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Foundations In Comic Book Art

Fundamental Tools & Techniques For Sequential Artists

John Paul Lowe
$24.99 US/ $28.99 CAN
Watson Guptill Publications

I believe everyone can draw. We all drew as little kids. Drawing seems quickly outgrown for most kids by the time they’ve finished grade school if not sooner in favor of video games and sports or just because drawing and coloring is for “babies”. Ask any artist what they hear people say a lot to them and chances are one answer will be “I can’t draw a straight line (or a circle)”. What those people really mean is they don’t draw as well as the artist or they can’t see themselves making photo realistic drawings. They don’t have confidence or knowledge about how to draw or even how to start. True, some artistically inclined people have more talent than others, but even those more gifted people will need to have desire and discipline if they want to do something with their abilities.

John Lowe believes everyone can draw, too and his Foundations In Comic Book Art is designed to put aspiring comic book artists on the path of making their dream into a reality. Lowe’s comics career began in 1991 with DC and he’s worked for Marvel, Image, Archie, and Dark Horse. Since 2002 Lowe has been associated with the Savannah College of Art and Design as instructor, Sequential Art Department chair, and dean of the School of Communication Arts. SCAD’s reputation speaks for itself.

Foundations In Comic Book ArtDesire and discipline are keys for turning that dream into a reality. You’ve got desire. You may be lacking in discipline. You’ll need a primer to get you going.

Lowe presents a wealth of information and solid advice in a clear step by step fashion to do just that by introducing the basic tools, practices, and habits. Lowe opens by explaining the most fundamental materials: paper, pencil, and eraser. For example, there is a lot of difference in how the lead of #2 pencil and a pencil with 2H lead creates a line. Using the right one will keep art smudge and hassle free. Frrom there Lowe continues in the Learning To See and Perspective Basics chapters to build on this base with instructions and exercises on using simple shapes to draw complex objects, creating objects with volume, and how to make a believale space for in which to place figures and objects to inhabit. These are crucial skills an artist will want to develop and rely on as building blocks for sequential art.

Figure drawing is focused on in its own chapter. Lowe discusses gesture drawing, foreshortening of and drawing the figure from memory, and tackling the challenge of drawing multiple figures. Lowe suggests looking for and taking figure drawing classes that may be available in your area. Drawing people from life in that kind of setting provides great experience for the artist. In a classroom setting most instructors will have models do a variety of timed poses from quick 30 or 60 seconds gesture drawings to longer studies of one or several hours. Having a figure model in the same room also helps to develop a keener sense of volume, how muscles and bones work as well as how light and shadow affect perception. Failing resources for life drawing, Lowe suggests two websites designed specifically for artists in search of figural reference. They’re good sources, and one shows the musculature of the bodies. Figure drawing can be a complicated process if one doesn’t break the body down into simple shapes. Foreshortening can be a maddening hurdle for artists. The one example in this chapter is good though I think a few more could have been included. As it is, the sole illustration seems to have somewhat exaggerated legs in comparison to the torso even when taking the angles and viewpoints into account. Considering the importance of human figures in a visual medium, I found this chapter to be a little disappointing due to its short length (eight pages) and lack of any mention of the importance of understanding anatomy. This is not a reason to bypass this book as a resource though I do think you’ll want to add a book devoted solely to figure drawing to your personal library. Something along the lines of Sarah Simblet’s Anatomy For The Artist (see link below) might be nice though you may find one you like better by browsing at your local bookstore. Photo reference is good and frequently useful though not alays a substitute when finding a pose you need proves impossible.

The remainder of the book focuses on visual problem solving, inking, and software apps. Lowe shows how skills and practices from preceding chapters come together here in the planning stage of thumbnail drawings. Two chapters are devoted to traditional and advanced inking methods. Lowe’s very effective and persuasive in conveying why an artist should work to master using pen and brush, along with other useful items to create texture and depth for added visual interest. These chapters are packed with samples of finished inked art and techniques to practice and have fun with experimenting which I encourage you to do! Inking may seem intimidating in the beginning, but it will also build confidence in your own work once you’ve got the skills down. Over the years I’ve read many opinions about how an inker can make or break an artist’s pencil work. Think Joe Sinnot versus Vince Colletta inks on Jack Kirby pencils. Why not be the best you can be? Lowe takes the last chapter to demystify using the perspective tools in both Photoshop and Manga Studio. Using either of these programs is a snap compared to drawing perspective by hand. Also included here are instructions on using Manga Studio’s screen tone patterns.

Reading Foundations was informative, enjoyable, and motivational. Overall I think it is an excellent primer and worthwhile investment for budding comic book artists to make in their career.

Consider supporting your local bookstore or comic shop or purchase from Amazon.

Foundations in Comic Book Art: SCAD Creative Essentials (Fundamental Tools and Techniques for Sequential Artists)

Anatomy for the Artist

March 7, 2015
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