Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Page Five, and Page Five, and Page Five... and Glen Keane!

Don't pay attention to this first version of page five. It's horrible. But my post makes the most sense if I start with this image.

Last week I was really lucky to hear Glen Keane speak. If you don't know who Glen Keane is, it would be worth your while to do some googling. He's the incredible talent behind many iconic Disney characters and his beautiful artwork has been a huge inspiration to me and many many other artists.

After Mr. Keane's talk, my husband asked me how it went and I said, "Meh."

At first I couldn't pinpoint why I was disappointed, I mean, Glen Keane did a great job speaking. But then I realized that a silly part of me thought that by listening to one of my art heroes speak, some of his awesomeness would rub off on me and I'd be magically transformed into a better artist. And another equally silly part of me thought I'd leave that lecture with some powerful art secret I never knew before. Ridiculous. I know.

But as the week's gone on, Glen Keane's talk keeps coming to mind; things he said and things I observed about his work. Much of it is stuff I should know, or used to know when I was fresh out of college, but somehow got lost along the way. So thanks from the back row, Mr. Keane! And since one of his points was how important it is to share what we know with other artists, here goes:

- Think of your line drawing as a three-dimensional sculpture.
- It's all in the eyes.
- If you're not satisfied with the first drawing you do... redraw it. And then redraw it. And then redraw it, pushing the pose, the design, etc, until it's as awesome as it should be. I used to do this a lot, particularly when designing characters for people. But for some reason it never occurred to me to approach comic pages the same way.
- As long as you understand how something is built, you can draw it.
- Ebony pencils pretty much rock.

So... above is the artwork for page five of a comic I've been working on. I did this artwork several months ago, tried to ink it by hand, loathed it, and then inked it digitally, which although it's better, it's still stiff and soulless;

Yesterday, thinking about Glen Keane's talk, I decided to dig a bunch of ebony pencils out of my dusty art supplies and apply some of the things I learned to my comic.

Since I was using that first image as my reference and haven't worked on this book in months, I forgot that I got rid of the blindfold... but you can see that I'm thinking about the characters more three-dimensionally. And since I knew I could redraw the page if I made a mistake, my line work is bolder and more confident.

So here's another take on it. (By the way, if you'd like to do this kind of workup to your art, semi-translucent animation paper is a good way to go... I recommend chromacolour. Vellum will also work or a light table.) You can see here that the top panel is getting more interesting, the acting is stronger and I'm figuring out the best way to use my lines to express volume and shape. However, her hair is still weird there at the bottom, and I realized I forgot to take that blindfold off! Argh!

Round three! Or is it four? His blindfold is off, her hair is better and the lines are nice! The group up top is far more expressive that I originally drew them and they have some great descriptive shapes too. But, taking that mask off the blind guy has made him worse, his hair is too flat and his right eye is too high. I also think that the girl's hair is maybe a shade too big. And the dialogue she'll be delivering has menace, so she looks too sweet. The line work is also getting too clean... and for me, clean generally means stiff and blah. One more try!

I thought the top group was working well enough, so I left them out. The blind character's face is better, the girl's expression is more appropriate to her dialogue and everyone's hair has improved!

The only thing I still might change is technically the girl should be looking more to camera, like in the original drawing. But there's something sinister about a sideways look and what she's saying is fairly grim, so we'll see.

By the way, all these ebony drawings took me about two/three hours tops, and half of that time was spent keeping track of an active toddler. That's FAR faster than either of the first two drawings.

So maybe listening to Glen Keane talk didn't magically transform me into a better artist last Thursday, but it transformed me into a better artist one week later. Not bad!