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The Artist’s Sketchbook: A Dark Knight Christmas
December 17, 2017
The cover from Lee Bermejo's "Batman: Noel," DC Comics.
Every artist I know admires other artists. There is usually something about each of them that speaks to said artist. Because of my dad’s influence, I became acquainted with people like Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish. I loved how their drawings told stories without words. It was one of the reasons why I thought it would be so fun to be an illustrator. To be able to communicate something like that without using any words at all. Now, that is both incredible and powerful.
Christmas, Norman Rockwell Style...
Frankly, Rockwell’s work is what I think about when I think of the ideal Christmas.
How to Get Better at Drawing, Batman Style
These days, I still have artists that I admire. I discovered Lee Bermejo’s work when I stumbled upon “Batman: Noel” in a comic book shop a couple of years ago.
I didn’t go into the store necessarily looking for Batman, despite the fact that he’s one of my favorite superheroes. I also didn’t go looking for a Christmas book.
No. I was on an art-improvement mission.
Allow me to explain. I learned in art school that it’s good to copy the work of famous artists. (This is why, by the way, you see people standing in front of paintings in big museums like the Met with their sketchbooks.) By copying the works of other artists, you learn about composition, style, and myriad other things. It makes sense. Whatever trouble the artist might have had in making that piece, you learn a little about how he/ she solved it by retracing that artist’s footsteps, so to speak. During those art school days, I spent countless hours recreating the works of Picasso, who became one of my new favorite artists, partly because of his technical ability and partly because of his, well, chutzpah. He was larger than life and during his lifetime, he was one of the only artists that the general public recognized when he was on the beach (or anywhere else, for that matter.)
God Bless Us, Everyone
So back to Batman… Anyway, I wasn’t looking for a Batman comic per se when I found Bermejo’s work. I was looking for comic book artist’s to copy. My only criteria for picking the books was that I needed to get a visceral response from at least some of the pages. Those were the pages I needed to copy. Bermejo’s work did that for me.
The way he draws pages in this book is closer to the way a children’s book illustrator draws pages. The comic panels go away. The images flow freely across the pages in a kinetic sort of way. The color, done by colorist Barbara Ciardo, is dramatic in the way that the colors in movies like “Wonder Woman” or “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy are dramatic. In other words, it was the perfect piece to try to recreate in my own studio.
It’s also a book that any Batman fan would love. Just because it’s Batman.
However, this week, the book has even more significance to me. “Batman: Noel” cleverly retells Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” with Scrooge being replaced by Bruce Wayne. You wouldn’t think that the story would work, Scrooge being dropped into the DC universe like that, but it does. Most of you who have colored my “Wonderland Reloaded” coloring book know I love a good mash-up.
“Batman: Noel” is one of the best Christmas mash-ups I’ve seen. Like Dickens’ book, Scrooge makes good in the end.
And isn’t that what Christmas is about? Making good in the end?
Enjoy the rest of the holiday season!
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