DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADE
Continuing my irregular series of reviews on comics instructional books for aspiring creators. Next up is Dynamic Light and Shade by Burne Hogarth (Watson-Guptill Publications, 1981). Hogarth was the longtime artist on the comic strip, Tarzan, and founder of the School of Visual Arts in New York where he was known especially for his teaching of dynamic anatomy.
Now, on to the review.
The first thing you should know about this book is that it is not a how-to book. It does not show you how to light and then draw a subject. Having heard a number of complaints to this effect, it’s important to understand what this book actually is.
If anything, it is an illustrated monograph concerning concepts for lighting the figure and environment. Through examples and descriptions, Hogarth breaks light and shade into categories — such as single-source or flat, diffused light — and seeks to explain how the illusion of each is created within a two dimensional work of art. Concepts in illumination are given detailed explanation as to the location of the light source(s), the effects generated on the figure, background, and atmosphere. Hogarth also spends some time on how various kinds of light affect the mood in a picture.
The illustrations alternate between examples of Hogarth’s earlier drawings and a series of repeated figures, drawn especially for this volume, which illustrate the effects of the various lighting situations on the human form. I found this last to be one of the most fascinating parts of the book, serving as instruction in both lighting and anatomy. To me, this was worth the price of the book alone.
A different complaint about the book is its being nothing more than a glorified portfolio. And though 99% of the illustrations are by Hogarth, it is much more than a vanity project. By categorizing lighting situations, Hogarth creates a kind of shorthand to talk about lighting, allowing the artist to quickly understand and employ different kinds of light for different looks and effects.
To be fair, there are some illustrations which demonstrate certain concepts less successfully than others, and some images seem shoehorned in with descriptions that do not really fit the images. Also Hogarth can at times be frustratingly obscure in his writing, if not downright purple in his prose. However, for the most part, this book is straightforward and to the point, and provides information about lighting a scene that should be in every comic artist’s toolbox.
As such, I recommend this book highly.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
Monday, May 2nd, 2011