Exercise 1: Identifying tools and materials

In this exercise I had to use the work of illustrators who use a particular medium. I decided to use inked drawings in black and white. The artists that I chose all work in the comic book industry, the standard process/workflow for comic book artwork production is normally split into three roles, penciller, inker, and colourist.
The artists below all pencil and ink their own work.




I decided to try and work in a style similar to Brian Bolland, he’s a very highly regarded comic book artist so I knew I was in for a challenge. I recall watching a documentary about the creation of the cartoon series The Simpsons.
In the documentary The Simpsons creator Matt Groening set out to create certain rules to keep the style and presentation of his characters consistent.
I decided to make some observations and set rules about Brian Bolland’s style to see if it would help in emulating his work.
The main things I picked up on was;

  • His usage of line weight is on the thin to medium size, he doesn’t use a lot of thick weights.
  • He uses blocks of blacks sparingly and leaves a lot of white space to great effect, creating great moody lighting.
  • Hatching, he uses a lot of hatching to really describe form and tone, his lines are very tight and have great precision.
  • I also noticed he uses a lot of lines to bring with it a level of high detail.

I was asked to revisit a previous work and present in the style of my chosen artist, I selected my final piece “The Witch” from the very first exercise, I thought it would lend itself to a comic book style well and give me opportunity to re explore as that was trying to achieve a degree of photo realism where as this was more stylised.

The Witch Pencils
The Witch pencils

Paying attention to line weights and planning in where I would add in my black areas marked with an “x” I went about redrawing the image. I tried to follow my rule list, I guess I have more of a drawing style than I gave myself credit for, its hard to break drawing habits! My line weights were a little thick for a Bolland image, and likely my black areas were more about contrast than faithfully depicting the characteristics of light. Here is the inked image.

The Witch. Inked
The Witch. Inked

I was relatively happy with the outcome. I tried the tight controlled hatching and aimed to address the line weights of the pencils by making them a lot thinner. I think I’d need a lot more time to emulate his style successfully, I read in a music book that if you want to perform like your favourite recording artist then don’t practice their songs but practice the ones that inspired them.

I wondered if this applies here too, the artists that would have inspired Brian Bolland would have been using less sophisticated printing technology and maybe that would result in simpler imagery, I suspect that while he learnt his trade he went through similar mimicry as this exercise, drawing in the style of his heroes who I have now learnt to be Gil Kane and Carmine Infantino amongst a lot of others, I would hazard a guess that his level of detail combined with that white space was a natural progression from redrawing his favourites and adding his own individual  stamp as accuracy in printing became more effective.

The next part of the exercise was to  draw something very different in the same style. I always thought looking at  Michelangelo’s religious artwork and the way he depicted the characters as muscular powerful figures with amazing stances and positioning. In a way he helped create some of the key elements in creating comic books, I decided to redraw  his “Creation of Adam” as if it was a page in a comic book in my “Faux Bolland” style.

creation of adam
This was my interpretation of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam.

Again by no means perfect but a more detailed effort with more delicate line weight and better placed blacks.

All in all I feel I made a good stab at the exercise its not quite the same but it certainly exercised my analytical brain. They aren’t quite Bolland’s but then again when he tried to do his rendition of a Gil Kane or Carmine Infantino maybe he didn’t feel successful either, but in doing so maybe he discovered his own style. I’d be very happy if this exercise was the first steps towards me doing the same.

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