Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Blackcat Revisit

For the third episode of THE PLOTMASTERS PROJECT, Jesse Glenn & I revisited an old super-hero/vigilantly character of mine called "BLACKCAT".

Now I know some of you are yelling at your screen (and in some ways at me) "But there already IS a character named "Blackcat" in Marvel comics...

...yes. I know that, now.

To the left you can see my finished new piece for the BLACKCAT episode of THE PLOTMASTERS PROJECT, and below I'll break down who the character was, and how I created this updated image for the podcast.

Blackcat was a character I created as my teenage alter-ego vigilantly. He patrolled the rooftops of Flint, MI and kept neighborhoods safe. He was agile and nimble, and at one point had a grappling line just like Batman. He wore my same trench coat, and my same tee-shirt, and in a case of life imitating art, I made a cloth mask so I could go as my own character for halloween. Embarrassing, I know. The only thing semi-unique about the character and his name was that he could alter the luck of those around him for the worse and improve his at the same time...because "you didn't want a Blackcat to cross your path". To the right you can see my high-school drawings of him.

For the updated version, I didn't really want to change the character costume/design at all. I wanted to capture the idea of the clothes being something a teen would have access to, and having sewn that mask myself as a teen, I knew that part was doable. I looked up some parkour reference to find something that could highlight Blackcat's agility prowess (and show a teen showboating a bit). And instead of the typical rooftop backdrop of vigilantes, I opted for the marquee of a Flint, MI landmark, the Capitol Theater.

These were sketched on copy paper (with a printout of the pose already on the background drawing for reference)

I scanned the sketches and assembled them in photoshop. With each drawing having been done on separate sheets of copy paper, this allowed me to tweak each component, adjust, resize, rotate, etc until I liked the composition. It also made it easy to tine the background a different color than the character to help me see where the character's lines end and where the background begins.

At this point in creating this piece, I realized that I wasn't so much drawing Blackcat, but drawing the background around Blackcat. This piece had gotten away from me like the CATS TRIO piece.

With a printout of the above layout I was able to start inking. First I taped the printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. Then on a lightpad I could see through the bristol to the printout and ink safely on the surface of the bristol. I use this method to save a step in erasing any pencil and to keep the final inks clear of even any blue-line.

I ink with Copic Multiliners (the 0.7 nib mainly for this piece)

Below you can see a few photos I took in-process as I was inking on the lightpad:

With the inks finished, I scanned them and started the coloring process by flatting in the colors. Flatting is the boring part of coloring. It amounts to adult coloring within the lines, but only with flat colors--no textures, no lighting, no effects. The color selections were mostly made for me by either the old Blackcat costume design or the real Capitol Theater in Flint. Laying in these flat colors makes it easier to quickly isolate any particular area or group of areas to render them alone without affecting other part of the image.
Lastly I got in to do the fun part, all of the shading and lighting effects. for the rendering I mostly use the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop with a textured brush. Its in this step that I add layers to help me paint in the reflected neon light as well as the glow around the letters. I had fun revisiting my old paper alter-ego Blackcat for the purposes of the Plotmasters Project episode. In the same way that familiar scents or sounds can trigger the memory into an instant flashback of a point in time, I am routinely transported by these old characters to a great moment in my life.

You can watch the BLACKCAT episode of 
The Plotmasters Project on YouTube:

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