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What started out as an idea for four characters turned into a full-blown comic, thanks to Lead Concept Artist Andy Ivanov’s fresh and fun take on a middle school mystery. Read his process from research to characters to the final frames, including:

  1. School Days Script
  2. Thoughtful Storyboarding
  3. Character Roll Call
  4. Framing the Scene
  5. Splash of Color

Hey! My name is Andy Ivanov. I’m a CG artist with a traditional art background. Currently living in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and working full-time as a lead concept artist for a gaming company. Outside of my professional life, I like to explore animation design styles and draw some cartoonish stuff. Comics are one of the best and affordable ways to tell your story in pictures. It was very interesting to learn what tricks and techniques in this direction are.

1. School Days Script

My story is about four friends who love mysteries and urban legends, and won’t rest until they can investigate. I came up with the concept of these characters in advance, but the story is brand new! I wanted to make a small project dedicated to Middle School. Then I thought, why not back up this concept project with a story hook. I was inspired by classic movies from Steven Spielberg, some modern trends of the 80s, Gravity Falls, and Stranger Things TV Shows.

2. Thoughtful Storyboarding

The layout should help move the story. This means releasing information at the right time but also setting a rhythm or pace that enhances the plot. The instructor told us when you are looking for a layout composition, it’s not necessary to stick to the ideal composition in the frame itself. This helped me explore some ideas I normally wouldn’t have.

3. Character Roll Call

I chose to design kids who were 12-13 years old. I think this is a very interesting age when children already consider themselves adults but still believe in fairy tales or mysteries. And that’s why they always find themselves in trouble.

I tried to pick up the classic archetypes for the characters. Cliches can be effective because everyone can find a piece of himself in each character. For the main character Andy, I picked red and blue for an adventurous and casual feel. I wanted him to be as relatable as possible.

Flip through the gallery below to see Andy’s turn arounds, expressions, and costumes.

I designed Andy’s core group of friends to be similarly approachable, but with unique character traits. Personality will come out more in the story, but what they wear and how they carry themselves says a lot right off the bar. Mike has blue and white colors – Sporty and a little official.  Tim is yellow – he has energy and a humorous guy.  Ned is green – he is peaceful, clever, and a little nerdy.

These characters were my primary focus in the class, but the further I pushed the story the more my character line-up grew.

Flip through the gallery below to see the whole School Days Adventures crew!

Read “6 Ways to Design Story-Driven Costumes: Fe’avi the Last Dragon” to learn how to optimize your character’s wardrobe.

4. Setting the Scene

The research was one of the most interesting processes for me. Since I am not a resident of the United States, I watched a lot of videos on YouTube about American Middle School. I chose a suburb in Cincinnati, Ohio because I wanted a town with all four seasons.

I checked a ton of pictures about American life on Instagram and studied the architecture of schools using Google street view maps. I fully dived into the culture, just to properly catch the mood. Kids’ lifestyles are free and fun, plus they come with a lot of personalities! Kids have a big platform for creativity and exploration, and I wanted to capture that feeling.

The composition of the framing is one of the most important parts of the visual storytelling process. Plans, frame cuts, sizes, all of this greatly influences the result. The storyboards helped inform my composition decisions, but I still had room to adjust to my research and any new ideas.

Read “6 Steps to Master Illustration Composition: From Apartment Scenes to Ghoulish Posters” to improve your framing!

5. Splash of Color

Playing with the light and color in mundane scenes helped me set the scene even more. It made the place seem more grounded and real.

Swipe through the gallery below to see some of these scenes!

For the actual story, I chose night colors to emphasize the mysteriousness of the story. Kids rush to school, but why at night? It already adds a sense of adventure! Miki gave helpful advice on the outline colors for the whole page. This makes it possible to pre-evaluate not only one frame, but several pages in advance. This reminds me of color scripting in movies.

Enroll in CGMA’s The Art of Color and Light course to find the best splash for your story.

Final Thoughts

  • Montllo provided great feedback for the beginning of my story. Plus, he wanted to see what would happen next 🙂  It pushed me to create a few more pages, which was more work but it a pleasure to do!
  • Taking this course I improved my skills of narration, colorization, and how the composition moves the story. Of course, nothing would happen without quality feedback from your instructor.
  • A mentor helps you save time and guides you in the right direction. Miki Montllo is a talented and inspiring mentor, I was very lucky to have him as an instructor on my past course, color and light. I hope one day we will meet personally so I can shake his hand. This is a very cool course that I advise everyone to take and who wants to improve their storytelling skills.
  • At this stage, my project School Days Adventures is a small concept preview of the story which demonstrates a fragment of this story. If there are investors who like the idea, this project could be a comic book or animated TV show.

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.

RELATED LINKS

Read “6 Ways to Design Story-Driven Costumes: Fe’avi the Last Dragon” to learn how to optimize your character’s wardrobe.

Read “6 Steps to Master Illustration Composition: From Apartment Scenes to Ghoulish Posters” to improve your framing!

Enroll in CGMA’s The Art of Color and Light course to find the best splash for your story.