Course overview Course overview
Learn how to develop a story and publish it
This course is designed to be an intensive introduction to comics and narrative, from the very first stage to having the comic printed. We will begin by looking at comics and storytelling, then create storyboards and compose our comic pages. We will go over techniques for inking, coloring, and even lighting and special FX. In the last week, we will also talk about how to promote your work and show your project to a publisher!
Comics: The Art of Storytelling WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
The more you know, the better.
Bringing out the best in talent
Lectures by Miki Montllo
New Jersey native Reilly Brown is a fan-favorite comic book artist and writer for Marvel and DC Comics, known for bringing a sense of character and personality to the projects that he works on, balancing a combination of light-hearted humor, with fast paced superhero action. These talents have been on full display in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, INCREDIBLE HERCULES, LOBO, and many other comics, perhaps most notably DEADPOOL, Marvel's infamous, rapid-healing, merc-with-a-mouth! He is also a pioneer in digital storytelling, utilizing new ways of making comics for tablets and smart phones with his creator-owned series POWER PLAY, as well as several stories for Marvel, including DEADPOOL: THE GAUNTLET, SLAPSTICK and several others. Reilly currently works with Fabian Nicieza on their creator-owned series OUTRAGE which can be found on Line Webtoon.
summer TERM Registration
May 6, 2019 - Jul 22, 2019
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What makes this learning experience unique?
Receive personal individual feedback on all submitted assignments from the industries best artist.
1+ Year Access
Enjoy over 365 days of full course access. This includes all lectures, feedback, and Live Q&A recordings.
Certificate of Completion
Earn a Certificate of Completion when you complete and turn in 80% of course assignments.
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Interview with Marina Ortega Lorente
Freelance concept artist Marina Ortega Lorente takes us through the process of how she created a dark and gritty world, exploring her story idea in Comics: The Art of Storytelling.
My name is Marina Ortega Lorente, and I’m a Spanish freelance concept artist based in Manchester, UK. I’ve always known I wanted to work on video games art (and later also tv shows and films), but the hard task was to discover how to get there. So I studied Fine Arts at Complutense University of Madrid, and later online at CGMA. I put together an entry portfolio. I relocated to the UK looking for work where I got a concept artist job at a small local studio, as well as freelance commissions as an illustrator for Games Workshop. After a while, I became freelance full time which I have been for 4 years now, working on “The Forest”, and more recently in “Beyond a Steel Sky” with Revolution Games.
I specialize in environments where I really enjoy playing with mood and lighting. My favourite part is trying to capture the feeling of a situation and have the viewer experience it through my work. My favourite games have always been single player where you can immerse yourself in the storytelling and the universe presented to you.
So, this doesn’t sound like comics, but I felt I needed to be able to tell the essence of the story behind an image more efficiently. And I wanted to work on something more narrative driven than the usual descriptive concept art breakdown sheets. So in the hope to get a new perspective on things, I decided to jump into learning one of the more exigent and complex ways of visual communication. Comics.
It looked way easier than it was. But I had never written a story in a script format with short descriptions and dialogue. Of course I wanted to develop my project, and I had this Unborn universe of my own creation in mind from before. It’s about those “monsters” that are more than just that, living among us, rarely visible but influencing us all. And the only person who can see them is our protagonist Dana.
This week is about planning and organizing the chaos of possible scenes in your mind in a reasonable number of panels, without any format yet, and getting those first ideas out as very rough sketches. It won’t be set in stone but beginning with this and facing blank pages would have been daunting without this assignment and Miki explaining how to face this first step. It’s a key step that is truly for yourself, as you will be redrawing this a lot once you get into shaping the panels and fleshing out the page.
COMPOSING A PAGE
The composition of the page plays a big role in how the story is understood by the viewer. It is key to the narrative as image composition is key to the storytelling of an illustration. But instead managing just focal points and rules of composition, you are managing it in a big scale. You have to think of the simplest most striking way to tell the story and how to use the flow of the page for that. Controling how the eyes of the viewer will be moving around the page-- when and how they will receive each piece of information for the story-- it's hard to have it make sense and be exciting.
I have to try to imagine how someone that doesn’t know the story yet is feeling at each point. This is one of the most difficult things, and the one that if you are not experienced in comics you will probably need more feedback on. There are some rules to follow but as it happens in art, many things are subjective and particular to your story. I fixed the panels a lot and they became simpler and better organized to tell my story during this week.
DRAWING AND REFERENCE RESEARCH
This assignment was more in my comfort zone. As a concept artist (also my regular job) reference is your first and best friend. And I decided to design some key locations of this comic. Although I had to translate them later into the graphic, high contrast style I chose and adapt all that lighting, it really helps to stop a little bit to think of the design of your key or hero locations, objects and characters before adding them into the story.
It is important to take some time here, as the design needs to serve the story and needs some reflection before going straight to draw the panels. You also need to think about how you will have to draw these things from different angles and keep all the places and designs cohesive.
Also, Miki showed us how he uses not only reference for design but basic 3D for some key locations. He is able to just rotate the camera, and get some perspective and size information quickly and efficiently. Which is really useful when you need to draw something in different angles and from different perspectives.
CHARACTER DESIGN AND FLAT COLORING
Here I was considering colour or actually going for a high graphic contrast finish. My comic is a mixture of horror and a psychological dark story, that has actually more to do with the darkness of our mind than with actual monsters. So I was looking for a muted palette that would allow me to emphasize and play more with the color and intensity of lights, than just local colors of materials. Seeing Miki’s process for coloring step by step is still helping me nowadays even in concept art.
On the other hand I began to play with this graphic contrast style and different textures more than color because I feel that kind of noir feeling fits with a rainy night in a dark city. So I decided to not only play with colors this week, but look further regarding the style I wanted.
In this class everthing has to work together and it all evolved together, so I think I am more proud of just the final week.
I felt I improved at reducing what I want to tell to the most important elements and to let go of the things that are not really helping to support it. How to be in service of the narrative and to understand how important page design and flow are to comics. Miki helped me a lot with this and to understand how comics work. It is not just creating beautiful panels, it is about guiding the eyes of the viewer within the pages at the pace and direction you want. You need to manage and control tons of information at different levels.
I cannot recommend this class with Miki enough. He is an amazing teacher and professional. He takes into account your background, level, and your strengths and weaknesses, to guide you while he provides tons of useful information. Not only about the comic itself, but about the comic world and how to be an artist in it. I took this class as an introduction of comics for one of my personal projects. Now I want to develop other pieces of art, like keyframes and not only comic panels, so more than being a finished comic, the class has become the beginning of something else for me.
Interview with Benedetta Pia
Character designer Benedtta Pia shows us her love of the craft as she brings her edwardin scifi 'Maledictus' to life in Comics: The Art of Storytelling
Hi, my name is Benedetta Pia and I'm a story artist and character designer from Italy. Since childhood I've always wanted to tell stories. Thanks to my mom (who is an art teacher, sculptress and a painter) and my dad who raised me with movies, cartoons and comics it felt natural to choose an artistic path after high school. So, I graduated in 2D animation in Florence which seemed the right compromise between comics and filmmaking, plus two online courses to deepen character design. I collaborated with an online magazine, did some concept art for an indie video game and recently got the chance to have a short story published in the fourth volume of an Italian zine called La Psicoscimmia. I signed up for Comics: the art of storytelling by Miki Montlló to better understand the medium of comics.
We started working on the script of our project. Being the backbone of our future assignments I ended up picking this old, nebulous story I had in mind for ages. It was far from perfect, but it was right for me in that period. I felt the need to give some dignity to these poor characters that were rotting on my sketchbook and word documents.
Maledictus is about Susan, a young lady that decide to take care of his father's inheritance with the help of her strange companions, like Rothard. Talks about personal growth with a sprinkle of body horror and nonsense, my jam. After the script and the storyboard, in which we roughly sketched the main key of the action, we wrote down what happened in the page and how many panels would take to narrate that sequence. Before the course I used to draw the pages without really understanding how to use them effectively, or correctly place the balloons. I spent too much time trying to have more aesthetically pleasing “puzzles” than be readable. I treated the pages like I had to animate it, making them slow and tedious when, as Miki told me, I had to keep only the key of the actions and compose it to guide the eyes of the reader where I want. Basically I had to apply the Kulešov effect (we also had a lesson on it), without losing time on useless details.
After writing down the script and storyboarding the pages, I did my research. I love researching because it helps me to give more solidity and credibility to my designs. Having a story with both historical and fantasy elements, I started gathering images that could help me establish a “mood” and the general elements that I wanted to include.
Once the mood board was over, I quickly began to concentrate on clothes, weapons and all the historical elements, so I could start designing the characters. Part of this process includes choosing the right shape to convey a message. Susan, for example, had to look classy and the canonically feminine Edwardian lady, but for her design I choose more pointy and triangular elements to emphasize her rude behavior, while Rothard has square and rounder forms to indicate his reliability, plus some recurring elements I used on the villagers and the creature in the forest too. Teeth and bulging eyes soon became a distinguishing mark throughout the pages.
Fortunato was the most challenging to design. Initially he was heavily based on H.P.Lovecraft and had more pointy elements like in the nails and the shoulders. He looked more like an antagonistic figure but it wasn't the case. In those four pages Fortunato appears like a threatening figure for sure, but I wrote him to be more of a mentor to the protagonists. Keeping this in mind, after I grabbed some references, probably binge watching Phantasm at night didn't help, I started reworking on him and choose more sturdy shapes and limited the triangular forms. I ended up grabbing other photos and playing with shapes, while keeping in mind why I choose Angus Scrimm as a new muse and what I wanted to achieve.
INKING AND FLAT COLORING
My biggest challenge during the inking phase was to keep the continuity, so I had to redo my assignments after the corrections. I reworked on the pages and took more time on the cleaning up process, like Miki suggested, to give an organic look to the page, using quick and precise strokes that later helped me save time while coloring. I started with the sky to establish what palette I was going to use for the lights, shadows and the atmosphere. I choose a sunset to create a contrast between the warm, reassuring colors and the unnatural situation the characters had to face.
Another line of reasoning was adopted for the protagonists' palette. The colors are limited and most of them are shared to highlight the connection between them. Susan has green and purple clothes like Fortunato and Rothard, which in turn share the same bluish dye I gave to the villagers.
10 out of 10 I would recommend this course. Miki Montlló followed us with professionalism and disponibility. The techniques he taught us helped me improve my skills and understand what are my strengths and how to use them. He explained to us how to create a professional portfolio and how promote our work on social media. Another thing that I loved was the ability to rapidly communicate with our teacher during the Q&A and instantly receiving suggestions or corrections to apply to our work, making everything easier.