Monthly Archives: March 2013

Drawing on Comics: Developing My Visual Communication Skills

Contributor Chris Jones stops back in to give us more insight into his journey into graphic storytelling as well as how it has positively effected his drawing and storytelling skills.

We’ll showcase part one today and the second half of his discussion next Friday! Enjoy!


Early Influence

I grew up reading comics. Every Saturday my buddies and I would ride our bikes to the local comic shop and pick up the new issues. It was a ritual. I remember the small sweaty store loaded with wonderful artwork— posters, figurines, graphic novels, and the colourful display of comics with the awesome smell of fresh ink. I remember the camaraderie, and the simple joy of it all. We’d go back home to read the comics, then sit around the kitchen table drawing our own comic adventures for the rest of the afternoon. It was wonderful.

I loved reading comics, and I enjoyed creating them even more— developing characters, creating the environment, and bringing it all together by combining words and pictures to take the reader on an immersive journey.


Over the years I’ve had a lot of fun creating comics, publishing some online and in print: Whisky Sours, Grumps, Captain Stupendous (with Zach Weiner), Byron Pinkleton, and most recently, Snowflakes.

After completing Snowflakes, (An all-ages comic collaboration with Zach Weiner and James Ashby) I started thinking about the many ways illustrating comics has helped me develop my visual communication skills.

I first started drawing comics because I found them less intimidating than working on a single illustration. On a comic page there are many smaller images that go together to make up the whole— so it felt like it mattered less that each image was perfect. Less pressure! I could do this! I think the fact that there was less riding on each individual drawing made it easier for me to just dive in and start drawing.


Drawing Skills

As artists and illustrators, we all experience those feelings of impatience or frustration when it seems like our skill level is improving too slowly. We want to be better now! Well, we all know that the only way to improve is to practice, and I think that composing and drawing comic pages is like a crash course compared to working on a single illustration!

Comic pages can contain a lot of elements. Maybe you need to show a number of characters interacting, and in some panels you need to show some from different angles or distances. Or, maybe a scene calls for a wide establishing shot, and subsequent panels on the same page need to show a lot of action or interaction between characters and environment. Sometimes it can involve a lot of drawing on a single page. I’ve always thought of it as excellent concentrated and consistent drawing practice, especially if you commit to producing new pages on a regular schedule. If you are working on new pages regularly, you will be drawing more— and the more you draw, the more your skills will level up!


Composition Skills

When planning out a page, overall composition of the page is one of the first things I think about. The layout of the panels, the shapes and angles of forms within each panel, and how they flow from one panel to another— this is the underlying structure, and it’s arguably one of the  most important steps. Just like sketching in the basic forms and shapes for a drawing before you move into the details, a comic page needs to be planned so the overall flow and composition of the page works well to move the reader through the story. If the layout doesn’t work well or is confusing, the page won’t be enjoyable to read.

I find composing a page a really enjoyable part of the process— this is where I have the most control over how the story is told, how well it flows, what you show to the reader, and how you’re going to show it.

The more practice I had in composing comic pages, the easier it was to approach the composition for a single illustration.

Learning What to Emphasize

When you create a drawing you are telling a story visually. In any story there will be parts you want to emphasize to tell it as effectively as possible.

I’ve found that creating a comic page is great practice for knowing what moments to emphasize, and how best to focus the reader’s attention. For example— Do you need a close up on a character’s face or a certain object? Do you need to pull back to show a wide establishing shot? When deciding what to show in a panel, I like to think of myself as the camera moving around, and I try to visualize in my mind’s eye where the best angle would be, and how close to the action I should be. I’ve found that visualizing a scene this way is very helpful when I work on any composition, be it a panel on a comic page, or a single illustration.

Come back next Friday for more from Chris! You can also check out more of his work on his website and see more of his articles with us here.

Is the era of hand drawn animation a thing of the past for Disney?


Disney, the Hollywood titan which brought the world classics such as Fantasia, Bambi and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, has admitted it has no current plans to make hand drawn animated films. See original article here from the Guardian.

In a number of recent reports it has been cited that Disney is not currently in the process of creating or developing any hand drawn animated films. Many see this as the end of the possibility to get to see a hand drawn animated film again from the mouse.


Disney seems to be attributing a lot of this to cost and the fact that they have significantly lowered their number of animators. They have also closed certain U.S. animation facilities all together and for all of their most recent traditionally animated flicks have had to outsource work to studios outside of  the U.S.  But some seem to argue that it’s less expensive to produce a traditionally animated flick than it is to produce a CG one. (See post here from KI Creative Studios.)


Others look to the recent Academy Award win for Paperman as inspiration for the future. Looking at the integration of hand drawn animation with CG as the next evolutionary step of animated films. We showed a glimpse of this process in a previous post. There have been rumors that Disney is looking to create a feature using this technique.

So what are your thoughts on this readers? Are you happy to see the medium changing or do you hearken back to the days of hand drawn animated flicks? Let us know in the comments!

The Art of Asking-Amanda Palmer


Amanda Palmer is an American performer who first rose to prominence as the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist/composer of the duo The Dresden Dolls. She has had a successful solo career, is also one half of the duo Evelyn Evelyn, and most recently is the lead singer and songwriter of Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra.

This inspiring Ted talk from her asks us to examine the exchange of ideas and experience for commerce. As artists we continue to see what we do become more and more marginalized. We have to start thinking differently about our art and how we apply it and make it work to sustain us both spiritually and financially. There are some great theories that are thrown to the audience and it leaves you with a lot to ponder.

While the framework of this talk is based in music, can you see it’s potential application to Art? If so, how would you apply it, and if not, why not? We’d love to see your thought in our comments.

Future of 2D Animation with Disney’s Paperman

Sadly Disney has pulled the full Paperman short and has replaced it with this trailer.

If you’re like me when you first saw the Oscar winning animated short “Paperman” I thought I had seen the future of 2D animation. I watched it over and over again trying to figure out how they gave 3D models a hand-drawn look. Well, in this behind-the-scenes look the director, John Kahrs, demonstrates how they did this exact process. The technique used combines traditional hand drawn 2D animation and then translates the 2D information on to a 3D model. The program used is called “Meander” created by Eric Daniels. “It’s not like a texture map. It’s just like painting on the surface of the CG. It actually moves on a 2D layer that’s driven by the CG.” Thats how Kahrs described this process. He also talks about bringing the “Hand of the artist” into 3D features and if you ask me he accomplished the goal. John Kahrs believes this process is not ready for a feature length film, but that this technique has a bright future. Check out this clip about how they created this new 3D look.

I want to leave you with John Kahrs’s last thoughts from this inside look. Although he is talking about movies and I’m going to paraphrase him here, but I think it can be applied to things every artist is working on. He said “I wanted it to be a rich dimensional world that you could feel like you could reach into. I want the audience to trust that this world is out there.”

Magazines for Children and Educational Publishers List- A Writer’s and Illustrator’s resource


From what I understand, writing is even more difficult to break into than illustration. Anyone who has attended an SCBWI conference knows that writers outnumber illustrators almost 50 to 1. Yet they are working with the same number of publishers that we do.  It’s very difficult to break into the industry and establish credentials behind your name that can then help you to get noticed by larger publishers.

One way to start to try and break in is children’s magazines. Children’s magazines come out more often, have multiple stories, articles and activities and therefore tend to need more writers on a consistent basis. The problem is not every magazine gains the same level of circulation or public knowledge of a magazine like Highlights or National Geographic for Kids.  And many writers aren’t aware of the many magazine possibilities that exist.


Evelyn B. Christensen has put together a nifty resource for our aspiring and established writers.  She is now publishing an E-Zine called Writing for Children’s Magazines.  As a part of her website Miss Christensen has compiled a list of Children’s magazines and their current publication status. She keeps the list updated with which magazines are still in circulation and which are currently accepting submissions. She also provides links to their submission guidelines, theme lists, websites as well as indicate if they are paying gigs or not.

Follow link here.  Links are at the bottom of the page to the varied magazine lists.


She has also compiled a comprehensive list of Educational publishers with the same purpose.  All free of charge and available to the public to use to help further their careers.

Follow link here.  The whole page lists the varied Educational publishers.


While I’m sure this will prove to a valuable resource for writers,  it is a great resource for illustrators as it lists Children’s magazines and Educational publishers from A-Z for us to investigate and add to our submission lists for postcards or e-mail blasts!

Thank you Miss Christensen for providing this resource for the larger community. I plan on using it to the utmost and I encourage my fellow writers and illustrators to do so as well.

If you see any discrepancies or know of anything that needs to be added please let her know. This is a great resource worth maintaining.

Richard Solomon’s Breakthrough Artist Contest Open to Submissions

Richard Solomon Artists Representative
We have featured this contest before. It’s become a yearly opportunity for new artists and students to be introduced to the publishing world through the guidance of one of the most influential and successful commercial art reps in our industry.Check here for more details!
SUBMIT:– Up to 5 portfolio images representative of your work
Tips and pointers
PRIZE:– All Expense paid round trip to NYC
– Commemorative award
– Meet art directors and artists

– Must be over 18 years old with less than 5 years professional experience
– Must be under 30 years old, OR a full-time student under 35 years old


Hidden Resources-Art Director Interviews

After the recent hour long chat with Giuseppe Castellano on Twitter and it’s popularity, we thought it a good idea to show our readers other online resources that give access to the thought process and ideas from other art directors and editors of major publishers.

The resource that we’d like to point you to is one that is free to the public though it is offered on pay portfolio site,

Follow the link here to go to the front page.


Scroll down the left hand column to Industry Insider and select it.


This will take you to a number of valuable resources that are available to writers and illustrators on the site. The one we’d like to highlight today is the plethora of Interviews with various art directors and editors that give submission tips and tricks as well as insight into the industry from their side of the fence.

Tons of buried treasure looking to be found here! Enjoy!


Spectrum judging: A peek behind the curtain. Gold and Silver Nominees!

Spectrum 20 poster

Spectrum is an annual competition meant to highlight the best of the best Illustration within the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Publishing genre. This year they had more than 6000 entries!

Take a look at the video to get an idea of how they set up judging. Massive isn’t it! For more info on the judging process check here!

The next video highlights the pieces in current consideration for Gold and silver Awards in their respective categories. Be sure to give the artists congrats for their nominations and take some time to look them up and check out their websites and portfolios!

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