Three Lazy Ways To Include Fight Scenes In Your Webcomic (If You Don’t Usually Include Them)

2017-artwork-lazy-action-scenes-article-sketch

As regular readers probably know, I’m busy with making this year’s Halloween comic at the time of writing. As such, I thought that I’d talk about making webcomics again. Today, I’ll be looking at lazy ways to include elements from the action genre in your (web)comics, if you haven’t had much practice at this.

Although action scenes in comics are designed to be read quickly, they are probably one of the most difficult things to draw well. After all, you’ve got to work out how to draw your characters standing in all sorts of dramatic-looking poses and you also have to clearly show a complex series of events using just a few panels.

Yes, technically, you should probably practice drawing anatomy. You should learn how to draw every type of perspective. You should probably carefully study lots of action scenes in other comics and learn techniques from them. But, you’re making a webcomic and you’re on a schedule. So, you could always, you know, cheat.

But, a word of warning, these “lazy” techniques will only work if you include action scenes infrequently in your comics. A small number of “lazy” action scenes, coupled with lots of funny dialogue, interesting artwork etc.. can be overlooked by readers. But, if you’re including lots of action in your comic, then you should probably study how to draw these scenes properly.

But, that said, here are some lazy ways to include action scenes in your comic:

1) Gunfights: If you are inexperienced with the action genre in comics, then you should probably try to stick to including gun-based combat in your comics if the story allows it.

Not only is it easier to learn how to draw someone holding or firing a gun (eg: a few poses, as opposed to the hundreds of possible poses needed to draw a realistic fist-fight, sword-fight etc..) but, due to the especially deadly nature of guns, it can mean that the fight scenes in your comics can plausibly be over within the space of a couple of panels at the most. In other words, there are fewer complicated combat-based panels to draw.

Of course, you shouldn’t include guns in comics where they would look somewhat out of context. So, this technique isn’t a cure-all for being inexperienced with drawing action scenes. But, if you have to include other weapons in your comic, then….

2) Posing: If you need a lazy way to give the impression that your comic contains lots of action, without actually including that much action, then one way to do this is to include as many (or more) scenes of characters holding or brandishing weapons than scenes where they actually use them. Just make sure that you only include this in contexts where your characters would realistically be expected to be brandishing weapons.

For example, my Halloween comic from last year is set during a zombie apocalypse (eg: a context where the characters should probably be armed) and it contains something like eleven or twelve panels where characters are holding or brandishing a variety of unusual weapons, but not using them. On the other hand, there are only something like five or six panels in the entire comic where the characters actually use those weapons.

In other words, although the characters are visibly armed for large parts of the comic, there are about twice as many panels showing the characters not using their weapons.

Doing this sort of thing gives the impression that the characters are in a dramatic and dangerous situation (why would they be armed if they weren’t?) whilst also allowing you to include a minimum of complex action scenes in your comic.

3) Implication: As ironic as it sounds, self-censorship can actually be your friend when it comes to drawing action scenes when you have little experience. Whilst a well-drawn action scene in a comic should show both an act of violence and it’s direct consequences (eg: someone swinging a punch and the punch connecting with whoever they are hitting), this requires a bit more planning and artistic knowledge to do well.

So, one lazy way to get around this is to use implication. For example, one panel of my upcoming Halloween comic shows the main characters being theatened. The next panel consists of nothing more than a melodramatic illustration of one of the main characters firing a machine gun (whilst saying a witty line of dialogue).

The “action” in the scene is conveyed entirely through “sound effects”, dialogue, dramatic lighting etc… But, it’s basically just a picture of the character standing still and firing a machine gun.

But, most critically, the panel after this one is just a dialogue-based panel. The “fight” is implied to be over through the more relaxed demeanour of the characters, and the more puzzling aspects of this scene (eg: where did the machine gun come from?) are addressed through dialogue.

Yes, it’s a lazy way to handle a scene like this but – because there won’t be that much violence in the comic (well, there will be more than usual, but less than in many more action-based comics) and because the comic is meant to be more of a comedy horror comic than a “serious” horror or thriller comic, then hopefully it won’t have too much of an adverse effect on the quality of the comic.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Tracing IS Cheating! (And Here’s Why)

This little sketch is a parody (in both the widely-used and technical sense of the word) of the SIIA's  "Don't Copy That Floppy" video from the 1990s.

This little sketch is a parody (in both the widely-used and technical sense of the word) of the SIIA’s “Don’t Copy That Floppy” video from the 1990s.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly averse to some forms of artistic “cheating”. But, a week or two ago, I was watching an old Youtube video by an absolutely excellent drawing teacher called Shoo Rayner and he started to talk about tracing.

He was quite emphatic that tracing isn’t cheating and he provided some fairly interesting arguments to back up his ideas (and he has another, more interesting video about tracing here). It’s worth watching these videos just to hear his views on the subject and to make up your own mind. Even so, I have to disagree very strongly about this whole subject.

I believe that tracing is one of the worst ways that an artist can cheat herself or himself when they are learning how to draw.

“Cheating” your audience in order to impress them (eg: by creating the illusion of a complex background with just a few lines, digitally editing your art, using watercolour pencils instead of actual watercolours etc…) is perfectly acceptable in most circumstances, but you should never ever cheat yourself.

You can never become even fairly competent at drawing if you cheat yourself and skip over some of the basic skills that every artist should learn. Simply tracing something bypasses all sorts of useful skills which you should really practice and learn as much as you can.

Yes, tracing will show you the basic actions which you need to perform in order to draw something. Yes, you will have a very precise copy of another picture at the end of it. If you’ve very lucky, you might even pick up a few drawing techniques by simple repetition and copying.

Tracing isn’t a completely useless way to practice, but there are much better ways to learn how to draw through copying.

I am, of course, talking about copying things the really old-fashioned way. I’m talking about looking at a picture and copying it by eye, without using tracing paper. Yes, this is a lot more difficult than just tracing something – but, well, tracing wouldn’t be cheating if it was difficult, would it?

Yes, copying things by eye takes a lot more practice to get right (and, for heaven’s sake, don’t get discouraged by your early attempts at it). But, once you’ve eventually learnt how to do this, you’ll be able to draw anything. You’ll be able to draw still life pictures, you’ll be able to look at several reference images and draw something new from them.

Although I’ve never really had any formal art classes (apart from three years of pre-GCSE art lessons in secondary school), this is probably why art schools teach life drawing rather than tracing.

Not only that, copying things by eye forces you to actually think about what you are drawing. It forces you to pay careful attention to the proportions, the shading, the detail and the shapes in the picture you are trying to copy. Not only will you be copying a picture, you will be studying it and learning from it.

In addition to this, copying more complex images (like photographs and old paintings) by eye also makes you focus on the most important elements of the original picture. It forces you to simplify the original picture as much as you can, without losing the essence of what it looks like. If you are in any way interested in drawing comics, cartoons, caricatures etc… then this is probably the most important skill you can learn.

Yes, your copies will never look exactly the same as the original picture either, but this is a good thing. It allows your own art style and individuality to shine through. It allows you to learn more about your own artistic style and preferences. You won’t get any of this if you simply trace another picture.

Best of all, although your picture will still be a copy – it will be your copy. Your unique interpretation of the original picture. To put it another way, it is like the difference between a band covering a song in their own musical style and a band simply miming and lip-synching to a recording of the original song.

Of course, it goes without saying that if you plan to sell (or possibly even just publish) anything you’ve copied, then make sure that it’s either a copy of something that has gone out of copyright and/or it fits into whatever “fair use”/”fair dealing” laws you have in your country. And, yes, current copyright rules are unfair as hell and need serious reform – but that’s a subject for another article.

To give you an example of what I mean by copies being your own interpretation of a picture, here is Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec’s “The Laundress” (taken from here):

"The Laundress" By Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec

“The Laundress” By Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec

Now, here is my copy of it:

"After Lautrec" By C. A. Brown

“After Lautrec” By C. A. Brown

As you can see, the two pictures look slightly different from each other. Yes, they are both versions of the same picture, but my “cover version” of Lautrec’s painting is in a slightly different style to the original. I’d never have been able to do this if I’d just traced Lautrec’s picture.

So, although tracing might be an easier way to learn how to draw things, it really isn’t the best way to learn.

Yes, copying things the really old-fashioned way is a lot more difficult and you’ll probably fail quite a few times before you get it right. But you will learn about ten times more from every one of those failures than you could learn from a hundred “successful” traced copies of something.

Tracing is cheating. And the only person that you are really cheating is yourself.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Don’t Be Afraid To “Cheat” With Your Art

2014 Artwork Artistic Cheating Sketch

First of all, let me say that I’m not talking about plaigarism here. Yes, plagiarism is technically a form of cheating, but it’s about the only form of cheating that you should avoid when you are creating art. Everything else is fair game.

Secondly, if you’re selling your art in any way, then there are certain types of cheating which would be considered fraud or misrepresentation of goods (which is both immoral and illegal).

I am not a lawyer, but a general rule is that whatever your client sees and reads on your website should be exactly what they buy – no exceptions. But, if you’re not selling your originals (eg: if you are just selling prints or downloads), then this might not be an issue anyway.

So, if I’m not talking about plagiarism or fraud, then what do I mean by “cheating” anyway?

Well, it basically includes any non-traditional means you can find in order to make your art look even better than it actually is. In other words, anything which any “serious” artist from twenty or fifty years ago would sneer at in disgust.

Whilst I’m mostly talking about digitally editing scans or photographs of your original art, I’m also talking about working in “easier” versions of established mediums too.

I’m talking about things like using watercolour pencils (coloured pencils which turn into watercolour paint when you go over them with a wet paintbrush) in order to create something that looks almost indistinguishable from an actual proper watercolour painting. I’m talking about things like using MS Paint and digital photographs to create very realistic “rotoscoped” cartoons.

I’m talking about things like digitally converting a colour photo or drawing to a greyscale image in order to either make it look like a traditional B&W photo or a pencil drawing.

I’m talking about things like making a drawing done with ordinary coloured pencils look like it was painted or created digitally by making a few adjustments and adding a few interesting filters in whatever digital image editing software you use (although I have to admit that this was kind of funny – since the first watercolour pencil painting I produced actually looked just like a tangible version of one of my heavily-edited coloured pencil drawings from a year ago LOL!!!!!).

I’m even talking about really small things like tweaking the brightness and contrast levels of your art after you’ve scanned or photographed them (I do this on almost all of my pictures for the simple reason that my scanner makes them look “flat” and faded if I don’t).

Technically, this is all “cheating”. But, is it wrong?

If you aren’t using a digitally-edited picture to sell an unedited original, then I would argue that it isn’t.

Since, although the process of creating art is one of the most fun things about it, the most satisfying thing is the end result – the thing we have to show for spending the past few hours or minutes of our lives sitting in front of a piece of paper or a computer screen.

Not only that, other people like to look at good art. They like to look at things that amaze them.

Now, if something looks like good art, it’s good art. It doesn’t matter if the artist painstakingly mixed every colour in the picture from the original pigments and then carefully painted each line with a brush or whether they just picked up a waterproof pen and a set of watercolour pencils and spent an hour on it – if it looks good, then people are going to think that it’s good art.

Good art is good art. Bad art is bad art. How it is produced is, as Seven Of Nine would say, irrelevant.

Plus, I would also argue that the “cheating” is actually a skill and an art form in and of itself. After all, it takes a bit of knowledge and a bit of practice to know how to turn something like this:

A direct and unedited (apart from cropping it to the right size) scan of a picture I drew last November.

A direct and unedited (apart from cropping it to the right size) scan of a picture I drew last November.

Into something like this:

The same picture after a bit of digital editing....

The same picture after a bit of digital editing….

Yes, “cheating” is no substitute for learning the basics of creating art and practising regularly, but it is a way to feel a lot more confident in yourself as an artist whilst you’re doing this. It’s a way to really impress yourself after you’ve spent a while working on something.

Just remember, the ultimate goal of “cheating” is to build up your confidence and skills to a point where, like with my first watercolour pencil drawing, you’ll eventually create originals which look exactly like the “cheating” which you used to do earlier.

Or, to use an old saying, “fake it until you make it”.

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Anyway, I hope that this article was thought-provoking 🙂