Rereading The Neverending Story, one of my favorite books probably. I suggest you put the cruddy 80s film adaptation behind you and read it!
This is a little portrait ofAtreyu, according to the book’s description. Might draw a couple of other things from the book as I get to them.
oh no this is becoming a Thing
I drew Batman as a warmup thing yesterday because I got all excited about the announcement about the next Chris Nolan Batman movie. I have a weakness for Batman, and for melodramatic genre fiction generally. But I am not the best at drawing superheroes.
I like Catwoman but not Anne Hathaway, she does not seem like a very interesting choice… but I don’t know enough about her for her to be an entity in my mind other than Boring Pretty White Girl. I’m really interested in how Bane will work into all of this… he’s sort of a tacky character, usually, but I think could be done in an interesting way. And the first two movies have very successfully worked within limited themes (overcoming and inspiring fear in Begins, anarchy in Dark Knight), so I’m optimistic about how the two can be fit into the movie. Though I guess Dark Knight would have been better without Two-Face even in it.
In conclusion I am a terrible nerd but that does not change the fact that Batman is the best.
Drawn for Lela
Finally finished this drawing! See it larger. It’s Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, a central character of China Miéville’s novel Perdido Street Station. I highly recommend the book, it is fantastic in every sense of the word! I think I’ve been talking about it incessantly and for that I apologize. I’ll move on to another of his books very soon… The Scar has been recommended to me a few times.
PSS is a very visual book, and one that deals at length with some pretty outrageous creatures and inventions. After several false starts, I decided to draw something that focused more on the feel of the book than on any representation of any of those visual elements specifically. I almost feel that rendering the Slake Moths, or Mr. Motley, or the constructs would put too fine a point on them, and spoil the strange, psychedelic nature of them— for myself and for those of you who haven’t read the book yet!
“One’s view of the world and one’s technique are indivisible” - Hayao Miyazaki
“Part of the appeal of the fantastic is taking ridiculous ideas very seriously and pretending they’re not absurd” - China Míeville
“Reality is the apparent absence of contradiction. The fantastic [maravilloso] is the contradiction that appears in the real.” - Luis Aragon
I drew a robot for no reason at all! Here it is. It has some glowy Tron bits.
I drew this a little while ago and just got around to coloring it pretty quick! I am pretty obsessed with Daft Punk lately.
More Lord of the Rings! Been a while since I worked on this every-character-in-LOTR project but I’m not done! Next I’ll get to some of the elves from Lothlorien I guess?
Yellow eyes like the ring, get it? Sym-bo-li-sm.
This is a warm-up drawing from a couple of weeks ago that I finally colored! It’s a character of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the first book of which I’ve been listening to recently. Really heavy, believable fantasy… I wanted to do something with the costume that didn’t immediately suggest Tolkien Tolkien Tolkien.
I’ve uploaded a recording of the Comics and Worldbuilding panel I moderated at last weekend’s SPX. Listen to it HERE. Panelists are myself, Spike Trotman, Carla Speed McNeil, Aaron Diaz, and Liz Baillie.
BE AWARE that the program I recorded this with has, because it was a trial version, covered a couple of minutes throughout in static, rendering a bit of it nearly unintelligible. But most of the recording is ok! And someone from SPX got the whole thing on video so hopefully we’ll be able to see that, too.
This is a panel that I’d like to do multiple times! I even feel like the five of us could have talked much longer on the subject. So hopefully we can run this panel at other conventions in the future!
GOSH I have not updated this in a while. Moving to a new place is distracting. I’ll get back to this blog, I promise. Above is the view out the window of my little drawing-room, into the ‘porthole’ that runs down the middle of our building for heat regulation I guess.
The following is an excerpt from an article by Jason Michelitch. The excerpt deals with the growing idea that comics are an intermediary medium, inferior to film. This is something I’ve mentioned before and bears repeating, I think!
But anyway the rest of the article (the first part) is basically a completely unrelated rant about how the movie Inception is representative of the downfall of the movie industry or something? I really liked Inception, so ignore that part. I really wish the last bit was published on its own, so that’s why I’ve put it here:
Over the last decade, there’s been a fractured but widespread push to make American comics more like film. Cinematic storytelling has always loomed over comics as an influence, but from 2000-2010 it became more and more pervasive. Younger creators looking to distance themselves from the embarrassing history of superhero comics marketed their comics as “paper movies” in an attempt to align themselves with a more acceptable-for-adults popular visual medium in the minds of potential readers. Major comics companies saw more and more properties successfully go through film production and became eager to produce the next wave of trademarks for sale. Think: how many times have you heard the phrase “Comics are ready-made storyboards” in the last ten years?
Every time you see mediocre new comics with some celebrity’s name over the title, every time you see laboriously photo-referenced art pre-casting popular actors as characters, and every time you read a comic that feels like someone’s failed movie pitch, remember: these are the conscious and subconscious effects of becoming Hollywood’s farm team, and they should be fiercely guarded against. The reduction of comics to motionless cinema is a mental disease borne of self-loathing and envy, and should be resisted at every level, fought off like a thief you find poking around in your head in the middle of the night, pilfering your favorite dreams.
Another D&D monster. Apparently Kobolds are actually supposed to have horns. I’m a disgrace.
Hey I hope you’re all aware of Aaron Diaz’s excellent blog that started recently; he’s been talking about a lot of stuff about comics and narrative art, and he is a Smart Guy who Gets It. The following post might be seen as a response to his post, Show vs. Tell.
A little while ago on twitter I said something to the effect of ‘Saying that writing is more important than art in comics misses the point,’ and a lot of people replied to that, agreeing and contesting and wondering what I meant, etc. So I’ve been meaning to organize my thoughts on this and put them here, lest my twitter account turn into nothing but endless bitching about specificities of the comics medium that basically nobody cares about but me.
It’s easy to see comics as a sort of half-and-half medium: a fundamentally incomplete thing, made of Pictures plus Writing. I don’t think this is the case: comics are as ‘incomplete’ as any narrative medium, because no medium can convey a story as a fully experienced, believable thing (I think that film’s superficial ‘realness’ lends to the idea that it is the highest and best realization of a story possible—certainly it is at least the most profitable, hence the growing influence of big-budget film adaptations of comic book stories on the recent SDCC). But the tools that comics have to convey story (still* images both sequential and discrete, and often text) are as capable, though in fundamentally different ways, as the tools at the root of any narrative medium.
I think that a central part of making comics successfully is eliminating the divide between Writing & Drawing/Words & Pictures— more precisely, revealing that divide as artificial. That sounds like a way over-intellectualized approach, but I guess it’s sort of extrapolated from how I try to approach comics at every level of making them:
From the start, from the earliest stage of planning a story, it’s helpful to be aware of the medium for which it is intended. I’ve written a little before about my idea of a story’s native medium, and this correlates well with McLuhan’s quote, ‘the medium is the message,’ which Aaron mentions. If you’re making a comic, you should know what a comic is, and how you can use the medium to your advantage: how you can rely on images and the flow between images in the place of text, how you can use the two together or against each other, etc. In planning Vattu, I’ve tried to keep all of my notes visual and verbal: writing is efficient for working out some kinds of ideas, and drawing others. It’s a visual story, because it is a comic. And it’s a comic because it is a visual story. We’re extremely limited in what we can do within the medium, so let’s play to its strengths.
I think the assembly-line trend that still dominates much of mainstream comics goes against this effort to eliminate the Divide, and contributes the idea that comics are composed of two discrete elements. Often (usually?) several visual artists are expected to draw the pictures to match the writer’s script. Often there is little communication between writer and artist(s); the artists are seen as producing images to “go along with” the writer’s story (as opposed to producing the images which are the substance of that story). And the writer’s name is biggest on the cover, because the writer is the boss. This results in a comic that can be very well-drawn and well written, but where the division between writer and artist is painfully, distractingly obvious. At least, it is to me! The drawings might not fit the tone of the writing, or the writing might be at times rendered redundant by the drawings, or a creative and well-made story is rendered bland and unreadable by the schematically-drawn, airbrushed shit that I guess is supposed to pass for a “house style.”
But dividing the task of comic-making among separate people of course doesn’t mean you’re making a broken comic! I have never worked with anybody on comics, but I would guess that the fundamental element that’s necessary for it to work is communication— Assuming a writer-artist pair, each should be aware of what the other is doing, what their strengths are, how they work, and the shape and fundamentals of the medium. The writer knows what the artist can convey in a character’s body language and expression, and can edit their dialogue to work in tandem with those visual elements.
So ANYWAY— saying that writing is more important than art in comics misses the point. The art IS the writing, and the writing is the art. The whole point of comics is to make something that’s greater than the sum of two different media— something that is a completely different medium from both. A comic where a division is clear, where the art is used as a supplement to the writing rather than as the material of the story, and where the question of ‘which is more important’ becomes relevant, is a poor use of the medium.
Working on a couple of different articles on worldbuilding stuff, will probably post one on using language in that context soon!
* Animation in comics shows up in webcomics, but this is still the exception to the rule. I think animation in comics contradicts the medium and how it is read, and can weakens and distract from it, regardless of the technical quality of the animation itself. In any case I think it’s a separate issue from what I’m talking about here! Might write more about this later, if I can figure out if I genuinely take issue with it or if I’m just afraid of something new and difficult to make!
Above and throughout this post, preliminary artwork for Vattu.
Where do you get your ideas? is the question I have heard more than any other question, and other comic people I’ve talked to about it have gotten it a lot too. After writing the following I sort of realized it is the best I can do at an answer:
So finishing OoT, and gearing up to start drawing Vattu, and trying to solidify several nebulous ideas for another project into something workable, have got me thinking about ideas and how they work.
Between Rice Boy and Order of Tales I think I’ve gotten a sense for the process by which I work from idea to product, wide to tight. The experience of finishing the actual Work (years-long, grueling and usually boring, at the very least) and seeing it line up well with the Idea (easy, fun, and completely untainted by reality) is kind of interesting, and has only really happened for me with Order of Tales I think.
The little idea-seeds that start everything aren’t often very clear or very detailed, and if I try to articulate them to anybody else I realize they’re usually uninteresting outside of my own head. It’s a vague sense of the way that a story or a character or setting should seem: not specific enough to record straight to paper faithfully, but specific enough to know a direction, and to know when you’re off track. I think the major bottleneck for people asking the HowDoYouGetYourIdeas question is this: realizing that anything is fair game, and essentially training yourself to funnel your observation of the world into idea-generation. I do not know if that makes sense but that is what I do most of the time.
There seems to be a sort of purity in the idea-seed, which can be lost as it’s worked over and developed. For example! My ideas for things usually start with some mood or visual aesthetic; much less frequently with a discrete concept. Koark started as a sense of a tall, mysterious person, obsessed with fictions, visually dramatic but with a sense of awkwardness that sort of disarms the self-importance of him. I found myself looking back at that seed throughout my development of the character, and throughout the story. That seed is what got me interested in the character, and what got me interested in making OoT at all, so I guess I figured that there was something essential there, and I made it a point not to get too far off-track.
But getting off-track can be useful, too, can’t it? It’s easy to get stuck on something, or to get too attached to a character or idea or passage of the story. It doesn’t really help to invest these things with too much importance before they’re realized; I think it’s good to remain open to different arrangements for as long as possible in each successive stage of making the thing. Having somebody you can go over stuff with while it’s still embryonic can be helpful— I find myself making a lot of basic assumptions about the structure of a story long before it’s worked out tightly enough to make such assumptions, and it sometimes takes someone else’s input for me to realize I’ve been making them at all. If that makes any sense! I guess this is something that editors are for but I have never had one; I talk about stuff I am working on incessantly with my girlfriend Lela and she is very helpful.
Ok. It’s important to know that pretty much everything starts vague and simple, and when we say that we love the IDEA of a story, it’s more a testament to the skill of the creator in realizing that idea than it is to the quality of the idea itself, I think. I try to err on the side of underestimating the value of ideas, because it’s easier to have them than to realize them, and we shouldn’t get excited about them and burned out before we’ve started the actual work!
I want to write more stuff about comics. Maybe we can consider this Part 1 of a thing. Let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to read.