Simplification has been one of the Holy Grails of illustration since I started making comics. I feel compelled to draw every little thing all the time. I feel like I’m cheating if I don’t. I feel like you will know I’m a fraud if I don’t draw every leaf on a tree. Which is utter madness… but, upon realizing that’s insane, you have to try to figure out what you could do instead that still feels ok to you.
When I started Comics From Space, I was working in an intentionally simplified version of my natural cartooning style. I thought it would be quicker, I thought it would look better… I was wrong on both counts. Slowly but surely, the way I really draw crept into the strip, and it began to look better, and trying to remember the new rules I’d made up for myself actually made those early months take longer to draw. In comics especially, it seems like developing an instantly recognizable art style is the goal, but I am much more impressed with chameleons who can alter their line to suit a job, like Kyle Baker, or the astonishing Stuart Immonen, who seems just as comfortable with photorealism as with highly stylized cartooning. I sometimes wonder how they do it.
Anyway, the point is, I tried to simplify my line for a few reasons, and it didn’t work. And that was when 99% of everything was people in the same uniform walking down identical gray hallways. Now that I have detailed backgrounds and complex costumes, I feel more totally imaginary pressure than ever to render every little detail. It makes each page of this comic run right up to that Monday deadline. And I honestly don’t think most people would notice if the finished product relied more on gradients and color tools to give the backgrounds detail than my endless noodling. So, I’m trying to teach myself when to let go. I don’t want to alter things too obviously during this story for the sake of consistency, but I’m coming up with ways to make things more economical. This page has less background detail than has been the norm (Although as much because there’s 3 panels of close-ups as because of all the above babbling), but I think it’s still effective. It’s something I’ll probably be fine-tuning as we go. Or maybe I’ll revert to what comes natural. Who knows? It’s a process. Have a good week.