Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: THE ART PYRAMID!
Huzzah for fancy graphics, eh? Made it myself. Yessir, it’s like I’m an artist or something! So what is this marvel of modern graphic design? It’s a key that I think is lost on most artists coming along these days. This pyramid gets flipped on its head.
Artists, especially those in the comic art or conceptual design fields, are generally inspired by the vivid, deeply detailed and stylized creators that they know and love. They see the soot of dirt, the glare neon, or the smooth lines of ink that professionals do and immediately go to try and emulate that style, rather than stopping to understand why their heroes are capable of executing that style.
While it is tempting to go right for the stylized, recognizable art and start drawing the deep, sooty cityscapes of your favorite Superhero, it’s not the right place to start. Focus on the basics: Anatomy, Perspective, and Image Composition. Without a firm understanding of these principles, you’ll never develop a style that is anything beyond flash and flare. You won’t create the solid characters that Greg Capullo or JR Jr. do. You pages won’t flow like water (be the sequential or individual works of art). There will always be a level of “wrong” to your drawings. Your art will be flashy and pretty, but people won’t be drawn in like they could be because there’s a level of unbelievability to your creations. Get those foundations down before you move on. It’s a lot of hard work, grunt work, learning anatomy, vanishing points, the rule of thirds and all the other good stuff, but it’s work it in the end when you see your “unfinished” art starting to have impact.
That’s when you can work on finesse. Once you have your foundation built, and you have something strong to stand on, then you start making it stand out. You develop your sense of lighting and line weight, you start learning to add atmosphere to your art. You start making scenes turn into worlds and you can draw people into those worlds because the accuracy is there. They’re not snagged by broken perspective or wrong anatomy on the way in, you’re not breaking their suspended belief. This is the where you start to shine.
Finally, once the first two levels are solid, you start making those worlds you’re crafting your own. You’re making it your vision, and you’re doing it on a solid foundation so that it can stand on its own with no problem.
And guys, this applies to both realism and cartoon style art as well! Remember, in many ways cartooning is harder than realism. You have to know what to leave out and what to put in to convey your message in as few lines as possible. One line too many or too few and you’re dead in the water!
I hope this makes sense! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!
Talk to you soon, guys!