Jaime’s Note: Crumplepoint is our resident independent comic artist, and he’s going to explain below the mind of an artist. Everything is presented with minimal edits, from our Scottish friend. With that said, welcome to Crumplepoint’s Corner.
Part of being an artist is deciding what details you want your audience to see, or to guide the focus of their eye. Classically, the same level of detail may have been given to every subject, and the eye guided by perspective or composition. Since the impressionists and pop art however, hundreds of tools and styles for this purpose have been developed: line work, shading, colouring, composition and more.
Now, an artist has all these sophisticated abilities and tricks to guide the eye and command the attention of their audience.
Why not just draw the darn thing? Just draw it as you see it, surely?
A good question, sure, but here’s a better one: “why would I do that?” We have eyes, we have photographs, we have video. Recording an image in pencil, realistic to the most minute detail- as skillful as it is- has it’s place. But in my opinion it is now more a technical skill than ‘art’.
Unless you are playing with the composition creatively, it merely replicates a real subject. A camera can do that, and you don’t have to pay it or wait for the privilege! This doesn’t diminish the ability of photorealistic drawing, as you must learn to do that at least modestly well if you want to start being more impressionistic- or else it shows.
But if art is a medium of communication then we have to ask ourselves, how does capturing the image of every single hair on this bunny’s tail serve my purpose? Because it might! These are the questions you have to ask yourself, and that I ask myself.
It furthermore raises another issue, one of opportunity: if the market of consumers of art is bigger, more varied and less dependent on realism; it allows people to communicate artistically, with less technical skill but adequate success, so long as they are getting their idea across to the viewer.
So if anything goes in regards to style, we have to decide what style we want to use and how to use it. This is the interesting part; it becomes something like the difference between a literal translation and an interpretation; the artist should convey only the essential elements that they need it to, be that an action, an aspect, general aesthetic or a simple emotion.
In many cases, this isn’t about what is put in as much as what is taken out and in turn, what you are left with afterward. This is very apparent with line drawing; how many things in life do you see that are made of lines and linear strokes? Almost none.
What an artist wants you to see.
This is all done to attract your eye, and your mind, to specific (and ideally relevant) details. The whole process is to get rid of superfluous distractions and get you to see form or maybe a few key details much like focus can be used in cinema. The director may want you to notice a ruby or an inscription on a sword as opposed to Indiana Jones’ face as he examines it, so in the same way, the sword and face may be left relatively impressionistic while the subject is in perfect detail.
In comics this becomes even more crucial.
Comic artists are telling a story, slaved to a narrative that they have to illustrate. An artist is usually making a statement about one particular moment whereas the comic artist is telling a story about a sequence of them and their relationship to one another.
And so this gives rise immediately to new constraints and demands: time management; repetition; consistency in that repetition; variety in that repetition; painstaking hours on rapid successions of artwork, not on one painting and on to the next; collaboration (unless you are able to write and everything else a comic needs); and a knack for storytelling equal to that of the writer- you might not be a wordsmith but you are still telling a story.
And so this is what has to be done in the penciller’s head every time they start a new comic, a new page, or a new panel. Whether they realise it or not, this is crucial, especially in the beginning.
This is all terribly abstract and theoretical, but it is the first stage in the process. Its presence is often what separates a comic artist from other artists, even cover artists.
I hope to talk to you all more about other aspects of comic art soon, thank you for reading and keep creating.