alone in the back room: photo reference

There are many schools regarding photo reference in comics. Some say to avoid it and others, like Alison Bechdel, use it for every single figure that they draw.

It can definitely be a trap. If you aren’t confident in a single style, then photo reference can alter the look of your drawing, making for an inconsistent page. I’ve definitely had this problem in the past. I can see it in Kit Kaleidoscope and the Mermaid in the Jar. Some panels are obviously photo referenced next to others that aren’t. My annoyance at this is part of why the style changed so much with Carnivale.

Still, photo reference can be helpful. Jesse Hamm posted that that Moebius used it all the time. And he has some good advice about it.

I use photo reference. Oftentimes, it’s to get the setting to look more realistic. Or if I want a certain item, like a certain make of car or style of shirt. But I also create my own figure reference (as above). The way I handle it is to pencil things out first and if I get stuck on a certain drawing, then I get photo reference for it. That way, the drawing fits with the others. The size, angle, etc. work with the other panels on the page so there isn’t a disruption in flow. Then I use the photo to edit the pencils. I find this way keeps me from getting into too much trouble.

But I also think I am better at simplifying. It’s something I’m still working on, but when I was younger I had trouble cutting out unnecessary details so the resulting drawing would be muddy and completely out of synch with drawings taken from my own head.

Anyway, the above photo is for another new short story I’m working on. This one will be very short. Like five pages.

  1 comment for “alone in the back room: photo reference

  1. June 27, 2014 at 6:42 am

    I enjoy using photo references, which I use a lot. It’s an enjoyable and interesting challenge to make the photo-drawing resemble the rest of my more cartoonish style.
    Bt the way, congratulations on the completion of your book. I think it’s fantastic and I hope to buy a copy early this coming month. I suspect the reason for your poor sales has less to do with the quality of your work, and more to do with the general economic climate. Most of us art-comics readers are a bit broke these days!

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