Monday, June 2, 2014

The benefits of drawing comics as I see it

After writing the comics entry I found I had more thoughts about it, so here's a followup.

While it's true that drawing comics is insanely labor intensive, and I very much prefer my stories in written or filmed form to comics (illustrated stories are somewhat better, but still there's something I dislike about continually switching from looking at pictures to reading words) - there are definitely strong benefits to drawing comics for an artist who's learning his stuff.

In no particular order, and I may or may not organize this better before posting..

Design. If you look at a page of comics (or better yet a full spread of 2 pages) you should see a nice design flowing across the entire spread - not just each frame itself being a good design. Carefully orchestrated use of blacks, whites, and greys or marks that create textured greys. Jason Alexander is a master of this - his work really stands out from most of the other Creepy/Eerie artists of today (there are a few more good ones).

Poses and expressions and backgrounds. If your repertoire of these is too limited it'll really show in a spread of comic pages. Not so much if you're doing a bunch of individual illustrations and looking at them one at a time. If you're just doing illustrations it's too easy to only do a single figure with no background or a super simplified background (guilty as charged!) - comics force you to draw multiple figures interacting with each other in environments. And then to draw the same environment from different angles while maintaining the illusion that nothing has shifted proportions or placement. A lot tougher than just doing individual illustrations!!

Focus & Consistency. You want to keep drawing in the same style through a comic book as much as possible. You want the characters to be easily recognizable in different poses, from different viewing angles, with different expressions and in different clothes etc. This also falls partly under character design. But I'm getting at more than that - what I mean is rather than doing an endless series of studies you're drawing a freaking comic book - after a while you really know the characters and you keep getting better and better at drawing them. You keep getting better and better at integrating figures into environments, and at rendering different materials. It seems to me when you're drawing a comic book it forces to you focus much more than any other type of drawing or painting, at least in certain regards. It's the same kind of drawing, same tools and materials, day in and day out for months, featuring the same characters and places. I can't imagine a way to focus more than that!!

You're really drawing, not just practicing. One of the biggest benefits is that you're not just practicing fundamentals or doing skill building exercises, you're really drawing. Creating a finished product that requires consistency and polish. It breaks you out of endless student mode and makes you a working artist.

Prep work. One factor to keep in mind though - yes, comics do force you to focus, but a good deal of that focusing needs to be done well before you even start to draw. You can't just decide on a whim to pick up a pencil and throw down a few comic pages - you need to actually create the story and the characters first.

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