Sunday, June 08, 2008
Who Is Rocket Johnson (part one)
For the past two and a quarter years I have managed to blog without ever plugging anything for you to buy. Over the next few posts I will talk a bit about a comic book that some of us at Disney have created called "Who Is Rocket Johnson?", but I don't consider this "plugging" the book because I don't think the book needs any promotion. There will only be 1,000 copies printed and they will only be for sale at the San Diego Comic-con. If you are headed to the Con and you want one, head on over and grab one as soon as you get there. For booth information and updates on the book please visit here.
Several guys at work put this thing together and there are a lot of great artists who contributed work for it. Paul Briggs deserves a big kudos for putting in a lot of the elbow grease so if you get a copy and you like it drop him a line and tell him how much you enjoyed it.
Working on that book took a lot of time away from blogging so I suppose it's only fitting to blog about it now. I actually learned a lot doing it, because doing your own thing is so different from working on stuff that's for your day job.
One of the first things I learned was something I am already painfully aware of, and probably 90% of all artists are used to experiencing: that cleaning up my rough drawings was a miserable and tedious process because I could never capture the life and energy of my rough drawings in the cleaned-up finished drawings.
This is the case at work as well, of course, but at work we rarely have much time to devote to clean-ups and we work under such intense deadlines that there's not really time to dwell on the quality of the drawings. Also there's a difference when it's your own personal work of art, and it's probably the only thing the world will ever see of yours and judge you by, and you may never get another chance to be published again in your life, so there's a lot of pressure to do something that you will be at least partially proud of.
The reason roughs are easier to do, I guess, is because you're not feeling as much pressure when you're doing them, because in the back of your mind you're thinking "well, nobody will ever see this drawing anyway so it doesn't have to be perfect". Also you're really thinking when you're roughing it out, you're experiencing the action and the acting of the drawing for the first time and you're trying to get all of it on paper which gives it a wonderful energy. Then, when you go to clean it up, you're at a terrible disadvantage because you're trying to remember that original feeling and recapture it and preserve it, so it's not as strong to you and now you're experiencing a little bit of fear because now you have something to lose: if you goof up the clean-up, the drawing is ruined and you destroyed the great rough you had.
Also when you're drawing the roughs you're thinking about big shapes and how they move in space. Once you're cleaning it up, it's too easy to focus on lines instead of shapes in space, as well as wrinkles, buttons and all of the other fussy details that can destroy the overall feeling of the drawing and reduce it into a mess of pointless lines.
So I was paralyzed for a while after I completed my roughs. I was miserable about having to start cleaning up my drawings, and unwilling to let the roughs stand as the final artwork, because they were just too rough to tell the story.
What finally saved me and lifted me out of my funk, allowing me to continue, was that I had a realization: I don't ever like an artist's cleaned up drawings. Whenever I see an artist's roughs, I always like them better than the finished final product, no matter who the artist is, and that actually helped me quite a bit. It helped me accept that I am just like everybody else and that we all tend to lose a bit of something in the cleaning up phase...at least in my opinion, anyway.
It's a shame that we rarely get to see the rough unfinished work of an artist, that everything is so refined and polished before we get to see it. Did you know that there's even a magazine devoted to the rough drawings of comic book artists called "Rough Stuff"?
Anyway, I don't have any brilliant solutions to offer about how to clean up your drawings, but in general it is easier to clean up a drawing if you don't focus on the lines as you put them down but distract yourself with other considerations, above all thinking about design: how to use a good variety of small, medium and large shapes, how to strengthen the poses of your characters, how to arrange the backgrounds to better frame the action, etc.
Anyway, here are some examples of my progression, from rough to final color. I wish I could show better examples but I don't want to give anything away before anyone's had a chance to read it...
The original roughs were done on paper; the clean-ups and the color were done on a Cintiq.