Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Drawing as Erector Set

Most people associate drawing with preparatory activity. But from the dawn of printing and platemaking, drawing has also served a production purpose. And drawing for reproduction–from woodcuts to comic strips–has traditionally involved the use of a key drawing, typically printed in black. The key drawing provides the linear architecture, or a kind of skeleton for the image.

Think of these two images (top, an Osamu Tezuka panel from Astro Boy; above, the title page illustration for Guess Who! by Eileen Fox Vaughn, a Whitman Publishing coloring book) as gateway drugs for drawing geeks. An extended reflection on key drawings and visual approaches to same may be found here. Enjoy.


Allison S said...

After reading this, as well as the more extended post from earlier, I am very interested in the concept of distillation for illustration. A key drawing seems to me to be the most distilled version of an illustration, with more information, by way of additional color, to be added later. What comes after the key drawing seems most often to add visual interest, to "spice things up" so to speak (a little bit of illusion?). The key drawing itself is the information, whittled down to basic lines and shapes.

What's most interesting about this is how far one can deviate from line and shape as they occur in the real world and still communicate gestures and actions that are identifiable as human (consider the body of the dancing man, The Four Poster). I've been working to distill reference photos down to basic, and what I think of as "hyperbolized," shapes for my illustrations. I have to spend a lot of time getting to know the forms I am trying to illustrate as they appear in the real world/my reference photos before I can start distilling them. I am hoping to develop a stronger ability to distill form and gesture for illustration.

Michelle Nahmad said...

Having just come from looking at some Brueghel prints at SLAM's print room (with my Bosch and Brueghel seminar), I can't help but draw connections from this post and the extended reflection to the drawings, prints, and paintings I have been studying. I find these connections most inherently in relation to your discussion of drawing as a means of production and reproduction, in which a key drawing is central to the clarity of each subject matter as well as the dissemination of the prints. The idea of each character having a verb as well as the inventor taking a more plastic approach to spatial construction and arrangement of form also resonates with the work of Bosch and Brueghel that I am fascinated by (though stylistically they deviate more from my own work and inspirations). This kind of invention and establishing a balance between manipulation and a sense of observational rigor is one I have struggled more with thus far in my own work. I look forward to exercising and strengthening my ability to plastically construct purposeful forms and gain a deeper understanding of how I best create forms stylistically and materially.

Julie S said...

Though I suspect I have been sketching, re-sketching, and then refining images in this way for years, I hadn't known that I was essentially creating a key drawing. Because I personally strive for my work to be visually accurate and clean, I often called these drawings final pieces, when they really should have acted as guidelines upon which to further my creative process. Today in class we spoke about the key drawing not as an outline to precisely fill with color, but instead as a base for exploration with stroke and tone, and I look forward to using my key drawings in such a way. Color should not act as simple fill but should further the piece.