Saturday, June 24, 2006

Into the Artist's Studio with Blogs and Photostreams

I came across three sites this week - all of which happen to point to the rapidly diminishing value of the term "website" - that can each offer students a different insight into the creative process. All are spaces that young artists will want to return to again and again.

First up is the Flickr-based daily sketchbook by designer and illustrator Rich Rawlyk, who, the blog Drawn! reports, started the daily discipline after speaking to some middle-school students about the importance of drawing every day. Rawlyk's daily posts blend computer and hand drawing with photography, collage, and vector-based design.

For more on technique, a young artist would do well to stop by Chris Wahl's blog, where the comic book artist has been producing how-to text, drawing samples, step-by-step snapshots, and now video to what started out as a way to showcase some of his unpublished "back catalogue" back in March. The blog focuses on software-based techniques and is a great site for tutorials and casual discussion with a working comic book artist. Here's one of Wahl's video tutorials, this demonstrating his black-and-white drawing technique. (Note: Wahl mentions in his blog that he frequently flips the canvas horizontally to catch errors and see the picture from a different perspective - sort of like reading an important piece of writing backwards to check the spelling in the days before spellcheck.)

It's interesting to see how the transition to computer-based illustration techniques has made it so easy to produce and distribute this kind of material, in which the viewer has as good a view as the artist. One simple improvement would be the addition of voice-over narration; another possibility, this one waiting for the right home video-editing software, would involve a split-screen with the rendering matched with a webcam shot of the artist working on their tablet and keyboard.

When it comes to the story behind the story, nothing beats Toronto-based comic book artist Bryan Lee O'Malley's Annotated Scott Pilgrim, in which he lovingly details all of the locations, story background, and character sources for his Scott Pilgrim series (pictured above). The exercise provides an invaluable look for young writers and artists to understand just how close to home inspiration might lie, and that one of the essential functions of art is to for the artist to "unlock" a private place and time for readers.

There are many more examples of this kind of "behind-the-scenes" work being produced by artists to develop or strengthen their fan base and give something to the next generation of creatives. A few carefully-selected sites could be just the boost a young artist or writer needs to take themselves seriously and dive into their craft. The best source for such materials is the Drawn! The Illustration and Cartooning Blog, which alerted me to all three of these great resources [here, here, and here] in the past two days.

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