Visual Reference For Comic Artists Vol. 3

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By: Buddy Scalera
Publisher: After Hours Press

“My great contribution to the career of a man, who would reach the top of his profession, was that no one ever told him to use reference before... I’m a genius.”
-Marc Silvestri, Forward to Michael Turner’s Fathom

Ever since the dawn of time, man has observed nature and committed his observations down in drawings. In ages without the benefit of mass market printing and the internet, artists had to study the human form by drawing live models and learn to paint landscapes by placing an easel outside. Today we live in an art saturated world where many artists learn to draw, not by studying nature, but by studying the work of other artists. This is not a wholly unhealthy practice - technique can be learned much faster by studying those who went before. There’s no reason to start from scratch in this day and age; but by only drawing from comic books and not from life, how can an artist bring something new to the field? Readers want new takes on our world from other sets of eyes. Only artists with years of life drawing experience and more than a pocketful of talent can draw comics straight out of their head. And even so, what if a penciler is required to draw a locomotive and has never drawn one before? Then it is time to consult reference.

All artists should have a reference file. Whether it is on a computer hard drive or in a dusty file cabinet, it is essential to properly represent the world in your drawings. Which brings us to the Visual Reference CD-ROM series, by writer and self-publisher, Buddy Scalera.

The only product of its kind, Visual Reference For Comic Artists is a series of CDs containing hundreds of reference photographs featuring everything a comic artist needs: people, places, and things. The latest volume, Number Three, contains more photos than previous editions (over 600), and features a wider variety of images.

The CD is compatible with both PC and Mac and is based on HTML, so any web browser can be used to look at the disk. We start out with broad categories: People, Places, Things, and Neat Stuff. Most interesting to comic artists would be the “People” section. Here are dramatic poses with buff models, including poses with guns, swords, and action stills with two models. Sorry, femme fans, if you want female poses, those are on disks One and Two. One thing the other disks do not have are models who look like superheroes. The two males in Volume Three are built like Thor. Most of the poses feature two or more angles along with different lighting set-ups. Shadows are emphasized in the first sets. I found this section to be the most useful, due to the fact that comic books place emphasis on the figure. The models have well defined muscles and interesting expressions. The camera angles are also dramatic and scream out “comic book”.

Moving along to “Places,” the subcategories include: New York City, including aerial helicopter shots; small town shots; sights from the New Jersey Shore; an Irish pub; and finally shots from the Bronx Zoo. This section has a nice variety of locations. No matter if you are drawing a jungle or a metropolitan story, you can probably get some use out of these photos.

Under “Things” we have: a marina, rubble, a tank, and a taxi cab. The titles don’t lie, we have another diverse collection of images to study. I found the marina pics to be the most interesting because drawing water has always been a challenge. The rubble category would be very useful for those drawing Incredible Hulk stories.

“Neat Stuff” is a miscellaneous category that is cross-referenced throughout the disk. It features pictures of a burnt car, fire escapes (what Batman story is without them?), shots from a skyfari, and a sushi bar. I’ve never drawn sushi before, but the restaurant makes for an interesting setting. If you purchase the disk make sure not to miss the “Extras” link in “Neat Stuff.” There are a couple of clips from Buddy Scalera’s ComixVision cable show.

This CD series is a good introduction to drawing from photographs. One thing that I would like to see in later editions would be a tutorial or two by a comic book penciler about the methods he or she uses when drawing from reference. Other than that I found Vol. 3 enjoyable to look though, even without drawing on my mind. Non-artists may get a kick out it as well. My suggestion to someone who’s seriously interested in drawing would be to copy all of the images from this CD on to your hard drive in categorized folders, for quicker access. Then get yourself a digital camera and start making your own library. Some things just aren’t possible for us to get – like the helicopter shots of New York, but if you need a certain pose there’s no better way to get it than to take a picture of yourself. You can even look at them years later and get a good laugh. I know I do.

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