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Comic Book Sketch: 25 years later...

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

Comic books are a great way to learn anatomy. Legends like Dave Finch are experts, building on the works of Michelangelo, who I consider the Father of comic-book style anatomy: i.e. having subjects in dynamic poses with a focus on the musculature. I'd even argue that the Sistine Chapel is really a graphic novel on a ceiling (with each panel progressing the story).

Image. Michelangelo statue "Laocoön and His Sons" Showing Laocoön's muscular physique

Image. Sistine Chapel Muscular woman holding book with shoulder muscles flexing

One comic book that stood out for me as a kid was the cover of Ascension #1 by Dave Finch. The accuracy of his anatomy is awesome, but what he hits in this image that few other artists capture is the ability of the chest to become concave.

Image. Ascension issue 1 by David Finch with detailed and accurate anatomy

When I was 15, I'd look at great works like this one, draw from it, and learn:

Image. Sketch of Ascension 1 by me with less accurate anatomy

Then, for years, I quit... quit reading comics, quit drawing from comics... I'm not sure I could even say why: murals, work, school, relationships... life. It all happened. But now I'm 40, and while I know I'm not as good as I could have been, I wondered: do I still have it at all? So, I pulled up that cover and gave it another try...

Image. Sketch of Ascension 1 cover by me with slightly better anatomy, but still not as good as David Finch

I'm no Dave Finch, and I never will be. There are parts of the 15-year-old-Shawn version I like better, but I didn't lose ability. I can build from here. I plan to blog often about my work and my processes, to show the good and the bad so that hopefully we can learn together.

Some interesting takeaways from this exercise:

The woman in mine looks Latinx to me, which could be because my partner is Latinx. I remember an interview with Chuck Jones when he was animating Dr. Seuss' the Grinch. Geisel told Jones, "That doesn't look like the Grinch, that looks like you." and Jones replied "It happens." Sometimes the faces we see most often and find pleasing find their way into our art without our intent.

Takeaway 2: My hands aren't as practiced or as sure as they used to be, but my perspective and knowledge level has changed. So much of drawing occurs in the mind rather than the hands. The way you see things changes over time and so will your art. Give it a try. Draw. Wait some years, and draw it again. See how you've changed in ways you didn't even realize.

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