Friday 17 February 2012

Images in sand...

When I was a child in primary school playing in the sandpit I drew images with my finger in the sand.

When they gave me crayons I clenched them in my fist, stuck my tongue between my teeth, and drew images on coloured paper. As I grew up so did the drawing materials. Pencils and brushes, watercolours and gouache, acrylics and oils. The airbrush dominated for a time and then digital tools arrived.

There are occasions when I face a class of eager graphic students (and I confess the term ‘eager’ may be wishful thinking) hoping to learn the techniques of illustration and design, and I tell them there is one rule…

And that rule is… that there are no rules. There is no one established way to do a thing; nothing is set in stone; no one has a right to say this is the way it should be done and no other is permissible.

So what has that to do with the two illustrations above?

To begin with let’s explore their differences.

Well, for a start, there is twenty years between their production.

The one on the left was produced by designer watercolours on Saunders Waterford 190 lb watercolour paper with a sable No. 5 brush and measures 280mm by 340mm.

The one on the right was created using various digital programs with digital colours and brushes on a computer and has no fixed measurement.

What do they have in common? I created them both.

Well, I am not going to deny that the hand-produced artwork has a more charming and attractive appearance. I would probably choose it myself if I had to make a comparison.

So if I am capable of producing both styles but have a soft spot for the more traditional style why have I followed the path of digital painting?

I can answer that in a word… DEADLINE.

There is one other difference between the two pages… The hand drawn watercolour artwork took ten days to complete… the digital took just under two. On the demands of a 128 page graphic novel… well, do the math’s yourself.

There are other advantages. Flexibility. The format of the frames can be altered right up to the last moment, changing the whole grid of the page. The colours can be balanced so that one frame can dominate or be blended into the overall colour of the page. Frames can be deleted or moved into subsequent pages should the narrative require it.

And when it comes to camera-ready artwork you are no longer relying on second or third generation distortions.

So that is why I am using digital tools at the moment.

But like I said, there are no rules, and tomorrow you may see my outcomes revert to the traditional style because time might be available. After all, illustration is visual story telling. There are many ways to tell a story.

Yesterday I was walking along a deserted wintry beach where the sea was a grey strip on the horizon. The sand was still dark and damp where recently seawater had submerged it beneath the waves.

I bent down, pointed a finger… and began to draw in the sand.