Sunday, 14 November 2010

In which I try my hand at watercolour again...

I think I mentioned before that I would like to do the comic in pencils and watercolour instead of in inks as I originally intended. The reason for this is that I find that my sharp inked style does not suit my story very well. The tale has a dream-like quality that is better served with colour and pencils.There is only one snag: I am one lousy watercolour artist. I don't master the medium, for one thing. And I don't understand about colour, for another. Then again, I am very stubborn and not willing to admit defeat. I'll just keep trying.

The image below is an exercise - it is an idea I had for a possible back cover of The Darkest Hour. I added the text and frame in Illustrator, having discovered that it is so much more convenient for adding text than Photoshop. I haven't tried it yet, but I think I'm going to use Illustrator for lettering my pages too. It's much easier to draw speech bubbles with it than with Photoshop.

I discovered that adding texture in Photoshop can actually cheat people into thinking I had a half-decent watercolour to start with. But I am going to be very honest with you and show you the watercolour as it was before I started toying with it in Photoshop. As you can see, it's ... utterly incompetent. The dress went reasonably well - I like how it looks. But the contrast is not very good and the colours ... well, they don't clash, but they don't exactly spark either. I also did some damage with the masking fluid. I masked Ygraine's plaits and the contours of her figure when I added the dark washes. Not only are the dark washes a complete mess; as the masking fluid came off, it took some of the underlying paint with it and smeared the pencil lines. *sigh* So instead of having white hair with delicate blue-grey shadowing, Ygraine now has dirty grey plaits. I couldn't simply repaint because the paper had suffered as well.
This doesn't exactly bode well for my comic, does it? I have a LOT of work to do before I can tackle my pages with some confidence... I don't understand. It seems like everyone and their sister can paint with watercolour. Why do I find it so hard?

The above are two small, quick sketches of Gorlois. The bottom one was done  some time last year; the top one I did last night. Neither is good, and I completely ruined the top one with my clumsy attempt at shadowing the cloak. But they do illustrate where I am trying to go. Even if I did ruin it, I like the top one in its simplicity. I think - but goodness knows I may be wrong again - that I had better focus on painting as simply as possible, with few layers. And I'm doing my best to study colour.

Opinions and critiques are most welcome. 

NB: I have no idea why the "back cover" image has a green hue when you enlarge it. It seems like Flickr and Photobucket do something to my colours! 
ETA: Fixed! It was a CMYK image. Screens don't like that...


Cecilia said...

My dear, I can understand your frustration in not getting what you wish. However, I find quite hard to offer you a solution, or even a decent suggestion. I don't particularly understand when you say that "you don't understand colour" - do you mean the right nuances? The shading? The laying of colour? Or all the above? :grin: I find it hard to understand probably because I have never considered the matter that way. For me, the most important thing in watercolours is the way you lay colours on the sheet - not so much the shades you choose, but the fact that you overlay dry on wet, or the contrary, etc, and the smoothness you get with using a lot (or few) water.
About nuances, here I would have added more yellow in the background, while Ygraine looks pretty nice for me. About the background, the point is: what did you want it to look like? A flat background? A cloth? A textured background? The point is fixing a kind of objective in your mind, and from that I could judge if you got that or not.
The vertical lines suggests that it's a kind of cloth moved by the wind, but I don't think I'm right in believing thus :P

As for colouring the whole comic with watercolours, I'd say it's a task too heavy, not only for your shoulders, but in general. But that could be only my opinion. I know that you are surrounded by French comics coloured in watercolour, but consider that their author produces one volume of 46 pages a year, or two if they are fast. Uhm, I sound too discouraging for what I'm trying to say. Probably what I mean is that in planning a 100+ pages in watercolour you should count also the time it will take and your willingness to continue on that pace. If you find that colouring it gives you pleasure, and that you can follow the pace, I'd say: go on.
I'd also say: choose an author that you like and copy his/her pages. Take a page from Marini or someone else and copy it, from pencils to colours. Copy one more. The process will make you understand more than you expect. Copy watercolours from people ypu like, trying to understand why they did what they did. Try to keep the strokes smooth, especially on skin (I'm referring to the smear on Gawain's cheek in the second sketch). Keep shadows simple, considering that you'll have to reply them for pages and pages. Look at shadows in (traditional) animated movies.

Cecilia said...

Sorry, Gorlois, not Gawain.

ampersand said...

All of the above, indeed. I just don't understand why some colours work together and others don't; what makes you say that the background needs yellow; how on earth other people can mix beautiful colours and I can't; how on earth other people make good blacks... I feel like I'm blind when it comes to watercolour. I see things but I don't understand them at all. When I try to copy something it doesn't look remotely like the original.

I was going for a textured background, but as you can see, it didn't quite work. I used salt, which worked just fine when I tried it out, but when I used it on the final piece nothing much happened. Go me.

I think you are giving me good advice her, but as I said, I am not capable of copying Marini. There is no point in trying to work the way he does - I simply can't. Not the colours, not the style, not the painting. I haven't a clue how he does it. Also, that effect is not what I'm looking for. It's too heavy and too realistic. I want something dreamy and storybook-like. I haven't found it yet, but I'm looking for it.

ampersand said...

PS: I'm indeed looking at traditional animation for inspiration - not just for shadowing. Animation has a lot of things I like and that play to my strengths: lines, flat colours, stylisation. So I'm working in improving in that direction :).