Marcos Mateu-Mestre is a veteran animation visual development artist with twenty years of experience in the field. He’s worked on some great feature films, including The Prince of Egypt and Surf’s Up. He’s currently working at Dreamworks Animation, and recently sent me a copy of his newly published book, Framed Ink, to review here.
Now I could belabor on and on about this book, but I prefer to get straight to the point when I review things, so this review will be short. Marcos seems to share the same ideal when it comes to teaching, that is, getting straight to the point. But more on that later, before I mention anything about Framed Ink, I’ll point out the pink elephant in the room: There’s already a ton of fantastic books on the same subject of composition and sequential storytelling as it pertains to film-makers and artists in general. Chances are you probably already have at least one.
There’s Will Eisner’s Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative and Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist, which are both fantastic. Don Graham’s legendary Composing Pictures was recently re-printed. Then there’s Steven D. Katz’s amazing, Film Directing: Shot by Shot, and Film Directing: Cinematic Motion, to name but a few. So why on earth would you need another book on the subject?
Well, since I have all the aforementioned books (among many others), and have read each one multiple times, I can tell you that none of them get to the same point as quickly and clearly, and in fewer pages, as does Marcos Mateu-Mestre’s, Framed Ink. He covers every base and clearly illustrates every example in his fantastic graphic style. As I was reading, I would say to myself something like, “Ah, but you forgot to mention leading the eye through a cut.” Sure enough, on the next page, there it was. It’s all here. This book is the best of all those books without all the filler. Framed Ink sets the ground rules from the first pages. Instructing the student not to tell, but to feel.
Let’s tend to use simplicity, shadows, and silences, as opposed to an avalanche of detail…What’s more faithful to reality, the literal image of something, or it’s spirit?”
Marcos instructs the reader to choose what’s most interesting, citing that when you make exact copies, everything is just as important, and thus demands the same amount of attention. We must use contrast to tell the story effectively by simplifying and, “skipping visually non-existant details…whatever is not contributing to the visual impression of what we see.” Here’s a great example from the book:
Here’s one of my favorite examples from the book. Marcos explains the key ingredients of the tension he’s created between these two panels on this page:
After a thorough explanation of the principles of visual storytelling, there’s a great section on graphic novels where all of the concepts he’s just explained come into play. Here’s a great example of creatively leading the eye through a page of panels:
What more is there to say? I told you this would be short. This is a solid book full of solid examples. Marcos is a highly skilled, experienced artist, with a clear teaching style and incredible artistic flare. At $16.50, Framed Ink is a steal, and should be on your Christmas wish-list this year. I highly recommend it. For more of Marcos’ work, check out his blog here. For more images from the book, check out this page at Parka Blogs. If you own a copy of this book, and would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to do so in the comments below. All art artwork and images are Copyright © 2010 Marcos Mateu-Mestre.