How Different Cartoonists Draw Water – Part II

Based on both site stats and how much social media traction it gets when it comes up in conversation, one of the most enduringly popular posts I’ve done on my blog is 2008’s How Different Cartoonists Draw Water. I wrote that post as I was in the midst of working on both Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean and Oyster War–drawing the former and likely just beginning to brainstorm on the latter. I was reminded of the post recently when watching a Cartoonist Kayfabe video that touched on the old practice of keeping a “morgue” pre-internet–a massive file system of clipped visual reference material. I remember mine having lots of hands, greenery/foliage, crowds, and of course water.

Over the past year or so I’ve been accumulating examples of what I consider particularly nice examples of cartoonists’ water drawings, and all that “morgue” talk reminded me that I should probably go ahead and put together a post of what I’ve accumulated. So here–with significantly less commentary than in my original post, and in no particular order–is a second set of How Different Cartoonists Draw Water.


The French cartoonist, Blutch, draws everything really well, so it’s not surprising that he draws water really well. If the beautiful dry brush work here reminds you a bit of Craig Thompson, well, that’s not a coincidence (the influence running Blutch to Thompson, not the other way around of course). I particularly love how, in the third image, so much of the waves/water is just implied gesturally, rather than rendered realistically. 

Here’s some nicely drawn water with an amazing sense of light/light source. I’m in awe of how much work the color choices are doing here to augment the already beautifully-drawn water in this panel from Matthieu Bonhomme’s Charlotte impératrice. I’m not sure if Bonhomme is doing the color here or not?

Looking back at my original post, I’m surprised I didn’t include any Hergé water. Here’re a few to remedy the situation. There’s a ton of water depicted in Tintin and these are only two of several different ways Hergé (and/or his assistants) drew water. I’ve “borrowed” liberally from the first version here for sure in my forthcoming book, Four-Fisted Tales

I don’t know a whole ton about Andreas Martens, but I saw this beautiful water-filled page making the rounds on Twitter and nabbed it. (The sky/clouds in the background are pretty amazing as well!) There’s a real Franklin Booth by way of Wrightson feel to a lot of the mark-making here. 

Breaking the run of French guys, here’s some water from Kamandi by Jack Kirby.  I love that his water looks like repurposed “Kirby krackle.”

Here’s a beautiful Goseki Kojima Lone Wolf and Cub panel. Check out the atmospheric perspective-ish thing going on as the mark-making for the pilings makes them appear hazier and less distinct as they recede into the background.  

Back to the French guys! Here’s a jaw-dropping Christophe Blain panel from the black and white Gus collection. Or maybe this is from volume 4? I can’t remember. I love the peculiar dry brush marks he’s using in those waves. He started using tons of that in the most recent Gus volumes. I’m guessing he’s using a “rake” brush. I really need to pick one up to experiment with.

So this probably shouldn’t be included thematically, as it’s not a depiction of the surface of a body of water, but I had to include it! This is Winsor McCay. I love how simple the parallel horizontal line thing is, and yet it indicates “underwater” so well. (Maybe someday I’ll do a specific post on depictions of underwater scenes?)

Here’re a couple from Masashi Tanaka’s amazing manga, Gon.  I recently got a gorgeous Italian slipcase collection and have been re-reading them. Like everything he draws, the water here is made with incredibly dense mark-making. I’m guessing there’s a reason this guy did a few odd manga series and then bowed out. 

Here’s a one-off from Jordi Lafebre’s Les Beaux Étés (the second volume, I think?). This one just floored me when I first saw it. The coloring is doing some pretty amazing stuff (the white surface pattern, the reflection from the sunlight) but the way he’s used those contour lines to indicate the visual distortion from the water is amazing. As I’ve mentioned before, I think Jordi Lafebre is one of the absolute best working cartoonists currently. 

If you know me, you know there’s only one thing I like more than comics that take place at sea: comics that take place at sea and in the arctic. Here’s a Junji Ito page with some very nice water from the recent U.S. release of his adaptation of Frankenstein.

Here’s an Alex Toth water panel from the must-have artists edition of Bravo for Adventure. Not surprising for Toth, his water is simple, beautiful, and graphic.

And, finally, I’ll wrap up with maybe my all-time favorite drawer-of-water, Hugo Pratt. I love everything about how Pratt draws water: It’s simple and graphic, yet remains loose and gestural; he uses an amazing variety of mark-making; and he’s got a sizable vocabulary of different ways to depict water. His simple, blocky reflections (usually of boats) are breathtaking. 

1 comment

  1. Arp says:

    This was some amazing stuff, I’m bookmarking this along with your previous post for my ‘morgue.’ Maybe I need to start printing stuff out for a proper morgue.

    I’m not familiar with most of these artists but the 2nd & 3rd panel scream Craig Thompson. I can imagine Craig practicing copying those strokes until he mastered them.

    Also, Martens’ sky & clouds are INSANE. All of it, really. I don’t have the patience for it but damn does it look good.

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