Time to write a proper post, of which there have been unfortunately few lately. I’m going to talk a bit about the artists that influence my style, as well as some that just do things so well I can count on their work to give me ideas. The image is a clever meme I found to provide a visual aid. And of course, I recommend all of the below to anyone and everyone.
First and foremost, the artist with the biggest influence on my work over the past two years or so has been one Park Joong-Ki, creator of the quite excellent series Shaman Warrior. His artwork is visceral, expressive and immensely detailed, to use reviewer lingo. No matter how many lines he draws on a face, it never gets too cluttered and remains recognizable. When his characters move–and damn, do they ever move about–you can see that movement in every line. He’ll do these incredible splash pages to show off various epic events and finishing moves, and they never look like a still frame. When a guy gets punched in the head, you wince. When someone leaps over a ten-foot wall, your eyes widen. The motion feels so…present.
Unfortunately, even the combined keywords “park joong ki shaman warrior finishing move splash page absolutely excellent artwork omg awesome awesome” don’t turn up one of those excellent double-page spreads in Google Image Search, and I can’t scan anything right now, so the one example will have to suffice. His linework’s heavily influenced my own, and I’ve tried to study the way he does faces in such detail.
Next up is the little-known but amazing Daryl Mandryk, head concept artist at Propaganda Games, if I remember correctly. The bulk of his work is illustration, which makes sense, considering his job. He’s an absolute master with a tablet–in my humble opinion, the best tablet-based artist in the business today. He’s capable of combining loose, almost sketchy marks with heavily defined and extremely well-rendered details to make something that draws the eye exactly where it’s meant to go. Like Joong-Ki, he’s also really great with making movement look, well, like it exists. Since he does it all digitally, he uses the blur tool to wondrous effect, making people, weapons, and little chunks of stuff fly around all over the place.
If I hadn’t been looking at his stuff and reading his tutorials, I’d probably be incapable with a tablet. Of course, I still have a long way to go, but his drawings helped me out hugely. Besides, if I ever don’t feel like drawing, all I have to do to get in the mood is look at a few of his illustrations. I’m usually overwhelmed by waves of awesome and go run off and draw something right away.
Next is Mike Mignola, illustrious creator of Hellboy. It’s pretty hard not to take something away from this guy’s art. He never uses values and sticks entirely to chunks of black and white. In addition to making his work look great with or without color, it amps up the contrast to a level you rarely see in comics. It fits with his dark subject matter and makes his panels look really dramatic. This works especially well when he draws an old ruin or cathedral or some such–you can tell exactly where the light is coming from, and despite how stylized everything is, it looks very realistic, heavy and tangible. Plus, the amount of detail he works in using very little line is astounding.
It took me a while to realize it, but Hayao Miyazaki was also a huge inspiration. I saw all his movies when I was a kid and read Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and was blown away by the creativity and detail of it all. Some of the first drawings I spent more than an hour on were based off Princess Mononoke. Of course, the sucked, but it still cemented a little bit of Miyazaki in my art style. Specifically, I think it’s the crosshatching. I always loved the way he did crosshatching in Nausicaa, and it shows in my sketches. Which I should really post more of. Damn.
Then we have Tony Harris. When I first saw Harris’ work in Ex Machina, I seriously thought he had run photos through Photoshop. His style is incredibly realistic–everything from facial expressions to wrinkles in clothing looks like it was pulled directly from real life. However, there’s something more than that. The level of detail is so complete that everything seems exaggerated, and his colorists always use especially vibrant hues. It creates a sort of hyperrealism–not too perfect to be real, not so realistic it drops into the uncanny valley, but something that makes it like real life, only better. Brighter and faster and more vivid. It’s brilliant. And sort of art-deco, which is cool.
Right behind him is Tony Moore, whose work is a little contrasting. What he manages to do is create a gritty, realistic world (I promise I will never use that phrase again) with an art style that doesn’t’ attempt photorealism. Facial features are exaggerated, figures look angular and backgrounds are a mess of lines. Regardless of this, it’s not hard to take his work very seriously, and it’s obviously very grounded in reality. Kind of the opposite of Harris’ photorealistic vividness, Moore’s work is stylized yet subdued.
This is the kind of style I want Sorrel and Artichoke to achieve, eventually: something that’s a little caricatured, a little sketchy, but still very believable and detailed. It’s going to be a while…
Oh, plus, he’s a linework god. Enough said.
And the rest I mostly found out about recently. They don’t directly influence my work for the most part, but they give me ideas right and left. Paul Kidby’s caricatures are simultaneously funny and oddly believable, like you could actually see someone with a nose that pointy and an expression that malicious. His paintings are also spectacular. Aaron Diaz does beautiful, surreal work and his Dresden Codak is funny and philosophical. Scott C’s drawings are outrageous and he’s brilliant with watercolor. Daniel Dociu does imaginative landscapes and structures, and does them better than just about everyone. Finally, Theo Ellsworth’s bizarre, meticulous pictures are simply a joy to look at.
Diaz and Ellsworth get extra points because they both live less than ten miles from my house and I’ve gotten the chance to briefly speak with both of them at the local comics convention.
But wait! There’s more! My favorite writers also deserve mention. They’re the ones that really prove that comics are more than just superheroes and swordfights.
Absolute top of the list is Brian K. Vaughan, creator of Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man. Both of these series are wholly original in terms of subject matter and paced perfectly, never running too long or too short. Vaughan’s also a master of dialogue–his characters mumble and stutter and generally talk like real people, and yet they’re still full of wit and passion and say some genuinely funny and moving things. Y, especially, is a piece of literature which everyone should read.
You have to give some credit to Robert Kirkman, simply for creating in The Walking Dead a zombie story that isn’t all action and yelling, one that focuses on how people might actually react to the situation. In the movies and most zombie comics, it’s all “OH SHIT ZOMBIES SHOOT THEM IN THE HEAD” but Kirkman’s characters actually seem affected by the ordeal and act accordingly.
Finally, I must mention Warren Ellis, because of one Spider Jerusalem. Spider may be one of the most masterfully written protagonists ever. He’s a complete lunatic who’s always hopped up on several different kinds of illegal substances, who cusses out anyone and everyone and punches innocent bystanders in the teeth when they get in his way. He’s crude, violent, unpredictable, and a complete asshole by all accounts. And yet, the reader sympathizes with him. He’s still the good guy, partially because a good portion of the Transmetropolitan world is even more villainous than he is, and also because it’s obvious that under the violence, profanity and substance abuse lies a brilliant mind and a noble set of standards. He may be the most antiheroic antihero around, but we know that if things turn out his way, they’ll turn out for the better. Ellis created a completely unlikeable character and made readers like him. That, I think, is an achievement.
Besides, the scene in which Spider leaps into his editor’s office, grinning madly and shouting, “Hold the front page!’ to which the editor responds, “You’re not fucking with my front page!” and Spider jumps onto his desk and punches him in the head, is the best scene in comics. Hands down.
And that’s all. Everyone, read and stare at work by everyone mentioned above. You will not regret it.