I'd set a goal in 2013 to focus on my backgrounds. Like many comic artists, I'd started with the figures and faces of the foreground, and backgrounds would be the occasional boxy skyline or pieces of machinery. I was introduced to the wonderful perespective grid tool
Carapace by a friend in early 2013, and this helped enormously with cityscapes, from the mushroom-like towers of New Mumbai on Mars to the boxier vistas of the Earth cities. But in the back of my head I knew I had a few scenes coming up which required lush jungle vegetation that wouldn't fit so easily on to a grid.
Venus Green (who you haven't met yet) will demand a better grasp of drawing plants than the sheep trees. By the time I draw issue 3 (pretty much now), I need to be have the lines to say "Here be lush, incredible jungle vegetation. Giant ultraviolet flowers that can disgorge full grown humanoids, exotic seed pods and ferns on an unnatural scale. Nature gone wild." On the right you can see some practice towards this goal in the promo image of Venus.
I started by making some sketches of the plants in my back garden. I've got Philodendron, some very 1970's Monsteria Deliciosa and some Geraniums growing out there, all of which made it into the final picture of Venus.
I tried to work some of their character into the skylines of the image at the top of this blog.
This was a sketch of a scene in my head planned for much later, where Star Girl 3000 (who you'll meet in May this year) will find herself in a jungle environment. I did this piece for the OzComics weekly Draw Off, which specified any character in a jungle environment. I decided to do one of my own characters. I'd got all my sketches, and a few phone photographs I'd taken around town of palms and ferns, but for this one I took the easy road and Googled "jungle plants". As the "X-Ray Vision" shot from Photoshop on the left shows you, I cheated and just positioned a few stock images under my digital pencils.
The rest was hand-drawn, using the reference purely to see how the plants fitted together. The foreground elements of bike, Star Girl, and the insects are all hand-drawn.
I've now expanded my floral repertoire beyond the sheep trees, although I'm sure I'll still use them when I need to. The pink flowers, part orchid, part Sturt Desert pea come naturally. I reckon I could do Monsteria straight out of my head now, and have a bit more of an internal grasp of ferns.
2013 was the year of the background, and perspective and cityscapes. 2014 will be the year of tightening up my figures and faces - I've already attended one life-drawing class to this end. But its been nice to take a detour and have this mini-project of expanding my depiction of the vegetable kingdom. The trees have a lot to say if we stop and look at them.