Sketching is transformational
Wayne Arthur Murray is a multi-talented artist who has the coolest handle of anyone I know (WAM). Originally trained by John Romita, Sr. at Marvel Studios, Wayne has been simultaneously working as a storyboard artist in major video game companies. He storyboarded UbiSoft’s Prince of Persia Forgotten Games and Assassin’s Creed (2, Revelations and Black Flag). Wayne is presently at GameLoft, where he storyboarded Spider Man Unlimited Mysterio.
When he’s not boarding for the power players in video games, Wayne is developing his own comic book series. The first four of ten books, The Power of Black Fire are on-line at http://wamcomics.com (you can read the first two for free).
We talked about the impact of drawing for someone else’s projects vs. drawing your own creations.
The rough ideas for The Power of Black Fire began in 1996. The Power of Black Fire is the saga of Benjamin Obsedian, who has been sent to earth, hounded by demons, and is ultimately transformed as “Black Fire.”
Wayne took out his phone and showed me a photo of his sketch for a scene of his fifth book. Obsedian will be destroying one of the key villains plaguing him – the Bone Shaker from Hell. Obsedian will be once again transformed, as he heads to his transcendent state as Black Fire.
The image on Wayne’s phone was small, yet captured all the power needed to feel the drama in the scene. It was a sketch, with a flurry of faint lines, overdrawings, and lack of details signaling a work in progress.
His sketches capture the speed and fluidity of thought.
I asked about his personal connection to his own work vs. his work on someone else’s projects. We also talked about any difference in his connection between himself and his work during early sketching and later, when the drawing is more refined and on model.
WAM: I hate that [the too refined, on model drawing]. It makes no difference from working on my own stuff or someone else’s. In both cases, most of the early, rougher drawings are more energetic, and seem to have more emotion than finished drawings. I always start by keeping lines loose, just to get a sense of the whole. Later on I”ll start to tighten the drawing, erasing lines and adding details and shadow.
JB: How do get your final drawing to convey that same energy as your early sketch?
WAM: It’s all about looking for those key lines that help the character’s pose work. You have to use a series of thick and thin lines to bring out the key lines. The best final drawings should convey the same energy from start to finish.
I gave Wayne an unfinished doodle I was working on, and using that as a scaffold, he sketched and then finished the drawing as he would in his comic. Critically, he was as skilled with the kneaded eraser as with the lead pencil.
JB: What does the overdrawing do for you? Does it help you find ideas?
WAM: No, I’m not searching for ideas. I pretty much have in my mind what I need to draw. Overdrawing helps to keep my hand loose so I don’t tighten up. It also helps me think about what I’m doing.
In a recent paper I published on the cognitive aspect of Wayne and the moving hand (http://janetblatter.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.202/prod.210), I wrote how the entire body is engaged in drawing, not just the hand and eye. There are motor neurons in your brain that are activated when you are drawing action, or even watching someone else perform some action. In effect, early sketching is like taking a walk and sightseeing. In other words, sketching is a way, as Walter Benjamin wrote of 19th century Paris, of being a flaneur, a roving spectator who is spontaneous, poised and alert to every possibility. (Anke Gleber’s 1998 book, The Art of Taking a Walk: Flanerie, Literature, and Film in Weimar Culture, is a beautiful introduction to the philosophy of “loitering”).
Walter Benjamin was describing the birth of urban modernity but could have just as well have been talking about the art of sketching.
JB: Do you work any differently on paper than on the Wacom tablet?
WAM: I don’t work any differently but I definitely feel different. Working on paper seems more real, more organic. It’s definitely more sensual; I can smell and feel the paper. The computer is more cerebral; the paper seems to require all my senses.
Working on natural, organic material like paper or canvas…it’s more a conduit for inspiration, not just a tool. The paper also preserves my energy and keeps it alive.
You can feel the presence from an original drawing. Prints and computer drawings are just images.
Walter Benjamin called this presence the “aura.” He wrote, in the The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936), of the distinction between unique and mass produced art. I think that “aura” is exactly what Wayne is getting at, what all his storyboards and sketches seem to have.