Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Bryan Hitch's Ultimate Comics Studio - Book Review

Bryan Hitch is a seasoned professional and shares some solid advice in his book.
Growing up, I've always been interested in illustrating for comic books and I remember saying, on a number of occasions to my mum, that I wanted to be a cartoonist. In the last few years, a number of friends have also spoken to me about how my weirder work would really suit the panelled medium.

My life and career path has taken a different course though as, predominantly, I am a computer games designer and, I have to admit, that although I would like to work on a comic book, I lack the knowledge to complete a quality piece of sequential work across a number of pages.

When I was asked to review Bryan Hitch's Ultimate Comics Studio for the blog, I was actually really thrilled to be given the opportunity and went into it with a genuine and keen interest.

As I flicked through the book, reading the odd page here and there, I became aware that this was a very different art technique book than what I was used to. Its more a book of advice, insight and best practices from a seasoned veteren, than an actual technique book and, when I read the intro by the autor, he even stated that it was a starting point, more than anything else.

So don't expect any 'how to draw' or 'how to set up a page for print' technical tutorials here and, with that said, I wouldn't advise this book to someone who has never drawn before or even as a be all and end all book for creating comics. Throughout the book, on a couple of occasions, Hitch says that there are a number of books and sources already out there that deal with some of these subjects, and that each chapter could potentially be a full book itself. But, even with some of this 'missing' content, there is a great deal on offer. No one should expect a book of 126 pages to be the ultimate answer to creating art for comics.

Although the book lacks the really detailed "how to" tutorials I was after, the amount of advice and how to approach creating art for a comic book, more than made up for it.
I think that, more than anything, this book served to raise my consciousness about the early processes of creating art for the comic medium, and by that I mean, the thought process a comic artist should go through to achieve the best results and the things to consider when sketching out the scenes for each panel.

I have been illustrating and designing for a while now, so can already draw to an acceptable standard, but the pages devoted to composition and character placement were real eye openers as they emphasised the storytelling aspect to illustrations. Something that is so important to this medium. The book covers these subjects, as well as people's expressions, collecting reference material, verisimilitude and some sketching techniques, to name a few, in a brief but concise way.

Reading the book pretty much cover to cover, gave me ideas about where I should look next for the advice to get the right skills needed for such a difficult medium to master. It seems that this was the purpose of this book from the outset and that the disclaimer at the start should have clued me into that.

Bryan Hitch has an impressive portfolio of work under his belt, which makes him the ideal candidate for giving out advice on creating art for comics.
Like the author said and what I have alluded to, this book isn't the be all and end all for comic book creation. Where I feel it does lacks some really key pieces of information on the process of colouring and preparing work for print, it still is a solid book that is full of good information. To anyone starting out, this book would be a good bumper to go along with others that deal with the hardcore techniques of drawing but isn't a book that should be the only book you have on the subject. Anyone looking to get into creating comics, I would recommend this book along with lots of practical practice, books on anatomy, Photoshop techniques and the key fundamentals to drawing (perspective, form, tone etc).

Bryan Hitch's Ultimate Comic Studio

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