How I came to be here is a mystery; what I'm here to accomplish can only be a Cosmic Caper.

Postcards from the Past_Part 2

>> Monday, March 18, 2013

In this case a three color palette was used : Vermillion, Viridian, and Ivory Black.
I was working at an art supply store several years ago and started painting 30 minute sketches on my lunch break. Each one was an experiment in style and application, although they all probably have characteristics similar to much of my work.

Most of them were made on Lanaquarelle postcard stock, 140lb weight at  4" x 6". Lana is a superb cotton watercolor paper and highly recommended. The paint was a very good Russian brand in a credit-card sized plastic box with a hinged, snap-closed lid. The main challenge was to paint wet n' wet and from the shoulder in such a small scale. I was going for accurate but loose, with minor distortion for effect. 

It worked out pretty well. Had a lot of fun with them and even gave a few as presents to some good friends. Will post another next time.


Postcards from the Past_Part 1

>> Sunday, March 17, 2013

W.C. Bird. 4" x 6" Wet n' wet and dry-brush combined.
From time to time for auction or just for practice and fun, I've painted some postcards of simple subjects.

This first one is a bird painted for auction at the North Center Senior Satellite to support the art program there. It was probably complete in less time, but 30 minutes from drawing to finish is a good guess. I try to keep the subjects accessible to the audience for which it's intended; since my interests are varied, it's never a problem to create work that stimulates me at the same time.


Pop the ? "Gray-scale Coloring in Photoshop"

>> Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Here you can see a detail of the finished pencil art cleaned-up.
After the line art is complete, it is cleaned up in Photoshop. Black, grey, and white levels are re-set and the art is adjusted to clarify and darken the pencil strokes sufficiently for coloring.

I much prefer to ink but this technique works in a pinch and can be used to good effect in the digital age. My real inspiration is from the late 1980's and early 90's. Some excellent work was being done by comic book artist extraordinaire Gene Colan with watercolor washes painted over pencil art. A noteworthy example is the wonderful science fiction graphic novel 'Nightwings' written by the talented multiple-time Hugo Award winning author Robert Silverberg.

Below is the gray-scale block-in which establishes the tonal areas and selections in a single step. Coloring is completed in an Photoshop over-layer while saving the one beneath until the coloring process is complete.

Glad you enjoyed this overview of the the art process behind 'Pop the ?' Please direct any remarks or technical questions in the comment section...See you again Soon.
The gray-tones give a good facsimile of the final art, allowing for a freer approach to coloring.


Pop the ? "Final Pencils"

>> Monday, February 25, 2013

Many subtle changes in the above refinement: compare to the layout in the previous post.
There is a tendency for line art to become stiff the more its refined. During the transfer process, the smaller page-sized layout is scaled up to the finished art in a 10" x 15" image area [typically ruled on an 11" x 17"  Bristol board.] Keeping layouts simple helps to ensure you're still adding to the drawing and not merely tracing the enlarged panels. Drawing freely from the shoulder as much or even more than the wrist also helps to keep the figures from looking wooden.

At this stage, it was important to consult the reference of the real life couple most carefully. There's no rule of thumb for reference that everyone follows. For myself, knowing when to use it for the best effect or when to avoid it when it's gets in the way of simplicity is key. Regardless, I always have plenty on hand just in case.

Since I would not have time to ink, retouch in Photoshop and gray-scale coloring are the next steps...More about that up next.


The Race

>> Sunday, February 24, 2013

Black Ribbons waved across the green-gold ground;
A cry and push that signals all beginning,
the gates were locked, all bets hedged
and we were running.

Footsteps fell and played against the vast profound;
Of course unmapped and unknown ending,
blinders fixed in place, we didn’t know
the finish fast was coming.


Pop the ? "Storytelling in Pictures"

>> Saturday, February 23, 2013

The layout was made at the standard comic page size 6.875 x 10.5.
By this stage, all the design kinks have been worked out. Notice the flip between panels 1 and 2; starting the narrative in the present helped the flash back come across more effectively. The drawing is clear and makes storytelling the primary aspect of this layout. Caption and balloon placement at this stage help the flow of the page and save drawing 'dead area' for positioning them afterwards. Every part of the drawing counts. 

Of course all the I've learned is from studying the very best. Google Gil Kane, Wally Wood, Alex Toth, Jack Kirby, and John and Sal Buscema, to name a very few...Up Next: Full Pencils.


Pop the ? "Designing a Wedding Proposal"

>> Friday, February 22, 2013

Actual size of the thumbnail page for 'Pop the ?'
Sometimes a design will suggest itself from the plot, camera, or dialogue of a good script. What we had, was a loose concept framed within personal struggle and played out through archetypical characters. Alluding to the back story, while making the thematic context more about a bright future together was the challenge. Needless to say, the original script was rewritten [by the groom] a few times and several sketches were needed to explore this sensitive area all in one page. I think we succeeded.


Pop the ? "Batman & Wonder Woman Wed"

>> Tuesday, February 19, 2013

In 2010 I worked briefly for the U.S. Census and made a few bucks and a few friends, one of whom is still a great pal to this day. We had comics in common. Although he's not really an artist or writer, our mutual fan-boy love of the form eventually led to the project posted here.

It was his idea. Batman and Wonder Woman were private 'handles' for him and his then girlfriend, and he felt they symbolized their inner heroes. Moreover, it was the special way he wanted to ask her to be his wife!

I like the way it turned out ; but I miss the inking. It's still one of my favorite parts.
He placed the final version which was the same size as the printed page in the Wonder Woman comic she followed regularly. She saw it at the end of her read and initially thought it was part of the book. After reading it carefully, she looked up to see him on one knee and I'm sure was fairly surprised. She said Yes! Shortly thereafter, their life stories became one; a year later had their first little girl.

The original words were quite different from his proposal and their history together. Although the first format has been published on the net previously; I elected to rewrite for this portfolio piece to showcase the concept in a way that highlighted my own writing and didn't put their personal info out there.

The final page was penciled by hand and touched up in Photoshop for coloring. The deadline unfortunately didn't leave room for inks. I'll be uploading some sketches to give insight into the process over the next few posts, Hope you have as much fun looking at it as I did making it...


What Dreams are Made Of_Part Fifteen: The Gift.

>> Sunday, February 17, 2013

Parts of the substrate had been scraped with a broad blade. Patches of wet color bled through the withered earth. Regions of rough surface concealed nameless portraits raked in viscid tones. A few turned their textured heads silently. The paint itself was alive in covert plot, so that he became wary where his feet fell.

His eyes were drawn to the lake. It mimicked the ebon sky in shades of carbon black. He did not dare its depths. Mirrors might reveal lies that he’d craved only to forget.

Dull pigment stirred like dust in the backdrop of his thoughts. Voices murmured dimly and then amplified quickly into a cacophony of corpses; their rasping chorus reached over obsidian channels and across the unseen void. The landscape broke into fragments and points of color that swirled and lifted higher. A blue streak forked above the swelling waves and thunder cracked so close he could smell the ozone. Hands fell from his ears. He stumbled forward as the ground came up to greet him.

In the eye of the storm was silence like a terrible roar, and the richness of the world was drowning in its wake. Just one detail stood away from the twisting fray. He had seen nothing like it here.

Slowly he reached for the object of his design. He pulled it closer. Its polished handle and nickel ferrule wrapped securely around the sable tip. It was a talisman. At that moment, the wind died down in a sudden hush that tore the breath from him.

The storms fading reprise ceased in the timbre of her words, “Life is a tide of terror and great beauty...for which we are all responsible. We must each know who we are with certainty; a conviction to merge in myriad possibilities. Go to the mere and see who you’ve become.”

At the water’s edge the sky had turned a deep Prussian Blue. A few stars flickered in the lake. She was behind him. Though her beauty still startled him, it was the stranger who stood beside her that caught his eye. He knew the face. But, the inner image of the child so familiar did not match. The man staring back at him looked both tested and tranquil. He saw past his hurts and misgivings with intense desire and strength of will to make of life whatever he chose.


The solitude embraced him for a few moments before he realized she was gone. The plot surrounding had no more hold on his heart. He looked into the lake to where she had been. A radiant circle was mirrored there, full and round.

The Moon: how he longed to be there. It was waiting like a promise in the sky; he waded away from the shore and dove into its shining center.


What Dreams are Made Of_Part Fourteen: Sanctuary of Shadows.

>> Saturday, February 16, 2013

Time stretched into miles and the underbrush compressed and tangled into tripwire that challenged every step. Very little of the landscape could be seen in the grim light that scarcely penetrated the passage.

At last the trail widened and formed an alcove amid the rancid wildwood. The airy night grew cold and apprehensive. Shafts of spectral light wafted through cavities in the brushstroke branches and lit the ground opposite the hollow. Instinct that should have made wings of his feet turned his limbs to stone instead. Each step was an omen. Rotted timbers strained their corrupted talons outward while the dark breach rooted within called him to its menacing embrace.

He stepped cautiously into the clearing. Whatever stars had reached this foul meadow were quickly covered by ink stained clouds. This small hint of conspiracy slashed at his courage. His mind played a verse from a forgotten poem: “A boy sat beside a boundless mere, while shadows shaped like shrouds crept close…to spew veiled venom into his waiting ear.”

He knew this place. It had been painted long ago. The gessoed ground lay grey and cracked under muddy colors that faded into the damaged dead layer. He did not need to see the fevered details and decayed disillusions. He knew this place. It had been a shelter from desolation; an escape into the world for which he’d hoped. It had become a trap with blind eyes and jaws of iron.

To be continued.


What Dreams are Made Of_Part Thirteen: The Separation.

>> Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The forest walls grew denser the further they stepped. There were no stars visible at the thicket’s outer rim. The trees loomed like giants whose towering arms and wooden fingers were knitted in opaque patterns that blotted out the sky. Crow calls echoed overhead. Something vile was entombed in the bone black umbra.

He paused against a soaring tree incised in sepia and hardened layers of linseed. Small twigs and debris showered down from the bough above and startled him. A gentle touch brought back his courage. Once their eyes adjusted to the gloom, the grove before them appeared to form a narrow hallway in the gnarled tree trunks.

He heard muttering and muffled shouting. A chill crept along his spine and tunneled through his mind. Broken glass chimed an atonal melody abruptly cut short by a door sharply shut. Behind a shield of white noise and distortion, appalling promises were implored and lies lay in ambush to unravel his mind.

What waited there was uncertain and he was not ready. Though she had led him here, and her comfort was a cure that could not be measured, it was his decision. He held her hand tightly once more and tenderly tilted her head to memorize the lines that drew them together. Looking back only once, long enough to see her elusive smile fade into the forest, he set out to face his fear alone.  

To be continued.


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