• Let's Review: Drawing G5

    This may be the first bit of G5 media in comic form, but it's not really a story I can delve into. So instead, let's talk a little bit about the comic, and the challenges facing whomever takes up the challenge of drawing this new generation.

    Catch the full review after the break!

    I'm not going to focus too much on this comic itself as its goal is stated quite clearly in the rating.
    Very proud to be very simple!

    A simple story for shared reading. As such, there are two points I'd like to make. First off, I'm impressed that this comic, aimed at a very young audience, is willing to even mention grief and missing a loved one. In past My Little Pony entries, the ponies would just want to make a cake or tie a bow around a present or something easily solved. Lifting someone's spirits is more than I would expect.
    Strangely emotional moment.

    The second is that Izzy is able to realize her misstep without anyone else pointing it out. Given that even our Mane Six sometime shad to be clocked upside the head with the obvious mallet, this is a nice touch. Most of the action is just stills from hobbies. I emphaize the word "stills" because most of the art feels very stiff.
    Five minutes until the neighbors complain!

    Agnes Garbowska is no stranger to drawing Friendship is Magic, but this time she seems to be drawing under much greater restraints. Notice that in all the comic, only a few panels feature the characters in either portrait or profile view. Most of the time, their faces resemble the "draw a pony" videos that were a part of the early marketing. The only major change is that Sunny has maintained her rainbow bangs from the movie's climax.
    Never felt this matched the movie designs.

    So I get the impression this was Garbowska having to do a very short comic in an even shorter timeframe with restrictions on her style. That made me think about the various styles we've witnessed thus far and some of the baseline goals for success. I'd like to share some of those thoughts.

    Match the Character Designs
    One might file this under "no duh", but we've had this problem before. Back in Friends Forever #24, artist Jay Fosgitt presented a set of characters that would have been interesting on their own, but they were supposed to be Greta and Grandpa Gruff. In fact, he had a curious run where matching the show's designs was a sliding scale.
    Close in some cases, completely off in others!

    My best guess is that he had references for some locations/characters but not for others. So there's a goal for the managing editors. If G5 features an expanding cast as Friendship is Magic enjoyed, providing artists with clear references is going to be critical. Because it doesn't matter how fun the design looks if it fails to connect to a pre-established design.

    Characterization Through Action
    While getting a base-look is important, expressing that character is equally critical. One of the problems artsts have with drawing My Little Pony is expressing action through a horse's perspective. Very often I've seen new or unfamiliar artists create very static images that just feature basic movements. One such examples was Friends Forever #1. Artist Carla Speed McNeil only got to draw the characters once, and while there was some variety in the general poses, there wasn't much individuality. Characters all walked the same way or barely moved at all.
    Something lifeless about those eyes that terrifies me.

    Contrast that against Andy Price's artwork; particularly a scene where the protagonists have to avoid brainwashed ponies. Each of their individual personalities is on display in how they move.
    There are many ways forward.
    Just don't stop moving!

    That level of expressions does a lot to keep the reader interested. It can tell us a lot more than several panels of dialog.

    Movement as Horses
    The other aspect of drawing these characters is to remember that they are horses. Many artists seem to struggle with this, leading to either rigid movements or abandoning the concept all together. While Jay Fosgitt's style was distinct and could convey a lot of personality, he clearly felt more comfortable expressing these characters as bipeds.

    Tremendous characterization in these poses,
    but not meant for ponies!

    Part of the charm of this franchise is seeing how a quadroped character interacts with the world. Granted, the show itself has taken liberties with this. Yet these are exceptions that prove the rule. They only stand out because they're a radical departure from the norm. Artists are going to have to challenge how they express characters to maintain this idea.

    Beware Shortcuts
    There's a business side to comic artistry that I don't fully understand. You have set deadlines, budgeted time, and likely several concurrent projects. As much as we would like an artist to give 100% of their effort to a project, that might not always be a possibility. So there are cases of shortcuts being used to speed the production time. At one level, it's just a bit of reused art. Such was the case when Tony Fleecs used elements from some older artwork to create a new piece.

    Funny that Flash Sentry, Vinyl, and Octavia are the constants.

    I wouldn't fault him for using a time-saver while still creating new art. Yet at a much more intrusive level is when artist Nicoletta Baldari used a vector file (likely fan-made) to fill in an image. It completely clashed against her own artwork, cheapening the panel.

    I imagine a lot of kids were confused by this panel.

    The currently-running Generations straddles the line as the art relies very heavily on references from the show. It might create a recognizable look for an unfamiliar artist, but the flipside is that people start to recognize the poses and stop seeing the artist's own effort. This is the danger of shortcuts and relying to heavily on outside material. We want to see an artist's own efforts. Even if it doesn't pan out, it's a far step higher than copy/pasting works we've already seen.

    We know very little of what's coming down the pipe for 2022 or who will be drawing it. My hope is that they'll avoid some of the pitfalls of the past. At the same time, I expect an awkward period as artists get used to drawing these new characters and finding their own style. We'll see what happens.

    More grinning for Hitch!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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