Creative? Me? I wish….

I don’t have much in the way of imagination, at least when it comes to visual art. This isn’t as crippling to a comic artist as you might think, although it is incredibly annoying. I can’t picture a panel before I draw it. I knew this was a disadvantage before, but what’s really brought it home is the beautiful panels that I’ve been drawing for Dragon’s Fall. William has gobs of visual imagination, and his writing shows that. It’s too bad he can’t draw; it would save a lot of back-and-forth over page design. He will eventually learn some rules about what can and can’t be communicated in a panel or page, and then things will go more smoothly. I hope I can learn from working with him to think like a cinematographer in choosing a focus or angle, if only by learning rules through looking at his results. LleuGarnock could definitely be improved in that regard.

My comic panels tend to focus in on the character’s faces. There are a lot of reasons for that. I guess the most important reason is that so far, the life of the LleuGarnock story is in the dialogue. The best complement to dialogue is facial expressions, but it doesn’t have to be as consistent as LG has been. I’d like to do more, but I also like getting through the drawings so I can get back to thinking about the story. It takes a lot of effort for me to think outside the box with my panels. The plus to this is that I’ve gotten a lot of practice with facial expressions, which I need.

William’s scripts are a delight to draw. The described focuses and angles have drama built into them. The surroundings are described in detail, and are generally easy to find photo reference for. I love photo reference because I don’t have to try to prod something interesting out of my limited imagination. Seriously, if left to its own devices every piece of furniture it produced would be a plain box, and every outfit would include long-sleeved t-shirts.

We have misunderstandings because William tends to assume that I can draw things that look how I want them to look. Now, admittedly I’ve been known to draw some pretty cool things, but the disconnect is that I had no idea what it would look like beforehand. My normal procedure is to scribble all over the place until I get an idea of the main structures, then put in some details and keep changing things until it looks good. Sometimes a picture will go through some funny-looking phases, and I’ve made the mistake of letting him see some of those. Well, it’s a good thing my self-esteem is so resilient.

Admittedly I probably would have freaked out in a similar situation. I’m not sure. I’ve only seen a few drawings of my own characters done by other artists, and they were just standing there smiling. If it had been in a dramatic situation on a comic page with an inappropriately negative facial expression, I might even be angry. Yeah, I need to work on my facial expressions and body language. Also, I need to learn how to draw hands better. I can draw my hands, but they are too chubby to model for most characters. When I try to go thinner, the hands can look a lot more tense than I intend when they’re gripping things. Is a problem.

I hope I can develop some better reflexes in terms of framing a panel while I’m working on these first few pages of Dragon’s Fall, because if I can learn things now, I can apply them to the action scenes in LleuGarnock that are approaching. The fourth chapter is not exactly action-packed, but it’s got some definitely exciting interludes.

Now, I’m worried about the drawing style for Dragon’s Fall, and this is why. I know I can draw images in the noir style, because I have done it before, with time and extensive reference and a relatively simple pose. But I can’t do that same process over and over. For one thing, I just don’t have enough reference. The reasons I can draw LleuGarnock with any kind of time efficiency are 1.) the character designs are simple and 2.) I can fall back on my mental library of manga stylistic conventions when I need to. This library is only accessible because I spent four years learning it, before I started my first comic project (which it is not my policy to advertise, although it exists on the net) where I first tried to reproduce a character in manga style doing different things. I have no such library for noir. My years of practice begin now, with this project.

I have a lot of motivation pushing me to do it right, to get the reference I need and take the time to perfect every panel. That motivation comes from my relationship with the story, and with William, which have always sort of blurred together to form one amorphous entity. Without the story, we only have so much in common. I know he cares about these characters, and so I will strive to make these pages not only good enough for me, but good enough for William, and as good as the characters deserve. I don’t know how far that will take me, and I don’t know how much it will slow down my work. I guess I have to hope I learn fast.

Style and I have a strange relationship. I haven’t developed a style I can stick to because, well, I don’t know all of them yet so I don’t know what kind I prefer. Obviously if I had a visual imagination this would be easier, since I could imagine my characters drawn in lots of different styles without actually drawing them. But I can’t.

The other odd thing about me and style is that I’m not limited at all by technical skill – at least not so I’ve noticed. I mean, I have to learn the techniques, obviously, and I didn’t end up perfecting my brush and ink technique before I switched to digital work, but pretty much if I know what I want something to look like, I can draw/paint/GIMP it into existence.

Yes, my self-esteem is quite healthy.

It’s my imagination that’s lacking. I just don’t know what to draw.

Even when I have a style, like my manga library or my LG character designs, and even when I have a story I want to tell, it isn’t enough to inspire what I would call art. I need a vision. I need a visual idea of how to communicate something through an image. Without this, LleuGarnock is barely better than the reviled stereotype of talking heads. This is what makes me despair.

Sometimes, if I am very lucky, I will be drawing something inspired by a piece of writing (usually mine or William’s) and maybe some reference imagery, and I will look at my picture and I will see its destiny. I will see something that’s working, the color and shadow coming together to form beauty. If I am extremely lucky, I will have an idea about how to make it come to life, how to bring out that element. If I succeed, then it becomes art.

This is extremely rare. It happened with that first noir character sketch, and it happened with the second panel of Dragon’s Fall. So I am hoping that William has enough magic power in his writing to make real art happen to me more often. Forget the time it takes, forget the schedule, if that happens it will be the best outcome I could wish for.

I wish to create real art.


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