Monday, March 21, 2005

Everything old is new again

Someone — I believe it was Rod Stewart — once said, "Every picture tells a story, don't it?" I don't know whether that's true of every picture, but it's certainly the case with this one.

I picked up this pencil sketch of the Scarlet Witch from an art dealer at WonderCon last month. Drawn in 1992 according to the signature — and signatures never lie — it's the work of the great Bob McLeod, who created the very first piece of custom art I ever commissioned, a gorgeous pinup of one of my favorite characters, the Black Panther.

Bob McLeod is best known in the sequential art trade as an inker. For the benefit of those in the audience who aren't yet comic art aficionados (you comic mavens are welcome to skip the following primer), published comic art is more often than not the work of multiple artists, each of whom specializes in a particular facet of the creative process. The basic structure of the page is laid out in pencil by one artist, referred to as the penciler for reasons I trust are obvious. Then a second artist, called (you're way ahead of me) the inker, finishes the page in India ink, adding camera-friendly contrast to the pictures while at the same time adding depth, dimension, and detail. Captions and color are added by the letterer and colorist, respectively — in modern comics production, both of these steps are done virtually by computer and not imposed on the actual original art itself.

Although some pencilers prefer to ink their own work, deadline pressure usually dictates that another artist handle this task. Bob McLeod is one of the finest inkers in the business, in part because he's also a terrific pencil artist. But because McLeod is most closely associated with inking, one doesn't see very much of his raw pencil art. That's one reason I was so excited to find this sketch, which shows Bob's fine grasp of expression and anatomy to perfect, unvarnished advantage. The other reason was that I thought it would be fun to have Bob revisit and complete the drawing thirteen years after he began it.

So, a few days after I purchased it, I packed the sketch off to Bob. Below, you see the finished art, vintage 2005.

Dramatic, huh? Yes, believe it or not, both of these pictures are the exact same piece of art, scanned (about four weeks apart) at two stages of its development. Not only can you see the amazing change a comic art drawing undergoes from its pencil origins to camera-ready inks, but you can also get a sense of the way one artist's personal style evolves over the course of several years.

In comparing the two versions, Bob joked that the Scarlet Witch appears to have shed about 30 pounds between 1992 and 2005. I wish it were that easy to lose a few, by means of a handful of brush strokes and a strategically applied eraser!

1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Lynda offered these pearls of wisdom...

I would LOVE to get in Weight Loss By Paint line :-) The artwork is amazing!

6:20 PM  

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