From novice to pro level – it has become a well known practice in the art community to plan out your works first. Though some people feel that they don’t ‘need’ to do this because they see some professionals ‘winging it’ … this blog post is specifically to inform those individuals as to why ‘winging it’ isn’t a very good idea, and how those professionals do what they do.
I like writing about my screw ups in my journey to become a better artist. It’s good for readers (artists especially) because they can get a bit of a morale boost, but it’s great for me too.. so I can bash myself about said screw ups and keep myself from becoming an arrogant ass as my art career grows.
This is actually one of my greatest screw ups ever; the peak of my ignorance. I’ve wanted to be a mangaka since I was really small. For as long as I could read to be honest. I never liked reading books all that much. I liked seeing images, and I enjoyed seeing an artists interpretation of his characters and settings, rather than just imagining what they looked like in my head all the time (though some books I still read, and that was a fantastic exercise for working out those imaginative abs, bro). However there was a major flaw in how I was pursuing becoming one. I thought that I could learn everything I needed to learn by simply reading manga, and nothing else. While I did learn a lot about panels, dialogue, and many other things, I wasn’t seeing what was really happening behind the scenes.
At that point, (and even now at times) my art wasn’t up to par with the things that I’d actually want to draw – and to make matters worse, I didn’t even use references (that’s a whole other self hate blog post … for another day). I gave my mind too many things to do at once: planning, thinking of poses/figures solely from my imagination without any prior practice with them, and execution. Because of all of that, I’d often burnout, become frustrated with myself, and leave many things unfinished. Making basic drawings and panels for a more childish-looking comic book is one thing, but when you’re trying to make a truly deep story with clean execution and impact, it’s a different story.
Because of that, I keep this philosophy of mine in mind at all times:
Planning is necessary to maintain your sanity.
While I’m sure every now and then, people want to draw straight from their imagination, for any long term project, especially one involving a lot of repetition, storyboarding will be your saving grace. You need to give your mind as few things to work on at once as possible. That is what will help you progress through said projects.
The above image is a storyboard and final page drawn by Takeshi Obata – the artist behind the critically acclaimed Death Note series. The storyboards are for another manga he illustrated called Bakuman (if you dream of writing manga/comics, even if you’re not doing it in Japan, it is still a very fun, engaging, and educational read). As you can see, Obata actually did 2 drafts for this one page: one with his basic idea of dialogue and character placement, as well as panel shapes and placement. The second is more refined, as he adds more detail to characters, more expression, and spaces between the panels. The final version of course is where everything is completely fleshed out and pulled together. Notice however, that even the final version has some differences when compared to the 2nd draft, including changes to panel shapes and poses. These 3 pieces all work as one. Obata left ideas down on paper so that he wouldn’t have to remember them later on. Instead, he’d look at what he’d initially drawn out, grow the page from there, and make improvements. He gave himself less work to do mentally – he simply had to keep refining the page.
Now, remember, the storyboard is only for planning purposes. Believe it or not, Obata’s storyboards are among some of the neatest I’ve seen..I kid you not. Sometimes they get pretty messy … for instance, the featured image of this post…and my own storyboards (they’re much messier at times). But that’s ok. If you’re working on your own at least, a messy storyboard is fine because so long as you understand the ideas you’ve put down, that’s all that matters. It’s simply a brain poop to help you along with the progression of what you’re working on. It doesn’t have to be extremely detailed – and it doesn’t have to be extremely accurate right out of the gate. Remember what it is, and don’t stress over it.
“But Why do I see pros drawing freehand, and getting such great results, and I don’t have talent like them, and I’m a failure and-“
Hush, hush, hush. Calm down. Now, there are many artists who draw ‘freehand’ and they have amazing results, yes. However, you must take into account how exactly they’re able to draw that way – there is a process for everything.
Terada Katsuya and Kim Jung Gi are two artists that come to mind when I think of this. Both are idols of mine, and both are very talented at throwing their imaginations directly on paper (or walls or … whatever they feel like drawing on nowadays). Though most of us see them drawing freehand, what is going on in their heads? What about their process of drafting? After years of drawing poses from reference, and faces among other things, many things become second nature to an artist. That, plus an understanding of how certain things move. Through honing those skills, an individual will be able to draft with their head alone. But of course, this takes practice, and both of these individuals have been drawing for a considerable amount of time. Age doesn’t matter, but practice does. Just keep in mind, you may only be seeing the tree on the surface .. and not how deep down and powerful the roots underneath it are – meaning, you see an artist draw things easily, but think about, and even ask him or her how she got their before beating yourself up for not being able to do the same.
I honestly wish there was someone in my life back in those days when I was having issues with this. I’d slap myself in the face so hard if I could … maybe something worse.
stay strong, pencil warrior.