Sunday Mailbag

August 5th, 2012 | Posted in MAD Magazine

Q: I just have a couple of quick questions for you. How big do you draw your art? When you do a piece for MAD, like a two page spread for instance, how big is the original drawing? You manage to get such a lot of detail in, so I can only imagine that it would be drawn quite big.  

Lastly, do you recommend always drawing big when practicing?

A: I usually do my non-MAD illustration work at 150% of whatever the print size is going to be, which is an unwritten traditional standard in illustration. So, a full page magazine illustration (given an average magazine page size of 8 1/4 x 10 1/2 inches) would be 12 3/8 x 15 3/4 inches. However, if an illustration goes all the way to the edge of a page (i.e. the illustration does not stop or fade away before the edge, but is cut off at the edge of the paper), I also have to add a little extra around the edges for “bleed”. Bleed is an overflow area that allows for slight variances in the place a magazine page will be trimmed off at, so you don’t end up with a white edge if a page is trimmed a little off. I add 1/4 inch bleed¬¨‚Ć on all sides to original art size, which makes the final art of a typical full magazine page 12 7/8 x 16 1/4 inches.

In the case of MAD art I work at 200% of print size. MAD movie and TV parodies have always been done at 200% by everyone since the early days of Jack Davis, Wally Wood and Will Elder through Mort Drucker, Angelo Torres, Harry North and Sam Viviano. This is much bigger than typical comic book work, which is usually done at about 135% of print size. I am not sure what the genesis of that practice was, but I assume it was to allow for greater detail and a the more “dense” art that MAD was known for. This makes for enormous original art. A full MAD page is 8 1/8 x 10 1/2 inches. A full original art page is 16 1/4 x 21 inches, with bleed it’s 16 3/4 x 21 1/2. A two page spread is 33 x 21 1/2 inches with bleed.

Back when I first started for MAD in 2000, they would send me the actual bristol boards for a job with the panels and word boxes already drawn in to match the layout sent to me. These where usually done by Lenny “The Beard” Brenner, former MAD art director and long-time production artist. I was surprised to see the boards were laid out at 200% of print size, but who was I to argue with 50 years of tradition? These days I prep my own boards, so I am free to work at any size I like. Actually I was always free to do that, but chose to stick with the time-tested 200% practice.

I must admit there is something magical about that 200%. I tried working at 150% on one parody job for MAD (which shall remain nameless) and didn’t like the results. There is great freedom in the larger size, and I am able to work in details that smaller art sizes would not allow, or would look bad if attempted. The danger in working so big is that the greater reduction will turn too fine a detail to mush, so you need to be aware of the limitations of the print process a bit more that when working closer to print size.

By the way, I am only talking about the physical original drawing and inks of an illustration, which I would then scan for computer coloring, in all cases here. When I do my digital color or full digital illustration work, I size the scanned art down to print size at 300 dpi, and color/paint it at that size and resolution.

As to your last question, it does not matter what size you practice at, so long as you practice.

Thanks to Chris Clarke¬¨‚Ć for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar,¬¨‚Će-mail me¬¨‚Ćand I’ll try and answer it here!

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