The evolution of the Singing Bone comic Archives - The Singing Bone

Which one am I after all?

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How do you move on and genuinely forgive someone when the person who has hurt you has never apologized, shown regret, or even shown awareness that they’ve done you wrong? How can you heal from a profound betrayal where the person shows no remorse for what they have done to you? This question has haunted me for years. It’s a hurt that I never understood how to heal from.

When I originally started on the Singing Bone, I saw myself as the younger sibling who was killed by his brother. I was the victim. As time went on, I discovered that the lines have become blurred. In actuality, was I the one who failed my friend? Despite his bad choices, was he ill and in need of help? Instead of understanding the complexities of the situation, I ran away because I was afraid. I casted my friend out, just like the evil brother in the Singing Bone, because he hurt me. For me, Simpleton dies a symbolic death as he is simply cast out of the evil brothers’ realm of consciousness. This repression comes back to haunt him, but not before he comes to understand the path he needs to take to heal from his wounds.

So what is the answer as to how to forgive? To answer ‘love’ would feel incomplete. The only answer I could come up with is empathy. Seeing that you are part of others and they are part of you. So many things can factor into the choices we make. The potential for anything is in all of us, at any moment, depending on so many external and internal factors. Maybe it’s more about a coming to a certain understanding than forgiving. Of course, time plays a role as well. At the end of the story, I hope to have the ‘evil’ brother shaved by the king’s soldiers before his torture only to reveal that he physically resembles the very person that he killed and disregarded.

The Singing Bone by Jimmy Tigani

Revisiting, revising and reworking

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I’m still not sure if my persistence in revisiting older drawings is constructive, but once again I felt the need to revise this drawing in the hopes of making it closer to what I hoped to achieve. I finally came to the point where I could create a ‘first draft’ of this part of the comic, and in doing so, I quickly realized that when the drawings were combined together, the overall effect was confusing and producing a very busy composition. Revising this piece was an important part of adjusting the tone going forward and achieving a more desirable overall effect.

The colour is now being used to set up the tone of the image which is more ominous and further highlights Simpleton’s obliviousness to the ugliness that surrounds him. Simpleton’s face is not as goofy-looking in over-committing to the scene. Instead of treating all of the areas of the piece with the same emphasis, the tones are now more controlled in the hopes of focusing the action of the story and moving it forward.

The Singing Bone – Fatal Blow

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I finally finished the initial drawing today for this scene where Simpleton kills the Wild Boar. I started it back in the winter of this year. When the year started, I would create drawings randomly for various scenes of the Singing Bone without committing to one in particular until it was fully realized in my head. I knew this particular drawing, that I called “Fatal Blow” would be an ambitious one and I went back to it many times before finally going “all-in” when I finally figured out the angle I would take with it.

Captain Haddock and the Singing Bone

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Again, Herge has been an inspiration for me in my approach to the Singing Bone. What can I say about this beautiful panel that he drew? So much talent. I’m almost shy to put my work next to it, but I simply wanted to illustrate a point. The idea of duplicating a character within an image to show movement is something he did beautifully, and I figured what better place to use that device than the climactic moment when Simpleton kills the Wild Boar? I initially drew Simpleton in a way that was much closer in appearance to the Haddock in the panel above but it did not work. Simpleton needed to stab while haddock was swinging. Also, it felt as though I was borrowing too much and forgetting the essence of what I was trying to do. Still, the birth of my approach for Simpleton came from seeing this panel for the ‘Secret of the Unicorn’.

The year so far

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We are now about halfway through 2016 and despite not having finished a Singing Bone drawing in a few months, it has been a very productive year. Multiple drawings have been started in parallel. Unlike the last 2 years, my attention has not been split between various drawing styles. I have no exhibition to deal with, and I am not pursuing illustration contracts or dedicating time in exploring more realistic visual approaches. Whenever drawings do not turn out the way I like I simply redo them, without a moment hesitation and with much less frustration than in the past. I’m also not rushing through the drawings with an eagerness to get them out and I am enjoying the process of creating them and feeling the story. It takes the time it takes. I’m not questioning the path I am on as often as I used to and I’m grateful for this new found focus.

For some reason, perhaps because it is a bit foreign for me, it feels so fragile. Part of it self esteem issues, and I resent that fragility in myself, but the important thing is the I have grown aware of it and I am thankful for that. It helps me avoid familiar traps, and change. This is the longest that I’ve focused on any project without deviating onto something else. I can be my own worst enemy, and several things have lead me to deviate from a project, whether it’s seeing something that inspired me, a desire to step away and focus on something new or simply questioning myself and the worth of what I doing. I think I’ve reached the point where I just want to finish what I’ve started.

When I had less time to draw I would talk about it more (as though I was trying to keep that part of myself alive or relevant), and I didn’t like that. Keeping the process of creation to myself has been nice. Talking about it with others can take away from the intimacy that I need to create. Things need to be expressed visually and processed through my feelings. The shifting between accident and conscious realization is beautiful. All the small moments get lost when forced to verbalize. A feeling or impulse to do something is a true gift, and I’m thankful for it.


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I was very happy with this drawing when I had finished it but I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t quite fit the story that I am telling. I don’t like the fact that the ‘complicated’ or ‘evil’ brother is grabbing the woman that way. It was originally meant to reflect his corrupt or questionable nature, but it feels too vulgar and it doesn’t add to his character. Most of all, I don’t like the fact that simpleton carries the boar’s head in front of everyone to see. For the eventuality of the story to be believable, it’s important that no one sees that he was the real hero of the story. Despite this drawing being a step forward at the time and a lot of fun to do, it will have to be redone. The credibility of the witnesses may be questionable, but I do not want to have to explain something like that as it feels like extra baggage that is not really needed.

The issue with color

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My biggest challenge since starting to draw the Singing Bone story has been trying to figure out the best way to colour the illustrations. In honesty, I have spent very little time trying to figure out the colours in comparison to the time I spent drawing the various scenes and characters. Part of it might be that I am more curious about drawing and I take more pleasure from developing that aspect of the illustrations.

If I choose not to spend more time considering my colours, perhaps I should make less bold choices. I think I have improved in this regard with time, but perhaps there is more that I could do to make the colours less distracting. I see a lot of people today using colours very boldly and effectively and I might have allowed myself to get pulled into that approach without fully understanding my choices. I also feel that my use of bold colours can be a bit of a distraction from the narrative and atmosphere. I was looking at some old Lucky Luke comics the other day and really admired Morris’ use of colour. Some scenes could have several characters in them but he could colour them all in a flat red, simply and quickly. I like that. Since my lines tend to be a bit agitated, perhaps I could use my colours to offer a contrast and as a means to rest and focus the eye, instead of agitating it further. I think that once I finish the illustrations for the first part o the story, and I see them all together, I will go back and adjust the colours keeping in mind the overall effect.

Doing justice to my hand drawing?

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I am a huge fan of Herge. I could look at his drawings for hours and I admire his line work so much. Despite my admiration in the quality of a hand drawn work, I chose to redraw my work in Illustrator. There are a lot of reasons for this. I was not always very confidant about my drawing ability in doing cartoon-like work. I also felt attracted to the ‘artificial’ and ‘plastic’ attributes that the drawings gained by doing them in Illustrator and the contrasts it created when applying that style to more serious subject matter.

In addition to this, I feel that I struggle with perfection… By no means am I implying that my line work is perfect, but it is the ‘perception’ that I am achieving the best, smoothest and boldest line possible that provides me with comfort. I need too redefine my understanding of “the best line possible”. This is something that I need to work on within myself, especially as my confidence continues to grow the more I draw. Perhaps I can address this in a future instalment of the story, after the part that I am presently working on with Simpleton killing the Boar. Maybe I could align myself with the ‘evil brother’ and my visual approach can parallel is his own false projection. As a friend o mine once said, through the Singing Bone, it is as though I gradually sought to remove my ‘self’ from the equation. An amazing observation that still echoes in me all of these years later… The project cannot be finished until I address that, though a deeper understanding and acceptance.

The path I would follow

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Although I was starting over, I had not fully understood the extent of the revisions that I would bring to the story. I believed that I would only add a drawing or two, and it never occurred to me at first just how far I would go. I’m not sure I would have embarked on the journey if I had told myself in the beginning that they would all have to be completely redone, especially considering how slow the process of creating the drawings had become. I think that I subconsciously felt trapped with how I depicted Simpleton and his brother that I longed to be free and indulge in exploring different creative ways to draw faces without being shackled by what I had done before. I drew scenes that had various bystanders and villagers in them, reacting one way or another to the action that was taking place, and that process allowed me to push myself further visually. The process of exploration and discovery kept me engaged with the project and also helped me shoulder the long task of redoing the drawings.

In this scene, that I labeled “Foreshadowing”, the relationship between Simpleton and his helper is almost secondary to the surrounding environment. It is a drawing that perhaps did not serve the story in the best way but it was an important drawing for me as it gave me a glimpse of the direction that I hoped to grow into even more in the future. I labeled the drawing “Foreshadowing” because I wanted to write the message “You will die” using the smoke that spread behind the entire the scene. I eventually dropped the idea but residue of it is still clearly present. I became more interested in the faces and characters and felt that having that message spread across was interfering too much with the composition. One thing at a time, I suppose. I was gaining confidence. As I write this, I am not sure I would make those same choices today, but I have to be careful how much I judge and question my thought process in the past. I cannot redo these forever as I really hope to have the chance to get to the end of the story.

A defining moment that lead to a new phase

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The drawing that I eventually labelled “The Monster” was the start of a new phase. I had met my wife over the summer of 2012 and after a few months of not thinking about the Singing Bone at all, the story came back into my consciousness as something I really wanted to work on. I was not living at home at this point and it had it’s advantages: I did not have access to my computer as much, so overly retouching the drawings in Photoshop was not an option. If I did not like something, I would need redraw it by hand. This was of crucial importance as this drawing marks the start of relying less on Photoshop. Also, I had addressed some of the issues that the earlier drawings had. Now, the panels were active and relating to each other and the characters are committing to their feelings.

Comparing the 3 panels above (the old version) with the 3 panels below, I wanted to show the wild boar as a threatening creature, something that I failed to do in the original. I also wanted less storytelling gaps between the panels, so more panels would need to eventually come in between those that I already created to better tell the story. Every time I reached a point when I thought I was finished with the story, I saw how much more work still needed to be done in order to get the results I was hoping for. I kept starting over. In this case, by focusing most of my attention on the villagers fleeing from the wild boar, I was free from from the constraints of continuing to redraw the same characters over and over. I was now enjoying the freedom of focusing on new faces and it helped me to push myself further.

Still, it was clear that it was not enough. The new drawing I had done with the fleeing villagers had opened my mind to new possibilities, but I needed to take this further if it was going to work.