Tuesday, July 25, 2023

American Flagg! Baltimore Yearbook 2023

For over a decade the Baltimore Comic Con has published a convention art book called 'The Baltimore Yearbook' that usually features a creator-owned character or property, where that creator is a guest of the convention. Selected guest artists are asked to contribute a piece of fan art for the book to celebrate the creator and property. It allows us to play in someone's world, and offers a chance for attendees to meet new creators as they go around the show floor collecting autographs in their yearbook.

This year 1First Publishing is celebrating its 40th anniversary so the subjects are Nexus, Grimjack, American Flagg,  E-Man, MARS!, Jon Sable, & Starslayer. To the left you can see my final piece. Below I'll go through the steps.

Layout: I wasn't terribly familiar with the characters from these creator-owned series, but I had seen some Nexus & American Flagg comics. Knowing Steve Rude's Nexus would be getting a lot of love, I decided to go for American Flagg. I did my research about the Sci-fi political satire nature of the comic and how important TVs and messaging (subliminal hypnosis) was in it. So I drew Reuben Flagg with a TV remote pushing a 1First Comics button. The rest of the layout was just an assembly of stock photos of TVs, a flag, a cat, static, and covers from the various other 1First comics being celebrated in the Yearbook.

Wanting to get a James Bond feel to the piece, I thought it would be fun to place a sniper's scope crosshairs over Flagg––but instead make it an old TV test pattern. The only thing I really drew was Flagg himself, and I certainly used photo reference for the hand and remote.

Inks: When I was satisfied with the above layout, I printed it out (without the test pattern) and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series 14" x 17" bristol. On my Huion lightpad I was able to see the printout through the bristol and ink without transferring pencils to the board.

Inking the TV cases over and over got a bit tedious, and Reuben was so big, he was easy. The hardest part was inking in all the homages to the other 1First covers at that tiny scale. I tried to just be loose since it was all an interpretation being displayed on a screen anyhow. 

The cat on screen is another character in American Flagg, Raul, a talking tabby with mechanical gloves that lets him use his 'hands'

Overlay: To get the Test Pattern cross-hairs to look like my layout, I needed to ink it separately on another sheet of bristol. First I took a real test pattern and then cleaned it up and replaced the Indian head on top with Flagg's logo. Then I printed it out on copy paper. Not wanting to use as large of a sheet of bristol just for this effect, I shrunk the design down before printing it and taping it to the back of a sheet of 12" x 12" Strathmore 300 bristol. 

On the lightpad I inked everything as carefully as I could, but without rulers so it still looked hand drawn. I then scanned the overlay sheet at a higher resolution to make up for it being smaller than the other inks without losing line quality.

Color Flats: Once the inks were done I scanned them and started the color flatting process. This is a professional version of coloring-in-the-lines.

Many of the color choices were already decided in my layout, but as always, there's need to shift the values, hues, and saturation until it looks right with the darker ink lines.

I also established color holds (areas where I want the ink lines to be a color other than black) on any linework inside the TV screens, the stripes and stars on Flagg's lapels, and the buttons and light on the remote.

Final Art: For this cover, I approached some of the rendering a little differently and painted in the shading with a paintbrush rather than my normal dodge and burn tools. I still used them, but much less than normal. I though doing such a different subject matter afforded me the room to have the final result look a little different from my Mouse Guard work.

The Overlay sheet was added and painted away in a few areas for visual clarity. 

This piece will be published in the Baltimore Yearbook. That book will be available for purchase at the convention and through the con's website afterwards. The original inked piece will also be for sale in the art auction at the con on Saturday.

Past Baltimore Yearbook pieces & blogposts:

2021: Halloween:

2018: Strangers in Paradise:

2017: Tellos:

2016: Archie:

2015: Mouse Guard:

2014: Grendel:

2012: Liberty Meadows:

No comments:

Blog Archive