WIP Drowning Panel EP1 – Using Black and Details with Image Composition

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More layering. At this stage, I have removed the masking… you can tell by the weird white shape in the mouth :S If anyone out there can recommend a better way to apply masking latex to drawings, that’d be GREAT. I might try rubber cement instead because the latex gets stuck in my brushes and dries chunky.

Not much to say here…I guess I’d like to point out the gray tone I used in the hair – his hair is black, but I will be inking most of that black in and this adds some depth and variation. It would actually be bad for the composition of this image to just throw a giant black shape in like that because the contrast and mass would overwhelm the other subtler values and the desaturated colours. Imagine it as putting a giant black circle in the corner of a blank page with some pencil sketches. Black and black shapes are something to be used carefully in images. Same goes for small detailing, which becomes a visual ‘buzz’ and a distraction when used poorly.

Here is an example of poor use of detail and blacks that muddle composition; here is an example of an image that is very clear and direct because of the careful and intentional use of blacks and detail. When I look at the first image, the black shadows don’t make it feel anymore 3-D and I have to strain my eyes to have the slightest idea of what is going on. There is no focal point, the perspective and sense of space in the images is gone, and there really isn’t a sense of story for something falling under the comic medium. It doesn’t really get better with the close-ups – am I supposed to be staring at that guy’s armpit or the explosive action coming from his hand? Am I supposed to get a sense of the struggle by looking up the guy’s nostril? I mean, the first panel really feels like I am staring at a pile of rubbish and there might a dollar coin in there somewhere…

The second example is refreshing in comparison, isn’t it? The heavy black road literally grounds the image, and the black shapes throughout create direction in the composition. There is a play between rectangular shapes changing direction and size. There is a dynamic variety of lines. There is a clear perspective and sense of depth, and I really feel like I am looking up into the cityscape. The detailing builds character in the scene. I look at this image longer because I want to and it’s pleasant, not because it gives me a headache and I can’t tell what’s going on.

Here is another example of bad use of blacks. Why? She looks like a pile of tumours. It’s poor anatomy to just draw random black lumps everywhere as an excuse for muscles. It doesn’t look ‘appealing’ – even an extreme bodybuilder chick doesn’t look like this. It definitely doesn’t look ‘shiny’. It also takes attention away from the more important parts of the image and makes me stare into a black void under her knee.

“Colour would fix it” you say? I heavily doubt that. If it wasn’t for the speech bubble, I wouldn’t know what I’m supposed to be paying attention. This might make a great tacky fabric print for leggings…or a puzzle… An image falls apart at the foundation also doesn’t just get better when adding more elements to it. The key to good lineart is for it to be able to work as an image without colour or rendering.

So much for not having much to say.

Credit goes to my art pal Natasha for  some of the links; linked art is by Ivan Reis, David Finch, and Dave Wachter.