Monday, 30 March 2009

5.5 Black & White contrast version two

I've become tired of doing number 4 exercise - Foreground, Midground & Background - some kids get loads from it, but it just feels too prescriptive, with me telling them what to do over and over. Maybe if I had a group for more than a few days I'd do it, but if I'm teaching Charlie Brown style characters I should keep backgrounds on the same level -
(I've been re-reading - for the 3rd time - Scott McCloud's excellent Making Comics, and it's making me rethink a lot of things. I hope he doesn't mind me posting this excerpt - it's for educational purposes after all).

This means exercise 5, which followed on from 4 using the same drawing has to change. This newer version is very quick and seems effective so far, though probably needs backing up with reminders when asking them to produce any kind of 'finished' work.

The handout explains itself -

I hold it up and ask the person in the furthest corner if it's legible from over there, and how we might go about strengthening the image. They've all got fine and broad black felts, so I give them maybe 5 minutes to see what they can do with it.
One of the nice things is how different they all come out -

Some even use the felts to emphasise certain words in the speech bubbles, which is very smart.
We can hold these up and see how we've emboldened the simple linedrawing, making it more graphic and readable. I'll mention, while holding their work as far away as possible, how the majority of comic artists work much larger than the final reproduced size, and so need to be aware of how to use contrast in an effective way. And I'll show them -

Schulz Peanuts - this sillouetting of characters is common in newspaper strips just to vary the look of the panels

Satrapi Persepolis - it doesn't have to be super-detailed crosshatching - just simple shapes add so much clarity and life.

Or maybe it's just one detail that the artist (Charles Addams here) wants to draw our attention to. I always ask if anyone know what Addams is most famous for -

- they know the films of course but have no idea The Addams Family started out in gag cartoons so long ago. Again, black and white inkwash adds shape, weight and visual interest.

Here in a large one-panel Terry and The Pirates daily, Milton Caniff uses the large shadow to pick out the figures, as well as encompass them in a sombre mood.

Bill Knapp (in Pekar's American Splendor) skillfully recreates the particular atmosphere of driving at night with detailed hatching and large blocks of shadow.

Charles Burns has mastered the inkbrush, with Black Hole almost vibrating with it's vivid, startling images -

sometimes it feels like he's started out with a black sheet and drawn with white ink.

With lino or woodcuts like this from Masereel's silent album The City, that's essentially what happens - the white areas have been cut away from the black block, giving a very specific feeling and boldness.

And often it comes down to simple factors like expense - the difference between the cost of printing full colour, black and white, or like Clowes' Ghost World here, the addition of one extra spot colour.

I like to tell a group that full colour can often be amazing, but once you master B&W you may find that's all you need to create the visual effect you need. Manga readers seem more than happy reading stories without colour, though for some reason we seem to think kids comics need to be bright and fully coloured.


fabtoons said...

Having been asked to go and give a talk about comics to a group of kids in a school, I have taken the liberty of printing off your comic workshop posts to study beforehand. It's only an hour so I won't have time to do any actual comic making, but it's giving me more ideas of stuff to touch on, and helping to boost my confidence, as I'm really quite nervous about the undertaking.
I hope you don't mind, it really is a wonderful resource.

pens parker said...

I just getting into comics and im find your blog very insightful.. i quite like the balck and white wood cut style at the moment so i think that could be a good place to start for me