Articulating my favourite artists – PART 1

An Instagram follower had asked about the possibility of me writing an article about my favourite artists and why I like them. I had been planning a similar article on why certain drawing styles or pieces of art catch our eye. Instead of combining the two articles, I will keep them separate as I would like to go a little deeper on that subject.

So who are some of my favourite artists and why do I like them?

The list is so big that I’ve decided to split this article into different posts, otherwise, I’ll never finish it. Unfortunately, this post has been in draft status for far too long. Now you can find many articles on these artists but what I would like to do in this piece is to try and articulate why I am drawn to their art.

Travis Charest 

Now here is an artist I keep revisiting over and over again. Travis’ art inspired a whole generation of artists that loved his sequential pages during his time at WildStorm. During series one, you see his improvement as an artist, with his level of detail becoming increasingly intricate. He has a very interesting but proportional sense of anatomy and you can really see this in his first 4 issues of his season 2 run of WildCats. Many current artists often cite Travis as an art style inspiration and it’s not had to SEE why… But can I SAY why? That’s what I’m trying to achieve with this article.

From WildCats series/volume 2 and one-shots like WildCats Vs X-Men, Travis’ art has an insane level of detail. What makes this even more spectacular is that Travis doesn’t use photos or images for reference (a bit like Korean artist Kim Jung Gi). He prefers to draw straight from his mind. Admittedly, his process takes a bit longer than most but the results are eye-catching. Textures are incredibly detailed and believable, figures are proportionately accurate with attention given to poses and character traits. This results in your eye being drawn to the art to take in all of the details on the page. The sheer level of rendering is truly amazing. Lines are laid down not in a haphazard manner but in a way that denotes shape and forms correctly, even considering the perspective of the panel shot.

In addition to this feature of Travis’ style, he is not afraid to use black on the page where needed. What does this mean? Contrast and values are one of the strongest tools an artist can use on a sequential page (yet another post topic I want to go in depth on in the future). Sometimes contrast and value can be left to the colorist, but I personally think this is best done by the artist. Travis will use black on his characters even if, for example, the clothing item he is drawing is of another colour. Some small parts will be left out for the colorist to fill in which tricks the eye into thinking that the whole piece is of that colour. The use of black in this way creates depth and shadow and helps to create contrast so that the lineart doesn’t seem just like line art but rather a solid, 3-dimensional creation in the mind of the reader. This also makes the black and white original art a true spectacle to behold.

Travis seldom does internal pages nowadays and has recently done a run of covers for X-Men Red. He has also embraced digital tools and as a result, has recorded some of his covers for X-Men Red on YouTube which I find facinating to watch. In my opinion, some of the best sequential examples of his work are Wildcats, vol 2. Issues 1-4 (Richard Friend, the inker deserves a mention here for his fine inking work on that series), Wildcats vs. Xmen one-shot (crossover) and his own personal series he started on Twitter called Spacegirl.

Will Eisner

Now here is a heavyweight when it comes to comics. Will Eisner is more than just a good artist, he is a great comic creator. There many reasons why his art is such a delight to look at. One feature of his art is to use text as imagery which has almost become his trademark, cleverly incorporating titles into backgrounds and scenes.

He has often described the black and white linework of comics as being just like written language that can be used to communicate ideas, emotions, and story within a single image and he utilises body language to help convey tone and emotion in his figures. While facial expressions are also used, body language is pushed to the extreme producing emotionally packed panels. This also helps the reader become quickly acquainted with characters as details are layered into the illustration. For example, is the character stooping, hunched over or looking down? Is there something in the background developing? Will Eisner uses every opportunity on the page to tell the story. Backgrounds are detailed and believable and the setting for his stories often become a character in their own right because he makes settings easy to visualise.

In addition, his art often utilises greyscale tones to create value and contrast (yes, contrast is a key factor as to why I like a lot of these artists). If you want to learn how to improve in creating comics I recommend his books on sequential art and storytelling (I believe it was Will that first coined the phrase ‘sequential art’ to describe comics).

Adam Hughes

Adam’s art is absolutely gorgeous to look at. You can see the influences of Andrew Loomis and Alphonse Mucha in his work (another two of my favorite artists). Adam has been the cover artist, most notably for Fables, Wonder Woman and Catwoman as well as many other titles. Personally, I really like his sequential pages, although this is something he rarely does. I think his most recent internal pages were for the Before Watchmen series as well as a small run on Betty and Veronica. For me, both runs are some of his best work.

What draws me to his art? In a similar way to Travis, Adam’s art is realistic, proportionally correct and in perspective. But in addition to these aspects which can be quite cold and technical on their own, Adam adds in great composition and subtle facial expressions, rendering his figures in a way that conveys fullness and depth. Characters have individual looks, not just generic face templates. He also utilizes colour holds (line work that is coloured, instead of remaining black) which accentuate form and contrast the bold black outline he often employs.

When looking through his work it’s easy to see he is skilled at drawing women, with many of his commission requests being female characters and having had drawn covers for some of the most popular female comic book characters in comics.

In a similar style to Travis, Adam will often use black in heavy doses even if the colour of the item isn’t black, again adding depth and weight to his art.
Adam’s backgrounds are also rich in detail, always drawn with accurate perspective. His layouts are simple but easy to follow avoiding storytelling confusion and frustration for readers. This was particularly important when he worked on the before Watchman series. In some of the issues, pages can be read upside down and back-to-front (reflecting Dr. Manhattens sense of time, I think). This obviously calls for great skill in laying out pages as that could have gone drastically wrong, but I think it was pulled off successfully.

Adam has also written a few short stories here and there and I wish he would write and create more. In fact, all three of these artists have produced fantastic work when they have acted as both writer and artist (something Will Eisner encouraged in his writings on making comics to help unify word and visuals into successful storytelling).

Follow up article!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and I will endeavour to write a followup article to this post as I have at least 3-4 other artists I want to write about. In addition, I’ve been a bit lazy in keeping this site updated (although I’ve had my fair share of issues in updating WordPress and moving hosting provider) and I want to keep adding posts on a regular basis. This includes posts about making comics in general as well as my current Kickstarter progress (which is delaying). For those that do come here, please bear with on this website. I’m preparing it to be able to sell products on here in the future (instead of using BigCartel but it will take a bit more time and effort to get it right (it’s being prepared to sell products after my next Kickstarter). Stay tuned!