Saturday, January 23, 2016

Forceful Figure Cartooning

Jack Cole sequence from Plastic Man, 1950

We look at a lot of classic cartooning in the Figure Drawing for Cartoonists course.

Warmup studies by Gil Kane
Mac Raboy model sheet showing figure as descending rhythm of wedges

Opposing figure designs by Heinrich Kley, 1909
I feel that many comic artists run into trouble when they draw by constructing solid body parts-- head, neck, arms, etc.-- and attaching them together to make a person. The results are often stiff and dead seeming, however realistic they may appear on the surface.

 In this course, we pursue the goals of drawing with vitality, clarity, and solidity, in that order. I talk about planes and the illusion of transverse volume, skeletal joint breaks in the creation of legible silhouettes, and stress the importance of subordinating those concerns to the creation of forceful, unified gestures.

Harvey Kurtzman layouts beside Will Elder finishes, for Help #1, 196?. Students are challenged to compare the images and come up with their own interpretation.

I assign a crazy menu of figure drawing challenges designed to drive those skills home, treating each as a game with a unique set of rules. We sketch, for example, from photos of animals fighting, to find the main lines of action, the leading edges, the forceful shapes.

We apply the concepts to classic cartoon characters.

Preston Blair cartooning instruction
The new session begins Wednesday. The last day to sign up is Monday, I believe. Don't delay!

John Stanley sequence from 13 Going on 18, 1963

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Student Spotlight: Andrew Vado

Check out these pages by Andrew Vado, an artist of exceptional ability who joined the Inking Comics class last semester.

These are Andrew's novel solutions to the single light source and "aspect to aspect" challenges, plus a finished page from his final project. It's always a delight to meet, help, and learn from outstanding young artists.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Aspect to Aspect" Visual Narrative

Here' an unfinished page I played around with a couple semesters ago in the Inking Comics course. The assignment is to compose a page, finished in ink, following the "aspect to aspect" transition described by Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics. We choose images from around the classroom, including other students.

Inking Comics is proving to be the most relaxing and pleasurable of the courses I teach, a perfect way to pass a Friday evening. It's the most gratifying too. Seeing all the lovely finished pages on display at the final critique can be a wonderful experience. (for examples of that, tune in tomorrow!)

Classes start next Friday! Sign up soon.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

An Improv Comic

One of my favorite exercises I give in the Figure Drawing for Cartoonists course is a comic improv. We begin by looking at the panel compositions of the great Alex Toth, noting the ways he balanced images against graphic elements and composed shots to zero in on story information. We then have a costumed model improvise a narrative from pose to pose, while the students create an impromptu comic story, adding dialogue and sounds, crafting appropriate shots and pages.

Every few semesters, I steal a little time to play along. Here's a recent example where I managed some quick sketches as I coached the class. I posted an earlier example here, and a couple student examples are included here and here.

You'll notice that when I do the assignment I draw directly in ink-- a very satisfying way to work. That's something I get everyone doing in the Inking Comics course.

The spring semester begins soon. Come play with us!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Student Spotlight~ Joshua Daniel

Check out these amazing comics by outstanding Inking Comics student, Josh Daniel, a.k.a. The Noir Guy.

The final project says simply "One character steals something from another character. The first character tries to get it back. Incorporate a change from inside to outside or vice versa and from day to night or vice versa. Have at least one texture figure into the story." Josh took the prompt and ran  away with it.

And here's Josh's inspired solution to an earlier assignment, "Create a one or two page comic which, with the possible exception of sounds or dialogue, begins with an all black panel. During the story a light comes on. You may decide what that light is-- a match, a light bulb, the sun, or what."

Inking Comics is the class where we focus on the problem of making our comic drawings publishable. The placement of lights and darks and forms and shadows has a definitive role in orchestrating a reading experience. Rendering techniques and stylistic choices determine its flavor. Artists who work digitally must solve the same problems. Come delve with us. Learn all about it.

Tomorrow evening, Jan. 12, is the info session for SVA's Cartooning & Illustration Continuing Education department. Come talk to me there about my courses, Inking Comics, Figure Drawing for Cartoonists, and Cartooning Basics (and follow those links for a gander at SVA's spiffy new web design). Courses begin the last week in January. Tell your friends.