Thursday, July 17, 2008

Inky dismount

I wish that someday I will be able to use a brush as well as Karl Story, but until that day comes I will continue to slice pages up with the razor tip of my Namiki. Holbein 354 black flows quite nicely through the pen and lays down a serious black. I tried running Holbein special black through an older Osmiroid fountain pen once and I believe it's still stuck in that pen. That stuff is dangerously black.

It's always fun to play with this hard cut style. It's really all a balancing act between small cut graphics and long sweeping shapes. I want to create spaces that trap the eyes like a maze and combine those with giant expanses of positive and negative space. I feel that one helps to amplify the other.

I liked how the pieces turned out individually, but as a triptych they really flow well. Perhaps the three brothers should meet every decade or so and bring the pieces together. If they do, they should take care not to say their names backwards when the pieces unite. It could awaken something… terrible.

Pencils... sort of

After another long wait for a break in my schedule, and constant friendly reminders from Scott, it was pencil time.

About 10 years ago both Cully and I gradually switched over to using Col-erase blue pencils on pages. Sanford col-erase 20044 Blue to be exact. It's actually more a product of moving into the digital world. The color is almost a rich navy blue, but it erases to a bright non-photo blue, and this color is virtually invisible to a grayscale scan. The reflective quality of graphite worked well for shooting pages on a stat camera, but today's scanners are far more sensitive.

I took these pencils to a far more finished state than I normally do. This was so Scott could get a good look at where I wanted to go. When I'm tackling a convention sketch I like doing most of the drawing with ink. It keeps things spontaneous, and I like figuring it out as I go. These pieces were more akin to doing covers, and I really got the opportunity to chisel the graphics in stone.

If you're feeling good, print one of these out and take a shot at the inks.

Three bats for three brothers

My buddy Scott wanted to do something nice for his three brothers. He thought it would be cool to get each of them an original Batman pen and ink illustration. He asked me if I would do it and I naturally agreed, but then the waiting began. Early one morning before heading into the studio it hit me. Since these images are for three brothers, it would be really cool to somehow graphically tie them together. Yeah, there is the fact that each piece would go to a separate brother and hang on different walls possibly in different states, but they would always be tied together. I thought this formed a satisfying allegory to the bond between brothers.

Normally I'd tackle something like this on a scratch pad or sketchbook, but I was home at the time and too lazy to go on a search, so I fired up a pen tablet PC.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tuesday night lights

Here is another offering from last night's figure drawing session. This is the same model in the "all new" post from last month. She is colorfully pale, and reflects colors with equal intensity as she projects them. She is a perfect model for studying color temperature.
I'm using NuPastels, but I wanted to play with a different paper. I found some Roma paper on clearance at the art supply store and bought their remaining supply. The paper has a nice soft sandpaper tooth but I was a little concerned about the pattern embedded in the grain, and the obnoxious watermark. But how can you lose at a dollar a sheet? It was love at first line. Colors blush on to this paper like a soft breeze, and it keeps them in plain sight even after tooling and rubbing. It drinks up the pigment and begs for more more. This is great paper, and I curse my limited supply.

The edge of bright

In his notes on painting, Howard Pyle talks about a quality of color and light that one should try to carefully observe. His theory states that the richest chroma of a color happens on the edge that joins light to shadows. He explains that true color can not happen in the shadows because of the absence of light, and true color is not available in light as well because it is obscured by the quality and color of the light itself. Therefore your purest color should knit your lights and shadows together.
I often find this technique difficult to adhere to, but it is a must when dealing with flesh tones. It adds a translucency to the skin and makes it feel like flesh rather than a painted mannequin.

Since figure drawing is the research and development for illustration, I use it to explore this and many other picture making theories.

Flash #245 dismount

As always I wanted to keep the colors clean and simple. I try to use colors as a way to magnify composition and storytelling. It's all too easy to get caught in the trap of using color to polish forms. I think that can ultimately be detrimental to overall composition.

Most of the oily smoke in the background was done in Painter using distortion brushes. Those are a personal favorite, and they add energy to an otherwise flat background.

I'm having a ball on these covers, and I think I'll try to push things even more.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Starting lines

I ink with just about anything I can get my hands on. Different methods and different tools create different looks, and I believe too much rigid loyalty on a specific technique can create stagnation. The Flash covers seem to call for a hard and fast tool, and quill seem to be the way to go. I'm using a fountain pen because it can take more of a heavy-handed beating than most of the dip quills I've used. I get pretty nutty about antique fountain pens, as they are the best due to their craftsmanship and flexibility, but you just don't find those every day. Newer quill pens are just made to mimic ballpoint pens, and the quality generally doesn't hold up. After an extensive search I came across the Namiki Falcon. It's a Japanese pen made in the classic style. It weighs in at about $130, and that's ridiculously expensive compared to the $2.00+- cost of dip nibs. But once you start laying down lines with this thing you completely understand the cost. You can get brush like lines, and it feels more like drawing rather then inking. It is a joy to be holding.

Ask me if you can take it for a spin next time you catch me at a convention.

Moving still

I'm currently working on a series of Flash covers, and I'm quite enjoying the assignment. My initial thought was to try to make every cover a study in motion and distortion, but my favorite design for this current cover required static figures. My thoughts on this sketch was to try to shift the movement from the figure to the composition. In this sketch I deliberately turned Flash’s head away in an effort to keep the reader's eyes moving along the looping lightning bolts, but the editor asked me to change his head position so that he would engage the reader. I was reluctant to make this change at first, but in the end I have to admit it lead to a stronger image.