Tuesday, May 30, 2023

House of Mystery: The War: PAINTOVER EDITS

Back in 2008 I was asked to draw a story for Bill Willingham for DC's House of Mystery. It was a short 5 pager called 'The War' about an eternal struggle between the birds and the cats (an ultimately the bees too) in an idealized overgrown garden.

This was only the second time I'd been hired to draw pages for a comic that wasn't Mouse Guard. I received a typed script from Bill,  and I had to submit thumbnails (see to the left) and pencils (below) before getting to inks and colors.

In 2010 I shared the process for a single page of the story on this blog: https://davidpetersen.blogspot.com/2010/10/legends-at-nycc-plan-for-this-weekend.html

Recently, in digging through my hard drive for Blog material, I came across the pages (and prelim materials) again. I briefly thought of sharing them before realizing I kinda already had, when it hit me how different the roughs/pencils were from the final art.

I didn't like what I saw. Every artist is more critical of their own work than most everyone else, and older work can intensify the flaw-view. But, I tried to put that aside because I thought to problems weren't so much "Oh, I could draw that much better now", but rather 'I lost clarity and focus in each panel that was present in the earlier stages.

This lead to present me doing critique paintovers of my own pages. I limited myself to  fixing the compositions that were already there rather than imply a redrawing or completely different composition or panel arrangement. Below you can see the original colored page on the left of each image and the paintover on the right.

Page 1: In panel one and three I wanted to increase the scale of things like the wall, the gate, the roses, bushes, and the blades of grass. Depth and focus was also a concern on these pages, and panel one needed more light streaming in and for the tree not to be a silhouette.

For panel two I tried pushing the light back and the shadow closer and vice-versa. I think I prefer the light in the distance, But I also prefer how I upscaled the flowers and plant growth in the darker background version.

Page 2: Scaling up the forms and leaving more open space for color (in the roses, rock, and stone wall) makes them much more readable. 

I also wanted to lighten backgrounds around the cat and bird characters to make them more readable. I played with scale of the bird and the splash in panel three. The last panel is still a mess, but I do think pushing light in the background and offsetting some darker forms like the trees and turtle help make the panel less flat than it was.

Page 3: I opened up the backgrounds around the bird in panels one and four (more like the roughts/pencils) and plated with scaling up some forms again. Panel 2 needed to be cropped in and more birds added. Here I did redraw a bit of the cat's face & pose, but it was more about showing that the emotion could have been pushed more.

Panel three needed depth. The only thing selling it in the original was scale. I for some reason didn't draw leaves (but instead cross-hatched a mass) which made it harder to push the birds inside a shaded canopy looking down onto the cats walking the path. Here I corrected with leaf forms and a better color/value scheme.

Page 4: Cropped in tighter on the cat in panel one (and did the face/pose redraw like on the last page). Panel two needed more depth with light but also with more varied scales of cats coming toward us. Panel three got a better bird angle (so it looks like it's flying in rather than hovering), as well as actual tree leaves and more bees. Panel four was about pushing the depth by scaling back and lightening the hive, and then rotating the bird for a better fall and adding more bees. 

The last panel's depth was similar to before: more open forms of the roses, bushes, and wall--then a better lighting scheme. The old man and bench needed to be less front-on. It looked awkward. So did the floating book on his lap. And I liked the open lenses in the pencils, so I lightened them up. More bees and bigger ivy for the foreground.

Page 5: Better shadows on the man in panel one coupled with a lighter and less busy grassy area made a real difference in panel one. For panel two I did the normal to open up forms and depth––I also fixed his leg pose to give him more of a shuffle, and widened his cane.

Panel three and four saw the bird get upscaled, with better value compositions and lighting in each. Lighting plated a big part of fixing the last panels too. Pushing the depth (which also draws the reader's eye focus through the panel), enlarging the tree form, and adding bees finished the job.

I streamed these paintovers on my Twitch Stream: twitch.tv/davidpetersen and did so to show how I see growth in my own work, but also fixes and techniques for finding and solving what's wrong with a page.

If you'd like to see me do this kind of critique again, come to my twitch stream––I may do it again on another freelance short story I drew...

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