Tuesday, 31 March 2009

end of the month sketches

Really haven't had any time to do something blog-worthy for the last couple, so here's a few sketches off the desk.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Ain't Got Time Ta Bleed

I was recently asked to review a set of samples and one of the things that popped out immediately was that the artist didn't know what the crop marks on his Blue Line comics pages meant. He wasn't unique. The previous year, a week after doing a real quick summary of the bleed for my second year comics students and asking them to draw quick page layouts incorporating the bleed I was surprised to see that most of them didn't get it.

It was obviously a more complex issue than I ever thought it was. Perhaps because I actually had a good deal of print education both in high school and college the bleed was readily understandable to me, but not so much to young people people without such. Let's hope I can be more clear with this!

Below you have a standard DC Comics 2-ply plate finish (that means smooth) sheet of bristol board:

I dropped the colors so the normally pale blue lines might show better at the smaller size. There's a good deal of technical info on that page when you look at it. A bunch of lines of different sorts making different sized rectangles -- and even some writing about them along one side:


That's the rectangle I toned grey below:

It's so important I actually wrote my own note about restricting the important art and lettering in there. Now, important art might be an odd thing to read. All art on the board is important, of course, but this is specifically referring to the art that's important to the narrative and storytelling,

In this next example, the grey area is everything that should appear on the printed comics page. It's larger than the "LIVE ART AREA". In many ways it's like all the margins (white space) surrounding all the text in a novel. You can have headers and page numbers in the margin, but you won't find any of the actual story hanging out there. On a comics page you can have a good deal of art in the margins, but it's a design element to the page that can enhance the narrative, but cannot be crucial to it.

I'm being a little redundant here, but everything outside of the grey box in this second example will not be on the printed comic page. This area between the edge of the rectangle and the outermost blue line is called the "BLEED". It will either be trimmed out when they put the film into imposition prior to printing or it will be cropped off after the printed sheets are folded and bound into a comic book.

Here's a close-up:

You do not want to have any drawn elements, either a panel edge or part of something like a hand end on the crop line otherwise it will draw the reader's eye away from the story to the edge of the page. It's a distraction you should always avoid. It's best to stay well within the "
LIVE ART AREA" or draw all the way through to the outermost blue line. Printing is far more precise than when I started, but they still need that 1/4" bleed to allow for small print errors.
Here's an actual example from my seemingly never-ending pile of old work:

It's from a photocopy, but I think you can see all the crop lines reasonably clear on the top, bottom and left side.

Here I indicated the 'LIVE ART AREA" with a blue-grey overlay. The bleed and everything else is in that sexy magenta-ish color. As you can see I kept my panels pretty much within the 'LIVE ART AREA" with the exception of a little cheating in the last panel to show more trees. While keeping the woman and most of the tree she's sitting on within the live art area (tired of writing that in all caps) I draw the tree and branches out into the margins behind the other panels. Everything I do this with gets drawn out to the outermost blue line.

I'm not going to argue that this is a particularly good page, but it is a decent example of using the live art area and the bleed.

Below is the same page cropped to the margin edges.

As you can see not much is lost from what was trimmed off, but it allows the open panel to feel, well, more open!
There are a great number of ways to use the margins and bleed to enhance a narrative and are best explored by playing with them as you design new comics pages.
If you have any questions about this, ask away and I'll try to answer to the best of my ability.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Unknown Armies

Dug out a few more older pieces!
After I left comics during the late 90s crash, I started doing a good deal of illustration in addition to some storyboarding and other game art. One of the games I did quite a bit of work for in a short period of time was this roleplaying game called Unknown Armies. I took every new assignment as an excuse to play with some different media or style.

I took the assignment to draw a number of the interior illustrations (I also did the cover -- I should dig up a scan of that). The illustrations were going to be printed inn black and white, and I had very little time to do them (from other work, not any deadline pressure). Instead of the tonal pencil drawings I had done the first time I worked for these fine folks, I opted to do looser pencil sketches and work with quick and loose watercolour to get the values in. I pulled out highlights with gesso and drew back inn with pencil as needed.

Weirdo that I am, I chose to use a burnt umber-y colour instead of lamp black, which would be the practical colour to choose. So the pieces look like this:

I received some nice attention for the cover and some interesting notoriety for another interior illustration; I drew the monster created by the karmic/spiritual/ectoplasmic residue left by a rape. I was told a number of stored refused to carry the book because of the illustration.

I'll keep looking for the illustration -- failing that, it (and the ones above) are in the book Postmodern Magick.

March Zuda Reviews

New month, new Zuda web comics contest. I think March is stronger overall than February.

Children of Armageddon
First strip hits a nice high standard (for zuda) of drawing the environments and props right off the bat. Whether he’s using photo reference or something like Google Sketchup to get the cars and stuff to look that tight is irrelevant as it holds up quite nicely. His figure and facial features need work, as does the coloring. Something about a few faces in this strip really reminds me of Evan Dorkin’s work. The lettering, often a problem with Zuda entries, is a little cramped with most balloons being too small for their contents as well as suffering from some bad placements here and there. The story didn’t do too much for me, but it certainly doesn’t make me averse to reading more if it wins.

The first couple of screen look impressive, but we screen after screen of 2-panel pages, little story or characterization and a sudden drop in art quality midway through. 14 panels! It really feels like this was cut up from a three-page regular comics page sample. There’s some nice work in here, just not enough to make me care.

Doorman Bill
It’s David Lynch’s Harry and Tonto without the cat. This strip hits it underground comix stride pretty quickly, but it doesn’t do anything for me. This is really a case of the strip being what it is, but what it is isn’t something I gravitate toward. I don’t find anything in this strip objectionable or decidedly sub par, but I don’t find anything too intriguing yet, either.

Dracula vs. Santa
A very nicely done strip; reads solid and the art is attractive. It’s one of the top two or three this month and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t win. Its mix of popular icons with comics references should hold an audience quite well.

Kharon: Scourge of Atlantis
I’m a long-time fan of heroic fantasy comics. I’ not a fan of 80s fantasy animation as comics, though. Bad drawing and garish coloring aren’t selling points. Decent colors probably would have helped the drawing in this case since there’s no depth to the art and it looks like it was all inked with the same pen. There’s not much of a story here, as much as part of an event. I don’t expect this to do well, but I have been wrong before.

Lani, the Leopard Queen
Long-time comics pro, Geof Isherwood turns this strip in. Solid drawing and storytelling are a given here, so it all comes down to story, which is a little thin. We get a strange dream sequence, which is dismissed as a bad dream. We don’t get to learn Lani’s current situation other than she sleeps on a cot and has a monkey for an alarm clock. The creator states he wants to craft a web comic for the whole family, which makes me think he really hasn’t done his research into Zuda and its market. I don’t know how much Geof has written before, but he really didn’t start his story off with much of a bang and I think he’s looking at a real uphill battle from here.

Maintaining Bohemia
Weird art, weird characters, and weird story choices. None of it clicked into comedy for me.

Panda Force
So. . .pink. . . .

The Dirty Mile
Action-y piece with the confidence to bring its own style to the table; I like it and it’s one of my faves this month. It nicely introduces a raft of characters, clearly giving us a taste of who they are and what they might play into if the strip continues.

The Rejects
It feels like a slapstick version of Millar and Romita Jr.’s KICK ASS. I feel more potential for this strip than I can explain from reading it. It’s a gut feeling that the art and writing will improve sharply as the strip continues.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Ivan Brodsky, Take Two

Ok -- whipped up a more extreme version of this character.

Yes, I do teach young people. Why do you ask?

(yes, I am probably going to hell)

Monday, 2 March 2009

Ivan Brodsky

Warren's been doing his remake/remodel thing at his Whitechapel board for a while and I thought I'd take the time to play with it since I really enjoyed the few I did when The Engine was running.

Got about an hour into it and decided it was way too tame.

I might try again later this week.