Sunday, January 11, 2015

Benefits of a storyboard/comic book drawing approach

Hah! Dig the way I used the attached ribbon bookmark to
hang the sketchbook so I can rest my forearm on the drawing board!
Gives me much better stability. 
I've often said I want to draw comic pages, because doing that makes you get much better very fast. It involves almost everything - figures in an environment, anatomy, pose, gesture, multiple figures interacting with each other physically, and because there's a story you deal with mood and narrative progression, which means lots of different expressions and body language. Plus it's drawing in ink, which makes you get into tight drawing mode, something you can just put off forever if you're drawing big and loose or doing just gestures or many other things.

Then recently I was working my way through a storyboard artist's sketchbook on Conceptart. He's done many big sci-fi/fantasy and various other kinds of movies, including the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the third Riddick movie and many more. I looked at some of his storyboard pages for Riddick, and it's exactly how they shot it as far as I can tell (without checking shot by shot). He definitely set the mood and determined camera placement and pose etc for the majority of the shots*. It's really amazing to think about, how one guy sitting at a desk drawing as fast as he can determines so much of the visual element for an entire movie.

* Or maybe that's already mostly done  in the shooting script, and he's mainly putting the descriptions into visual form? Not sure, and it probably varies from project to project. 

I was really struck by something he said in his sketchbook at one point - as a storyboard artist he said you need to often do something like 30 to 45 images in an 8 hour day. I broke it down - I think I used 40 for convenience's sake, and it works out to about an image every 10 minutes!! Yegods!!! I suppose it helps that he has a script to work from with each shot set up already, that gives him something to work with for each image, so he doesn't have to come up with something entirely from scratch every time. But still, it's mind boggling - to sit there all day long and crank out images so fast, and each one needs to communicate story and mood and other information and needs to work well. I think this trumps a comic book artist who needs to finish 2 pages a day pencilled or inked, or one pencilled and one inked (that's if he inks his own work like Dave Sim does - if not then cut the workload in half).

Of course storyboard images are much looser and less detailed than comic book drawings. They're mostly about conveying information relating to the story, and don't need to be polished and detailed for viewing by the final audience (that's what the movie is going to be - the storyboard is just a visual development stage).

Ballpoint pens have been giving me fits, clogging up and needing to be scribble-cleared every few seconds, so I'm switching over to Copics. I don't expect to get 45 pictures done - that's something to work up to - but I will try to fill several sketchbook pages. I've done some already and I find the hard part is when I finish one image - I get this feeling of accomplishment and I want to take a break. And breaks have a way of stretching out and becoming done-for-the-day if you're not really careful. I think I'm going to move back and forth between loose images and more detailed ones, and between single standalone figures and figures in an environment. If I do this for even just a few days I expect to get a lot stronger. My goals are to improve on drawing the figure from imagination and adding anatomy, and at giving them some decent gesture and pose.

Ok, dinner is done, my obligations for the day taken care of - I'm setting up the clampeasel and going back in..

* * *

(the first page was actually done last night)

Man, this is HARD!! I don't know the figure or its parts well enough to rapidly sketch it in weird poses and from unaccustomed angles. I should use this as impetus to do studies from these kind of angles. I think the weird upright format is also throwing me for a loop. Plus I'm not working from a script like a storyboard or comic book artist would be, instead I'm just trying to instantly think up ideas, which means I come up with terrible hasty concepts and haven't thought about them for more than half a second before I start scribbling. Bad form!! Interestingly (to me anyway) I ended up doing most drawing with the Tombows, and in that environment the Copic lines just don't show up - they're too thin. Oh well cool - less pens means less choices and faster drawing.

Dive in head first, ready or not! This is how you really learn.

* * *

Yet later again..

Drew these last night, added shading and some thicker lines today

I dowloaded some shooting scripts to check how detailed the stage directions are for placement of camera and actors etc... found a site with all the Buffy scripts in one big download and took it. Might try doing a scene later from it. But the directions are actually sort of vague - the description is very clear in terms of what's happening, but not what kind of camera angle or lens, or exactly how people are arranged etc,, that leaves a lot to the imagination. Of course all shooting scripts are not created equal, some might be more spelled out or less so. 

I also looked at some actual storyboard drawings, and they're much less detailed than what I'm doing here. Oh they READ -  they read excellently! But figures are almost ciphers, not much effort to making them look solid or anything. I want to mess with that kind of drawing too, but I also plan to do some longer, more careful sketching too, aimed at learning how to draw the body from any angle, any pose. 

As Sim once said - "First you get good, then you get fast, then you get good and fast."

Oh, and you know what I'm also learning here? How to do thumbnails. One of the primary skills any artist needs. 

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