Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What Do Artists Do All Day - Frank Quitely

The BBC Four recently profiled Frank Quitely as part of the their What Do Artists Do All Day? series. Fans who enjoy Quitely's art on Jupiter's Legacy and All Star Superman are in for a real treat as he runs down his creative process in a programme that runs nearly half an hour and focuses heavily on those two books, WE3 and a Walking Dead cover. Critical fans nonplussed by the artist's frequently late delivery may be in for a change of heart as Frank is revealed to be a very thoughtful plotter who spends far more time on the page design than on the actual drawing. More often than not it's what doesn't end up on a Frank Quitely page that makes the difference.

Integration of digital and analog sketching is becoming far more common now in the printed medium, but the degree to which individual artists incorporate the two is fascinating. Quitely starts with dozens of thumbnail sketches in notebooks before moving to digital page layout and digital blue-line sketching. When no higher degree of digital detail is possible, he prints out his blue-line and details in pencil on paper. This is comparable to the penciler/inker relationship of days gone by, which means that Frank is generally spending twice as much time on his illustrating process as his peers.

But before Quitely presses pencil to paper, he frequently reads and re-rereads a script before making notes about how to illustrate it. This elongated think time is probably the single thing that most sets him apart from the competition. Quitely really digests the story and make sure he's completely understanding the plot, actions and subtleties of character to the point that he can see it all clearly. This dedication to the writing on the part of the artist is what makes him one of the highest demand pencilers in the business.

It's also nice to learn that Katsuhiro Otomo has had such a big impact on Frank's work. While less obvious than the influence of Moebius upon Geoff Darrow, it is never-the-less surprising that I didn't pick up on it until now.

All Star Superman #9, page 3

Batman and Robin #3, page 20

Batman and Robin #3, page 1

New X-Men #114, page 23

Frank Quitely is the artist most represented in the published Pop Sequententialism catalog, with one page from All Star Superman, two pages from Batman and Robin, and a New X-Men splash–all printed as they appear pre-production. It's no secret that he's one of my favorite artists, and it's good to know that while video game and storyboard assignments frequently beckon with better pay, Quitely genuinely prefers doing comics which allow him a far greater creative freedom.

Besides, pensive pacing doesn't lend itself to the rapid-demand turnaround of continuity design.