This panel was done as a demo for an inking section in a course in cartooning, not as a one-shot piece, but as an example for my students in how to pace out such a comparatively complex composition over several installments. In other words, as opposed to the usual MO of banging it out in one sitting, it took a few passes instead. This is crucial to avoid burning out, not just in a physical sense which is remedied by taking frequent breaks, but also equally as importantly for sparing oneself from the stressful side-effects of intense focused effort. So by doing random drive-by stints throughout the week, often in-between other works-in-progress: much as I really hate to put something aside and leave it alone, let it incubate a bit to get a fresh, objective perspective. As I've said many a time before, I'm at my most engaged as an artist when fully immersed in a zone of production where - similar to a juggler's act - multiple pieces are at varying stages of development, from conceptual, doodling, sketching, penciling, inking, scanning + cleanup, shading a variation for publication in the paper, and/or coloring - either digital or watercolor wash for the final, finished version.Not all that different from the usual approach taken by a lot of other visual artists, like painters managing multiple canvases.
So as you can easily see, it'd be fairly easy to get bogged down in details when that's all that there really is in this particular piece. Especially given the relative complexity of this panel, compared to the majority of others done for the Nuggets feature, value (ie shading lights + darks) would be a crucial component in successfully directing the viewer's eye to a focal point (the dead mosquito), which otherwise would be completely lost amidst the surrounding chaos. Varying the thickness of the line weight is always one option, but I instead went with successive waves of layering + cutting cast shadows for contrasting values so as to make certain elements either stand out, and/or blend in for balance. The plan was to emphasize darks in the corners of the panel eg the foreground elements to create a faintly suggestive sort of pinhole effect, in conjunction with utilizing a brush tool for hints of blush so as to impart volume on selected objects via subtle gradations of value + highlights. This alternating approach all came after blocking in the base percentages of the largest planes and areas at first (ex: 25% gray for the sky, 50% for the wall, 75% for the floor etc.), and then it was a matter of methodically shading in everything else relative to these underlying elements.
Then there was a series of stints where all I did was tweaking and touching up, and that's where spending time away can be almost as revealing as sitting and staring at a piece. The initial assessment when first reopening a piece is the closest you'll get to an objective appraisal, save from someone else weighing in with a critique. Believe it or not things like this can be intimidating to wade through: it makes one really appreciate the discipline and focus of Bosch for example, not to mention any number of other artist friends and acquaintances in my local community who cultivate similar works over truly long periods of time. Me, I suffer from an artistic type of ADD and quickly lose momentum if not interest when it gets to be too long of a creative commitment.
One could very well argue that the core of the cartoon (besides the underlying joke) is determined at the penciling stage, when plotting the logistics out is a matter of the greatest consideration, especially in light of what will follow afterwards over the evolution of the piece. That can be seen with the thumbnail breakdowns I resorted to long before even approaching the blank sheet of Bristol, even going so far as to separately list some of the elements out beforehand. Then once a map is effectively conceived and sketched out as sort of scaffolding, the meticulous and menial labor can begin.
Lastly - though first in the overall process, here's the initial doodle, a concept scrawled out while half-asleep on an envelope that was laying on the coffeetable within arm's reach of the sofa:
And as far as the real, er, ah... cat-alyst for the cartoon: it was the kitten, young Mr. Atticus, springing off my face while I was laying on the couch, whereupon he proceeded to track down, corner, and mercilessly kill a mosquito in the cabin. All the time while purring like away like mad, right up to and including when he was eating it.