Monday, May 16, 2016

Benjamin Marra's 10 Rules

1. Draw things you have a deep emotional connection to and make you want to draw. 

2. Emotional accuracy is more important than emulating reality. Realism is overrated and reality is an illusion anyway. Just make a good drawing.

3. Balance light and shadow. 

4. Don't create walls. You'll only run into them later. Avoid Puritanism of materials, tools, techniques, methods, and approaches. Don't be a perfectionist. 

5. When you feel like you hate how a drawing is turning out, that's when it's the most important to keep going. Don't be too harsh a judge, but don't believe the drawing is any good either (you can never plan to create a masterpiece). You want to be right in the middle, in the zone. 

6. You can only progress if you finish things. Reflecting on finished work, seeing what was successful and what didn't work, you can learn what to keep or change moving forward. 

7. Style comes from what you do unconsciously. Embrace your deficiencies instead of hiding them. The struggle to draw something is more interesting than casual success in facility. 

8. Strive for the best you can do, accept what the drawing is when you fall short. At a certain point the drawing becomes its own thing beyond your control. Let it be what it will be.

9. You gotta know the rules before you can break the rules. 

10. There are no rules.

You can view Benjamin Marra's work at:

Friday, May 13, 2016

Tom Hart's 10 Rules

1. A struggle is a good thing. Be in it.

2. A surprise is a good thing. Respond to it.

3. Study how others did it. 

4. If you steal, become better for it.

5. If you copy, copy deeply.

6. Composition is everything. 

7. Characters are runes.

8. Activate the space.

9. From Joe Chiapetta: This is not the bomb squad. Take unnecessary risks.

10. It should mean something, it should express something, it should be something.

You can view Tom Hart's work at:

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Larry Hama's 10 Rules

1. Don't have people just standing there.

2. ANY expression is better than a blank stare.

3. Avoid tangents and any straight line that divides the panel.

4. If you use an odd angle in the shot, there has to be a reason for it.

5. If you don't have at least one panel on each page with a full figure, your "camera" is too close.

6. Plan out your shots in "Lawrence of Arabia" mode rather than in "General Hospital" mode.

7. Don't think of backgrounds as "things to fill up the space after the figures are drawn."

8. If you know what something is called, and you have an internet connection, there is no reason to draw it inaccurately.

9. If the colorist has to ask if a scene takes place at night, you haven't done your job.

10. If you can't extend the drawing beyond the panel borders and still have it make visual sense, you've cheated on the perspective.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Dean Haspiel's 10 Rules

1. Observe and listen and react. This is your primary engine for story.

2. Write or sketch (do both) until it resembles something of a story. A story is like a series of jokes and punchlines, funny and not funny. One thing leading to another, and not necessarily in that order!

3. I understand why we're encouraged to remove story elements that don't strictly contribute to the over-arching narrative, but I try to make entire stories feel like one big red mess because life is chaos. Answers are not as interesting as questions, but choices and decisions (for better or for worse) make or break characters and steer story.

4. Shape your story. Subtract for clarity, but leave room for interpretation. Your reader is your co-author. Struggling through the layout stage is the most critical part of making comix. Everything after that is craft, revision and execution.

5. I used to care about accountability for verisimilitude but emotionally true is what I strive for. You want a photo? Take a picture. You want a fact? Do the math. Otherwise, draw something that means something but don't be scared of what's complex and human. It's how we relate.

6. Image is text, too. Sometimes I draw first what I want to write and then reverse-engineer my story-making process.

7. The art should always serve the story. A splash page should feel like a Sergio Leone vista or extreme close-up. The moment before or after a trigger is pulled or something is revealed. Inset panels expose, hyphenate or hide information. Use them wisely.

8. If your art stops me from indulging the story at its intended narrative pace so as to ogle and cheer how well you drew something, you're being a diva. Don't vogue. Immerse me.

9. Read books and comix. Watch movies. Listen to music. See people doing things. Do things. Talk.

10. Sometimes, walk home a different way. It allows you to see new things and, perhaps, think differently. 

You can view Dean Haspiel's work at:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Alex Toth's Rules

  • Eliminate the superfluous, the unnecessary. Be lazy!
  • Edit your art continuously, at every stage. Save work!
  • Focus on the remaining (important) picture elements.
  • Emphasize what is important in a scene. Save drawing!
  • Isolate such key elements (as one does in a view finder).
  • Closeups only when needed: face(s)-for mood and expression, and objects-small, difficult to distinguish in other ways.
  • To set a scene, a place, to establish a locate, etc., go to a wide shot, angles okay (down/up, etc.)-but again, simply!
  • Then, cut to tighter shots-pace them, for interest, etc....(wide/one shot/two shot/group/close-up/tight close-up).
  • Establish light source, if need be, for dramatic mood and for blacks, drop shadows, etc., on figures & objects and walks, as correctly placed as you can make 'em!
  • Eliminate such light/shadow work in other shots.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify, throughout!
  • Remember, some scenes will and must be pedestrian, unimportant, and dull- because they are "bridges" between key storytelling scenes. As in any story telling form, movies, TV, books, plays, music, opera, painting, etc., you can't knock 'em dead with every shot. Remember, this is what gives pace to a story, visual commas and periods in a pictorial "paragraph" or "sentence"! These are the resting places in an otherwise moving storm! Use them! Without fear!
  • Some such "rests" or "pauses" can be heightened in pictorial interest by way of a pretty scene of quiet mood-if your locale allows! Don't stretch logic to do it!
  • By learning to eliminate unnecessary objects, figures, and background, etc., you can focus on what is left to draw in the shot-and draw it well enough to "carry" the shot!
  • In other words: strip it all down to essentials and draw the hell out of what is left!
  • All of this advice is based on Roy Crane's critiques of my work-and he is absolutely correct, on all points!
  • In the Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy strips and in Buz Sawyer, with Sundays focused on pal Roscoe Sweeny, his work of fifty-odd years demonstrates its validity! in his work, as in no other of his contemporaries' offerings, you will find an extraordinary sense of balance, in his design of space within a panel frame, a strip, or a page! His simplicity allows us to see the use of shapes within his pictures, how they create tension, action or repose...clearly!
  • He avoided confusing details!
  • To quote something just read: "To add to truth only subtracts from it!!! (Isn't that beautifully put?)
  • Authentic devices, objects, machines, locales, furniture, buildings, lend credibility!
  • As Sickles put it: "Understand how a thing is built and you'll have no trouble drawing it through!"
  • Spend more time thinking-about what and what not to draw, and how-and you'll do less drawing!
  • Pre-plan, pre-think...Thus, save work and time!
  • But-whatever you do, do it well!
  • Tell the story as best you can! Bend to that storm!
  • Be honest to it. Give it all you've got! Enhance it!
  • Study films, photographs, paintings, etc. for composition! For cutting, cropping out of nonessentials, pacing, punch, economy, forceful and direct impact. But also for beauty and subtlety-tension, suspense, action, humor, light and dark, balance, line vs. mass, ad infinitum! Use it all!
  • Analyze everything you see-be critical! Positively so!
  • See-observe-remember! Build up your memory file!
  • Good luck

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Simon Fraser's 10 Rules

1. Left to right. Don't get fancy and you won't lose people.

2. Pay attention to eyes. That's the first thing people look at.

3. Control as much of the process as you can: penciling, inking, coloring, even lettering. You don't have to do it yourself, just get your own people in and keep an eye on it right to the end.

4. Don't hide things you don't know how to draw. Put them front and center so you give yourself a push to improving your skills.

5. Keep practicing drawing from life, drawing from a model, drawing what you see around you. When you stop doing that then you start to dry up and become predictable.

6. Nothing is un-drawable. It might be very very hard, but you CAN do it.

7. If you are working from another writer's script, read thoroughly, then read it again. Let those words become your words and therefore your character's words.

8. Try not to design asymmetrical characters. Also avoid tattoos. 

9. Clarity above all. No fancy layout or visual flourish is worth losing your reader's full comprehension.

10. All rules are completely ignorable, if you can make it work.

You can view Simon Fraser's work at:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Zander Cannon's 10 Rules

1. Every panel will express its subjects' 1) position 2) scale 3) details or 4) emotion. Very rarely can it reliably express more than one of these. Try to vary between each type as much as possible to keep the page interesting and people engaged.

2. Anchor important things along lines or in clusters. Heads of a crowd of people along the horizon is a good one.

3. Thick lines and shadows should define edges of objects, thin lines define details. Edges of weighty, massive objects should be defined by a very thick line or a substantial area of dark color.

4. As often as you can, incorporate word balloons and lettering into the art. Efficient, corporate workflows make this difficult, but if you can manage it, good, well-integrated lettering can make your artwork look 10x better. 

5. More so than ever, there are no 'right tools.' Use what makes sense. If selling commissions or originals is important, use archival tools on nice paper. If efficiency and speed is paramount, work digitally. There are no rules other than what looks good to you.

6. Waste time and experiment on things you love. Become blindingly fast on things you don't.

7. 'Should' is a poisonous word. Don't do what you should do. Draw what you love, what you would love to read, and what tells others how you think and feel.

8. Design your characters so they are recognizable by silhouette or by color, or, ideally, both.

9. Art is the intersection between seeing the lines on paper and seeing what they represent. As soon as you can see both, stop; you're done.

10. Alternate between drawing something that people will see (encouraging you to be polished) and something for just you (inspiring you to be daring) as often as you can. You need both.

You can view Zander Cannon's work at: