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Drawing on Comics: Developing My Visual Communication Skills-Part 2

Last Friday Contributor Chris Jones stopped 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.

Today we showcase the second half of his discussion Enjoy!

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Drawing Characters Consistently

Designing and developing characters, and drawing them over the course of an entire comic is wonderful practice at keeping on model. It can take a while to get comfortable drawing a character consistently, and what better way than to put them into a story and force yourself to draw them over and over! There will be many opportunities to draw characters from different angles, in many poses, and with a variety of facial expressions.

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Working Within Constraints

Every illustration comes with certain constraints, it’s own unique set of rules: size, subject matter, medium, and so on. A comic also has some very specific constraints: the script, page size, setting, the characters involved, leaving room for word balloons, and making sure the dialogue flows logically within each panel, and from one panel to the next. Comic pages present some very unique challenges this way. Dealing with constraints in any creative work can be good— It can force you to try different things to come up with creative solutions. I’ve found that drawing comics has been great practice for learning how to be efficient and creative with my compositions.

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Learning How to Create Visuals From a Script

Illustrating a comic is excellent practice in creating visuals from the written word. A lot like a movie director— you are responsible for bringing the story to life visually. There are a number of skills you can develop creating visuals for a script: knowing how best to emphasize certain parts in the story, what type of shots and angles to use, what to show and what to leave out, and pacing action and dialogue across panels. Developing these type of skills can only help you as an illustrator.

Having an Audience Can Help Motivate You

When you publish comics on the internet you are creating for an audience, and that can really help to keep you working through those times where you may not feel like drawing. You can build up a trust with your readers, and develop a sense of responsibility not to let them down by missing updates. Learning to keep yourself motivated and working even when you don’t feel like it is important if you want to be successful. I tricked myself for years by doing this! If you keep your head down and do it for a while, you can look up and say— “Wow, look at how much I’ve accomplished!”

Managing Workflow

Creating comics is labour intensive. It takes a lot of time to storyboard, illustrate, colour, and letter a comic. A good workflow is essential in order to stay on track. If you choose to make a comic that you update online, sticking to your schedule is important in building and keeping a growing audience for your work. Frequently missed or inconsistent updates could lose you those valuable readers you’ve worked so hard to gain. To keep yourself on schedule a good workflow is key, and learning how to effectively manage your workflow will help you be more productive in anything that you do.

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Conclusion

In the end, it all comes down to practice. The more experience you have doing something, the better you’ll get. Each page you illustrate has a lot of visual problems that need to be solved— and the better you get at visual problem solving the better an illustrator you will be! I’m not saying that illustrating comics is the only way to learn the skills I’ve outlined— but it’s a path I took, and it’s been great experience in helping me become a better visual communicator.

You can also check out more of his work on his website and see more of his articles with us here.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Chris Jones shares his ideas on Branding, Postcards, Business Cards, and Newsletters

The point of us posting these multiple promotional methods is to make sure you know that there is not one way to do it. Make the submission process and method work for you and your style! Make yourself stand out in the way you know best with your artwork being the star!

Today Illustrator Chris Jones joins us again to share his thought process when branding, creating promos, business cards and newsletters for his business. To see more of Chris’ work be sure to visit his website or blog!

Read, learn and be inspired!

You may have noticed that I’ve updated my branding on the site. I wanted to create a fresher, bolder, and more distinctive look – one that grabs the eye and says “Hire me!”, or as close to that as possible. :)

To go along with my new branding, I’ve updated my portfolio with quite a few new illustrations in a new softer, more organic style I’m developing. This style is meant to complement my regular hard ink line style. In addition, I’ve timed all this with my most recent promotional postcard mailing. Samples of the front and back below:

New promotional postcard (front)

New promotional postcard (back)

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Chris Jones-Illustrating Characters: Personality Goes a Long Way

Welcome a new contributor to our blog, Chris Jones. Chris is an Illustrator who hails from Canada and boasts a formidable resume of top notch talent and clients! His work is bright, exuberant and full of personality which is why we’ve asked him to tell us a bit more about how he creates such amazing characters! We only want to learn from the best you know!

No matter what type of illustration you are working on, it will probably include a character. When illustrating characters – animals, children, or adults – one of the most basic and essential elements is conveying their personality. Characters are the heart of great stories, and you are telling stories with your pictures, so being able to portray them as unique and interesting is an important and valuable skill.

When you are putting together your illustration portfolio, it’s a good idea to show a variety of different character and personality types. This helps give your portfolio variety and interest, and shows your skill in capturing different moods and emotions through your characters. Designing them so they are unique, and breathing personality into them makes them more interesting and engages the viewer.

There are many ways to breathe personality into your characters – shape of the face, facial features, hairstyle, body shape, clothing, line variety, colour – all of these can contribute to the overall feel of the character. The following are some of the things I’ve learned on how to achieve uniqueness in your character designs:

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