How-to Create Graphic Novels, Comic Books and Comic Strips

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Express Yourself!

Expressions Part 1 - Visual Vocabulary of Graphic Novels, Comic Books and Comic Strips

Expressions are your means to help communicate what the character is thinking or feeling.

They are tricky. Outside of a story the expression may not mean  what you want it to mean. Also, a smile usually means happy, yet the story context may change that meaning, as well as any visuals you add.

Below we see the first basic smiling face which can mean happy. The following faces are exactly identical except for some visual additions, the face itself has not changed at all. 

Add some sweat and the same smiling face will mean nervous. Add some color and that face is embarrassed. Or add some radiating lines and suddenly the face is pleasantly surprised.

Now some of you may say that those faces don't look nervous, embarrassed or surprised to me at all. You would be right! If I didn't put the labels, all of you would come up with different label expressions absent of a story.

Keep this in mind as we begin our discussions about expressions. The context is very important in determining how the expression is perceived, not just the drawing.




to be continued…

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Remember… Just Create!

Copyright 2016 H. Simpson

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Action Part 11 - Visual Vocabulary of Graphic Novels and Comic Books

Action - Epilogue

My friend Bryan E. Warner has consented to let me use his art as an example here.

Bryan doesn't have a web site. He does post art on the Penciljack forum here.
The entire page can be viewed here.
art © 2013 Bryan E. Warner


My first reaction was that it was a walking figure drawn incorrectly. He's flat footed and leaning back. Both feet occupy the same space. He right fist has a tangent with the leg, thus locking it in place and ruining the look of forward motion. I can't tell if that is his left hand peeking out or something is on the car.

His left hand should be behind him if walking. If this is a piece of the car, it's not clear what it is and creates a tangent, which ruins the sense of depth. It also draws unneeded attention to itself, because it is so awkwardly placed.

All of your figures should present a clear silhouette, which communicates what action is happening.


Bryan informed me the figure is standing and leaning back.

That brings up a few questions from a storytelling standpoint.

What is the story bring told in this panel? What is motivating the figure to lean back? What is he trying to see? The torso on the ground is beside him, not in back of him. What should this figure communicate to the reader? Why is he leaning back? Nothing is in his way, so what is he trying to see? Why stop walking and lean back?

Always keep in mind that your action in motivated by the story. If it's not clear to the reader why a character is doing something in the panel, then it raises questions in the reader's mind and brings the story to a halt. The reader is brought out of the experience.

If anyone wants to submit a page for critique, please let me know.

Remember... Just Create!


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Monday, July 29, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

My Top Ten List! Sequential Cartoonist Scale from 1 to 10

My scale of one to ten to rate your art level. 

Some people who have slobbered over your art because you draw better than them will give you a 10 and you're no better off than you were and still left standing there with false expectations.

Here's what my scale of 1 to 10 means. 

0 – No talent.

1 – You have talent.

2 – You draw like a twelve year old because you ARE a 12-year old.

3 – You draw like a twelve year old and got stuck there, even though you are 20 or 30 years old now. You never expanded your knowledge/practiced enough/took life drawing classes/read art books or any combination of these reasons and more. Yet you think (insert current popular artist here) is a hack and you can draw better than them.

4 – You draw more adult like. Your work is primitive. This is just a hobby for you. You're happy to express yourself with your art.

5 – You mostly copy other artists to practice. Your total knowledge is from what you've seen other artists do. You gain surface knowledge from copying, but nothing deeper. You only draw figures and no backgrounds. Nothing wrong with copying at this stage. You're beginning the learning process.

6 – You're finally taking classes and reading books to learn about anatomy, perspective, composition, chiaroscuro, color theory, storytelling, etc. You're adding skill to your raw talent. Now you're getting some where!

7- You have potential. You will answer an insulting ad from someone who won't pay you upfront, keep the rights to your art and promise you great exposure. If you can resist the temptation, use the time to make all the practice, learning and studying art to become second nature to you. Right now you still have to think about it. Editors who will pay upfront have a field day tearing your work apart.

8 – The work is inconsistent. Figures are stiff. Backgrounds are weak. You're not able to maintain character likeness or your style consistently. Storytelling needs help.

9 - Draftsmanship is good. Storytelling could be better. You've learned how to use photo reference as a tool, not a crutch. Now everything you've learned is a part of you. You don't have to think about how a deltoid and trapezius fit together and move and stuff like that. Now it's second nature to you.

10 – Art is good. Figures are lively, solid, anatomically correct with proper proportions and consistent. You can draw backgrounds that create a convincing reality. You understand how to create depth with foreground, middle ground and background. You haven't gotten bad critiques from editors for awhile now. Just little things here and there and not the big glaring errors you used to make. You're just waiting for your big break. You just need someone to take a chance on you.

You will always find someone willing to give you a first chance. What determines if you are ready to go pro is if someone gives you that second chance.

Now you may not neatly fit in this scale. You may be in-between. That's good! That means growth is happening. Do you need me to rate you or can you honestly look at yourself? Can you remove your self from the confusion caused by accolades of well meaning people and the rejection from editors? Can you be honest with yourself about your talent and skill level? Be honest about what you need to do and then do it without a primal scream?


TIP - If you hear the same critique more than once. It's not an opinion, it's something you need to work on, so do it!

Remember... Just Create!
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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Action Part 10 - Visual Vocabulary of Graphic Novels and Comic Books

We've seen that action means quite a few things instead of just fighting.

Even if you character is sitting in a chair, they should not appear to be a lump of flesh. Sitting has personality! How they slump, slouch, sit properly or with exhaustion continues to tell their story.

Find ways to always have your character doing something.  In theater, it's called "business on the stage." The character can be scratching or picking their nose.

Extreme movement in your characters should over emphasize their attitudes and have exaggeration in the poses in order to make them seem to  move. 

Which brings us to a subject near and dear to me. Speed lines and radiating lines. When I started drawing comics I made a decision I wouldn't use those type of lines. I wanted to somehow use the environment to help indicate that. Papers or debris following the action. Or use the composition to indicate it. I was successful up to point. There were just some times that speed lines were the best thing to use!

As much as I don't like them, they still serve a purpose for the story. I use them sparingly. I don't use them as a crutch!. My figures don't depend on the speed lines to indicate movement. I try to use them to make direction clear more than anything else. I also use them to make a punch feel like it has more impact and power behind it.

Sorry to get personal this time around, I just wanted you to know how I feel about it. I'll try to keep it in check.

If you decide to use them, keep it simple! Too many can be distracting when used sloppily.

Speed lines give the illusion of motion to our immovable figures in the panel.

Radiating lines can indicate pain, vibration, chills and more.

This wraps up action for now.

Next... Expressions

Just Create!
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Monday, July 22, 2013

Friday, July 19, 2013

Action Part 9a - Visual Vocabulary of Graphic Novels and Comic Books

Even Pros Have Issues

This is an unplanned detour, yet still relevant to the current topic.

This a bad Jim Lee drawing I saw. It's bad for many reasons, poor cropping, bad anatomy and tangents, among others. However, I think Jim's career will survive my critique. 

The topic today is balance. Woman Woman is off-balance. Her center of gravity is going through the foot that is not providing support. Now you may say, "Howard, he's just drawing her in perspective with the background." My response is, 'No, he didn't.'

First evidence is the background figures have a straight center of gravity.


Second. the perspective is off.

The problem with using a photograph for reference is that the perspective is most likely distorted. it doesn't match what the human eye sees. You can't follow it exactly.

To be continued...
Remember Just Create!

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Action Part 9 - Visual Vocabulary of Graphic Novels and Comic Books

Balance


It's important to keep grounded figures balanced when standing and when doing action, unless they are falling.

It's good to act out the action you are drawing so you can feel it. In some cases, you may want to photograph someone performing the action. There's no reason in this digital day and age that you do not have a camera near you somewhere. You don't have to look like your character, be the same gender or even have the same body shape of your character to take a selfie. You want to see and feel the gesture of the action and feel the balance a character needs.

Keep in mind that your characters have weight. Think about direction and balance. Think about active and passive lines. Think about where the body will stretch and where it will pinch. Always be mindful of proportions.


Be aware of the center of gravity of your character. You should be able to draw a line to find the center of gravity from the pit of the neck to the supporting foot or feet. Or that line may pass between the feet when they support the weight equally. Sometime the line goes straight down. Other times it is diagonal and travels from the pit of the neck to the supporting foot in extreme action.


To be continued...
Remember, Just Create!

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Action Part 8 - Visual Vocabulary of Graphic Novels and Comic Books

The Decisive Moment

As a storyteller you must choose the decisive moment in each panel that communicates to the reader clearly.

Relating to action it could be the end of the action - ExplosiveAction.
A quarterback releases the football.

It could be the moment before - Anticipated Action.
A quarterback rears back with the football.

It could be at the height of the action - Suspended Action.
A quarterback starts forward motion to throw the football.


If you have someone pose for you. Have the model do the complete action. Study the arc of motion and pick that decisive moment.


To be continued.... Next Balance.

Remember Just Create!

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Action Part 7 - Visual Vocabulary of Graphic Novels and Comic Books

Since we've gotten around to punching, which most people think of as action, let me once again adjust your thinking. You should always think about result and effect.

Action can be shown in one panel or two. In either case, you are showing result and effect.

A punch is thrown as a result of an emotion. The effect of the punch on an individual/object is shown.

A container is knocked over as a result of carelessness. The effect of being knocked over empties the container of it's contents.

Do you see how the story is motivating the action?


To be continued…
Remember Just Create!


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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Action Part 6 - Visual Vocabulary of Graphic Novels and Comic Books

Now don't go getting illusions of grandeur just because you can draw these quick gesture skeletons very well. You still have to skin it and make a figure. If you put a stiff figure on top of your graceful skeleton you defeat the purpose.

Fig. 1 - A decent gesture skeleton. You can get a nice active figure out of it.

Fig. 2 - The active and passive lines have been forgotten and a stiff figure is the result. 

Fig. 3 - Gesture skeleton is exaggerated more, making the punching figure more dynamic. The punched figure could be more dynamic if one foot is lifted off the ground. Let's say for the story's sake, the figure can take a punch and stands his ground to counter punch. Then we have a good case for letting him be flat- footed.


Fig. 4 - Neophyte boxers are taught to put their body into the punch. Artist have to do the same thing when drawing. Look at how the pose and energy is contributing to the punch. The angle of head, the lean of the body and that long line of motion that is the actual punch.


To be continued....
Remember, go out and just create!

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Action Part 5 - Visual Vocabulary of Graphic Novels and Comic Books

Now let's take a look at the figure form the side view.

The spine and back part of the legs are what we want to concentrate on here.

The rear of the body will most likely be the active side, while the front will be the passive side.

Look for a way to get personality into it. Is the figure proud, lazy, a slob?


The first figure that is just straight and that's what you want to avoid.


That's it for today. Thanks for stopping by. Remember to go out and Just Create!

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Action Part 4 - Visual Vocabulary of Graphic Novels and Comic Books

Okay, let's change gears a little bit. I've discussed action as you normally perceived it, which is movement of figures. I've also discussed it as active lines, which you may not have thought of before.

Before I move on I want you to understand as a cartoonist you are responsible for everything on the page. There is no line that you put down that should not be there for reason. Everything has to be justified as helping to tell the story.

Characters have emotions that are expressed not only by their faces, but by their body language. You make your character more believable if the body language matches the emotion they are having at that point in the story. You have to put some thought into the body language of the characters generated in the various story circumstances and situations. You must understand your characters and interpret/express their motivations and reactions in your drawings.

So ask yourself some questions to figure out what is important to give the reader information about your character.

The emotions - anger, fear jealousy, envy, happiness, etc. -  are the driving forces behind the action, which reveals itself in the mood, personality and attitude of the character. The two questions to ask are "What is it?" and "Why is it?" The answers reveal how the character will perform.

The answers bring us to our next question "How will I draw the character to tell this story?" or another way to think of it, "How do I visualize the physical expression of the emotions?" You also have to consider the shape, size, gender, weight, intelligence and age of your character. A short, petite  female will express anger much differently than a big dumb brute of a male.

Action thought of from a storytelling perspective is now not just movement, it is the manifestation of body's emotional expression. It reveals personality. Be sure you know the trigger that compels the action! A character's inward feelings will determine their outward action also. An amused character may smile, laugh, giggle, snort or buckle over uncontrollably.

Remember to think about what you are drawing. So go out and Just Create!


copyright 2013 H. Simpson




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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Be Batman

For the first time in years I won't be attending San Diego Comic-Con. For the last few years it's been hard to get a room with the new reservation system.

I didn't get one within my budget this year and I just gave up and decided not to go. I will miss being there with my fellow geeks and creators.


Remember Just Create!

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Action Part 3 - Visual Vocabulary of Graphic Novels and Comic Books

The stick figure is your artistic short cut to drawing the skeleton. See how learning the anatomy comes in handy?


The line of action is very important! It's going to come up again in a different context, as this is not the only application of this phrase.




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