School started just about a month ago and has definitely been keeping me busy! I restructured my schedule a little bit so that I get some exercise and work on the comic first thing in the morning, and then work on school in the afternoon and try to break by the evening. During the first couple weeks I was finding that if I started with school every day, I would just fill all available space with studying. Since many people complete the program while working full-time, it just seemed unreasonable to be working at least eight hours every day on school. As much as it's fascinating stuff to sink my teeth into, I just get tunnel vision! (Part of the reason why I'm hoping librarianship is a good career choice as it will be a lot about channeling that detail orientation.) Last week one of my assignments was to build a digital timeline of a specific piece of library science history and I decided to do it about my dad's library. He had a health scare recently and I wanted to work on an engaging topic that I lived through and that I could interview him about. I ended up working on it way more than I needed to for the assignment, but I did learn a lot about the library's funding referendum in 2008, their legal battles against the town, and the history of the town and library itself. I've linked it here.
Amidst the time management calibration, it's been good to have some structure to my days again too. The month and a half after I left my job and before starting the semester were filled with figuring out my healthcare, wrangling doctor appointments to happen in the right order, researching for our wedding, figuring out how to register for classes and doing a lot of school paperwork, and then feeling generally a bit aimless and in shock not having any true commitments after many years of having a day job. Now that I have a few core longterm priorities, it's easier to organize my time and get back in the creative groove.
I spent a lot of time in the summer working on the typed script and developing graphic novel thumbnails for the chapters that are still a little fuzzy, which was helpful but also never quite brings the same satisfaction as cranking out pages. I started another page in chapter one the day before yesterday and just wrapped it up this morning; it's one of my favorites of three-year-old me staring down an alligator. It's a lot of fun to be reworking the original chapter that I had started with, having learned a whole lot about the style I'm looking for and what I'd like to convey. I had done this chapter in pen and watercolor well before the graphic novel workshop in 2019 and I feel like I'm looking through a telescope at the old pages trying to recall my headspace. Some of them are over three years old and it was well before Grandma Rose's death.
Just like my tendencies toward school, if I don't point my focus in the right direction, I'll just plow forward on planning the graphic novel indefinitely and never make any progress on the actual finished work. Planning is definitely important especially when it comes to story and a time-intensive production – if the story isn't crisp, it could take ages to rework and all that time producing pages that don't work is lost – but the work can't be all about planning or it will never feel like it's coming together. And script writing can actually become a waste because the descriptions start to feel like writing prose and there is no sense pouring a ton of energy into what amounts to shorthand for me.
I purchased a few sketchbooks that were on sale last month and have been using those to develop thumbnails in their final coloring too, so I can get a sense of flow and refine composition. I was previously doing thumbnails only in graphite with multiple pages on a big sketchbook page and wasn't really thinking about layout much, so blowing them up channels more of that awareness. I went through and numbered the pages and have certain sections for specific chapters, so as I'm writing, if I need to figure out a layout I have a place to work that will fall in line chronologically.
Setup for school vs. setup for drawing
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based in Mansfield, MA.