Sunday, February 22, 2009
Mouse Guard II
Friday night we scored a spiffy little workshop with the special visiting artist David Petersen, in the drawing studio of the UAF art department. Registration was limited to a dozen folks so as to keep it manageable and personal, and the range of talent was from established professionals to aspiring amateurs, almost equal genders, and a wide range of ages.
We arrived with whatever materials we usually use in our own work, and Petersen went through a detailed step-by-step description of creating work for “Mouse Guard”, including a lesson on particular terms used by the printing and publishing industry. He also covered some basic fundamentals on genre categories, thematic elements in a story and character development along with the relationship the art has with the story and individual styles of approaching the material.
There were some insightful questions and much in the way of details about exactly how things are done, especially using the computer and Photoshop coloring techniques. My personal question as a font geek was about his peculiar and unique choice for the font in his comics, and was surprised at his preferred pens (off-the-shelf Uniball “Vision” micro & macro), plus the panel and page layout patterns he uses.
One of the particular notes of distinction about his work is the use of what he termed “shift of focus” panels, that are almost like mini-establishing shots that are reminders or further indicators that reinforcement of a sense of place or the environmental context of a given situation or scene, like a pattern of foliage, leaves and sky etc. A nice touch to ground the reader with a subtle, quiet beat of visual information.
After break for snacks and door prizes of a couple signed copies of his book, everyone then selected a scenario from a handout list to sketch out a one-page vignette, and while we were doing that, David did a demo on his own process of penciling and inking a page. Then after about an hour or so passed, we put all the pieces up and had a critique where storytelling choices were discussed and different approaches suggested and debated amongst ourselves. This actually was one of the best critiques I’d actually ever participated in, with everyone very open to input from others and people contributing their comments and opinions. One recurrent observation was the importance and use of constantly shifting point-of-view or “camera angles” that are interesting to look at. Panel arrangements and page composition along with the pacing of images and text were carefully considered as well. It was insightful and revealing to compare and contrast all the different and unique attempts and solutions from such a diverse group, and David was very thoughtful, respectful and supportive of everyone’s efforts.
Since this was a rare opportunity to interact with someone not only extremely talented and very experienced with a lot of insight, personal perspective and informed opinion about comics, there were lots of specific questions and sound, honest advice. Some folks even had samples of their own work for Petersen to individually critique, and we all got a signed poster, some bookmarks and temporary tattoos.What I thought would maybe take a hour or two eventually wrapped up five and a half hours later, with everyone a little tired but enormously impressed and pleased. The amount of impact someone like this can have on a creative community will really have a long-lasting and far-reaching effect as it ripples out, and successive people get stimulated in turn from the momentum of energy that these sorts of events inspire. We were lucky to have Petersen visit this remote outpost of comics - thanks David & Julia!