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The Making of a YiffClass Picture - A History

For those people who are interested in how a piece of artwork comes to fruition, here's a history of the seventh "YiffClass" theme picture that I worked on.

The Idea

Ideas are funny things. Some times they flow easily, sometimes they only come with much wrenching and mental persuasion.

Sometimes it's real easy - other people suggest them! This was the case with the main idea for this picture, courtesy of my friend Mike Russell. While discussing what had been drawn so far, he said: "By the way, so far most of the YiffClass jokes have centered around the attendants. How about a couple, in a Benny Hill fashion, around the passenger... [the second] an elderly passenger is clutching his chest in a heart attack, the cause is an attendant who is bent over to pick up something from the floor. The caption might read, "Oh, shoot. I loose more passengers that way.""

This I thought was a very good idea, so I set to work!

The Preliminary Concept Sketch

This was the initial rough sketch I came up with, drawing a "concept" on small sketchpad paper. Actually, I did this one while waiting for a train at Ngauranga station while on the way to work one morning - I've taken to carrying a sketchpad around in my jacket for when the creative bug hits me. Very useful.

As you can see, I started with the idea of two attendants, and the 'victim' in the foreground. I thought that a credible activity for this situation to happen on an aircraft was when serving from the service trolleys - you know, those heavy things you wonder how on earth the attendants push them up the aisles, that contain your in-flight meals and duty free stuff. The shelves on those can be quite low - just right for the purpose of the gag!

The main problem I had with this layout was the positioning of the 'victim' in front. The portrait orientation I'd selected for the picture - I wanted to draw this on A4 paper, and a landscape orientation would have shrunk the size of the characters too much for me - just didn't give enough space for the 'victim' in front. Another approach had to be found.

[The first sketch]

Grey-scale bars due to scanning process.

The Initial Production Pencils

[Initial Pencils] Okay, so I needed a way to deal with the victim, while keeping the A4 portrait orientation and a decent view of the attendants. After all, they're the whole point of the sketch, mmmm? <grin>

Here you can see I re-oriented the scene, so that instead of looking right down the aircraft aisle end-on (as above), we see the scene almost side-on. Almost, but not quite - enough of an angle to provide a sense of depth. Continuing trouble with getting the right expression on the 'victim' soon meant I decided to cheat a bit and only draw half of him, so I added the walking stick to give the impression of age. The pose for the foremost attendant bending over was derived from a Ken Sample print I used as a reference - but the characters are all mine!

Also you can see the two attendants are still waiting for wardrobe. In fact, most of the background elements are still to be added, and I was still considering where the caption should go for best effect. The trick is with captioning or dialogue is to make it so that it and the picture are interdependant - one doesn't work without the other.

Final Production Pencils - ready for inking!

After I was satisfied with the pose and basic picture elements, it was time to add the background and clean up the pencils. As usual, the airline seat (with the usual "YiffClass" banner), aircraft windows and overhead lockers were added pretty much as before. The biggest problem was judging how high to put the lockers - as anyone who's flown on different aircraft knows, the height at which the overhead lockers are placed varies between (say) the confines of 737 domestic airliners and the almost cathedral-like heights of 747 long-range aircraft...

Just for fun, I named the foreground husky attendant Floki, and the canine behind her Maxine. Hey, gotta call them something other than "hey, you!" :)

Also, now you can see the caption being moved to it's final place - a thought balloon from the attendant bending over (thanks Mike!). The girls also have their wardrobe now, the usual "YiffClass" lingerie. Floki's top was a challenge to draw, as you can see you I had to picture how the bra top would appear underneath her breasts and upside down! I also trimmed down her upper back a bit to make her look less bulky.

[Final Pencils]

Inked Production Outlines completed - ready for colouring!

[Inked Outlines]

Inking - done with a No.3 brush.

After the pencils were complete, it was time for inking. Because I'd been doing a lot of inking of late with a brush and had been pretty pleased with the results, I decided to use the same for this picture. Wet inking gives a better depth of colour, but can be less forgiving of mistakes - which is where white-out comes in. Hey, even David Lowe, a famous NZ cartoonist in Britain during WW2, used the equivalent in his cartooning!

Little changes still creep in, even at this stage. Floki's back was slightly altered (again), as was the orientation of the airline seat to be more perspectivly correct, and I moved the "THUMP!" effect down below. All in all though, the design is now effectivly frozen. I deliberatly avoided any sort of cross-hatching or shading with the inking, as the intention was to do the colouring and any special effects on the computer, using Adobe PhotoDeluxe.

After cleanup of the pencils - a bit of a challenge 'cause ink does tend to come off with the rubber (that's eraser for you American types!) and some subsequent re-inking, the end product is ready for scanning and colouring.

Digital Cleanup and Effects

The program I'm using for my digital colouring etc is Adobe PhotoDeluxe. PhotoDeluxe seems to have all the facilities that I need at the moment, runs on my current machine (unlike PhotoShop) and besides it was free with my scanner :)

Some more detail cleanup with Floki was still required. Somehow between the pencils and inking Floki's expression had gone from a bemused innocence to a more angry appearance, so using the paintbrush tool I whited-out the join between her eyelash and eyebrow that was doing this. The expression went back to what I wanted, which was good.

A feature of PhotoDeluxe I've leaned about and really like is the ability to use 'layers' in the picture, allowing you to use more than one element in a picture without stuffing up the rest of it. I used this to create the view outside the windows by

  1. scanning a picture I took from the air from one of my trips (This one's looking over the southern tip of Greenland),
  2. importing the photo as a separate sky layer in the sketch,
  3. 'cutting holes' in the window areas in the cartoon layer using the colour select wand,
  4. then finally positioning the sky layer underneath the holes in the cartoon layer - and voila!
[Digital Cleanup, effects]

Cleanup and digital layering of background.

The Finished Production Artwork

[The finished product!]

Click on the above image to view the full-sized finished picture!

The next step is of course the colouring. As you can see from the thumbnail to the left, not all the picture is coloured. This was done mostly for artistic reasons.

I use the gradient fill a lot in the colouring process, in an attempt to give the picture a sense of depth. The colouring for Floki was fairly straight-forward as I simply gave her a standardish husky colour-scheme, but Maxine posed a few problems. Once I'd decided on a brown coat for her, I then had the job of deciding what colour her outfit would be, as well as her hair! And what didn't help was the fact that I'm a bit colour blind with reds and greens - now you know why so much of my work is straight black-and-white inks! Hopefully it doesn't look too bad, folks!

The next step was to add the final lettering, copyright stuff and so forth. I decided on Comic Sans font for the gag thought-balloon, replacing the hand-brushed lettering. Lettering isn't my strong point yet, I have to admit.

Finally, I reduced the picture to 600x426 pixels for screen viewing. I originally used 800 pixels wide, but Bernard Doove convinced me it was a better all-round size for viewing. Makes the image smaller too!

Final notes

How long did this picture take from go to woah? Well, time elapsed between concept and final image completion was roughly a month and a half, though not all of that time was 'work time'. In actual fact, there was around 3 weeks between final inking and colouring, due to a busted PC and RL work commitments. I have done pictures faster than this, mostly when the mood strikes to finish a really really really good idea!

Feedback on the preliminary pics has suggested that I do a version where the 'victim' is more in full view so we can see his face... This'll be a later version, and luckily I can re-use most of the original pic and add the new victim pose using the layering technique I described for the background. Ah, the marvels of modern technology...

So, what do y'all think?

"YiffClass" is (C) 1997/1998 Terry Knight. All images on this page are (C) Terry Knight. Do Not Redistribute.

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Copyright 1998 Terry Knight.
Last Updated September 1998
For more information contact: Terry Knight