When I had the opportunity to teach comics illustration at the College of St. Benilde last year, it gave me the chance to formalize my thoughts on the creation of comics. I thought I’d write these down here in my blog so other aspiring artists could possibly benefit from it. Bear in mind that all the things I will say here are simply one way of doing comics, and that’s my way of doing it. If you wish to learn from my experience, then please read on. It’s by no means the only way of doing it of course, and after reading all the things I’m going to say here, I think I’d be very happy if you improve on it and develop your own way.
My emphasis is more on developing a proper state of mind than teaching the basics of art. There are plenty of other sites online for that. What you will get here is the sum of the things I’ve learned in comics though the years, and this is the only place where you can get it.
One of the very important things to know is that learning comics is a “process”. It is a series of steps that one needs to take one step at a time. To jump several steps ahead puts you in danger of falling down or breaking your ankles. It can cause you to stunt your growth as an artist.
As with any educational process, you start at the very bottom. You start with Kindergarten, then as you grow older and learn more, you move to Grade School, and then equipped with what you learn there, you move on to High School, and that gives you the knowledge to tackle College.
The same is true with learning comics.
Tackling “styles” in comics like manga, and the various American and European styles at the very beginning is like tackling college without taking up kindergarten, grade school and high school. This is probably why going around sites like Deviant Art and other sites, I come across so many badly drawn artwork emulating the many styles that have influenced them. The artists are simply not equipped how to do it correctly. They have jumped too many steps in advance and now they’re in danger of stunting their growth as artists.
Styles in comics is a very advanced and specialized field in the process of creating comics. Before one even attempts it, one must rewind and go back to the basics.
I suggest that those who are willing to learn how to improve themselves as artists, set aside your comic books for the meantime, and concentrate on becoming good “artists” first and foremost.
One good exercise is Drawing from Life. This means copying things that you see around you, and copy them as accurately as you can. I suggest keeping a sketchbook, a small one that could fit in your back pocket would be advisable as a bigger one would be a hassle to bring. When you get stuck in traffic, or when you are hanging out at a cafe, lake side, sidewalk, or waiting for the next teacher to arrive, take out your sketch book and start sketching what you see around you.
Draw cars, trees, animals, bushes, houses, people, anything that you see passing in front of you. Take extra effort to draw these things as accurately as you can. If people are sitting in front of you, take careful note of how their clothing reacts to their body. Take careful note of the folds their clothing makes in the armpits, elbows, knees and so forth.
When drawing trees, take careful note of how the bigger trunk spreads on to smaller branches and the direction that they go. Take careful note of how the leaves are attached.
Do this with every object that you draw. Look at them with a very critical eye, studying every detail carefully.
This exercise accomplishes several things.
One, it sharpens your powers of observation. It is a power that is essential in any good artist’s arsenal. It trains you to interpret things correctly on paper thus imbueing your work with realism and credibility.
Two, it increases your cache of reference. As you continue to practice drawing certain things, like folds on a person’s shirt or pants, or details on barks of trees or texture of stone, these things get imprinted into your mind and you carry it with you in all your future artistic endeavors. Drawing those things become easier because you already know what they look like in your mind.
Three, it improves your draftsmanship. Any drawing exercise you do trains your hand and develops your drafting skill.
This is an exercise that I would advice that you continue doing even if you become successful comic book artists. An artist always continues to learn, always continues to grow, and what you learn, you need to nurture and maintain.