Visionary Update

Greetings to all our subscribers! We wanted to give all of you a heads up on our current status!

You may have noticed our posting schedule has gone a bit astray, we hoped to get on top of things this week, however, it appears our main site is in need of some upgrades and TLC, we also have some core content we need to get polished and done for some of the cool things coming this Spring, and finding the bandwidth to do that and maintain our thrice-weekly posting is proving daunting.

So, we are taking a little hiatus, not more than a week or two, to regroup, get some core content updated, get some cool things in place, build up some lead time on content, and will then resume by end of February at the latest.

We appreciate folks checking out our posts and content, and we want to make sure to give everyone who comes to our site the best experience. Thanks!

My Comic Life Sundays: Penciling 101: The Layout 2

MCL BannerAnd we’re back! Apologies for the unannounced break last week, the schedule has just been crazy and it finally caught up to me. I’m going to be working this week to try and get a lead built back up so, hopefully, we won’t have to do that again. In the meantime, hope everyone has been enjoying the launch of our Get Creative Tuesdays which will be growing in content over the next few weeks. Now, forward…

Catch up with the My Comic Life Comic Strip on our Reader>>

Catch up with the My Comic Life Column at our Archive and Resources Page>>

My Comic Life Column 018: Penciling 101 The Layout 2

C. Edward Sellner cropped

Last time I started to focus on laying out a page of sequential art (i.e. a comic page) by discussing the basic structure of the page, using panels and setting them up in simple patterns for readability, such as the grid or stack layout.

This time I want to take that to the next level and begin to touch on ways of improving storytelling by mixing things up with panels and using the composition of the art itself to draw the reader in.

These principles apply whether you are a writer-artist doing your own story and fully illustrating it, or if you are an artist working from a full script. Even in those cases where you are working from a detailed, full, comic script, you as the artist still have a lot of leeway in how you choose to bring that script to life and these tips will help you take that process up a notch.

Let’s Call It a Dance with the Reader’s Eye

One of the fundamental elements of comic art is storytelling, as we mentioned last time (actually several times, but hey, it’s important). Storytelling in art has several levels of meaning, we’re going to focus on the most basic level at this point, and that is essentially how the art guides the reader’s eye through the story. Part of the artist’s job is to unfold the story through the art such that the reader’s eye is drawn naturally, even unconsciously, along through the proper sequence of actions, focal areas, and critical reveals, to engage the reader with the story, to essentially interact with them, by leading them.

Last time I showed a graphic featuring the typical panel layouts used by Jack Kirby, well, I updated that this time with simple directional lines showing reading sequence.

In the English language, we read from left to right, top to bottom, so that is the directional order western comics also follow, though obviously art layouts are more varied than reading line after line of text.

My reason for stressing the basic layouts of these grids and stacks was to create pretty simple reading flow in the story, clear direction for the reader which order to go, and as you can see – most form a Z or a stack of Z’s following that basic flow, left to right, top to bottom.

But this is only one of the means by which the layout can guide the reader’s eye, using basic, simple behavior patterns such as standard reading sequence.

There are lots of far more fun ways to do things as well.

Nudging the Grid and Stack Principle

There are also a number of very simple ways of bringing some variety into play that also help enhance storytelling while not pushing the envelope too much on simple panel layouts. For graphics, I’m using simple panel layouts where able, others showing finished pages to better illustrate the principles.

Staggered Panel Layout – while keeping the tiers of panels simple, vary the width of the panels on each tier so that instead of a locked grid you have a staggered layout of panels across the page. This will help give the page more of an organic flow as opposed to a rigid, locked pattern, as seen on the right.

Closed vs. Open Panels – closed panels are panels with full defined borders, or lines marking each edge, whereas open panels are ones that bleed art on at least one edge, thus no closing border line. Closed panels tend to feel more… well, enclosed, limited. Open panels, you got it, feel more open, more airy, imply greater space, or help focus on a specific element and pop it off the page.

Below are two pages from one of our Deadlands comics with art by Brook Turner. On these pages he kept to a pretty simple grid pattern layout, but each page has one open panel. On the page to the left, the bottom panel opens to make our hero larger than life, popping off the page. On the page to the right, the larger, establishing shot looking out over the water bleeds to the edge on three sides, giving it more a sense of scale and distance.

Dynamic vs. Straight Panel Borders – All the samples I’ve shown so far use straight, neat border lines. Adding some curve, or jagged border lines can add energy to a panel, giving it a dynamic sense of movement. This can be a handy technique for illustrating fight or other action scenes. The sample is a portfolio page from artist Dave Windett that uses curves and line textures to make even the very shape of the panels enhance the action.

We’ll get into some more rules about ‘breaking panels’ when we get a little further in, but for now, the idea is to show you can take very basic panel layouts and put a lot of variety and storytelling just in how those are laid out.

So, what about the actual art, can it also be used to help guide the reader’s eye?

[[SPOILER ALERT: Oh yeah…]]

 

It’s About Patterns and Cues

There are lots of subtle tricks artists can use to guide the eye across the page, to help ensure it moves through the key beats of the story. Here’s some of the most common with a little explanation on how they work.

Pattern Recognition – one of the most primal aspects of our species, and one that helped ensure our rise to the top of the food chain, is our innate ability to recognize patterns. Comics would not exist without this ability, because this is the same ability that allows our brain to interpret simple line drawings as representative of other things, including insanely simple drawings, such as everyone instantly recognizing a ‘smiley face’ as a face, or ‘stick figures’ as people.

Breaking this down more fundamentally, our eyes tend to pick out lines, curves, repeated patterns, and instinctively follow where they lead. So, the superior comic artist will use this fact in laying out the art of a page in order to draw the reader’s eye right where they want it to go.

Below is a page from a classic comic drawn by Steve Ditko, to the left is the page as is, to the right, an overlay using colored lines to show the use of patterns, curves and lines to enhance storytelling.

The blue lines show curving lines implied in the art that help guide the readers eye through each panel, and onto the next panel. The curve to the furthest left, brings us through panel 1 to panel 2, a reflection of that curve then directs us back left and down to panel 3, and a final curve pulls us out of 3 and through 4.

The yellow lines are lines created by the art to direct the action in each, and thus key elements to draw the eye, or frame the panel. In panel 1, it emphasizes the flying figure, in panel 2, a line frames the pilots, giving each a focal point. The pattern of horizontal lines in panel 3 help ensure we’ll look at each row of passengers, and moves us through into panel 4. Panels 4 and 5 put focus on the plane itself, the key element of the art.

The violet lines set up circular patterns which hold the eye, keeping it focused on the key art. That pattern helps us focus on the faces of the pilots in panel 2, shows us the erratic flight of the plane in panel 4, key to the story, and zeroes our attention on that plane in the final panel as it plunges into the wormhole.

Using that same Spider-Man page above, with an overlay we can show a similar but more direct use of lines and patterns, in this case, what we call Action Lines.

Our eyes are drawn to the characters, so their placement, the curves of their body, the angle of their limbs, the direction of their movement, etc. are setup nicely such that the eye will follow along those lines through the page, following the sequence of action. This being a fight scene, the curves, actions and motion is pretty over the top and exaggerated so very obvious and clear.

But, we can also take this to more subtle levels.

This layout is a page from The Dreamer, an excellent webcomic by Lora Innes. Here the action is more subtle, but the characters themselves still help guide the eye.

This page is marked to show flow of dialogue, which is also important (and something we’ll get to on lettering), but let’s also use those arrows to look at the art.

Notice the characters in panel 1 are moving left to right, the eye tends to go where they are going, so it helps reenforce that left to right reading flow.

The foreground character in panel 2 has stopped and turned back, his body now providing a break point, to cue shifting back and down to the mid-page panels.

In panels 3 and 4, as the character looks left, his direction of view, follows the direction we read. In that 5th panel, as he looks back and down, we follow where he’s looking to then go to that last panel.

Obviously a key moment of this page, the characters now are centered to keep the eye lingering on them in their reunion.

In other words, the character bodies don’t have to be in highly exaggerated or forceful poses to provide cues. Simple movement, or where a character is looking can do the same.

 

So, what have we learned? That a lot of thought for a page of comic art goes into how that page is set up, structured, and laid out all for the singular purpose of telling the story. I opened this series saying that the layout is the single most important step in drawing a page of art, and now I’m guessing that makes more sense.

A lot of this are those pieces of the toaster, to use our previous analogy, that someone who just thinks they can draw comics will miss. Why? Because, when done right, the composition and layout of a page that you as the artist sweated and bled over to get perfect, will simply flow into a seamless reading experience for the reader, where the eye glides through each beat without even noticing all the carefully laid signs and guides that made it happen.

That is part of the magic of comics.

NEXT

We’re going to turn our attention to THE PANEL as we explore that individual story beat that bears the heaviest burden of storytelling.

NOW DISCUSS…

My Comic Life Patreon Promotion

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About C. Edward Sellner

A full-time professional freelancer, Sellner has credits as a comics writer, prose author, colorist, artist, and editor from multiple publishers. He is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Visionary Creative Services, one of the best-known production studios and digital publishers in the industry. The studio opened in 2006 and since then has published over 70 different titles in its digital line, and been involved in over a hundred different projects in production. Its clients range from Hollywood producers to international sports stars to other studios and publishers. It became the first independent studio to enter the licensing game with the announcement of its Deadlands license, which has since been published in comics from Image and IDW and novels from Tor Books. The studio also hosts a successful internship program where interns get practical, real-world freelancing experience, including paid work on actual jobs fitting their skill levels. Learn more at www.visionarycreativeservices.com!

Get Creative: Art Auctions & ALIENS

Welcome to Visionary’s latest weekly feature, an online e-zine overflowing in celebration of the creative arts! Every Tuesday you’ll get a brand new ‘issue’ with all kinds of content, ranging from previews to reviews, from giveaways to exclusives. We’ll take you behind the scenes with interviews with some amazing creators, debut online galleries and works in process, as well as hook you up with special promotions for finished projects.

 

Please Note: due to scheduling issues this week’s My Comic Life and Weekly Visions postings were canceled.
My Comic Life will return February 5th, and Weekly Visions will return February 9th.


Get Creative Get Togethers – Visionary Sunday Nights at the Movies

Smithsonian IMAX

Hidden Figures & The Matrix Double Feature
Sunday February 5th @3:00pm :: Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater
Join us for a Visionary Films Double Feature! We’ll be attending the new release, hit movie Hidden Figures, then sticking around for an exclusive screening of the classic The Matrix! Then join CCO C. Edward Sellner for a roundtable discussion of both films afterward.
Tickets are on sale now! Click on the Film Links above to purchase! You must purchase tickets individually for each show!
Signup on the Studio Facebook Event!

Just announced for February 12th: It’s an ALIEN & ALIENS in IMAX Double-Feature!
Details Next Week!


One of our regular features for Get Creative will be spotlights on great art auctions from the Inkwell Awards, a non-profit dedicated to the art of comic book inking, with annual awards and outreach initiatives throughout the year.

Check out the latest offerings in this week’s AMAZING AUCTION!
Includes: 2 new Joe Sinnott original art sketch covers with Dr. Strange and Wonder Woman!!! This week we also recognize 2 prolific artist donors, Ken Lashley and Ed McGuinness! And a Sal Velluto/Bob Almond Bloodshot OA sketch cover! TWENTY items in all! Thanks for your support! Hurry, only three days left to bid!   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Visions 1.27.17: Your Visionary Deadlands Checklist!

PR Banner Weekly Visions 6-30-16Welcome back for another round of Weekly Visions! Sorry for the delay, our CCO still needs to work a bit on how he schedules posts. (sorry…)

Anyway, we thought it might be a good time to give everyone a full checklist of our currently available Deadlands titles, with links where to buy them, just in case anyone out there has missed any of the current releases.

We’ll be announcing the digital debut for Raven and Cackler soon, as well as adding print copies for both books to our online store! So, this is the time to get all caught up, so you’re ready for the new stuff when it hits!


Deadlands Digital Comics Available NOW in the Visionary Online Store

Based on the game DEADLANDS from Pinnacle Entertainment, Visionary Comics presents five one-shots by industry superstars, bringing the weird Western world of DEADLANDS to comics!

Deadlands Devil's Six Gun Cover Main from Visionary Comics Production StudioDeadlands: Devil’s Six Gun :: Buy it NOW for $1.99

In this issue: The Harvey Award-winning HIGH MOON team of DAVID GALLAHER & STEVE ELLIS tell the story of inventor Copernicus Blackburne, who risks even his immortal soul in his Faustian quest to build ‘The Devil’s Six-Gun!’

Author:David Gallaher
Artist:Steve Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deadlands Massacre at Redwing Cover from Visionary Comics Production Studio

Deadlands: Massacre at Redwing :: Buy it NOW for $1.99

In this issue: Written by Jonah Hex scribes Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, ‘Massacre at Red Wing’ tells the story of Clementime, a warrior woman who journeys south in search of her mother, swearing to kill anyone and anything that gets in the way.

Authors: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray
Artist: Lee Moder & Michael Atiyeh

 

 

 

 

 

Deadlands Death Was Silent Cover from Visionary Comics Production Studio

Deadlands: Death Was Silent :: Buy it NOW for $1.99

In this issue: A silent bounty hunter rides into a remote town, but the town holds dark secrets that may turn the hunter into the hunted. Superstars RON MARZ and BART SEARS team up for a weird Western tale unlike any other!

Author: Ron Marz
Artists: Bart Sears & Michael Atiyeh

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deadlands: Black Water :: Buy it NOW for $1.99

In this issue: JEFF MARIOTTE & BROOK TURNER weave a tale of mysticism, eternal love, and maybe a sea monster or two in ‘Black Water,’ as a wealthy man searches the Great Maze for the beautiful woman who has haunted his dreams for decades.

Author: Jeff Mariotte
Artists: Brook Turner & C. Edward Sellner

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deadlands The Kid Origins Cover from Visionary Comics Production StudioDeadlands: The Kid :: Buy it NOW for $1.99

Based on the game DEADLANDS from Pinnacle Entertainment! Visionary Comics and Pinnacle Entertainment bring Billy the Kid to DEADLANDS! 12 years old, family wiped out, and all alone in the middle of the wild Weird West… hunted by werewolves. Grab a gun, there’s killin’ to be done! The print backup series collected in its own special edition.

Author: C. Edward Sellner
Artists: Oscar Capristo, Ale Aragon, & C. Edward Sellner

 

 

 

 

 

Deadlands Volume 1: Dead Man’s Hand :: Buy it NOW for $9.99

This full-sized edition includes the four one-shots originally published by Image Comics, two new short stories, and an exclusive teaser for the first upcoming Deadlands novel!

Called the “all-star western” series, this collection features tales woven by such masters of the medium as David Gallaher, Steve Ellis, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Lee Moder, Ron Marz, Bart Sears, Jeff Mariotte, and Brook Turner. New short stories written by Deadlands creators Shane Hensley and Matt Cutter, debut new talent in the industry, and get the first teaser of New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry’s Deadlands novel, Ghostwalkers! Plus tons of bonus content, including gaming stats for all the main characters for Deadlands RPG fans, and an exclusive sketchbook section.

 

 


Deadlands Novels Available NOW on Amazon and Finer Book Stores

Based on the game DEADLANDS from Pinnacle Entertainment, Visionary Books presents the first two novels published by Tor Books, bringing the weird Western world of DEADLANDS to prose!

Deadlands Ghostwalkers MMP CoverDeadlands: Ghostwalkers :: Buy it on Amazon NOW

By New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry.
Illustrated by Aaron Riley & Steve Ellis.
Brought to you by Visionary Books and Tor Books.

The town of Paradise Falls faces utter destruction and the only ones who can save it are already in need of being saved themselves!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deadlands Thunder Moon Rising Cover ArtDeadlands: Thunder Moon Rising :: Buy it on Amazon NOW

By best-selling author Jeffrey J. Mariotte.
Illustrated by Aaron Riley & Steve Ellis.
Brought to you by Visionary Books and Tor Books.

Fear is abroad in the Deadlands as a string of brutal killings and cattle mutilations trouble a frontier town in the Arizona Territory, nestled in the forbidding shadow of the rugged Thunder Mountains. A mule train is massacred, homes and ranches are attacked, and men and women are stalked and butchered by bestial killers who seem to be neither human nor animal. Meanwhile, a ruthless land baron tries to buy up all the surrounding territory—and possibly bring about an apocalypse.

 

 

 

 


Raven and Cackler Coming  Soon!

Subscribe Now to Not Miss Any New Release Announcements!

Get Creative Debuts and YOU Get FREE Comics!

Welcome to Visionary’s latest weekly feature, an online e-zine overflowing in celebration of the creative arts! Every Tuesday you’ll get a brand new ‘issue’ with all kinds of content, ranging from previews to reviews, from giveaways to exclusives. We’ll take you behind the scenes with interviews with some amazing creators, debut online galleries and works in process, as well as hook you up with special promotions for finished projects.

Visionary’s own will be front and center on a regular basis as we start teasing our projects for 2017 and beyond, introduce all our awesome staff, and debut our latest creative initiatives. But don’t think we’ll stop there! We plan to bring you the best of the best from beyond our humble abode. We’ll also include work from our ever-growing family of creative contributors, and our own staff’s highest recommendations of the cool stuff we love.

Whether it’s comics, books, film, television, theater, music, or fine art, you’ll find us celebrating the power of the arts in every form! We’ll even put out special challenges to encourage our readers and fellow creators to truly… Get Creative!


Get Creative Get Togethers – Visionary Nights at the Movies

Smithsonian IMAX

Sci-Fi Sunday Special Christopher Nolan 15/70mm Film Takeover
Sunday January 29th @5pm :: Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater
 Join us for an exclusive showing of Nolan’s visionary movie prologues for The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and his upcoming film Dunkirk, and then enjoy an exclusive screening of the full movie Interstellar! After the show join Visionary CCO C. Edward Sellner for a roundtable discussion of the film. Tickets are on sale now! // Signup on the Studio Facebook Event!

Nolan Night

Hidden Figures & The Matrix Double Feature
Sunday February 5th @3:00pm :: Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater
Join us for a Visionary Films Double Feature! We’ll be attending the new release, hit movie Hidden Figures, then sticking around for an exclusive screening of the classic The Matrix! Then join CCO C. Edward Sellner for a roundtable discussion of both films afterward.
Tickets are on sale now: Hidden Figures / The Matrix  // Signup on the Studio Facebook Event!

hidden-figures-750x315_orig


To celebrate the launch of our new Get Creative feature we figured what better way than US giving all of YOU a ‘feature-warming’ gift. We know a lot of our fans haven’t been around since Visionary launched, and many of you all out there may not even remember our previous digital publishing initiative where we released over 70 issues into the digital market. Since we plan to relaunch that initiative later this year, we thought it a great time to reintroduce some of our classics – for FREE!

Simply click on the links below to be taken to each book’s order page on Drive-Thru Comics, the original digital comic source. Like what you see? You can find even more titles on sale now below!

Get ’em While They’re Free!

Digital Visions #1-4


Visionary’s original comics anthology with four issues, all free! From Soul-Merchants to Insane Ice-Cream Vendors…from a futuristic hell, to feudal Japan, to the colonial Americas…from a mob that rules magic, to one man’s dream to rule the square ring of professional wrestling, Digital Visions has it all!

Issue 1 // Issue 2 // Issue 3 // Issue 4


Buy Visionary Books and Comics Online NOW!


My Comic Life Sundays: Penciling 101: The Layout

MCL Banner

Welcome back! Our Weekly Visions post last Thursday announced more details about my Smithsonian IMAX Get Creative Get Togethers launching this coming Saturday the 29th with an incredible night of Christopher Nolan 15/70mm films specials. We also announced the second event on February 5th with a double-feature of the brand new hit film about the ladies behind NASA, Hidden Figures and the mind-bending classic The Matrix. Signup for the first outing NOW!

Catch up with the My Comic Life Comic Strip on our Reader>>

Catch up with the My Comic Life Column at our Archive and Resources Page>>

My Comic Life Column 017: Penciling 101 The Layout

C. Edward Sellner cropped

Last time I started to really get into this series on penciling by going over the basics, including tools of the trade, setting up safe, bleed and trim zones, etc. It was essentially focused on logistics and materials.

This time I’m going to start talking about the first and most important step in actually creating a page of comic art – the layout.

Anyone who’s done art on any kind of regular basis has learned the best way to start is to sketch, loosely and lightly, in order to get a feel for the image. Starting with a light, loose sketch allows the artist to frame out the image, get proportions and anatomy, as well as perspective and lighting roughed out to then build on. It’s essentially a ‘feeling out’ stage where the artist can explore options, angles, composition, etc. Keeping it light if using pencil and paper, means you can erase and make changes easier.

Now, some artists, after they’ve been doing this work for years, even decades, layout and then jump to more finished versions pretty quickly. Others of us struggle a bit more at this stage, trying to get the exact look we want. Every artist sometimes hits a total wall on a given piece and will wrestle with it to no end. Doing all this in simple layout sketches means saving a lot of work once you decide you need to change something.

I’ve included two samples below of my own layout stages for a couple pieces of art. The first set is a cover I’m doing for a short story, the second set is an art print of Wonder Woman for an upcoming event.

As you can see, each successive layout I shift elements, tighten linework, add details, sometimes scrapping a part of the work and starting over, sometimes really defining those parts that are working well.

So, it should be pretty clear that this process really is a process of composing the image – from the basics like getting the proportions and anatomy right (as mentioned above) to the finer elements of framing the main focus of the image, creating elements to guide the viewer’s eye, etc.

Now, the simpler the image, the easier the layout. A quick head sketch is pretty simple to setup and start rolling pretty quick. Make that a full body sketch, little more effort at this stage to get limbs and body in proportion, moreso if that body is at an extreme angle needing foreshortening etc. Add a detailed background? More characters? More effort. Now, take all those elements for a single picture – turn that picture into a panel – and make a page of 6, 8, or 12 panels. Hopefully, you’re starting to see how important the layout stage is to crafting a good comic page.

The layout is when the artist is creating the single most important element of the page and that is the storytelling. Remember, in an earlier column, I spoke about amazing artists who then try their hand at comics and don’t do well? A large part of that is a failure to take into account storytelling from the very beginning, starting with the layout of the page.

Getting the Lay of the Page

Now, if you’re working with a full script, the basic layout of the page has already started in the process of the writing – in other words, your script will dictate, basically, the number of panels for any given page. The number of panels can vary from 1, what is more often called a SPLASH page, to 3 stacked, to 4, 6, or 8 panel grids, or more. Some can use very basic layouts, others more complex. A well-written script will be sure to have the story pace accordingly with the number of panels, for example:

SPLASH pages should be scenes worth that full page. They should be great establishing shots to establish scene or mood, great action shots, or critical turning points of the story worth the space and focus.

From there it becomes a fairly simple inverse relationship based on two key content elements: text and art. If there is a great number of specifics needed in the art to show scale or the full complexity of the action (say a city being ripped apart, or two super-teams clashing), or if there is a lot of text, dialogue, captions, etc. then that panel needs to be bigger. If there are fewer elements of art and dialogue (say a headshot of a single character saying a single word) the panel can be smaller.

Again, if you’re dealing with a full script, its important your writer be thinking through this as well (as they learned during the Writing 101 series), but, ultimately, it falls on you as the artist to translate that script to art. In doing so, you may decide the panel count needs to change, or feel part of a given page needs to be pushed to the next page to pace and balance better. These are issues it’s fair for an artist to bring back to a writer, and ones a good writer should listen to from their artist.

Once you start picturing the general content of the panels on any given page, the next important piece to bring into the mix quickly is how you want to then arrange those panels on a page.

Keep It Simple – OR – The Stack and the Grid are Your Friends

To the side are several examples of typical page layouts pulled from the work of Jack Kirby.

As you can see, they show a range of not only panel counts, but how those panels are arranged.

But perhaps the most noticeable thing is also the most common thing about each of these: they are all fairly simple, blocked panels in simple stacked or grid layouts.

A stack is when panels stretching the width of the page are placed one atop the other, like the upper left image of three panels.

A grid is when smaller square or rectangular panels number across the page, then are in tiers down the page, with the most common being the classic six-panel grid seen at the lower left position.

Now, while having complex panel layouts may look cool, I usually strongly recommend artists just starting out in comics do more basic layouts. The reasoning is very simple – a basic stacked or grid layout means your storytelling will absolutely be clear and easy to follow as far as this stage is concerned.

Again, that is the single most important element of a sequential page of art, that the story flows easily for the reader and they are able to naturally and automatically follow through the proper sequence of panels to see the story unfold and enjoy it.

Those complex layouts you see by more accomplished artists that can blow your mind are actually incredible masterpieces of pacing, order, layout and composition in order for them to work. If you haven’t fairly mastered all those skills and try a complex panel layout for some ‘cool effect’ chances are you’ll end up losing a reader somewhere in the midst of it, and that will knock them out of the story and instantly be a turnoff to them.

Variety Really IS the Spice of Life (and Comics)

A final thing to mention this round, and we will come back to it later, is that it’s also important to vary your page layouts. Now, obviously, again, your script will hopefully include a good bit of variety in pacing and panel counts already, but you may find a good run of 4-6 panel pages, which is the general average. If all you do are basic grids, page after page, that’s going to get visually boring to a reader. Pretty much any kind of repetition, even at a basic layout level, becomes distracting and boring. So, add variety where you can. Maybe one 4 panel page would work better with slimmer, wider panels in a stack. Or a 6 panel page can use some varied panel sizes to shift the grid lines (as shown above).

NEXT

We’re going to continue focusing on layouts but start adding in actual composition of the art in panels and look at how artists can use layouts to add a lot of strength of story in the art as well as the basic panel setup.

Resources

Printable Paper has a number of basic comic page panel layout templates you can download for doing layouts and practice.

NOW DISCUSS…

My Comic Life Patreon Promotion

If you want more great content like this, support his Patreon campaign today by clicking the image!

About C. Edward Sellner

A full-time professional freelancer, Sellner has credits as a comics writer, prose author, colorist, artist, and editor from multiple publishers. He is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Visionary Creative Services, one of the best-known production studios and digital publishers in the industry. The studio opened in 2006 and since then has published over 70 different titles in its digital line, and been involved in over a hundred different projects in production. Its clients range from Hollywood producers to international sports stars to other studios and publishers. It became the first independent studio to enter the licensing game with the announcement of its Deadlands license, which has since been published in comics from Image and IDW and novels from Tor Books. The studio also hosts a successful internship program where interns get practical, real-world freelancing experience, including paid work on actual jobs fitting their skill levels. Learn more at www.visionarycreativeservices.com!

Weekly Visions 1.19.17: Get Creative Official Launch & Con Season is Coming!

Get Creative

January 24th, Visionary’s latest weekly feature debuts!
Weekly posts celebrating the arts, with creator interviews, online galleries, reviews and more!
Get it & Get Creative! Subscribe NOW!

 

 

 

 

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Digital Art by Richard Clark

Visionary is committed to connecting with fans, partners, retailers, distributors and our local communities! We do so through an ever growing number of diverse events, both in the virtual, and real world! We invite you to join us!

 

Got an event you’d like us to come to?

You can invite us!

Calendar

 

 

 

Upcoming LIVE Events

Get Creative Get TogetherVisionary is proud to introduce a new series of informal get-togethers based around, celebrating and providing opportunities for the creative arts. From film to comics, live performances to fine art exhibitions, these will be smaller, more personal events with Visionary staff and creators designed to celebrate, uplift and directly experience the arts. New events will be added on a semi-regular basis and sign ups and details will be included here.

 

Smithsonian IMAX

Sci-Fi Sunday Special Christopher Nolan 15/70mm Film Takeover
Sunday January 29th @5pm :: Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater
 Join us for an exclusive showing of Nolan’s visionary movie prologues for The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and his upcoming film Dunkirk, and then enjoy an exclusive screening of the full movie Interstellar! After the show join Visionary CCO C. Edward Sellner for a roundtable discussion of the film. Tickets are on sale now!

Nolan Night

Hidden Figures & The Matrix Double Feature
Sunday February 5th @3:00pm :: Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater
Join us for a Visionary Films Double Feature! We’ll be attending the new release, hit movie Hidden Figures, then sticking around for an exclusive screening of the classic The Matrix! Tickets for both available soon!
Then join CCO C. Edward Sellner for a roundtable discussion of both films afterward.

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Online Events

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NEW YEAR, NEW AUCTIONS LIVE NOW! The non-profit Inkwell Awards’ fundraising auctions are back and this week we have an eclectic assortment (books, prints, sketch covers, original art) of 15 collectible items donated by more generous supporters in our community! We have copies of our new and much-anticipated Ms. Inkwell Gallery book signed and available! Other items from Michael Golden, Allan Bellman, Andrew Pepoy, Bob Wiacek, Lee Weeks, V. Ken Marion, Ryan Stegman, Michael Dooney, Rafer Roberts, and Frankie B Washington! Thanks to all!!!

Visionary is proud to support the non-profit Inkwell Awards, an organization that educates and raises awareness of the art of inking!

 


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Art by Steve Ellis

2017 Confirmed Show Schedule

The following are confirmed shows for Visionary this coming year. More details coming as we get closer to each! Click the Event to go to their main page, or the location for map and directions.

Where will your vision take you?

My Comic Life Sundays: Penciling 101: The Basics

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First, in case you missed our Weekly Visions Post this week, I announced a new, semi-regular time to Get Together and Get Creative. Thanks to a cool new partnership with the Smithsonian IMAX, we’ll be turning select new releases and special showings into Visionary films – I’ll be attending the show, and those wishing to can join me for an informal roundtable discussion on the merits of the movie afterward. Our first one kicks off January 29th at 5pm. Get all the details here>>

Hope to see you at one soon!

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Catch up with the My Comic Life Comic Strip on our Reader>>

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My Comic Life Column 016: Penciling 101 The Basics

C. Edward Sellner cropped

Last time I did a quick ‘sketch’ of penciling comics in general. This time I want to start digging into the topic and getting more concrete on specifics.

But before I do, let me put out two reminders that bear repeating:

First, the 101 round of series on each stage of creating comics is aimed at the basics, for beginners, just as I did with the writing series. So, a lot of what you read here may be stuff you’ve heard already if you’ve been at this any length of time, but, I try to include some pointers and tips I’ve picked up that will hopefully still make it worth your while even if you’re a pro.

Second, very little of what I share are hard and fast rules (though there are those as well). A lot of ‘creating’ is open to any number of options including tools you use, size you draw at, stylistic choices, etc. My goal is to share some of the most common used approaches and techniques for you to use or not as you wish, but are especially helpful if your goal is to produce work that may lead to you getting hired in the industry.

Tools of the Trade

9581209To do pencil artwork all you really need is a pencil and some paper. Once you start, you’ll probably soon after need an eraser, trust me. But if you want to start working to the norms of the industry you’ll start fine-tuning that process pretty quickly.

In fine-tuning that process, the first step is making sure you are producing art that fits the standard specs for whatever kind of comic you plan on doing. Now, again, lots of freedom here to just create stuff, but if you plan to submit this comic for print or digital release, or do it yourself, then you need to be more intentional in how you approach this.

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Most print comics are printed at a 6.875″ x 10.4375″ size, but the original art for those sized pages are most often done on 11″ x 17″ sized paper. For printed art of most any kind, it’s pretty standard for an artist to work on anywhere from a two to three times larger size space than the final printed format. The reasoning here is simple – the amount of detail you see in a printed comic page would be hard to include if the work were being created at that size. The additional advantage is that any small mistakes that creep into finished art at a larger size are even more reduced and fade out when the art is printed smaller.

Some artists work on different sized paper, to begin with, which is fine, but what is critical is that the ratio relationship stays the same so the page of art can print properly set on a standard comic sized page.

The most common used paper for comic art is bristol board, which is a high-quality, thick paper stock with a very smooth finish. Bristol board has even more advantages for inking, but still stands out even just for penciling work. The smooth finish lends itself to tighter, smoother lined artwork. It’s also sturdy for erasing (I’m telling you… erasers… lots of them) so that the paper does not scrape or tear. One negative is the smooth surface can also lead to smudging or smearing, so it does pay to be careful as you work.

On the actual pencil front, you’ll find a wide range of tools there. A good starting point is a 2B pencil, as it can lay down solid, dark black lines. But as you progress in your work, you’ll most likely find yourself wanting to use different strokes, shading, and varying darkness in the linework. That’s when you’ll want to expand. There are twelve grades of pencils from the hardest (H), to medium (F), up to very soft (9B). You’ll find these useful in creating different tones, shading, and textures.

Of course, beyond pencils, there are all sorts of art tools to create art, from charcoal to pastels, to paints. But remember, we’re talking about penciling comics and for the most part, those don’t enter into this discussion unless we’re talking someone doing full and finished art.

Get In the Zone

Once you get your tools set up, the next important thing is to learn the ‘zones’ for a page of comic art. This is absolutely critical to make sure the art will look right on a printed page. This falls on the penciler, and is being covered in the penciling series, because, understandably, it is the Penciler creating the initial art, which then is handed off to everyone else on the team, so it makes sense to do it right from the start.

There are three zones or areas on a page of comic art, each serves a very specific and important role in laying the art out for print.

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From the exterior edge of the paper in, there should be a border outside the art, which is essentially the buffer edge of the page, no art should be in that area, and any that is will most assuredly not be seen in the final printed version once it’s setup and sized down. On a standard 11″ x 17″ art board, this border would run 1/2″ on the sides, and 13/16″ on the top and bottom, defining a space to work in of 10″ x 15-3/8″.

The next zone or area is called the Bleed Area, or Full Bleed Area. This is for a specific form of printing that can print to the edge of a printed page, with no visible border running the exterior in the printed format. Art can extend into this area, but it’s important that nothing critical or central to the image as a whole extend into it, as it may or may not be fully visible in the printed version. (See below to better understand why.) Art that can fill a Bleed Area would include backgrounds, furthest extensions of limbs, or objects that can be cropped without losing definition of the figure or object, etc.  The full work space including the bleed area is the above mentioned 10″ x 15-3/8″ as defined by that buffer zone.

Next is the Trim Line, which on a standard 11″ x 17″ sheet is 5/8″ in from the edge of the paper on the sides, and 1″ in on the top and bottom, defining a space of 9-3/4″ x 15″ in which to work. The trim line is crucial because it is the average line of where the page will be trimmed in the process of printing. As books are run through a printer, there is a trimming or cutting stage, that is pretty accurate but not 100% – so the trim line represents the average line of the cut. This is why there is a small buffer on the outside of the trim line, the Bleed Area described above, and on the inside of the line defining the final zone.

That final zone is the Safe Area, sometimes referred to as the Live Area. It is 1″ in from the sides and 1-3/8″ from top and bottom, defining a work space of 9″ x 14.25″. As its name implies, the Safe Area is that area which is guaranteed to be centered and visible on the printed page – none of that will bleed off the edge or be cut in the process of trimming. So, obviously, it is within this zone that all important, central elements of the art should be fully contained – character faces, important props or elements of the backgound, etc. This is also important when it comes to lettering, as all lettering, captions, dialogue and sound effects should be 100% in this area only, but we’ll cover that more later.

Above is a great graphic from Blambot that shows the various lines and dimensions. Now, if you’re doing this work regularly you’ll find it easier to get art boards that have these lines pre-printed on them, and fortunately, there are several to choose from. My preference, as well as that of many artists, is Blue Line Comic Pro art boards. These not only set off the bleed and trim lines, they include marked notches for dividing a page into thirds, halves, etc. for most basic panel layouts. They also use that buffer area at the edge to provide an artist space to make notes on series, page number, etc. Once you start generating multiple pages of art on various projects, you’ll find it pretty important to label the pages so you can find them once again if needed.

Doing It Digital

Wait, what does penciling have to do with digital? I know at least someone out there is asking that and it’s a fair question.

Penciling in comics is not so much the means or tools used as the step in the process, still referred to by the name it acquired before computers existed. Those of us who create comics fully in digital still go through a process of ‘penciling,’ meaning we set up the page specs (file specs in this case), and create the initial art using custom tools, and the process of composing and defining the art generally looks similar to sketching and pencils on paper.

In most art software the Pencil tool is generally not a tool you want to actually use as a ‘pencil’ for drawing. There you go pretty exclusively with brushes. As above, you can use any number of settings to accomplish the same, and different artists will have their own preferences. Personally, when I’m ‘sketching’ or ‘penciling’ art in Photoshop, I used a standard round brush, set to multiply and around 40% opacity. Most of my work I set the brush to 3 pixels, though will sometimes thicken that up in the initial sketch when I’m doing thumbnails or roughs (more about all that stuff later). The point though is the process is similar, even if the venue is different.

Now, if you work exclusively in digital software, but are working on comics intended for print then you need to setup the same specs as listed above, especially concerning setting up your zones on your page. I’ve included download links for my own personal digital page templates I use for art, which are template files set to standard size for original art, and have both a layer with guidelines, as well as Guides you can make visible by clicking View > Show > Guides for Bleed and Trim lines. I’ve even been extra nice and included single page and double-page spreads.

For digital comics, if you’re creating the work for a specific digital venue, the best starting place is to review any and all guidelines and specs for that venue. They tend to differ a lot based on how the venue loads and displays art. However, most of the same general principles apply here, just as above, with differences accounting for format and venue.

As with physical tools, you can create the art at a variety of spec sizes, as long as the final file hits the right ratio and proper resolution or DPI for the art to display well. Art intended for print must be created at a minimum of 300DPI, any lower and you risk the art looking pixellated on the page. More detailed art, like full digital renderings, will often jump to 400, or even 600DPI to keep crisp edges and rich colors defined in print. Digital venues range based on their format. Apps and panel based venues often require higher resolution images so that the art remains crisp and clear even when you zoom in super-tight.

Obviously, one major difference here is that most digital venues for viewing comics do not match fully to standard print size. Reading comics on a computer means you’re going to want to lean more toward horizontal or landscape art to better fit a standard computer screen. Comics that display on a smartphone are usually panel by panel, so if you are targeting this type of venue you will want to lean toward more standard sized, smaller panels that then work zoomed in on the smaller screens. Of all digital devices, tablets are the closest reading experience to print with the ability to display decent sized, full print pages and still be readable.

The Best of Both Worlds

I’ll do a whole series on this somewhere down the road, but worth at least mentioning here – I generally encourage creators to think about all their options when they create a comic. You may start with releasing this comic you’re doing in a digital format on Comixology or Drive-Thru, but if it were to take off and you got that call from a print publisher wanting to do a collection – just how much would you hate yourself if you created all the content only for digital and not a high enough resolution or format to work in print? Don’t do that.

I think DC does the simplest, best answer here with their digital first series like Injustice and Legend of Wonder Woman. Their file specs for digital comics create web-screens that are optimized for most computer screens, but also, happen to line up to 1/2 of a standard comic page. The screens are then paced storywise and artwise to allow each consecutive set of two screens to be assembled into a single page for print. So, keep all this in mind as we press forward.

NEXT

Now that we’ve got those basics out of the way, next time we will start getting into some actual art! Promise!

Resources

Blambot is a definitive resource site for lettering comics, with fonts, tutorials and additional resources.
(I feel it only fair to mention them now since I plugged them above.)

Blue Line Comic Pro art supplies provide perhaps the most popular comic art boards on the market. With Pro and Custom boards marked with bleed and trim lines as well as panel hash marks, these are great time-savers for artists.

Standard 300DPI Comic Page Template TIFF File Download

Standard 300DPI Double-Page Spread Template TIFF File Download

NOW DISCUSS…

My Comic Life Patreon Promotion

If you want more great content like this, support his Patreon campaign today by clicking the image!

About C. Edward Sellner

A full-time professional freelancer, Sellner has credits as a comics writer, prose author, colorist, artist, and editor from multiple publishers. He is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Visionary Creative Services, one of the best-known production studios and digital publishers in the industry. The studio opened in 2006 and since then has published over 70 different titles in its digital line, and been involved in over a hundred different projects in production. Its clients range from Hollywood producers to international sports stars to other studios and publishers. It became the first independent studio to enter the licensing game with the announcement of its Deadlands license, which has since been published in comics from Image and IDW and novels from Tor Books. The studio also hosts a successful internship program where interns get practical, real-world freelancing experience, including paid work on actual jobs fitting their skill levels. Learn more at www.visionarycreativeservices.com!

Weekly Visions 1.12.17: Smithsonian IMAX & Visionary Films

Get CreativeVisionary Creative Services is proud to announce a fun new partnership with the Smithsonian IMAX Theaters to launch our new Get Creative initiative! As part of our weekly celebration of the arts, every Tuesday, Visionary will be promoting all the great new releases and special showings at the absolute best IMAX theaters in the entire DC metro area. With the largest screens (six stories tall), laser projection, high digital picture resolution and sound, Smithsonian IMAX gives you the best movie experience you can find.

Not only that but for the same price, or cheaper than what you would pay anywhere else, you’re then supporting all the other excellent work the Smithsonian does. Smithsonian IMAX Director of Theaters, Zarth Bertsch and a wonderful staff do brief intros, special trailers, previews of exclusive films, and other presentations as well, making it truly unique.

C. Edward Sellner croppedTo make it more fun, Visionary CCO C. Edward Sellner will be kicking off his new semi-regular Get Creative Get Togethers revolving around select Smithsonian IMAX movies! We’ll be announcing specific times of new release films and special showings where our own CCO will be in attendance. Buy advanced tickets, watch a visionary movie then join Sellner in an informal gathering afterward, usually over a meal, to discuss the film, creating in general, and anything else.

“I’ve just been so thrilled with the response to the My Comic Life panels at conventions that I wanted to think of some cool ways to have more informal time with friends and fans to discuss comics, movies, and creating in general,” Sellner stated. “I love Smithsonian IMAX theaters, they are my first theater of choice every time. I also love the Smithsonian as a whole and wanted to do something to support their excellent mission. I spoke to Zarth and we agreed this seemed a good way to start.”

Our first official Get Creative Get Together will be for the January 29th, 5pm  Sci-Fi Sunday Special Christopher Nolan 15/70mm Film Takeover. Join us for an exclusive showing of Nolan’s visionary movie prologues for The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and his upcoming film Dunkirk, and then enjoy an exclusive screening of the full movie Interstellar, all at the Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater. Tickets are on sale now!

Check out the latest news from Smithsonian IMAX below including awesome upcoming releases like Hidden Figures, and special holdover, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story! Look for our Get Creative Get Together announcements here in our weekly news updates, our forthcoming Get Creative weekly postings, and social media. We will also be setting up a Meetup group for the initiative. More details on the Nolan night this Sunday! Subscribe NOW!

Hidden Figures

Opening January 27

Based on the true story of the brilliant African-American women working at NASA who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence and turned around the Space Race.
Experience it in IMAX at the National Air and Space Museum in DC and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in VA. Playing January 27 – February 9.

Sci-Fi Sundays
Special Christopher Nolan
15/70mm Film Takeover

January 15 and 29

We’re exhibiting some of the best and unique work of Christopher Nolan for one epic screening all in 15/70mm film. Experience Interstellar as Nolan intended it in 15/70mm film on a 6-story screen! Prior to the performance, we will exhibit three of Christopher Nolan’s movie prologues both shot and exhibited in 15/70mm film including The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and his upcoming film
Dunkirk.

Two Screenings Only! Experience it at the Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theater at the National Museum of Natural History January 15 and 29.

Rogue One:
A Star Wars Story
Extended for One Week Only!
Through January 26 
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will now have an extended schedule of shows at both the National Air and Space Museum and Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center through Thursday, January 26. Experience it in IMAX with Laser!
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Smithsonian Theaters, 600 Maryland Ave. SW  Ste. 6001, Washington, DC 20024

My Comic Life Sundays: Penciling 101 & Yoda (sorta)!

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Welcome back as we turn our spotlight once more to the creative process. Our last creative series of articles focused on the basic elements of writing, so, now it’s time to turn our attention to the next step in production – penciling – so listen up all you artists and prepare to sharpen some skills!

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My Comic Life Column 015: Penciling 101 Sketched Out

C. Edward Sellner cropped

Penciling comics is one of the most sought after positions in the comics industry and also the one that probably has the most turnover or burnout. There are a ton of people who want in, a ton already in, and a bunch who were in and then disappeared. Why, you ask? Let’s take a look at each of those.

Why is penciling so popular?

That one’s fairly simple: it’s the coolest piece of comics! I’m mostly a writer; I love writing, but even I get all excited and moon-eyed when a piece of art comes in for one of my projects. Art excites people, it inspires, it draws them in (yep, a second bad pun). The comics industry has long recognized this about artists and as a result, the commercial end of the industry and the popularity end have often leaned toward the artists, giving them the clout, the popularity, and the biggest names in comics. No doubt, that focus goes back and forth from writers to artists, but at times, like near the beginning of the Image days, the writer seemed an afterthought in many mindsets. It was the artist, or storyteller, that drew all the attention (yep, another) and got all the praise.

While comics really require both, good story and good art to succeed, I’m more than willing to acknowledge that much of this falls on the artist, at least initially. It’s usually a striking cover that will get some new fan to pick up a book. Someone flipping through pages in a comic-book store is not going ‘cool’ over the story or the sound effects; they love the art. Heck, artists even have more fun at conventions. It’s not like writers can sit at their tables and jot out a few words on paper to give to long lines of fans wanting an original script!

Now, I’m not trying to sound bitter since I’m predominantly a writer, and yes writers have also certainly made names for themselves in comics, but, comics are, after all, a VISUAL medium, hence some focus on the visuals.

However, for all its glory, it’s also a very demanding job. Pencilers have to create an average of a page a workday if they really want to make it in the comics industry on a monthly series. That’s a lot of pages! That’s a lot of work and commitment. This is why many artists will work on a series for a while, then take a break, do a mini-series here and there, and then maybe go back to the monthly grind, or maybe not. It’s this pressure that results in so many late books when artists can’t keep that pace and the major reason why a good number of accomplished artists leave comics for other fields.

Now, for you aspiring artists, this means you perhaps have the easiest opportunity to break into comics…if you’re good. Assuming you have the talent and the skills, there are always publishers who are looking for new artists, including the big guys. If you remember from an earlier column, you folks also get all the breaks for ease in portfolio reviews as well. An editor can flip through some pages of high-quality pencils and make a decision in like, oh, two minutes.

So here you are, wanting into comics, you’re talented, you got your portfolio, editors are always looking, and find it easy to look through portfolios, so, now what? Well, there’s a good bit more, so let’s unpack what we can.

Talent, of course, is the primary factor in making it as an artist. But talent isn’t all that it takes. Now, I can’t teach talent in a column, but I can teach a lot about those other factors! At the risk of repeating myself, the biggest mistake aspiring comics’ professionals make is not knowing the mechanics of the jobs they want to do. This falls into two categories with aspiring artists. First, there are those who still really need to learn to draw and second, there are those who need to learn specifically to draw comic books.

The Art of the Draw(ing)

Learn to draw? Surely aspiring comic artists know how to draw? You’d be surprised. There are aspiring artists that think all they need to do to learn to draw comics is look at comic books. They study comic art and think that by doing so, they can then recreate it and draw themselves. That’s kind of like staring at a toaster then claiming you can build one from scratch. It doesn’t work because ultimately all you are looking at is the surface and not taking into account the underlying work in crafting it.

Admittedly, some comic artists don’t help in making this argument, because if you look at their stuff, they seem to bypass proper anatomy and perspective as well as other artistic principles themselves. They often do highly exaggerated figures and surreal surroundings that seem to break all the rules.  There is a key word in here: exaggeration.

If you look at the collective body of work of any of the popular, mainstream, lasting pencilers out there, even the ones that might have very stylistic approaches now, chances are you will find plenty of examples of them doing far more straight-laced work, especially early in their careers. When Frank Miller drew his seminal run on Daredevil, his style was much closer to a photo-realistic look. No doubt, he still was a master of light and shadow then, but his people looked like real people with proper proportions. Compare that to his more recent and highly stylized work, on 300 or Sin City, and you will see how he’s progressed. Same with Todd McFarlane, when he started at DC on such books as Infinity Inc., his style was far more traditional and straightforward. It wasn’t until he was solid in his career that he began pushing the boundaries and when he launched Spawn that he pulled out all the stops.

As artists master their craft they can bend the rules, but they don’t outright break them. Artwork may be incredibly stylized, incredibly expressive and use exaggeration to heighten the drama of the work but there is an underlying base of solid art mastery underneath. An artist who has not mastered basic art skills and rules cannot then try to exaggerate them and do it convincingly. You have to know how to drive the car in your neighborhood before you’re ready to go on the highway, and be really good before you can hit the Indy 500, well, at least if you don’t want to end up being a rolled piece of kindling. I’ve seen submissions from artists who simply mimic a popular artist, but clearly show they have not learned the fundamental basics that underlie that style. The resulting art, well, looks like it’s good as kindling and that’s about it.

Do you know the difference between worm’s eye and bird’s eye view? What about a two versus a three-point perspective? Or better yet, stop and try to draw a picture that is not a ‘comic.’ Sketch a friend or family member. Draw a picture of a bowl of fruit. Are you capturing your subject? Can you get down the working of the light source and shading? Can you create a sense of texture and substance? Does your portrait of a person look remotely like them? Can you draw a person with fully functional anatomy? (No, I don’t mean that, get your mind out of the gutter!) Do they have elbows, knees, and ankles that line up and work like a real person’s? Do they ‘carry their weight’?

If you’ve never even tried to draw something non-comic-like, most likely, you’re in trouble as an artist.

So, as is my usual advice…
To learn more, you might want to take an art class at the local community college, take private art lessons, or at the very least check out some books that can teach you how to draw. All those fundamental principles you will learn there apply to comics work as well and they are critical in making that leap to any specialized form of art.

Once You Know It…Use it!

As an editor, I get real frustrated when I see a talented artist take shortcuts. The biggest thing on this is perspective and trying to fake it. I know it’s a pain to do the little grid lines and sync everything up. I’m an artist too, but you got to do it, else it looks bad.

Once You See It…Draw It!

Another important tool for every artist is good reference. Don’t be afraid to use photo reference for your work. If you have to draw a ’85 Ford Mustang get a picture of one. Likewise, don’t be afraid to use reference for anatomy as well. Beyond duplicating a photo in your art, there is also using photos to show you how muscle groups work, how they function under stress or when relaxed. Photo reference can also be good to show a variety of facial structures and how facial anatomy works especially in expressions etc. As an artist myself, I will usually compile a reference folder for any art I’m doing – reference that could include specific objects, elements of a setting, anatomy references similar to poses I’m planning to do, showing the relevant body types, etc. None of those photos will be ‘copied’ in the process, but each will help me capture those various elements to the best of my ability.

Drawing Comics…

Of course, once you’ve developed into a good artist, there is still the task of learning how to draw comics. I’ve met some really great artists who don’t know how to draw comic books. Sure, they might do great pinups or covers, but they can’t draw comics.

Let’s face it folks, the meat and potatoes of comics are sequential pages. So, why can’t every aspiring comic book artist realize they have to draw sequential pages in their portfolio if they wish to draw comic books? You got me, but it never fails that I will get submissions with nothing but character sketches, or pin-ups and not a hint of anything that, you know, actually tells a story.

On top of drawing sequential pages period, there is drawing them well. For most comic artists the hardest part of the job is laying out a good, solid, well composed sequential page. Composition, in comic art, is the art of laying out a page such that it draws the reader’s eye, flows, and provides a sense of energy, movement, or drama. It takes the elements of the picture, or panels, and combines them in a way that enhances the mood, communicates the key storytelling elements and advances the story.

Some amateur artists don’t think about this at all; it’s one of those pieces of the toaster you can’t see but it’s integral to getting the toast, or in this case, the art, to pop out. Other artists mostly think about composition only in regards to the panel. This is important, each panel must work on its own, but composition should also be considered for an entire page and some elements of good composition become recurring motifs for the entire book.

Art vs. Sequential Art

Comics utilize not only good art but very specific types of art. No matter what your style, there has to be movement, dynamic energy and incredible mood in your work to really make it in comics. This ranges from the layout of panels and pages (composition again) to characters in exaggerated poses, using perspective and variety in camera angles to increase tension or drama, etc. It’s storytelling, pure and simple.

For this series, I’m going to break down the basic skills, mechanics, and priorities for penciling comics and help you start laying a foundation for pursuing your goals as a comics artist. Pease note, this will not be a basic drawing series, so don’t look to learn those principles themselves so much as how they are primarily applied to the art of comics specifically.

I’ve included a few new online resources for artists below and links to some top-notch educational programs for aspiring artists willing to make that leap.

NEXT

We’ll start digging in by looking at composition and layout in more depth and focusing on the key elements of what makes sequential art… well, sequential.

Resources

Creating Comics by Dave Law – I’ve mentioned this one before but this link goes straight to the section for illustrators. Once again, it lists numerous links for artists to find online tutorials, how-to guides, descriptions of materials and tools, etc.

Gray’s Anatomy is the famous Gray’s Anatomy online, and no, not the show, but the ultimate reference to how the human body works. It includes diagrams and illustrations that show the anatomical features of every part of the body.

Anatomy 360 is a site with 3-D scanned models where you can rotate the figures 360 degrees and alter the lighting. (This site is still in development.)

Posemaniacs is an active site with uploaded 3-D anatomical figures of various proportions, in various poses, that you can rotate 360 degrees.

SCHOOLS

The Center for Cartoon Studies is a college level program that offers courses in creating comics. They offer a rounded curriculum that includes learning the history of the medium and then everything from writing to illustrating and finally self-publishing and marketing a comic book.

Joe Kubert’s World of Cartooning is exclusively for aspiring comic book artists. They offer a full range of classes and include correspondence courses.

NOW DISCUSS…

My Comic Life Patreon Promotion

If you want more great content like this, support his Patreon campaign today by clicking the image!

About C. Edward Sellner

A full-time professional freelancer, Sellner has credits as a comics writer, prose author, colorist, artist, and editor from multiple publishers. He is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Visionary Creative Services, one of the best-known production studios and digital publishers in the industry. The studio opened in 2006 and since then has published over 70 different titles in its digital line, and been involved in over a hundred different projects in production. Its clients range from Hollywood producers to international sports stars to other studios and publishers. It became the first independent studio to enter the licensing game with the announcement of its Deadlands license, which has since been published in comics from Image and IDW and novels from Tor Books. The studio also hosts a successful internship program where interns get practical, real-world freelancing experience, including paid work on actual jobs fitting their skill levels. Learn more at www.visionarycreativeservices.com!

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