Post Mortem: Birds of Prey #8 cover rip

This was the biggest drawing I’ve bitten off in maybe 20 years (and that’s not really an exaggeration). Now that it’s finished and I’ve had about a week and a half to reflect on it, it’s time for a post mortem.

The vast majority of the things I’ve drawn in my life have been done in black and white. I’ve traditionally done very little with color. I’ve never had the materials, and I’ve never felt comfortable working in color. I just struggle to “see” combinations of colors – how things mix to create appropriate highlights and shadows – mostly because of a complete lack of practice. But my parents gave me a beautiful set of Prismacolors for Christmas, and I wanted to try them out. I made a decision early on to ignore the orange light shining on the characters’ right side in the original, but otherwise I tried to do what I could to be faithful to the original.

For the most part, considering my skill level with color and my lack of experience, I think it went pretty well. I struggled with the flesh tones a little bit, I didn’t leave some of the highlights as light as I should have and I learned that a lot of the blacks I laid down with the colored pencil would’ve been a lot easier to do had I inked them. These strike me as typical learning-experience type things, and I’ll try to be mindful of them for my next project. Also, drawing fishnet stockings is freaking hard.

Mostly, this just highlighted my need to practice, practice, practice. I still struggle with proportion and scale — Huntress’s head is too big, Black Canary’s hair is sitting too high and isn’t quite attached correctly, etc. But I think there’s definitely potential here for me to improve significantly if I can carve out the time to practice. Just basic things; structure, form, balance, etc.

I also tried to be mindful of line weight when I was inking, which is a concept that I’ve never given much thought to before. As I’ve tried to get back into this and have examined the work of other people, I’ve tried to pay attention to how line is used to emphasize certain elements of a piece. I used an 0.3mm liner for the majority of the interior work, then used significantly heavier lines for outlines and key form definitions for the figures. The heaviest lines were used on Black Canary; then one step down for Huntress and Lady Blackhawk, then another step down for Hawk, Dove and Oracle. It seemed impactful as I was working, but the differentiation in the outlines between the second- and third-tier characters ended up being more subtle than I would’ve preferred. I think the answer here might be to go significantly bolder on the foreground characters, which would allow for slightly bolder middle-tier characters while leaving those in the background as I inked them in this piece. This is something I’m just going to have to experiment with to figure out a comfort zone.

I posted on Facebook when the drawing was completed that Oracle was “exactly 11,278 kinds of awful,” and I still feel that way. Nothing about her is good; nothing. I got amazingly lazy with the wheelchair, and the rest of the figure just fell apart from there. Her torso is too wide. Her head is too big. The arms are awful. There’s an armrest pad on the left arm of the wheelchair but not the right. It’s just horrendous. I’m glad it’s the least-impactful character on the page, otherwise she’s bad enough that she’d have caused the entire piece to go up in flames. I hate it that much.

Immediately upon finishing this, I thought I was relatively equal parts happy and enraged by this drawing. I think now that the dust has settled on it a little bit, I’m more happy with it than enraged. But I do understand the areas where it flat-out sucks. Hopefully I can use that knowledge as a springboard to clean up some of these issues on my next project.

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