Monday, May 2, 2016

ECCC 2016 Follow Up Pt. 2

Didn't make as much progress on my page revisions as I would like to, but I thought I'd share something I've learned recently about how to improve drawing from the imagination. Below is an excellent video I found on YouTube that explains a concept called "iterative drawing". Sycra's channel features some very useful videos for people who want to get better faster but don't really know how.

The idea is you draw the same thing over and over again, changing one detail at a time. By the end, not only have you figure out the "right" way to draw that image, you've also got some interesting alternatives that might not be right for this drawing but could be useful in the future. This is something that I've always sort of done intuitively when designing a character, but as this video explains, there is a way to take a more analytical and productive approach.

One problem I had with the "Stray Cat" story was that the character of the hobo was changing too much from page to page. I was really happy with how I drew him on the first page and basically just traced that image when I could get away with it on later pages.

As you can see, my first two attempts to draw the character looked nothing like the version I was happy with on the first page. So for the third take, I traced the original. Still a lot of room for improvement.

Curious about this concept of iterative drawing, I decided to draw the hobo over and over again, using the first drawing as a base. Even though I still like the original the best, I did stumble upon some interesting options to file away for later.

While I don't think first head in the second row works for the tone I wanted for this story, I still really like the way it looks. I also think the beanies in rows two and four work more simply than the hatching I was doing before. I kind of like the ears sticking out in row three, but it doesn't make sense for how cold it is in the story. I could draw an infinite number of variations, but since I already had a clear mental image of the character, most of the changes I did didn't look better, just different. As Sycra's video explains (seriously, watch it) you can use this approach not just for faces or anatomy, but also for finding intersting landscapes, layouts, action, etc... really anything.

Hope somebody out there finds this useful!

Monday, April 25, 2016

ECCC 2016 Follow Up Part 1

This year for Emerald City Comicon I drew a short ghost story, inspired by real life, that I hoped would demonstrate my strengths and be a welcome change of pace from all the superhero samples I imagine other aspiring artists are showing. The pages I did can be found on my Tumblr here: Stray Cat

In 2015 I got a lot of positive feedback and useful critique of my work, but instead of going back and redrawing those pages, I moved onto some sample pages for Marvel that I was completely unprepared for. In the interim from then and now, I practiced breaking down scripts into layouts, worked a little on my anatomy and did a whole bunch of sketch requests and commissions... basically, I wasted a year trying to prove how prolific of an artist I could be, without finishing much actual sequential art. That year I was looking for validation, but this year I wanted more direction. Thankfully I got some.

Before I continue, I want to thank several of the creators who went above and beyond to help me improve as an artist, giving valuable advice and often panel-by-panel suggestions on how I could improve the clarity of my art, both stylistically and narratively. This year Benjamin Dewey, James Harren, David Marquez, Tony Parker, Simon Roy, C.B. Cebulski, Neal Adams, Ryan Ottley, Kris Anka, Ibrahim Moustafa, Adam Gorham, Skottie Young, Farel Dalrymple, David Walker, Sanford Greene & many others all took the time to pass on some of their knowledge to me. I thought I'd share some of this for any other aspiring comic book artists who stumble upon my (recently resurrected) blog.

Several artists said that the first panel was a nice enough establishing shot, but that there was a disconnect between panels 1 and 2, so far as tracking which figures were which. Also some perspective issues. To correct this, I did some quick sketches of the location (the St. Regis travel center in western MT) using other photo references from Google.

I found a reference I liked a little bit better than the original and used it to rework the first two panels. First is the original version, the second image is still a work in progress, but even in its unfinished state represents what I hope is a step forward.
original page 1

One thing that surprised me is that a lot of people criticized my font choice and suggested letter by hand. I had added the dialogue because I wanted to present this as a finished project and show off my writing to those who had time to read it. It never occurred to me that the lettering would detract from the art, but it was a welcome reminder that EVERY DETAIL MATTERS.

You can see that I've also started to simplify the line art, getting rid of a lot of the cross hatching. My natural impulse is to scribble all over everything and I enjoy the work of a wide variety of artists, whose styles range from very restrained and minimalistic (Mike Mignola, Jeff Smith) to very frenetic and busy (Sergio Toppi, Bill Sienkiewicz). One thing that Benjamin Dewey and others have repeated is that every line must serve a purpose. TO WHAT END am I putting each mark on the page? I had a minor epiphany after he sketched this for me:
sketch by Benjamin Dewey
Burlap sac vs pillow. Same basic shape, but a few simple lines communicate the difference in texture and therefore function. Multiple artists pointed out that if I'm including grayscale, there's really no reason to use cross hatching for shading - it's redundant. The only marks I need are those necessary to convey form or imply texture. Below are some attempts to put that into practice.

I think I still lean more towards the heavily rendered version, personally, but are all those extra lines actually communicating anything that the more simplified version isn't? This comes down to a matter of personal preference and it's something I will probably be experimenting with for the rest of my life. Since this is a ghost story based in part on a real life event, I believe the more realistic I can make it the better - it serves the story to exaggerate every pore on his nose, every stray whisker on his beard, because I want the reader to feel like they were right there with me.

It seems like a lot of artists labor over developing their own style. I've never really been conscious of my own struggle to express myself because until recently drawing was just something I did for fun, without any voices other than my own saying "what if you did this?" Recently I've found it difficult to harmonize my disparate influences - I try to simplify and it looks like a lifeless coloring book; I try to loosen up and looks sloppy and unprofessional. In order to move forward, I've sought to educate myself more seriously in the art of comics and to take a more analytical approach to my own drawing. I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do, but I have no deadlines. There's no rush to prove I can "finish" something in a certain amount of time and I don't need to pander to some imaginary fan base. This year I'd like to take more time to think about what and why I'm drawing, so that instead of having over a hundred hasty sketches of random crap at the end of the year, I have a handful of finished story pages I'm actually proud of.

Thanks to all the family, friends and brief acquaintances who've inspired and encouraged me to pursue my passion for storytelling over the last few years. I appreciate any feedback I can get!

PS - I'm going to try to make these posts a weekly thing on Mondays, we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Apparently tumblr is how the cool kids are exposing themselves on the internet. So now I have a tumblr, which I plan to update on a daily (yup!) basis.

I still may use this blog once in a while as a journal or for "behind the scenes", drawing process stuff. But for arts, follow the tumblr and my deviantart page.


Monday, March 30, 2015

ECCC Portfolio: Hellboy Returns

I wanted to include some looser, more moody pages in my portfolio that were a little bit more natural "me" feeling than some the other stuff I did that I probably over-thought to the point of making some poor storytelling choices. This is supposed to be Hellboy returning to Earth from Hell, only to discover that Hell beat him there.
 I love drawing animals.
 I think that last panel is one of my better renditions of Hellboy. In his panel at ECCC, Mike Mignola said he designed Hellboy to be a character that A) he'd never get tired of drawing and B) he could draw really terribly and have the character still be recognizable.

That Ogdru Jahad (based on Mike Mignola's design) was a lot of fun to draw, but overall this piece feels rushed to me. I wanted to do a lot more with the sky.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

ECCC Portfolio: Breakfast with the Avengers

This is the most elaborate set piece I've ever drawn. For some reason I thought it would be hilarious to draw the Avengers in their civvies, with the guys making breakfast for the ladies, only to be rudely interrupted by a swarm of MODOKs. The cast (in order of appearance): Luke Cage, Steve Rodgers (Captain America), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), Natasha Romanova (Black Widow), Jennifer Walters (She Hulk), Jessica Jones, Baby Cage, Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel).
If those bacon and eggs don't get me a job at Marvel, I don't know what will...

I'm not sure if the panel flow, or implied carnage really work in these middle pages, but I needed to get from breakfast to MODOK somehow and also really wanted to draw She Hulk leaping out of a sky scraper.

I'm happy with how this 2-page spread turned out. But I hate drawing buildings.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Here are is the "finished" line art for my 12-page "Bill the Platypus" short I'm including in my comic book portfolio for the Emerald City Comic Con. I plan on showing these (and some more traditional superhero stuff I hope to finish this weekend) to as many artists, writers and editors at the big comics publishers as I can. The ultimate goal is to eventually earn a living illustrating comics and while I've got a long way to go, I feel like I've worked with more focus in the last three months to improve my drawing than I have in the last three years. Please be brutally honest with your critique, I've still got some time to polish these before I print them off and head up to Seattle for ECCC.

A few things to keep in mind. People looking at these won't know these characters (and neither do you, really) so this is sort of an introduction to what a "Bill the Platypus" comic might look like, without being a proper origin story. Hopefully you can follow the action, even without the dialogue (which I may add later). Feel free to point out specifics that work or mistakes that need fixed (like in page 9, first panel, guy isn't wearing  a jacket).

 Text would be: 3 weeks later, somewhere in Mexico.
Dialogue is Mr. Goodfellow (glasses, works for Bill's boss) introducing Bill (platypus, bounty hunter) to Dr. Sanchez (hat, veterinarian/paranormal investigator). They are here to capture a creature that is slaughtering livestock. Locals are calling it the "chupacabra".
 Dialogue: Sanchez tells Bill he was attacked by the creature. Says it's twice the size of a grizzly bear. They are driving out to the site of the last attack.

 Bill: Think the doc might have been exaggerating about your size a bit.


 Originally the Doctor wasn't a character, there was just the farmer, so that's how I forgot to draw his jacket on this page. Will fix before comic con.


 I'm not sure what sound a tranquilizer gun makes.
So this is the condensed version of a full 24-page comic script I wrote. Eventually I'll add a flashback scene of Dr. Sanchez's first encounter with the creature (spooky, cliche horror movie night scene) and a few pages at the end of the Doc getting a blood transfusion, thanking Bill for the help and Goodfellow's men packing up the chupacabra's to be transferred to a research facility.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dwarf Commission Process

Commissioner sent me a very detailed description of a dwarf character with a burning lava hand. I was scratching my head for a bit but he said he liked my first pass at the character so I got lucky.

Initial rough sketch
Made a few slight changes per request, such as redesigned hat and larger beard, and began to tighten up the line art slightly. Added a little fire elemental as well.

Revised sketch, rough background
At this point I'd usually jump to doing flat colors and then shading/rendering those layers, but I wanted the final piece to have more of a painted vs. comic book look, and I wanted to try something new, so I did the whole thing in grayscale before coloring.

final lines and gray scale
Jumped back and forth a lot between grays and colors after a while and had a real tough time getting the colors to balance. Not sure if I succeeded, but this is still probably one of the most elaborate things I've drawn. The pose is a little static, but I had a hard time figuring out how to include all the elements of the character's description without having him basically standing there on a rock. Commissioner was happy with the final piece, which was a relief.

final colors
I'd usually charge $35 for a piece like this ($20 for colored character + $10 background + $5 fire elemental), but I did it for $25 as part of a holiday price special. Now I'm back to drawing comics.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Monster Month Days 29-31

After drawing so many creepy monsters, I thought I'd end things on a goofier note. C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me.

Requested by my Mom, but I was actually already planning on doing these guys. Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan from Monsters Inc.

Last and maybe least, a monster of my own creation: the Mucous Man.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Monster Month 26-28 A Few Things...

Mike Mignola's Hellboy and its spin-off B.P.R.D. (published by Dark Horse) are the only comic book series I still follow. From what I remember, the movies are so tonally different than the comic that they are basically a bad parody. The comics are steeped in mythology, folklore and classic literature from all over the world. In one comic, Hellboy finds himself in Japan fighting evil decapitated heads (based on an actual folk tale) while later, in Hell, he watches a puppet show of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. It's crazy stuff. This is actually a drawing I did a while back for a fan art contest - I didn't submit this. You can see the one I did submit here.

One of my favorite monsters from Marvel Comics. I first learned about the Man-Thing from a Spider-Man collectable card set (apparently they had a "team up"). Man-Thing is a silent hulking swamp creature who guards the nexus of alternate dimensions and whose touch burns the flesh of fearful evil-doers.

Believe it or not, I don't remember ever having owned the book Where the Wild Things Are but I really like the Spike Jonze movie.

Almost finished!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monster Month Days 24 & 25

I think I've got most of the evil and scary creatures out of the way, so now it's time for some heroic and more lovable monsters.

Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Goliath, from the epic '90's cartoon Gargoyles.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Monster Month Days 21-23

Sort of a randumb set today.

Super Mario Bro's
I'm not sure how this turned out so awesome, but I'm glad it did. I've been wanting to do a series of realistic drawings of the original Super Mario Bro's characters, but this will have to do for now.

Fellowship of the Ring
 Wish I could have spent more time on this one.

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
I don't remember much about this '90's cartoon show, but tonally it was sort of Monsters University meets Ren & Stimpy. The monster designs have had a lasting influence on my sketch life.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monster Month Days 18-20 More Villains

I can still remember gathering with friends to watch the episode where Lord Zedd made his debut on Power Rangers. Lord Zedd replaced the annoying Rita Repulsa as a more worthy nemesis for a show about ninjas who ride robot dinosaurs to fight giant monsters. He's up there with Shredder and Darth Vader as greatest villains of all time. I only just realized while drawing him that he is wearing a metal bikini.

Another cool villain from the '90's. I'm hoping Krang makes his live action debut in the next Ninja Turtles movie. Tentacles crossed!

We need more movies like The Dark Crystal.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Monster Month Days 15-17 Villainous Dump

In the original book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, the Witch only has one eye.

Based more on his reptilian appearance in the books.

And his pet Kowakian monkey-lizard, Salacious B. Crumb.