Wednesday, 10 September 2008

5 - Black & White Contrast

I needn't have left it so long since the last sessions post, as this one follows straight on from the last session - 4- Background, Midground and Foreground. In fact it even uses the same piece of paper, so really I should've tagged it on the end of 4, especially as it's pretty short.

So class, how can I make this drawing stand out more strikingly? At the moment it looks pretty good - I've got the foreground in the foreground and the background where it should be, plus I've made the character stand out a little by giving him a thicker outline. Problem is, if I hold this up over in the far corner of the room, it's impossible to make out what is going on. This is important as nearly all comic artists and illustrators work much larger than the final reproduction size. On the plus side, this 'tightens up' their drawings, but the big minus is that the viewer has to look a little closer to understand the information and detail in the picture.

So how can we help the viewer out, whether our picture is on the other side of the room or shrunken down to fit in between the adverts in the back of a newspaper?

Inevitably the first and most popular suggestion is COLOUR - yes, it will certainly add interest, and used well it can radically affect the mood or atmosphere of our drawings, but I'm not going to let anyone use colour on these.
With luck someone will pipe up with SHADING or even CONTRAST. If we can learn to use black and white effectively, then very often we'll find that we don't even need colour, as our drawings can come alive very simply.
This would be an ideal time to show or pass round some examples of B&W being used in a DYNAMIC, BOLD AND GRAPHIC way - Milton Caniff, Marjane Satrapi, Charles Burns, David B, or Frans Masereel, as well as an opportunity to discuss what these terms actually mean.

Let me show you -

-just by blacking in the nose, all of a sudden our eye is drawn towards it like a magnet, and it stands out like a sore thumb. Are there other parts of the drawing which we could blacken to make it more graphic?

Leopard skin spots have added some interest to the cave cat in the foreground, and by blacking in the dinosaurs all of a sudden the cave cat is standing out more. Sometimes at this point I'll mention how hairdressers often talk of 'framing the face' with the hair - this is similar in that it forms a dark area behind the feature we want foregrounded.
I'll set everyone going on this - finding 2, 3 or 4 areas that they can black in to make their drawing become more graphic. As they do this, I carry on trying out different options on my own drawing on the board -

We don't usually need more than 20 minutes on this - it is pretty simple but also very effective when done well. I'll usually pick out one or two good examples and hold them up in the top far corner of the room for people to admire.

Time allowing, we can sometimes have a look at ways of creating grey(s), and playing around with crosshatching and texture. I've not integrated this into my key sessions as I'd end up incorporating too much stuff, but I think it's one of those nice practical areas that kids often love to be introduced to, if I ever had long enough to do it justice.

Next session post - 6 - Jam comics

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