Grinding It Out

And Then One Day #9: Page 16 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1: It appears we’re leaving one section of the story behind us and moving along to another, and I’m excited to see where Ryan goes next, literally. I like that basically every panel on this page has Ryan presenting himself at a different figure scale. This first panel is a good anatomical action shot, with the variable line weight really punctuating Ryan’s outstretched arm as he waves goodbye. It makes for a very memorable image, particularly when juxtaposed with such fine detail in the background. It’s a small thing, but I also notice the two sharp little points on the speech balloon that lend an extra crispness to his shout. I really like when visual detail complements the tone of the text.

Panel 2: I gave Ryan some grief last time about his motion lines, but he really nails this one. That dual arc swivel motion is just right, your eye goes there first so that you know Ryan has just spun around, you see him walking away, and then your eye is drawn up to his self-congratulatory mutter. This panel is perfectly balanced, with the swivel lines balancing the placement of the speech balloon, on both the vertical and horizontal planes.

Panel 3: I like this panel because you can instantly get the sense that Ryan is contemplating what just happened. You can see from his slightly downturned head and the position of his eyes that he’s probably lost in thought, reviewing the conversation he just had, and likely proud of himself for having obtained such thoughtful content. I wonder if, at this point, he even knew he’d be presenting the conversation with Dr. Polkinhorn in comics format and was already contemplating what this panel would look like. That’d be an interesting self-referential loop, if this thoughtful look was him considering how he was going to frame and draw this specific shot. Weird to think about, and it also touches on the whole truth and fiction continuum that pervades his body of contemporary thought.

Panel 4: I don’t have a lot to comment on during this panel, other than to note that after so much talking, Ryan is doing a lot here sans dialogue and you don’t really skip a beat. He’s such an effective panel to panel storyteller, and packs so much information into the transitions, that you hardly notice it’s a silent sequence. I also think it’s another example of the extra mile that Ryan is willing to go as an artist. Lesser artists probably wouldn’t have bothered to show as much detail. They’d have drawn Ryan just retrieving his bike and not a lot more, but Ryan also gives us the dumpster, the guy with the briefcase walking by, and the small details of the building edge, the window, and the sidewalk seams.

Panel 5: I quite like this panel! I’m not sure if I’ve seen Ryan try this technique before. Notice how he has blurred the lines in the background by dragging his ink horizontally. It doesn't allow us a fixed point to focus on, which makes it seem like nothing is still. Not only does it give the perception of motion occurring as he whizzes by on his bike, but you can even make out a faint figure to the left, which I think is absolutely grand. The motion lines around his frame also feel just right in this panel, emphasizing the slight bobble back and forth as he pumps away at the bike’s pedals.

Panel 6: There’s a lot going on in this panel. First, I love the way how it’s almost a reverse establishing shot. Most artists would begin with a shot like this to establish where the action was taking place, and then zoom into the action. Ryan reverses that method here, showing us the action(s) first, and then pulling out to reveal the world around it, providing some context for the activity. It’s also packed with the detail, depth (the tree on the bottom left really pops the foreground), and intricacy we’ve come to expect in this issue. Ryan also plugs in the “Family Circus” style dashed lines again, which used to show the kids traipsing all across their neighborhood. It takes a really confident artist to move beyond simple storytelling mechanics and begin placing these style devices and homage cues into their work. The timing feels right; Ryan has mastered most of the basics and is ready to delight us with flourishes such as these. The only real “complaint” I have in this panel is the shape of the car. Without mincing words, Ryan needs some practice drawing cars. This seems to be tricky for a lot of artists, and I wonder why that is? I wonder if it’s because artists don’t attempt to draw a specific make or model and simply draw “car?” That’s a total guess. In any case, the doughy lines are particularly noticeable when the entire shot is full of crisp and precise detail. Overall, it’s still largely a win, with just one easily identifiable opportunity for improvement.


At 10:02 AM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

You know, it's funny, I even photo-ref'd that car. Ha-ha! I was thinking, "What is a popular car that is not my traditional honda wagon I always draw. I know, a Honda Civic!" :)

Since this conversation originally took place in 2007, I looked up a 2007 Civic. This is what I got:


When I first saw it, my gut reaction was, "Oh...that's ugly. It doesn't even have a bumper. And it's sure to look like one of those awfully rendered cartoon cars." (Your "doughy" adjective was on the money.)

But then I tried to rationalize the situation by saying, "You know what, you're over thinking it. Time is ticking away. No one will even think about this but you."

In hindsight, I should have done another google-search or two before committing to my photo reference, but such is life. (That's actually why I included a truck bed next to it because it was the LEAST "doughy" vehicle I could think of. ...sort of my, "Look, I can draw non-doughy cars" plea.) Next time I'll poke around a little more.

Thanks for the honest (and largely positive) critique,
Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics

At 12:51 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Hey Ryan, thanks for the additional insight. Admittedly, I'm picking apart these panels because of the nature of the "assignment," and the car is hardly consequential... I do like the truck though. ;-)

At 7:04 PM, Blogger YO! said...

honestly, while the art is fine, I'm not quite sure what the purpose of this whole page is. unless something is going to happen to him on his bike, or this is the last page of the story, this page is a great example of a very common comics story telling pitfall... panel after panel of the character going somewhere that don't advance the plot or develop character, something every panel should do. Also, Great backgrounds. I am eager to see what happens on the next page. I hope I am wrong.

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Reviewing single pages is a tricky business.

I think if you review any page in a vacuum, it's difficult to ascertain what its purpose is, beyond simply commenting on the mechanics of the layouts and artistic techniques.

To fully understand and appreciate its ultimate purpose as a storytelling device, it needs to be read in context, along with everything that came before, and all that will come after. It's simply a part of a whole. This is true of any single page from any book that one randomly looks at.

I also think that since this creator is so concerned with truth vs. fiction in autobiography, and how that meaning can be skewed by selective presentation, it absolutely has a purpose, there's authorial intent there, even if we don't realize what it is quite yet.

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Jay Jacot said...

The car... hrmm where to begin, it resembles a squared flat sided paper model taken from a 3/4 view with the left side of the model trailing behind the right.

Personally I'v found these silent panels a nice contemplative break to the amount of dialagoue and discussion that has taken place to date.

It's the exterior calm with the interior storm, it show his very mechanical steps he's taking while his mind is elsewhere.

Yet another great review Justin.

Great work Ryan! Though I do find it funny we both added vehicles to our comics on the same day.


At 9:42 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jay!

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Patioboater said...

"When I first saw it, my gut reaction was, 'Oh...that's ugly. It doesn't even have a bumper. And it's sure to look like one of those awfully rendered cartoon cars.'"

But ... but ... sniff ... *my* car is a silver 2007 Honda Civic. (Well, okay it's actually a 2008 Civic Hybrid, but they look the same.)

Let me just say that these are surprisingly bold words from a man driving a Mazda Protegé wagon: http://www.elephanteater.com/3617/tour-update-epilogue-meet-citt

In terms of the infinitely more important topic of the page, I think it's really hard to judge a page like this by itself. It's a pacing page, and so a lot of its meaning and impact derives from the pages around it. That's not necessarily good or bad, it just makes it really hard to decide how effective it truly is until I see it all collected together in a book.

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Justin said...



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