I’ve always admired comic artwork. For many years when I was younger I wanted to be a cartoonist, comic book artist and illustrator. Although I couldn’t have told you, probably my favourite artist was Herge – him of TinTin fame.
His style of artwork is known as ligne claire. And, in fact, he is the creator of it.
It uses clear strong lines of uniform importance. Artists working in it do not use hatching, while contrast is downplayed as well. Cast shadows are often illuminated while a uniformity of line is used throughout, paying equal attention to every element depicted. Additionally, the style often features strong colours and a combination of cartoonish characters against a realistic background.
The key thing is that the lines are the flat colours and unified line thickness. I’ve realised that I actually draw in this style (when I do draw). And, I like to think, I don’t look as much like a copied version of Tintin as someone like Edgar Jacobs:
Perhaps it’s the titles that make this look like a TinTin copy. It’s a shame really because the pictures are actually really nice.
So, the realization today is sort of two fold – one that I’ve sort of already started developing a style. But also, how important it is that there is a style that is educated and informed by other styles, but not influenced too closely or copied.
What’s interesting is that the closeness is too close when it’s not meant to be a copy, but not close enough when it is meant to be a copy.
This picture, which is meant to be an accurate homage to Herge, just isn’t quite right. Tintin’s legs are wrong – the artist has “cartoonised” the wrong bits – Herge never bent Tintin’s legs in such an unrealistically cartoon way as that. Other than that, it’s very good. But the legs are wrong enough that it makes the whole picture look slightly wrong. And while taking Tintin’s style and “cartoonising” it more, would be good to develop your own style, it’s no good when drawing a homage to Tintin.
I’ve been looking back at the pictures I’ve drawn of myself.
The first one I drew was this one for my radio Sit Com Erratically Charged. In it, I’m “playing a character”, so while it hopefully looks like me, I’m pulling a face that I don’t usually pull.
I think I’ve coloured this one quite well – there’s a nice bit of shading on my face that’s left my chin slightly grey to indicate the stubble. I also like the index finger a lot and the nose and mouth. There’s a problem with the ear – it’s slightly flat somehow, and also with the thumb, which looks like it has no thickness at it’s tip.
The next picture I drew was this one, which became the de facto “logo” for me. I like this one, although I haven’t done such a good job of the nose. The mouth is interesting in it’s simplicity.
I think what I like about this one the most is because it’s slightly smaller the lines are correspondingly thicker. I think I’ve got this one about the right size. Again, I like what I’ve done with the hair, fading from light brown to darker brown.
Yesterday I drew another “me”:
I’m not incredibly happy with this one, but it’s okay. I like the nose and mouth, but I’ve made a mistake with the right (my left) eye. The angle is slightly wrong. I’m also not quite happy with the hair. I think I’ve got the “spikes” the wrong way. And finally, with my list of complaints, I’ve messed up the hatching at the right. But that’s meant to be slightly scruffy. Not that scruffy though.
One of the problems really was that my pen ran out half way through – that it was too thin, and then I had to switch to using a biro (a biro!).
I scanned this one rather than photographing it, so the line reproduction is different. I’m happier with the edges of the colour on this one (the first one had sharp edges, the second one were too messy.
Before moving on to pictures like this, I used to draw pictures much more in this style:
It’s much more cartoony, with the eyes overlapping. That was always a big deal. As a child I was very influenced by Peter Maddox:
The reason for this was probably because he wrote so many books on how to be a cartoonist, and I had so many of them.
I think the colours work well on this one too, but really, as much as I like it, I’m not sure this is the style I want anymore.
And this has proved yesterday’s lesson; the more you do something the better at it you get. I’m much better at drawing myself than anyone else, because I’ve done it more. And similarly, looking back at my childhood pictures, I was much better then, because I was drawing them so much.