First of all, if you’re puzzled about what “line art” is, it’s just the underlying black & white drawing for any piece of traditional or digital cartoon art. It’s the stage between the initial pencil sketch and the addition of paint or coloured pencil. It looks a bit like this:
This is the line art for a 1990s-style painting that will appear here in late December. As usual, I’ve altered the brightness/contrast levels in this image for the sake of clarity.
Whilst I don’t keep a scan of the line art for literally every piece of art that I make, I tend to keep a copy of it for all of my webcomic updates and for any of my paintings that impress me enough to think “I should keep a copy of the line art for this“.
So, why should you keep copies of some or all of your line art and why should you show it off if you post art online?
1) It’s educational: Showing off your line art can help other artists who are still learning how to draw. Seeing the basic underlying drawing, without the distraction of paint or digital effects means that less experienced artists can get a clearer idea of how you made a particular painting or drawing. It means that it’s easier for less experienced artists to learn (through private copying) any of the basic techniques that you’ve used.
Likewise, seeing the basic line art for a painting or comic can reassure less experienced artists because it shows them that fancy art supplies don’t matter. Line art shows less experienced artists that drawing skills (rather than expensive art supplies) are the foundation for many works of art. At the end of the day, if a line drawing looks good enough, then it would still look good even if the artist used a cheap ballpoint pen or a basic graphics program like MS Paint.
Likewise, seeing how artists have covered up mistakes in their line art can reassure inexperienced artists by showing them that it’s ok to make mistakes. All artists make mistakes. What matters is either covering mistakes up well or, even more importantly, actually finishing the painting.
So, if you’re interested in helping out less experienced artists and/or allowing people to be inspired by your works, then showing off your line art every now and then can be a great way to do this.
2) Deleted scenes: If you’re making a webcomic the old-fashioned way and you know how to use image editing software, then there’s a good chance that you’re going to use image editing software to improve your comics after you’ve scanned them. This might involve things like covering up mistakes in the artwork, improving the dialogue etc.. It might also involve slight changes to the story of your comics too.
So, keeping scans of the original line art can be a great way to show your audience the “deleted scenes” in your webcomics. As well as being a nifty piece of bonus content, it’s also a good way to give your audience some small insight into the creative process. For example, here’s the ending to a webcomic mini series of mine from earlier this year:
“Damania Retrofuturistic – Back In Time” By C. A. Brown
Now, here’s the line art for this comic (from this post):
“Damania Retrofuturistic – Back In Time (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown
As you can see, the second panel includes some slightly different dialogue. I ended up changing this in the final comic because it sounded too convoluted and silly. In fact, you might even be able to see where I’ve crossed out the words “a tin whistle” and just included the words “a whistle” instead. So, yes, I was still learning how to write snappy dialogue back then. Again, all artists make mistakes.
3) Filler content: Ok, I’ve mentioned two reasons why keeping and showing off line art can be good for your audience. But, what can it do for you? Well, if you post art or comics online regularly, then keeping a stock of line art can be a great way to find last-minute filler content.
If you need to post something and you’re extremely busy and/or uninspired, or if you need to replace an upcoming blog post in a hurry, then line art is the perfect filler content. It can be posted quickly (since you’ve already made it) and it looks visually interesting enough that your audience is more likely to forgive the filler content. Plus, if you make your art far in advance of publication, you can also use line art-based filler content to give your audience previews of your upcoming work.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂