Sunday Mailbag

May 13th, 2007 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I noticed you do a lot of cropping in your work. Now do you do that more dramatic effect or is it for expediency? Will you do many thumbnails to arrive at your final piece?

A: I’m not sure what you mean by “cropping”. “Cropping” is where one takes an image and removes some of it around the edges, like matting a photo and hiding some of the photo behind the matte. I don’t usually crop my images, as that is a waste of time. I would not want to spend time drawing and rendering an area of an illustration that would be cropped off and never seen. I certainly never crop and image to avoid drawing something to save time. If it needs to be included, I’ll include it.

By your reference to “thumbnails” I think composition is what you actually mean. I do spend time designing the composition of my illustrations for maximum effect and communication of the intended message. Some jobs call for a close up image and some for a wider angle scene. It mostly has to do with accomplishing the goal of the illustration while providing a visually effective image. Concepts like centering the focus of the illustration, leading the eye to that focus and using color, values and design to accomplish those tasks. In the case of a MAD job, there is both the composition of the individual panels and that of the entire page as a whole to think about.

For individual illustrations I do several thumbnail roughs with different compositions to try and come up with one that works best. I don’t have a set number of them I do every time but I will try and make sure I have at least three. Even if I end up going with my first idea I always force myself to try and come up with two more just to give me options. Sometimes you stumble on a solution that didn’t occur at first but found it’s way into your head because you made the effort. For MAD parody jobs I just draw then roughs and make adjustments as I go until I feel I have a page that works both with storytelling and individual panel composition.

Thanks to Michael Garisek for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

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