Artist Yishan Li, who created the visual look for Will Supervillains Be on the Final? by Naomi Novik, talks about her creative process.
“My day normally starts around midday with a cup of coffee?like a lot of other artists I know, I am really not a morning person. With the coffee in my hand, I switch on the computer to check emails and might reply to some of them.
“Then it’s working time! I work only on computer these days with a Wacom tablet. Actually I have been working like this for the past six years, rarely touching pen and paper. Working on the tablet feels just like pen and paper but it’s easier to correct mistakes and saves me time scanning.
“I have dual monitors on my desk, one for working, the other for watching movies and browsing so that I can entertain myself while working. The time I need to totally concentrate is when I’m storyboarding, because I need to figure out how to arrange panels, angles, poses, facial expressions, etc., but after that stage, I can draw perfectly while watching movies.
“Nights are much better for me to work in?not necessarily because it inspires me somehow, but mostly because of the quiet and the fact that there is no one on MSN or Skype to talk to. That saves me a bit of time and makes me concentrate better.
“The working day normally ends when I need to go to sleep (about 3 or 4 a.m.), and of course, I do have a social life. I might pop out for afternoon coffee or a dinner party with friends, but no matter how late I come back, I still check on my computer before going to sleep, just to make sure everything is saved properly. That’s the biggest problem of digital drawings. I am totally nervous about losing my work due to computer errors or a virus!
“As far as working on Will Supervillains Be on the Final in particular: First I needed character descriptions from the author. Sometimes an author has a particular idea about a character and tells me what kind of hair and clothes the character should be in. But most of the time the author just gives me the description of the personalities so I can figure out what they should look like. For Supervillains, because Leah doesn’t always know what she is doing, I gave her a messy ponytail and just typical teen clothes but with miniskirts/shorts, because I love them!
“After approval of the character designs, I got the script from Naomi and started storyboarding. As I said, I do everything digitally. I use a software called Manga Studio. Naomi gave me the script already divided into pages, but i did have the freedom to change them if I needed more pages for a particular scene, or to cut a scene short if I didn’t think it needed that much space. Storyboarding needs to be done in big chunks, at least 20 pages per go, to make the story flow better. It results in a pretty rough sketch, nothing in detail, just circles and shapes enough to show what’s going on on the page.
“Then I showed them to Naomi and the editor, who gave me a few suggestions to change some things, and after that started penciling and inking. I don’t really do much penciling; a lot of the time I just do inking directly because it’s digital anyway. I draw pretty fast, about three pages a day if I sit at my dest working the whole day.
“The last stage is toning. Manga Studio is pretty professional for toning. I did pretty simple tones for the project because I wanted the pages to look clean.”