Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Three C’s

During comics seminars, I’d usually stress the three important C’s of comic book illustration. These are: clarity, cleanliness, and consistency.

Clarity of illustration enables a reader to know what exactly goes on in a panel sequence. It shows the ability of the artist to depict in two dimensions what is supposed to be an action occurring in three-dimensional space.

Cleanliness doesn’t necessarily mean clean lines. Works from artists such as Dave McKean, Duncan Fegredo, and Ash Wood are clean in the sense that there is a certainty involved, in that the artists knew exactly what they wanted to achieve and how to go about it. Cleanliness doesn’t only involve certainty of style, but also certainty of lay-out and composition, where all elements are planned out before execution. In being clean, ‘mistakes’ don’t look like mistakes, and artistic shortcuts blend well with the overall page.

Consistency is sought to prevent hiccups in the readers’ intake of an artist’s work. When an art style needlessly changes during the course of a comics narrative, there is a break in the reader’s flow, subconsciously prompting him to readjust the way he had connected the words and pictures. While there are comics that use multiple styles, these style shifts are deliberate and have definite purposes. In these comics, there is a base style, with the new styles coming in to introduce new emotional aspects of the story.

Anatomy and perspective are important, too, but in my book are secondary when it comes to comics storytelling. There are published comics that aren’t showcases in anatomy and perspective. These two disciplines allow comics artists more flexibility and provide more options in interpreting a comics script. Though they would rank among the top requirements when it comes to making action adventure comics, one need not master them outright to make great comics.

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