Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cartooning 101: Techniques and Art

It's harder to find quality art supplies, as more and more people move to the computer for illustration. Many still use traditional illustration methods, such as pen and ink, and some use programs like Photoshop and Illustrator exclusively. Somewhere in the middle, though, is where I am, and where I suspect most cartoonists and illustrators are: using traditional drawing and scanning into the computer for finishing, cleaning, coloring, or all of the above. And why not? Coloring especially is much easier on a computer, as is finishing and cleaning. Cleaning on the computer leads to laziness at the drawing table, so that the days of razor blades and white paint are gone, and your original might be quite messy.

Where does this leave the world of original art? I'm not sure, but I don't see much art out there these days, except of course with fellow Cartoonists. There are a lot of prints, however, since big syndicates have deals with online sites so that you can 'buy a print of today's strip', and many of us have art we are proud enough of to share by providing them as prints.

In my case, I work as mentioned above, drawing with ink, then scanning, then cleaning and finishing and coloring on the computer. I am embarassed to admit that my originals are not always complete, and sometimes I draw all of the panels separately, so that one cartoon may not have a piece of art worth displaying.

The upside of this is that sometimes I can concentrate on one panel and do it up nice, showing the whole scene where maybe the words might once have hid much of it. My strips are often verbose, so I struggle with the challenge, sometimes, of showing enough background to be recognizable behind the word balloons. This can be bad in black and white art, where the background may be nothing but a bunch of unrecognizable lines, unless there is a strong establishing panel for the scene. Sure, I know that this line is the top of a fence, and that squiggle is a tree, and that line over there is the side of a house, but how about the reader? Without room for an establishing shot, the background loses meaning.

With The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake, the scene is crucial to the story... at least the Pirate Ride is. To me, the idea of a Pirate Ride is cool, and I want the audience to feel like they can see it clearly. Also, by creating a good panel or two, I can visualize the ride better, and have some nice original art in the bargain. The illustration here is drawn much larger than a normal panel, and without word balloons, you can see the entire scene. Look at the finished product, and you can see how much background disappeared, and how much is covered, and maybe you can imagine how it would have been to draw this around the word balloons.

Extra work, surely, but worth it. I have a nice piece of art to sell or display, a scene I can use later perhaps, as extra art for a book, and a good establishing shot of the first part of the pirate ride.

Speaking of prints, I am making a large map of The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake ride, with much of the artwork from the story and website, and it will be available as a print when complete. It's a lot of work, but I think it will make a fine companion to the story.

And so, Happy Holidays to you, and Merry Christmas to those to whom that applies, and yes, I have finally finished illustrating the HappyGlyphs Holiday Card for 2008!

Better late than never, eh?

Have a Happy! JOHN :0)


Brian Hughes said...

"It's harder to find quality art supplies, as more and more people move to the computer for illustration."

I generally nick the pens from the post office counter. The only trouble is, they're a bit hard to use with a big lump of wood attached. The ones in the bookies aren't chained to anything...but the staff there insist that you actually place some sort of bet before you can disappear with the pen.

John said...


I get all my pens for free, from the bank. They put their name on 'em for advertising purposes, so don't mind at all if you walk out with a pocketful.

Unfortunately, bank pens don't work well for me as far as drawing goes, and it's the art pens that are sadly becoming an extinct species.

I've got a stockpile on hand, but what to do in 2022?

Merry Christmas! JOHN :0)