Following the conversation with Dwayne McDuffie and Steven Grant on breaking into comics, the large conference room at the Clark County Library on Saturday filled with a new set of comic fans as Gilbert Hernandez and Deryl Skelton joined moderator F. Andrew Taylor for “Drawing for Comics – More Than Still Life.”
With about 20 people in attendance, Hernandez told about his entry into the sequential art industry, relating that he was almost literally “born with a comic book in my hand.” Though Gilbert was drawing his own comics from the age of 4, it was his younger brother, Jaime, who showed exceptional skills as an artist. Along with their older brother, Mario, the brothers self-published the groundbreaking Love and Rockets comic in 1982, mainly to avoid getting real jobs, as Gilbert tells the story. The Hernandez brothers sent Love and Rockets to Fantagraphics Books for review in The Comics Journal, but the powers at Fantagraphics loved the work so much, they decided to publish it, and the rest is, as they say, comics history.
Skelton, meanwhile, went to art school and worked doing illustration and design in a number of industries, including fashion illustration. He said this gave him a great sense of not only anatomy and style but also how clothes fall on a person’s body — something in which he thinks many comic book artists could use a refresher course.
“Nobody knows how to draw a guy in a suit walking down a street,” Skelton said, somewhat sarcastically.
Skelton first found comic work illustrating the newspaper strip based on the TV show Dallas. It was a perfect use for his realistic style, and it helped him sharpen his storytelling skills. Being forced to condense the movement of a story in three panels made Skelton realize the importance of perspective and different “camera” angles. His photorealistic approach and storytelling prowess were real assets on his next project: DC Comics’ comic adaptation of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The two men briefly spoke about how they sharpen their skills. Hernandez said he doesn’t really do formal sketches, but does find himself doodling on random pieces of paper. Skelton, who spends much of his time doing fine art and commissioned pieces now, observes the world with his pencil whenever possible, even when … well … maybe he shouldn’t.
“Sometimes I’ll just be sitting in church and draw what’s around,” he said.