Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Practice All The Time

Many of my studio-mates are natural cartoonists in the sense that cartooning was the first drawing language that they fell in love with and subsequently made concerted efforts to master. I was always more interested in 'realistic' or observed drawing for the same bravado-laced reasons that many aspiring young (typically male) artists often have. I assumed that because cartooning involved fewer lines and a distortion of visual norms that it was easy; I have learned just how difficult it actually is to capture the heart of a gesture, expression or setting with the perfect line. I have, after being inspired by the brilliant work of my many cartooning fluent studio-mates and comic art heroes, set about the task of revisiting the fundamentals of both construction and cartooning.

One way that I practice is to focus on an area I have trouble with like hands, mouths, placement of features on a face, torsos, feet etc. I go through issues of comics drawn by artists I like and copy their solution as closely as possible. In this case I took an issue of avengers and mimicked as many Stuart Immonen mouths as I could for about 2 hours. I learned a ton. I don't use that sort of thing when I'm making my own drawings because that would be plagiarism; it is totally fine to do it as a practice exercise in the same sense as learning a great Eric Clapton solo when you're trying to master blues guitar. It is worth trying to step into the shoes of your hero and get things from their perspective.

Michael Hampton's book on structural drawing has become a favorite of mine and I'm going through it bit by bit and trying out all the systems that he has developed. I highly recommend it to any of you that are experiencing a similar internal or external prompting to reexamine your stylistic leanings and tendencies. I plan to fill this sketch book with practice drawings and get as good as those artists I admire so much while simultaneously avoiding clear imitation in my final work. I'm only a little way into the process and it has already been a huge boon to me.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Time Well Spent

I'm grateful to the very cool people who asked for the image below; I am glad I could make this for them. It was commissioned by a lovely couple that met in Seattle during the convention. They were great: they paid in advance, the got a pre-paid mailer and they brought reference. I also learned a valuable lesson from doing the piece so I can thank them for that too!

Before ECCC I had read Chris Samnee's guidelines for commission work and I was surprised that he wouldn't do likenesses or non-licensed characters and clearly lists 'some background' amongst his bullet points. I found it curious but I now understand why.

Once I finished the painting on this piece, on Tuesday, I knew it would be difficult to take on similar jobs in the future; It was a ton of fun but it took a crazy amount of time. It ended up being two full work days of trying to match likenesses, put together a pose that would work with the faces I found in the pictures they provided, nail down the complicated details of the characters costumes, work out appropriate full/divergent themed background worlds for each side and lay in the colors so that each side was balanced without competing excessively.

I now understand that I have to put constraints on my commissions (and on myself) from this point out or I'll end up taking precious time away from deadline-dependent projects. If I were to charge my normal commercial rates no one would want to pay; I want to make sure I can offer something people will enjoy without compromising my own financial and scheduling needs. Freelance work is full of these moments of learning and that is a good thing. I also think that the final image turned out pretty cool!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Commission Missions

I love being down at Periscope in the morning before anyone else gets here. My studio mates are dear to me but there is something fun about being in a 'bat cave' of my very own for a little bit. I suppose Batman would be drinking something a little less flowery than vanilla flavored coffee but that is probably the only difference between the two of us. On a different note, here are a few of my ECCC commissions:

Lindsey loves to play various Iphone games and surprisingly 'drawesome' is one of them. Every now and then she lets me play a round when there is something fun to do or she needs a break from her 1,000 app-game commitments. I love Zelda; I know Link is not Zelda but he is most closely associated with the game franchise (along with the triforce) so here you go:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Game Of Thrones Post 2

I've been enjoying the new season of G.O.T. so far and listening to the first book on tape, via audible, while I work. I had read the the first book in of 'a song of ice and fire' in 2010 and enjoyed it. When the show came out I was excited and pleased with how they adapted the first book; now I'm in the reverse position of seeing the second season without having read the second book. It's just the thrill I thought it would be; this time around I've been surprised.

I thought it might be a fun little exercise in speed to draw the whole main cast of the first season on sketch-cards. It has been choosing and mashing references up. In some cases I find a great image and just go for it but I like to fuse disparate sources to make something new when I can; add a head to a body, put in a background element, equip them with new weapons or armor etc.

I should mention that I'm taking pre-stumptown commission orders too. I'd like to be able to have a few done before the show because I almost wasn't able to fit in the list I had at ECCC. I don't want to leave anyone hanging so contact me ASAP if you're interested. I'll be working on my upcoming Oni project and book proposal for Tragedyseries/TCBW. I hope your weekend will be full of sun and icecream.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Emerald City 2012: The Crown Jewel Of Comic Cons

Visiting Seattle is always fun but it is a special pleasure when it's in conjunction with my work. The Emerald City Convention is a highlight of my year and this time was no exception; I met many fantastic people and more than a few of my heroes. Thursday night I finished making my commission sign with a giant sharpie that probably lowered my IQ by a few points via the fumes involved. Friday was fun and busy; lots of costumes, kids, new attendees and audible laughter in every direction.

These sketch cards are all for sale at 30.00 each. You can also request a custom set of your own 12 for 350.00

Saturday started with a visit to the Crumpet Shop at Pike Place Market where my friend David is the baker. The show floor was more of the same enthusiasm seen on Friday but with many many more people. The convention apparently broke attendance records; I didn't get to leave my table. This is a good thing because I got to do a bunch of fun commissions, sold some of the things I made (books, prints and charms) and met many of the wonderful people who read my comic. I was in a huge island with many of my dear periscope studio friends and the magnetism of their amazing abilities and charisma certainly helped bring over some new people. In fact, some people told me they were sent my way by specific studio members who are unfailingly generous and supportive of my efforts; Dylan, Jeff and Steve... I'm looking at you.

They measure 2.5 inches by 4 inches and are painted with watercolor on 90 lb Winsor newton watercolour paper.

Sunday was fast and frenzied with me catching up on commissions, giving away all of my business cards and rushing to the train station. I talked with the amazing Patrick Reynolds on the train ride back and cajoled my seat-mates into at-least 30 games of bananagrams. Lindsey came to get me and brought Ethiopian food. We were both super happy to see one another. She had intended to go but a death in the family prevented her traveling. Next year will be great for many reasons but chief among them will be that she will most likely come along.

I also take requestes for sets or singles of any and all characters at the rates noted above. Avengers, Game of Thrones, Parks and Recreation... you name it.

I learned that need a tall banner, a money box, a system for organizing prints and a published version of Tragedy Series. I'm fortunate to have a forthright readership and most all of those who came to say hello either asked when there would be or emphatically insisted that there should be a collection of the comics. I am going to do what I can to have that very thing around for next year. With stumptown coming up I've got another chance to practice my best 'I'm not giving you the hard-sell' Hello a few hundred more times.

Lastly, here are a few con-improving tips for those less-considerate attendees:

If you are seeking an autograph for your collectable book do the signee the courtesy of a cursory glance at their merch. A bit of genial conversational interchange never hurts either.

When people say a simple and friendly greeting to you it isn't necessarily preamble to a telemarketer-style spiel. you can say 'hi' back rather than just shuffling by with a facade of ambivalence or distain.

In the event that you find yourself enjoying an artist/creators' work to the point that you linger, when you clearly had no initial intention of doing so, and subsequently laugh out loud multiple times, it is an small but valued gesture of thanks for that bit of entertainment, to make eye-contact and acknowledge attempts at a dialogue. After all, they made the thing you were just digging; it didn't just happen and it's nice when people affirm that connection.

Show cartoonists that you value their work by offering something appropriately compensatory or by asking nicely for something small (if you want it free) when you approach them with your sketchbook or commission request. It is their livelihood and a skill set that all of them have been cultivating their entire lives. It is greatly appreciated when people express an understanding of that dynamic.