Grinding It Out

And Then One Day #9: Page 11 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1-4: After a slight delay, page 11 hits and it’s another good one that’s well worth the wait. From a dialogue perspective, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot going on besides the drop of David Chelsea, author, artist, and a noted 24 Hour Comics Challenge participant. The thing that did grab my attention here were the different “camera” shots that Ryan used. As you can see, he begins with a medium shot of the duo in panel 1, zooms in to focus on the figure speaking in panel 2, pulls back out to the original position in panel 3, and then pulls back even farther to emphasize the end of the sentence and continuation of their stroll. I kept staring at this sequence and something about it was pulling at me, just on the periphery of my conscious understanding. I kept going over it and trying to break it down; then it finally hit me. If you assign numerical values to the positions, beginning with a 1 for the camera position closest to the figures, a 2 for the next closest, and so on, then the sequence is 2, 1, 2, 3. The greater the number, the further away the reader is from the action. 2, 1, 2, 3. Now that probably doesn’t mean a great deal to the casual observer, but if you’re a total nut like I am, you may recognize that the 2, 1, 2, 3 repetition pattern occurs in unusually high frequency in nature and science, playing some primal role in everything from laser optics, to genome sequencing, to Japanese typography. Shoot, there’s even an online graphic novel called "NYC 2123" about a tsunami that devastates Manhattan. I think I remember my cousin (who is a music teacher at San Francisco State University) even mentioning that it’s a common set of values found in musical theory, but don’t quote me on that. I don’t know enough about music to back that faint memory up. Anyway, I’ll stop digressing and simply wonder if Ryan used this sequencing device intentionally or it was a happy accident buried in his human subconscious somewhere.

Panel 5: This half page shot is another terrific environmental composition. Ryan suggested in a recent post that he feels his artistry has made significant progress in the last year and I think this issue is strong evidence in support of that theory. I think if you look at the progression of his work you can see periods of strong concentration on figure work, then panel to panel transitions, and now a larger degree of environmental control. He’s steadily improving every aspect of his craft, not to mention the great peripheral abilities he has in marketing, networking, etc. This shot is full of things I love, the hard line weight on the palm tree emphasizing its foreground position to the observer, the detail and accuracy of the SDSU Aztecs banner on the right, the centering and line weight of the two primary figures that draws your eye right to them, the bricks, the benches, even the throwaway skateboarder. It’s the small flourishes like these, which are totally unnecessary from a narrative standpoint, that illustrate (heh) the extra effort he’s willing to undertake, that make for a rich reading experience, and that make you appreciate Ryan’s obvious love and passion for his chosen craft. Go, Ryan, go!


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