Monday, April 23, 2012

The simplest question is often the most unexpected.

This past weekend I attended the first ever Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC). For those of us who were under the delusion that comics cater strictly to American and Japanese audiences, this was an opportunity to see that, like everything else, there is a greater world out there. Turns out that no matter what you are interested in, you can find someone in this world who shares your interest. For instance, who would have thought that the 80's pop group, Wham would have a following here? I know, I know...I also never thought they had a following to begin with but apparently one man on the train is a big enough fan to have Careless Whisper as his ringtone. It's best not to ask why he chose that song or even why I knew the name it, but it serves as a funny reminder that we are never alone in this world.

Anyway, this convention served as one of those reminders for me. Here I thought that there was no market or interest in Dubai/the UAE in comics and yet 10,000 people purchased tickets for the weekend festivities. From the Cosplayers to Arab versions of Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, the conference wove a rich tapestry of geekery. While many were there to buy comics, play Magic and Warhammer, I was there on a different mission. My goal was to show some of my work to some comic book artists and get some feedback and advice. I was sort of hoping to find out if I have been wasting my time and well, it turns out I wasn't wasting it at all.

I arrived early on the first day and got to meet a couple of great artists who work for Marvel. Both gave me some great advice, but one asked me a question I wasn't prepared for...What do you want to do in comics? Ink? Pencil? Color? Such a simple basic question, yet I was completely flummoxed.  What the hell DO I want to do? I've sort of done everything on my own for so long that the thought of doing an actual job in comics, kind of scares me. There are all sorts of internal debates that I have with myself about this. Do I want to give up owning what I create? (look up Jerry Siegel, Alan Moore, and Jack Kirby if you don't know what I mean) Am I fast enough to bang out pages by deadlines? Most importantly, am I good enough? The latter was what I hoped to find out. What I discovered talking with the artists at MEFCC was that, I have accomplished in developing the one hardest qualities to have, a cool style. Hearing that my art had it's own cool style made me feel fantastic. See, anyone can learn how to draw by copying other artists, but if they don't develop their own way of doing things, they are simply not successful in the industry. What made Jack Kirby, Jim Lee, Walt Simonson, Alex Ross, etc. successful was that they had their own recognizable style. Not that I cold possibly hope to be in the same ballpark as them but it feels good to know that my style is my own.

Of course hearing that I have style was the good news. The "bad" news (not really though since I was there to learn)...I was told that I need to work on making my anatomy work more natural and lifelike, my coloring is weak and needs to be improved, and most importantly, I need to work on using line weights correctly in my inking. This was the one are that I wanted to learn about more than anything since I started inking my work. It's perhaps the most basic lesson, and yet has completely escaped me. Basically, wherever light hits an area, your line should be lightest/thinnest and heaviest where there is shadow.  Below is one of my drawings that shows this mistake:
This is a character sketch of Grim that I did for a comic I am working on with a friend of mine.
The light source is supposed to be coming in from the upper right side; however, the line weight on that shoulder is exactly the same as the other side.  Anyway I did some drawing/inking with that lesson in mind and created this picture yesterday:
This is another character sketch of Grim transformed into a werewolf.
This I feel is a marked improvement over the previous one. The light source is directly above and the line weight reflects it.

Anyway, that's all for this week. Next week I'll explain more about this comic that I am working on and perhaps even share the first the page along with some of the character designs.