Writers get asked a lot of questions about their process, with questions like “How do you come up with the names of your characters?” (Answer: We look at names all the time from the perspective of what strikes an emotional chord) or “How many words do you write a day?” (Answer: Lots more when I’m under deadline) and “How do you come up with your ideas?” (Answer: Sweat and fervent prayer) but today I got a question about our artistic process for Black Jack, and I thought that was a much more interesting question, since I could answer with pictures.
At one point in the story, Jack Swift comes across the kekubi for the first time. One of them rips off its own head and hammers it into a crossroads post. Nice and grisly. We thought it would make a good piece of motion art for the book. It started (as all these things do) with my awesome drawing.
Eat your heart out Michelangelo. I’m pretty sure there are 4th graders who could do better. (By the way, if you want to send in your art of favorite moments in Black Jack, please send them to us; they can’t possibly be worse than mine.) If you look closely, you can see my little notes about the art, the scene, the symbols on the sign, and the animation. So I send my stick figure off to Turner Mohan. He comes back with this:
This is a quickie sketch to make sure he’s got it right. (He actually delivered a completely different alt. sketch for this one, and you can find it in the SWAG section of the Black Jack menu.) He’s made good decisions like getting closer to the subject, eliminating the feet of the corpse, and focusing on the eyes, which will be the primary animation. I say “way better than mine, dude,” and he delivers his final pencil:
Awesome. So then Ryan Wing and I go to work. We layer the pencils over the Black Jack parchment texture, tatter the edges, give it some aging, pepper in a little vignetting and set the eyesockets on fire. And zoom in a little more to focus on the green fire.
After this, we separate the foreground from the background, spin the circular hash-lines to provide a sense of queasiness, animate the green fire and let the hair start blowing in the wind. Pepper in some creepy sound effects, and we’re ready for drama. And that’s how we built all 24 pieces of major motion art for the app.
If you want to see the whole thing in action (it’s much better when it happens while you’re reading; a special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing) you can see it in Chapter 9: Madrigal Verde of Black Jack: A Moving Novel on your iPad.