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

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

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

  1. Wow! Great studies in composition and design….and also some breathtaking use of color….

    Nice picks, Bill!

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