Friday, August 10, 2007

From two hands, one

If you're a reader of comics — or just a regular visitor here on Comic Art Fridays — you know that comic book art, as we see it in published form, is usually the work of three artists:
  • The penciler, who designs the layout for each page and creates the initial drawings.
  • The inker, who redraws the entire page in india ink, refining and finishing the drawing and making it suitable for printing.
  • The colorist, who adds color to the black and white art — using a computer, more often than not these days.
Most of the comic art I commission is the work of a single artist, who may — depending upon our negotiated agreement — either simply draw the piece in pencil, or both pencil and ink the art. Many times, however, I will commission a pencil drawing, or acquire one from another collector, and later decide that I'd like to have the piece finished in ink. When that happens, I'll send the art off to one of several excellent inking specialists for embellishment.

Here's a rough pencil sketch of Mary Marvel, drawn by one of my favorite current artists, Al Rio.

If I'm not mistaken, Al sketched this as a preliminary to a commission project for another collector. As you can see, the pencil art is loose and undefined — the artist is "thinking out loud" (on paper, of course) about what he's going to draw.

I asked Bob McLeod — in my opinion, one of the most skillful artists in the comics field, both as an inker (for which he's best known) and as a penciler — to complete Al's artwork. The result arrived on my doorstep this very afternoon, just in time for Comic Art Friday.

What began as a rough outline has become an exquisitely detailed, complete work of art. Rio's design is clearly still there on the page, but much of the drawing's personality has been interpreted by McLeod. Not only has Bob added definition and shadow to the picture, he's also given Mary Marvel light and life. You can see how much actual drawing Bob did to finish the piece — as opposed to merely tracing Al's outline — and how the finished art reflects McLeod's sensibility as much as Rio's.

As this comparison shows, comic art is a uniquely, almost mystically collaborative effort. Two creators — often, as in this case, working independently of one another (given that Al lives in Brazil and Bob lives in Pennsylvania, I doubt that they've ever met) — meld their talents to produce a drawing that embodies the artistic perspective and philosophy of each. The final work is different from what either would have created by himself, and yet is beautifully representative of each artist's style.

I think "magic" just might be the perfect word to describe that.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.


2 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger ComicArt offered these pearls of wisdom...

I just love this. Bob did an incredible job with Al Rio's beautiful loose pencils.

2:44 PM  
Blogger samax offered these pearls of wisdom...

mark farmer is a great inker in this tradition as well...

2:57 PM  

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