Saturday, March 31, 2012

Keeping it Real part 2

In my last post, I talked about the importance of setting up a perspective grid as the first step in making an illustration.

The other important first step is research. (Exactly which of the two, grid vs research is step 1 and which is step 2 varies for me, depending on what I'm working on.)

Research can be looking up photos on the internet or visiting similar locations and taking photographs of my own. Either way, I'll collect a whole bunch of photos. And then I won't copy any of them, exactly. But I will use them to help me figure out what might be included in the background when I design my locations. If I do use photo reference, it's  as a reminder of what kinds of things are visible on a rooftop, for example, and then I make up my own versions of those things.

I looked up a whole bunch of reference photos for New York City rooftops for this, but I didn't use a single one of them verbatim (or whatever the photo version of "verbatim" woud be) I just used them to remind myself what kinds of things might be found on a roof.

Even if I am using my own photographs for a specific location, I won't make quite an exact copy. In this example, I copied but greatly simplified my photograph of the gates at Trinity Bellwoods Park to set up a specific location, including just enough detail to be recognizable and believable, but without being slavish to the photograph. I didn't want to put so much detail in the background that it became distracting, because the picture is about the white squirrel, not the park gates.

When I was working on Grawlix #2 (which got renumbered as #3 by the time it was released) I used a pillar from one room, and a table from another, and windows and  decorations that I completely made up, and combined them to design the bistro where our characters get together on page 2 of my story.

Set dressing helps to establish the story, and the character. You can use subtle details to support the story and move it forward, or to tell the reader something about the person in the room.

When I was given the job of designing the personal office space for Number Two in issue 2 of Holmes Incorporated, I looked up a lot of images on executive office space and furniture, as well as what other artists had drawn in issue 1.  

Then I took all of that, looked at all of it, and let it influence but not dictate my designs. I used what I already knew about the character to create a space that specifically appropriate to him.

Good background and props design provides an extra layer of communication and another reason for someone to re-read the story, and handled properly it can also help establish and maintain the pace of the story, guide the readers along, and help them get to know the people that inhabit the story world.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Keeping it Real

OK, I know. I get it. 

Constructions and perspective grids are not the funnest, sexiest parts of making a piece of art. There's always a real temptation to skip this step and get right to the good bits of doing the drawing.

The little X is to remind myself which of these lines was the horizon
There's a saying in building things that applies as well to drawing: Measure twice, cut once.

If you take the time to carefully plan your drawing, you're less likely to have the artwork turn out wonky, or end up having to erase and re-draw a bunch of stuff because you accidentally used two different points of view on the same composition*

* and before you say "what about cubism" these rules apply double, or triple in that case, because each of the different points of view presented has to be consistent with itself.

It also helps to establish the settings of your drawings as a real place that people could visit.

When I'm doing constructions I mostly just hint at the location. I lay down the framework so that when I do the detailed illlustrations later, I have a basic idea where the characters are in the setting, and what details need to be added to create a sense of place.

If your viewers believe they could really go to the place where your characters are, then it will give them another way to connect with your story. At least, it seems that way to me.

Friday, March 9, 2012

I'm going to be at Toronto ComiCON

Come by booth A-51 in artists' alley and say Hi, or if something I've got catches your fancy, buy a sketch or a print.

Here's the last preview:

And now, I pay off the teaser from a couple of posts back ... 

My convention exclusive print for 2012 ...(which means the only place it'll be offered is at ComiCON this weekend and FanExpo in August, unless I book any other shows this year.)

Squirrel Girl in the City!

Friday, March 2, 2012