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School Days Adventure

CG artist Andy Ivanov takes on the mysteries of middle school in his story for Comics: The Art of Storytelling.


Hey! My name is Andy Ivanov. I’m a CG artist with a traditional art background. Currently living in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and working full-time as a lead concept artist for a gaming company. Outside of my professional life, I like to explore animation design styles and draw some cartoonish stuff for fun. The course Comics: The Art of Storytelling attracted me to learn storytelling. Comics are one of the best and affordable ways to tell your story in pictures. It was very interesting to learn what tricks and techniques in this direction are.

The Script

My story is about four friends who love mysterious stories, urban legends and try to personally check them out. I came up with the concept of these characters in advance but this is a new story. I wanted to make a small project dedicated to Middle School. Then I thought, why not back up this concept project with a story hook. I was inspired by classic movies from Steven Spielberg, some modern trends of the 80s, Gravity Falls, and Stranger Things TV Shows.


The layout should help move the story and give the necessary emphasis to frame the rhythm of events. I received some good advice from an instructor― when you are looking for a layout composition, it’s not necessary to stick to the ideal composition in the frame itself. This helped me explore and find the right layout.

Character Roll Call

I chose 12-13 year-old kids to design. I think this is a very interesting age when children already consider themselves adults but still believe in fairy tales or mysteries. And that’s why they always find themselves in trouble. I tried to pick up the classic archetypes for the characters. Simple guys, in which everyone can find a piece of himself. I deliberately used clichéd characters, because it really works.

For the main character Andy, I picked red and blue for an adventurous and casual feel. Mike has blue and white colors – Sportive and a little bit official.  Tim is yellow – he has energy and is a humorous guy.  Ned is green – he is peaceful, clever, and a little nerdy.

Setting the Scene

The composition of the framing is one of the most important parts of the visual storytelling process. Plans, frame cuts, sizes, all of this greatly influences the result. Miki gave a lot of good recommendations on this subject.

Researching was one of the most interesting processes for me. Since I am not a resident of the United States, I watched a lot of videos on YouTube about American Mid School. I chose a suburb in Cincinnati, Ohio because of its diversity. I wanted a town with all four seasons. I checked a ton of pictures about school life on Instagram and studied the architecture of schools using Google street view maps. I fully dived into the culture, just to properly catch the mood. Kids’ lifestyles are free but at the same time, they can be individualistic as well. Kids have a big platform for creativity and exploration and I wanted to capture that mood, that feeling.

A Splash of Color

I chose night colors to emphasize the mysteriousness of the story. Kids rush to school, but why at night? The narrative, the composition, and actions that kids do are pushing our characters to the mysterious stuff as well. Miki gave helpful advice on the outline colors for the whole page. This makes it possible to pre-evaluate not only one frame, but several pages in advance. This reminds me of color scripting in movies.

In the final week, I tried to stick to the original plan. This helped me to keep the ideas in frames and work to the end. I can’t call it a problem, but I had to finish a few more pages because Montllo appreciated the beginning and he wanted to see what would happen next :). It became a little bit bigger project but it was still a pleasure to do! My advice to other artists: always plan your work from the beginning to the end. Do not rely on short-term decisions as a basis and follow the plan step by step.

Final Thoughts

Taking this course I improved my skills of narration, colorization, and how the composition moves the story. Of course, nothing would happen without quality feedback from your instructor. A mentor helps you save time and guides you in the right direction. Miki Montllo is a talented and inspiring mentor, I was very lucky to have him as an instructor on my past course color and light. I hope one day we will meet personally so I can shake his hand. This is a very cool course that I advise everyone to take and who wants to improve their storytelling skills.

At this stage, my project School Days Adventures is a small concept preview of the story which demonstrates a fragment of this story. If there are investors who like the idea, this project could be a comic book or animated TV show.

You can see more of Andy’s work here:  https://www.artstation.com/andivart