I ‘ve been writing a fair bit, waxing lyrical, if you will, on the many roles the sequential artist takes on when telling stories. It’s a time-intensive process, and you spend so long on each panel, each page, that you forget how quickly people tend to read through these things. Thus the main aim should be to create a clear, flowing read-through for the prospective audience. However, because we spend so long on these pages the temptation is to move the camera around; always looking for variety, for exciting shots, until it invariably becomes an exercise in maintaining your own interest as the artist and storyteller. Sometimes, of course, its better to just keep that camera still, and let the acting of the characters do the heavy lifting. Will Eisner was great at this (and pretty much everything else as well). Eisner’s characters had weight; they emoted and you could feel their sadness and their joy, read their thoughts and empahphise with them, all of it demonstrated clearly through body language and masterfully on-model facial gestures. As in film, particularly when there is a number of key actors in the scene, keeping the camera planted and allowing the action to unfold in this way is called ensemble staging. There is a fantastic channel on Youtube- Every Frame a Painting– where this and a plethora of other cinematic, visual storytelling, codes and conventions type stuff are broken down in an entertaining and informative way.
So that’s what I’ve done on this page. Just keeping that camera in place and letting the actors act. Moment to moment panel transitions, the scene unfolding gently, emphasising that this short space of time is incredibly important. I’m not the greatest at putting emotion and life into my characters, and I am painfully aware that compared to Eisner’s work I’m drawing lifeless wax mannequins, but last year they were made of mud, and the year before that I was drawing Frankenstein’s monsters. So there is some improvement.