Posted by johnamor | Filed under Rants
My wife and I have recently gotten into The Legend of Korra cartoon. For those of you unfamiliar or living in a foxhole, it’s the sequel to the Avatar: The Last Airbender series from Nickelodeon. I bring this up because a pet peeve of ours when watching animated shows is seemingly rushed or “lifeless” backgrounds, which the Avatar cartoons are never guilty of having.
Confession time. I hate drawing backgrounds. I think every artist finds himself at a point where he does too. The thinking behind it is I got into comics to draw dudes punching each other and hot babes swooning as the hero walks away from an explosion — I get that. I really do. Who gets into comics to draw a park bench? A window is a boring-ass detail to put on paper, and then you go and multiply that by… I dunno… New York. Backgrounds are of the devil, right? Right. At least I used to think so.
I’ve given thought to this, probably longer than I should have, but it’s really not about detail as much as it is about something I like to call Perceived Production Value. I have no idea if that is already a working term that professionals use, but for the sake of my point I’m going to run with it.
Frankly speaking, there is no need for a special effects budget for comics. You can have literally anything you can dream up appear on the page. It’s just a matter of how far your head can go, as well as how much time you’re willing to put into it. So why not take advantage of this and make scenes look as expensive as you can make them? Build a city. Hire a ton of extras. If it’s a nature shot, “spend” a ton of “cash” to “travel” to the most remote locales you can find. The imagined production behind the shot results in a realistic element within the context of the story, and that adds value. If you pull it off, and give it just the right amount of heart your story deserves, 9 times out of 10, you will have created something special.
Perceived production value. If you can make characters live in a place rather than just be in it, you know you’ve succeeded. If you can create a scene immersive and believable and REAL enough, that’s when you know you’ve done your job right.
Backgrounds probably won’t ever stop being a challenge for me, but that only speaks to it’s importance, I think. Nothing important ever came easy, after all.
2 Responses to “Backgrounds, A Love-Hate Relationship”
Danry Ocampo Says:
May 24th, 2012 at 5:34 pm
another great post.
Thanks for tagging me.
May 25th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
Great post, man! I also would like to point out that backgrounds give a lot of life to the story you are trying to tell. I also think backgrounds aren’t supposed to be too detailed, but as long as it’s believable and well-researched, it will do it’s job as intended.
I hate doing backgrounds too.