1: Any advice to aspiring artists?
The best advice I can give an aspiring artist is just to keep drawing, as much as humanly possible. It sounds obvious, but believe me, you will be amazed at the improvements in your work after a while, even if you don't see the progression from page to page. For example, just look at the Deadpool series compared to BC. I didn't really notice that I was getting better for quite a long time. In fact, it seemed like I wasn't improving at ALL ( to me anyway ) and then one day I look back to that stuff and GASP in horror. So just keep at it! Also, don't copy what other artists are doing. Instead, study it carefully and figure out WHY they are doing it that way. Knowing what looks cool, and knowing WHY it looks cool are two very different things. So if you see a cool cover by your favorite artist, and you feel compelled to copy it down into you sketchbook, go ahead, but as you do it, try to figure out why he used certain lines in certain places, etc. Don't just lay a line down because it was there in the drawing. Really think about it. You will learn quickly this way.
Anatomy books are important early on, but relying on them too heavily may stiffen up your art. Remember, this is comics. It's all about dynamics. ( To me. ) I will always go for a dynamic pose over realistic anatomy. As long as you have the basics down, it's enough.
You absolutely have to master certain key areas. Faces and hands are important. Learn the chest and shoulders and how they work, and the large masses in the arms ( Bicep, tricep, and forearm ) and legs. Once you understand the large masses, you can throw in a hundred other rippling muscles in between if you want, and it will still look believable. ( Not realistic )Again, I'm sure there are many artists in the Biz that would scold me for this advice. I'm only giving you my personal view. Some people HATE my style, and prefer something more along the lines of Adam Hughes or Alex Ross. ( Two artists I love. ) Obviously, the more realistic a style you are going for, the more you are going to have to know.
Another thing I can suggest is, rather than just drawing from comics, or studying an anatomy book, combine the two. When looking at an anatomy book, look at a comic at the same time. Try to figure out how that artist used that anatomy in his work. It's important to study anatomy, but seeing how it applies to comics is helpful as well, since you will find that drawing an anatomically correct man standing still is MUCH different than drawing spiderman diving out of the way of machinegun fire, doing 3 flips, and kicking the gun out of his attacker's hands! ( Wow, long sentence. )
Practice on pages, not pinups. You will learn about 1000% faster by just diving right in. If you draw cool looking heroes in your sketchbook all day long, you may be getting better at figure work, but you aren't learning perspective, storytelling, camera placement, cropping, panel layout, and tons of other problems that crop up when you are actually working on pages. You will suddenly go, Wow, I never had to draw a guy jumping through the side window of a car while shooting the driver in the back of the head before. Oh damn, now the car smashed into a bus, and the bus crashed through the Daily Bugle and into J Jonah Jameson's office, in the middle of a meeting with 20 other people in the room. Catch my drift? Nothing prepares ya for the real thing, like DOING the real thing. I swear, I improved SO much faster by working on those MCP and Excalibur stories, and then Deadpool.
Again, practice, practice, practice. You will find many times that you have FINALLY mastered drawing something, but then after drawing it a few times, you will discover that you like doing it a bit differently. I don't think you ever stop improving. I hear alot of times ' This artist used to be so great, what happened? He sucks now '. You don't lose the ability to learn and improve, only the urge to do so. GO DRAW!!!
2: How do you handle perspective?
I use the old fashioned method of plotting points all over my desk ( off the page ) and drawing a grid on the panel. I now like to make a really tight grid so that I can do alot of it freehand, because backgrounds take a looong time, so not having to use a ruler etc saves time. I scribble a rough perspective grid on the page, and then just throw a long T-square on it to figure out where my points need to be off the page. Once they are down, I draw a fast grid, and the rest I try to freehand ( Because you're right, it's annoying using long rulers etc. constantly ).
3: How do you go about drawing hair?
Hmm...I'm not sure I do anything special with hair. I definitely put alot of emphasis on the hair, because, alot of times, my characters tend to look the same ( Something Im slowly trying to remedy ) and hair is one thing that can make a drastic change in someone's appearance. Also, giving a character a new hairstyle is one way to make it 'yours'. I think of hair as a design element, like a cape. I will redraw a cape dozens of times until it flows in a certain way. The folds aren't the most important thing with a cape, but the direction it's going, and how it flows. I try to do it in a way that pleases the eye. Same with hair. Like a cape, you can usually create motion in the figure by making the hair flow in the opposite direction that the character is moving.
Also, IF a guy has big bulky armor, I will usually give him short hair. A tall, slender guy may look more elegent or what have you with longer hair. Think of what type of character it is that you are doing.. Wolverine would not spend any time combing his hair, but Bruce Wayne would, so I'd give bruce a nice slicked back do.
4: What pencils/materials do you often like to use when penciling?
I use a standard lead holder ( I still use the one I bought when I was starting my first cover for MCP, 8 years ago! Its so worn it fits in my hand perfectly! ). Generally, on standard Marvel or DC paper, which is what I work on, I will use a 2H or 3H lead, but I will adjust depending on the surface of the paper. Marvel and DC both use an 11" by 17", 2 ply Bristol board. However, the batches of paper we get in vary wildly in terms of quality, and sometimes the paper is too slick, forcing me to use a softer lead ( 2H ) and sometimes it's too rough, so I'll use a harder lead ( 3 or 4H ). Usually, 3H does it for me on most paper. I used to be more comfortable with 2H, which is what most people use, but it smudges a little too much for my taste.
Always use a white eraser, like Magic Rub, or Staedler ( sp? ). The reason for this is, if you erase alot, you won't be leaving pink or green streaks all over the page. ( Although even a white eraser will mark up the paper. )I also like to work with a nice old kneaded eraser, to tag those pesky stray pencil lines without disturbing the art too much or having eraser shavings to dust off.
Obviously a good desk and a T-square are essential, as well as a super-long ruler ( If you use my ancient method of perspective ) , a circle template, and a french curve is useful ( or so people tell me, I don't think I've actually ever used one lol. I freehand all my curves...I'm sure my inkers LOVE that. ) Get the most absolutely comfy chair that you can find, because you will be sitting in it most of every single day.
5: Have you tried different art media such as acrylics, pastels, paints, watercolor, etc.?
I've used acrylics, oils, watercolor, and pastels, but for some reason, I was most comfortable working in conte crayons. If I had to master any medium today however, it would be digital coloring. ( Photoshop, Painter ) Obviously, it's used the most in comics and just about every other commercial media, plus it's the most versatile by far. Too bad I stink at Photoshop.
6: How long does it take for you to draw a page?
I've spent 2 or 3 days on a single page before, and I've done as many as 5 pages in one day. ( Rough nasty pencils..eww.. ) So it varies wildly. I've been averaging about 4 really good pages a week lately, so almost a page a day. ( I'm no longer working weekends..oh no, I just jinxed myself....lol )It depends on so many things. What's on it, the amount of characters, angles, panels, etc etc. Not to mention what's going on in my life that day. I think I can get back to a solid page a day again, I'm almost there.
7: Do you do a rough sketch/layout first when drawing?
Yes, always. I used to draw in blue pencil first, then add all the detail with a regular 2H lead. Unfortunately, most blue pencils are very waxy, and ink doesn't stick to the paper very well in areas where alot of blue was used. ( And I used ALOT. ) Now, I simply pencil lightly with a standard 3H, rough out the figures, perspective lines, etc. then, as I tighten it up, I erase any stray lines with an old kneaded eraser. ( Using a kneaded eraser that's been around for a while will not leave any shavings, or upset the paper, even slightly. It's very important to break in your eraser!! I'll usually do this in a sketchbook or something, because a fresh-from-the-wrapper kneaded eraser DOES upset the paper some. )
8: You draw arms well. Explain how!
Hmm..there's no real method. It's one of those things that comes with practice. After drawing about 80,000 arms, it just becomes natural. Although, by no means are my arms anatomically correct. As I've said before, I always go for dynamics, and each artist eventually figures out what type of anatomy works for his figures. Usually, I just rough in the arm with the anatomy etc already on it, and then adjust it a bit until it looks right. No shapes or anything. ( Although I'm pretty sure that helps at first...)
9: What can you tell us about lead and lead holders?
The lead in a regular number 2 pencil is either 2H or HB. Leads that are H are harder and get harder the higher up you go. ( 2H, 3H, 4H, 5H, etc. ) The harder the lead, the cleaner and finer the line, the less it smudges, and the lighter the value. Lead that's too hard is difficult to work with. Leads that are B are soft and get softer as you go up ( 2B, 3B, 4B etc. ) The softer the lead, the more the point will fall apart, the smudgier it will be, and darker values are possible. I don't recommend these for Comics unless you are VERY neat and careful. Mostly, soft leads are used for illustrations, where lots of values are desired and smudges can actually be used for cool effects.
HB is right in the middle. Like I said, it's about the same as a #2. Try anything from HB to 4H and see what suits you on the type of paper you are working on. Paper affects lead drastically. My 3H lead is nice and dark on standard DC paper, but if we get a batch thats really slick ( Shiny paper surface ) my 3H won't even show up, and I'll have to go to a softer lead on it to get the same line.
My holder is a Koh-i-Noor technigraph 5611. Probably the cheesiest one you can get, I think it was like $1.50 . I bought it in Highschool, and I still use it to this day. ( Though I have a backup, because I keep losing the damn thing. ) It's not really a sentimental thing, it's just that it's so worn and faded that it's more comfy in my hand than a new lead holder. Koh-i-noor and Berol both make good lead, although the values may be slightly off. I can't decide which I like better, so I use both on and off. Uh...I think that's all there is to say about lead. LOL.
10: Dynamics and energy then?
Hmm. There's no easy way to describe it, since it just sort of comes naturally over time. I wouldn't say there's a rule to it or anything. Some things to think about: Figure out which way the character is moving, left, right, up, down, etc. Use accessories like capes, belts, jackets, and even hair to add to the illusion of movement. Usually, making them blow in the opposite direction will work. A cape blowing behind a character can show great speed, but a cape blowing PAST the character ( In front of him ) will show that he rapidly changed directions, or just stopped. Sometimes, things can be moving in different directions at once, for instance, a character may be leaping in the air, and spinning his upper torso ( swinging a sword, punching, etc ) at the same time. Everything on his lower torso would be flowing downward as he's moving up, but everything on his upper torso would be spinning in the opposite direction of his swing. I don't even know if I'm making sense here, but like I said, it's too hard to describe.
The best advice I can give you is to pick up a few books on animation. I LOVE animation, and I really study how things move, react, etc. Im sure my love of animation has rubbed off on me in more ways than I can imagine. When I draw a figure, I think of frames of animation, and try to pause it during the most exciting frame. I don't think of comics when I'm working on them, I think of Movies, and Animation.
11: How about rendering shadows and such?
Placement of shadows is a wierd one. Liquid constantly bugs me because my light sources are so nonsensical ( For lack of a better word ). My lighting really doesn't make much sense. The most important thing to me, as I've said is Dynamics, but also form. By form, I mean the shapes of the surfaces I'm creating on an object or figure. I don't really care about how the light looks on the object, just the shape it creates. So if I have some up lighting on a character, but the character's fist would look alot more powerful with some top lighting, hell, I'll do it. This isn't always the case, but more often then not, I'll just go for what looks cool, and not what's accurate. ( I know, I know, there are Kubert school graduates shaking their heads in shame right now....)Like anatomy, I would say, learn the basics, and how to apply them to all sorts of situations. Once you do, you can start screwing with it a bit. I normally don't like to do alot of hatching, etc. because I think the cleaner, and more open the image, the faster it animates ( your eye stops on less things, and registers the entire image faster. ) If there's a scene I want you to look at for a while, I'll drop a TON of detail, rendering, lighting tricks etc. in there.
Eisner's book on storytelling, and even the good ole ' How to draw comics the Marvel way' have some good examples of how to use light to create mood, and drama. Again, you can learn alot by watching films as well. Generally, the more extreme the lighting ( Largest contrast of black and white ) will create the most drama. Figure out where the light is coming from. Is there an open window behind the character? Is he in front of a fire? Holding a glowing object? Figure it out and cast your shadows accordingly, keeping in mind the shapes of the surface.
Shadows are straight on flat objects, and curve with rounded objects. Obviously, the area the light is coming from would be lightest, and the areas furthest from the light would be darkest.Something lit from 2 opposite sides would be darkest in the center. Start with basic shapes and single source lighting before you start getting fancy with multiple light sources. OMG I'm so tired I bet none of this is going to make sense to me tomorrow. I hope this is helpful.
12: What anatomy and figure drawing books do you recommend?
Bridgeman's guide to anatomy is a good one, but there are a few others that escape me at the moment. I think Peck's guide to anatomy is quite good, and if you want attractive men AND women ( gorgeous women actually ) check out Andrew Loomis. I know there are some more, but like I said, the names escape me.I DO like Jack Hamm's book. Don't ever discount photographs either. Newspapers or other black and white magazines are great because it's already broken down into easy to follow values. It's much easier to understand and translate shadows from something that's already in black and white than from color to B/W. I am not a huge fan of anatomy books in general, since I don't think you really need to know what the cross section of a bicep looks like, and how it attatches to the bone. They waste alot of time with this crap. Get a body building magazine, a few Neal Adams comics, toss in a blender, and Bingo! Instant comic anatomy. ( Ok, maybe it's not that easy....)
I can't stress this enough, learn the basics first. I think anatomy books overwhelm you with too much info that you probably don't even need at first. ( For comics ) Learn the chest and abs, arms ( Triceps, Biceps , forearms ) and legs ( Quads and calves ). Learn the back. Once you learn these basics, figuring out how they work together is not difficult, afterall, YOU have arms and legs. Lift your arm or tighten your leg, you will feel the muscles moving in there. I know some guys that look at their face and hands in a mirror which they keep at their desk. Everything helps, but learn the basics first. You can fill in the gaps later. Anatomy- Schmatomy!! ( Haha I'm going to get creamed for this advice, I know it. )
*** Disclaimer*** ****This is intended to illustrate what has helped me. Individual results may vary****
There, I should be protected now.
I've mentioned this before, but as a reminder, if it's comics you are striving for, find an artist who's anatomy you love. Find a muscle or other body part you are having trouble with in your anatomy book or reference. Look at how that artist translated it into his work. For instance, Lets say I can draw a man standing still with his arms at his sides fairly well, but when he raises his arms or throws a punch, I get lost. I remember seeing an awesome Jim Lee figure in some book I was reading. I would pin-point my problem area, and check out how Jim did it.
Here's the important part...DON'T just copy what he did, or you won't learn it. It's like copying a Math answer from your friend...great you passed the test, but now you have no idea what's going on next semester as your math gets more advanced. Just compare it to your reference. Once you figure out how the anatomy in your anatomy book translates into comics, life becomes easier.
I would say I learned to draw from comics about 75% and books only about 25%. First my anatomy was based off John Byrne figures, then Art adams, Jim Lee, whatever. The anatomy books only helped me to understand what THEY were doing, because up until that point I was just copying what I saw, and didn't really know what I was doing. It was like an amazing discovery, finally learning " Wow, that big lump that Byrne draws on the back of someone's arm is called a tricep! "
I think because I learned to draw from comics, I got the poses and dynamics down first, THEN anatomy. This may explain my belief in exaggeration over realism. Over time, I slowly began to discover all the things I was missing out on by only looking at comics, so I got into all sorts of painters, photographers etc.
If you want to draw comics though, there is no better place to learn from than another comic artist. Period. Everything you study afterwards, you can incorporate into your work, but you'll have a better grasp on how to apply it.
Try to look at a few different artists, or you run the risk of becoming a clone. Maybe you love the way J R JR. draws hands, but you think Jim lee does the coolest Abs. You LOVE the rippling chest muscles in that streetfighter book, but that dragonball Z hair, now that's the greatest! Figure out what you like, why you like it, and try to do it. If you have to copy it a few times early on to get the hang of it, there's nothing wrong with it. ( Just don't do it when you go pro lol. )
Don't worry too much about your style, it will evolve and change over time as your confidence grows, and your interests change. I think everyone draws like somebody early on. ( Remember early Travis work, when he looked like a Jim Lee clone? LOL. He's come a loooong way baby. I dont think I need to mention my Art Adams-wannabe growing pains...) Damn, even I feel like drawing now...see ya!!!!
13: How much pre-planning goes into a page layout and composition?
There's no real trick to it, I know alot of guys that design their pages in the shape of a letter or number for perfect balance, stuff like that. Occasionally, I'll get artsy fartsy, but mostly I just shoot from the hip.
For a cover, I just figure out how many characters I'm working with, and how I can make them as BIG as possible. I will almost always go for a montage style cover when I have multiple characters, because then at least 1 or 2 of them will be HUGE and in your face. There's nothing I hate more than covers with 12 tiny little figures on it.
The most important aspect of designing a layout with multiple characters in it, is the placement and spacing of their heads. No matter what you end up doing with the bodies, the heads are most important, as the reader will instinctively look at the characters faces first. If the heads are all over the place, your eye will start wandering. If you look at the Turtles drawing, you'll see the heads are basically an arching line.
Actually, my two favorite compositions of all time ( My stuff ) are the Turtles pin-up and the cover to BC #1. If you look carefully at the Turtles shot, you will notice there are all kinds of things pulling your eyes around it. The chain is zooming in left from off camera, bringing you to Michaelangelo, his sash is blowing right, where you catch Raphael's face, which is arching upward, along with his weapon, which points right to Donatello's face. Dons staff, is flying left off camera, which brings our eye to Leo. There is ALOT going on here, and normally, I never put this much thought into it. You don't have to get so complex with it, just space the heads in a pleasing way. Your eyes are trained on basic shapes, so arranging them in a diamond, circle, triangle, or even lines, straight, curved, whatever.
Always remember your eye will move left to right instinctively, because this is how we read. Anything moving towards the right will get an extra little boost of speed and motion as your eye moves along with it. Anything moving left across the page is going 'past the camera' so to speak, this usually slows down the figure. It works great if you are meant to see one thing first, for just a sec, and then focus on something else. For instance, Let's say I were doing a scene of a monster creeping up behind Gully. Having Gully facing us to the far left, with the monster creeping up from the right, would force us to notice Gully first, register her without seeing the monster yet, and THEN we would notice it coming up behind her as our eye moved to the right.
If we reversed it, with Gully on the right, and the monster on the left, we would see the monster first, which would give it away. This COULD work, if we have the monster in the foreground left, with gully in the background, her back to us. Now, we are follwing the monster, creeping along with it, and we eventually come to Gully, which we now sense is in big trouble. As long as you remember that you are going to see everything on the left side first, you'll be able to do some really cool timing and planning.
Although, as I just mentioned, it can be really cool to have things move left for effect, you will generally want everything moving to the right, since it's more comfortable to the eye, and creates more motion.
For pages, I usually just figure out how many panels it will take to best illustrate the scene. Save large panels for important things, use small panels for unimportant information to save room. For instance, it would be kind of goofy to have a HUGE half page panel of Gambit's head, and then a tiny shot of the X-men breaking into a complex and battling the Marauders. I like establishing shots of characters to be as large as possible.
Lets say we are working on a page where Gully finds a strange box, thinks twice about opening it, and then throws caution to the wind, opening it up, only to have a large hand come out of it and grab her by the throat. ( Silly, I know, but it works..)
Right away, I know that I want that last panel of her being grabbed to be enormous. None of the other stuff is very important, so small panels would work. One of her finding the box, maybe a hand shot reaching towards it, then a headshot, because we want to see the look of worry on her face. If you saved room, the last shot should be massive.
Actually, the last example also presents another problem. When something is meant to surprise you, it should always be the first panel on the page. In the example above, turning to that page, we would see the hand grabbing her, even before we read the panels before it. VERY anti-climactic. It basically ruins the whole setup. If I were working with a writer, I would find out if I could move the last panel over to the next page. The scene would now end with Gully opening the box. Now, we turn the page, and BAM! Surprise!
Beyond that, I just project the mental image onto the page and start to rough it out. There's nothing else to it. Drawing lines all over the page is just an extra step, if it helps, great, but I think that as long as you are mindful of left to right movement, panel size, setups and reveals, and have a good grasp of storytelling, you're good to go.
One last thing I should mention is establishing shots. I've been ribbed many many times for not doing many backgrounds. Personally, I like to design my shots around the characters, not the environment ( Unless the environment is important to the scene ). Still, you should establish where the characters are right away. After that, unless they change locations, backgrounds are not quite as important ( Not to me anyhow ).
I will ALWAYS focus my shots on the characters, giving them as much room as they need, and making them look as cool as possible. If there's room for a background after all that, cool, if not, too bad. The characters are what people buy the book for. If you want backgrounds, go buy Architectural Digest. I'm sure most purists would scoff at this, but hey, that's the way I do it. I HAVE been working in more backgrounds lately, mostly because I'm having fun doing it, but also because I think it's important to start establishing the BC world. Another REALLY long answer to a simple question.