Palomino Blackwing – A Pencil By Any Other Name…

I do most of my professional work on a Cintiq these days. Even when I was still on a drawing board, I stuck with technical pencils to avoid all of the sharpening required with wood-cased pencils. Still, there’s a certain charm about using wood-cased pencils, so that’s what I often use when doodling chicken-scratches.

Now, a pencil is a pencil is a pencil, and at the end of the day the quality of your drawing is going to come more from your mind and hands than from the pencil. Nevertheless, your frame of mind can be affected by the satisfaction of using a particular tool that inspires you or makes your job easier. One pencil that has been given lots of attention because of its widespread use (especially by animators, writers, and composers) is the original Blackwing 602.

Given the big hoopla about the “new” Palomino Blackwing which are made in Japan (and I realize that “new” is a relative term, since I’m late to this party), I thought I’d try them out, so I bought a box at the Stuart NG booth while at the Comic Con last month. (these Blackwings are really more like reproductions and not from the original production 602s which were discontinued in the late 90’s. You can check out more about the original Blackwing HERE.)

Off hand, It’s a beautiful design if tool aesthetics is your thing, what with its unique ferrule design and replaceable eraser. I also picked up a two-step, long-point sharpener, since an electric sharpener eats up pencils and wastes too much lead. Lots of these type of hand-held sharpeners have cheap blades that break your lead or don’t really sharpen well, but the German-made blades on this work quite well, though I’m not sure where to purchase new replacement blades.

These pencils come in a nicely designed box of twelve. I no longer go through pencils like I used to, so I gave one to each of my kids to try out as well since they do a lot of drawing.

I didn’t have time to do a nice drawing with this pencil for the purpose of this post, but I wanted to show a comparison between a couple other good drawing pencils: the Schwan Stabilo 8008 and an old Faber Castell 9000 4B pencil made in Germay.

All three of the following pencils are really smooth. The Stabilo 8008 is probably the smoothest, but it’s the lightest in tone as well, so if you want a darker lead, the other two are better.

The nice thing about the Blackwing is that it’s both firm and dark (though this one is softer than the “new” 602). Usually, I find dark leads are too soft or grainy.

Surprisingly, I found the Faber Castell 9000 which I had fumbling around my tool drawer to perform as well or better than the Blackwing. In fact, I liked it so much that I went online to try to find more of these older versions, but I could only find two, each for slightly more than what the new Blackwing costs. They’re still manufactured, but I never know whether to trust newer models because it seems everyone’s manufacturing is done so cheaply now in order to cut costs. I’m not suggesting the new Faber Castell 9000s under production are not good. I just don’t feel like spending the money to find out. In any case, if I ever come across more of these older 4B 9000s, I’m grabbing them as fast as I can. In the meantime, the Blackwing works quite well and offers lots of drawing satisfaction.

I scrawled out a few swatches of each for comparison.

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Comic Con 2017 – THE LOOT

I acquire a lot of art books. I mean, a LOT. Most of them serve as inspiration when I just feel like getting into a certain mood before tackling a project. Others provide ideas for color palettes, lighting, or anatomy reference for animals and people, and still others help with period costuming (unfortunately, I have no access to a theatre company’s costume or prop department, so I make due with period films or period artwork for reference).

So my trek to the Comic Con is really to see what’s new in pop art and to hunt for new and inspiring art books (as I’ve stated elsewhere, Comic Con these days is less about comics and more about pop art, gaming, films, toys, with some comic stuff thrown in there to appease the die-hard comic fans).

In the past I made a beeline to Bud Plant‘s booth, which was a great booth for art books. Unfortunately, Amazon has killed small book dealers and Bud Plant, after surviving going completely out of business, has been reduced to a small table in the back, near the food area. It’s really sad, because I’ve purchased some hard-to-find art books from them in the past.

The other book-seller I make sure to peruse is Stuart NG, who seems to have a healthy business due to his plentiful offering of imported books (usually from France) which aren’t something you usually find on Amazon or in your average bookstore.

And then I may purchase a sketchbook or something from the many artists who are there to show their stuff.

So here are some very poor iPad pics of the stuff I hauled back home…

The two books on top are children’s picture books in that unspeakable language, French. I’m a sucker for a charming children’s picture book. It doesn’t matter that I can’t read them, because I really only enjoy them for the art. The Dean Cornwell book is something I’ve wanted for years because I really admire his art. He’s simply a fantastic Golden Age illustrator.

The books in this unforgivably blurry photo were all free. The top two are James Bama books which were given away by Flesk publications. I suspect they had quite an inventory they couldn’t move and it would be cheaper to get a tax write-off by giving them away than to let them collect dust in a warehouse. I already own a Bama book with his DocSavage illustrations. These two are more personal western art, art which is well done, but not really of much interest to me. Still, who am I to turn down free art books, right? The bottom left item is a Heritage Auction House catalog featuring a lot of Disney and other animation art for sale.

Oh, and I didn’t shoot a pic of it, but in case you were wondering, I got DC’s The Flash pin with the Con bag (for those of you who know to what I refer).

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Cozmo’s Billboards

Cozmo's Day OffOne of the backgrounds I created for the interactive iOS children’s book app, Cozmo’s Day Off, by Ayars Animation contained an alien city scene, with ships and rockets zipping about. As on all of the pages, there were many fun little interactive elements on this page for kids to discover.

One of the interactive elements on page 8 is the ability to rub a couple of billboards which exposes different ads underneath. You can see below where they’re located on the page.

Cozmo's Day Off page 8

Here are some of the silly billboard designs I created for this interactive feature. The really fun thing about producing this book app was the freedom I had to be as creative or goofy as I pleased. In fact, we had far more ideas for this book app than we could feasibly implement.

Cozmo's Billboards

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Starting My Workday

Many a day I wake up at the crack of noon, get dressed (in something that covers my underwear), and walk to work (down the hall) to begin work by “warming up”.

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Character Design

Because I’m busy, here’s another repost for those who missed it the first time around…

Waaaay back, over a decade past, around the time I created Cozmo, I had created a bunch of other characters that might inhabit Cozmo’s universe. There were robots, animal-like creatures, aliens in costume, and so forth. These were of a whimsical nature, because I had originally intended them for the giftware market, which, at the time, was saturated with “cute” characters. I’ll share more about Cozmo’s beginnings in later posts, but for now I thought I’d share one such character design.

Like Cozmo, this character never saw production. Come to think of it, I never even got around to pitching it, because Cozmo never really ever got off the ground, and there didn’t seem to be any point in trying to pitch more of these characters.

Jump forward to the 2011 Comic Con, where I met Kevin Freeman from Animation Rigs. Animation Rigs produces rigs for animation projects and for students who haven’t the time to model their own characters. Kevin had purchased the license to create a rig of this character. When they had completed modeling the character, they sent me the test video below to show me how it turned out.

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The Cat’s Pajamas

Okay, so I’ve let the kids foster a kitten for a while… only for a while. It’s not staying, that’s for sure…

Here’s a character design I did for Animation Rigs.

Cat-Animation-Rigs

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If Other Professions Were Paid Like Artists

I came across this comic on a guitar forum and thought it was worth sharing.

if-other-professions-were-paid-like-artists_zps0972b4f6

WAR OF THE ROCKETMEN Crowdfunding Campaign

Rocketmen3John Semper Jr., producer and head-writer of the 1990’s “SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES”, has finally launched the crowd-funding campaign for “WAR OF THE ROCKETMEN,” on which I did some preliminary concept work.

FG_RocketMan_ComicIf you’re interested in donating to this project, you can do so HERE.

Even if you’re not interested in donating, please just check out John’s presentation video. If it’s something you’d like to see move forward, please share the link with others.

Thanks!

Sky_King


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Odds & Ends

I always thought Kent Mansley was a great antagonist character in Iron Giant, which is one of my favorite Warner Bros animated films. Anyway, I though he’d make for an interesting Monday morning doodle.

Iron-Giant

Speaking of robots, I recently came across a listing on ebay of the same robot toy I had since I was a wee lad. It was probably the only toy I had kept from my childhood.

robot

Unfortunately, there was a time in life where I needed cash and I trusted a co-worker (whom I hardly knew) to sell it for me. Well, I never saw that co-worker after giving him my robot and I never saw a penny from it. So I lost the coolest toy I had from my childhood and I’ve regretted it. Well, it’s only a dumb toy, so I really don’t regret it that much. But it would have been cool to still have something like that from my childhood. Kind of like when people keep their first teddy bear, only in my case it was a robot whose torso spun around 360 degrees with it’s chest-panels popped open and two laser-gun barrels went in and out, making shooting sounds and blinking lights. Heck, that would be a cool toy today, much less back in the 60’s when this metal toy was made. Here are a few pictures from the ebay listing. Mine was exactly like this one. I can’t believe this thing sells for around $100-300 today, depending on condition.robot guns

 

robot box

Yeah, that “Rotate-O-Matic” isn’t a feature you get on today’s cheap, plastic junk. This baby spins from the hip.

On another note, the last day of the Comic Con was today (well, yesterday, if you’re reading this on Monday morning when this post goes up). I only decided to attend the Con on preview night this year. The only thing I picked up while I was there was Mark Schultz’s “Storms At Sea”, an illustrated book which I’ve been waiting for him to complete for the last half-dozen years or so. I was surprised to find that the art was just pencil renderings because these renderings were labeled as “studies” in his other sketchbooks. I suspect he decided it would take too long to actually finish these in ink and just decided to release the book with the graphite renderings. I’m happy to say that I’m not disappointed because Mark’s graphite studies are quite elaborate, and I tend to enjoy them just as much as the inked versions.

storms-at-sea

The text in the book wasn’t much of a real story, but was actually a sort of convoluted sci-fi history of earth, which I found to be a mixed bag of one-world/Illuminati-type conspiracy theories, darwinism, and anthropogenic-global-warming propaganda. I was hoping for a real detective adventure, which I’m sure Mark could have written had he wanted. Instead I think he chose to go into this kind of narrative as an excuse to draw all the cool things he did, which I think is okay if that’s the only way we could have gotten all of this great artwork. If you haven’t seen Mark’s work, this would be a great book to introduce you to his art.

Incidentally, every time I see a sailing ship in that position which you can see on the cover illustration above of “Storms At Sea”, I tend to suspect the artist was inspired by Howard Pyle’s 1905 painting, “Attack on a galleon”, which was also borrowed by Gustaf Tenggren and Frank Frazetta for their respective works. At least Mark Schultz is in good company. You can see Pyle’s painting below as well as those he inspired.

An Attack on a galleonPyle_1905

You can see how Tenggren loosely borrowed the same general wave pattern in the water as well, while Frazetta stayed pretty true to the rear view of the ship (I’m sure there’s some proper nautical term for that part of the ship, but it’s late and I’m currently too lazy to look it up). I always enjoy spotting these kinds of inspired details.

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Cozmo

Here’s a detail from Ayars Animation’s Cozmo app. Every time I open the app and go to this page, I remember how much work it involved; not just because of the illustrating, but because it had to be done in, like, a bazillion layers in order to facilitate the animating and interactive elements (and if you’ve tinkered with the app, you’d have an idea of what I mean).

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 9.55.52 AM

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