The various visual storytelling techniques developed over the last century were influenced and developed by a number of talents. Although comics are the predominant static visual storytelling media, where the finished deliverable itself is truly rendered from computer of the mind; interactive games and 3-D animation has opened up even more opportunities for the artist, in film, comics or animation.
Many of the following techniques and formulas spawned from different visual storytelling media, but their core messages has found its way into media other than where it originated, thus infusing new life. Even something as simple as word balloons and their placement contributes to interface design, either in interactive games or DVDs, or in advertising and art. A designer of any interface between man and media would require knowledge to properly juxtapose words and pictures. As culturally we become more visual and right-brain dominant, designers and artists will need to learn proper word placement and eye path design; something comic books have been doing for a century.
A designer of any interface between man and media would require knowledge to properly juxtapose words and pictures. As culturally we become more visual and right-brain dominant, designers and artists will need to learn proper word placement and eye path design; something comic books have been doing this for a hundred years.
There is a certain uniformity to how the human mind has learned to read both words and pictures, and even though many people prefer certain visual storytelling styles and media over others, this doesn't discern the fact that when moving beyond the "illuminear" magazine or newspaper and integrate specific dialogue and narration to pictures, many of the same rules developed by Winsor McCay, Jack Kirby, Hal Foster, Will Eisner and Frank Miller will still apply.
The "heroic representationalism" style has always been the most popular method of drawing visual storytelling media, in comics they're muscle bound and nine head tall; actors on film look taller, dark and handsome and interactive game characters follow the same principals; all of which Andrew Loomis established in 1943, as pointed out in Chapter 6. Remember that "style" is never a factor when judging the visual storytelling work as a whole. Technical ability and skill in how to successfully tell the story through imagery is the key factor and no style is better than any other. A style is just one's approach to doing things and not the level of ability at which they do them. For some reason, there is some confusion between these two very different things. Is an RPG interactive game better if it's "cartoony" or more realistically rendered? Really, it's about and is always about the storytelling experience. John Byrne believes that how an artist "creates a figure, shape or a form," what the artist does with his brush or pencil, has nothing to do at all with the ultimate end product. "The number one rule is clarity and the only ways stylistic considerations can even enter into it are often in a negative way. The style can sometimes get in the way, but they don't effect ultimately whether the story can be told better or worse."
The artist's "style" is merely the signature of the artist and it should not effect how the pictures are conveying the story. Neal Adams and Will Eisner, in Will Eisner's Shop Talk discuss the merits of drawing "big foot" and "little foot "characters. The "big foot" characters tend to be somewhat more "cartoony" and really require more of a mastery of human anatomy because it's a requirement in visual storytelling and the fewer the lines to present the characters, their personalities and attitude, the better. "From the point of view of exercising ability, to draw "big foot" stuff makes you see all kinds of shortcuts that are available in all kinds of different ways," Adams expressed in his interview with Will Eisner. The shortcuts he refers to are deep within the storytelling process and a basic understanding of people's personalities.
The elements of dynamic art usually contain one or more of these essentials:
As seen in the figure above, we can move our "camera" tightly onto our subject to play up the wide-angle-like foreshortening effect. Here we can see the master at work as Neal Adams adapts a Harlan Ellison story for the premiere issue of The Twilght Zone (1990). Action and bodies (and body parts) that go towards or away from the viewing plane at about a 45 degree angle seem to be the best for showing dynamic foreshortened action. The foreshortening is steep yet the angle of action is clear enough to clearly see the thrust of the action.
Sometimes foreshortening that is closer to 90 degrees to the viewing plane (straight towards or straight away from viewer) will work, but the action is usually not as clear.
Related to foreshortening, where our camera is moved very close to the object being viewed, but often the perspective is exaggerated beyond the scope of reality. This is used on inanimate objects (buildings, cars, etc.) to impart a sense of scale or mass, but focusing at an extreme eye level, either very high or very low.
Forced Perspective has its limitations when using 3d software to render. When adjusting the perspective of camera angles on the sets, the background objects get distorted to a point that they look awkward and not dramatic. By manipulating sizes and shapes, this can be avoided by making the background objects smaller or wider then as perceived in mock reality. When drawing in a 2D world of comics, you can extend beyond the ordinary, but when building 3-D sets and models in the 3d world, it tends to be realistic— and basically limited to the perspective capabilities on your camera lens, much like film makers. As John Byrne mentioned in the previous chapter, the comics artist has the ability to "cheat" when applying dynamics.
This is well defined by Andrew Loomis' Figure Drawing for all it's Worth and Stan Lee & John Buscema's Drawing Comics the Marvel Way. It can be the figure‘s proportion, muscularity, extreme thinness or heaviness, etc. This is where "big foot" abilities come in handy as well. Any actions, such as throwing a punch should be at the exaggerated swing, giving the illusion of monumental power.
As defined in Figure 6.20 in Chapter 6, the human figure is exaggerated to nine heads tall to emphasize strength and power.
Heroic proportions are covered in many comic art books, which we list within our recommended reader section. Traditionally, stances in heroic representationalism, are usually more imposing; feet are often wide apart, chest is usually thrust forward. Heroes are more often attractive than not (in any visual storytelling media) and seemingly powerful.
Creator of Strangers in Paradise
"I was just trying to make movies on paper."
Award Winning Visual Storytelling Editor,
Avenue, Chicago, IL
"The 180 degree rule is broken all the time. You have these quick cuts of flashy imagery to hypnotize you into paying attention, but if you're telling a story—you don't want to hypnotize them, you want to immerse them. You can't do that through confusion; it's important for telling a story."
Comic book artist and 3D animator
"I also make a point to young artists who show me page afterpage of characters hitting each other that they have to learn to draw the real world.All the wild stuff needs to happenin something that we can understand, something we can comprehend.We need the world to be a real world, so thatthe outlandish elements can themselves seem real.If everything is outlandish, then you don'tplug into it."