Robot Spotlight Concept Illustration

So I decided to give myself a crash-course in using Adobe Flash and Final Cut Pro to create a video that turned out, well, not so great (the resolution stinks). But it’s my first time using those programs and I was in a hurry to actually complete something before the morning. Well, it’s almost 8 am and I’ve been up all night, so I probably spent too much time on this stuff.

In any case, Plain Joe Studios sent me on a bluesky to Gateway Church in Arizona to help create a new spatial story for their children’s ministry environment. I was there several days, and there was one night I woke up at 4am and couldn’t sleep because I had this idea for a rotating spotlight light-fixture; so I got up and created this in Procreate in several hours.

Speaking of sleeping in, I’m off to bed. I just can’t seem to get on a regular sleeping schedule…

Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Advertisements

Clip Studio Paint is the New Photoshop … For Me

Although I illustrate almost exclusively in Photoshop, I’ve used Clip Studio Paint EX for lettering comics because it has useful tools designed for making that job so much easier. Otherwise, I haven’t really played with the program at all, even though I’ve been wanting to do so.

While up late into the night (because I’m a night-owl and can’t seem to get on a normal schedule), I decided to launch the program and check out its brushes. And honestly, while I’ll still be using Photoshop for a while, I have to say that inking and painting in CSP is so much more fun and its brushes are so much nicer and natural that Photoshop.

Here’s just a page of doodles done while playing with the program. Nothing fancy or “nice” because I was just enjoying getting a feel for the pen tool and brushes and wasn’t trying to create something to post.

Another nice thing about CSP that I think is better than Photoshop are (as I already mentioned) the tools available for creating comic books, not to mention tools for simple frame-by-frame animating. And best of all, you can render in vector without the STUPID, counter-intuitive techniques required by Adobe Illustrator, a program I (and many other artists who came from traditional media) simply loath.

As far as the many custom tools or blending options Photoshop offers for photo-editing which we artists utilize for illustrating, I don’t know how many such tools CSP has yet. Maybe not as many (for now). However, the advantages it has over Photoshop is still pretty impressive.

So while I won’t be switching to this program just yet, I plan to learn it and keep it as a backup program when/if my OS X no longer supports CS6 (I haven’t updated my iMac OS in years because their updates tend to take things away or mess things up. Gone are the days when I was actually excited about an Apple OS update and was willing to pay for it. Now I don’t even want it for free). The thing is, I suspect that day will eventually come, and I refuse to allow Adobe to extort a monthly tribute from me rather than sell me a copy of Photoshop, so I’ll be looking for a new program to replace Photoshop CS6 for illustrating. At first, I thought Corel Painter would be my go-to replacement program if I had to leave Photoshop behind, but now I think CSP will most likely be the software I turn to. In fact, if I can find the time to learn it, I’d like to start using it for my professional work right now, or maybe bounce between CSP and Photoshop and use the best feature of both programs.

So if you’re worried about what you’ll do when your Pre-CC copy of Photoshop is no longer supported and you want a software you can purchase and own, you may want to check out CSP.

Incidentally, Clip Studio Paint has a mobile version for the iPad, but it’s a subscription-based app, which baffles me because the only reason I’m willing to use their desktop version is because I can buy it. Hopefully they don’t do something stupid and start requiring a monthly fee for their desktop version. If they do, I’ll dump them in a heartbeat and use Corel Painter.

Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

 

 

Miscellaneous Ramblings About Comic-Book Stuff, Part 2

Unlike Part 1, this rambling about comics will address something I’ve seen in comics as of late that personally annoy me. The two examples provided are from titles of pulp characters that deserved a better treatment.

Disclaimer: The following is just my opinion. If you happen to like these comics, don’t let me rain on your parade.

These days many comic-book colorists handle a lot of the shading, highlighting, and special-effects decisions because of the available digital tools. With respect to effects, I’ve seen some comics where the colorist took it upon himself to add effects independent of whatever the penciller or inker intended. Here are two examples below. See if you can guess what’s wrong with the following page from a Doc Savage comic:

Did you catch it? Here’s a similar example from a Spider-Man title:

In the first example, you’ll notice the penciller drew clouds. In the second example, the penciller drew smoke. However, in both cases the colorists decided to include their own clouds and smoke over, under, or around the drawn effects using Photoshop brushes.

So what’s my beef? Well, in the first place, the penciller already designed the page by indicating precisely where they wanted clouds and/or smoke. In the second place, graphically-drawn clouds and smoke clash with realistically rendered clouds/smoke. Now, it’s not that you can’t mix styles on an illustration, but doing so requires intentional planning which doesn’t involve different styles of the same objects. For example, you can have a figure designed in one style in front of a landscape rendered in a different style and that can look just peachy. But you probably wouldn’t want to see Wilma Flinstone with realistic hair. The thing is, in the examples above, the colorist made stylistic decisions that were an afterthought, and it shows. Now I’m not knocking the talent of the colorist as far as the application of coloring goes. I’m really just commenting on the editorial decisions that were made independent of what the penciller’s design seemed to indicate.

Okay, I have one more beef with something else I’ve seen in modern comics. The thing is, there are different genres of comics and that’s fine. But comic writers really should keep comic stories in their respective genres. Now, there’s something I like to call “white wig movies.” Those are the kind of movies catering mostly to women, which usually involve people two centuries past wearing white wigs who apparently have no jobs; they usually sit around all day, overdressed, drinking tea and talking about who is or is not good enough to marry so-and-so (ya know, girly relationship stuff). It seems that the sitting or standing around and having conversations (stuff that puts the average comic fan to sleep) has crept into comics in a bad way. These talking-head comics seem to use repetitive panels that feature nearly the same thing, over and over. It’s really a waste of ink and paper, in my opinion.

Continuing along those lines, I recently picked up a Shadow comic and flipped through it. The first red flag was that the Shadow, the main character, was only on a few pages in the entire issue. What was really conspicuous, however, was that it seemed like I was looking at the same panel over and over throughout the entire issue. Here are some of the pages, which I’ll show kind of small so as to not take up too much space and also so as not to bore you to death (these are not presented in any particular order, because it really doesn’t matter for the purpose of making my point):

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just glancing at these pages this small allows you to grasp just how repetitive the pages and panels appear. Now I realize that the writer was trying to be clever and tell a story from the patient’s point of view, but that kind of story just doesn’t fly for a medium that has limited space, is dependent on visual design and appeal, and is consumed by persons who want to have some fun enjoying intellectual junk food. Personally, it would torture me to have to read this comic story, much less have to draw it.

A final example of this repetitive-panel practice is seen below: Because the characters are very well drawn, it’s difficult to know whether the boring repetitive panel design was the artist’s idea or if it was required by the script, but I suspect it’s the latter because writers seems to have more control over what the artist must draw. Plus, I’m assuming that an artist who can draw this well is a better designer than this.

So I can only conclude that this awful trend in comic design is really the fault of writers who have no idea how to write for a constrained visual medium like comics. A great character drawing isn’t enough to overcome a poorly written story or script. The story is king, and the art is simply a means to communicate the story. (Though, if the art is really great, I’ll buy a comic just for the art, but my idea of great art includes great layouts as well.)

So there’s my rant. If you agree or disagree or if you just think grown people shouldn’t be reading comics, feel free to comment.

Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Miscellaneous Ramblings About Comic-Book Stuff, Part 1

I came across some old and new comics in the last six months or so and decided to ramble a bit and share some pointless thoughts. So here goes…

I saw these two older issues of Marvel’s Amazing Adventures, both from 1973, and I would have ignored them entirely had I not noticed that the stories took place 45 years into the future, i.e., right now in 2018. Well, actually, I noticed the future date of the story and then ignored them entirely. But I kept it in mind to share these pages because it’s interesting what kind of scenarios people think might represent a believable future. Half-naked people fighting in the streets with swords and axes clearly missed the mark. The page below, however, accurately predicted one thing about 2108. Can you guess what it is?

If you guessed “man bun,” you win.

Let’s move on to the false advertising in comics to which I and countless other children were subjected. While this may sound like a complaint, those ads managed to fuel my imagination with their wildly false promises like “a bowl full of happiness” (which sounds more like an ad for a laxative). That sense of wonder remained with me for a long time, mostly because I was never able to afford a lot of that stuff and consequently never discovered it was all junk (unlike like the poor souls who pedaled their hearts out delivering newspapers to earn money, only to find out they were duped).

The most popular and well-known rip-off were Sea-Monkeys. Check out the now-familiar-to-everyone-not-living-in-a-cave ad for “instant pets” below…

This wasn’t even the most blatant misrepresentation (in later years, the company ran its ads showing a small image of how these creatures actually appear; probably an inclusion that was necessitated to fend off angry parents and their lawyers. However, I wanted to show you one of the misleading versions of the ad I saw as a kid). Some ads actually featured these critters in lab coats and, as you can see above, these critters were “so eager to please. They can even be trained” (a promise sounding like it belongs in mail-order bride catalogs). Honestly, I thought this is what they looked like and I wanted to own my own little people so bad. I dreamed about training them to do cool stuff and they could be my minions (I have kids now, so that itch has been scratched, though not really because they wont perform juggling tricks for me). This is the only product from a comic ad that I eventually was able to see in person because some friends of mine were duped into buying them. Imagine my chagrin when I saw what looked like small bits of pulp floating in watered down citrus juice rather than a collection of Lilliputians that included what would be the closest thing to an actual naked lady a ten-year-old boy would ever get to see in person (I’m kidding. That thought actually never entered my mind. No, seriously, it didn’t. No, really, I’m being serious). Anyway, that dream ended on a sour note, but there was always … the nuclear sub!

What better way to bomb those school-yard bullies back into the stone age than with a nuke from an actual submarine costing less than a sawbuck? Well, I never had the opportunity to see what this falsehood-in-advertising actually looked like, but, like the sea-monkeys, I’ll bet it was a big disappointment despite the promises of “rockets that fire” and “firing torpedoes.”

“PATCHES ARE IN!” …

And now they’re out. Moving on to other comic ads…

“TOO SKINNY?”

And if you ordered their tablets and ate too many of them, they had you covered with what might be considered an antidote…

I wonder what you’d look like if you alternated between the two tablets? probably like someone walking through a carnival fun-house with those distorted hall-of-mirrors: “Now I’m fat, now I’m skinny, now I’m fat again. Woo-hoo, now I’m getting car-sick! Now I’m taller!” Speaking of which…

“BE TALLER!”

I was trying to guess how they accomplished the magical feat of making you grow taller, but those sneaky ad writers anticipated my wanting to save a quarter and eliminated my speculations as to how it’s done by listing how it’s not done. Is it done with exercise? Nope. “Drugs?” Nope. “Elevators?” Nope. “Appliances”??? I’m not sure why anyone would suspect the secret to growing taller is by being strapped to a blender or washing machine. Maybe attaching a vacuum hose to your head and hoping it’ll suck you closer to the ceiling would work for some people, but, no, that wasn’t my first guess. I suppose if I really wanted to know, I would have had to send two-bits to the “Height Increase Bureau,” probably located in the same building as the ‘Women’s Mustache Reduction Agency.’

“75 FREE GIFTS”

Sure, the “gifts” are free, but the list of free gifts will cost you a buck (and it’ll turn out that in order to collect the free gifts, you had to collect them in person at a dark alley from a shady-looking guy named Rufus who keeps these gifts in his car trunk, next to the dead bodies). This is how lots of companies made money. It wasn’t the products that made them rich. It was selling catalogs or information lists. Moving on…

“Learn how to become a GAME WARDEN, GOV’T HUNTER” and you could catch “America’s favorite pet” for free, saving the cost of $29.95 (but be careful, because that “Rascal” will tear your eyes out given half a chance).

“YOU CAN HAVE A HE-MAN VOICE.”

Or, you can keep your she-man voice if you like. Maybe alternate between the two when you want to have fun during a job interview.

Okay, enough silliness for now. Keep an eye out for more comic ramblings later.

Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

My New Light-Box!!!

One of the tools that would have made things easier when I was working in traditional media (before completely digitizing my workflow with a Cintiq) is a good light-box, which would have allowed me to use any paper I like rather than relying on graphic paper or vellum to clean up my rough drawings. While I like graphic paper, it can be too thin for wet media, including ink when applied liberally with a brush.

I’ve decided recently that I’d like to get back into using traditional media, if only for my own projects which have no deadline and don’t require the efficiency of a fully digital workflow (though I do plan on utilizing the Cintiq where it still makes sense to do so). This time around I’d like to use a light-box so I can work with a thicker paper, like bristol board or even watercolor paper.

In the past, commercial light-boxes tended to be expensive for anything larger than 9×12 inches. I figured I could save money by building it myself, which, given my ineptitude at crafting and building, would have looked something like this:

And then I realized I didn’t have to use old bulb technology, given the ubiquitous availability of LED lighting. Still, my lightbox would have turned out looking like the above design, minus the giant Edison bulb perched on top. That was till too clunky.

And then I figured that if I thought of using LED technology for a light-box, and since many artists use the light from their iPad or other tablet as a light-box, then surely a company out there has started manufacturing LED light-boxes. After mentioning this to my lovely bride, she does a quick search and sends me a link for a light-box large enough for my desired use. And it’s flat to boot, which makes it perfect for laying on my drawing board without bulking things up.

Well, it arrived yesterday, so here are a few pics I thought I’d share. I didn’t place anything next to it to give you the sense of its scale, but it’s “Yuuuge” and can accommodate something like professional comic art boards (I bought this on Amazon which advertised the size as 21 x 2 x 29.8 inches, though it looks a lot thinner than 2″. Heck, it doesn’t even look like it’s an inch thick). As you can see below, it sits nice and flat on the drawing board.

The power button is one of those surface-flat, touch-sensitive power buttons on which you don’t even have to push. It’s pretty sensitive, because I’ve accidentally turned it on while reaching for the power cord near it. When it’s powered on or off, the light comes on and turns off very gradually. It’s not like flipping on a lamp.

My wife made me a cover for my Cintiq so it doesn’t collect dust while not in use, and I asked if she’d make one for this as well. She immediately dug out some fabric and made a cover to keep this clean and neat. What an awesome wife — I’M NOT WORTHY!

This thing is so flat and slim that it’s actually difficult to wrap the edges of the cover around it. That’s not a complaint. It’s actually nice that it lays so flat.

So there’s the quick reveal. Since it just arrived, I didn’t have time or an opportunity to try it out or to take a picture showing it in use. Maybe I’ll get to that in a future post if/when I do an actual review of this.

Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Disney’s “Bambi” – by Pierre Lambert

I probably have most of Pierre Lambert’s art books on Disney animated films (except for the tome on Sleeping Beauty). The most recent book is “Bambi,” which I found at Stuart NG‘s booth while walking through Wonder Con this past weekend with my lovely bride (you can order it HERE). Like Lambert’s other Disney books, this was in French, but Stuart NG included an English translation, which was nice (but honestly, I get these books for the art and rarely read them). From Stuart NG’s blog:

“Like those volumes, this volume is licensed only for France and will never appear in print in English. So the text is in French; however, anyone ordering this book from Stuart Ng Books will receive our exclusive English language translation booklet, illustrated with five unpublished deer movement studies by Rico Lebrun!”

While Bambi isn’t one of my favorite Disney films in terms of story, it’s definitely one of my favorites in terms of art. If you look at the deer in the final segment of Disney’s Fantasia 2000, it doesn’t even begin to approximate the animation quality of the deer (or other animals) in Bambi.

My favorite thing about “art of –” books is seeing the art in development. I really like seeing how characters develop.

But my absolute favorite part of such books are the backgrounds, both in their conceptual stages and their finished stages without any character overlays.

I really enjoyed Ty Wong’s dreamy background designs for this film. I believe Wong did some work for Hallmark’s greeting cards, which makes sense given that his work certainly provokes an emotional response.

I absolutely dig pencil renderings like the one below. I wish I could capture that mysterious sense of mood. It would be fun illustrating an entire story in this kind of style.

One of the workers in Stuart NG’s booth told me that the next book Lambert would be making would be on the art of Peter Pan which I’m really looking forward to seeing. Peter Pan is another favorite of mine. Well, pretty much all of the films Disney produced while Walt was still alive are my favorites. After that, I prefer Pixar’s offerings over anything made by Disney.

For the record, I’m not in any way associated with Stuart NG. However, since I bought my copy from them, and since this book will not be imported and can’t be found on Amazon’s USA website, I though t I’d give Stuart NG a plug, as they provide a service Amazon doesn’t, namely, they take the risk of carrying the book in their inventory for customers to actually handle and review before purchasing. I think that risk deserves my patronage, so I buy from them if I can. I encourage everyone to support your local brick-and-mortar store if you’re financially able, before Amazon puts them all out of business.

Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

In My Mailbox Today! – Wally Wood IDW Artist Edition

Well, not really in my mailbox, because it’s much too large to fit. More like, on my porch…

As I’ve mentioned in recent posts, I’ve been reading, perusing, and acquiring more comic-related art books because I’m currently working on a comic series and I’m always looking for new sources of inspiration. IDW has turned me on to artists’ work everyone in the industry is familiar with but which I never really appreciated until I was able to see in the Artist Edition series. This series reproduces artist’s work at their original size after having been shot/scanned in color from the original pencil/inked art, retaining the actual color of the aged pages with all of the blue pencil and correction marks. It’s the closest thing to holding the original art in your hands. What’s really nice about these editions is that they allow you to see the black and white work without any coloring to distract you from the beautiful pencil or ink work. It also gives you a better insight into the creative process.

IDW started producing these books around 2010 or so, the first being Dave Stevens Rocketeer Artist Edition, which is the first one I acquired a few years ago because I’m a big fan of Steven’s work. The second Artist Edition IDW produced was an edition of Wally Wood’s EC work. It immediately sold out and was so popular that IDW released a second edition, however, both editions have out of print out now for years and can cost over five times their original retail prices on those rare occasions they pop up on the market (which is why I’ve never purchased one).

Because of its popularity, IDW has released an Artisan Edition which is a small, soft-cover edition with a different cover and a little less content (for about a third of the original retail price of the Artist Edition). I had this in mind to eventually get since I never thought I’d find an affordable copy of the Wally Wood Artist Edition. Recently, however, a first edition popped up on ebay at a little over the original retail price so I nabbed it.

I’m not going to review it because it’s been thoroughly reviewed online since it came out in 2011, but I’ll link to a couple videos. I’d also encourage you to check out this excellent review of it (as well as other Artist Editions) HERE.

I’m savoring this tome as I study it (it arrived this morning and I haven’t gone through it all yet).

To give you an idea of the size of these twice-up editions, here’s a pic of the book next to my guitar. Yes, it’s huge (the book, not the guitar)!

The following are from YouTube (i.e., not produced by myself). But they’re interesting to watch if you want a quick flip-through of the book.

And another review for our Spanish-speaking friends…

Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Video: Another Quick-Sketch

Another quick doodle…

Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Doodling During Movie Time

Sometimes, while sitting and “watching” a movie (either which I’ve watched a million times or am simply not in the mood to give my attention) I’ll grab the 12″ iPad and doodle stuff using Procreate. I could always sketch on a drawing pad, which I do at times, but I like sketching digitally also because I don’t waste paper on scribbles that are unimportant to me. The way I doodle digitally, I’ll usually do some quick sketches and then delete them immediately and then sketch some more, rinse, lather, repeat, you get the picture. Once in a while I’ll keep some odd scribble to share, which is what I usually post here.

This time, I colored one for fun and the rest are really quick sketches that I usually delete because I sketch so many of them that there’s no point in keeping them. I thought I’d share some to give others an idea of what I usually throw away.

Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

IDW Artist Edition: Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four “World’s Greatest”

In 2015, I wrote a post about how I had acquired some IDW Artist Editions. At the time, I mentioned how I was never a fan of Will Eisner’s The Spirit until I saw scans of the original art in both of the IDW Artist Editions.

In like manner, I was never a big fan of Jack Kirby’s figure drawing. Frankly, I never got all the hoopla over him or why he was crowned the “King of comics.” And then I had the same experience with Kirby as I had with Eisner. I saw the IDW Fantastic Four artist editions of Kirby’s original work and it blew me away. I suddenly “got it” and understood why Kirby was king. Every page of his work seems to be filled with action and dynamism. His compositions and story-telling are powerful and they never bore you. It’s something that really manifested by seeing scans of the original inked pages without the distraction of color or poor reproduction.

This really hit home for me when I was taking a stroll with my daughter and came across a comic shop, which we entered. I picked up an issue of The Shadow and the entire comic was essentially dialogue and boring panels of people just talking (or so it seemed from the flip-through of the pages). In fact, I think I only spotted one or two panels containing The Shadow in the entire comic. And this is something that I seem to see more and more. It’s as if no one is capable of telescoping a story into essential elements so that it gets to the point in a single issue or maybe three-issue-at-the-most story arc. Or perhaps comic-buyers today just enjoy slow, drawn out soap-operas. Who knows. Frankly, I’ve gone back to reading the stuff printed on newsprint that I read as a kid. No, it’s not fancy stuff and the stories may be campy, but they’re more entertaining than almost anything I see today (of course there are exceptions and some stuff today is great, but my comment is addressing what seems to me to be the general trend).

Anyway, from now on, count me in as a fan of Kirby.

I’m too lazy to do a flip-through video of the book, but I’d like to link to this YouTube video of a gentleman reviewing the first IDW artist edition of Kirby’s Fantastic Four (the book above is the second volume of Kirby’s FF work, both books being released in 2017 by IDW to commemorate Kirby’s 100th birthday). The reviewer does a fine job commenting on the artwork. If you’re a fan of Kirby and still haven’t seen either artist edition, watch this video and you’ll want to run out and get them.

Enjoy!