wrote a great journal here: seangordonmurphy.deviantart.co…
Go read it now, I'll wait. . . .
I added a few bits in his comment thread and he suggested I make a journal entry out of it, so I did!
Here ya go:
1. You're a storyteller and everything you put on the page help tell the story in some way.
2. Stop thinking about them as backgrounds -- they're environments the story is occurring in. Approaching your pages with the action happening in an environment instead of in front of a blue-screen makes for better pages.
2. Design your environments before drawing them: taking the time to think out the whole space leads to more and often better storytelling choices. I draw out environments/rooms on graph paper beforehand so I know where everything is (especially light sources and reflective surfaces). For more complex rooms, Sketch-up can allow for a quick fly through to see more camera options.
3. Find and save old furniture catalogues or style magazines and sort them by era. Dover Books have a number of books that serve as excellent period reference for clothing, architecture and fashion and many are merely reprints of old mail-order books. The internet is a great tool, but don't be lazy about your Google image search. I can think of a recent horror comic where the artist searched up an image for a prop and ended up swiping a prominent prop of the same type from another horror comic.
4. Remember you're in control of the reality you're presenting on the page: Only use those 3D programs if you know perspective as well as the program. You should be able to alter or cheat the perspective as needed to make the panel work or avoid tangents.
5. Learn how to add textures within your style: if something is supposed to be old and weather-beaten you shouldn't be applying the same line-work as if it's shiny and new.
6. Further to finding a way to like drawing your environments: discover what you like drawing other than the obvious stuff (usually figures) and make it a challenge to work those things into what may be an otherwise tedious drawing exercise. If you hate drawing urban environments but like drawing animals you should make sure there are as many dogs, pigeons, cats, rats and horses (either drawing carriages or police mounts) as you can work into the city. Similarly, if you're drawing a rural environment it could be populated with a variety of vehicles in various stages of repair.
7. One thing I keep telling my students is everything they draw is essentially a 'character' and should give the viewer the sense it exists outside the part of the story they see.
I think this info should be shared as much as possible since too much focus seems to be placed on drawing anatomy and basic perspective and not what to do with the rest of the page. Any other experienced artists should feel free to add to the list of tips and make a journal entry -- please drop a link here if you do.
Lemme know if you found this at all helpful -- and please give the proper respect and credit for starting this.