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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Drawing From History

Exercise 1

The first exercise to flex the drawing in a comic style. After the research into the history, covering established comic artist throughout time, I had been drawn to the works of Charles Shulz. The simplicity in his line work and the cleanliness of the background, the white page contrasting with the black ink felt challenging as I am someone who likes to add more in a drawing rather than less. I wanted to channel a piece of this and see what I could come up with.

To help in the process of learning more about Shulz, I spent time familiarising myself with many of his drawings that can be found in "Only What's Necessary" a great book rich with historical works by Shulz.

Looking closely at the composition, and the use of character performance and expression. I wanted to look understand how he used tools, and in fact what tools he had used. How he would colour in space, from shading technique to blocking.

Images sourced from "Only What's Necessary : Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts"

Images sourced from "Only What's Necessary : Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts"

Images sourced from "Only What's Necessary : Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts"

The image above is particularly interesting as the final frame, being the punchline to the comic, shows Charlie Brown looking directly at the viewer. Like in television when the actor is including the viewer, also known as breaking the fourth wall, we are momentarily part of the scene. The look sometimes requires no words, and others it is used as a direct dialogue with the audience, either to share thoughts of the actor or to give insight. Here we see Charlie Brown simply looking at us, no speech bubble or thought bubble is required, it delivers the punchline with the action.

Images sourced from "Only What's Necessary : Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts"

To begin, I spent a good amount of time thinking what picture I could create in his style. In the end I opted to grab a reference photo from Pinterest and try to simplify it the best I could.

I found the photo above, and with it having background interest, two characters and a potential narrative, I thought it would fit the brief nicely. Working on a piece of A3 paper I roughly sketched out a childish version of the photo, making the characters much younger than what they are so that they could match Shulz.

I then decided to use the reference, as a starting point, but not the end result. By this I mean using the location and the characters but exploring the action so that it brought humour to the page, something I thought Shulz was very good at achieving in just one frame!

Wondering what scenario Shulz would play out in a laundry, I decided to bring in a stack of dirty laundry that would bring relation to the background. The idea very quickly blossomed into one character being drowned in a pile of socks which the other character was throwing out of the bag.

This allowed the opportunity to play on expression, and perhaps bringing personality into the story. This I felt, brought the simple humour I felt when looking through Shulz work. It felt animated and overall in line with the style of Shulz. I was also able to bring in the same element I had discovered above, breaking the fourth wall.

I am pleased with the overall result in this drawing. It was really great practise to use a reference image as a starting point, and bringing in the elements that might make up a comic by Shulz to steer into a direction that brought humour and personality. The humour in the most simple form of an action helped elevate this idea. Adding motion lines in the arm swing and the overhead squiggle gave the image dialogue without the need of a word being said.

I was careful to look at how Shulz would draw his characters in front of backgrounds. Even with the most minimal of backgrounds, characters would often appear to have a white border around them so that there were no clash in lines. I guess when mostly working in a black lines, the background and the action could easily become lost with no clear distinction between the two.

In my version, I do feel this could have been improved. My background might still be too busy for a Shulz cartoon, and my characters are too small in the frame. From the majority of Shulz work, you often see the characters being as close to the sizing of the frame as suitably possible. Here, I definitely could have cropped the image to make stand out more.

Here is an example with the image cropped in Photoshop.

I decided to use a fairly new tool in my collection to create this image. I say new, it isn't, I've just recently found an appreciation for it after struggling to control it in a way that I like! During October I followed the annual prompt to create some work, which brought me closer to this pen. I finally feel confident in using it, being able to vary the thickness of the brush adds a lot to illustration!

An example when using the pen during October Peachtober felt totally perfect:


Only What's Necessary : Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts

Chip Kidd, Geoff Spear, Jean Schulz, Jeff Kinney, Paige Braddock, and Karen Johnson [8th November 2021]


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