Hey Silverline Family! This month, nepotism won out. Our featured creator is none other than AJ Cassetta, the fantastic artist providing pencil work for my own book Wolf Hunter. He talks about a part of the craft that not many artists may think about. He provides a lesson in world building using an anecdote about his personal experience working on Wolf Hunter. Love ya, man!
Creating the World
One of the most vital requirements of an illustrator working in comics is the ability to successfully create the world in which the characters will exist. In some genres, such as science fiction and fantasy, there is the necessity of crafting elements that are imaginary; time machines, laser pistols, dragons, and goblins can be forged solely from the artist’s mind. However, when an artist is tasked with illustrating a story based on real-world events and actual locations, they must hold themselves to the highest standard of authentic recreation, particularly if it is a story based on historical events.
In this case, the artist is confronted with the task of research, and a lot of it, if they wish their work to be believable, accurate, and true. For some artists, doing copious amounts of research and reference gathering on a subject can be as arduous as studying for a physics exam, but, for others, there is a special kind of joy in breaking a subject down into smaller and smaller parts, examining them, and putting them back together to create a work of art. I find myself in the latter category, as throughout my career to date I have held several jobs that demanded complete accuracy to real-world objects, vehicles, people, and locations, and I have loved every second of it.
Take for example the subject of airplanes, something I had little to no experience drawing when I began working on Wolf Hunter. My writer was thoughtful enough to provide me with great written specifics on the make, model, and year of the planes that would be used. What’s more, he gave me photographic references as well, which helped to get a general idea of what I would be doing. These, however, were not enough. In order to draw the fighter planes as they exist in reality, I spent hours looking at different images of planes and discerning what would be useful, and what would be merely another picture flipped past as I scoured for good material. As I was nearing the end of the research process I noticed something. It still wasn’t enough. For as many still images of planes that I had collected and burned into my brain, I was continuing to have trouble visualizing them from every possible angle. To remedy this, I opened up Zbrush (a digital sculpting program) and went about sculpting the planes so I could position them in the exact pose I needed for whatever drawing I may have been working on.
There are probably many artists who work in the same way I do when it comes to research, and it has worked for me as I’m sure it works for them. However, spending all the late nights collecting reference material and making sculptures of what I will be drawing has its enemy, time. In this industry, time is everything. For this particular project, I had the luxury of lots of time which gave me wonderful breathing room to focus. There have been other jobs, however, where the turnaround time for drawings was literally hours at most, and the comfortability of time was absent. I enjoyed both equally, and for different reasons, the jobs with strict deadlines provided an exciting challenge, and the work done with almost no deadline gave me time to look over my work, again and again, to make sure everything was perfect. Whatever the case of time may be, creating a realistic setting for the characters I am working with is the most fun part of the process for me, and using all the tools and time I have available to give that extra sense of life to their world is incredibly rewarding once all the drawing is done and I know it has been done right.