That ain't art.
Hello from Castrum Lusitania, my fortress in northern Portugal. Welcome to another edition of our weekly newsletter.
This week was all about finishing inks and beginning the grey tones process for the current batch of pages for Phenomena Book 2. But more on that later, because this week was heavily marked by the AI “art” debate.
AI is doing something alright…
…but it ain’t art. If you’re unfamiliar with the whole concept of AI “art”, I’ll fill you in. There are apps that you can go and write a few key words and they will generate an image based on that. “Prompts”, they call it. You can be specific, typing things like “sci-fi tree in Mars” and the app/AI creates a picture.
“Well, what’s wrong with that?”, you ask. I’m glad you asked. As you can imagine, the final images don’t appear by magic. These apps are fed millions of images from the most famous artists (and then the rest of us) that they then use to generate the images people “prompt” the apps to do. The artists are not requested to provide the work, it is simply taken from wherever the work is found in the web. The millions of images are then processed allowing the app to spit its requests. And the results, sometimes, are almost the same as the original image.
In short, there’s nothing artistic about this. There’s no creator or creation. There’s just people taking advantage of other people’s work. All the ethical concerns have been nicely put in words by Dan Sheehan here. And, as you can imagine, protests are already dominating social networks, the artistic ones in particular, like ArtStation, a site mostly devoted to conceptual art - the first category to be heavily exploited by these apps.
If you want to get angry, know that mere DAYS after Kim Jung Gi tragically died, his portfolio was fed into one of these apps without his or his family’s consent.
I won’t bore you with a longer rant, you can click the links if you want to read more, but it’s obvious that there is no such thing is AI “art”. Art is a human expression. All these apps do is function as a slightly more elaborate Google Image Search, but one that erases all due credit to artists.
If you plan to use one of these apps for any reason, please consider otherwise. They’re harmful and dishonest through and through.
Now back to our scheduled programming and why we’re all here for: more Phenomena Book 2 sneak peeks!
It’s grey tones time!
This week was split in two perfect halves. Monday and Tuesday to wrap up inks, Wednesday to scan and adjust files in the laptop, Thursday and Friday to kickstart the digital grey tones. In total, a batch of 27 pages that I want to finish before the end of the year.
The goal seems to be highly achievable as I’m doing 3 or more pages of grey tones per day. I start by filling out the areas with the different tones (as you can see in the image above). In characters, the tones placement and shade of grey is predetermined in the designs phase. In the environments some things are set, others vary depending on storytelling and readability concerns. Sometimes, I need the background to be darker than the characters, others lighter etc. Because the book is in black and white, all of these concerns are on me. I can’t allow an image to remain confusing or messy as colors ain’t coming to correct my mistakes.
Once all the basic tones are filled I then add little details, like shining bits, scratches, subtle gradients etc to improve volume and three dimensionality of the each figure and object. In the image below you already see those details on Spike’s and Matilde’s face, Bolden’s hair and jacket:
Another good example here below, with Bolden and Matilde mad at a certain character they had problems with in Book 1. (As a side note, this is also a nice showcase of how I’m going more cartoony in certain situations for the sequel).
In some other panels I add a layer for more elaborate shadows. The reasons can be for atmosphere, to help separate planes, because there’s an explosion nearby (wink wink, see panel below), etc.
In these cases I do all the tones I usually do and then add a black semi transparent layer on top of it. This allows me to easily control the contrast, by putting more or less opacity to it.
As a last peek, here’s what a snapshot of what I was doing just a couple of hours away. As you can see, it’s still a work in progress, so only a couple of tones are already in place.
Like inking, this part of the work is very enjoyable. I get to watch/listen to a lot of podcasts, tv shows and movies while doing it. Which leads me to this week’s…
Quentin Tarantino movies. All of them. I mean, he doesn’t need any help, but they’re so good I can’t help it. This week I rewatched all I could find in my streaming services: Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained and Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.
They’re all brilliant, we all know that, but I’d recommend you to watch one particular thing: how he sets things up. This is one of my favorite things to observe in stories: a good set up to earn the moment later on. And he does it. For every little thing. Watch them and pay attention to how he crafts and earns his big moments. And that’s what makes them big and memorable.
As an example, the overdose Uma Thurman’s character suffer in Pulp Fiction. She experiences it after using an heroin dose from John Travolta’s character without his knowledge. And earlier on, as he buys it, the drug dealer is speaking how powerful this drug is, much better than the others. We’re also told repeatedly that Uma’s character, the wife of the big crime boss, must be protected at all costs, otherwise hell is gonna come. So when she takes the drug, we know this will bad and the consequences will be even worse, which makes John’s character desperate attempt to save her life much more tense (and hilarious).
A master storyteller through and through.
For now, back to work it is. Thank you all for reading. As usual, comments and questions are welcome. I’ll see you soon,
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I did not know the story about Kim Jung Gi’s art. For eff’s sake!!!
I’d love to know yours and Bendis’s choice’s for going B&W instead of color. I’m thoroughly enjoying your art, regardless, and probably enjoying it more this way, but was curious of how that decision was made.
Again, thank you for getting so deep in your process! LOVING IT.