IntroductionAs many would agree, we approximate and simplify for lots of reasons. And the same is true when drawing, adding excessive detail doesn't improve the overall image, especially if they're too small to be seen clearly. Similarly the detail might be not visible at all, it may be concealed in darker areas or partially obscured by closer objects. As the artist we know the particulars are there, but we also know the brain does a great job in filling-in the missing parts. So, we tend to ignore the desire to make it "perfect", but not just because it's a waste of time and effort.
Art's all about interpretation, if we wanted an exact image we'd take a photo! But even a skilled photographer will typically reduce the depth of field to blur out the background and remove detail from that part of the image. It's all about instructing the viewer in a subconscious way what's important, and telling them which elements they should be looking at. (Yes, we manipulate!!)
Keeping It CleanIt's quite obvious when cartooning that details are missing, it's why we see so many good examples with just plain white backgrounds. The drawing is all about driving your idea, so if it doesnt support that, or add required context then it's just getting in the way. You need to get your idea over quickly and efficiently, not "turn-off" your reader by making them read or view extra elements that might confuse or detract from the main idea. It's worth considering that you're not just giving yourself extra work if you take things too far!
By way of example let's consider my quick christmas comic that I created the other day..
|Seasons Greetings - Area 5.1 From Christmas Day|
Seasons Greetings - Step By Step1. The most important thing is that the salt and pepper pots are recognisable, and because I'd used the Area 5.1 character colours there was real danger that they looked too much like the LGM's (little green men). The shape is very similar, they have recognisable mouths, but they're just missing limbs and eyes.
After I'd added the mouths, I started to think that pot holes weren't enough. They had turned into simplified versions of the Area 5.1 characters and lost too much of their condiment identity.
|Seems to be neither one thing or another|
The main place you'd expect to see these guys is on a dinner table, but I didn't want to draw a gingham tablecloth in perspective and then have to consider how much of the table should be included. No, I needed a single object that was immediately recognisable to add the missing reference point.
2. I started out trying mustard pots and gravy boats, but once you'd placed them behind, partially obscured they lost their identity. In the end I opted for the Heinz ketchup bottle with it's traditional bottle shape and it's distinct label. The latter giving me some scope for customisation, allowing me to replace the brand name and alter a few of the smaller details.
|The missing context|
BUT, I heard you cry, "Surely you're adding details by doing this!!"....
....well that's just the thing, because the brand is so recognisable your brain doesn't focus on it. It tells you "that's ketchup" and then moves on. Hopefully you now see a table because the raised position of the bottle implies perspective.
3. That was pretty much it - I avoided shadows on the table top and kept the shading subtle to make your brain to do more work. Also, I knew I was going to add the speech bubble in ComicLife so I just needed something that screamed christmas. So I added the christmas bells and then considered whether I needed to added the comic title to the image too.
As it was an exercise in brevity I decided to keep it simple. The title (which is the joke), is on the web page only. I'm still divided on whether this was the correct thing to do.