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February 02, 2011

On the Making of Lewis & Clark

(from the desk of Nick Bertozzi)

STEP 1: Write a script. People will tell you this is hard to do. They are not lying to you.

STEP 2: Lay out the pages with rough drawings and roughly positioned text.


I tried using a new roughing technique for LEWIS & CLARK, putting together all of my layout using Adobe Illustrator. It's great for positioning text exactly where you want it, but drawing right onto a computer is a crazy idea. Just think, you can draw your image up to 800% magnification which means the awesome detail that you're drawing on Meriwether Lewis's epaulets will look like a muddy splotch at 100% magnification. Stay AWAY from the zoom tool is my advice here.

STEP 3: Pencil the pages onto 11" x 14" bristol board using the Roughs in Step 2 as a guide.


This is the stage in which I try to get the characters' poses and facial expressions just right. If I get the pose right, I can give an emotional resonance to the dialogue balloon that the character is speaking in order to make that character seem more real.

STEP 4: Ink over the pencils using an old-fashioned pen nib and brush with india ink.


This is the part in which I try to make the pages look good; thicken up the lines so that the pictures are easy to read, and using different inking techniques to make the background elements and props look like they're supposed to: plants are inked like plants, example. Sounds easy, but it's hard for me!

STEP 5: Scan and manipulate the image to get it to read as clearly as possible.



Even though I spend all that time on Steps 1-4, there's still lots of little things that go wrong and I don't often see them until someone points them out to me. On these pages I added black to the tops of the buildings so that the entire two-page spread appears more solid, I moved some panels around purely for design sake, and most importantly, I added more space in the word balloons so they'd be easier to read.

The whole process takes a few days -- and I haven't even mentioned the time spent researching the buildings and costumery of the era nor the hours spent trying to get better at drawing horses – not sure if I succeeded on that last one – but I think it's worth it.

Thanks for reading!

(you can find more of this book here)


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Little story on drawing horses for Nick! Italian comics master Magnus never quite mastered horses. Yet his last masterpiece was a mammoth 240 page story on Italy's "fumetti" hero, Tex. A western, no less... plenty of equines to go around! He secluded himself in a little inn on the edge of a wood outside Bologna and toiled away for SEVEN YEARS on the story. Every time he had to draw a horse, he'd draw and ink the characters - no horses - and send the pages out to his friend and fellow artist Giovanni Romanini, who'd then draw the horse without touching a single line of the master's work. He was so good that he could guess the space a horse would occupy on a page flawlessly... but he coulnd't bring himself to draw them!

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