View Full Version : Building skills for graphic novels
July 13th, 2008, 10:07 PM
My background is in architecture and I am interested in writing a graphic novel. I need to develop my illustration skills and was wondering what coursework or studies would best prepare me. I would also like to know what kind of media most artists use to illustrate graphic novels -- is there a predominant type?
July 13th, 2008, 11:21 PM
Before we go any further, let me ask you what sounds like an obnoxious question but really isn't...
Can you write?
Can you visualize from the written word?
Can you entertain, scare the shit out of someone or make them laugh...with just words on paper?
This is as important as the art end, which is no picnic. You also have to be able to determine (on the run) what is best shown visually and what is best text?
Let us know where you stand as honestly as you can, and we'll give as much help as we can...
July 13th, 2008, 11:26 PM
I guarantee you'll get more of the help you need if you open up a sketchbook thread and post some of your work for us.
Anatomy is very important, because the characters are more than often the main focus in a scene (as well as animals and creatures), especially when it's a dramatic angle or pose in movement.
As for media, it's mostly up to preference. Digital is popular because it can be very fast and painless when making many panels and getting printed, but it's also good to work off your strengths.
July 13th, 2008, 11:42 PM
Well, the writing part I'm pretty confident with -- in any case, the topic for the novel is an autobiographical account of a mental disorder. I thought of writing it as a book but a graphic novel seemed more appropriate. So the "research" for the work has already been done ;). The visual part is where I need the most practice, because most of my drawings are architectural, not human figures, etc. I'll try to get some work up soon.
July 14th, 2008, 02:49 AM
Agree with Ilaekae. Separate from figures and clothing etc, I would look into how you visualise a scene. You don't necessarily need anatomy if you do stick figures, or other highly abstract work, or do your thing in collage or 3d or a mix or whatever. Think about things like composition, pacing, storytelling, camera angles etc., and how that effects the reader. I would look into Scott McLeods books, Understanding Comics and/or Making Comics if you haven't already. These are a great source for understanding graphic story telling.
Have fun with the project.
July 14th, 2008, 05:50 AM
I would add something that for me is extremely important, more even in the kind of subject that you have in mind: practice and develop the hability to draw faces that are different for each character (there are a LOT of people that draws only a kind of woman, only changing the hairdo or eye's colour), than can display subtle emotions (not only happy/sad/angry, but the likes of reflecting, amused, melancholic...) and that are consistent with each character across the pages (I find sometimes difficult to follow a history in that the main character sometimes seems bigger, or younger... that in previous panels)
Of course a good history with (FUNDAMENTAL) good dialogues can overcome any shortcomings in the drawing departament, but if you have a good history and ALSO you are able to make your characters to being credible is even better.
I would give this importance to "character skills" in almost any comic, but in your case, with that kind of intimate subject, I think is even more important
July 14th, 2008, 11:08 AM
Examining your particular strengths and weaknesses can give you some insight into what medium to use. For example, if your handwriting sucks no matter what you do you may have to resort to digital for at least the lettering. Similarly, if a giant out of control ink blob results when you put pen to paper, digital might be for you.
If you have been using pens and watercolor for twenty years then your strengths may lie in that area.
July 14th, 2008, 11:37 AM
Definitely agreed that it'd be a great idea to open up a sketchbook and get posting some work! It'll help people give you more tailored feedback and suggestions, as well as simply get you drawing!
If you've not been drawing people much for a number of years, I'd say just draw as much as you can. Lifedrawing classes, taking your sketchbook around and drawing people on the bus, whatever - being able to draw people doing things, moving around, going about their business, in a natural way, is so important for comics.
That said, I think the very best thing to do is simply draw some comics! I find drawing comics really different from other kinds of drawing - it's full of its own unique challenges - so I'd say maybe write yourself a short story, like 5 pages, just get in there and do it - you'll learn *so* much from it, it'll acquaint you with the time it takes to do a few pages, and get you trying out some panel layouts and pacing...and you'll be able to post it for lots of great feedback!