Can you give me some ad­vice on how to im­ply men­ace through shad­ows?

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Imagine Nation Artist Q & A -

Des Waterman, Canada

PJ replies

One com­mon mis­con­cep­tion with shad­ows is that they’re all about light­ing. They aren’t. In art of ev­ery kind – and par­tic­u­larly in comics and fan­tasy art – shad­ows are a tool of sto­ry­telling, and the light­ing in your im­age should be ar­ranged to suit the nar­ra­tive.

Mak­ing a per­son look men­ac­ing is about de­hu­man­is­ing that per­son so what’s left is an idea, a hint of hu­man­ity (or even a sug­ges­tion of in­hu­man­ity). I start by drawing the head and then, fol­low­ing the planes of the face, I try to block in large shapes for shadow. Some­times I’ll try dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tions of shad­ows – if you’re us­ing Manga Stu­dio this is eas­ily achieved by cre­at­ing new lay­ers on top of the pen­cils to draw shad­ows over the im­age. Don’t worry about de­tails – it’s all about try­ing to con­vey a mood rather than be faith­fully ac­cu­rate. How­ever, it does help if you have a good ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of the anatomy of the head.

When I’m try­ing to con­vey men­ace in an en­vi­ron­ment, I’ll work on a com­po­si­tion that en­ables the shad­ows to sur­round the char­ac­ter un­der threat. I usu­ally block in large shad­owed shapes, then on the edges I’ll add spe­cific de­tails that sug­gest the kind of en­vi­ron­ment – brick­work for an al­ley­way, criss-crossed metal sup­port struc­tures for an industrial land­scape, or the blink­ing lights of a com­puter room.

Once I’m happy with the pen­cils, I’ll start ink­ing. Us­ing a brush I’ll feather where the edges of the shadow are softer and re­quire a sub­tle tran­si­tion. In other ar­eas I’ll use a Hunt 107 dip pen to cross-hatch, depend­ing on the ma­te­rial be­ing ren­dered. Once I’ve out­lined the shadow I’ll use a brush to fill the re­main­ing blacks. If they’re not fully filled in, a viewer’s eye may of­ten see men­ac­ing shapes lurk­ing in them, too!

Light­ing from the side in­tro­duces drama to a face, while keep­ing the back­ground in sil­hou­ette will en­sure that the set­ting re­mains threat­en­ing.

Fram­ing a pro­tag­o­nist by shad­ows helps to give the panel a sense of men­ace. Open­ing the panel at the bot­tom leads the eye into the scene.

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