Monday, 26 November 2007

Two colour thingies

I said I would be trying a few things with colour, and this picture of Rigantona is one of those experiments. I combined my usual inks (Staedtler pen) with colour pencilling. It's not bad, I think - I especially like the skin tones and the hair. The dress, however, looks rather paler than I had hoped, though I picked the brightest green in my box :/.

I am planning a more ambitious drawing of Comm and the black stallion with which he is gifted by Caesar - but seeing as the design involves a horse it may take some time ;-). In any case, that drawing would be on better (and whiter) paper, and I'm curious what the pencil colours will look like in those circumstances.

Rigantona's brother, Vercingetorix, in pastel pencils. (Click on the picture for a larger version...)

I think that strictly speaking I make these much too smooth; I use my felt tool thingy all the time, blurring just about every pencil stroke. I guess this is my way of attempting more or less realistic colouring :-). On the other hand, my insistence on graphite pencil lines and sharp contours seems a little contradictory. But I rather like this effect.

Oh - I mixed the purple of the cloak. Go me! More colour experiments are imminent, now that I have got myself a book on colour theory and mixing, yay! ;-)

Saturday, 24 November 2007

A few sketches

Here are a few more attempts at getting a grip on my characters and familiarising myself with their features. I often fill in the characters' backgrounds and stories while doodling. In the case of War in Gaul, I still have a long way to go.

I haven't been able to do something decent with Comm's scar yet. Part of the problem seems to be (though it is perhaps not that obvious in these sketches) that most of the time the thing I draw just doesn't look like a scar. It looks like, well, two lines drawn onto his forehead, not the remnants of a grisly wound. I'm working on it :-).

I like this sketch of Comm very, very much. Well, he's looking rather more handsome than he is supposed to be, but that's what usually happens along the way *g*. I like the contrast between him and Ambiorix; I do hope I'll get it to work in the story too.

This thingy developed into a picture that is rather too complex for my limited skills to be ventured upon without thinking and/or looking for reference. (Yep, I know what that says about my artistic genius.) Anyway: it just happened, and if there are plenty of things wrong with it (proportions come to mind), that is a result of its improvised nature. But hey, I don't care, because it's only a sketch. It's (vercingeto)Rix and Riga(ntona), who have been clamouring for my attention lately.

It looks like I am returning to my simple, clean style - though it is possible that it might change again when I get round to drawing actual story pages. Unfortunately those still seem a long way off.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

First glimpse of Caesar

Yesterday, out of the blue, I thought I would draw Caesar. Aside from a few very tentative sketches of Veridicus (my OC, from the Gens Tullia), that makes Caesar the first Roman who gets a face in my story. That, um, leaves only Labienus, Volusenus, Marcus Antonius, Sabinus, Cotta, Cicero and a few others...

The situation with Caesar is of course much different from that of my Gaulish characters: we know what he looked like, because we have portrait busts that can definitely be identified as representing him. I don't know about you, but even before I started working on this comic I was able to recognise Caesar's face when I came across it in museums; I'm sure I'm not alone in that. As a consequence, I feel that I can't just go inventing wildly when Caesar is concerned, and I copied his face from several portrait busts. The merits of my copying capacities are very relative, but I am nevertheless rather happy with the result - I don't think anyone could look at the pictures on the left here and say, "hey, isn't that Caligula?" or something. I am glad that the man has a few expressive lines in his face; they help me individualise him and make his expressions more lively too. I guess I am making his nose larger and more hooked than in the busts, but I like a little exaggeration; my style isn't that realistic.

I have found another portrait bust that shows a more fleshy Caesar. We mostly see him as lean and even somewhat ascetic-looking; I opted for that image because - well, after all, Vercingetorix's best moves against Caesar were those that cut off the food supply.

I do need to try more expressions as I sketch on; right now all the old bloke ever seems to do is smirk. But he has an excellent type of face for smirking, too... I already know I'm going to enjoy drawing Caesar. He is greedy and ambitious and totally immoral, if you ask me, but he's also brilliant as well as quirky. You just have to love a bloodthirsty general whose nickname was "the Queen of Bithynia", haven't you? Every time I have to draw his hair I am reminded of the fact that he was balding and hated it, and grew very long hair at the back of his head so that he could comb it to the front to make it look as if he did not have a bald patch on his scalp :D. Oh, and he depilated, which is great because I don't particularly like drawing hairy arms :-).

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Here's to show that I shouldn't be allowed to play with Photoshop colours because I obviously don't know how to use them properly. I should do a decent version of the picture, perhaps in watercolour or something; this is just some quick sketchy thingy.

I have been thinking at which points my main characters interact with Caesar personally. There aren't that many. Comm must have met him most often, joining him on the British campaign. I suppose Vercingetorix must at least have been introduced to him. Ambiorix, I'm not sure. I think I do need to know, or determine for myself, whether or not Caesar knows what Ambiorix looks like. I wonder just how much of the business with local dignitaries Caesar conducted himself... If he delegated a lot, that would make him something of a ghostly figure in the Celts' imagination - the man who is behind everything, but who is at the same time unapproachable, a kind of nemesis more than a human being. That could be interesting for the story.

Sunday, 18 November 2007


I find it a little bit annoying that I haven't been able to settle on a style yet for this project. I haven't found one for Mademoiselle de Maupin either. It's not as if I haven't got anything more basic to do and learn than develop a style for these stories - I mean, writing a scenario would be a nice start ;-). But for some reason I like to know about the visual element too; it goes hand in hand with the story and atmosphere for me, and I am used to developing both at once. For my previous project things actually started with the style and developed from there. So I'm feeling a bit blah about my inability to settle on a particular visual approach. I did a few try-outs, but none of them feels right so far.

The first thing I tried was inking with Faber-Castell PITT pens (see image above). Compared to my earlier inking style, it is rather loose (I used a brush pen as well as a more ordinary one), with an attempt at slightly more realistic shadowing. I don't really know what to think of the result. I guess that for me it is not neat enough, but on the other hand I am not sure whether my usual preference for a more polished style is all that suitable to a story about a brutal war...

Despite my love of black and white illustration, I rarely use quill pen and ink, and have never ever attempted to ink with a brush. I can't control them very well, and only started to ink my drawings when I discovered Staedtler pens - teensy felt tip pens that don't run, don't stain, dry very quickly and produce really neat lines. With them I have about as much control over the linework as I am ever likely to get. The drawback is that they don't allow much variation in the lines in the way that quill pens or brushes do when you apply pressure or swirl them. Drawings done with Staedtler pens arguably lack in spontaneity, too - they are perhaps more static than pictures done with a quill or brush, or at least they are when I am drawing.

In this drawing of Catuvolcos and Ambiorix I thought I would give classic inking a try. It is done with quill, brush and waterproof Chinese ink. I suppose the result could have been worse, but I am not entirely happy with it. Once more it is not quite neat enough to my liking, though that may be because I am just not adept enough at using these tools. Also, I am wondering whether my lack of insight into realistic shadowing does not make this type of drawing look merely clumsy.

Another thing I tried was to combine graphite pencil linework with colour pencil. I am not yet comfortable using colour in a comic; up until now I have always worked in black and white. But the Celts were a colourful people, so much so that the Greeks and Romans felt obliged to report on the many and bright colours of their clothing. Not to use colour means not to counteract the drab costuming in so many films...

One problem I already have to face is that the scanner, for one, does not like my pencil colouring very much. Quite apart from my merits in using pencils, the subtleties just don't register in the scan :/. I am garantueed to have trouble if I should try to get art like this printed from scans. It just won't look the way it should, and it's not a mere matter of enhancing contrast in Photoshop - I tried that.

Apart from that, I don't suppose it is very practical to use only pencils and no inks. I need to try a combination of colour and inks and see where it takes me. I have no idea whether inks and colour pencils combine well... So far I have only ever tried inks with watercolour, but that requires special paper, which is not very practical either.

If I manage to sort my colouring problems out, I should very much like to adopt clear colour schemes for each main character. It would make them more recognisable, and say something about the character at the same time. For Ambiorix I want blue and gold, and royal purple for Vercingetorix. Rigantona, as a priestess, I would dress in vivid greens. Green is the colour of the supernatural and of nature; I should like to give my druids green clothes too, in order to avoid the cliché image of the white-clad bearded man who is in remarkably little evidence outside of Roman sources.

I'm not sure about Comm's colours yet. My very first plans involved lots of black for him, but I wonder whether that wouldn't be a little too unusual. I'm still considering it. Maybe a black cloak and a red tunic? Volca will probably end up in browns and reds - warm colours, but not too striking. She isn't supposed to be someone who likes to draw attention to herself, unlike Ambiorix, who is a bit of a showoff.

Anything watercolour-related takes a bit more preparation than anything you see in this post - I can't just try it out in my sketchbook, because for sketching I like a very smooth sort of paper, and watercolour simply doesn't catch on that. I will be posting painted colours for comparison, hopefully soon, and comments and advice are very welcome :-).

Costume - a few sketches

In a previous post I mentioned the problem of having to convey lots of information without taking too much recourse to text. One specific element I will be dealing with in War in Gaul is that the Gauls were divided into many different peoples; in fact we are not even sure that they called themselves Gauls or even Celts.

According to Caesar, the Belgae differed from the other continental Celts by their descent from Germanic peoples. There is quite some debate among historians as to whether the Belgae spoke a Celtic or a Germanic language. Unfortunately these discussions are often frought with politics. Those people who argue vigorously that the Belgae spoke a Germanic dialect are sometimes prone to using their theory in order to emphasise, say, the difference between the Flemish and the Walloons in Belgium; consequently I find it difficult to know whether I am reading propaganda or honest historical research. Moreover, in wishing to distinguish between 'Celtic' and 'Germanic', historians are pulling a Caesar: they force some kind of order and distinction on a culture that does not actually seem to have cared much about this kind of deliniations. The Celts did, however, make distinctions among themselves: they seem to have been forever picking fights with their equally Celtic neighbours. That appears to have been one problem the Romans solved...

I would like to keep 'my' Celts' ethnic identity fluid. It might be nice to go with the Germanic thing to some extent. For one thing, it would make my Eburones and other Belgae extra annoying in Caesar's eyes because they are impossible to categorise. As a bonus, it would give me the opportunity to throw in a few Germanic names, which are easier to come by than Celtic ones :P.

In terms of costumes, I was thinking that I might show the sliding differences between northern and southern peoples by the men's trousers. Apparently it is a typically Germanic thing to strap leather laces around the leg up to the knee; the Celts usually strapped their trousers at the ankles. So I'm going to play with straps, and with the width of the trouser legs - narrow in the south, wide in the north. Now Catuvolcos and Ambiorix look as if they are wearing a kind of ancient plus-fours :D...

Here is old Catuvolcos, leaning on his spear. I didn't give him a shirt; I wonder whether I should change that. As I said in a previous entry, I imagine him as an old-fashioned warrior king, so he has to look sort of hardy, even if he is getting on in age. Shirts are for sissies like Ambiorix ;-).

For some reason I like to picture Catuvolcos in a cloak with a fur collar - does that give him a heroic, royal air, or is it just me?

The armlets are ... Well, armlets are archeologically attested, but not exactly in high numbers. They are more of a pictorial tradition than anything else, but I like them, so my kings wear armlets. Let's say we haven't found many because Caesar confiscated them and melted them all into sestertii, all right? ;-)

Here is Ambiorix, in full regalia, or almost. I need to sort a few things out, like for example the way the cloak is worn; I am having a bit of trouble drawing cloaks properly, and I need to copy a few fibulae for inspiration too.

The basic clothing consists of trousers, a shirt, a tunic with belt, and a cloak. I am wondering whether I can make my Celts wear shirts that are open at the front - kind of like the modern versions but without the buttons. I have read a description from which I understand that they may have had such shirts, but I am not sure whether I interpreted the passage the right way :/.

Ambiorix wears his sword on his right, not because he is left-handed, but because the Celts just happened to wear their swords that way. Seeing how they loved to show off, I bet they did it because when you draw a long Celtic sword from your right with your right hand, you have to make a long, sweeping movement - quite impressive-looking, that *g*.

Here is Commios. He lives a bit more to the south, on the border between what Caesar calls Gallia Belgica and Gallia Celtica, so I gave him different trousers, shorter straps, and a tunic but no long-sleeved shirt. I guess the main reason why I am inclined to give him short sleeves is because I picture him as rather muscular and so I want to show his arms. Only, well, at the moment I am still learning about muscles, and so far his arms merely look beefy :P. To Be Fixed.

I am still playing around with costume ideas; as you can see this drawing is on the whole less well-defined than the previous two. My Eburones are taking shape more quickly than the rest, and I still draw a complete blank on the Romans. It's not really a problem; I will get there in time. As a character, Comm is shaping up nicely. He has a daughter now, and a lovely little plot that will take him to Ambiorix. I was rather relieved when that idea popped into my head, even though it means I have a new cast member... Her name is Dannumara, by the way - Mara for short.

I am still trying out for Volca - her face isn't quite stable yet, but at least I had a lot of fun with my graphite pencils :-). One important job is to invent nice hairdos for my Celtic ladies; the one with all the braids was a first try, and I think it could have looked worse. I need some more training though, and I am looking for reference material too, but so far I have not found a lot of useful photos.

I need to think the ladies' wardrobes through, too. It is not immediately obvious to me how I am going to bring variation to it in the way that I did with the men and their trousers. Sleeves? Girdles? Stoles? Necklines? I have to try a few things out. I also need to look into making peplos-like dresses more elegant. Maybe I should watch a few peplos films for inspiration?