Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Joy of References

I've been hard at work, these past few weeks, on my latest graphic novel (hence the blog silence). The book is called Little Robot and it stars our Robot Friend from these comics.

One of the things I've enjoyed most about writing and drawing this book is that the setting for the story is, essentially, the area where I'm living, and so I've taken a lot of inspiration from the mountains and trees and the river nearby. Not only that, but a lot of the action takes place in a junkyard, so I've become an almost compulsive photographer of rusted-out machinery.

When I speak to young creators, one of the things I focus on is tethering your stories to your life and the world around you, both artistically and thematically. I've been trying to go the extra mile to do that in this book by using reference photos and by drawing on location when possible.

Here are a few examples!

Drawing a railroad bridge on location. I posted this picture on my Twitter:

Here is an old Jeep that I also drew from life. I wish I could have brought this guy home:

A couple months ago I was driving with Anna when I saw this car near the side of the road. I pulled over and ran to it with the camera, leaving Anna somewhat perplexed. But impulsive photography paid of in this case because this little gem disappeared pretty soon after:

Having kids of different sizes/ages has always been a help in my work. My Julia, who is 6, posed a bit for the little girl in this book and it's been very helpful! Thanks Julia!:


Mike Blake illustration said...

How often do you use photo or life reference like this? I thought your comic style was solid enough you freehanded everything! haha

Ben Hatke said...

Life references for figures I use only once in awhile, but it always helps. For the Zita books I sometimes use photobooth to take a quick picture to catch a gesture.

I'm using photos for locations more in this book than I have before and I think it shows. I've been happier with the art in this book than for any other book I've worked on.

Annie Tohill said...

Is there any way I can take the jeep home with me? Please? PUHLEEESE?!?!?!?!

Anonymous said...

Very resourceful article, yeah I would have wanted to take that jeep as well :(. Can't wait to read it.

agirlsguidetolivinginthemountains said...

This is so great! Like you, I am intrigued by the sort of grittiness of the industrial world and how to make it inhabitable and fun and.... beautiful. Which you do. And also, your bridge was beautiful before you drew it and is gorgeous as you drew it, too. Love your drawings, and the way you see the world (I love the jeep, too, once you pointed out how cool it is.) Thanks for sharing your work. :)

Charlotte J. Gravely said...

Love this