Rules of rendering?

Who here can show me the secrets to Alex Ross painting style? I'm finally trying to analyze his artwork in Kingdom Come (I'm way behind on the GN reading list-in fact I don't even want to make one now), and it doesn't really like he did any thinking to the colouring. I don't mean that in a bad way, it's just that the drawings beneath it were so well anatomically constructed, that all Mr.Ross had to do was sorta "paint by numbers," in a sense...He just new how the froms worked and added tone and highlights to them...Actually, Ross isn't the only teacher said you can go very far with keeping to the three basic rules to shading (crudely paraphrased bear in mind): Highlight where the light is pointing, Darken where there is no light source, and be weary of reflecting lights/colours. My teachers disagree on wheither the foreground or background should have the darkest or lightest colours...In Kingdom Come, all I could tell is that the objects closest to the camera/reader/picture plane were "stronger" then the ones farther away...and there is even some optical effects like focus shift used through does it all depend on our "creative license," as to how we render out our comic panels?(This post is to be edited later for clarity reasons)

You need to be a member of CCAS - Christian Comic Arts Society to add comments!

Join CCAS - Christian Comic Arts Society

Email me when people reply –


  • There seem to me to be at least two points to be covered in this discussion:
    First, the "secrets" to Alex Ross' painting style, second the lighting of an image or entire picture.
    Ross uses a very well established illustration technique... He draws his figures with either a pencil or coloured pencil very tightly and then glazes his colouring over the fixed drawing using inks, Gouache and then highlighting his work with airbrush and coloured pencil. This creates that very accurate humanist look with nice brilliant colour and deep contrast.
    There are books that will guide you to this style, one of the best being written by the legendary Norman Rockwell.
    Lighting has little or nothing to do with a steadfast rule of where to place the light. Instead it has at its core a philosophy that I try to embed into all my students; that being that "the picture is about the picture".
    Your discussion here goes to the heart of composition. Every work has an emotional value... The true reason the image is created. In the abstract a picture will convey the strongest possible reenforcement of the image's emotional weight.
    I can only scratch the suface of this study in this format, but lets just say that if a bright light is surrounded by darkness, it gives the viewer the sense of hope in the middle of dispair. Conversely if a dark object is surrounded by light, it induces a sense of strength and iconic power in the middle of lesser objects. As you can guess there are an enormous amount of variations as to how we can compose a picture to convey action, anger, love, intimacy, and every other feeling that humans embrace.
    In putting your pictures together remember that this is the over-riding basis of the information you are puttting forth. It has little to do with your technique or your skill level; the amount or lack of detail. The goal of the light is to enforce as greatly as possible the emotional quality the creator of the work attemped to convey. In the examples that you have given, look again as to why Rembrandt chose his light source and see if you can see the abstract design that he chose to give his painting. The emotional weight that he wanted you to FEEL as you viewed his work. If you begin to design your own drawings and pictures in this fashion, you'll find that certain details may fall away as unimportant, others will need to be brought into high contrast so that you focus the viewer to recieve a deeper meaning from your work.
    As I said, "the picture is about the picture". What will your pictures be about?
  • "My teachers disagree on wheither the foreground or background should have the darkest or lightest colours... so does it all depend on our "creative license," as to how we render out our comic panels?"

    As far as my training was concerned, the darkest/lightest foreground depends upon the scene. For example, a landscape of rolling hills, rendered in atmospheric perspective, would appear dimmer, hazier and lighter toward the distance. As another example, in Van Gogh's "Starry Night", the tree in the foreground is the darkest object.

    Compare this to Peter Paul Rubens' painting, "Daniel in the Lion's Den", at the National Gallery of Art:
    The lions and model in the foreground are lit the brightest, while the rear depths of the lion pit are darkest. (BTW if anyone has a chance to see this painting in real life, it's quite impressive.)

    As a third option, in some of Rembrandt's paintings, the lightest area is the middle ground of the scene.

    BTW, art teachers have different philosophies on other topics. For example, one of my teachers felt that drawings should be started in the center and move outward. Another believed in giving all areas of the picture equal attention throughout the rendering process. A third insisted upon beginning each picture by drawing a margin around the edge of the paper. Then there are the pro-outline and anti-outline factions....

    Perspective does have rules, but unless you are studying something like traditional Chinese brush painting, there is room for flexibility.
  • The main thing I try to remember with color pieces is getting good separation between background and foreground. The question is, where do you want you audience to look? Arrange your elements so the audience's eye is drawn to one particular spot, and light your scene to show off that spot. There's no rule that can be made that will tell you bright objects should always be in front of dark ones, or vice versa. Ideally, you'll have both in your story, which creates variety, and allows both to have some visual impact to them. two cents.
  • Sometimes, artists rely on methodology espoused on them from schools/instructors/professors, etc., while others rely, simply, on their own analytical skills, and on things they may have heard, or stumbled upon through experimenting. I guess it's all depending upon what you've been exposed to, or exposed yourself to. I guess it's like Bob Ross used to say,,,"This is YOUR happy little world..."
This reply was deleted.