Braiding Backgrounds

Resource: Perspective!For Comic Book Artists: How to Achieve a Professional Look in Your Art, by David Chelsea (Watson-Guptill)

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It's amazing to see comics from new artists where character drawings are spot-on but the backgrounds are either extremely sloppy, off kilter, or worse yet, not done at all. It's hard to get a feel for a scene when there's no scene to look at.

It's understandable, actually. Most of the time when you're reading a comic, you're obviously going to focus your attention on the characters. They're why people read the books. So, when new artists want to start drawing comics themselves, they may focus entirely on drawing the people and just ignore or crudely draw a background so that something is there. 1 know I was guilty of this when I started drawing.

Backgrounds are an important part of comics. If a drawing has no background, the reader has no sense of place for the scene. The characters could be in the country or the city, but without scenery, the reader isn't going to know what you have in mind.

Backgrounds are also extremely difficult to master. Hearing things like "using one/two/three-point perspective will help you draw realistic scenes" is nice, but it doesn't help when you want to draw a cityscape and aren't sure exactly how to tackle that. Plus, many books dedicated to perspective work and technical drawing can be a bit confusing and dense to read.

David Chelsea's book takes a different approach to handling the explanation of perspective work. Taking a cue from Scott McCloud, Chelsea wrote the whole book in an illustrated form. It's almost like watching a video tutorial, as the book guides you visually through various methods, tips, and tricks in hopes that you'll understand how to apply it to your work.

If you're new to the concept of drawing backgrounds — or maybe you try drawing them and find it's all too confusing and daunting — have patience. Reading this book can help you down the path, but practicing the methods and taking chances by drawing things you've never drawn before (a car, a lamppost, a living room, and so on) can help you improve. Then, much like your character drawing has become second nature, so too will creating the environment around them become.

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