B*W: First 20 Strips. A Review #1

comic strip faces

When I got to the 20th strip of the comic, I decided it was time to step back and review things. In this article on the artwork, I’m looking at the Faces & Characterisation.

(« Related earlier post: Character Design)

People Like It!

Something that I haven’t sufficiently appreciated is how much people enjoy a well drawn facial expression. Which is strange, considering how much I also do, and how much I enjoy drawing them! Here’s a very old one ^ of mine which nearly everyone says is one of their favorites:

Bliss. A full-colour illustration by John White

Above: ‘Bliss’ – 1991: People who see my work usually mention this as a favourite. I did this with a mirror, when I was around 23. Read More ^

I haven’t done enough of this on Between * Wars thus far. Isn’t that silly of me? Look, I know how important characterisation is, and I love seeing it in the work of others. Animated films of the last few years like Megamind blew me away mostly because of the amazing facial and bodily expression given to the characters. So why am I neglecting it? I think my problems are:

  • Not fully appreciating what a black art this drawing lark appears to be to to most people – so they love to see it done well
  • My tendency to rush the drawing stage.

These strips take 1.5 – 2 days to complete. Broken down as:

  • Colour: much more than a day, usually
  • Lettering: a couple of hours!
  • Drawing: the foundation of it all – is rushed in a mere couple of hours (sketches, roughs, pencils, inks, Photoshop corrections and re-drawing)

I’ll often even ink the strip in a mere hour! But I need to appreciate that if the drawing is good, everything else will be too. There’s no point rushing the drawing and inking and hoping that it’ll be somehow improved in Photoshop. The latter incidentally – fixing stuff up – just uses up more man-hours. It’s a bit like George Lucas trying to fix the Star Wars Prequels in ‘post’ – i.e., with editing, CGI and re-shoots. Get it right to start with! You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

The ‘Best Of’

Here’s my compilation of what I consider to be the best faces from Episodes 1-20. I’m glad to see that the more recent ones are the better ones (top):

My best cartoon faces compilation

Best of the bunch! Goes to show that extra effort works. larger version »

Stay on-Model and on-Character with: Model Sheets

Above: Worst of the bunch! These should have been so much better

I’ll also have to keep a mirror handy. I used one for the ‘Peacekeeper’ strip when I drew Jack’s face in the final frame.

comic strip facial expresion detail

I did the right thing, for a change, using a mirror for this face on the Peacekeeper » strip.

But that’ll mean that it’s even more important for me to work on some model sheets ^ . This will overcome my problem of making every character a ‘Man of a Thousand Faces’, and also ensure that they don’t all end up looking like me! If there’s one thing I hate in mainstream comics and superhero TV animation, it’s generic faces.

So, lots to learn from. I’m going to refer back to this compilation as I go on with future strips as a quality benchmark to at least keep up to but hopefully surpass.

In the next Blog Posts, reviewing my first 1-20 strips, I’ll take a look at how I’ve dealt with:

  • Colour
  • Lettering
  • 70s Design
  • Content/Scripts
  • Round-up of how I might improve with the next 20 strips

(« Related earlier post: Character Design)

Visit Between * Wars Comic ^

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