Finally, some progress with the comic book artwork

I have really been struggling to find time to work on my FutureQuake comic strip, but I think I’ve finally managed to make some headway. I’m currently still at the “design phase”, trying to solidify a look for the main character (Psion) and some of the hardware that features in Neil’s script.

Psion’s ship features quite heavily, and I created a design which I liked, but which would have been an absolute sod to draw repeatedly. As we’ve recently started experimenting with using Google SketchUp for creating rough 3D mockups of environment concepts at work, I thought creating Psion’s ship would be an interesting learning experience. It has the added advantage of allowing me to pose the 3D model for each frame of the comic strip, so that I can quickly trace over it to create the complete panel layout. This should save time in the long run, as the ship has a complex geometric shape, and it would have been time consuming and difficult to get the perspective right each time. SketchUp has the further advantage that it can create quick and accurate shadows, which should improve the look of the finished artwork too.

However, as is always the way, creating the model took longer than I had hoped. I’ve done very little 3D modelling (read: almost none), and SketchUp is quite different in concept and execution to the only other package I’ve used (Autodesk Maya PLE 2008), so there were a few false starts, and quite a few bad words uttered. Once I started to understand the principles though, it was very rewarding to work on, and I’ve ended up adding much more detail than I originally intended. Still, I’m very pleased with the results, and the time and effort invested in creating this model should add to the quality of the finished strip. It’s also taught me some useful SketchUp tricks that should make my next foray into 3D modelling quicker and less sweary.

Below as some 2D exports of the model. I haven’t bothered colouring or texturing it; I’ll be overpainting the renders, so there is no point. I have added a quick SketchUp style to the model to make it look a bit swankier though.

Flight Mode

Terrapin in Flight Mode.

Hopefully it’s evident that I designed the ship to resemble a terrapin. It’s not as flat or wide as I originally envisaged, but once I started constructing it in SketchUp, it looked a bit too much like a Pop Tart, so I steepened the angles of the fuselage.

Low Altitude Flight

Terrapin in Low Altitude Flight.

The outboard engines function as manoeuvring and landing thrusters, as well as landing gear. The design mimics the legs and toes of a terrapin (hopefully).

On the Ground

Terrapin in Low Altitude Flight.

Once on the ground, the flaps that help direct the thrust from the manoeuvring motors form the “toes” of the terrapin, and help to give it quite an aggressive, taut appearance. I’ve also added vents that open to cool the engines.

There are lots of details I’d like to add if I have time; the ramp that forms the door under the chin of the ship could be fleshed out so that I can show it open, and the inside of the cooling vents needs some work (fins, mechanical gubbins, that sort of thing). But now that the model is finished enough to pose, I need to crack on with getting the panels started. I’ve added these images, and a few more views of the Terrapin from different angles, to my Comic Book portfolio page.

After all that work though, I just hope that Neil likes it.

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