Monday, April 19, 2010
Mr. Comic with Dave and David
Since the scripts come dialogue-only, I've decided to use the strips as a platform for pushing myself into different areas. This time around, the experiment wasn't so much playing around with the whole time/space mash-up that comics allows, but in trying to dispense with any pen and ink trickery and in going for a Hergé-inspired ligne claire piece.
Which is to say: contours with no differentiating weights, no crosshatching or any other pen shading effects, and flat colors with no real hierarchy - - which is what the emotional tone of Eleanore's speech seems to call for.
I didn't get there, of course. It's a style that many great cartoonists have pursued without much luck, and these are people who worship the Hergé school. I'm largely ignorant of it, so to do a perfect version on the first try would be something, no?
For starters, I realized about ten minutes into the inking phase that to really do things right, I'd need a mechanical pen. And I somehow don't have one, anymore. Weird, because the Rapidograph was my primary tool for the better part of my teen years, and I always kept a functional one around for clean up and panel borders long after I switched to dip pens.
For those not steeped in comics inking issues: dip pens have a nib that flexes while you draw - meaning that the line weight alters with the amount of pressure you apply, and how much ink is on the nib. A Rapidograph delivers a fixed-width line and has a constant ink flow. Both tools have their uses, but as I've moved even from nibs to brush inking, my need for a Rapidograph has declined sharply over the years.
Mostly, the Rapidograph is a architect's and draughtsman's tool, and with the exception of the ligne claire style, it has no use in comics. It's a dead line, and most comics need a living one. But given how lumpy all of my architectural details came out in this piece, I sure could have used one.
The other issue was with color, which is always a spooky voodoo area for me. I realize that the colors are a cheat here - even leaving aside the gradient sunbeam, I just lack the experience to trust myself to use no color clues as to the depth of the space. A true ligne claire artist would be able to use one single tone for the entire wall, and it would work. For me, it just looked like a giant lump of blue. So I treated the space as four layers, and darkened each layer as it moved towards the viewer in space by about fifteen percent.
I did resist the urge to do any highlights or lowlights, usually a big crutch for me, and I guess I'll be happy to accept the bronze medal for that. Two out of three.
I realized after the fact that - although I don't have any Hergé in my influences, a strong hint of Bil Keane, of all people, came into play. Also a cartoonist who used flat color and simple linework very effectively (although Keane was a brush man, a trait I've picked up), and who did may strips that featured one character in multiple places over single backdrop. The main character here also owes a debt to Keane's Thel, the bosomy yet rail-thin mother from The Family Circus.
Here's a look at the blue pencil grid.
Can I tell you what a pain it was making sure all the steps, rails and risers were spaced out properly? Those math classes are starting to pay off!