Friday, October 30, 2009

Characters - Design and Familiarity

Welcome back!

I've completed the character turnaround for the younger brother. As well as a comparison sheet so you can see the brothers side by side to scale. I'll share those here as well as a character snap shot similar to the image of the older brother fleeing from the killer bee I posted earlier. I feel that I am becoming familiar with the process I'm implementing for the work. I am apprehensively pleased with that. The familiarity means the work flow is tighter and quicker I just need to be conscious as I work or in that familiarity the work may become stale. I need to be purposefully pushing myself in that familiarity of design and work flow to try and develop sound, interesting and lasting images. What a wonderful, wearying and enriching process this has proven to be, and I haven't even broke ground on the finished content of the book yet.

Before I post the character designs here are a few images of my process. I begin with rough sketches and use my makeshift light table to create cleaner line drawings. I then ink those line drawings using brushes. The brushes are taking some getting used to and I think I may need to make another trip to the art store to expand my tool set. Right now I am using two brushes. One for line and the other for tonal washes.

NOTE: the images listed below are missing from the interwebs currently.
Not sure where they are in all my old folders files etc. :(

My makeshift light table. Two fluorescent compact bulbs on an extension cord in our coffee table.

On the light table.

Transferred to the BFK Reeves paper.

Finished ink line work. Prior to adding tones.

Here are the character turnarounds.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Few Details On Panels

I've been reading Illustrating Children's Books: Creating Pictures for Publication by Martin Salisbury (Course director for the first school in the UK to offer an MA in Children's Book Illustration). Being new to the world of Children's Book Illustrations is great! I've discovered many new illustrators and have enjoyed learning about the history of the craft. One such illustrator who I came across is Winsor McCay. His work stuck out to me because he broke ground in the way in which he used sequence in his work. The following is an excerpt from the aforementioned book:
Winsor McCay's contribution to the development of sequential art for children is immeasurable. His Little Nemo in Slumberland is widely recognized as a work of genius that paved the way for much subsequent invention in comics and children's books. The strip first appeared in the New York Herald in 1905, and over the years McCay became increasingly daring with its design, structure, and content.

The above image sequence was included with the text in Salisbury's book. My story will include some sequential elements, many of which are narrow and vertical, very similar in size ratio to the panels in this sequence. Needless to say I was excited when I came across this work. It's so imaginative and such a joy to read (the image included here has dialogue in an Asian dialect sorry). I love how the final panel acts as a period to the sequence, being 1/3 the size of the other panels and a shade of colour closer to the first six panels. It ties the sequence together visually and punctuates the story perfectly.

I'll be posting more of my own work in the near future but just wanted to share a small chunk of the info that I have been absorbing during this process.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Composing Backgrounds

My, how time flies. It's been 19 days since my most recent post. My apologies, life has been very busy, but that's not why you are all here so I will spare you all the wonderful details. This post will take you through a very quick breakdown of some of the processes I've gone through with backgrounds.

It occurred to me the other day, as I wrestle feverishly with a test background for Our 1984, that I am approaching part of the layout of the book in a similar fashion one would an animation. This has not occurred by any planning on my part. Which leads me to believe I'm either relying on my previous experiences with animation or it's an indication of the desires of my inner creative core. Like a pack of renegade toddlers ambushing me from the thicket, this took me by surprise because I have tried to approach this whole project with a great deal of intent. When I realized I had been ambushed, I stopped production for a brief moment to look at some of the illustrated stories we own. It seems that many illustrators create images on one surface, providing a very unified and cohesive feel to the work. Look at the work of David Small for example, in The Money Tree, he uses watercolour to create some beautiful and coherent images. No trickery or composing digitally included (I assume). He's so good... drool! Anyways... I digress. After looking through some books I began to question my approach and I engaged in an internal dialogue that went something like this:

corey: Perhaps I should be painting the characters completely in so they match the backgrounds entirely?

Corey: No no, I'm way too happy with the way the characters are rendering using digital and analog techniques.

corey: You don't even know what you're talking about. Look at David Small... Hello!

Corey: I know ... gee maybe I'm right.

corey: Exactly. You're right.

Corey: I am?

corey: Yah.

Corey: Yah I'm right. Just follow my instincts. My gut tells me this is the right path. Thanks!

corey: You're welcome.

This whole conversation reminded of the inspirational interview with Greg Manchess where he discussed the importance of authenticity. (See previous post Sept 26)

Forging on, after realizing that I had unconsciously begun working on the backgrounds, I embraced the idea of integrating the characters (rendered using ink and digital colouring) into backgrounds which feel reminiscent of those found in animated films or cartoons (completely painted in photoshop). I'm aware of challenges this may create in relation to perspective and scale but welcome them wholeheartedly.

Without further adieu I give you "background test 1". (Click it to enlarge the image)
Background Test

This test background was painted digitally in Photoshop using my 12" Wacom Cintiq screen. I can't recall at this moment if I have mentioned I will be doing a portion of the book in Black and White and the other portion in colour. Well now I have for sure. Keep in mind this was the first crack at the background cat and although the image may not feature in the finished book; it has given me some solid building blocks for illustrating the backgrounds.
  1. As I worked on the image I continually asked myself the question, "How far can I push the fantasy in the coloured backgrounds?" (The coloured sections of the book are the sections where the brothers are in their imagined play time) I was making conscious choices as I went along to keep the image on the border of fantasy and reality. I feel it will be important to the story for the boys imagined play time to still be grounded to reality.
  2. Because of the setting of this story it is important for the backgrounds to reference rural Alberta. Thus you see rolling hills, a large sky, and mountains in the distance. Even though the rocky mountains were not visible from the acreage we grew up on, they have always held a magical and fantastic quality for me. As a child, they were ever on the horizon of my mind.
  3. For this book, Shelter, the imagined part of the story takes place in a medieval land where wizardry, dragons and the like exist. The castle in the background gives indication of this as does perhaps the stature of the tree and path on the left hand side of the image.
  4. It will be of utmost importance to me as I create this book to be very mindful of composition. In this image I have tried to create an engaging composition using light, colour, object placement and atmospheric perspective. I recently came across an interview with comic artist Phil Jimenez in which he discusses composition and storytelling. He describes the process of creating panels for comic books as "choreographing my own movie; part of it, I guess, is imagining if I was the director who had to shoot this film or cartoon, how would I do it? What shots would I pick? What angles? How would i tell the story and have it make sense to anyone?" Great thoughts! I'm going to hold on to those as I go through this process.
  5. The storm in the top right hand corner will also feature in the story. I'm not telling how ... you need to buy the finished book for that little bit of info. *wink, wink*
There you have it. A quick glimpse into backgrounds. I've been working on more of the character designs as well and will have more for you on that next time around. As I mentioned at the outset of this post, life is very busy, so I will have more content up here asap.