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In the Beginning ....

To kick things off, we will spent the first several issues following the creation of a piece from initial idea to finished piece. I attempted to be as instructive as possible, for those who might want to see how I work and develop an idea. I am more than happy to answer questions or show certain sections, concepts, or techniques in greater detail if people ask about it (just send me email at: email@daviddeen.com). This piece was executed in Prismacolor colored pencil on 1/8" Strathmore illustration board.

The Concept: Picking the Fight

About half a year ago, we were brainstorming possible ideas for future pieces. Robin suggested a bar fight, and I immediately liked the idea. We then elaborated on it... the piece would be a fantasy picture, full of creatures with few, if any, humans. The creatures would be engaged in a huge brawl.

Then I had to set goals:

  • What would the piece do to push my drawing skills farther?
  • What weaknesses would I work on with this piece?
Well ....
  1. For one thing, I have always been intimidated by busy scenes full of lots of different characters. I had first approached this issue in Late Night at the Depot, but soon realized that I had still held back on that piece and could do much better. In fact, Late Night seems sparse to me now. So the bar brawl seemed like a natural (and fun) way to push the "busyness" factor farther.
  2. Lighting has also been a sticking point with me. I think I've done well when I have needed to use special lighting, but find myself almost avoiding taking on dim, candle-lit settings. This scene would give me a chance to directly challenge myself.
  3. And finally, I have also shied away from action scenes between multiple characters. Well, how could I compose a fight scene without dynamic, aggressive characters highly engaged with each other?
So now I had definite goals and benefits to keep in mind while working on the piece. Next came the fun part... all-out brainstorming of different thing to include in the picture. Robin and I rattled of as many things as we could think of, no holds barred. We ended up with a long list (as shown at right). This was simply a "Wish List". It was understood that some things would be left out and other (new) ideas, would get added. It was, however, a great starting point. idea list
photos of bars
Research: Scoping the Joint
Next came the research. This took place in the months it took to wrap up all the commission to which I was obligated. As fortune had it, Robin took a business trip to Heidelberg, Germany during this time. On my request, she went to as many bars as she could and took photographs. Neither of us are big barflies, so the pictures gave me a wealth of small details and layouts to draw from. Despite my lack of extensive bar experience, I could be assured that this would feel like a real bar.

I also purchased The Historical Encyclopedia of Costume. This book will serve as a long term reference for my art library. When it comes time to design characters, I can pull this out and use it as reference on the clothing. I don't expect everything will be absolutely accurate in this bar scene, after all, the fight does not take place in our world. But the reference gives me a good starting point for effecting different styles and cultures.

Sketching: The First Punches

At long last, I could begin to work on the concept sketches for this piece. I pulled out the photographs from Germany and laid them all out before me, and I started sketching. There had to be a main floor for the bulk of the action to take place in, but I already had ideas for what will be happening around the bar itself and in booths at the edge, so I either needed a broad view or a compact bar. I settled for a little of both, making a wide composition (about 2:1) of a small, tight bar. This way I could get a fair portion of three different walls, as well as some lesser activity in the rafters above, while still having the action be close enough to feel personal. In order to address the amount of detail I want, I decided on a size of 19"x11", a fairly good sized piece for colored pencils.

coarse initial sketches

I knew the piece was going to have a lot of little things to look at, lots of small fights. If I wasn't careful, this could simply turn into a mess that takes too much effort to look at, a common problem with busy scenes. To make sure this didn't happen, it needed a focus point. I decided to accomplish this by making a central fight larger than the rest, with a more dynamic pose to these central characters, so that the whole scene would seem to be happening around these two "main characters." The three smaller pictures shown above are thumbnails I made while thinking out the general layout. As you can see, they are very vague and quick.

larger sketches
After I felt comfortable with a particular composition, I made another, larger sketch (see the right panel of the above sketches) in which I could start positioning the action. Again, this is done in a very loose, ugly, practical manner that probably only makes sense to me. Next came a final room sketch, without any creatures (left panel above). I took more time on this sketch. It let me know that the room itself could make sense. This sketch was made in fairly (but not totally) accurate perspective. It would serve as a guide when I started to lay lines down onto the final illustration board.

And with that, I was ready to start the final drawing on the illustration board!


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This document last updated Mon Oct 2 11:00:31 2006.