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This Panel

An image of a man, blood trickling down the side of his head, as he holds his rifle, his mouth slightly open, his eyes glaring straight down the viewer with hate and fear, an image rendered in black and red.

This is a panel shot of a close up of a character from a story I did for a client. When I illustrated the pages, this was one panel shot that stuck out for me and I was happy with the results: scratchy line work combined with black folds in drapery, rugged/rough rows of bricks in the background, a low angle shot emanating domination and chaos, reflected in the man's body language: arms raised with his rifle, a finger on the trigger and a wide eyed look of terror glaring from his eyes. The inks give the artwork form, dimension and texture. Think of it as a three dimensional rendering in a two dimensional set up. When I'm inking an illustration or a panel shot, my motive is for the inks to be in harmony with the pencils. In other words, to be unified in its look. You can also see patterns and designs: the rifle cuts across diagonally in the frame while the position of the man angles towards the left, his head sightly cocked with the left shoulder slightly lowered than the right. The bricks are aligned diagonally, tilted, fading into the dark shadows towards an unseen ceiling, as if it was empty space to infinity. If one was to see the whole page (and maybe one day I'll show it), I try to create a pattern/design within each panel so the eyes of the viewer could observe from scene to scene and follow the sequence of panels from the top to bottom of the page, going left to right.

Why I choose this low angle close up is for a few reasons. For one, I want the character to have a dominant presence. He is, at the moment, filled with rage and violence, a reaction to what has happened to him in the story. From reading film books and talking to comic books artists that have strong storytelling chops, there was one thing I learned about low and high angle shots. If you have it low, the person in the frame can resonate power, domination etc. Just check out any horror film where the antagonist/monster/villain enters a room and you see the shot composed where the view point of the viewers looking from the bottom of the frame. It creates a menacing quality to scare the viewer. The exact opposite is with a high angle shot. If you have a bird's eye view- another name for a high angle shot- it can evoke feelings of entrapment or vulnerability. Think of a scene in a film where a fugitive is trapped in an alley and can't find an exit. He or she turns arounds and confronts his/her antagonist even though we can't see the antagonist in the frame. We see the facial reactions and body language of the fugitive or victim reacting to the antagonist as the antagonist slowly or quickly approaches them, either to kill, maim, beat or destroy the victim. The camera-or the point of view of the viewer- is angled from the upper corners in the frame, looking down.

Now back to the close up of the man with the rifle. Whether it's an extreme close up of a person's eyes or an object thats serves as an important visual element in a comic book story or film, the close up is one of the most effective compositions to use. Why? Now you got me, friend. I'm at a loss of words, but lets just say, a pro I know in the comic book business once said that a close up shot increases the drama and tension in a story/film/sequential page. I guess that sums it up very effectively. Couldn't have said it better.

As an artist, we can all be critical of our work and I feel, from time to time, man, I missed it. The image is in my head but somehow, I couldn't get it onto paper. The same pro who talked about what defines a closeup also said that he worked with a legendary film director who once commented that he was lucky if he could get at least 60% of what he had in his head- a series of images or an image-onto celluloid, the big movie screen. Yeh, I feel the same way.

The original image was done in pencils, then inks with pens, brushes and then later adding grey or white tones with acrylics and blending pens. Sometimes I would combine pencil shading- maybe a soft 2B or a softer black lead- with acrylics and blending tools (They look like pens/markers. Highly recommend the Copics) to integrate various renderings/tonalities of pencil, ink, dry ink and water based paint. After the image was scanned in Photoshop, I tweaked the image by making all the inked area a solid black (as oppose to the original inks where you see a variety of dark and medium dark tones, getting streaks when you apply brush to paper) with a variety of digital tools in Photoshop: paint bucket, pencil, brush, lasso tool etc. Since I dug and still dig the panel so much, I wanted to use that image on my business card. What to do... the image is black and white but I want to make it pop, stand out.

Got it. I had the page already scanned and tweaked digitally/cleaned up in Photoshop. Select the panel you want, do a little cut n' paste and bring the image into a new document. Then add a solid red with paint bucket tool again in Photoshop, jazz it up with brush and lasso and bam, instant knockout!

I used this image too for my business cards with a white comic book font to give it a solid look. I didn't know if a b&w business card would be too dull or bland. Needed something to make it snap and pop.

Where did I get this idea? I know a few artists that I have seen their work rendered in red, black and white and maybe that influence rubbed off of me. Red is a powerful color. Red with black, it's very simple, stark, to the point. No mucking around. A crazed man with a rifle, black and red tones, red representing the opposite of power and energy: fear, stark naked fear and terror. Enhance the mood and power of that shot. A world of hell not of heaven.

Visual storytelling is an ongoing process. You keep drawing, composing shots, some of it will be successful, some of it will be okay and some of it will be awful and boy, did I miss the bullseye on that one. Looking back at those pages, there were some parts where I missed the compositional quality that I was looking for within the panels and when connecting the shots on a page, I did the best I could with the script. One day, I would like to take a crack at this story plus another one I did, another eleven pager. Redo it, revamp it, make it tighter and better visually.

The journey continues....

Artwork and Words Copyright Rich Terdoslavich 2016

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