Thoughts about bluelines in comic art

I’ve posted a couple of times in the past couple of months about my work process and using bluelines…

… and you may have noticed that I’ve been referencing Sean Murphy’s art and his blog a bunch over the past month or so and this is really because I (A) like his work, (B) find a lot of what he has to say IN his blog posts relevant and (C) I’ve been studying his work as part of my research process. And while I agree with a lot of what he has to say, I don’t agree with everything.

One thing that I have to really disagree with Sean about is the use of blueline in comic art which he’s mentioned a couple of times in various blog posts. I do understand his point – if you’re selling the art and/or buying it, art without blueline is probably nicer to look at (I guess). But at the same time, Sean has talked about his love of looking at inked work and seeing all the mark making that the artist has done. And to me, this is one of the reasons why I like seeing art with blueline it it – you get to see the artistic process. I love looking at Todd McFarlane or Jeff Smith’s work from back in day because you can see all the drawing that went on before they actually started inking. And I love to see how much drawing they’re actually making up on the spot when they’re inking. It’s amazing to see how much drawing they do JUST in ink.

Bone

ToddMcFarlane

For me, inking on top of bluelined art has sped up the process considerably. I understand where Sean is coming from and I’m not going to say that the final art doesn’t look better if it’s all cleaned up. But Sean is doing this stuff full time and frankly, I’m not. Time is something I don’t have a lot of, so every second counts. And if working from blueline allows me to draw better and draw more than that’s what I’m going to do.

The other thing that I think is relevant to point out is that a key piece of his argument is that he is creating his art with the knowledge that he’s going to sell these pages and he wants them to stand alone as a “piece of art”. I can respect that completely. When I working on a drawing or painting that is a “piece of art” I try to have the finished piece be as clean as possible since I want the art to look nice after all and not be a complete mess. But for my comics work, I’m focusing on creating art for the purpose of telling a story and at the end of the day, that art is getting scanned, cleaned up, coloured and lettered before it appears in a comic. So to me, this is more of an “applied art/commercial illustration job” and not a “fine art” process. I can respect that Sean’s aiming for both (and that’s awesome that he’s able to) but at this point, I just want to draw good comic book pages. To do that, inking on top of bluelines has really worked.

Anyway, at some point in the future maybe my inked pages will be so in demand that I’ll start worrying about cleaning up all those bluelines. For now, I’m sticking with what’s working.

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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