Creating issue 4: photo reference 1

Wednesday at 15.10.08

Okay, we're now at the photo reference stage. Vince and I have both been using photo reference in our comic strips for years - some consider it 'cheating', but it's used by many comic artists (Alex Ross and P. Craig Russell are two high profile examples who have always been honest and upfront about it), and it's a terrific tool, speeding up the drawing process, and taking a lot of the hard slog out of drawing comics. Particularly crucial, if you're going to use this technique, are very strong layouts, and good models prepared to exaggerate their movements and expressions, and really 'act' for you. As I've already mentioned, Vince did full thumbnail layouts for all 20 pages before taking a single photograph, working out his storytelling (i.e. directing the comic, working out camera angles, and how best to tell the story panel by panel - this in itself is a particular skill, and something which I think Vince excels at). 

Vince generally prefers to shoot each character separately - it means he has to be really confident with his layouts and know exactly what he's doing, to make sure that the different characters match up, but it ensures that he can concentrate on each character individually, getting the performance he needs from each one. I've participated in a large number of photo reference sessions as a character over the years, and they're definitely fun when there are more people there, but they do descend into chaos, so I can definitely appreciate why he works this way. 

For me, playing Harker, the sessions are long - we started them yesterday, continuing today until we were done. His sessions for Critchley are equally as long, and this is why we use ourselves as the lead characters - we're always there, and we're always available. I have a Harker costume - a battered old pair of Converse, tatty jeans, green shirt, black tie, green jacket, and a belt that I tighten too tightly, to help with Harker's beer gut. Harker also stands and moves in certain ways - many of these we've worked out together as we go along, so that I can try to inhabit the character - he's ten years older than me, so I also try to look a little more haggard than usual - he's rather shabby (in comparison to Critchley's stylish perfection).

Once in front of the camera, Vince is very much in charge. I took the lead role in the plotting, explaining what I needed, desribing the scenes I needed, with Vince chipping in and throwing other ideas in there - but by this stage, Vince has now taken those ideas, worked them into a 20 page comic, and knows just what needs to happen, panel by panel. Rather than throwing in ideas at this stage, I trust Vince implicitly, posing in whatever manner he needs, allowing him the freedom to visually direct the story any way he sees fit. Expressions are exaggerated, movements are exaggerated too, always trying to make it a big, engaging performance - Harker needs to be big in every panel, to always be watchable, to be engaging and funny, so we work hard on each shot, until Vince has exactly what he needs. 

So here's a shot from the first stage - getting Harker right - this is Harker driving his car somewhere in the first four pages of issue 4. Next post - Vince as Critchley...


"Harker needs to be big in every panel, to always be watchable, to be engaging and funny"

and here I was thinking Harker just 'looked' like u ;)


I don't think it's cheating to use photo reference, it's probably used so often but never talked about. I use it in fantasy B&W inks I do and also in street and background scenes. I must admit doing them feels stupid when over eggagerating and posing but if it makes for a better drawing then I'm all for it. Still you got to laugh at the photo...LOL

Hi Rog
Some fascinating insights here into the work that goes in to making comics.

v: obviously, I'm fabulous in every respect!

andrew: I don't think it's cheating either - Vince is perfectly capable of drawing without it, but if we want him to stick to the monthly schedule (which so far, he is doing brilliantly) then it's pretty much a necessity. Some of my favourite artists use it extensively, I'm very okay with the technique.

sas: thanks! Now if I can just get Vince to be a little less secretive, we can find out more about his drawing process... I'll see what I can do!

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