Examples of artistic development
December 18, 2010 1:19 AM   Subscribe

After comparing the first few strips from Questionable Content to the most recent ones, I'd like to find others examples of dramatic improvements over time in people's drawing/drafting/cartooning/CGI skills. I'm looking for inspiration as well as some insight into how such improvement was achieved in a given case, if possible.
posted by Busoni to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Basically all long-running web-comics show this.

Penny Arcade: old, new

PVP: old, new

Goats: old, new

The way these guys got good at drawing is to draw literally thousands of comics. QC has 1820 comics! (well maybe fifty are that stupid bird, but still 1700+) I think you'd have to make a deliberate effort to keep your style from evolving and your technique from improving over a decade of constant drawing.

The author of Dresden Codak (old, new) has a blog where he talks about some technical things, but really I think the two rules that guarantee improvement are: practice and experiment. Listening to feedback probably is a good third rule.
posted by aubilenon at 1:41 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Penny Arcade: 1998 vs. 2010

Sinfest: 2000 vs. 2010

Pixar: 1988 vs. 2010

The webcomic Fanboys also made a point of "upgrading" its art style at least twice due to criticism from various message boards, though I can't get their site to load right now to find the changeovers.

aubilenon: "Basically all long-running web-comics show this."

A counterexample: 1997 User Friendly vs. 2010 User Friendly. Ctrl+Alt+Del too, to a lesser extent.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:58 AM on December 18, 2010

Gunnerkrigg Court is a good example: Early strip; Three years later (flashback to same scene); Recent strip, 5+ years after the first link. The author/artist has answered a few questions, to the effect that he just settled into the new style over time (and rather dislikes the old pages)

TV Tropes calls this Art Evolution.
posted by kagredon at 2:02 AM on December 18, 2010

Rhaomi: I nearly mentioned User Friendly, as a counterexample even, but the first year is different than now. It stabilized after a year or so and I assume he just copy-pasted it all from there.

Achewood is another, less awful, counterexample. It hasn't changed all that much. Megatokyo also hasn't changed all that much.

So I guess it IS possible to draw the same comic for a decade and not refine it much. But I still believe that if you're even a little bit interested in improving your style and technique, that enormous amount of practice will get you there.
posted by aubilenon at 2:29 AM on December 18, 2010

There's probably few instances of long-running comic strips not showing a degree of change in art style over its course.

Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes only ran for ten years, but there's a noticeable difference there (the "Tenth Anniversary Book" is most convenient to observe this). Funny thing is I actually prefer his earlier style; it was more irreverent and loose, whereas by the end things were more refined and clean. The layouts were certainly more elaborate and expansive, though.

With cartooning at least, it's not just a matter of your skills getting better, but also a matter of improving your technique and efficiency in drawing the same characters and settings day after day. Details you were more careful and deliberate about at first become more simplified as a result of speed and familiarity. And of course, there are also details (esp backgrounds) that become more intricate as your confidence in your skills develop.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:13 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, I suppose I should specify syndicated newspaper strips. Although there are cases of long-running strips being taken over by other artists, who imitate the original's style for the remainder of its run for sake of consistency.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:16 AM on December 18, 2010

Hergé's Tintin: there's quite a distance travelled between Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin and the Picaros, but also between the original editions of the older books and the remakes (e.g. The Black Island). There's also a good bit of improvement, but maybe to a lesser extent, in many classic, long-running Franco-Belgian comics, between the first albums and the mid-to-late stuff: Asterix, Spirou, Lucky Luke, Achille Talon all show this pattern.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:13 AM on December 18, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies so far. Any examples outside specifically webcomics? Any outstanding examples from the deviantart/conceptart forums or something?
posted by Busoni at 4:36 AM on December 18, 2010

Viz, 1979 versus Viz, 2010.
posted by gene_machine at 5:43 AM on December 18, 2010

Early Garfield is freaky-lookin'.
posted by archagon at 5:51 AM on December 18, 2010

This is often really visible in Japanese manga. Since the writer and artist are usually the same person, you can get started with mediocre drawing skills if your storytelling chops are good. Shimizu Reiko's style, mid-80s; Shimizu Reiko's current style has more detailed coloring and more natural faces. Amagi Sayuri developed hugely over the course of a 20-volume series, but she's almost completely unknown in the West.
posted by Jeanne at 6:03 AM on December 18, 2010

You can see Jon Allison develop both drawing skills and character design:

Bobbins (1998 - 2002)
Scary Go Round (2002-2009)
Bad Machinery (2009+)
posted by zamboni at 6:22 AM on December 18, 2010

The artistic evolution of Doonesbury over the years is pretty dramatic.
posted by tdismukes at 6:34 AM on December 18, 2010

Overcompensating. Old. New.

Cyanide and Happiness. Old. New.

I think as aubilenon says, practice, and lots of it.
posted by Ahab at 6:39 AM on December 18, 2010

It would be hard to top Cerebus for sustained artistic effort, and as you might expect, it shows considerable development over time.
posted by flabdablet at 6:45 AM on December 18, 2010

Response by poster: I don't know if it's too late to say this, but I wonder if I should say that I'm kind of interested in people learning to draw more or less from scratch, and then getting better at it?
posted by Busoni at 6:57 AM on December 18, 2010

I expect Jeff Nicholson's chronology will be of interest.
posted by flabdablet at 6:57 AM on December 18, 2010

Response by poster: For example, I remember reading about a guy who started to learn how to draw pretty late in life, and after about three years or so was working professionally in the anime industry. But I can't remember the name.
posted by Busoni at 7:12 AM on December 18, 2010

Scott Adams taught himself to draw (and was rejected by an art school). His own blog post about his original submission packet is 404, but you can still see a little bit of it elsewhere. His earliest strips on the Dilbert site are a bit less rough, but still vastly different from what he's doing today.
posted by themissy at 8:32 AM on December 18, 2010

Peanuts is an interesting case. Schulz had fantastic skills from day one, and the very early strips are extremely polished and detailed. The strip evolved over the course of a few years into the spare, flattened, minimalist look that most people associate with Peanuts. At first glance, it looks like a devolution, but the simplified style really works a lot better for the stories he was telling- Snoopy sleeping on his back on top of a realistic, detailed doghouse in 3/4 perspective wouldn't work. So i'd argue Schulz as a great example of this.

(there was a second art shift in Peanuts towards the end, when Schulz developed a tremor and his lines got shaky... But that's kind of a different case)
posted by COBRA! at 9:53 AM on December 18, 2010

College Roomies from Hell
posted by gentilknight at 5:26 PM on December 18, 2010

Since you mention conceptart.org, I wonder if you are thinking about the amazing journey of MindCandyMan.

Here's the thread chronicling his artistic progress. I think it's one of the greatest examples of how art is 10% talent and 90% hard work (or something like that) :)
posted by sprezzy at 6:18 PM on December 18, 2010

This website may also be of interest to you: Artbloom
posted by sprezzy at 6:23 PM on December 18, 2010

Along with Scott Adams, Gary Larson of "The Far Side" fame is another famous example of a guy who got into comics more for his writing than drawing, but improved over time.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:35 PM on December 18, 2010

Take a look at Adele Lorienne's character progress charts. I've been following her art forever, since the days when she primarily did Legend of Zelda fanart, and the amount that she has improved is HUGE. The progress charts are great in particular though, because they provide a constant character template to showcase how her style and ability have grown over the years. Her galleries on her personal site also contain some of her older stuff that she doesn't keep on dA.
posted by ashirys at 8:03 AM on December 20, 2010

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