A few days ago I sat down to draw an episode of my new comic strip. But there was a problem...
The story called for a wide shot; a picture of the main characters standing in their living room. That's when I realised that I had no idea what their living room looks like.
I had already drawn an episode set in the living room, but the panels were close-ups of the characters. All I'd drawn of the room was half a window and a fragment of armchair.
It was no good piecing together the place fragment by fragment, episode by episode. Eventually I'd come unstuck and put a door in one episode where it didn't exist in a previous one. Somebody would notice. I would notice.
I grabbed a blank piece of paper and sketched a rough plan of the living room, based on the comic strips I'd drawn so far. An armchair here, a window there, a television over there. I created a door into the kitchen and drew that room, again based on a previous episode. Then an entrance hall and a flight of stairs leading to a second floor. Up there I sketched a bedroom and a bathroom.
I'm not an architect. You can probably tell.
Maybe I should have found an architect's blueprint for a flat that exists in the real world. But the world of my comic strip isn't the real world, and so the flat is as much a work of fiction as the characters in it.
The plan isn't finished. I need to stick a boiler in the kitchen. I need to decide where the ceiling lights are, and what the lampshades look like. Where the light switches are on the wall... In fact, I need to decide what the walls look like, full stop. Are they painted or wallpapered? Are there framed paintings or photos on the wall?
I've got more work to do.
Details like this might never appear in the comic strip, but it's important that I know these details in case they do. Besides, it's the details that make my comic strip world more real to me, and therefore my character's interaction with that world more real too.
Richard Pettitt, cartoonist.