Day 209 of a Year of Drawing 2014. Work in Progress: More sketching done for my Justitia Divum strip. #yearofdrawing #justitiadivum #baudouin #moisetshombe #congocrisis
Day 208 of a Year of Drawing - Part Two. More sketching done for my Justitia Divum strip. Figured I would put my insomnia to a productive use. #yearofdrawing #insomnia #justitiadivum
Day 208 of a Year of Drawing 2014. Sketches done of Paragon, a character from my Justitia Divum strip. #yearofdrawing #justitiadivum #paragon
Day 207 of a Year of Drawing 2014. Concept sketches done for my Justitia Divum strip. #yearofdrawing #justitiadivum
Timely Comics from Uncanny Valley – Part One
Howdy All and Happy Friday!
For the first half of this week I was working on a heavily photo-referenced piece featuring a vampiric Vlad Tepes and, while I am happy with the result, I have been wondering if this is a technique I could use in a sequential art format (a comic book or strip).
I have used photo reference for several pieces from the past year and I have found that the best way for me to get something to look as “real” as I can is to work from photos of the actual subject (or subjects, if I am making a composite piece, like the Vlad Tepes piece I did this week).
However, the two main concerns I have about using this technique in a comic format are, 1) the time required to finish a photo referenced piece and, 2) the risk of these pieces looking stiff and “posed,” rather than reflecting the energy and drama of the story.
Since this has been weighing on my mind for much of the week, I figured that I would turn my attention to these two issues in this week’s blog entry and see if I can sort this out.
However, as is often the case, it turns out that I have more to say about these issues than I had initially thought, so I will be breaking this discussion into two separate blog entries.
The Value of Keeping the Trains Running on Time
My first issue with using photo reference is primarily related to the schedule I hope to keep with next year’s planned webcomic.
If I can digress for a moment, I once read a blog entry written by Ryan Sohmer (the writer behind the webcomics Least I Could Do, Looking for Group, and the Gutters) where he said that one of the ways he distinguishes a “professional” webcomic from an “amateur” one is whether they update on a consistent basis (I am paraphrasing here, but that was the gist).
As a regular reader of several webcomics, I can attest to how frustrating it is keep checking back throughout the day to see if the artist has finally posted his or her strip.
While that may sound like an unreasonably entitled attitude to have (Where is my free content you bastards?!!!), that is the nature of the webcomic game. You post your strip, you hope to draw some revenue from the ads, and you hope that your readers will support you by purchasing some merchandise related to your strip. One of the primary ways that you keep those readers is by having something new for them to read, when they expect that strip to be up.
Setting aside the question of whether keeping a consistent schedule for posting new strips makes a webcartoonist a “professional” or not, I agree with Sohmer that having something new up, when your readers expect it, is a key part of building and maintaining your readership.
As such, if I want to build up a base of readers for my theoretical webcomic, it will be important to be able to get that comic done once a week and post it at the same time each week, like clockwork.
Therefore, this means that I need to have a strip that I can actually get done on a weekly basis, in the time that I will have available to draw throughout the week.
Rome Wasn’t Drawn in a Day
So, with that digression done, perhaps I should address my first issue with producing photo-referenced work, which is the time required to actually do those pieces.
Setting aside the time required to locate/produce the photos needed to do photo referenced work, the intricate detail that I end up putting into those pieces means that they take a lot longer to finish than illustrations done in nearly any other style.
As such, I am concerned that, if I choose to use this style as my default for my theoretical webcomic (a title that I am gradually growing more fond of, incidentally), I may not have enough time in a given week to write and draw a comic in this style.
At a minimum, I have seven hours to work on my art per week (counting each of my daily hours of drawing). While I often find myself spending drawing more than that most weeks, I think that my planning for next year should be based on a worst-case scenario, rather than the most optimistic. I also need to allow for time to write those strips, which will cut into my available free time that might otherwise be used for drawing.
With that in mind, I am not sure I can produce a weekly strip using my photo referenced style in seven hours.
That said, the intricate and detailed line-work that goes into those pieces is one of reasons I like them in their finished form. I am always a fan of giving the eye a lot of detail to drink in (sometimes to a fault…see my Superman piece for an example of when that love of detail got a bit out of control) and this style fills the panels/pages with detail.
I recognize that one of the reasons newspaper strips have traditionally featured relatively simple line-work is to make it easier for the artist to meet the daily deadlines. However, I also note that some of my favorite cartoonists have eschewed that idea and instead adopted highly detailed or stylized illustrative styles for their strips. Examples of these would include Bill Watterson’s timeless Calvin and Hobbes and Hal Foster’s gorgeous Prince Valiant strip.
I am also cognizant of the adage that “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty” (apparently said first by Teddy Roosevelt, or so the Interweb tells me).
As such, I suppose the real question that this first issue raises is not whether I would have enough time to do a weekly strip in this photo-referenced style, but whether I am willing to find the time to have a strip that features this detailed, illustrative style.
Two of my cartoonist idols decided that their strips were worth that extra effort, so, in the coming months, I will have to decide whether my own theoretical webcomic (hereafter known as Theoretical Webcomic) will be worth that extra effort, pain, and difficulty too.
Next week, I will address my second issue with photo-referenced work, which is the tendency for such work to sometimes look static and lifeless.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings, and I hope to see you back in seven days!
Until then, I have some drawing to do.
Kevin B. Madison
#yearofdrawing #comics #comicbook #comicstrip #ryansohmer #leasticouldo #lookingforgroup #thegutters #gutters #princevaliant #halfoster #billwatterson #calvinandhobbes
Day 205 of a Year of Drawing 2014. A sketch done of some Great Depression era photos. #yearofdrawing
Day 204 of a Year of Drawing 2014. Completed my portrait of Vlad Tepes, Count Dracula. I may come back to this and add some colours later, but, for now, this is done. #yearofdrawing #Dracula #vladtepes