Friday, December 1, 2017

The Staging of Macbeth PT. 2

If you done the proper preparation with collecting research, working through all the storytelling and compositional problems, and drawing the pictures with a sense of drama and correct draftsmanship, the actual finishing stage is in some way the simplest part of the job. It is the icing on the cake; if it is finished poorly all the preparation is for naught. 

You have to remember that inking is more than just tracing off your pencil drawings. (In this case, I already did this by copying my pencil roughs onto bristol board, a surface tough upon to take the use and abuse of pen and ink.) With the inking stage you are transforming the mass of gray shapes into a cohesive statement in high contrast black and white.

It is very much a painting process where you are using the india ink as your medium. Every time you put in a line or add a bit of black, you have to continually interpolate the rest of the composition accordingly. I find on a lot of jobs I like laying in the black areas first, and adding only the necessary minimal amount of line necessary. I don't have any dogma about what should or shouldn't be done first. You just have to dive in and keep moving.

My background in comics taught me the necessity of having a very slick line in this stage. My experiences in doing illustration forced me to unlearn that concept and to let your drawing create the line that you use. So while I still admire those with the amazing facility with pen and brush lines, I don't seek to emulate them as much.

The last stage of this job was creating color guides for John Ott to work with. First off,  John is an accomplished colorist and he certainly could have done an amazing job without any input from me. Because I had a lot invested in this job, I wanted to give him a sense of what I wanted to see in the finish. He certainly took what I gave him and went far beyond my suggestions. Certainly one of the best color jobs I've ever had on a comic book project. Take a bow, Mr. Ott.  John also handled the lettering chores, and after balloon placement, I had the good sense not to give him any input here.

So there is your graphic story from start to finish. It's always a task that is infinitely harder than you ever think it will be, but it also has it's own special rewards when you see it finished. That must be the reason why I still continuously  crank out my own comic books as a hobby long after I've given it up as a career.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Staging of Macbeth PT. 1

When I was a youngster, my favorite comics were always the Classics Illustrated series, so as a professional it was my good fortune to actually do three jobs that were adaptations of classic material. One was Kidnapped (CLICK HERE) and the other two were for Boy's Life Magazine: The Hound of the Baskerville's (CLICK HERE) and Macbeth(CLICK HERE)

These jobs  required a lot more preparation than the normal work.When you're doing period pieces, you have to be extremely accurate with costumes and settings. Their are a thousand little details you have to deal with.

On Macbeth not only did I have the advantage of working on a Shakespeare play, but I also have an excellent sci-fi writer, the late Suzette Haden Elgin. The biggest problem for both of us was reducing a five act play to sixteen pages of comic book material.

Step one was doing character designs for all the principal players. For this I used several costume book for accurate reference. I also went to a number of famous illustrators like N.C. Wyeth, E.A. Abbey, Robert Fawcett and Dean Cornwell for their stylistic interpretations.

I also "cast" the actors. I used photo reference of Sean Connery for the lead, and Greta Garbo as his wife. Wherever possible, I also tracked down photo reference for the rest of the players.

The second step was to break the script down into a series of pictures that quickly and concisely moved the story along. As the compositions are worked out to best show the action, the placement of the captions and dialogue balloons are part of the process.

With penciling I make use of my character sketches, thumbnail drawings and whatever reference I have gathered. At this point most of the thinking problems have been solved and you're just slaving over the hard work of producing crisp and lively drawings. Normally, for comic books I was using the standard 10" x 15" paper size but with this story I was using 14" x 19" with the full page bleeds.

Next week: Ink the pencils and doing color roughs.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Mitchell Hooks

Since I know virtually nothing about Mitchell Hooks himself except that he was a fellow Detroiter,  the following is the artist's bio that appeared in Walt Reed's The Illustrator in America.

"The career of Mitchell Hooks (1923-1913), like that of many other artists of the post-World War II era has been involved to a great extent with paintings for paperback book covers. His interpretations have a strong poster quality, in keeping with the need to hold their own on display with other competing titles on the bookstands, but also have a subtlety and sensitivity that attracts a closer and longer look.

In addition to his book designs for Avon, Bantam, Dell, Popular Library and Fawcett publications, Hooks has illustrated for Costmopolitan, The Saturday Evening Post, The Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, McCall's, Woman's Day and other magazines.

Mitchell was born in Detroit, Michigan, and obtained his art education at the Cass Technical High School there. Later he studied further with James Billmeyer in New York. After the way, and Occupation duty as a Second Lieutenant in Germany, he returned to New York to begin his free-lance illustration career.

In recent years, Hooks has become more diversified, dividing his work between magazines, hardcover books, paperback covers and advertising. Hardcover books include illustrations for The Franklin Library, Reader's Digest Books and Coronado Publishers."

But while I know very little about the man himself, his illustrations have  been a source of inspiration to me since I first discovered them when I started my tearsheet collection many years back. Hooks was a precise draftsman,  and despite the spontaneous style that he painted in, that quality always showed through. He had a strong sense of color and knew how to effectively and emotionally use it. But what really sold me was the way his cinematic storytelling drew you into the complicated designs of his compositions.