Around, I'd say, 1992,1 picked up a video cassette that covers how to draw comic book characters, hosted by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane. I don't remember too much from that tape, except there's this one statement he makes to the audience. He says that you should study other comics if you want to learn how to draw because it's that exaggerated and surreal style that you want to understand if you want to make it in the business of comics.
To a degree, 1 think he's right; you should look at other comics. They can be a great source of inspiration, as far as learning how certain artists draw the way they do. Where I differ from him, though, is while he suggests focusing on the "how," 1 suggest paying attention to the "why."
While it's true that the writer dictates how many panels are on a page and has a general setup of the point-of-view for each panel, it's still the artist who decides how those panels are laid out on the page. He or she is the one who has to look at the page and decide what the best way to convey the story visually is.
This probably doesn't sound like a big deal. All you do is draw some stuff, make sure there's enough room for dialog, and you're done, right? It isn't as easy as you would think. Ask any professionals how many times they may go through a series of thumbnail sketches before they find the perfect setup that best expresses what the writer is trying to convey.
I'm sure you have a least a small collection of your favorite comics and/or manga. You've read really good ones multiple times, I bet. The story is really compelling, or the artwork is top-notch, or maybe it's one of the modern classics, where you get the best of both worlds.
Well, 1 suggest you read them again. (I know ... I really have to twist your arm.) Here's the catch, though: This time, pay close attention to how the story is told through the artist's eyes. As you do that, start asking yourself questions, like:
V Why did the artist decide to draw the page (or a specific panel) that way?
v Did the artist convey the scene or mood that the writer intended? (Does the art match the writing?)
V Is the storytelling on the page easy to follow?
iS What is it about the artwork and storytelling that makes it his or her style? Or is there a unique style to begin with, or is it just a copy of someone else?
What would you have done differently if you were given the script?
While you're at it, pick up an older book you haven't read before, but maybe have heard a lot about. Check out Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis, or Jack Kirby's early Fantastic Four run, or Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira, or Will Eisner's A Contract with God, or many other classic books out there. Look at how they convey the story and ask yourself the same questions as before. You'll be surprised at how much your work can evolve as a result.
It doesn't hurt to look at your favorite artists' drawing styles for inspiration and persona] education. Keep In mind that you have to be careful not to emulate them too much in your work. I'll say about 80 percent of artists out there start off with their artwork looking like their mentors', but eventually they do find their own style. So be sure to learn from your favorites, but try to find your own style in the process. It's better to have a fan say, "Hey, you're So-and-so!" than being told "Hey, you're that artist that draws like So-and-so,"
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