This page provides a rough timeline of the project, from plan, almost to publication. I hope it gives a hint of the practical and creative processes involved, from developing the original idea through characterisation, storyline, setting and themes.
Interweaving five narratives in a relatively small 'space' against COVID-19 milestones took quite a bit of planning. I tended to plan in text and maps, sketch roughly, then return (endlessly!) to review the plan.
I started off with HB pencil sketches in a small sketchbook, scribbles really. I then began to work on preset panels (Microsoft Word has a handy manga template with multiple designs). This was helpful in structuring the narrative on each page, creating variable timelines, close-ups, etc. All a steep learning curve. After several full-length versions on basic photocopying paper, I moved on to A3 sheets of Bristol Board, working first in pencil, then in pen (Staedtler Mars matic). I used the brush end of a Zig Art & Graphic twin pen for the larger sections of black. I created the originals of the chapter headers with a mix of collage and artwork.
As you can guess from the title, there are five principal characters in the novella, each representing a stage in a (traditional) academic career path: doctoral student, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor. Each started as a plethora of rough pencil sketch and then there was a long and fascinating process as I 'got to know' each character better, through drawing them in different settings, at different angles and developing their stories. Actually naming the characters was a real milestone. When working on later versions of the novella, I concentrated on panels featuring one of the characters throughout - this not only helped me with creating some level of uniformity of appearance, it also felt like spending extended time in someone's company! I particularly enjoyed working in each character's hair, aspect remembering all those shaggy hair 'styles' we sported during lockdown and how busy hairdressers were as soon as they could open again!
work in progress
I regularly spent my weekends and annual leave between March and June 2021 working on the project. It was during this time I began to realise my ambitions for it did not quite match my technical capacity! I ploughed on anyway! I started breaking out a little from the panel templates - as you can see with the 'gaming' panel below. The length of the project also gave me time to thoughtfully consider how to reflect aspects of the lockdown period, particularly the Black Lives Matter marches and movements.
In May 2021, I started working with Luke of ELT Illustration to 'design' my imperfect artwork into a more consistent, tonal form. I sent Luke jpegs of the 45 hand-drawn/inked panels, Luke put them into Illustrator, worked his magic and returned them as pdfs. I still remember receiving the first pdf back from Luke. It was an extraordinary moment. Still my work but - better! I've included some examples below of the transformation.