Friday, September 27, 2013

To Color, or Not to Color -- THAT is the Real Question

In the late 19th Century thru the early 20th Century, printing technology was developing rapidly. In England, printing advanced more quickly than in the US which led to the rise of the Illustrated Children's Book with charming stories and magnificent illustrations. Color soon followed making the children's books even more wondrous. Maybe you've heard of Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Rabbit, the Wind in the Willows, or the Wizard of Oz? All of these "classics" were made possible by printing technology and brilliant craftsman on the illustrator's part of make the most of the day's technology. The usual method was to draw the illustration with a black line, then carve that into a plate and add color shapes on a separate pass. Eventually the technology reached the point where the illustrator could create the entire image in color and then reproduce it.

Of course, this wasn't the beginning of creating an image with a black line and then coloring it in. Early Christian and Muslim illuminated texts from the first few centuries AD used this method. And before that, artists used this method to record their hunts on cave walls. Today the method is popular with cartoons, comics, graphic novels, and digital illustration. The term 'cartoon' actually referred to the outline created by Renaissance artists creating frescos who first sketched the image with a pencil before applying watercolors over it covering up the sketch. But they didn't invent the method, just coined a cool word from it.

I've always enjoyed black line work colored in. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because that's what I've grown up with. Maybe it's because a black line clearly defines an object. Maybe I just like abstraction. Who knows? But it's something I've never been able to get away from, even during my watering color days when I tried for a more photorealistic approach. There were times I'd take a 'finished' watercolor (as if any work of art is ever finished), and add black lines around the figures with a paintbrush.

The above illustration is a black and white line drawing that I've colored in Corel Painter. The line work is below. I really like the black & white version, but I'm also digging the colored version. You'll notice I added a lot more texture and lighting effects than usual to give it a more painterly feel and modern finish.

Which do you like better? Leave a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Covers Decoded

The only things more important than a cover when it comes to whether someone will pick up a book are trusted recommendations and whether the person enjoyed the previous book/current author. So a cover is pretty darn important.

Essential elements include an image on the front that not only grabs attention but sells the contents of the book. The attention grabbing is important so it has a chance to sell. And I say sell, because describing or informing the potential reader what's in the book isn't enough--there's too much competition. (Of course, if you have a big name, you can fill half the cover with it and still sell books.)

Once that is taken care of, a compelling block of text telling the reader why his life will be incomplete if he doesn't read this book helps those on the edge. And a few endorsements/testimonies never hurt to add a bandwagon argument to the mix. People are suckers for bandwagon arguments. 

The image above is a combination of digital and traditional illustration techniques (can you identify where I used which?). The color scheme is one I've played with in the past and wanted to try again, but in a more developed way. The first time I felt it was too harsh. I think I've figured it out so it's striking without being overpowering. But that's just my opinion.

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Parody of the old Hostess Ads

Once upon a time, comic books were written for a general audience. It didn't take long for someone decided they should be for kids, and they were dumbed down. Ads reflected this readership.

In the late 70s/early 80s, Hostess advertised their delicious snack cakes and pies in the pages of comic books with one page stories where a silly villain (with an equally silly name) stole the Hostess treat and a superhero had to stop him and get the treats back. It usually required little work, and at the end the children enjoyed their treats. They were fun ads fondly remembered by those who read them. (This was long before my time, and I only discovered them in back issues and people's reminiscent's on their blogs and in letter columns.)

With Hostess once again in the headlines with the "Sweetest Comeback in History", I decided it was time to bring back these ads, but as a parody. (I'm amazed I was the first one to think of this.)

The above comic is a page from the upcoming Wandering Koala Digest 1, which will be available October 16 and can be pre-ordered now. This page was created entirely digitally (except for the photo of a slide which I found online in the public domain). The rest of the comic was drawn with a stick, but there'll be more about that in the coming weeks...