My internal debate about drawing backgrounds

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If you read through my post about my researching Sean Murphy’s art, you will probably remember that I talked about the backgrounds that Sean draws in his pages. Here’s the relevant part of the post:

I think one of the things that really struck me about Sean’s work early on was the backgrounds he draws. They’re insane and I’m jealous of the amount of work he puts into them. Just looking at them makes me feel like I’ve cheated on 150+ pages of OTV. And it all comes down to time and effort – which is one of the reason I feel like I’ve cheated on all those pages. It’s not that I can’t draw detailed backgrounds, it’s that I chose not to. So I’ve been re-evaluating my thought process and approach to drawing settings and if you were to check out some of my newer work, you’d see the difference.

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Sean doesn’t skimp on his background!

Now my personal “rule” for comic pages has always been to have at least one panel on the page with full backgrounds and if you happened to go back through the various OTV pages that I’ve done over the past bunch of years, this is pretty much what you’d find. But I’ve noticed that since I started really digging through and studying other comic artists, that I’m finding more and more reasons to draw backgrounds.

Some of this really does have to do with the story though. The pages that are currently being posted in THE ARROW OF TIME required that I really draw the crowds and buildings in the backgrounds simply to convey the right information. It was much easier to “cheat” at the backgrounds when Hannah was sitting in her cubicle in the Edge offices. But maybe that was just me being lazy… The new pages required backgrounds and I’ve been drawing them. At the same time, as I’ve been working on THE SISTERS, and now ANDREW JACKSON IN SPACE, Brian Visaggio has written stories that require a certain amount of detail to really make them feel real and make sense. So there’s really no cheating those.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this develops over time. I really do believe that my rule of at least one panel per page with a background is a good one and I don’t think that it’s necessary to have EVERY panel be filled to the brim with backgrounds. But I’m slowly adding in more detail and I’m finally starting to feel like I’m not cheating when I draw a page.

What do you guys think? Do you like heavily detailed pages or something more expressive with backgrounds that suggest at the setting?

And as a final thought, check out Sean Murphy’s blog post about drawing backgrounds. Lots of good ideas to digest.

About jason

Illustrator and graphic designer. When not working full time as a Senior Graphic Designer, I am usually working on the graphic novel On the Verge: the Arrow of Time. Artist on Andrew Jackson in Space and The Sisters.

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