From time to time Ive been asked What reference books do you use? or whos the artist you use for reference?
Answering the latter question is easy. For STYLE, the artist I referenced earlier when I was starting out making a living out of drawing is Jim Lee much like anyone else at the time. The other guy is Masamune Shirow.
I found out about Jim Lee through another comic book artist who showed me a graphic novel copy of Uncanny X-men while I was submitting samples of my artwork to local publishers here. I love the energy of his work and I like his art style because it looked easy enough to emulate and make my own personal variation.
I got some work and got noticed a little bit, I was fortunate that I got into comic book gigs during a time when publishers were looking for new blood and modern robot and superhero stuff were becoming in. I found out about Masamune Shirow through another in-betweener in an animation studio I was training at. The guy likes to read a lot of that stuff that will later be popularly known as manga.
I can tell you that back in those days my artwork really, really sucks. - Anatomies are off, expressions are stiff, angle shot perspectives are off and panel to panel compositions were really generic. One thing I can consider myself being good at is doing robots.
I got my foot in the local comic book scene not because my artwork was good but because there was a shortage of alternatives. While there are many artists then doing great work, their style isnt what the new publishers were looking for. Mechas were becoming popular as well as video fighting games. I got to work on titles involving mechas and video game rip-offs because the editors got nagged to death while they search for inexistent options. There were only a handful of artists who uses modern 90s style.
For a time, I felt like a REAL comic book artist. I hang around with other artists three times a week at publication offices while waiting for payments on illustration submitted earlier in the day. I was happy with the work I was getting until one comic book veteran artist said my art is CRAP.
The guy said that no amount of detailing on my drawings will cover my handicaps in anatomy or my composition. IF you want to stay in the business, you have to improve. You draw good robots but even your human illustrations look like robots It hurt, and he was right.
Sooo, like in any Chinese martial art flick, I said Teach me, master!
I respect this person very much and if he were a character from Naruto, hell probably be one of the Hokages.
For several months I got to sit side by side with the guy three times a week in a stinking corridor a few paces from the publications comfort room where many of the local artists congregate. I ran some little errands for my teacher like fetching coffee from a canteen several meters away.
Because of him, I learned how to use brushes, some tricks, cheats, line values and how to make coffee: Coffee first dropped over hot water, then sugar then creamer and not by putting everything in the cup and then pouring hot water.
Then one day, I saw a thin, rickety, old man came over carrying two, heavy bags. When the other artists saw the old guy they went over to him and looked inside the two plastic bags he is carrying. I didnt know the 70 something guy but the way artists talked with him shows that they respect him. He was wearing black framed glasses with lens that are probably half a centimeter thick.
The bags that he was carrying contained several items that can accelerate any comic book artists learning process: Reference books. Cheap, out of print, Xerox copies of reference books for sale.
My teacher asked the old man to come over and he asked me to get another chair. There wasnt any available nearby so I got a rusty paint can, big enough for the old man to sit on. They were having a light conversation when the old man showed me a book and said to me without even looking, This is what you need.
It was a photocopy of a book entitled Figure Drawing for All its worth by Andrew Loomis. Published 1943.
The book is thick, it wasnt photocopied back-to-back so its thicker than the original copy. The Xeroxed copy is a clear one and the pages were strung together by a thick thread going through small holes that I assumed were drilled through the pages.
What I am too bored to teach you, you can learn from there Again, my mentor was right.
This has become my Bible.
Many years passed and I have yet to come across a book that will match the contents and usefulness of this one. I've seen some Japanese books, Korean, and many watered down how-to books showing how to do stuff but never really explaining the thinking behind the system nor the principle.
It has taught me how to work and think as an artist and even how to sell and price my work. Because of this book, I was able to un-learn useless conceptions.
Art styles will come and go, but the foundations will remain the same. Light, forms and values will not change.
If there is one book Id recommend, its this one.
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