I’ve always had a thing for drawings of superheroes doing normal things, like using a phone, eating, waiting at bus stops. It gets me in the same way that you get from watching a squirrel eat. “Aww, look at Spiderman holding a hot dog in his hands, just like a little man!” I can’t explain it, and don’t think I want to.
Eight years ago I gave up smoking, from a 30-a-day habit to zero. It was tough, nicotine is one of the most addictive and pernicious drugs on the planet, and I went through the usual mood swings and withdrawal symptoms. One unfortunate causualty was that I stopped drawing for over a year. Drawing’s hard work, especially when you’re out of practice, and picking up a pencil was too much through the emotional smog of nicotine deprivation.
I eventually bounced back with a picture of Spidey playing with his food. The game company I worked for started doing a weekly draw-off, and the first topic was Spiderman. Rather than depict him swinging through the sky or punching Doc Ock, I drew him playing with his food in a poor man’s Danger Room simulator, using eggs and cereal boxes to plan a fight with Electro and Doc Ock. (I’d established in my head that Spiderman ate lots of boiled eggs every morning.) It was pretty rough, but I’d put a pencil in my hand again and used it, and it felt good!
Fast forwards to now. The OzComics weekly draw off on Facebook had “Captain America: Winter Soldier” as its theme. I had visions of Cap fiddling with a post-1940s object and looking a bit confused, maybe a DVD? Then I hit on the idea of him eating apple pie!
My “thing” for superheroes fiddling with stuff or eating is accentuated the bigger they are in relation to the object they’re holding, so I drew a bit beefy thick-necked Cap with a delicate little cake fork. It struck me as well how Captain America should look like a pre-Arnie muscleman due to his period of origin, not a ripped bodybuilder but more like some kid’s burly Dad who works down the auto shop.
“Say Cap, how’s the pie? Is that good pie, huh?”
I pencilled this at lunchtime, and inked it that night. Now, Winter Soldier may be Captain America’s movie, but it’s also Black Widow’s, Falcon’s and Nick Fury’s. Time to complete the set. I Googled “Russian food” for Natasha. Cold soups are hard to draw. Borchst at least has a distinct colour. Have her holding Piroshki like batarangs? Then it occurred to me, the obvious Russian food everyone knows is caviar.
Red caviar stands out better than black, and she got a vodka shot to go with it. (I’ve had caviar once and it really is just little bags of salty water. Very overrated.) My intent was to have her offering a piece to the viewer. Can you trust her? Is it posioned or loaded with truth serum? But that didn’t quite come across. But, this was just a lunchtime sketch inked that night again, so move on.
I drew Falcon at dinnertime the next day, while waiting for a life drawing class. It’s easy being a flier if you’re a mutant or have a powered suit. I figured Sam is basically an athlete with a self-powered flight suit, so he really has to watch his weight like a jockey. So he’s got celery for dinner… again! Looking at it again, I have no idea how the sticks fitted into that little container that he kept in the SHIELD fridge. It must be a tesseract of something.
And last, and certainly not least, Nick Fury!
You know what the Commander likes to chow down on after a hard day watching the world and keeping it safe? A Royale with Cheese! The angle is all wrong for him holding the burger, looks like he’ll bite on on the top of the bun. This one was drawn during a talk at a local comics symposium, rather than at a meal time, maybe that’s what went wrong!
Anyway, to my fellow artists, I highly recommend drawing superheroes eating. Why?
- Its a great way to draw hands in action. I’ve practiced the power grip (Nick Fury), a delicate two finger grip on Natasha, and a coordinated two hand action by Cap.
- Its good for facial expressions and body languages, such as Fury’s off-the-clock unrestrained joy at his all-American snack, or Falcon’s resigned slump worked really well. Natasha’s lean forwards into the table wasn’t such a success, but that’s practice for you. And when was the last time you tired to draw someone chewing, like Cap?
- Drawing the food itself is a very interesting exercise. What colour is celery exactly? What are the components of a Big Mac, and how do they fit together? How do I make cheese and the patty look shiny?
Even more importantly, I cannot recommend drawing challenges enough. That’s what got me out of the worse drawing slump of my life. This week its prompted me to knock off four cool little sketches in one week that I certainly wouldn’t have done off my own back.
So pick up your pencils, and chow down, tune in, drop out!
See you in seven, snack-tastic ones!
Dr Mike 2000, 5 April 2014