Beginning of Sunnyville Part 4

Greetings from the Small Press Expo!  I’ll have a full write-up on that event next time.  Now for the final part of how Sunnyville Stories came to be.

Sunnyville was inspired by Maple Town and by my personal experiences moving down south in the 1990s.  Even though I came up with the idea in 2005, I had to shelf it for various reasons.  It wouldn’t be until four years later that I would resurrect my concept.  I spent much of that period working to improve my draftsmanship.  I actually purchased some lessons from Guy Gilchrist, who had drawn the comic strip “Nancy”, and I learned about concepts like action lines and the movement of hips in conjunction with shoulders.  That improved my skills some more…but it still wasn’t enough.  I needed more advanced training.  So I decided to start checking out art schools that offered continuing education.  In the end, I chose the School of Visual Arts because they specialized in teaching comics.

Ironically, the comics classes weren’t my first choice.  I originally enrolled in two courses, watercolor painting and fantasy illustration – the latter being taught by illustrator Stanley Martucci.  Those classes were cancelled at the last minute without me being told beforehand.  I actually showed up to class that night and wondered why nobody was there!  In the end, I ended up taking a class that had been an alternate choice for me – cartooning basics taught by Tom Motley.  Ironically, this may have been the best thing that ever happened to me.  That class was where I really started to come alive.

I learned many of the basic principles of making comics as well as how to ink and how to design characters.  The final project for the class was to be a minicomic.  We would make our own 5-8 page minicomic with a short story in it.  At first, I was lost for an idea…then I remembered, “Hey, wait a minute.  Whatever happened to that series I thought up sometime ago…what was it?  Sunnyville?”  I took the two main characters from there, Rusty and Sam.  Sam was transformed from a cat into a rabbit.  I immediately dove into that short minicomic with much enthusiasm.

Rusty and Sam Page 1

Here is the first page of that minicomic.  I just decided to do a cute little story.  Here, Rusty seems to be quite worried.  

Rusty and Sam page 2This page was fun to draw.  The take that Rusty does in the bottom panel is a hoot.  One of the required texts in my class was Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair and it had instructions on how to depict the classic cartoon take.  I think it works really well here.

Rusty and Sam Page 3This entire comic was done with markers, mainly Pigma Microns and Sharpies.  This was before I started using dipping pens and brushes.  Anyway, the expressions here are really done well.

Rusty and Sam page 4This cute moment was what made the comic a winner.  Many people liked this.

Rusty and Sam page 5The minicomic turned out to be a smashing success and earned me much positive feedback.  I knew I had a winner on my hands.

The rest is history.  I spent the rest of 2009 not only honing my skills but working on the concept for Sunnyville, eventually settling on the title of “Sunnyville Stories”.  By the start of 2010, I started work on the first episode and finished it by spring.  That first story is available for everyone to read.

And that is that.

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About Max West

I am a freelance artist and the creator of Sunnyville Stories, an independent slice-of-life comics series.

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