Okay, so here's the deal. I'm going to preach a little bit here so if you're easily offended by critiques or just don't feel like reading advice , I suggest you hit the back button. I'm speaking mostly to all those folks that PM or e-mail me wanting advice on their artwork and how to break into comics so, if that's not you, you don't need to read on or do if you just feel like getting a little insight on the world of comics.
That being said, I'm going to address something that a lot of comic book artist hopefuls dread-BACKGROUNDS!!!!!! Yes I know, you hate drawing them and would rather be drawing your favorite superhero or anime/manga character. Can't blame you, I would too but if you have any hope of illustrating professionally or just want to make kick-ass believable art in your spare time it's something you're going to have to practice at some point. Truth be told, the majority of all the Amateur comic art I see is horribly lacking in this department. I've seen some of the coolest character art but the entire peice falls apart because the artist either didn't give the background the same attention they gave the character or they left one out all together leaving Spider-man clinging to a magic invisible wall. Let's face it, backgrounds (hereafter referred to as BGs) are no fun!....or are they? I had the same problem with BGs for years and found I couldn't come up with convincing scenes to set my characters in. I couldn't come up with an image in my head and translate it down onto paper or I would get to frustrated and just give up. It wasn't until about 10 years ago that I saw the light. I was at a convention showing my work trying to get a gig when I came across an artist sitting in artist alley. He had a pretty good portfolio so I started flipping through. About half way in I came across a huge double page spread of the island of Manhattan. This artist had drawn the entire island from a airplane view complete with every building, visible street, harbor, and even little boats and tankers in the water. It was as if this guy had taken a helicopter ride out over the water about 1000 feet up and looked back to take a mental picture of the city to draw it. Every detail was there and the design of each building and window was addressed. Immediately I asked how the hell he was able to draw BGs so well. He replied “do you like drawing backgrounds?" "No" I replied. He smirked and said "well, I do." he went on to say the only way to learn backgrounds is to make yourself love them. Stop looking at them as a burden or something you rush through to get to the fun stuff. You have to realize that BGs are there to add life and believability to your characters. They can take a normal shot of Spider-man swinging and make him look as if he's hundreds of feet above New York or swooshing inches from the street down a canyon of buildings. In all honesty, I sometimes spend more time on the BGs than I do on the characters in the panel. It's not because I like the BGs more or dislike the characters, it's just that I like to pretend my BGs are another character unto themselves that create a setting for my cast.
So by now you're saying "that's all well and good but how do I get started?" Well, I'm glad you asked. The first thing to do is to get out there and draw!! I know, you've been told a thousand times that you need to draw from life so let's make this 1001. Get out there and sit under a tree or on a city bench and draw what you see. Pay close attention to architecture and plant life. Figure out with your pencil what makes a building look like a building, a car, or a tree. Now figure out what makes different buildings, cars, and trees look different and what makes them the same. If you do this long enough you find that you can make up buildings, cars, trees, etc up in your head without looking at a picture or reference. Secondly, study perspective like there's no tomorrow. This is the biggest thing you can do make your BGs convincing. Trust me, I know it's hard now but you'll thank me later when you're whipping out landscapes like a pro. For you beginners or even those that want to advance your knowledge I suggest the book 'Perspective for the Comic Book Artist". I own over 100 'how to' artbooks and this is the single best book I've ever bought and still use it to this day. It changed my art and a swear on it like the bible. Check out it the next time you're in a book store or get it from your local library. Heck, here's the Amazon.com address where you can order it!: [link]
And believe me, it's great for all kinds of perspective, not just comic books. You'll learn 2 point, 3 point, 5 point, and curvular perspective before you know it and be well on your way. Just look at my any piece in my gallery with a cityscape to see what I mean.
So that's it guys. I hope this helped some of you a little bit and you'll take this advice and run with it. I'm a firm believer that there's no such thing as talent and anyone can accomplish their goals if they just commit and practice. All you need is the right tools. And just to drive the point home, I'm posting a plethora or BGs that I've done in the last year in various books. These are just a small handful of the huge amount I've had to do so believe me, I speak from experience. Oh yeah, and a warning. The file is a bit large so, if you click on it, you’ve been warned