Comic Con International

July 22nd, 2014

The final installment of the Moebius tips for comic book artists will have to wait (believe me, it’ll be worth the wait), as I am about to head down to San Diego for Comic Con International. If you’re one of the lucky few (130,000) to get tickets, please come by my booth over in the area of the Dealers Room set aside for illustrators and fantasy illustration (my double booth will be in my usual spot). I will have the booth set up as an art gallery with 50 original works for sale, including my huge Nosferatu piece commissioned by Mondo.

I will also debut William Stout -50 Convention Sketches Volume 20 (!) and Monsters Sketchbook Volume 5.

I hope to see you there!

18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud: #17

July 21st, 2014

17) When new work has been sent to an editor and it receives a rejection, you should always ask for and try to discover the reasons for the rejection.

Don’t take it personally.

What you hear might sting a little, but it also just might possibly put you on the path to making you a better artist.

As I often put it to my students:

Criticism is a gift. If the person criticizing your work knows what they’re talking about, listen carefully. Their criticism may sting a bit but it’s intended to make you better so, ultimately, what’s the downside? And if they don’t know what they’re talking about, then who cares?

If I want someone to tell me my work is great, I’ll show it to my mom. She never fails me. But her telling me I’m great is not going to make me a better artist.

By studying the reasons for our failure, only then can we begin to learn. It is not about struggle with our limitations, with the public or with the publishers.

You are not in competition with anyone but yourself.

Everyone develops at a different pace or rate, so stop comparing yourself to other artists. You should be working to become the best you that you can be.

One should treat it with more of an aikido approach. It is the very strength and power of our adversary that is used as the key to his defeat.

Here’s a personal example that also relates to the joke:
Q: Why did the hippie cross the road?
A: Because someone told him not to.

While I was in art school, I turned in an assignment in one of my illustration classes. My instructor, a an old school workaday illustrator named Sy Mezerow looked at it and said, “Your lettering is terrible. You should give up on lettering — don’t even try. Leave it to someone who is good at it.”

That really pissed me off. With a big, youthful chip on my shoulder I was determined to show him or anyone else who saw my work that I could be a damn fine letterer. I worked long and hard on my lettering skills. Eventually, I received satisfying vindication when some of the jobs I got in the movie poster advertising industry were solely for those skills I had perfected (the title lettering for the James Bond movie Octopussy is an example).

Art by my pal Dan Goozee...

...lettering by Yours Truly.

Next: Drawing as Communication

To easily access this entire series, go to:

18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud: #16

July 20th, 2014

16) There are times when we knowingly head down a path of failure, choosing the wrong theme or subject for our capabilities, or choosing a project that is too large, or an unsuitable technique.

If this happens, you must not complain later.

An artist should experiment and risk falling on his face.

It can often be publicly embarrassing, but out of errors often comes growth.

Eventually, though, as Dirty Harry put it, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Why keep beating your head against a wall? Admit that there are some things that are just beyond your capabilities and just move on. Not everyone can be an opera singer or a ballet dancer no matter how badly they want it.

Next: Dealing with Rejection

To easily access this entire series, go to:

18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud #15

July 19th, 2014

Jean Giraud, circa the first time we met, many decades ago.

“I started in 1957 when I sold my first story to a magazine.”

— Jean Giraud

15) At the beginning of an artist’s career, he should principally involve himself in the creation of very high quality short stories.

Humble (but promising) beginnings: early western comics page by Giraud. His early self-penned comics exhibited a tendency to overwrite. He sure cured himself of that with Arzak!

He has a better chance (than with long format stories) of successfully completing them, while maintaining a high standard of quality.

It's better to start small...

...than to attempt something overly ambitious and far beyond your capabilities.

It will also be easier to place them in a book or sell them to a publisher.

Never forget to consider the business end of being an artist.

Two master storytellers: Moebius and Will Eisner.

Once this short form has been mastered to some extent, then the artist can feel free to move on to a longer form with some degree of confidence in his or her storytelling skills.

Moebius thumbnail layouts for an Arzak story.

Moebius once asked this about his stories:
“What do they whisper? Words of love, family stories? Are they in business? It’s a mystery, the beginning of a novel … This scene that I draw, almost hiding, excites my imagination.”

Giraud was a master of both short form and long form comics storytelling. Here’s a two-pager by Jean:

Study it. There’s more here than first meets the eye.

Next: Man Up

To easily access this entire series, go to:

18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud: #14

July 17th, 2014

A full palette color scheme is difficult at best. Here, Moebius pulls it off in stunning fashion.

14) Color is a language that the graphic artist uses to manipulate his reader’s attention as well as to create beauty.

Jean “Moebius” Giraud was a master of color. The previous 12 installments of this series all illustrate that quite well. Nevertheless, it’s always fun to look at Moebius’ work just for its color, so I will stuff this little chapter with lots of Jean’s art, exhibiting that he had no trouble whatsoever creating beauty using one basic color as a scheme or a combination of colors — or very little color at all.

Beginning with red and working our way through the spectrum:

This poster has graced my studio for decades. I picked it up on my first trip to Paris.

Gir captured all the subtle varieties of the red earth in western settings like Utah.

Primarily an orange color scheme with complementary accents and a surprising red.

Above: Some muted yellow color schemes.

Green is supposed to be the toughest color to work with — but look what Jean does with it.

The complementary color accents of red or orange really makes these pieces sing.

Ahhh, blue! So cool…

Jean’s use of process blue here almost makes me feel like I’m underwater.

This design for Alien is primarily variations of blue with a nice, complementary orange accent.

Moebius’ use of this very primary turquoise (with complementary yellow-orange accents) imparts a child-like quality to the machine that dominates this picture.

Here Jean’s use of turquoise and pink give this dangerous situation a whimsical feel.

Another example of a blue-dominate (accented with orange) color scheme…

…and another sublime example.

Moebius grayed his purples for this piece.

Grayed purples and lavenders are wonderful things indeed.

Who needs pure hues? Jean works wonders with browns…

How about a vibrant black and gray piece?

Let’s move on to multiple schemes.

These two Arzak pages use the classic red-yellow-blue primary colors scheme…

…as do these.

I couldn’t find one of my favorite color schemes (the three secondary colors: orange-green-purple) in Jean’s online work, so I’m reluctantly (I really want this to be about Moebius — not me) posting one of my own pieces with this palette:

The above are a rarity: two similar pieces by Moebius. Both are dominated by a kind of blue-green scheme; one with a gold accent, the other accented with pink.

Blue with various red (and brick red) complements.

In the piece above, blue is used to complement the overall tan and muted pastel orange scheme.

Above: Green with a complementary red accent (am I stating the obvious?).

Very delicate; almost no color.

A mini-symphony of muted pastels. Speaking of pastels…

Here’s a pastel scheme mixed with burnt siennas:

There is objective and subjective color.

Color can be arbitrary; it does not necessarily need to be “realistic”. An artist does not have the limitations that bind a photographer.

This Van Gogh painting depicts this woman (in this portrait from the Norton Simon Museum) with green and yellow skin and alizarin lips. Who cares? It works, and the color gives a whisper to the viewer about whom this woman is.

Pretty in pink.

The emotional states of the characters can change or influence the color from one panel to the next, as can place and time of day.

The example above clearly takes place at dawn.

It’s what we in the Film Biz call “Magic Hour” in the picture above.

And, of course, there’s sunset.

This step-by-step shows that Moebius was just as adept with digital color as he was painting traditionally.

A muted example of a full palette scheme.

Special study and attention must be paid to the language of color.

And how!

Next: Start Small

(Moebius tribute by Tihomir Tikulin)

To easily access this entire series, go to:

18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud: #13

July 15th, 2014

This next tip is rather difficult to illustrate, so I decided to go a different route. Since music is the main topic here, the pictures used as illustrations for Tip #13 are all Jimi Hendrix related.

Moebius and I shared a huge passion for Jimi Hendrix. Most of the pictures here came from a fantastic boxed Moebius portfolio devoted to Jimi Hendrix. These are some of my favorite works by Jean. Here is the cover to that box:

13) There is a connection between music and drawing.

I often see my own big paintings as symphonies, with color accents performing as grace notes.

The size of that connection depends upon your personality and what’s going on at that moment.

I can also look at one of my paintings and tell you what piece of music I was listening to when I created certain passages in the painting.

This was the first Moebius Hendrix piece, an actual foldout LP cover, drawn many years prior to Jean's Hendrix portfolio.

For the last ten years I’ve been working in silence; for me, there is music in the rhythm of my lines.

Although I don’t work in silence (except when I’m writing), I can see how drawing and painting in silence might give one greater concentration or focus.

Drawing at times is a search for discoveries.

Yes! And feel free to take chances and make mistakes. I think I learn more from my mistakes than from my successes. You also open up the opportunity for what we in The Biz call “happy accidents”.

A precise, beautifully executed line is like an orgasm!

I don’t recall the perfect execution of a piece of line work ever making me cum, but it has certainly given me enormous satisfaction at times.

Next: The Language of Color

18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud: #12

July 14th, 2014

12) Beware of the devastating influence of North American comic books.

…or the works of Frank Frazetta — or any other art that displays immediate, dazzling or hypnotic power on its surface. It’s easy to be seduced away from the development of your own style; you risk becoming just another clone of your hero. Study them like crazy, if you want — but also always try to look below the surface to see if their work has true depth and longevity. Frank’s stuff does, primarily because it’s so personal and is such a deep expression of him and who he is — but the work of most of the current lot of popular superhero artists will fall by the wayside in a few short years, as it just doesn’t have the depth or layers to sustain any amount of serious interest with anyone whose tastes have matured.

Jean “Moebius” Giraud occasionally delved into the world of mainstream superheroes.

His most famous collaboration in this genre was with Stan Lee for some Silver Surfer comics.

The mystical nature of the Silver Surfer was a good fit with Moebius.

Giraud also created a series of Marvel superhero pin-ups.

He never failed to put his own stamp on each character.

He saw and interpreted them all with fresh eyes.

The artists in Mexico (where I believe Giraud was speaking) seem to only study their surface effects: a little bit of anatomy mixed with dynamic compositions, monsters, fights, screaming and teeth.

I don’t know about you, but with me that stuff gets very boring, very quickly and looks painfully adolescent and unsophisticated. The over-the-top agonized expressions on the faces of so many of these overly-muscled superheroes make it seem to me as if they’re suffering from terminal constipation, as if they’re straining to force out the world’s largest stool. I find such stuff embarrassing.

I like some of that stuff too, but there are many other possibilities and expressions that are also worthy of exploration.

Discovering and experimenting with those alternate forms of expression is what ultimately separates the men from the boys.

Here are some of Jean’s other forays into the worlds of superheroes:

Even Jean’s pictures of superheroes are always thoughtful, beautifully designed and hauntingly classy.

Next: Music and Drawing

18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud: #11

July 11th, 2014

The text and dialogue are beautifully placed and become part of the composition in this Moebius Major Grubert page.

11) The narration must harmonize with the drawings.

Gir's spotting and placement of the word balloons leads the reader effortlessly and clearly through the page.

There must be a visual rhythm created by the placement of your text.

Alex Toth placed his dialogue balloons so as to lead the reader exactly where Toth wanted them to go.

Few (if any) comic artists did this better than Alex Toth. Also, eliminate any redundant text. You don’t need to describe an action that your reader can already clearly see your character doing.

Here are some other Toth examples:

Toth was a master at using sound effects to help tell his story. From the way he designed them, you can tell where the sound is coming from — or whether the sound overlapped and dominated into the next panel.

Note the percussive sound effects as the plane engine sputters and how in the following panel Toth uses the sound effects to also convey trouble and motion.

Toth designed the laughter so that it appears to echo in the background. Brilliant.

Toth’s made his design and placement of sound effects crucial to the enhancement of this story’s action sequences.

The text in this Toth page is nearly all sound effects (ignore the stupid Hot Wheels logo).

The sound effects in these Toth panels express both time, volume (loudness) and movement.

The rhythm of your plot should be reflected in your visual cadence and the way you compress or expand time.

In the panel above, Toth breaks up the dialogue block into a series of small balloons that slow down time and take the reader through the character’s thought process.

Harvey Kurtzman was great at this, too. By visual repetition Kurtzman has conveyed the slow meander down the sluggish river of this corpse of a fallen soldier.

By slowly pulling back, Harvey again slows time while also conveying the corpse’s somber merging with its environment.

Kurtzman’s series of vertical sound balloons in this page reinforce the art’s vertical nature and composition while creating an effect that evokes the staccato nature of his characters’ dialogue.

By slightly varying his repetition of the same images, Harvey slows down time to allow the male characters in his story to savor the charms of and fantasize about the beautiful woman who is strolling their way.

The size that Kurtzman chose to make his sound effects on this page help to indicate their distance from the characters.

This Kurtzman story (Kurtzman: script and layouts; Wallace Wood: finished pencils and inks) for MAD was famously without dialogue — the entire story was told using only sound effects.

By having the hero standing with his back to us and the careful placement of the dialogue balloons, Moebius takes you from our hero and leads you right in to focus on the story’s heavies. The sounds of the “quiver shivs” emanate from the weapons themselves in these scenes from “The Long Tomorrow”.

Sometimes dialogue and descriptions aren’t necessary.

Moebius broke new ground with his Arzak stories which were completely devoid of description and dialogue.

Some more of “The Long Tomorrow”, Jean’s collaboration with Dan (Alien) O’Bannon, showing minimal (but well-placed) dialogue. This story became the design template for the film Blade Runner.

Moebius’ placement of dialogue on this page is superb, as is his storytelling. The sex, of course, grabs you but it’s the last four panels that slowly draw you closer to the story’s protagonist, taking you into his personal space, as he is about to learn a very important secret…

Like a film maker, you must be very careful in how you cast your characters and in how you direct them.

Even in this extremely simple Moebius drawing, the schlubs are interesting. Jean even depicts himself unflatteringly as a somewhat dazed schlub (twice!).

Even “dull” characters should be interesting. The seemingly mundane characters on the brilliant and compelling TV show Fargo are a great example of this.

Use your characters or “actors”  like a director, studying and then selecting from all of your characters’ different takes.

Experiment with different reactions. Try having your character react in a fashion opposite to what you (or your reader) would expect. The female sex partner in “The Long Tomorrow” turns out to be very different from what we as the reader assumed she would be:

Next: Dipping Below the Surface to Do Something Different

18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud: #10

July 10th, 2014

Starwatcher 2 by Moebius exhibits beautiful and elegant divisions of space.

10) Another important element is composition.

Composition and design — much more than drawing — have grown with importance to me with each passing year.

The compositions in our stories should be studied because a page or a painting or a panel is a face that looks at the reader and speaks to him. A page is not just a succession of insignificant panels.

It’s a visual dance that requires rhythm, boldness, subtlety and accents that all relate to each other.

There are panels that are full…

Comic book panels don't get much fuller than this scene from Moebius' Arzak book (As with all of the pictorial examples, click to enlarge).

Some that are empty…

Others are vertical…

Some horizontal…

All are indications of the artist’s intentions.

Your choices are important, as they can dramatically effect the story that your telling and how your readers perceive it.

Vertical panels excite the reader…

Horizontals calm him.

For us in the Western world (most Asian cultures read right to left), motion in a panel that goes from left to right represents action heading toward the future.

Moving from right to left directs action toward the past:

The directions we indicate represent a dispersion of energy.

Even having your character facing left evokes a kind of looking back...

An object or character placed in the center of a panel focuses and concentrates energy and attention.

An element of bi-symmetry evokes a religious connotation.

Centered people or objects, though, do not necessarily have to be bi-symmetrical.

These are basic reading symbols and forms that evoke in the reader a fascination, a kind of hypnosis.

You must be conscious of rhythm and set traps for the reader to fall into so that, when he falls, he gets lost, allowing you to manipulate and move him inside your world with greater ease and pleasure. That’s because what you have created is a sense of life.

You must study the great painters, especially those who speak with their paintings.

Few landscape painters come anywhere near the color, composition, values and majesty depicted in nearly every Thomas Moran landscape painting.

Their individual painting schools or genres or time periods should not matter.

John William Waterhouse had it all: vibrant color, bravado brushmanship (though tight when necessary), thoughtful plein air backgrounds and the timeless beauty of his men and women.

Their preoccupation with physical as well as emotional composition must be studied so that you learn how their combination of lines works to touch us directly within our hearts.

Next: The Placement of Your Text

18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud: #9

July 8th, 2014

9) When an artist, a real working artist, goes out on the street, he does not see things the same way as “normal” people.

Moebius depicts another creative giant: Jimi Hendrix.

That’s one big reason people become attracted to his or her work.

His unique vision is crucial to documenting a way of life and the people who live it.

The artist holds up a mirror to society, helping them to see what they encounter and take for granted on a daily basis with fresh new eyes.

Next: Composition