Monday, 13 May 2013

Photorealism: "It's Just Photograph Tracing"

Glamourpuss #13 (May 2010)
Art by Dave Sim
(from the 100 Hours Tour: Comicon, 1 February 2008)
You know I was telling Chester Brown on one of my visits last year that I wish I was an inventor because it seems to me that all of the elements are in place to do photorealism more efficiently. I should be able to take digital images with a digital camera, download them into a combination computer and light table and trace them from there. The problem comes in with the pixilation. The image looks sharp -- as do the photocopies -- until you actually try to trace it and then you find that the contour isn't actually there, it's gradated. And the gradation is broken down into pixels and it's anyone's guess where the actual edge of the shadow is. That's why it takes so long to pencil a photorealistic image. Tracing makes it sound as if it's all there and it's as easy as tracing the Coca Cola logo or something. We are talking about really, really, really nuanced realities being turned into single pen or brush strokes. That's where you see the genius of Williamson. Two pen strokes barely a micron wide but they're the RIGHT two pen strokes. A micron to the left or right and the girl looks as if she has a black eye or a dislocated cheek. Any form of cartooning outside of photorealism there is so much latitude as to where the line goes that it's just about effortless by comparison. 

In my own case, being called a photograph tracer comes very low on the list of negative things that I've been called so (like everything else I've been called) it really doesn't have any impact. It's just an opinion. Everyone besides me seems to be deathly afraid of being accused of tracing anything. After 6,000 pages and 26 years of worrying about things like that, I decided to just do what interested me and that's photorealism. If it's so easy, why isn't the field full of people "banging out" Al Williamson pages at a 5-a-day clip? No, to me translating a photo into a good comic book page or panel is the ultimate highwire act. One slip and bye-bye picture.


adampasz said...

GP was never really my thing, but I gotta say that's some bad-ass crosshatching!

Tonia said...

This is cool!