Drawing Strangers

I’m completely on board with the plan for page three. I loved it when I read it, and I still do. I just didn’t quite realize how much work it was going to be. It’s taking more work than all the pages before it put together, including both versions of the cover and page two. At least that’s how it feels right now.

Page three is very atmospheric, and sets the scene in a big way. I’m basically drawing Philadelphia, and hinting at some of the mood and tension that will drive the story. It’s a big job, and I’m certainly not doing it thoroughly. But even in its most basic form the job includes two things that I am bad at – drawing buildings, and drawing lots of people in the same place.

I’ve pretty much managed the buildings. That just takes research, compromise and time. The people are more complicated. I can draw people all day, if they are people who I know like Gemini or Mahkai. Drawing strangers – well, it isn’t possible. I inevitably imagine the life and characteristics of the person as I draw them, and by the time I am finished they are a character. When I don’t take the time to do this, my drawings end up entirely unsatisfactory.

Entirely unsatisfactory drawings aren’t allowed in Dragon’s Fall. A few have made it through into LleuGarnock, and I’ve regretted that, but that was just part of the learning process. Now I know if I am going to draw a panel with many people who aren’t main characters, I am going to have to put in all of the work.

There are lots and lots of people in Dragon’s Fall page three.

I’m so glad William went along with my idea to split the page into two web updates. This week I’m drawing one of the crowds, and next week I will draw the other.

For me, getting to know people takes energy, even if they aren’t real people. If I’m making up the person, I still have to make the effort to ask them questions about themselves. So I can’t just sit down and put in the work. I have to take breaks often to ponder and recharge.

I wish I knew more black people. I don’t try to make all of my characters white, but that’s how it usually happens, probably because most of the people I’ve seen on an average day of my life have been white. In elementary school I knew three asian kids who had been adopted by white families, but there were just no black families around.

In high school and college, there were just a few black people sprinkled in, but I think it was too late for the formation of my brain. I wasn’t close to any of them, but then in high school I wasn’t close to anyone, and Solace (my only black classmate) certainly had plenty of friends without the awkward fat girl muttering at her. In college, because of the church’s ties in Ghana, there were Africans around, but the closest thing to African-Americans we got were a black Canadian and a couple of white boys who grew up in South Africa and then moved here. I didn’t happen to be in any of the diversified social groups in college either. Sometimes I feel bad for avoiding conversations with the Ghanaians because I couldn’t understand their accents very well, but when they approached me I did try. We didn’t have much in common, anyway, because they were all there to study theology.

So that’s my whole excuse for not knowing any black people and not thinking to draw them often. Then there is the fact that I can’t think of a single Hispanic person I have had an actual conversation with. Thankfully, William knows a bunch of them and he tells me things occasionally.

Actually, there was that one guy who hit on me in the Met.

So, as I was saying, crowds are hard. If you are standing on a street corner in Philadelphia and you see ten people, chances are they won’t all be white. I have to consider these things.

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