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Book Review: Foundations in Comic Book Art

foundations by Karl P. Madsen, Editor-at-Large

Growing up, I believe most of us wanted to be artists at some point, and if you read comic books, you had to draw Batman or Spider-man. If you were like me, when you realized that your stick figures didn’t look right, you thought about writing the great comic book story. So we’d take our binders of material to every comic book show and signing that we could ride our bikes to, and be told that the format was wrong, or the perspective is wonky, the shading is inconsistent, to take life drawing and anatomy…any number of reasons to not be encouraged to enter their business; at least in our opinions. At some point we moved on and got jobs to support our comic book habit, and now, when we walk past the portfolio review line, we look at some of the samples, give a little bit of advice, and wish them luck, giving that knowing smile to the other patrons looking at the portfolios what they will be told. Well I now have next to my art table three books that tell us all the info that we stood in line to not be told.

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Foundations in Comic Book Art is to the artist what Words for Pictures is to the writer. This guide starts out with the things you need to start being an artist, beginning with Desire and Discipline. Think that yellow #2 pencil you used in school was just for homework and filling in the bubbles on the answer sheets? Well it is, but it has brothers and sisters that range from the hard leaded 6H to that old softie 8B and all the ones in between, and each one has a purpose to the artist. Does this mean that you need to go to the art supply store and buy all the pencils? No, the same as you don’t need to start off with the high quality paper and all the inkers’ nibs. Lowe says you can start off with the multi-purpose #2 pencil and a ream of printer paper. You can even use mechanical pencils. But you should carry a sketch pad and draw every chance you get. Just like Brian Michael Bendis advises in the writing guide; you need to practice, practice, practice. The rest of the book is devoted to showing various techniques for you to use to create your own style. This book is chock full of illustrations, but these are more instructional and informative; drawing in various stages of being finished to show the process so the product is art to be proud of. The book breaks down like this:

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FOREWORD – Eleanor Davis, cartoonist and illustrator

PREFACE – John Paul Lowe

CHAPTER 1 – Anyone Can Draw – The Two D’s: Desire and Discipline, Necessary materials Exercise- Drawing objects from memory. As I recently found out, this is true. This chapter gives the foundation and encouragement to put pencil to paper creatively.

CHAPTER 2 – Learning to See – Drawing Straight Lines Seeing Forms Contour Drawings Drawing Multiple Objects Exercises-Freehand drawing, and Defining volume through line.

CHAPTER 3 – Perspective Basics – How to Divide a Square Creating, Symmetrical Curves Within Two Squares, The Cube Method Perspective, Drawing Placing Objects

CHAPTER 4 – The Figure – Gesture Drawing, Foreshortening, Drawing Multiple Figures

Exercise-Drawing figures from memory.

CHAPTER 5 – Visual Problem Solving – Thumbnail Drawings Using Photo Reference, Visual Research, Using Photoshop with Photographic Reference, Creating Blue Line Pages to Ink

Exercise-Composing thumbnails.

CHAPTER 6 – Inking – Inking Tools, Pen Inking Techniques, Brush Inking Techniques,

Exercises-Inking with pen nib, and Inking with brush. Think the inker is just tracing? Without the inker you just have a coloring book. This artist gives the picture texture and depth. I’m looking forward to attempting to ink one of my drawings.

CHAPTER 7 – Advanced Inking Techniques – Using Unconventional Materials to Create Unique Textures, Masking an Illustration, X-Acto Knives and Straight Razors, Sponges, Toothbrushes Other Alternative Inking Tools; and Black and White Design.

CHAPTER 8 – Software Applications in Comic Book Art – Creating a Grid in Photoshop, Using the Perspective Tool in Mange Studio, Using Manga Studio to Apply Screentone Patterns




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Is this book everything an artist needs? No. But it’s a good reference book for a seasoned artist and for someone like me; it gives me encouragement and a solid foundation to improve that bit of talent for my own enjoyment or to decide that maybe an art class or two may make me dangerous. Let me sum this book up in two quotes: From the Foreword by Eleanor Davis:

“One of the saddest lessons you will learn when you go to art school is that your art is not very good. One day in sophomore year you will look down at your Dali-inspired colored pencil drawing of anthropomorphic lizards and you won’t be able to ignore it any longer. You’ll look at your professor and see it in her eyes: She thinks you’re a bad artist, and she doesn’t think you’re ever going to get any better. “Very creative,” she’ll say. “Thanks,” you’ll say. John Lowe thinks you can get better. In fact, he’s sure you can get better. He’s sure you can get good.”

Finally, the parting words from John Lowe himself:

Make drawing a daily practice. You will become better, and faster if you devote an hour a day, every day, to drawing. The better you get, the more fun drawing becomes. You’ll find that the hours fly by while you create worlds that only exist in your imagination. Enjoy.”

Foundations in Comic Book Art: Fundamental Tools and Techniques for Sequential Artists By John Paul Lowe is 147 pages of inspiration, motivation, and information.

Rating: ★★★★★
ComicsOnline.com  gives Foundations in Comic Book Art 5 traced stars out of 5.


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About Karl Madsen

Karl is an old but powerful mountain giant living in Idaho. He enjoys horror, heavy metal, and the Silver Surfer. Still doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up.

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