Monday, 14 July 2014

Gerhard's "Robert Crumb" Backgrounds

(Click image to enlarge)

Gerhard "Robert Crumb" background pages 380-383 of LATTER DAYS. He does a very good "heavy line work" Crumb style and a creditable teeny-tiny Mr. Natural and Flakey Foont.

Technically, the idea is a good one: you do a master background and then "pan" across and around it, so you get multiple panels from one drawing. The problem is: who does the "tech" side of cutting and pasting the drawing in digitally? Gerhard just used photocopies: the more the lines fattened up, the more Crumb-like they looked.

Tech question: how much control do you have to exert to still be considered "the artist" of the piece? That is, do you have to tell the "tech" person exactly how "quickly" or "slowly" to pan and if you just leave it up to them, are they then the "director"?

You'd really need to develop a whole different "studio" system than anything that has been done so far, but, technically, I still think there's a very good idea there.

The Master Background Artist can put more time in on a single piece and actually get three pages out of it -- so you can justify working three days on the drawing if you're doing "a page a day". Of course then you have to KEEP doing it, and factor in employing a full-time "tech" guy to implement it and develop an instructional language indicating right to left and left to right, quarter inch increments, hold on this section, zoom in [percentage required for each approach].

Of course, then the partnership broke up and the whole intellectual exercise became moot.

I used it on JUDENHASS but that bombed dramatically and came out while the level of Dave Sim Hate in comics had yet to peak so no one looked at the technical side of it.

Maybe someday someone will!


Anonymous said...

Interesting technique, and Dave said long ago that his mouth waters at the prospect of anything that cuts down on his drawing time dramatically.

Of course, it's a cheat; you won't get the same look as if you'd actually drawn the backgrounds you'd see in each panel. If you enlarge a photocopy, you don't get the change in perspective that you get by moving closer. It's the difference between a camera zooming in and dollying in.

What would work is using 3-D graphics for the environments. You could position the "camera" anywhere in the room, and any change in its position would show the background correctly. I know Dave isn't really a fan of computers, but you could treat the printout as pencilled art and ink the figures and background to get the same hand-rendered quality. Didn't Dave and Gerhard use some of this technique on Fall and the River?

The question is, is this economical? Would it take longer to set up the 3-D environment than to just lay out and pencil the backgrounds? Probably only for a frequently-recurring setting, like the Nash apartment in Jaka's Story, or the Throne Room in Mothers and Daughters.

The question of authorship is, I think, no different from the example of Dave and Gerhard. How much is Gerhard the author of Cerebus?

And one small comment (Reg P., skip this part): I don't think that Dave Sim Hate is the reason that Judenhass was not the success Dave hoped it would be. It simply wasn't very good -- not Dave at his prime. Indeed, it showcased Dave at his weakest: didactic writing (plus, he seemed to find himself a bit overwhelmed by his subject matter) and an art style that doesn't come naturally to him (and that in any case he was just beginning to explore).

-- Damian T. Lloyd, pmj

Anonymous said...

@ Damian

It appears you missed my point, which is surprising to me because I don't think you lack the ability to understand an argument.

I've never suggested that Dave or his work is beyond criticism.

I've said that it makes no sense to avidly follow an artist's work and contribute to a blog dedicated to an artist (who has spent his career primarily drawing people!) when you write that "Dave has never drawn well -- the malformed faces, the weird claw-like hands, the necks like Slinkies where heads don't connect to bodies".

But in fairness, I find that this is your only comment that I've read that shows a serious lack of judgment.

My guess is that you were angry that Dave Sim referred to a "Damian Lloyd"-type in unflattering terms.

Peace homeboy!

-Reginald P.

Cerdic Grimbly said...

I mean, I agree in that I do not accept that Dave Sim is untalented at depicting the human form.

It seems to me that his level of graphic awareness has only improved over the years.

It feels strange that I should have to say this, but we should be celebrating Dave's achievement, not denigrating it.

Cerdic Grimbly

Jason Winter said...

I use Google sketchup to help me draw my backgrounds. I don't use it for all the backgrounds, just those environments that I intend to use over multiple pages. there's no point in spending days designing elaborate environments if you're only going to use them for a page or two.

Anonymous said...

Reginald P., I think you misrepresent both my comment and yours -- mine by quoting only the first half of my argument. I stand by the piece you used, but think your quotation should have extended one sentence further to include "But in Cerebus, it doesn't matter ..."

And Reg, I can't be angry with Dave. I've never even met the fellow, and he's never met me. He clearly didn't understand my comments, so any emotional reaction on my part would be misplaced. He's said he's very interested in photorealistic cartooning and in thinking, but he's never been very good at either. "Interest doesn't equal aptitude." He is getting better at photorealistic cartooning, and the evolution is interesting to watch.

(That's not a drive-by insult to say Dave is not good at thinking. He routinely makes errors of fact, of logic, of reasoning, of attribution, of causation. We can discuss the matter if you'd like and that might be interesting, if we can all keep our emotions out of it.)

But Dave is not an intellectual; he's a cartoonist. As someone upstream commented, his intellectual contributions don't add much to the world, but his cartooning contributions are very valuable.

Cerdic, "untalented" is a different thing from "inaccurate", and my praises his "graphic awareness" as his greatest strength. And I would maintain that we do Dave's achievements a greater service by discussing them rather than merely celebrating them. The last thing Dave's work needs is more Michael Battaglias screeching abuse at anyone who dares criticize the Great Man. As I've said before, the one clear thing that unites most of us who read and post at "A Moment of Cerebus" is that we take Dave's work seriously and think it's worthy of study.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, pcp

Anonymous said...

Jason, I'm most interested in what you say about using SketchUp for backgrounds. Is two pages the break-point economically, in that it takes less time to lay out and pencil a background setting for 10 - 15 panels than it would to design that setting in a 3-D application? What other considerations make it worth the time to use or not use these approaches?

-- Damian T. Lloyd, tlb

Jason Winter said...

Damien-There is a sequence in my comic that takes place in an expensive looking mansion. The sequence runs for about 6 pages, with the two characters moving from room to room. I toyed with the idea of building the mansion in sketchup, but decided against it as I would not be returning to the mansion again. On the other hand, I have a number of sequences which take place in a futuristic hideout, and I knew it would be for the best if I built a model to accommodate these sequences. I also designed the helmet of the hero in sketchup, and was able to fit it to a head model I was able to get from the sketchup wharehouse. It's come in very handy for keeping the helmet looking consistent from panel to panel. Thanks for your interest Damien!