Category: Artwork

Sketches and finished pieces of artwork featured prominently in the post

On composition in comics

What’s typical for comics (and some other narrative art forms) is that you’ll be drawing the same characters, props and locations over and over again. For a lengthy scene in the same place it can be tricky to come up with nice, new compositions for each panel.

This is why I spend a few hours this week thumbnailing different compositions for certain scenes. Thumbnailing is, like I’ve mentioned before, a quick and simple way of trying out new composition ideas.


These are for a scene of dialogue on a balcony. Some of them may not make much sense to you sorry about that, I`m a messy sketcher. I kept the thumbnails small to keep the focus on bigger shapes and lines in the composition instead of going into detail. The black ink lines also helps me focus on the breaking up of the picture plane more instead of focusing on lines.

You’ll also notice that each thumbnail communicates a different idea and feeling through it`s composition.

I learned a lot again from this exercise, it even helped me refine the story and have more control on what exactly it is I want to say with a scene.
And I now have a few compositions lying around to draw from.

I’m now thumbnailing compositions for city scapes, since I’m not very experienced in drawing a lot if architecture. It’s given me some interesting new ideas for comic panels so far.

As before, I also added last week’s creative prompts to the master list. Go have a look to see if there’s some new ideas for you there. Maybe you can even use them in a comic.

Crafting a story – Colour

Some of you might remember I posted a painting I used in my portfolio for CTNx. It is a painting, not a comic panel. For my comic, however, I`m not going to paint it all. I`m going to use line art.

I experimented a bit with how to colour this lineart and how to keep things simple. After doing the Oatley Academy course Painting Drama 2 that`s all about colour, I decided I would try to just use flats. Some of my favourite comics use only flat colour and they`re no less atmospheric. But it`s still a challenge to get your mood and atmosphere across without gradients and with hard edged shapes like in line art.

The challenge of how to recreate atmosphere like in this painting…

Concept art for my comic "Recollection City"
Concept art for my comic “Recollection City”

…in a comic panel in flat colour.

I’m experimenting with two methods.
1 Doing it literally in all flats:. The first result I got was not really going where I wanted it to be, so I abandoned it.

Only flatsIt still needed some variation in the rocks for example. I can’t just give those one colour since the light is bouncing on one side while the other side is dark. This technique wasn’t really statisfactory since I felt like I was doing cell shading.

2 Another technique that I’m trying out is something I derived from techniques out of the Oatley Academy’s course the Magic Box. I use the lasso tool over a coloured background to create gradients. I think this looks better. And it`s just as fast as the flatting.

Atmosphere with lineartThese are very rough, the lineart is just a sketchy version, I`d also use different colours in the comic and I used the lasso tool very crudely. But I like the overall sense of atmosphere that is still there in the second attempt.

I still feel like I want to tackle the challenge to create a lot of atmosphere with just flats (without gradients), which requires a very good understanding of colour and colour relations. I’m curious where this search will end.

CTNx feedback – working on expressions 1

The main feedback I got at CTNx was that my character designs looked stiff and I didn’t tell enough of a story with them, even in the basic designs it`s better to let the characters do something or react to something so we know what kind of character it is.
I also stayed fairly on the realistic side, with not much room for more exaggerated expressions.

Even though I consider my style to be at least somewhat cartoony, I`m not very experienced in exaggeration, pushing features and expression (both face and body). So my goal for the next months is to improve that.

Here`s some basic expressions for my character Ivory, who immediately presents a challenge since the character is very guarded and not very expressive unless she is agitated.
I have not yet tried and push everything more. I`m focusing now on just drawing the unique way each character expresses the basic emotions. I also try to draw the full body expression, and not just the face. Some advice from Nilah Magruder, who creates the comic M.K.F., who I had the pleasure of meeting at CTNx.

2014-12-16-expressions_IvoryWhat are you working on right now?

See you next time!

Painting an environment

This week I made a last portfolio piece for CTNx. I wanted to practise an environment for my comic. I had this image in my head for this mountain landscape and since I absolutely love being around mountains (since in my country we have none) this was begging me to be painted. Here it is:

I think this is one of my best paintings as of yet. I really felt I could implement some of the things I’ve learned in the last few years.

Here are a few thoughts on my process: I had drawn a little tiny thumbnail in my sketchbooks, not more than a few strokes and dots and a triangle that looked like a mountain. I liked the simplicity of it though, so I tried out some rough sketches in Photoshop and got something that started to look like what I was going for. I wanted a quit, grand environment that made the characters look small and was kind of eerie and beautiful at the same time.

I gathered some reference for light sources in the mountains by night and found some great images of mountain villages. Their lights casts a great, warm light on the mountainside (especially in the snow) that fades to pinkish orange and purple. I used that kind of colourscheme in the sketch.

wip1I picked some colours from the sketch and made my own colour palette by adjusting and mixing those colours. I then blocked in rough shapes with rough brushes as to not go into “rendering” mode. I put the colours directly over my sketch while trying to keep the values in check:wip2I then blew up the canvas to A4 format in 300 ppi since I wanted it printed and fitted on A4.

Still using rough brushes I defined the shapes of the rocks, the fog and some trees and rocks. I tried to not define every edge and every form. Since it`s dark and since the characters are the most important part I don`t need to show the whole environment in full detail. It will distract from the stars of the painting, which are the characters with the light.
Read more about keeping your textures and detail in check in Chris Oatley`s painting tutorial about the Texture Monster.
wip3Keeping the brush strokes rough and the shapes more unrefined actually took me a lot of effort. I really had to restrain myself and think about the strokes before making them. I usually go into “make this look as 3D and realistic as possible” mode and it`s easy to fall back on your bag of tricks and not really think about what you`re doing. At least for me.
This was a great lesson.I also noticed that, while focussing on the rocks and getting some nice shapes out of them, I had lost sight of my composition and I was actually breaking it. I painted the rocks many times and had to rework it a lot to make them look natural and make them support the lines in my composition. That was the hardest part for me and, now that I think about it, those were the things I probably should have done multiple studies for before putting them in the painting immediately and trying to wing it. Eventually, after getting back to
reference and getting back to broad strokes and gesture, I think I made it work:

wip4Then, all I was left with were the characters, the torch and to make some minor adjustments to the lighting and colour. And that`s what you see at the top of this post.

The coming weeks I’ll be very busy with preparing for my trip and then I’ll be in the US. I’ve prepared blog posts in advance for while I’m there so i won’t have to put the blog on hiatus.
I’ll blog about some of the things I put in the portfolio. They’ll be related to the comic project. Thanks for reading!

Building a house on paper

Hello all!

I didn`t finish an illustration a day for the rest of Inktober, but I did work in ink a lot this week. (so I kind of made up for it?) Since my main focus now is finishing some comic pages in time for the CTNx expo in LA I am in the middle of designing locations, props and side characters.

This week I had to design a place fit for regents to work and live in. I always dread drawing architecture since perspective is certainly not my strongest suit and I don`t even know where to start. My first efforts always involved drawing a block, a roof, then slapping some windows, balconies and doors on it. Turns out, I never really looked at how houses are constructed and what people do to make them look nice. That was my main problem. Surprisingly, that was all I had to do to solve my problem this time.

Here are some first quick ideas and sketches. I`m very far along in the final design now and I`ll show you when I finish the page.

2014 10 Regent housesSometimes the problems you have to solve when drawing are hard to find and it takes you a while to overcome them. Sometimes, a breakthrough can happen in a day.

I was so intimidated by this whole idea of designing a building that I put it off, then, when I finally mustered up the courage, I stared at a blank page for a while and then stopped again. Funnily enough I was on my way to work and then came across a building that gave me a push in the right direction. I was looking at it, finding it really pretty. And then it dawned on me: why is this building so pretty to me? And I started looking at it with different eyes. Sure, it didn`t have the right look and time period for what I was searching for, but why did this building have so much appeal? And how can I use that to make something appealing instead of a block with windows in it?

Here`s what I did:

1 I analysed the appeal of the building.

I found pictures of it online and started studying them. It was a heavily decorated building, but somehow really elegant. It had a lot of vertical shapes with a lot of round arches around them. I looked at how the windows were placed, where they used structures to keep everything in place, and especially how they decorated it without making a mess. From here I searched for other places I knew that have appeal and have the feeling I was going for.

2 I drew, drew and drew.

I sketched a lot of details from those buildings: windows, decorating, roofs, stones…everything my mind couldn`t  think of whenever I looked at the blank page or the random house-block-thing. Here`s a page of sketches that I did:

2014 10 reference drawingI many pages with elements from different places I knew had what I was looking for. I tried to look for the basic structure underneath all the decorating, study the shapes and the material.

I could never make these discoveries by looking at the buildings alone. The act of drawing it out makes it set in your mind more than just looking at it. I can remember I only looked at certain pictures of buildings and couldn`t possibly draw it now from my memory. But the buildings I drew I can now still reproduce the basics of from my memory.

3 I then started drawing buildings of my own.

Those are the sketches you see at the top. Using the knowledge and the newly sparked ideas for what I could do with the place I started sketching. I was working in ink since it forces you to be bold and you can`t erase things. I was really amazed by the reservoir of options I now had, to build up the forms. The many ways I now knew how to divide up the spaces on the walls in an interesting way and how much more free I felt in my imagination because I had been “feeding” it with so much different input. Which brings me to the point: don`t stop in your reference drawing at a few buildings, only one time period or a certain type of building. I looked at Victorian houses, cute little houses and cottages, the houses that line the canals in Utrecht and fairytale buildings. Look at characteristics, nice new ideas you never thought of, shapes, basic floor plans etc.

Most of all: have fun exploring! I never could have thought I would like drawing buildings this much. Granted, when my design is finished I have to draw it in my comic frames in perspective and everything and I will always face challenges, but this experience sure encouraged me to try and not shy away from the blank page. Going forward!

Is there something you struggle with in your art? How can you give yourself the tools you need to learn to get better at it?