In 2017, Squishface Studio put out a call for stories for the second issue of their Squishzine Brunstown comic, with the inner city-suburb of Brunswick (home of Squishface) as the unifying theme. The comic was made possible thanks to a grant from the Moreton City Council, crowdfunding on Pozible, the tireless efforts of Risograph printer Sam T. Emery (Tree Paper Comics) the organisation of Jess ‘Kitty’ Parker and Ben ‘Hutcho’ Hutchings, and of course the good people of Squishface Studio who submitted pages.
I put up my hand to submit a 2-page story, and bounced around some ideas for a while before deciding to do something that would both force me to draw realistic buildings (a weakness of mine) and somehow incorporate a cat. The cat thing was inspired by fellow Squishfacer Alex E. Clark’s Cats of Brunswick and of course my own fondness for felines. I wrote about the initial stages of drafting here, feeling conflicted at the time with my choice to draw directly over imported photos, something which I’ve since then come to peace with. I now use extensive photo reference for buildings and props, which is rife among digital artists and a useful tool when used and not abused. So I’ll launch from there. After the copied/referenced buildings were digitally drafted and organised into their panel layouts, a faint blue line copy is made which I print onto nice drawing paper.
Knowing ahead of time that the comic would be Riso-printed I had to keep in mind that there would be two ‘plates’ or layers needed for print. I decided to keep things as simple as possible, being my first foray into prepping images for Riso, and decided that one of the layers would be designated for the line work.
For the second page I knew I wasn’t yet sure how I wanted to finish, so I left a bit of space at the end to figure out later.
I knew I wanted this to be set at night, and I looked at a bunch of reference images to try to capture the feeling of an urban landscape by night. This was probably the most enjoyable part of the process, and I ended up adding so many layers of ink washes that the scans needed a bunch of digital editing where the paper had buckled.
The next step was combining the separate scans in Photoshop, and from there it’s all digital. The process is time intensive and would be much more straight-forward if I’d kept the workflow entirely digital from start to finish. It’s a sacrifice that I’m willing to make in order to keep at least part of my process on paper; the enjoyment I get from using ink washes, and the result, is worth the extra time and steps.
By this stage, I was ready to incorporate the story, which was tragically inspired by the passing of a good friend and beautiful person, taken too soon by an aggressive form of cancer. I envisioned a part of her still with us in the form of a cat’s dreams. The text for this went through a number of iterations as I struggled to find the words to pay tribute to her unique nature and wonderful sense of play.