During my time spent in the graphic design program, I noticed a trend where it seemed like design and art couldn’t coexist on the same plane without negative connotations between whether the two disciplines could be considered equal in importance or not. I believe illustration is the perfect merger between these two realms that allow them to coexist with one another in a positive and informative way. The goals were simple in terms of what I hoped to accomplish with this project:
The final result is Volume 1 of an indie comic. Far Gone is a project that has been lying dormant since 2017. Like many graphic stories and comics, it all started with a pencil sketch tossed in a sketchbook that would later be filled and set down on a shelf. Then another. Then another. It was always a matter of time and place, but this comic and its universe were set to be explored as soon as the opportunity came to light. As I started my senior thesis, I knew I had already started on it from early on in my college career.
Glenn comes from a small village where nothing much happens, up until a gust of wind sends an unexpected visitor into the grassy plains. Trying to help, he instead ﬁnds himself whisked away from his home with the hot air balloon’s original passenger: Smidge. The two share a journey when the balloon takes them both to a newfound place where trouble is afoot and nothing seems quite the same as home.
The initial sketch was to be done on paper and then the rough sketch would be transferred into Procreate. Linework for each panel would be laid out and adjusted using Procreate on the iPad Pro. A ragged, more organic “pen” brush was used to emulate the wobbly and loose forms that these illustrations were meant to take. The coloring process followed similarly, and surprisingly took the least amount of time out of these three primary steps. Finally, the text was added via Photoshop, and the image was saved as a TIF in order to make adjustments if needed down the road. The final result was meant to be combined in an InDesign file along with supporting content and printed by a 3rd party publisher.
The second eldest in a family of 7 other siblings, Glenn hails from the village of Attensboro in the High Plains. He has spent most of his life there much like most of the village and has never carried consideration for a nomadic life. Due to his siblings, Glenn is relatively patient, quick to settle quarrels, and put his siblings at ease when needed. Glenn’s task within the village is to shepherd on the plains. He spends quite a bit of his day among the Porabs and serving as a natural predator to ward off whatever might take interest in them. Although he has never thought of leaving his home, deep down Glenn is at an age where he carries a sense of monotony that he can’t quite place. Maybe, just maybe, that sense is a sign that change is coming.
for the main protagonists of this series, I truly began sketching in 2017. The further time went on, our main character became a re-occurring sketch that I hadn’t let leave my mind. Glenn made his way into 18 of the 23 sketchbooks I finished throughout my college career where I knew something would come of it. I was drawing his persona on occasion for the sake of not letting the character gather rust. As a result, Glenn went through many iterations and many different styles. He grew with me through my years in the Graphic Design program, just as I grew as both an artist and a designer.
His design showcased my struggles at drawing anything two-legged and an inherent fear of drawing arms and legs (Ohh, just give him a poncho). After drawing him once or twice there was the notion of “Hmm, I could do something with this guy.” I continued to do so after deciding this could be a possibility down the road. Glenn resembles the variety of styles I was mixing and matching as I tried to find my own over the last several-year span.
Smidge was on a voyage through the sky with their parent when an unexpected wind current split up the two, leaving them sky high as a result. Mice in the comic universe tend to be an agreeable species, often gentle, and rarely instigators of trouble. Arguably among the lowest tier of predator-prey in the environment, Smidge is an anxious soul. The mouse can be quiet and curious, yet on at the slightest sign of danger or surprise that can change in an instant.
Smidge went through considerably fewer character changes due to how little they were drawn early on but saw drastic changes within those iterations. The same nervous and naive persona seemed to come through all the way to 2018 where the first drawings of Glenn and Smidge together were prototyped in a single test panel. To the comic, Smidge is a symbol of innocence, curiosity, and will often be the first one to find out the ‘hard way’ when those expectations go awry.
The hot air balloon was also a concept from 2018 in a previous sample project of this narrative. While the form has changed throughout a handful of iterations, the overall structure and functionality shows through to the current iteration shown in Volume 1 of the Far Gone series.
Porabs are creatures in abundance, usually appearing in herds of many. They are slow movers, traveling no more than a quarter-mile in any day, and rarely that from their lack of motivation. They can be found in regions that provide grassy scenery such as the High Plains. Porabs seem perfectly content with whatever scenery they are in, and have a limited set of natural predators due to their docile nature and lack of resources to be gathered in order to survive. Porabs are practically boneless creatures, held together by cartilage, muscle, and fat reserves that allow them to live their relatively immobile lives. Due to the ease of care Porabs have, they are a common herd animal for their fur which grows curly come the Autumn season. They are also a low-level delicacy in some places that have discovered ways to cook them. While docile, they still require supervision from some of their few natural predators.
“Porabs” are the symbolic wildlife in the Far Gone universe. These virtually boneless buns are spectators to what goes on around them and seemingly do no harm. Taking about 4-5 strokes of a pen to draw, these round little creatures have shown up on sketchbook pages, whiteboards, and bar napkins alike. They even took a physical form with the assistance of @eshuisart who worked with me on a commission for two different sized plush versions.
My project developed a common theme of having to go with the flow when life events felt out of the character’s control. During this Spring semester of 2020, we faced this idea similarly midst quarantines and handling the COVID-19 outbreak. Just as my characters begged the question of when things would get back to normal, we were doing very much the same. As a result of this abnormality and the shift to digital for classes, this project saw some changes in how it would finish by the end of the semester.
I decided against printing physically due to the shutdowns that were occurring with businesses. I didn’t want to put a strain on them nor myself to try and accomplish it under the new conditions. I decided that I would create a site to host all of the information I would have liked in a printed copy and possibly more. Through this website, I would also try and convey the look and feel of the environment, which was my goal with the original plan of a 10×10 senior show booth.
The purpose of this project was the product, and a website was now going to be the vessel to hold it. I wanted something simple and functional while still carrying the theme of the comic’s environment. I looked to Wix due to the timeline I had, and because I had moderate experience with their interface.
Below on the left, my first draft for the website was to incorporate small icons and lightboxes that would appear for each comic panel, and arrows to move back and forth. After some testing, I reminded myself that I wanted this physically printed in the first place. I went with the option on the right with panels being shown in spread format. Other pages include character bios, concept art, a shop, and blogs tracking from the point I had started the website.
See this project to its fullest!
Read the comic for yourself, browse the added content, and enjoy.
It’s strange to say, but with the shift to digital for this semester I was given more time to focus on the core of my project. I think that turned into to better results in the long run. This is Volume 1 of this story. I fully intend to start on Volume 2 following graduation and transition from college. I fully believe that even Volume 1 isn’t done until it’s “shipped”, meaning that I want to get physical copies done and into the world to truly complete it. I want to take this project and continue running with it. I know Volume 2 will be a step up from Volume 1, and if I go through the process enough times I’ll have a better grasp on it with each iteration.
The truth is out, maybe I was more for illustration than I was meant for design in the first place, but a designer’s discipline helps in all those aspects of composition, text, color, and fine-tuning. I find art and design to be similar beasts where neither can be diminished for the sake of the other, and illustration is a point where both get along fluidly.
Following my time at Iowa State University I want to start looking into the realm of illustration and what publishing options there are. I enjoy the sequential narrative aspects of illustration. I like the format for comics, but I also enjoy the subject matter and whimsicalness of children’s books. I like doing my own work as well as work for others, so long as its the right fit. Where am I headed, and where will I land? Stay tuned.