Who doesn’t like seeing a good scrap?
Anyway, I can’t really share my professional work done under an NDA, so these rough doodles will have to suffice.
The cool thing about Procreate is that it can create time-elapsed videos of your sketches after the fact. I didn’t intend to create a video of the boxing sketch in the previous post, but I thought I’d generate one and post it.
While I was noodling around, my son started sketching, so you’ll probably notice that when it comes up. Also, the reason you see me start and stop so much is because I tend to noodle around on a layer, turn off the layer and begin noodling around on another layer, and so forth. So I tend to have multiple sketches on one file. I do this because I’m too lazy to create different files for nothing more than sloppy little doodles.
I’ve been at the art game long enough to remember what being an artist entailed before the internet existed.
For one thing, artists used to clip pictures from magazines, books, pamphlets, and other sorts of ephemera and save them in what was usually known as a swipe file. If you needed to draw a lion running and wanted some reference, you went to your swipe file and hopefully you had clipped something from a National Geographic that provided enough reference for you to do a believable drawing.
Artists also often accumulated libraries of books and magazines on art, photography, and general reference on animals, anatomy, costumes, architecture, and so on — you get the picture.
And then there were times you couldn’t find what you needed so you loaded up a roll of film in your camera and went out and shot your own reference. That could cost you some money, depending on how much film you bought, not to mention the cost of developing, and then you hoped your pictures came out right.
Finally, when you just couldn’t find what you needed, an artist just relied on his imagination to best approximate what he wanted to convey (hoping that the viewer was unfamiliar enough with the subject matter to not notice any errors).
I relied on all of the aforementioned sources for reference as well… until the world wide web arrived. The internet made reference ubiquitous and rendered swipe files and library sources obsolete (in all honesty, I was grateful I could throw away file-drawers full of clippings, though I continue to expand my book reference). The problem with internet reference (as I’ve written in a previous post) is that everyone is often using the same reference, so that there’s a sort of creative inbreeding occurring.
And digital photography has made the taking of reference photos cheap. No more cost of buying and developing film, so one could keep on clicking away until he gets the right shot, even if that means taking a bazillion photos.
So what’s my problem with this and why do I think this can be a problem in comics (and other art)? Well, comics in the late 80’s and 90’s seemed like they were going through a drought of talent where, in my opinion, there were few artists that I thought were really impressive. On the flip side, digital coloring and fancy printing was raising the bar on comic quality and was a far cry from the cheap newsprint comics I grew up enjoying. What this meant is that some artists who I will not name got a lot of attention and were hailed as great artists when, in my opinion, it was the novelty of digital coloring and fancy printing that made their art stand out as something special. And I’m not suggesting that digital coloring or slick paper is a bad thing, but only that it shouldn’t be a crutch when other aspects of good art are lacking.
Today, however, I’ve noticed the quality of draftsmanship in a lot of comics is over the top. By that, I mean it looks too real, like it’s heavily based on photo reference (and to elaborate further, I’m suggesting that some renderings look like they’ve practically been traced from photos), so much so that the characters lack style and the overall look seems to lack imagination. And it’s that style and imagination that I miss. No one will mistake Will Eisner’s Spirit for a photo-realistic drawing, but it’s filled with style. No one will accuse the team of John Buscema and Alfredo Alacala of using a photo when rendering a Conan page, but their efforts exuded talent and imagination. Certainly Jack Kirby’s figures provoked some debate as to the quality of his figure-drawing, but few artists have his imagination or are able to lay out an action scene with the same dynamics. Now I’m not suggesting that the artists mentioned would never have relied on a photo for reference if necessary; but if they used reference, it was only to spark their imagination and point them in the right direction.
Another problem with relying too heavily on photo-reference is that not every panel in a comic may do so. Consequently, you have a real change in feel when the artist is not using photo reference and now has to draw a character as well as the “photo” drawing from his imagination, which rarely works. Most of the time one can browse through such a comic and point out where the photo reference was used and where it wasn’t. Moreover, having to match the style of the photo-referenced-drawn panel restricts the artist from employing his own style (because photo reference has no unifying style, which is another problem in itself).
Does this mean I hate realistically-drawn comic art? No, it’s impressive on a certain level. But I noticed that what made a lot of past artists great is their talent for cartooning and unifying style. Cartoons may seem silly or childish to some, but they’re filled with animation and life that portrays an ideal. Renaissance artists were great precisely because they sought to capture this ideal and not simply recreate reality.
So why do I think much of modern comic art is soulless? A well-posed wax statue might initially seem alive, until you realize it’s stiff, making the lack of animation all the more conspicuous. And a photo-realistically drawn comic may initially impress, until you notice the same dead stiffness. I personally prefer a cartoony comic full of life, than a comic filled with a realism that lacks animation or style.
The best example I can give to sum up what I’m trying to say (and this is really aimed at those who are familiar with the artists I’m going to mention, even though the example is not from comics) is to compare Frazetta and Boris (here’s a good article discussing their differences in depth). The former painted mostly from imagination (yes, he used reference on rare occasions, but it was strictly as a springboard and nothing more), while the latter’s figures were almost entirely based on photos. After a long examination, it’s clear which artist’s work is brimming with life and energy and which represents “nice” paintings (no disrespect to Boris, whose work I still admire greatly).
In the same way, I think realistic comics are “nice,” but I’d rather take the comic art of a Will Eisner or even an Eric Powell (a contemporary comic artist oozing with style and talent…and weirdness), or any number of other artists any day over a lot of the realistic comic art of today.
Did I also mention how I miss those Sea-Monkey ads? … And don’t get me started on the perversion, profanity, and propaganda in modern comics. I’ll save that rant for another day.
A friend of mine and I often reflect on the days when OS X first came out. No more fiddling with extensions. Everything worked solidly. And the interface and user experience was awesome. We all loved our Apple computers. Well those good ol’ days are gone.
I came across this video last night and I just have to share it because the guy shares all of my frustration about Apple. I can only assume everyone at Apple is using PCs because there’s no way they can actually enjoy using the junk they’re designing these days.
• They no longer support creative professionals which was a large part of their base in the past. It seems like everything they do serves their mobile platforms.
• Their design process appears to be entirely arbitrary, removing features that everyone likes and implementing useless features that only serve to complicate usage.
• They intentionally break older devices in order to force users to upgrade. Does anyone remember the little Airport that allowed you to play music on your stereo from any Apple device? Apple updated iTunes so that the Airport became a useless brick, trying to force users to buy the Apple TV.
• Apple monopolizes app purchasing and I’m convinced their iTunes updates serve only one purpose: to screw up people’s jailbroken devices so that they can’t purchase apps elsewhere.
• They intentionally remove optical drives and certain types of ports to force users to purchase adapters or to force them into the cloud.
Now, imagine you work at Apple and you’ve designed a product that works really well and the user interface experience is great. Now what do you do for the rest of your time? Either you keep improving the product or you lose your job because you’re no longer necessary. Well, if the product is already well-designed, the only changes you can make are likely to make it worse, not better. But not wanting to lose your job, you justify your existence by redesigning things. This of course angers everyone because, unless you’re improving things by making the computer do something entirely new, like shining your shoes or making you breakfast, you’re just complicating the user interface either in terms of usability or aesthetically (I’m so sick of industries telling consumers what is “hip” and what is “outdated”, as if our tastes must be dictated to us and we must fall into line. Mock me if you will, but I liked the Coverflow feature in iTunes and I’d like it back).
Anyway, Apple’s arbitrary design changes have led me to stop updating my Apple devices. I’m now several operating systems behind on both my iMac and my iPad. I definitely NEVER update iTunes for fear they’ll break something or remove a feature that I like. And not being a cell-phone user until recently (out of necessity), I was determined not to get an iPhone. About the only Apple product I’m excited about is the new 12″ iPad, and that’s only because Procreate is a great, affordable program.
But the worst thing of all, if my iMac breaks, it will be difficult to migrate to a PC because I’m so heavily invested in software made for Apple. I just can’t afford to purchase all of my professional software all over again. So I feel like I’m stuck. Thanks, Apple. You got me.
I do most of my professional work on a Cintiq these days. Even when I was still on a drawing board, I stuck with technical pencils to avoid all of the sharpening required with wood-cased pencils. Still, there’s a certain charm about using wood-cased pencils, so that’s what I often use when doodling chicken-scratches.
Now, a pencil is a pencil is a pencil, and at the end of the day the quality of your drawing is going to come more from your mind and hands than from the pencil. Nevertheless, your frame of mind can be affected by the satisfaction of using a particular tool that inspires you or makes your job easier. One pencil that has been given lots of attention because of its widespread use (especially by animators, writers, and composers) is the original Blackwing 602.
Given the big hoopla about the “new” Palomino Blackwing which are made in Japan (and I realize that “new” is a relative term, since I’m late to this party), I thought I’d try them out, so I bought a box at the Stuart NG booth while at the Comic Con last month. (these Blackwings are really more like reproductions and not from the original production 602s which were discontinued in the late 90’s. You can check out more about the original Blackwing HERE.)
Off hand, It’s a beautiful design if tool aesthetics is your thing, what with its unique ferrule design and replaceable eraser. I also picked up a two-step, long-point sharpener, since an electric sharpener eats up pencils and wastes too much lead. Lots of these type of hand-held sharpeners have cheap blades that break your lead or don’t really sharpen well, but the German-made blades on this work quite well, though I’m not sure where to purchase new replacement blades.
These pencils come in a nicely designed box of twelve. I no longer go through pencils like I used to, so I gave one to each of my kids to try out as well since they do a lot of drawing.
I didn’t have time to do a nice drawing with this pencil for the purpose of this post, but I wanted to show a comparison between a couple other good drawing pencils: the Schwan Stabilo 8008 and an old Faber Castell 9000 4B pencil made in Germay.
All three of the following pencils are really smooth. The Stabilo 8008 is probably the smoothest, but it’s the lightest in tone as well, so if you want a darker lead, the other two are better.
The nice thing about the Blackwing is that it’s both firm and dark (though this one is softer than the “new” 602). Usually, I find dark leads are too soft or grainy.
Surprisingly, I found the Faber Castell 9000 which I had fumbling around my tool drawer to perform as well or better than the Blackwing. In fact, I liked it so much that I went online to try to find more of these older versions, but I could only find two, each for slightly more than what the new Blackwing costs. They’re still manufactured, but I never know whether to trust newer models because it seems everyone’s manufacturing is done so cheaply now in order to cut costs. I’m not suggesting the new Faber Castell 9000s under production are not good. I just don’t feel like spending the money to find out. In any case, if I ever come across more of these older 4B 9000s, I’m grabbing them as fast as I can. In the meantime, the Blackwing works quite well and offers lots of drawing satisfaction.
I scrawled out a few swatches of each for comparison.
I acquire a lot of art books. I mean, a LOT. Most of them serve as inspiration when I just feel like getting into a certain mood before tackling a project. Others provide ideas for color palettes, lighting, or anatomy reference for animals and people, and still others help with period costuming (unfortunately, I have no access to a theatre company’s costume or prop department, so I make due with period films or period artwork for reference).
So my trek to the Comic Con is really to see what’s new in pop art and to hunt for new and inspiring art books (as I’ve stated elsewhere, Comic Con these days is less about comics and more about pop art, gaming, films, toys, with some comic stuff thrown in there to appease the die-hard comic fans).
In the past I made a beeline to Bud Plant‘s booth, which was a great booth for art books. Unfortunately, Amazon has killed small book dealers and Bud Plant, after surviving going completely out of business, has been reduced to a small table in the back, near the food area. It’s really sad, because I’ve purchased some hard-to-find art books from them in the past.
The other book-seller I make sure to peruse is Stuart NG, who seems to have a healthy business due to his plentiful offering of imported books (usually from France) which aren’t something you usually find on Amazon or in your average bookstore.
And then I may purchase a sketchbook or something from the many artists who are there to show their stuff.
So here are some very poor iPad pics of the stuff I hauled back home…
Oh, and I didn’t shoot a pic of it, but in case you were wondering, I got DC’s The Flash pin with the Con bag (for those of you who know to what I refer).