Saturday, December 30


It's pretty hard to understand the creative process sometimes and even more so if you don't get the results that you want to get.

Why did I draw better before?

I've got a bunch of mannerisms that I feel sometimes works to my favour and sometimes work against me. They work to my favour in the sense of giving me a distinct style. It's subtle but there is enough in there for most of my friends to recognize something I've drawn. On the other hand it holds me back in the sense that everything I draw gravitates toward the same iconic drawings.

This also means that when I look through my old sketches I see a lot in there that I think is much better than what I'm drawing now. Perhaps I spent more time drawing then but I also get a feeling I drew with a less conscious mind back then. How do I get around this?

How do I control this?

I see only one way out of this and that is to get even more conscious of what I'm doing to a level where I can choose or not choose to follow my own mannerisms or the mannerisms of others for that matter.

Currently I'm trying to think of in what order different mannerisms are or should be applied. I get a feeling that the order of how you do things is really significant. I for instance often draw the nose in the face first and then add the eyes and mouth, then the ears and the hair and then the chin and finally the rest of the body. This creates a result that would be pretty OK for a comic strip. The artwork is nothing but design, there were no artistic decisions made and the final piece will reflect that. It doesn't have to look stiff but a lot of the time it will.

If mannerism is design keep it out of your layout

I think I know what I'm trying to tell myself. Mannerisms are copying something that you or someone else have drawn, relying on artistic decisions made before. If this is going to work the way I want it to the mannerisms have to be purely aesthetic and should not dictate the construction and layout of a frame, the pose of a character or anything like that. I'll at lest keep this in mind.

Friday, December 29

Sketch till it hurts, design till it works

I came up with an exercise today and noticed something interesting.

The exercise is simply looking up images on flickr and trying to copy them on paper. What's interesting is that I've noticed that when I draw with a reference I add a lot of detail in the beginning while sketching but then at some point I stop sketching and start to make design choices reducing the level of detail leaving me with a cartoony representation of what I was drawing. I've always assumed I was adding detail the more I drew and not the other way around. (I'm not sure the image posted here really reflects that but it is still the case)

The reason I find this significant is that I often think too much about what the finished result is going to look like and draw too stiff. It freaks me out thinking about it now because I should know about this since it's so obvious. It's even the first lesson in every book I've read on drawing but I keep forgetting it. It totally freaks me out.

In programing there is a saying that goes "Normalize until it hurts, de-normalize until it works". For me to remember how I want to be drawing from now on I'll "invent" the following saying: "Sketch till it hurts, design till it works". What this means is that I will try and draw loose sketches that I can then apply style rules to. I currently don't have that many style rules but I'm trying to translate my mannerisms into rules so that I truly can understand them and use them or discard them.

Tuesday, December 19

More Video Studies

Riven Phoenix probably has the largest online archive of videos on drawing the human form. You definitely have to check it out if you haven't already. One thing that Mr Phoenix says that I totally recognize is the fact that you become the master of objects you've invented yourself. You should therefore approach anatomy by inventing your own rules.

I think there is a drawback to this though and that is that you might have programmed yourself to draw in a certain way and this might be why I for instance often have to draw for several minutes before my left side of the brain kicks in. I won't go into the whole left-side/right-side thing too deep but I'm guessing that if you master the invention of your own anatomy rules you should be able to draw much better using both sides of the brain.

This would explain why I draw either stiff and repetitive
OR fluid but indistinct.

Pro artists always tell you to practice drawing every day. They also say that you have to draw from reality and draw what you see. Aren't they saying that you should copy reality to the extent that you've created an internal rulebook of how to draw stuff. Comic book artist are a special breed too because they often have a distinct comic book style that often rather breaks the anatomic rules and relies much more on emotions and what not. I often hear that there are no shortcuts and that you need to learn all the rules to be able to break them. I want to create my own rules and follow them so that I in fact find a shortcut.

Looking at animators ( like Steven E Gordon ) they always create character studies because there are so many artists that have to draw consistently the same in animation. Comic book artist also want to draw consistently the same, perhaps only with more detail.

Tuesday, December 12

Comic Language as Writing Tool

Neil Cohn talks about images in sequence as an actual language and what better language to use for describing a language than the language itself. You can also look at a comic book as a mapping of events in a story or as a map over a possible reality. This is how I mostly see comic books. I am a visual thinker so it's more natural to look at comic books from the perspective of beeing a map. If we combine these two similar ways of looking at comic books can we then use comic book language to create a map of an actual comic book?

Can we create a simplified dialect of the comic book language
that can be used to describe a comic book?

The artist might work from a simple thumbnail to a sketch before the final artwork is finished. Can we create a visual language that the writer can use before the final script is realised? What we need is something like thumbnailing but without focusing on the look/layout of a page but instead holds the story and whats happening in center stage.

I'm quite sure this language could also be used when indexing a comic book in relation to other comic books. If the language is clever enough you could be able to deduct patterns that could be compared to other published works.

Serius Seriebokhandel

It's been a while since the last post. The reason for this is that I've spent the last couple of weekends working on an online comic book store for the Swedish market. We won't open until early next year and I myself won't be involved too much in the actual business part of the store. The plan is to have it pretty much run by itself.

Anyhow, this gives me an excellent opportunity to get on with the comic book indexing service I've been day dreaming about. The best way to utilize such a feature would no doubt be in a comic book store.

Saturday, December 2

Researching the Art of Writing

I've just picked up First Draft in 30 days by Karen Wiesner, "a novel writer's system for building a complete and cohesive manuscript". This weekends comic book related exercises will be plowing through the 200 pages or so. After checking out 5-6 shelves of books about writing, literature analysis, stage drama and writing for movies this book seems the most no nonsense to me. Reviews of this book are harsh and most writers would probably frown upon her methods but to he honest I don't give a damn. From what I've read so far it looks good and could at least help you get a little bit more organized when it comes to writing your stories.

Friday, December 1

Xerox Innovation Useful to Inkers?

Is this the inking paper of the future? You print the bluelines on this special paper and then you have less than 16-24 hours to ink the page before the bluelines have faded.

And there's more to this innovation when you start to think about it. If you're not adding ink to the paper but are actually making the paper itself change color you can print new bluelines over a page at any time, even after you've started to ink the page. And who says you'll need a Xerox printer to do this, I'm quite sure there will be a pen that can be used on this paper. All you need is a light source of a certain wave-length.