Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Student Spotlight: Inking Comics

A kaleidoscopic two page spread from Kyle Rose's final Inking Comics project.

Inking is an essential skill for comic artists. We use variations in contrast to direct the readers' attention and guide them through the comic story. I can attest that this is a difficult medium to figure out on one's own, but not hard to learn competently if someone will explain it.

This spring, I was blessed with a particularly strong group of students for Inking Comics. By the end of the course, they weren't only inking effectively, they were offering solutions to tricky passages in each other's projects and discerning among professional inkers which ones were doing their job and which merely showboating with fancy techniques.

A page made of shots from within the classroom.

Kyle Rose has taken some of my classes more than once and swears by them. For me, it's a thrill watching him continually refine his skills and produce ever more impressive comics.

A figure study with a single light source by Howell Murray

Howell's ink and dry brush impression of the model dancing with death.

A page from Howell's comic project.

Howell Murray is, I think, new to the comics medium. He took to it like a duck to water, producing pages and images that are reliably expressive, entertaining, and clear.

Project pages from Felix Quinonez.

Felix Quinonez is another recurring student who just keeps getting better and better. Organizing all those details is a daunting challenge, but Felix is up to it. Together, Felix and Kyle edit a comic anthology, Emanata.

Britina's first version of her comic was really good...

...but look at it now!

Britina Cheng amazed us all when she took her already ambitious minicomic from fall's Cartooning Basics project and redrew the whole thing in an enlarged and expanded version, in time to sell out her first printing at a zine fair. With her kind of drive, Britina picks up skills at an accelerated pace.

Cartooning is ultimately a writer's medium. The best comics are, like Britina's, driven by strong writing. But it's the ink that draws the readers in to the story. The ink has to sell it.

Summer classes run Tuesdays beginning next week. Come get your hands dirty!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Advertising and Product Illustration

A hypothetical poster done for a class project.

One of the perks of being an SVA instructor is that, schedule permitting, I'm able to take the occasional free course. Last semester when my figure class, sadly, didn't enroll, and my Wednesdays were suddenly open, I seized the occasion to study Advertising and Product Illustration with Hyesu Lee, a fantastic instructor who helped me immensely.

Our big final project turned out to be the one above, a poster for a book festival. I employed that trick I like to do of making the pictures out of the words. I'm always down for that.

But the first thing she showed us was an analog method of making simple patterns by slicing your illustration, rearranging the corners, and adding to the new center, which had started as the margins. Cutting right through my artwork turned out to be surprisingly cathartic for me. I must have anger toward my work that I've repressed or something. I ended up making a few of these:

  • monsters in watercolor and ink,

  • plants in ink and gouache on color paper,

  • & ink line art colored digitally.

Then she directed us to upload our images to a print on demand product service. You can now get my patterns and other images on leggings, wallpaper, and much besides. I'll blog in more detail about this soon, but check out my shop: society6.com/cartooniologist

Next was a series of soap sleeves. I enjoyed playing with illustration elements in the context of graphic design, something I need practice with. Hyesu and the other students coached me through this pretty effectively. There were a number of trained designers in the room.

And we decorated Starbucks cups for Pumpkin Spice Latte. I was able to use the fact of that big honkin' logo as an organizing principle for an image concept.

What else? Oh right, we designed t-shirts. Everyone encouraged me to loosen up on this one and leave it a bit more punk than I tend to do.

This course was a very satisfying experience. I have a better understanding of the advertising market now, which has always been a mystery to me. And I was able to work on a number of sidebar problems: engaging with materials, breaking the tyranny of outlines, loosening up, and warming up. Hyesu taught me to take the warm-ups seriously as a basic part of the job. I often find it hard to permit myself the time needed to warm up effectively. It can feel like self indulgence or procrastination. One danger for me is that sometimes I warm up so much and get so deeply into it, I overheat, and nothing else gets done. But if I try to do finishes from a cold start, they come out cramped and ultimately take longer.
warmup doodles from Hyesu's prompts
I privately decided that a stumbling block for me is one of tone. So much of my work is dark, pessimistic, horrifying. It can repel viewers. It may be that the essential difference between editorial illustration and advertising illustration is as simple as drawing people frowning vs. drawing them smiling.  Now I have to decide if it's against my ethics to draw people smiling.

As delightful as this was, I don't want any free evenings this summer. Please spread the word about my classes: Inking Comics at SVA Tuesdays beginning June 5, and, also at SVA, Figure Drawing for Cartoonists Wednesdays beginning June 6 & Cartooning Basics Thursdays beginning June 7. Come see me at the SVA  info session May 17. Thank you!