Open Critique Day #7 / Art vs. Writing

Hi, there!
I’m Weilyn, and I’ll be posting here on Sundays for the Open Critique Days.

Some people might say that the major appeal of OCD was Jeff’s professional input, and that without his critique it’s simply not the same thing. I can’t argue with that, mainly because those people are absolutely correct.

Still, OCD is a pretty integral part of the blog, so I will keep it running, and to make it a little more interesting I will not only offer my opinion of any artwork posted in the comments, but also a little something extra.

This little extra thing will vary from week to week. It might be a short review of an underappreciated comic, a reflection on pop-culture, a poll, a joke or a silly anecdote. Just throwing this concept at the wall, to see if it sticks ;)

Please post your artwork in the comments section below. Avoid copyrighted characters and characters from copyrighted settings.

 

And now, a little something extra: Art vs. Writing

What is more important to a comic, the script or the artwork? Can a good comic have its terrible artwork redeemed by great writing, and vice versa? One might argue that seeing as how graphic novels are a visual medium, the visual elements are what define the entire thing, and that those are therefore more important. But one could just as easily make the argument that a story is worthless without a solid script, no matter how pretty the pictures are.

Personally, if I had to choose (and I do, because I asked the question in the first place) I’d go with artwork on this one. I’ve never been able to get through Maus, for instance. I know the story is amazing, but since I can’t find anything engaging about the artwork, I find myself wishing I was just reading a novel instead.

What do you think?

40 Responses to Open Critique Day #7 / Art vs. Writing

  1. I’d go with writing.

    I have read comics with good artwork and crappy writing, and, although it’s always cool to see great pics, the story can infuriate me.
    OTOH, I HATE the artwork in “From Hell”, and nnetheless enjoyed it a great deal. Moreso, I find a lot of Sandman’s artwork to be pretty crappy, yet it’s one of my favourite all-time comics.

    For OCD?
    Here’s Ander
    http://uprapide.com/images/invite/hm3—ander-05_2.png

  2. Harlek(!)n

    In my case the picture is important, because i want to tell stories with my pictures. But in overally a good story sometimes more better with a good picture.

    For OCD.

    Three Wishes.

    http://img24.imageshack.us/img24/3449/harlequinthreewishes.png

  3. Harlek(!)n

    Arioch:
    Here’s Ander
    http://uprapide.com/images/invite/hm3—ander-05_2.png

    Ok So sometimes, the few is more enough.
    I think the overall desing is good. The effect with the hammer is cool, but i think the monster hand is not perfect for this scene.
    The other hand effect good, but the color is too similar with the character base color scheme.
    Nice picture i like the base concept for him.

  4. Arioch:
    I’d go with writing.

    I have read comics with good artwork and crappy writing, and, although it’s always cool to see great pics, the story can infuriate me.
    OTOH, I HATE the artwork in “From Hell”, and nnetheless enjoyed it a great deal. Moreso, I find a lot of Sandman’s artwork to be pretty crappy, yet it’s one of my favourite all-time comics.

    For OCD?
    Here’s Ander
    http://uprapide.com/images/invite/hm3—ander-05_2.png

    Oh, From Hell! I’d completely forgotten what the art in that book looked like, and I read it only a year ago. Not particularly memorable artwork.

    As for Ander, I don’t really agree with Harlekin. While I agree that less often is more, I think the monster hand works well with the overall earthy tones of the character.
    I’m not a huge fan of the colours chosen for the smoke around the hammer, though. They don’t work together at all, in my eyes.

    Overall I like the design. Simple but effective.

  5. Harlek(!)n:
    For OCD.

    Three Wishes.

    http://img24.imageshack.us/img24/3449/harlequinthreewishes.png

    Your shading method and unique style are awesome as always. That face in particular is amazing, and the background is gorgeous in its simplicity.
    The only problem I have is that her head seems to be a bit too far to the right, giving the impression that her left shoulder is much wider than her right.

  6. It’s already Sunday in Sweden? That song writes itself. Nothing for OCD, I haven’t been feeling creative – in a funk, actually.

    As for the second part, I am not much of a reader. Graphic novels are a happy medium for me. Your example of Maus is perfect. While the art isn’t great, and to be blunt, the story is comme çi comme ça, it’s enough to keep me reading. Sandman is the same way.

    Some titles, I wish there were more graphic novels – or compilations of storylines. By far, my favorite is Spider-Man Kraven’s Last Hunt. Incredible story with fairly decent art.

  7. Err, yeah… This post was supposed to appear tomorrow. I didn’t notice it was up until Harlekin and Arioch had commented, otherwise I would have removed it.
    Still struggling with the finer mechanisms of the blog :D

    I need to read Sandman. I hear it’s pretty great.

  8. darkvatican

    I believe that artwork and writing are equally important, but it can change depending on the target audience. A more mature audience can handle less-thrilling artwork, if the writing is good. A less-than-stellar bit of writing needs great artwork to draw people in.

    This is all just my opinion, but I’ve noticed that a lot of story-driven comics (be they US-style comics, manga, graphic novels, web comics, etc) rely much more heavily on their writing than their artwork – and they are still successful. The genre can have an effect on this, as well. Its pretty amazing how some noir and horror comics can utilize simple artwork to great success.

  9. http://i891.photobucket.com/albums/ac111/Kicktar/HM/BloodShadow_zpsc4893337.png
    Not quite sure what this guy is. Might be part of a cult.

  10. Weilyn:
    Err, yeah… This post was supposed to appear tomorrow. I didn’t notice it was up until Harlekin and Arioch had commented, otherwise I would have removed it.
    Still struggling with the finer mechanisms of the blog

    I need to read Sandman. I hear it’s pretty great.

    Quite alright – and inspiring.

    o/~
    It’s already Sunday in Sweden
    And where are you?
    I’m tired of these hiring practices
    And chartreuse festoons
    o/~

  11. @kick: Looks like a henchman to me. Somebody who helps hold the woman about to be sacrificed in the cult, maybe?

  12. Oh–art vs. text? I’d say it depends on the story. Some stories need more visual or more wordcraft the same way some carvings make better cross-stitches.

  13. Kicktar:
    http://i891.photobucket.com/albums/ac111/Kicktar/HM/BloodShadow_zpsc4893337.png
    Not quite sure what this guy is. Might be part of a cult.

    I like it! It would look great with a bit of shading.
    I’d invert the colour of the gloves, though, making the cloth red and the metal grey. I think it would tie them better to rest of the outfit.

  14. Arioch: I’d go with writing.I have read comics with good artwork and crappy writing, and, although it’s always cool to see great pics, the story can infuriate me.OTOH, I HATE the artwork in “From Hell”, and nnetheless enjoyed it a great deal. Moreso, I find a lot of Sandman’s artwork to be pretty crappy, yet it’s one of my favourite all-time comics.For OCD?Here’s Anderhttp://uprapide.com/images/invite/hm3—ander-05_2.png

    I Like the over all look to the character,as weilyn said is simple but well put and striaght forward.But,i would have to agree with Harley on the hand thing,I just recently created a character i put hours into and after all the zypping and shading and coloring It was brought to my attention that the hand was the wrong hand for the positioning and I was frustrated.Let’s just say It is alittle off but it is nothing that can’t be corrected or for that fact even overlooked!Good over all character though!

    And I have to say pertaining to the story vs art ..If The art doesn’t grab me from the start I will most likley pass it up without reading.I feel this a huge self injustice but nontheless a fact.So if a story is good The art should be nothing less that by publishing standards!

  15. I’ll go with art because I like to draw, although not very good yet.

    Here’s Dino rider:
    http://img153.imageshack.us/img153/9541/fudgeeocd.jpg

  16. fudgee:
    I’ll go with art because I like to draw, although not very good yet.

    Here’s Dino rider:
    http://img153.imageshack.us/img153/9541/fudgeeocd.jpg

    and also, I’ve seen tons of comics with stupid writing, although you can still read the comics by looking at the pictures.

  17. fudgee:
    I’ll go with art because I like to draw, although not very good yet.

    Here’s Dino rider:
    http://img153.imageshack.us/img153/9541/fudgeeocd.jpg

    Damn cool idea! I’ve just got a few suggestions:
    The rider’s right arm might need some work. I’m not really sure what he’s doing with it.
    The colours are a bit dull for such a dramatic scene. Some green in the landscape, or a more exciting colour for the steed or something might just make a big difference.
    I also suggest you save your files as PNGs rather than jpgs. Makes them less blurry, is all.

  18. This is Husk:
    [Deleted]

    in my opinion it’s the writing, art is important to draw you in, but it’s the writing you remember

  19. Myzithra, the wandering wizardess. I don’t know whether I think this picture is finished, or if it needs something more. I did try to put in a sunset glow, to give more depth, but I’m just not that great at light and shadow.

    http://www.heromachine.com/wp-content/legacy/forum-image-uploads/lime/2013/05/mysteriousilhouette.png

    As for the question, I confess I don’t read a lot of comics. I will point out that XKCD is quite successful, with its very minimal art style. I guess if I had to choose between reading a comic with great writing and terrible art, or great art and terrible writing, I’d pick the first.

  20. Lime:
    Myzithra, the wandering wizardess. I don’t know whether I think this picture is finished, or if it needs something more. I did try to put in a sunset glow, to give more depth, but I’m just not that great at light and shadow.

    http://www.heromachine.com/wp-content/legacy/forum-image-uploads/lime/2013/05/mysteriousilhouette.png

    Watching your picture I got this idea for a simple lighting effect. You could use a couple of circle gradient to create a lenseflare similar to this:

    http://s5.favim.com/orig/51/nature-sunlit-backlit-silhouette-girl-Favim.com-543233.jpg

    Like, between her upper right arm, her torso and the window-sill.
    Just an idea.

    I actually really like your minimalistic take, but I am very partial to this sort of art, so I have a hard time thinking of things that would improve it.

    Perhaps you could use two different birds in the background. Seems a bit weird how they’re identical.

  21. Guy Diga:
    This is Husk:

    in my opinion it’s the writing, art is important to draw you in, but it’s the writing you remember

    Sorry, Guy, but your link has been deleted due to profanity.
    I liked the design, though. The eyes are cool, and the astral projection in the background works very well to illustrate her powers.
    I do think her outfit is a bit boring, though. Maybe you could accessorize her with some jewellry or tattoos or weapons or something. She looks kinda bare bones as it is.

  22. Weilyn: Sorry, Guy, but your link has been deleted due to profanity.

    um… Oops?

  23. Good morning for the center of europe.
    So i now arrive home here is 0.48 so sorry if now my english is not good but i give a promise myself to made critiques.

    1.

    Kicktar:

    Pro – So clean and solid design. Great idea to give him the upper cloth or cape. (dunno the name.) That separate the thinking to the picture not shown more than a simple armored people.
    Contra – I think needed something for the head part, i think a simple eye without ball to like to shown to that is a mask or full dark hided help a lot to give a little more life for the character.
    Concluson – Overally simple desing a little bit too simple. I think a little bit more accesorries like an insignia, or coat or arm are help a bit. I interested what story inspired you to make him.
    Overally i interest the future of this desing.

    2.

    fudgee:

    Pro – The idea is fantastic, a dino rider in the prehistoric time, very nice and cool idea. I like the vulcanic eruption give the feeling of the movemont of the picture. Eruption and dino is escape. Nice execution.
    Contra – The pose of the rider is to static. Too straight. If you rotate a little the calf is help a little.
    Conclusion – Nice image i like the theme, very good and convicing. Nice effort, great work.

    3.

    Lime:

    Pro – The window is cooooooool. I like it (maybe sometimes in the future i steal it :D) The outlook is correct de pose is naturally, and show well the silluette.
    Contra – One simple word – ZYPPING. A little zypping give this picture a little plus.
    Conclusion – Overally this is a full and nice picture. I don’t see any technically error. I only missing the zypping but this picture is overally nice.
    Great Work Lime. I really like this picture.

    4. Weylin

    Hmm. Hihih. Yeap agree i made a little mistake with that shoulder only now realized to the size of that body part is not correct. Thank you.
    (I never repair my works. I really hate to rebuild any of my pictures (after 200 layer i think this is acceptable) but i always learning.)
    Thanks for your critique sometimes i need other 2 eyes to see the things more different.

  24. Thanks for the input, Harlekin!

  25. I’ve decided to re-do Brigrada Allslayer, given that her clothing reflected neither her culture nor her status within said culture. I’ve got the outline of her body finished, though I will say that her right foot looks awkward (given that it’s a hoof, and it’s bent at that angle; I’m not sure what can be done about that.) Any thoughts on that?

    I’ve started on the clothes, as well; while I’m far from finished, I figured I’d also upload what I have so far. Any advice is appreciated, but I’m especially interested in advice on how to make her armor look A. More functional-looking, B. More Norse-looking, C. More regal-looking, and D. More able to convey the “theme” of her clan, which prides itself on its reputation for being able to take down any foe.

    Anatomical Outline
    http://www.heromachine.com/wp-content/legacy/forum-image-uploads/jadebrain/2013/05/Brigrada-Outline.png

    Clothing Outline – UNFINISHED
    http://www.heromachine.com/wp-content/legacy/forum-image-uploads/jadebrain/2013/05/Brigrada-Outline-Clothes.png

  26. Prof. Abercrombie Q. Anthrax

    Good story trumps bad art any day.

  27. @ Jadebrain

    Have you got a link to your original picture of her?

    I think the problem with the right foot is that it doesn’t line up properly with the leg. I’m guessing it would look more natural with the right knee facing upwards.

    Regarding the outfit I often find it very hard to combine both functional and regal elements, since they are kind of contradictory. If there’s one thing the upper classes love it’s ridiculously impractical clothes. I guess you could make them look really well made and shiny with some bright highlighting or golden details in the metal. Burgundy and dark blue are good regal colours for cloth.

    Concerning B: Well… It doesn’t look terribly Norse right now, to be honest. The helmet is cool, but the belt and the thigh armour don’t scream Norse to me. Norse belts were ornate but fairly simple leather straps with metal buckles, and only one piece of iron age lamellar armour has ever been found in Scandinavia, and seeing as how it was found in the ruins of Birka, a merchant city, it was most likely imported or worn by a foreign mercenary. Norse warriors used chainmail, if they could afford it.
    Many excavated Norse items, and weapons in particular, have writing on them, to show the name of the item and/or the owner. Check Fonts – Runic for runes.
    Braids were common among the soldiers, not just because they keep your hair away from your face, but also as a symbol of potency and virility. The god Frey was often portrayed with a braided beard, for example.
    Also, contrary to popular belief Iron Age Scandinavians were very big on hygiene and were described to wash their hair and faces every day, which was pretty rare in Europe during the Dark Ages.

    That’s what I’ve got on Norse fashion right now (I’m a bit sleepy) hope it helped.

    Finally, on D, I’m thinking trophies: Jewellry made out of a bunch of different sorts of teeth, a fur cloack made of several different skins, a notch in the hilt of the axe for every different sort of enemy it has killed.

  28. @ Weilyn

    Thanks for the advice! I actually had thought about making her knee face upwards, but I’m not sure how much modification that would require to the rest of the pose to make it work. I’ll start over if I have to, but that’s ONLY if I have to.

    I understand your point on regality vs. function. However, when I say “regal” what I mean is more along the lines of the fact that she is the High Jarl (basically the highest authority) of her nation, and her armor has to be fit for someone of such a position.

    I admit, I got the idea for the belt and thigh armor from Skyrim (possibly from a mod), as opposed to a more “authentic” source. The skirt between the thigh armor is supposed to be chainmail, though. And as for Scandinavian hygienic practices, I was already aware of their relative cleanliness.

    Your suggestions on D are pretty good; I was kind of focused on integrating pelts into the armor, and hadn’t considered jewelry or notched weapons. Thanks!

    And here’s the original picture:
    http://www.heromachine.com/wp-content/legacy/forum-image-uploads/jadebrain/2012/10/Brigrada.png

  29. Glad I could help.

  30. Well, I haven’t Heromachined a thing in months, so nothing for review, but I thought I’d weigh in on the question, because I’m opinionated and wordy, and like doing things like that.

    It’s actually not that easy a question to answer for me. On the one hand, I’ve read some comics/graphic novels with some fairly good stories, but the art wasn’t much to look at (some of Frank Miller’s stuff, despite the accolades he’s received, has made me want to claw my eyes out, even if the story was decent), and I’ve also read some sequential art stories (comics usually, but also some children’s books when I was younger) that told the entire story with no dialog or captioning, and purely through illustration. Weilyn, you yourself told a very fun story involving a whale stealing your bicycle in a series of Heromachine illustrations that effectively did the same thing. The art itself doesn’t have to look like an Alex Ross cover, but if there’s enough thought given to detail and context, and if the story is simple enough, it’s a neat way to tell a story.
    Still, in comics, most ongoing stories are complex enough that words are needed to tell the story just as much as pictures are. And in these cases, that’s where the real complexity begins.
    Certain artists cannot tell a story through the visual medium (Liefeld, I’m looking at you. Not only is his art bad, with no thought towards common anatomy, or the conectivity of one object to another, but with his half-assed backgrounds and an absolute disconnect between panels, with with his characters in one pose after another, he is completely unable to convey context of any kind by picture alone). This being the case, the picture doesn’t synch with the writing at all, detracting from the story as a whole. On the other hand, horrible writing cannot be made up for by good art, because it still will not make sense.
    So, when it comes down to it, if I had to choose between bad art and beautiful writing, or vice versa, I would choose neither. On the other hand, if the choice was good writing and decent art, or good art with decent writing, I’d rather have better writing.

  31. Some very good points there, Myro. Your mentioning of sequential art without text made me think of my favourite children’s book, Where’s My Monkey, which tells a brilliant story without a single word.
    Actually, the more I think about it the more I need to find it again. That book is awesome.

  32. I’ll be keeping OCD open today (Sunday) as well, since, you know, this is the proper day.

  33. @Jadebrain: The anatomical drawing suggests a great possibility for depicting action. If the swing of the axe and the bending motion of the leg would have been appropriate, then have just the tip of the hoof ‘scar’ the surface or trench the mud in an uneven arc? This is one case where interacting with the surface is more important. –Also, the outward spin of a chainmail skirt, ‘jangling’ of trophies, etc. might add quite a bit of drama to the pose.

  34. Oh, and Weilyn–I like this Swedish extra-long Sunday. We could claim that it’s because you’re near the arctic circle and keep doing it, right?

  35. Hopefully the stars will be properly aligned next week ;)

  36. Herr D:
    @Jadebrain: The anatomical drawing suggests a great possibility for depicting action. If the swing of the axe and the bending motion of the leg would have been appropriate, then have just the tip of the hoof ‘scar’ the surface or trench the mud in an uneven arc?

    I’m afraid I’m not entirely sure what you mean here. Do you mean to have the hoof angled so that it’s not in full contact with the ground?

  37. Prof. Abercrombie Q. Anthrax

    Eric Drooker’s stories “L” and “Flood” are wordless, but perfectly told.
    Two engravings from L were used for Faith No More’s “King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime” cover art, and in 2007 the Library Of Congress purchased the Flood cycle engravings for its’ permanent collection.

  38. William A. Peterson

    I don’t think I’m going to surprise much of anyone when I say I’m partial to writing over art, in comics. You CAN go too far, but I kept reading “New Mutants” even after Bill Sienkiewcz came on as artist!
    On the other hand, I never read either “Powers”, nor “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, because I hated the artwork…
    I think New Mutants had an edge because I started reading it before the art tanked, and I was familiar with both the writer (Claremont), and with what most of the characters were SUPPOSED to look like.

  39. OCD is now closed for the week. Thank you all for your contributions :)

  40. @Jadebrain: Just the tip of the hoof might actually look better with that pose, but, even if it’s flat, interaction with a surface would give a context–more clarity.