Monday, January 03, 2011

Sketchblog Week 7: Keith Giffen

Each week, I try to carve out time to spend one hour a day sketching, building up a set of skills that should, we all hope, show improvement over a one-year period. Sometimes I'll draw by copying comic book artists, sometimes I'll draw from life, sometime I'll draw from how-to books, and other times, I'll just sketch with whatever is at hand. This is WEEK SEVEN of a 52 week experiment to see how well I can learn how to draw.

I could draw like mid-to-late 1980's Keith Giffen all day, every day. I love this stuff. This week's study comes from "Dr. Fate," a four-issue miniseries published in 1987, with art and covers by Keith Giffen.

I can't help wondering how much this comic influenced Todd McFarlane. Look at the way Giffen draws capes here. Look at the teeth in the upper left (and this miniseries is all about gods of order and chaos and lots and lots of giant teeth -- Kent Nelson even has a giant-toothed mouth in his belly for most of the story). This comic debuted during the same month as McFarlane's first issue of "Detective Comics," and about a year before Venom made his first appearance. It doesn't seem like McFarlane could have seen this comic before he started drawing Batman's cape with a zillion folds, shooting out in an expressionistic way, but the similarities are obvious. Maybe Giffen drew something else cape-heavy before this (though I can't think of what), or maybe they were inspired by Michael Golden's capes. I don't know.

What I do know is that Giffen's work in this Dr. Fate comic is some of my favorite art in any comic ever, ever, ever. It was a joy to sketch some studies of this stuff.

I had the most success once I just went straight into inks after roughing out some basic shapes. That's how I sketched the most detailed image on the top left: big, blocky shapes, then all rendering with pen and brush and sharpie. I love the look of it, and though the purpose of this year-long experiment isn't to fall in love with my own drawings but to learn and improve, I can't help but see how much the attention to detail -- and the layering of blacks and whites -- adds a sense of depth to what is an incredibly odd, almost abstract, but beautiful composition.

Yeah, man, I could wallow in this Keith Giffen glory forever. And I didn't even look at any Ambush Bug comics this week.

NEXT WEEK: I'm open to suggestions! Someone scratchy, maybe. Cowan? Sienkiewicz?


Bruce Castle said...

This made me dig that Dr. Fate series out of the depths of my cold, dirty garage.

My eyes thank you. My back hates you. My hair remains indifferent.

I've been rereading Elektra Assassin, so I vote for Sienkiewicz.

That'll give you more appreciation for Deadpool MAX, since Baker's been riffing on that series' look. You can appreciate John Garrett more in Secret Warriors, too.

Ryan said...

The Giffen sketches look great. I wanted to check out his work on Dr. Fate.

Wanted to.

Past tense.

Until I read about the whole teeth in the stomach thing. I don't need to see that. I don't even want to hear about it.

Next week you should make a sketch in the style of Fred Hembeck. I know you're dying for a chance to draw Brother Voodoo.

Timothy Callahan said...

You probably don't know this, since you haven't read every Brian Michael Bendis like someone else in your family, but Brother Voodoo became Dr. Voodoo and now he is dead.

So thanks a lot for bringing it up.

Fred Hembeck be damned.

Guglie said...

Very good improvement and intresting path Tim! Don't have suggestion for next week, but I can't wait what you're going to decide. Happy new year pal

Matt Seneca said...


Jay said...

Actually, my suggestion would be to avoid the heavy stylists such as Giffen, Sienkiewicz, etc., because in order to pull off styles like that, you need to get the basics down first. I would lean more towards artists that define the form correctly and with accuracy, versus those that distort it or bring it more into abstract shapes. Look at people like Gary Frank and Steve Rude, for instance.

I admire your efforts and your goal, however. I've always felt that what stops most adults from drawing is the misconception that they no longer have the capability to do so. Like anything, you can teach yourself with practice and hard work.

TheoSav said...

I looved this back when I was kid... note: McFarlane was doing the wild capes on his Infinity Inc. run a few years earlier.

TheoSav said...

I looooved this series when I was a kid--a note: McFarlane was already doing the wild capes on Infinity Inc. which was a bit earlier i think.

Anonymous said...

Some of Giffen's best work was his work on THE HECKLER (DC Comics 1992). Still read that six issue series along with the DR. FATE miniseries every year.