How I learned to stop worrying and just write
by Mike Baron
When I was twenty-three, I proclaimed that I would teach myself to draw,and within two years-max I would be as good as Neal Adams. Got myself a drawing board, an electric pencil sharpener and went to work. My artist friends, including Robert Gould and James Taylor, told me there were two preeminent texts for drawing the human anatomy, Burne Hogarth's Dynamic Anatomy, and Andrew Loomis' Figure Drawing For All It's Worth. They were right. In fact, my old friend Carl Potts had a rubber stamp made up with those two titles, and whenever a wannabe approached him at a convention, he would stamp their portfolios with it.
However, there is a great deal more to drawing than book knowledge. There is temperament, which often transforms itself into how tightly you grip the pencil. The trick is to hold the pencil loosely and begin by feathering in your outlines and lay-outs. If you grip the pencil too tightly, as I did, you risk plowing ineradicable ditches in your canvas, ditches which not only look wrong, but are as I said impossible to eradicate. I did not draw, I plowed ditches. I was in a hurry. I've always been in a hurry. Yet I persevered for years, trying to teach myself to draw. If Berni Wrightson could do it, so could I. Berni, of course, has the gift, and had also subscribed to the Famous Artist's School. I incorporated Betty Edwards' Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain into my curriculum. (The three afore-mentioned books are indispensable to the serious comic book artist.) I did life drawing, I sketched in bars, I even tried to pick up girls by "surreptitiously" drawing them.
Unfortunately, on the few occasions they let me show them my results, they ran screaming into the night. When it came time to collaborate with a real artist, Steve Rude, I had very specific ideas on how the comic should look. I found it easier to draw each page out by hand, replete with all word balloons and notations, then to write full-script style. Surprisingly, artists and editors liked my writing style. Archie Goodwin and Harvey Kurtzman "wrote" this way. You can see at a glance everything on the page. Which is not to say I knew what I was doing. My perspective was idiosyncratic. My anatomy was questionable. Without the extreme musculature of the WWF, most comic book artists would be lost. That's why it's easier to draw men than women. Men have signposts up and down the body. At least, comic book superheroes do. Women are subtler, and when you try to bulk them up, they often come off as sex change operations. Realizing that my forte was writing, not drawing, I abandoned the drawing board and continued to etch out my designs on horizontal surfaces. This was a mistake. Correct posture is extremely important, especially to an artist who has to turn out X number of pages today. My excitement in the story caused me to chisel, to hunch over and plow, which led to back problems. I eventually had to give up my writing style in favor of full script because it hurt too much to draw that way. So, to all aspiring artists and writers, do as I say, and not as I do.
Mike Baron is the creator of the award winning comic book Nexus and during his career has written an enormous variety of comics from The Flash to The Punisher.
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