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I’m a blacksmith.

Something that Liz Baillie told me about the type of dude who sees you drawing in your sketchbook in public and asks if you’re an artist. She said she wanted to tell those dudes “No, I’m a fucking BLACKSMITH!”

King City versus Kick-Ass.

In the pages above, both the King City and the Kick-Ass scenes begin with a primary character walking past some parked cars. I don’t know what exactly it was about that visual that appealed to me so strongly but both pages left a powerful impression on my memory. In the case of Kick-Ass, I actually recalled the scene more vividly and with more detail than actually exists in the page. Going to go walk past some parked cars now and have a psychic experience.

Setting the scene.

Art teachers make a big deal in instructing their students to draw from natural life to learn the fundamentals of the human figure before allowing stylization or cultural conventions to dictate the way they draw. In other words, the student should draw from live models, not from comic books. The teachers also instruct their students to draw real environmental settings and settings. However in my experience, they pursue this point with far less specificity. In fact, where we can see endless days of nude figure drawing for the art student, when it comes to inanimate physical settings, teachers focus a lot on mathematical perspective.

Don’t get me wrong; this is a good thing because it instructs students to see the underlying mathematic principles that are integral to reality as well as encouraging the student to draw from Informed Imagination. But I have to be honest, I think–and maybe this was just my school experience–that the life-drawing of physical settings got short shrift.

Fundamentally, I feel that humans are more comfortable with humans. I’ve noticed that many people can’t muster the same fervor for environmental settings that surround, nurture and inform the characters that they have for the characters themselves. Or in simpler sentence structure, people can’t stop ignoring the backgrounds.

When it comes to me, I’ve let my environments slide to the wayside. Back in my Little Garden days, I would spend as much of my drawing energy and my emotional and psychological energy devoted to drawing the grass and the trees and the rivers as I spent drawing the humanoid monsters that populated my imaginary forest. There wasn’t a sense of separation of figure and ground in my work then. When I started moving toward conventional comics storytelling, this sense of harmony with the world was one of the first things that disappeared. So I’m trying to get it back.

This doesn’t have to be attached to the idea of natural mathematical perspective, by the way. Look at the work of John Porcellino, Julie Doucet, Megan Kelso, Chris Ware and the like. These artists use any range of technique from flat-layer-overlap to isometric perspective to pull their character’s worlds into view. What I’m talking about isn’t necessarily a demand to dig up the rulers and protractors, but a plea to artists out there to join me in remembering to give as much attention to the settings  as we do to our living characters.


Artwork (c) Marvel Entertainment, DC Comics, Wildstorm Entertainment, Brandon Graham, Pete Lazarski, Mark Millar + John Romita Jr, Mike Mignola, Sarah Oleksyk, Greg Rucka + Matthew Southworth, Steve Engleheart, Zan Czyzewski, Rachel Edidin + Jen Vaughn, BT Livermore, StudioCanal S.A., Brian Wood, Bill Willingham, Gabby Schulz (aka, Ken Dahl–who I saw at the coffeehouse today) and me: Darryl Ayo Brathwaite.


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