Thursday 5 November 2009

Reflections in a Golden Eye

They say that the eye is the gateway to the soul and with the characters of Gina, Cary and Rabby the eyes are indeed the key to what these guys are feeling and they way that they react to the increasingly bizarre events that overtake them.

The style that I adopted for creating the various degrees of reality that the three teens are subject to is in all cases, flat and linear, owing a debt of honour to both the ligne claire style of drawing best typified by the Herge studios but also to the linear style adopted by some of the current crop of Manga and Manga influenced artists as well as to the guys that started the whole thing, old Hokusai and his Japanese buddies.

The advantage of this approach apart from the simple elegance it bestows upon each and every frame is that it doesn't detract from the line work which is a frequent sin comitted with mind numbing regularity by a lot of mainstream comics where the colorist will attempt to bury the artist's carefully orchestrated line and solid blacks under a sea of tone and texture. Here the prosecution would like to cite the recent Dark Horse reprints of Barry Smith's original run of Conan comics as a stellar example of this kind of computer generated vandalism.

However there is no doubt that a little bit of tone here and there does add a nice degree of emphasis to the artwork and can be very important in advancing the story. No where is this more important than in the characters eyes, which is the clue that these are indeed living and breathing entities and not just another set of 2D cliches. I know this might sound a little extreme but for me, as I am sure applies to a lot of other comic creatives, these characters are real and I am desperately concerned about their welfare, they therefore have to have that vital spark of life and it's in their eyes that you will find their souls as well as see the world that's reflected around them.

All of which is very easy to achieve using a couple of tricks in Illustrator. Firstly as we work on this close up of Gina's eyes which are fully dilated as she realises the danger she and the rest of the troupe have stumbled into, we simply draw with the pencil tool a section of the eye radiating out from where the pupil would be, using the gradient tool in Illustrator (note you need to set both ends of the gradient spectrum with your light colour and your dark colour and for this to occur you need to have changed the setting in the colour tab from the default grayscale to CMYK).

Having created the first glowing section you then just need to copy and paste using the black arrow selection tool in the top left hand corner of the toolbox and move your second radiating eye section to the second eye. Then as the final touch create highlights using the ellipse tool and make them the core colour of the iris and finally cut and paste in front (Crtl+F) scale down the highlight and change to white and you've now got eyes that literally sparkle with apprehension as a million steel toothed zombies head their way.


  1. That extra effort certainly pays off. These are characters who you warm to right off.

  2. Really good of you to say that Verdonk. In fact the characters are to varying degrees based on real people, particularly the Gina character who is currently studying illustration at Brighton University. Which is a good place to hone one's skills, although I must confess to a slight degree of bias as it's where I studied the same disciplines some several aeons ago.

  3. Small world - Brighton Uni is where Leo, who illustrates Mirabilis, learned his craft. And his dad taught there!

  4. Amazing Dave, it's always been a bloody good degree course and I can remember the sense of achievement i felt at having winged through the interview.

    Leo's dad must have been rubbing shoulders with my old mate Alan Baker, who was in the year below me when we first met and taught on a part time basis at the place for years and years.