Fortunately, as soon I was paired up with the AC Gallery an idea came to mind. Comic characters would comment on a painting and add their own "improvements" to it and the gallery were happy with that - great!
We decided on this picture, sold in the shop, so I printed a copy and after some rough sketches in a notebook, drafted some figures and cut them out to experiment with how they might be placed. This was seriously FUN as it started coming together!
But I thought maybe they should be bigger in relation to the painting, so I tried placing the same size figures on a smaller copy of the artwork. This looked better, and they still had enough room without elbowing each other.
Next I calculated what size they'd be if the painting was A3, and re-drew them (faintly visible on left). Most needed significant improvement, so I scaled them up by eye rather than scanning and enlarging the drafts first.
Then I tested the new full-size figures against the painting at A3 to make sure the hands holding the brushes and pens could reach the right places without blocking too much of the painting or getting in each other's way.
And, most importantly, they would need enough fixing area to support their weight when attached to the painting.
I needed the image of the painting to look convincing, and luckily have a friend in Kendal who went and took a high-res photo for me to work with.
Watercolour probably wasn't the ideal medium for a nice even appearance over such large stretches, made worse as I hadn't drawn onto watercolour paper! I aimed to colour hair and clothing differently from those of immediate neighbours, and in shades that would stand out from the painting.
That laptop was there for listening to podcasts, TED talks, etc - essential for keeping going late into the night.
I made photocopies so the final artwork would be stable and somewhat glossy rather than rough and matte.
Speech bubbles were written and positioned to add strength and support to the more precarious figures. The bubble above green dress woman connects her head to the painting guy's brush to the picture frame, for example, and the superhero will be supported by his own speech bubble. (See close-up below)
I had been intending to use thick card for the final product, but suddenly realised there was a thing called foamboard which would be lighter and stronger.
I glued the painting, and the figures with their speech bubbles attached, onto the boards using mounting spray after asking online for advice on what adhesive to use and then being lucky to buy the very last can in town.
Now it was time to simply cut everything out and assemble!
Somehow, this step took an entire hour per figure, which I still find hard to believe, but what with all the fingers and pens and trying to keep the edge neat and everything, I couldn't go any faster. So this was practically a day's work in itself, spread over a long evening and the next morning.
Then I glued the figures onto the painting, aiming to get the tips of their pens in the best places while making sure there was enough surface in contact to be secure, especially for these three slightly defying gravity.
Finally, I drew in their amendments to the painting, added with marker pen directly onto the finished piece as a last step as I had to know exactly where the tips of the pens were. It didn't matter how badly I drew, though, as I could blame the characters...
Then I found the centre of balance and glued two loops of ribbon on the back, equidistant from that point, so it would hang straight.
Oh, and two days before shipping (which is a whole 'nother story involving plywood and bubble wrap) I suddenly thought there should be a policeman trying to stop them, so quickly made one more figure and there he is at the right.
And here it is in the window of the AC Gallery in Kendal.
I was honoured and thrilled to be asked to contribute a piece for the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival windows art trail this October, which meant creating a comic-related display for one of about 30 businesses in Kendal. Having never done anything like this before, I learnt an awful LOT in the process as every step of the way needed something new figuring out, something that hadn't occured to me until I got there...
To be honest, I now wish I'd made the whole thing quite a bit larger (though posting would've been more difficult?) but not bad for a first attempt. I'll get to see it when I go up to Kendal next week to volunteer at the festival, and it'll be up in the gallery for the whole month of October.
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Note: Two Shillings per Day graphic novel-related posts now appear over here on their own page.