other day.
I was drawing him again when I wondered if maybe he looked too old. That perhaps he would work better if he were younger...making him more of a cub scout and more vulnerable to catastrophe. More likley to get into trouble, too. I was also thinking about character appeal, wondering if a comic like this could work for a younger audience (if they would identify more with a younger looking character). Lastly, I considered simplifying his design a bit.
Something became immediately apparent. What surprised me was how making him smaller and cute didn't really make him more vulnerable. For some reason he started looking more bold and assertive—more sure of himself. He was suddenly becoming a brave little cub scout, one I could see going on adventures.
I tried to take it back a notch as I started drawing him in Flash. You can certainly force a character to look uncertain with an expression. But something was there with the 12-year-old milkhead that isn't happening with the smaller guy, yet. In an attempt to monkey with his design, I noticed some of my tendencies as a cartoonist. That characters of a certain stature almost beg to be tricksters, or at least have a lot of spirit in them.
After all this time, he still doesn't have a name. I'm gonna play around with him some more, but I thought I'd share this process with you all. I'm sure most have had similar experiences developing characters. Leave your thoughts!
Cartoonist, illustrator, co-creator of Heeby Jeeby Comix, and Director of Art & Animation at FableVision Studios. Drip! is the official blog of Jinx the Monkey —home to doodles, artwork, and a lot of rambling courtesy of yours truly.