Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Style conflicts

On Comicspace, my ID is Conflictedartist because that's what I am. I try not to ape any artistic style but of course am influenced by everything I'm exposed to, even if it's deciding not to draw in a manner that I hate in other work. That's natural I suppose but where I get conflicted is in choosing a style of drawing to pursue. I think the underlying drawing will always be the same, but it's the finishing style that sometimes throws me.

To illustrate my pondering, some visual aids: a later piece of EC sci-fi art by the great Wally Wood and Peter Parker & Gwen Stacy by Steve Rude (I've picked these artists as they are the ones whose art I'm currently fascinated with).

Now the Wood piece is great: a consistent light source creating areas of shadow that add weight and atmosphere. Not overly rendered but exquisitely detailed (to show examples of that, look at the splash to the EC SF story Food For Thought, one of comics' greatest ever pages). However, look at Rude's piece: all the emotion is there, carried by just a few lines:no need for unneccesary fuss here.

Both styles have their advantages: the more elaborate style is sumptuous and creates a greater sense of space but the leaner style is more open and graphic. Is one better than the other? Nope. As with most things, its subjective but when it comes to actually following either approach as a school of thought, things aren't so simple.

My personal instinct is trying to recreate as realistic and accurate an environment as I can and I'm more naturally inclined to the heavier work load of the former. The latter definitely has less labour involved so productivity will be better, but all the work goes into the design of the drawing. If your basic storytelling and drawing off, you don't have the luxury of varying fields of black (or tone, stippling, hatching, etc) to convey space. Your drawing must be spot on and clear. It's not as simple as it looks: I began inking a page of the Jock pencilled in my usual 'detailed' style but using the leaner finishing style. I gave up on the first panel as I realised it wuld never work. There were elements of the drawing that would be lost that were necessary for the image drawn.

I want to experiment with the leaner style but not halfway through the Jock, it would be too jarring, even though we've only just begun (Oi! No Carpenters references, arrite?). I'll probably do a Silver short, see how it goes.

Interestingly, Wood later pared his own style way back and much preferred his later work and hated the fact that his fans (and let's not forget, he was namechecked on a Marvel cover way before Lee or Kirby ever were!) always loved his lush EC work more. Wood even managed to make Kirby look great. You wouldn't think two such different artists - one being able to draw and the other not (nyuk nyuk)- would work well but after a successful-artistically- collaboration on the Sky Masters newspaper strip in the 50s, both artists were reunited when an uncredited Wood inked the Daredevil figures in a Kirby issue of the FF: below is an example of the work, just look how much Wood's embelishment saves the DD figures from the flat Giacoia inks seen throughout the rest of the issue:

Interestingly, I've just finished the lastest Modern Masters (a great series of books if you're into the work of the subject) on Frank Cho. His is another example of the lean inking style, having a wonderful grace and fluidity to his lineswork (none of which is created with a brush, surprisingly). Perhaps from pondering the above artistic styles recently, I was taken with the manner he creates depth by using clarefully placed blacks (a la vintage Wood) while retaining a cleaner overall line. The image below is one that particularly caught my attention. I'm not really an Elektra fan and don't really like the way Cho has decided to draw her bindings but just look at how her sparsely-delineated figure pops out from the more rendered background, approximating the effects of cel animation's limitations, ie a less rendered figure laid over a more realistic background.

That's a new mix to thow into the pot. Hmmmm....

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