Hello dear readers,
Something I’ve been struggling with drawing-wise lately (actually, pretty much forever) has been figuring out my art style.
It’s an incredibly nebulous thing. I can point out what things make my favorite artists’ styles unique, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what gives my artwork its distinctive “style”. I don’t even know if I have a style to speak of. With self-imposed release deadlines for my webcomics looming, this is a troubling thing for me.
In order to combat these worries, I’m going to analyze some of the aspects of my art that I’m concerned about and talk about what I admire in other artists’ work. Hopefully I can pinpoint what it is I want to improve upon and take steps to do so before I begin making pages for my short comic, “The Breeze Before the Storm”, set to launch in May or June. I really care about these stories Aiden and I are writing, so I want to create the best art that I can for them!
Style: Cute vs. Realism
I seem to have two art-modes. I either do really cute figures with beady eyes and slightly pudgy forms, or I have a blend of cartoon and realism with a dash of anime influence in the eyes. The cute one is easier to do, and it’s a bit more fun, but I feel like the story would lose some of its seriousness if I did a cute style. But then again, there are a myriad of delightfully cute comics that have serious, sad or even dark sides, so it could work if executed correctly. I’m just not sure I could find that balance.
Mary Cagle’s comics, Kiwi Blitz and Sleepless Domain both have a very cute style with anime influence. Her work is a delight to read! I love her bright colors and the characters’ expressive faces, and the magical girl costume designs are really creative. This is an example of two comics that merge cute art with dramatic moments very, very well. There are silly moments as well as serious, and both are complimented by the art style. The silly moments are amped up by the range of cartoonish expression, while the dramatic moments are contrasted by the cute style and thus heightened.
My inking started off as very light and simple, influenced by the manga I was reading at the time. As I read more and more comics, I discovered many different ways to ink comics. One of my favorite inking styles is Shazzbaa’s, especially in her completed comic “Today Nothing Happened” and her recent work, “Runewriters“. I really admire how dynamic her lines are, her line variation, and the unique style of sharper edges in her work. Her shading style in TNH really influenced my early comics work, and I still shade like that in my little journal comics.
Both are really fun reads, and I highly recommend them! I enjoy TNH for Shazzbaa’s experiences getting her degree in sequential art and all the hilarious shenanigans that ensue, as well as Shazz’s positive outlook on life. I really love the world she’s built for Runewriters, and I’ve been following it ever since Tareth and Severian were just concept art on her DeviantArt page. It’s also been really fun seeing her artwork develop and improve since her first TNH page! It continues to give me hope that my art will improve beyond where it is now, and evolve into something beautiful.
The part that I struggle with is that I don’t have the intuition for the kind of inking that Shazzbaa has. Which lines should b exaggerated, and which ones should be thin and simple? How wide is too wide a line? How stylized should it be? I realize these are all things that come with time, and Shazzbaa has shown in TNH how her art developed over time to where it is right now with Runewriters. It’s just something I’ll have to figure out if I want to emulate it at some point.
On the other side is “Namesake” by Isabelle Melançon and Megan Lavey-Heaton, another one of my favorite comics ever. Isabelle’s inking is beautiful. I adore her use of line to shade and create intricate detail. One of my favorite artists is the German printmaker extraordinaire, Albrecht Dürer. He was a master of using line to create volume and depth in his prints. I admire Isabelle’s lines in a very similar way.
There’s not usually much line variation in her work, certainly not in the manner of Shazzbaa. More often than not most things are inked with one line thickness. Details and far-away figures are usually inked with a thinner line. It’s the style of inking that I’ve been defaulting to because it’s a little more comfortable for me than Shazzbaa’s lines. However, I feel like I need to have more variety in my linework because I don’t want to be copying Isabelle’s style. I’m hoping I can come up with a way to combine the two somehow and have interesting shading with thin hatching lines like Isabelle, but also have dynamic line variation like Shazzbaa.
Oh color. Color has been my nemesis for so long. I was not good at oil painting in university. I was terrible. I hated it. I enjoyed mixing colors, but I couldn’t for the life of me get the same vibrance and life that my classmates seemed to paint with ease. A part of it may be that I never had a color theory class, something I now desperately wish I had had. I really want “The Breeze Before the Storm” and the main comic to be in full color. In fact, it kind of needs to be, with it being a story with color magic involved! I’m just so terrible at color right now, and I’m itching to learn how to color better.
“Cucumber Quest“, written and illustrated by Gigi D.G. has some of the most amazing colors I’ve yet seen. I love the characters’ color schemes and costume designs, but by far the most impressive thing to me is Gigi’s use of color to enhance mood. The colors are often extremely saturated, which gives the comic a childlike, whimsical atmosphere. When there are action scenes or dramatic scenes however, Gigi uses her coloring skills to the fullest and creates high contrast, soft light, or complex shadows, all with beautiful colors. Gigi never fails to impress with every update, and “Cucumber Quest” has quickly become one of my favorite webcomics.
Another comic that blows me away with its use of color is “Stand Still Stay Silent” by Minna Sundberg. The way she utilizes her limited color palette of oranges, teals, and grays is stunning. Her knowledge of lighting and shadow and how she uses it to create dramatic tension is incredible. I love how there are scenes when the only bits of the monsters we see are glints of color in the shadows or vague grey outlines through the skeletons of buildings, especially when the viewer sees the monsters before the characters. So creepy and wonderful!
I love the challenge of working with limited palettes, and it was something I utilized a lot when I was doing woodcut printmaking in my fine arts undergrad. I’ve played around with it in digital art programs, and it’s really fun! I’d love to try something like that with the colors for the comics I make, but I really feel that I need a better understanding of the interaction of color, light, and shadow first.
In Conclusion: The Plan!
Now that I’ve analyzed all the things I admire about these amazing webcomics (seriously go read them all, they’re fantastic!), I need to make a plan for myself to integrate these things into my own work:
- I want to test out a few of my main characters in differing levels of cuteness and realism, see which ones are easiest and most fun to draw, and make my decisions from there. There’s also nothing saying I can’t have moments of cute character drawings within the comic!
- I’d also like to try drawing in a bunch of different styles – there are a zillion style memes for artists to draw their original characters in. I might give some of those a try and learn from other styles!
- Line Art
- I really love the dynamic elements of Shazzbaa’s artwork, but I’m not sure how to work it into the inking style I’ve been modeling after Isabelle’s. Shazz’s inking is almost like shading itself, and so it almost makes the thin, hatching shading unnecessary, which makes me sad. I think all it boils down to is that I need to try some different things and see what I like best. Practice, practice, practice!
- I might try something we did in my university as well: learning technique by copying other artists. If I copy other artists’ work (purely for my own private practice, not to take credit for their work), I can learn from them.
- Ho boy. This is the big one. I’m not even sure where to start with this one. I think I’m going to start by reading books about color. I’ve also been wanting to try the Chris Oatley Academy for a while now, and I think I could learn some valuable digital coloring skills there.
- I want to learn by doing, and that means I need to start painting more. Not oil paints! Please no. I’ll be sticking to watercolors, thank you. I think I’ll get a good idea for how light and shadow and color work if I work from life for a while.
- Another part of learning by doing is to practice digital painting as well. I have a book called “Digital Painting for the Complete Beginner” by Carlyn Beccia, and I can’t wait to sit down and work my way through it.
Thank you for reading through my analysis of artists and why I like them. I hope some of it was helpful for you! Maybe even enjoyable? Let me know in the comments if you check out any of the comics I mentioned above – they’re some of my all-time favorites and I would LOVE to chat with you about them!
I hope you all have a very happy and productive new year!