Movin’ Fast

It’s all about ‘speed’.

I’m given a random topic every week via the web site ‘IllustrationFriday.com”. (Late Friday / Early Saturday Morning my time.)

I try to turn them into comics that are in some way reflective of my life and surroundings here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In one week I’ve got to research it, draw it, translate it, put it on the internet, and add my link to their list. Gods, I must be insane.

Why? I’ve done comics in plenty of different styles and formats. My general approach is to draw fast. This is countered by my desire to share some of where and how I live with the rest of the world.

As the 2006 new year rolled around, I thought about how I could goad myself to draw some more comics, and noticed that a number of my friends (nod to AW, Kirrily) and other cartoonists were tackling Illustration Friday.

My thought: why not use this to spark off a comic? After a year I’d have fifty-two pages. Enough for a small collection. And since it’s drawn in Cambodia, it should be in Khmer, to enable some playing with language.

Ideally I devote Saturday-Sunday to drawing the comic, full stop. But usually it stretches into the week, often to the wee hours of early Friday, before Penelope wakes up and posts a new topic.

Usually it goes something like this:
I get the topic. I puzzle out a theme. Sometimes I write the dialogue before the comic, sometimes during, sometimes after. I’m after concision because written Khmer is usually 30% longer. And the less talky I am, the less there is to translate.

I often take pictures for reference. It’s much better to sketch directly, but I’m on a deadline, what matters is speed. Often I ask a friend to take pictures while I’m working on another part of the comic. I take the reference and lightbox it.

At some point in the week I go over the translation with my Khmer teacher. Usually I have the general translation sorted but I need to check my written Khmer and proof for nuances. I’ve worked with several different teachers, my current one is Suon Neang, (who appears in this week’s comic).

Then the text. Why typed Khmer? Again, speed and ease of reading. Typed Khmer is a lot easier to read than my handwriting, I’ve got a day job to mind after all. Recently this has been done by Moeu Diyadaravuth. I’d like to use Khmer Unicode directly on the page but this would make it inaccessible to Mac users; if it’s an image file everyone can see it.

Once the printed text is out I scan it and the illustrations. Then we then Photoshop it (with the help of Try Samphos) into Khmer, replacing the English. I’d like to try doing some color strips but that may have to wait for a time.

When I wasn’t on a one-week turnaround, (2003) I did my comics in Khmer first, then would do the English version. But the one week turnaround means that I’ve got to use every time-saving measure that I can find. Power outage? Use the window as a lightbox. Out of glue? Spit works OK, so does white out. Out of white out? Clean it up on computer. Getting close to the deadline? Submit one of the comic panels as an ‘illustration’ to bookmark my spot on the web page, until I can add the full comic.

Once a full strip is done I usually upload it, whether it’s been translated or not. By the time it’s done, Friday is usually closing in. The trick is to not attempt too much – already I’ve found ideas I’d like to explore in more detail. But for now, it’s pretty much one page a week. And that page wouldn’t be possible without the support of Vuth, Samphos and Suon Neang, as well as the encouragement of my office mates Jane and Geoff.

The site itself is three interlinked blogs: one for English, one for Khmer, one for other languages. For the ‘translation’ page I type out the dialogue, which can then be plugged into Babelfish or Google for translation.

Then come Notes (like this) and other goodies I’ve run across doing the comic: comments from friends, background on the research, sketches, photos, short video clips, MP3 songs, you name it. That’s always fun.

The final step is updating the archive: http://www.qdcomic.com/archive.htm

And I’m out.
Or rather, I’m on again.

Sanity? So far holding up. Let’s see where I am when I hit the half year mark.
May have to refine the process a bit.




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