A DEMONSTRATION OF COMPOSING FIGURES FOR A SPLASH PAGE
I am going forward in a graphic novel and my previous page was the end of a chapter. The main character has been thoroughly humiliated in a contest and walks away. His uncle, who is running the contest, drags him back where he is further humiliated. This is to force him to lose his temper. I show him in extreme emotion and now he has to do something crazy.
You can also see that I have the boy and the uncle already drawn and I must be consistent with the way they look. I have an audience, but I don't want them to be any more than a shadow, but I must indicate a direction with the characters standing in the background. I'm choosing the very tall woman and those around her for a back drop. However, I also want to indicate where this is taking place. A field, but there are some trees. The writer may tell you this, or if like me, you are writing as well, you can figure this out. Often a writer will not tell you enough.
I decided that I wanted my boy to throw his uncle in rage. So first I have to compose
that. Looking thought hundreds of photos of wrestlers and acrobats, I come up with some.
For this layout, nothing was right. So I picked pictures that felt right or were parts of right. I often do not draw what I pick out in pictures, but you may need them to get a feeling of what is going on.
You can easily see here the parts of the references that I used and those I did not. You cal also see the basic flow of the composition and the muscle lines I've drawn in as well as the uncle's costume. This usually takes a while, especially if there is a lot of action. If the people don't look right, the reader is jerked out of the story. Inkers say that they often correct anatomy on drawers' work to make sure that nothing jars the reader.
It's easier for the reader to understand action after is has happened. If someone hits someone, you usually see the after, not the connect point. Action is often best after it has happened. If I were to show this boy lifting his uncle, it would have less impact and simply be mid-action, rather than showing him just after he threw his uncle. I also strive to keep a flow in the picture.
Here you can see that I have laid down the first layers of pencil. One of my tricks, is that the Holly (uncle's costume) wear linen that is indicated by vertical lines. Although the uncle is flying and the cloth could be indicated by the line direction, the stiffness is kept by the vertical treatment.(See above.)
I am now indicating the shadow mass of the background. Although in traditional work there would be now outlines, this is a comic and to scan it in, I need more structure. I have also worked up the boy's face. The trick is to do things in layers. Pencil will smear. On a spread, I will often work up the rough composition and then work top left to bottom right because I draw right-handed. In a smaller piece like this, I can keep off the paper, but you see the smudges! Work light, the paper texture gets messed up when you erase.
Now you can see the "macchia" layer go in where the pencil is put in a smeared into the paper as a backcolor. This is an important step although many find it boring and want to just smear a wash of color, like paint. Take your time. Work in the pencil in small sections and start to indicate masses as you put in the first layer.
This step is also tedious. You are painting with the pencil. Work into the layer with darker lines and areas of smearing. You can see that the background is starting to take shape but it is not as important as the action. I cannot emphasize enough that most art fails in that the overworking of background material leaves the focus unresolved. Do not fix this with color. Try to think of a flash of the eye. The eye doesn't not focus on both background and foreground any more than the camera does. Let the sharp focus be on the event.
I have scanned in this drawing and done the task of getting back the drawing I scanned. I do this, not by turning up the contrast so that the light pencil work stands out more, but by shifting the middle. I darken up the middle values, then adjust the contrast if I need.
Now again, little by little, I adjust the values in my art program. I use my lighten and darken tools to clean up some of my smudges. Often, artists use tracing paper to get from the smudged up beginning drawing to the finished work. I do not. I like the immediacy of the original drawing, but I have to do a lot of work on the computer.
Notice also that I'm not overworking the tree or the bird. A real problem with amazing artists like Boris Vallejo is that he overworked everything. Everything in his work is in sharp focus (see Lighting) This became his style. It is not a traditional style and I do not prefer it. I wanted an immediate style more in line with Ingres or Sargent or other artist whose work looks a bit unfinished. I wanted to give the illusion that someone was right there, drawing this scene. I also encourage you to think like a master. The work should be finished where you want the focus. Portrait artists finshed the faces more than the clothing. The eagle is close, he is the most finished. There might be a tendency to overwork this tree, especially the bark. I have to leave it a bit sketchy in order for the drawing to feel fresh and not worked.
And here we are! I dopped the drawing into my template but I had another drawing of the background material in the template. I then work on the text and I have my page.
© 2017, A.R. Stone