Cinematography: Inside Llewyn Davis

I found this to be an immensely compelling film. Many months later I still find myself thinking about it, so I thought I’d have a look at the cinematography. The trailer below tells you pretty much the basics about the film. You should watch the full thing if you can. *Spoilers ahead!*

ILD (2)
Written and Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel

The opening shot is very important in any visual storytelling medium. It sets the tone for the film and tells the audience what the story is about. Inside Llewyn Davis opens on a close-up of a mic in near darkness. Camera pans right, Llewyn comes into the frame and starts to sing. This, I feel, is an extremely intimate shot and a perfect opening. For a film named “Inside Llewyn Davis” it’s only natural to focus on him as soon as the film starts.

ILD (4) ILD (67)

It’s only later in the opening shot that we see Llewyn is performing in front of an audience. What this says to me is that the music and Llewyn’s emotional connection with it comes first, performing for the audience is second. Llewyn doesn’t even open his eyes until after we’re shown the audience. It’s his personal connection with music that keeps him going. He only really has an audience for that one performance, which is the same later on in the film (the film has a circular structure, which is to say it’s basically a loop). The rest of the times when he’s singing, it’s only for a handful of people or in a recording studio.  The opening shot framing also conveys his loneliness (perhaps also the loneliness of the artist) and sets him apart from others.

A side note here, look how well we’re immersed into the scene. We’re shown people’s reactions throughout Llewyn’s performance and how still everyone is, paying full attention to him. In return, we’re holding our breath with them. This would, I think, translate into aspect to aspect panel transitions in a comic book.

ILD (68) ILD (69)
ILD (70)

Often times through the film, we see Llewyn framed very tightly to reflect the limited choices he has. He’s homeless, he has a dwindling number of friends to crash with and ways to make money.

ILD (3) ILD (16)
ILD (17) ILD (18)
ILD (22) ILD (32)
ILD (51)

I find it interesting how Llewyn is framed in 2 scenes, in both of them he’s having a conversation with Jean.

In the first one, Jean is mad at Llewyn because she might be pregnant with his child and they’re talking about her having an abortion. Look how both are staged, their bodies turned away, even though they’re sitting beside each other. This is an uncomfortable discussion that neither of them wants to have. They frequently look away from each other and are never seen together in this scene.

ILD (23) ILD (5)

Compare that to this later scene, when Llewyn tells Jean that he’s leaving town for a few days. You instantly feel they are on better terms because the frame has space to breathe and more lead room between the two. The over the shoulder shot also establishes that they’re in the same space.

ILD (29) ILD (30)

The lighting seems to place the film in perpetual twilight under a dull grey sky. There are no vibrant colors here, no sunshine, and you’re never quite sure what time of day it is. There are three distinct scenes that are are in darkness (apart from the interior Gaslight Cafe scenes). The first one we see is Llewyn getting beat up by the man in the alley, later to be completed by Llewyn sitting in the corner looking after him (this is where the loop closes).

ILD (8) ILD (9)
ILD (61) ILD (66)

The second is when the car trip to Chicago goes awry and Llewyn decides to hitch-hike the rest of the way, leaving the stray cat.

ILD (46) ILD (47)
ILD (48) ILD (49)

And the third is his trip back to New York, where he passes the exit that would take him to his former lover and his illegitimate child, and then nearly runs over the stray cat he left behind.

ILD (71) ILD (72)

These are all dark times figuratively, and also moments of choice for Llewyn. He can choose to fight back or follow the man (but he doesn’t, because he knows he deserves the beating), he can choose to stay in the car or keep the cat, and he can choose to go meet the child he didn’t know he had.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a compelling and brutally honest look at creative life, at times tough to watch,  that lingers with you long after you’ve seen it. I hope you give it a chance and if you’ve watched it, let me know your thoughts on Twitter @julienickart.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Julie Nick presents Pulp Stories from a bygone era!

Masked enemy forces are everywhere! Join our female heroes in blood-pumping, gut-kicking, two-fisted tales of action and adventure! Will they prevail against overwhelming foes and save the day? Get your copy at Dublin Comic Con and find out!

Featuring two short stories, “Fighting Time” and “Running Start”, plus scripts, layouts and character designs!
Written and illustrated by Julie Nick. Logo designed by Kerrie Smith.

On sale at Dublin Comic Con • 24 pg, B&W, € 5 • All Ages

Order from my Etsy shop!
Free sticker with each purchase!

Pulp Stories Cover Pulp Stories inside DCC map

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Yearly progress – Part Three

Not exactly a year, more like 10 months, but I really wanted to have a look at these two inked sketches side by side. If you’re curious about these “Yearly progress” posts, here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

Scarlet Witch is from May 2015 and Zatanna as Dr. Fate is from this week (March 2016)

Scarlet WitchZatanna

Both postures are similar, but it’s interesting to see my take on it nearly a year later (completely unintentional by the way).

For one, I actually took a reference shot to get the posture I wanted. I did not do that last year and think Wanda’s anatomy looks very wonky (that right shoulder, ugh).

Second, I think the Zatanna piece, although only a torso shot, looks a lot more dynamic. The Scarlet Witch one looks flat and lifeless to me now. I’m really trying to push my poses a bit and choose less rigid ones (work in progress).

The hands look a bit better in the Zatanna piece, I have no clue what’s going on with Wanda’s tiny right hand there.

I also think I handled Zatanna’s costume better than the multiple unnecessary lines on Wanda’s. And I’m liking the single black mass of hair as opposed to that trailing mop of a hair (seriously, what even is that?). I’m finding I like simpler depictions better than lots of detail (personal preference) but it bugs me that there’s no texture in either of these. Zatanna’s cape could use some I think, and it would also help make her pop a bit more.

One other thing that bugs me about the Zatanna piece is the inking. I didn’t spend that much time on it but it feels like it could have benefited from bolder lines and some dry brush as well. Being too careful and safe with my inking is a problem I’m trying to consciously tackle. I’ve gotten a bit better at it, but I still need to loosen up a lot more.

All things considered, progress is slow, but it’s good to take stock every now and then and see that it’s actually there.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Cinematography: Captain America The Winter Soldier

Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Director of Photography Trent Opaloch

I re-watched this recently, really trying to pay attention to how it was filmed, and found a few interesting things I thought I’d share.

CAWS (2)

The movie opens with Cap and Falcon’s morning runs. It’s a very interesting opening shot, very low key for a superhero movie. It could have opened with the Lemurian Star mission, straight into combat, but instead it opens with Cap meeting Falcon. Once I looked a bit closer, I realized (maybe a bit late) that the movie is really, at its core, about friendship and partnership. The relationship between Cap and Bucky, Cap and Falcon, Falcon and his lost partner Riley, between Cap and Natascha.

Right, now on to more visual things.

I love the sweeping shot of the Lemurian Star above, showing us the entire ship. It could have easily jumped from Cap landing in the water directly to him climbing aboard the ship, but the directors didn’t do that. Instead, they sandwich in a shot of the entire ship, serving to establish the size of the “battlefield” and what Cap and his team have to take back.

Frequently throughout the movie, the camera is shaky and placed behind objects. This conveys a sense of being in the world, maybe even that the viewers are unseen spies looking in on this world of spies.

I’m not sure if this is specific to Winter Soldier, but the camera frequently cuts back to long shots during fight scenes (more noticeable in the Batroc fight). It might be a common technique, but I’ve never noticed it before. This works really well in terms of making the fight scenes clear to the viewer. By cutting back from time to time, we can see where each character is in relation to the other and where they are in the environment.

Another thing I picked up on this viewing is how certain scenes somewhat repeat themselves. First, the elevator scene with Cap and Fury. Fury is telling him a story about his grandfather and escalation of crime in his neighbourhood. From people being friendly and saying “Hi.” to people trying to mug him.

CAWS (6)

Compare this with the later scene after Fury’s death. Cap is again in the elevator, but this time with the S.T.R.I.K.E. team. When HYDRA attacks Cap, we physically see the escalation of crime, in the same elevator as before.

CAWS (29)

A more obvious one is Cap and Bucky’s visits to the Smithsonian. Both at a time when they feel lost and need to remember who they were.

CAWS (10)

CAWS (65)

An interesting thing to note is how the scene where Bucky starts to remember was handled. After a lot of close-up shots of his fractured memory, the directors pull back when Bucky lashes out. This could have easily been filmed closer, to emphasize his strength and rage, but instead we’re shown how powerless he really is, surrounded by his enemies.

One last thing, look at the placement and camera movement from the final fight scene, the first time Cap faces the Winter Soldier knowing that it’s Bucky. I might be wrong, but it looks to me like Bucky is presented as Cap’s equal and as coming into his own, (literally) away from Cap. Before, we saw Bucky through his relationship with Steve, as his friend, fellow soldier and member of Steve’s Howling Commandos team. Now, even though he still has a history with Steve, he’s presented as Bucky, the Winter Soldier, separate from Cap and no longer taking orders from him.

Lastly, I leave you with some nicely composed shots.

CAWS (22)
How freaking amazing is the above composition?

CAWS (34)

CAWS (44)

CAWS (50)

CAWS (59)

CAWS (62)

Give me a shout on Twitter if you picked up anything else. Until next time!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather


If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me complain about my bad shoulder. I figure I ought to do something useful and share some of the things I’ve learned about avoiding injuries, or at least managing them.

First of, you’d really want to avoid them. The reason I messed up my shoulder was bad posture and sitting in said posture for hours at a time. After having to work in pain for weeks (of course this happened smack in the middle of a deadline), I’ve taken some steps to prevent this happening in the future.

Confession time: I used to draw on the couch, hunched over. Yep, I’m that much of an idiot. Even though I had a proper inclined drawing desk, I used the couch as a chair and most of the time I didn’t draw on the desk space. Not only that, but I used to sit in that position for about 3 hours at a time, only really getting up every so often to make a cup of tea. Pencilling is one thing, but inking like this really killed my back and especially my shoulder. It got so bad, I couldn’t lift anything remotely heavy with my right hand and had to rely on my left quite a bit. Sadly, I’m not ambidextrous, and I had to finish the pages in significant pain (respect the deadline, the deadline is sacred).

What I do now: I finally managed to get myself a chair with decent support and it makes ALL the difference in the world. I use my inclined desk to draw and try as much as I can to lean back in the chair. Leaning over the desk to pencil those details IS NOT GOOD FOR YOUR BACK (or eyes). Lean back. Next, since I quickly lose track of time when trying to make my scribbles look decent, I now set a timer on my phone to go off every 30 minutes. I stand up and stretch, walk around. It’s tempting to keep drawing, but a short break of 2-3 minutes ever half and hour means that 10 hour work days are much easier on my body. And coming back to a page with fresh eyes is always a good thing.

Current work space.
Current work space.

It’s been nearly 5 months after my shoulder injury and it’s still not 100%, so to manage it I see a chiropractor every other month and go to physio about every month. Trust me, you don’t want to do this. Neither physio or the chiropractor are particularly pleasant or cheap and avoiding injury is always best.

If you do draw all day, I recommend at least getting a deep muscle massage (or sports massage) every so often, to relieve the tension that builds up in the muscles. I won’t lie, it’s painful, but you feel like a fluffy pillow afterwards and who doesn’t want to feel like a fluffy pillow?

Recap: Invest in a decent chair and desk. Mind your posture. Take breaks. Stretch. Relieve muscle tension.

I’ll leave you with a video of Hayao Miyazaki doing calisthenics in Studio Ghibli (do all animation studios do this?).

Be careful not to overdo the stretches and take care of yourselves, folks!


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Cinematography: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Director of Photography Michael Seresin

In an effort to learn more about visual storytelling, I’ll be posting about cinematography every few weeks so give me a shout on Twitter if there’s a particular film you’re interested in. If you’re unsure as to what cinematography actually is, here’s a handy article on What a Cinematographer does.

Out of all the 7 Harry Potter movies, this is my favorite. There’s so much to love in the story alone, but what makes me come back to it time and again is the distinct visual style Cuarón and his DP brought. It’s such a drastic departure from the first two movies that they almost don’t go together. They bring a more subtle hand than the jarring dutch angles of Chamber of Secrets (my least favorite by the way) and PoA feels much more personal. The actors have grown up a bit and are able to bring a more natural performance than the first two films, but I think a very important part of this is how the film was shot and edited.

First off, let’s look at how shots are staged. Subjects are often filmed to one side, off center, utilizing the set and props to visually frame them so the resulting picture never feels unbalanced.

HPPoA0359 HPPoA0480

HPPoA0888 HPPoA1399

HPPoA1500 HPPoA1834

HPPoA2116 HPPoA1955

HPPoA3068 HPPoA3190

HPPoA3649 HPPoA3822

This makes for more compelling compositions and allows the possibility of interesting foreground/background interactions on the left and right side of the screen.

HPPoA2097 HPPoA1650

HPPoA3143 harry-potter4-movie-screencaps

For more important moments and establishing shots, the camera is centered, to focus our attention solely on the subject(s).

HPPoA0585 HPPoA0671

HPPoA0706 HPPoA0815

HPPoA0816 HPPoA0818

HPPoA0992 HPPoA1161

HPPoA1176 HPPoA1336

HPPoA1454 HPPoA1641

HPPoA1722 HPPoA1971

HPPoA2281 HPPoA2304

HPPoA2365 HPPoA2378

HPPoA3094 HPPoA3229

I also love how time is a visual undercurrent to the film. There are references to time everywhere; appropriate, given the storyline. From the shot of a cuckoo clock at the Dursley home, to the many masterful shots through the Hogwarts astronomy tower and the huge pendulum that dominates the entrance.

HPPoA0100 HPPoA1690

HPPoA3728 HPPoA3850

PoA makes it a point to mark the passage of time more so than any other HP film, taking beats from the story and cutting back to the Whomping Willow to show the changing of the seasons. Notice how it’s basically the same composition each time, but the shot varies slightly, keeping it visually interesting.

HPPoA0823 HPPoA1452

HPPoA1951 HPPoA3755

Last but not least, the lighting is directed in such a way that feels both more natural than the first two films and slightly eerie, creating a believable world but separate to our own. A similar visual style is seen in Cuarón’s later film, Children of Men.

In PoA more so than other HP films, I feel like we’re closer to Harry, living the story with him. When Harry passes out, the entire screen goes black and we’re taken out of the story with him. Transitions from scene to scene aren’t jarring, but fade in/outs, vignettes closing in, soft at the edges, like how one might remember a memory.

As the brilliant Nerwriter1 points out in his visual essay on the film, there is also a visual theme of isolation throughout PoA, masterfully directed by Cuarón. He explains a lot of the filmmaking techniques that make PoA great much more eloquently than I could, so make sure to watch the video below.


If you’re interested in cinematography, a handy way to be pay more attention to it is to watch films on mute. Here’s to improving our cinematic literacy!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Inspiration folders

I know a few artists that keep one or more inspiration folders, whether online or offline, so I wanted to talk a bit about how important I’ve found this to be.

Panel by the amazing Roy Crane
Art by the amazing Roy Crane

Making art is a long and solitary pursuit and it’s easy to get discouraged. I’ve found that keeping a folder with artists who I admire and whose work speaks to me helps keep me motivated.

Stuart Immonen
Stuart Immonen

Whenever I’m feeling drained or worn down I look through my inspiration folder, which I keep on Pinterest. I pin every work that I find has an impact on me, whether it’s some technique I find interesting, layouts that make me think, good composition, gorgeous colours etc. It can have a direct impact on my work, or it can just be there because it’s an amazing piece of art.

These are works that inspire me to create, that propel me forward when there’s no gas left in the tank. I look at these works and think “I want to make something as powerful as that!” (even if it takes me ten years).

Pinterest is easily accessible, but I also have a lot of gorgeous books, many Art Of books that get me fired up as a creator. Disney books are amazing in this regard, the amount of talent contained in a single Art Of book is well worth the retail price.

Inspiring books
This is maybe like…2%

So if you haven’t got an inspiration folder already, give it a try! Buy some art books that appeal to you, go on the hunt for awesome art online and collect it in your Inspiration folder.

It’s cold out there, so save some amazing art to keep you warm!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Clockmaker’s Granddaughter – Process

I thought I might share some process work for The Clockmaker’s Granddaughter preview pages. If you missed them, have a read of the 10 page preview here. Here’s a look at how Page 10, the big spread came about.

Whoops, mind the hair continuity!

I had a lot of fun with this one. I find it more enjoyable to draw nature than buildings and cities. It’s also a lot easier to achieve depth, because you pretty much just overlap things and vary the sizes, so no tedious perspective work! Here are some images I used for reference. You’ll notice that I didn’t take the exact poses or composition of any of the pictures, they were mostly used to inform how tree branches and leaves looks in correct perspective.

Page_10_references (1)     Page_10_references (2)

Page_10_references (4)    Page_10_references (3)

Even though I inked them terribly, I love the mountains.

To contrast, here’s a look at one of the panels on page 1 that required a lot of perspective work. I started with a horizon line. I actually have the left and right sheets taped to my drawing desk so that it’s easy to establish a horizon for whatever panel or page I’m working on, I just move the central page up or down.

Page 1_panel 2 start

Next, I actually draw the stuff. (so much stuff in the first 3 pages)

CMGD_Panel 2_Page1
Real time! (I wish…)

And the finished pencils and inks.



Yep, even though only a third of what I drew made it into the final page, I made sure to draw the entire room so I could get the right perspective. I do this a lot. My opinion is that perspective (especially in an artificial environment) is extremely important and well worth the effort and time put into drawing it out. And it’s kind of fun I guess? Also, I need the practice because below is what it would have looked like without a perspective grid. Utterly horrible.

“Perspective grid” versus “just wing it”

Here are some of the images I used for reference when constructing the clockmaker’s shop.

CMGD_shop_ref (1) CMGD_shop_ref (2) CMGD_shop_ref (3)CMGD_shop_ref (4)    CMGD_shop_ref (5)

CMGD_shop_ref (6)    CMGD_shop_ref (7)

Pinterest is great for reference images, especially when researching a particular period. If you’re curious, here’s a link to my research and reference board for CMGD. I pinned way more than I ended up using (so far), but it all helped to inform the visuals of the story.

Lastly, here’s a look at how I constructed this panel from page 9 from 2 different images.

I knew I wanted this shot:


So I went and posed for it:

What hand was the knife supposed to be in again?
What hand was the knife supposed to be in again?

And the result:













That’s all the (vaguely) interest stuff. If you liked this, follow me on Twitter for more upcoming posts.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Clockmaker’s Granddaughter

I’m excited to announce the graphic novel I’ve been working on with Hugo Boylan, and lettered by the excellent Kerrie Smith, called “The Clockmaker’s Granddaughter“, coming next fall!

Until then, enjoy a 10 page preview and follow our Twitter accounts (@julienickart @hugoboylan) for snippets as we keep working away at it.

Was it all true?

Ever since she was a young girl Reegan’s Grandfather taught her everything he knew about clocks. At least that’s what she thought until one fatal night.

Now she has to uncover the mysteries of the worlds within the minutes and find her way back home, or be stranded forever in time.

Hope you like it!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Julie Nick Projects 2015 Collection

Julie Nick Collection

I’ll be at Thought Bubble Festival this weekend! You can find me at Table 85 in the TB Marquee, courtesy of my awesome collaborators Hugo Boylan and Kerrie Smith, at their Superhero Helpdesk table!


I’ll be selling a collection of projects I’ve worked on this year which includes:

  • My Poe adaptation, Silence
  • The Black&White version of Tug of War with Kerrie Smith
  • AND a preview of a brand new project, a graphic novel I’m working on with Hugo Boylan called The Clockmaker’s Granddaughter!


52 pages for only £ 5 ! First 20 copies include a free sketch!

If you’re going, come say hi at table 85 in the TB Marquee!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather