Thursday, 25 February 2010
The next example is my illustration of Moses being found by the Egyptian princess, with his big sister watching from her hiding place. Here you can see the thumbnail, rough, watercolour stage, and then the final illustration (which I make by drawing over the watercolour underpainting with coloured pencils). One change I made in this one was to improve the servant's left hand, to give more of a sense of the baby being uncovered. In the rough I'd drawn the hand quickly and it looked more like she was just resting her hand on the baby, instead of pulling back the cloth that it's wrapped in. I was also asked by the client to make sure I emphasised the princess' jewellery and make-up, which help her look wealthy and also gives more of a sense of the Egyptian setting.
The next two examples are from a book of Buddhist fables that I illustrated for Floris Books. These show how I often use models for figure reference, especially if the illustrations are in a slightly more realistic figurative style. With the image of the prince and the flooded river, I decided to add the rain on a separate layer so that I could adjust the angle and the contrast independently of the rest of the image. It was the only time I've ever used layers in my final artwork so far! I find Photoshop indispensable, but 99% of the time I use it only at the rough stage for working out compositions. The example at the end shows another kind of model... plastic farmyard toys turned out to be very useful when I couldn't find much photo reference online for aerial views of animals!
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
This drawing confuses me because I never had high heeled shoes - especially not at this age! Maybe it was a case of wishful thinking. I like the house giving a sense of scale to how high these imaginary heels were...
I'm not sure what this creature is, but it inspires me a bit because these days I find it hard to imagine really wacky characters.
I seemed to like to add a lot of colours as a child & I still do today. I'm sure my brother never wore striped purple & yellow leggings... but in the same way as I often do now, I obviously decided to use clothing as an opportunity to throw in some colour. The other drawing seems to come from a story about a snail who has a beautiful house inside a carrot.
I used to make little books a lot, although I found it hard to sustain my efforts throughout the length of a book, and often the illustrations would change from colour to scrappy pencil after a couple of pages, or even tail off altogether. The example on the left is a very early story called 'Sally Spider and Porky Porcupine'. There are some really great spellings in it ('pokypin' being a good example). The one on the right was my attempt at creating a Choose Your Own Adventure book. I didn't quite get the hang of coming up with a dilemma to end each page on... every decision that the reader has to make involves either taking an action (like shouting for help) or doing nothing at all! Each page ends with something like "If you decide to go back down the hill, turn to page 17. If you decide to just sit down, turn to page 19".
This drawing of a clock shop caught my eye because of the 'super' watch in the top left hand corner of the display case. I like how I added 'hours' 'seconds' and 'minutes' on the list of special features that the watch has. The drawing on the right was from a story about a rebellious princess who refused to marry the husband that her father has lined up for her, Prince Fizzlebottom. In this scene the king has had to go to bed from shock at her display of disobedience.
Here are a few other odds and ends that I liked... and at the bottom an illustration I did from my favourite book at the time: 'The Phantom Tolbooth' by Norton Juster (illustrated by Jules Feiffer). I did my own illustration of the climax of the story where the characters are chased out of the mountains by an array of hideous creatures.
The Golden Book of Comics was passed on to me by my dad, along with a few Eagle annuals, when I was quite young. It’s a 320-page collection of comics, short stories, jokes, games and suggestions of things to do and make. There’s no date in the book, but from doing a bit of research online I think was probably published in 1952. I was always quite fascinated by it because the style of the comics and stories was so different to what I was used to… the whole thing had a bit of an alien quality. I found it so odd that words which would now almost always be abbreviated with an apostrophe in a comic book (it’s, I’m) were often left as two separate words.
There were lots of references which were pretty outdated, as in the joke “How do you make trousers last? Make the coat and waistcoat first!” There was also a story that mystified me because it was all about digging up a road that was made from tar and wooden blocks. I found it strange that the comic strips always had text under each panel, basically repeating what was said in the panel but in slightly more detail. Also many of the pages had a box with a page-heading that again repeated what was happening in the strip.
Even though I found lots of it quite twee, there were plenty of things I genuinely enjoyed (although I was never tempted to play the party-game where you select smelly items from your kitchen and blindfold each other in an identify-the-smell competition). The things you could make just with a newspaper and a pair of scissors I did do, though... more than once.
One of the first things you notice when you look through it is that there are numerous racial and cultural characterisations that would be completely unacceptable today. Every possible racial stereotype crops up from Mexican bandits to South Sea Islanders to Native Americans to gipsies to Arabs. In the panel here, the conclusion shows the captain of a whaling ship finally accepting his son’s eskimo friend, and deciding rather abruptly to take him with them. There’s no suggestion that he has any kind of life that he might miss by leaving so suddenly.
There are also very few exciting roles for girls in the stories. The short stories encompass every classic 50s convention that you can think of: adventurers, pilots, smugglers, cowboys, stow-aways, pirates and people being rescued by dogs. A surprising number of the comic strips follow exactly the same format which revolves around the notion of luck… the characters have a mishap that looks pretty bad, until it’s revealed that they’ve inadvertently managed to achieve something good. A schoolboy detective incurs the wrath of his headmaster while trying to solve the mystery of the school thefts… and then escaping from the teacher by climbing a tree he finds a magpie’s nest and inside are the missing items! Even more improbably, in another strip two circus clowns manage to knock the roof off someone’s house… but everything turns out alright when the lost family treasure is found inside the ruins.
Many of the illustrations in the book are quite lovely, and I’ve selected some examples to feature here.
I recently read Tekkonkinkreet - a manga about two street urchins living in a city called Treasure Town. Because I enjoyed it so much I thought I'd write about it here & show some of my favourite panels. It's a long book and there's a lot to it, but one of the things that I enjoyed about it most was the quality of the characterisation of the two main characters Black and White, so I thought I'd focus mainly on that.
I don’t think it’s ever stated whether they’re brothers or friends, but a lone drawing at the back of the book showing the two as much younger children hints that they might be brothers. In any case they have a strange, symbiotic relationship and the story develops White’s character first then Black’s. White reminded me of Myshkin in ‘The Idiot’… a novel that I read last year. He’s depicted as an unworldly, simple innocent in a cutthroat world. Black is violent and disturbed, but fiercely protective of White. Not that the duality is as simple as their names suggest; White takes part in their violent skirmishes with as much enthusiasm as Black at times.
Matsumoto’s quality of line is very different from mine… I smooth things out almost obsessively but his lines are wobbly & his drawings often have ugly elements (notably White’s runny nose & gaping mouth). The style is visceral & raw (even though it’s also very sophisticated), and for me the effect is to make the boys seem very real and physical, making the moment when White is stabbed with a sword especially horrific. The anime film they made of Tekkonkinkreet is very good, but has been criticised for softening the style & therefore losing the kind of impact that scenes like this have in the comic.
Towards the end of the story when Black & White are forcibly separated by the police Black goes through an inner battle with himself, becoming increasingly deranged until he faces his own worst characteristics and then finally decides to pull himself back from the edge. His psychological journey includes admitting to difficult truths like having been jealous of White in the past. Treasure Town is depicted throughout as a chaos of noise & movement & crime… White can tune this out and can easily access an inner serenity, but for Black the search for meaning in the chaos is harder. The Grandpa character says “White is incredible. He’s completely untouched by this sewer of a city.” He also spends a lot of time trying to convince Black that he needs to find something to believe in.
It’s interesting that when Black emerges from his battle with the Minotaur (who represents all his personal demons) the first thing that happens to him is that a stranger shows him kindness. And it’s a security guard too – the kind of authority figure that he would ordinarily have placed himself in conflict with. His decision to change his relationship with the world is immediately rewarded. It’s also interesting that although they are both initially devastated by their separation, it is shown to be a necessary part of their journey. In his odd, intuitive wisdom White admits this when the policeman Sawada relents & offers to take him to Black and he says “not yet.”
One of my favourite scenes is when White goes through a phase of longing to go to school like normal kids, and the only way Black knows how to give him a go at it is to steal a random child’s backpack and then break into the school at night so that White can walk around. It’s funny but also full of pathos.
Some of the other things that particularly I love about Tekkonkinkreet:
Matsumoto’s use of sounds.
Some of his facial expressions & gestures (see these examples below)
*Sawada’s horror at White’s hysterical anguish as he senses Black’s battle with the Minotaur.
*White looking the wrong way when Black taps on the car window.
*Black’s unhinged face as he slides towards madness.