Monday, January 09, 2012

The Art Of Dave Simons: Part I - Preliminaries & Sketches

After spending the entire afternoon scanning around 70+ pages of Dave Simons preliminary art, I thought I'd showcase some of it here over the next few months on a semi-regular basis.  One of the most under-rated, and under-seen, features of Dave as an artist was his preliminary art.  Dave once told me that he threw virtually all of his preliminary art into the bin once he was finished with it as he felt that it was of no value to anyone, and he couldn't make any money from it.  When he approached me to establish and maintain his web-site he was upfront and told me that he couldn't afford to pay me money, but offered to send me any and all of his preliminary sketches.  I couldn't agree to that deal fast enough and it wasn't long before packages would start arriving, each packed with reams of sketches and ideas, all done on heavy vellum.  Dave would then spend a lot of time discussing with me the various ideas he'd had and showing me where he'd progressed some ideas and scrapped others as useless.

Dave's use of preliminaries reminded me of how Norm Breyfogle approached his art, in that both men used the preliminary art as their pencil art.  Where Norm would draw his preliminaries pencils on A5 paper, Dave used full comic art sized vellum and his preliminaries ranged from rough sketch outlines to heavily detailed pencil and, at times, ink work.  He was very precise with his finished art, so he would work on his preliminaries for as long as it took, making corrections as he went, at times scrapping ideas and starting again. Once he had the image worked out he would then light-box the art and go straight to inks, with some light pencil work if required.  By working this way Dave told me that he was able to increase his output as an artist, and this is why he preferred inking his own work.

Dave learnt the best part of his craft at the feet of John Buscema, and, looking at his preliminary art, it's very easy to see the Buscema influence, as it is with almost anyone who studied at the Buscema School.  The use of pencil on the sketches is light, and Dave would use a variety of mediums, from blue pencil, through to red, through to ink.  Again, Dave's theory, which he took from Buscema, was whatever it took.  In this way Dave was a far better penciler than most of the artists who he inked and was easily able to create a body of work that stands up there with almost any other artist out there.  Although Dave is known primarily as an inker, he was the complete package - he could write, pencil, ink, colour, paint and letter if called for and I've yet to hear from anyone who can tell me how Dave missed a deadline.  Even as he was dealing with the cancer that would ultimately claim his life, he kept working and in his last year produced two complete comic book stories and countless commissions.

In Part I of this Art Of Dave Simons series, here's a look at some of Dave's preliminaries and sketches.  There'll be more to come, and if you have a Dave story, or art to share, then get in touch.

This was the first idea for the cover of the Army Of Darkness Christmas Special. Dave completed the art but lost it, so he worked up another cover - shown before this one - and submitted that instead.  Shortly after the comic was published the missing cover turned up.




Vintage, back of page warm up for inking Mark Texeria at Marvel.  This sketch is ink only, showing Dave's confidence in himself as an artist.


Ideas for a Klaw commission, along with Red Tornado in the top left hand corner.
More ideas for commissions, along with ideas for Army Of Darkness.
Detail of Spider-Woman from previous page.