Klaus Janson, probably best know for his inking work on “The Dark Knight Returns”, has been working and teaching comics for quite some time. The fine folks at The Comic Academy posted a kind of distillation of a seminar he gave recently. Here’s an excerpt:
Even though a comic book artist works from a script, they have unlimited choices of how to portray the ideas in the script. Every decision that the artist makes has consequences and meaning. If an artist thinks that anything they do on the page doesn’t matter, they are wrong.
Thus an artist’s approach to storytelling needs to be organised, because once something is added to a page, it affects everything else on the page. This could even be the size and shape of a panel on the page.
Because a page is an enclosed space, everything within it is in a relationship with everything else in the page. This is akin to the structure and dynamics of a room full of people changing when another person walks into the room.
This is why structure and composition are so important. Each page and panel needs to be structured so that it both communicates and entertains. An enclosed space can be split in infinite ways, but there is a balance between making the composition of that enclosed space interesting (to engage the reader) and communicative (to prevent the reader getting confused).
Artists can take panel borders for granted but they are active, not passive. The size and shape of the panel has meaning.
Janson often splits panels into quarters to give it architecture. Linked to this, each panel has a mid-point, and it is up to the artist to use this to their advantage. By deciding what is going to be displayed in each section of the panel, you control the eye movements of the reader, which
in itself can make the story more interesting to read. For example, having the reader’s eye move from top-left to bottom-right of a panel is more interesting than it moving horizontally from one side to the other. This helps to create more interaction between the artist and reader.
Still, he recommended drawing the image first, then using the rules of composition and perspective (more on that later) to improve the panel.
Two important questions that an artist should ask before drawing a panel are:
1. What does the reader see first in the panel?
2. What’s the most important thing in the panel?
The entirety of the post is well worth the read. Which you can do by clicking HERE.