Today’s page went up on time, but my normal blog post to accompany it is running late through a combination of a holiday Monday and a post that was just plain hard to write… Anyway, onwards…
Now this is a crazy page! It’s probably one of the more traditional “comic and panel” type pages that is in this section, but that allowed me to really play with the drawing style(s) which (d)evolve as you read the page.
This section of the story (and this spread in particular) really gave me the opportunity to break out from the normal drawing “style” that I’ve used for the majority of the On the Verge stories. In each story I’ve tried out different techniques to see how that affected things, but I’ve usually kept the drawing pretty consistent so that characters looked the same and were recognizable. For this “jump” section I really wanted the drawing start to become more abstract as we proceed through the pages. My thinking was that this would help break the story down so that as Lucas tries to figure out what’s going on and communicate with Michael, the art starts to evolve and reflect this struggle. And since this story takes place in a different (and not necessarily real) place, I was hoping that the change the drawing style would help create a sense that we weren’t in the “real” world anymore but somewhere different.
Overall, the shifting styles really allowed me to start to play with form and design in ways that the normal comic pages definitely don’t and I think that adds to the overall feel of this section.
So let’s take a closer look at drawing…
This is a post that I’ve wanted to write since the very beginning of working on the On the Verge Project but I always put it off because it was difficult to completely wrap my head around what I wanted to say. So this is really a first attempt at it and I’ll probably want to add to and expand on my thoughts later…
In general, I think my drawing tends to favour the more abstract/expressionistic/cartoony style and the reason for that is because that’s what I like when it comes to drawing and art. Now I like all kinds of art, but when you force me to sit down and say what kinds of art I really like and want to do myself, I’ll pick the abstract/expressionistic/cartoony stuff every time. And the reason I think that I pick this type of art is that II like being able to use the art and the style to help tell the story instead of just showing it in a realistic way.
For me, I like to think that there are two ends of the drawing spectrum for all art:
And I’ve always thought that right in the middle is a place that I like to call “dynamic drawing” which takes advantage of both realism and abstraction and uses the best elements from each to make the art communicate more effectively. Now for my normal illustration work, I find that I definitely favour something more abstract like in the samples below.
But for all the On the Verge work I have found that I then to draw in a style that is more to the realistic side of the scale because when you’re telling a story, you need to draw pictures that are recognizable and “readable”.
I’ve started to really look at comic artwork (and specifically the stuff that’s being produced by the major publishers) and wonder why they they favour artwork that is more realistic. Now I’m not the first person to delve into this idea. Erik Larson tweeted a series of tweets back in August/September that questioned this same topic and I’m not sure that there’s a good reason. And when I actually sat down and thought about it, I realized that for whatever reason, over the course of my lifetime reading comics, the art that has proved popular is the realistic stuff. Maybe that’s just because it’s the “style” that’s been popular, I’m not sure. So you tend to get art by the likes of Jim Lee who draws an awesome looking page, but I always wonder if he’s the best storyteller in comics.
Does a realistic style sacrifice overall storytelling?
For instance, there are numerous artists that are more on the abstract* side of the scale like Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane, Erik Larson, Michael Avon Oeming and Tim Sale. If there’s one common between these artists it would page design and storytelling. Now there are a ton of different styles out there (as well as animation and manga which are a different influence on comics art too) but I think that these guys are some examples of artists whose styles less focused on what something looks like and more about how to communicate something. This leads me to one of the best lessons that I learned in art school which was to really consider what detail to include in an image and what not to. Does your drawing really need two ears and two eyes? Does that help convey information or is it there because you like to draw and thought you’d include it? When I’m thumbnailing pages and composing images I constantly ask myself what needs to be included. Yeah, I could draw absolutely everything in an image but is it necessary? And usually, I find that I simplify things down as I go to help keep things clear and readable.
In the end, I guess all of this is really me trying to figure out what my comics look like. That may sound incredibly weird considering that I’ve posted so much On the Verge story already, but it’s a constant ongoing process. I know I have fights with myself about what the art looks like and I’m constantly influenced by a art that is much more on the realistic side of the scale. It would be so easy to just sit down and conform but I really don’t think that’s what my art should be. The struggle to find my own voice and style is something that drives me crazy and is hopefully worth it in the end.
*I use the term abstract here but really, the art isn’t “abstract” like a Kandinsky or Pollock. Maybe a better term would expressionistic like I used above, but I like to think in terms of form when it comes to drawing. You can draw something realistically and expressionistically like Lucian Freud. I don’t think that you can draw realistically and abstractly though. So the term fits the description.
And now for a break!
I kind of wish that I was able to take a break, but that’s not really in the cards for the next little bit. So did anyone follow along on Twitter last week and see the ton of pages that I finished off? All told, I’ve got another 50 pages in the bag! That’s completely written, drawn, inked and lettered. The only thing left to do is the colouring. The 50 pages is the next couple of sections of the main On the Verge story that will start going up once I wrap up THE JUMPER storyline. Now I’m setting my sights on inking the next section which is another 22 pages. It will definitely go slower because I won’t be spending hours a day on it now that my wife’s back from her girls week, but I hope to be done them ASAP!
It was kind of crazy to sit down and focus on just getting pages done and I’m really excited to get past the next section and on to the rest of the story. Since I was mainly just sitting around drawing and inking with some music on in the background, it really gave me a chance to do some deep thinking about the story and it’s funny how you start to connect the dots. There’s lots on the way I just need to do some major writing and drawing. Anyway, if you’re curious about what’s ahead and like to see artwork, check out my Twitter feed.