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18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud: #2

A precise thought and composition, quickly executed by Moebius as a design for the film Alien.

2) It’s very important to educate your hand. Make it achieve a level of high obedience so that it will be able to properly and fully express your ideas. But be very careful of trying to obtain too much perfection, as well as too much speed as an artist. Perfection and speed are dangerous — as are their opposites. When you produce drawings that are too quick or too loose, besides making mistakes, you run the risk of creating an entity without soul or spirit.

As you can see, there are at least two opposing elements at play here.

High technical skills give you the freedom to play without worrying about screwing up. If you become too skill-obsessed, however, you run the risk of killing the spirit of whatever you’re trying to convey. Your pursuit of perfection and control might eliminate the chance for what we call “happy accidents”, those little happenstance miracles that are often the key to what brings a picture, panel or page to life.

A nice combination of tight and loose in this portrait of Lieutenant Blueberry by Giraud.

The pursuit of speed, however, can end up making you sloppy or undisciplined. It can be difficult to recapture those skills you have honed over the years if you continually indulge in such looseness in your attempt to become a faster artist.

“Good enough” is not. You should always attempt to do your absolute best, whether it means working slow or fast. Always do what your pictorial premise requires of you.

5 thoughts on “18 Tips for Comic Book Artists by Jean “Moebius” Giraud: #2

  1. Bill, I’d be interested in your thoughts on the two tangents…the far left figure touching the frame line, and the top of the structure, almost touching the top frame line. For me, I would have left just a bot more of air, or taken it beyond the crop. The Blueberry piece is really nice as well…

  2. Hi Bill, this is an exceptionally valuable point. I can recall the very moment, all those years ago, when I realized that I was trying WAY too hard to finish a drawing with speed as my top concern. It was causing me to cinch up, freezing my progress into literally not being able to move my hands.

    It was madness; I had been flying through this drawing of a robot for just a small while when I found myself absolutely lost in the effort. None of my lines had any “connection” to the others; I was erasing lines as much, if not more, than drawing them; it certainly wasn’t looking nearly as cohesive as my thumbnail of it and I was visibly shaking with emotional frustration.

    Then, suddenly, it just dawned on me, “Hey, just slow down. Take it easy, what’s the rush? You know what you want it to look like. Take whatever amount of time, and effort, it takes to get that look. Have fun with it!” Wham! Everything turned around; I realized I had been focused on being as fast as possible instead of being as good as possible! I took a deep breath, relaxed, emptied all the emotional baggage of the moment and then the drawing really started happening.

    I could clearly see the pitfalls I had created in this drawing. For example: I wasn’t laying done loose, light lines as a base; I was jumping right into finished lines. I was trying to freehand everything (long straight lines, curves, ovals, squares, etc.). I was adding shading before all the line work was done. I hadn’t established my light source. It was a failure just waiting to happen.

    And the worst thing had been that my thinking, to start with, was “Man, I hope I can draw this robot!” Imagine! So, when I cleared the deck and started again, the first thing I thought was “I’m going to draw a robot.” It ended up being a really fun drawing and a real eye-opener. Moebius really nailed it with this as is your take on it.

  3. @Rick:
    I have found that a true tangent destroys depth and form —but, almost counter-intuitively, a near tangent can create a three-dimensional effect.

    It’s late at night right now; tomorrow I’ll see if I can shoot and post an example to prove my point (with the very piece that fostered my discovery).

    On the other hand, the picture I posted above might not be Jean’s original cropping.

    You’ve shared a great example of a personal revelation that helps to illuminate our discussion; thank you.

    I often tell my students that if you draw slower, you’ll actually end up drawing faster. Again, that may sound counter-intuitive, but think about it. By drawing a little more thoughtfully and carefully, you’ll most likely end up not erasing and redrawing so much, as you did with your first attempt to draw that robot.

  4. I know artists all draw in different ways. So I am curious as to whether either of you are sketching an action line pose (often called a stick-figure). As an animator, that is the main starting point for me. It allows me speed and freedom initially, and also to see the strength and nuance of a pose before really getting into the drawing. From there I will usually lay in basic forms to assure proper connections and volumes. (that also is pretty quick.) After that, my real drawing begins.

    Now I have seen Bill do drawings when he signs a book. It is something I wish I had taken video of. If you haven’t seen it, Bill starts some rhythmic line, usually the spine I believe. Then others magically grow from it. You can see he is making decisions on size and placement of detail of each line. (But he does it rather quickly). So I am curious Bill if that is they way your generally draw because you have drawn so many dinos and dragons that you CAN do it that way. Or, if you at other times use the method I described for myself? One clarification I guess…if the form is more condensed into a shape, or itself, I would block out that primal shape first, and then work out the intricacies within it. Thanks, Rick

  5. Excellent posts. The point about speed is a good one, although some of my favorite artists are speed demons, particularly Robert Andrew Parker and Quentin Blake. Of course, their styles are loose to begin with. Personally, I’m at the point where drawing fast is extremely enjoyable. Perhaps it’s because I spent so many years drawing as carefully as I could for clients when I was a freelance illustrator 🙂

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