Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Character development over time:
This week is a bit of a "From the Vault" type post...but with less focus on explaining the vaulted project and more on the evolution of developing characters over time. This project (originally titled "'R Wars") was started by my buddy Mike Davis (Real life Rand inspiration...I'll share another project he and I collaborated on after college next week) as a sci-fi comic about a rag-tag group of aliens and one human. I don't have a lot of the early art from this other than my own, so I'll tend to focus on two of the characters you see here: Zubelflex & Cap

In high school (when this story begins) our normal method character development was started by each of us having a character based on us (I think this is also because we all role played together). Mike's human character was essentially a manga version of himself. And Jesse Glenn (Kenzie) was drawn as a large furry noseless creature called J-Man. Jesse and Mike tried coming up with designs for my character, but ended up with nothing they like or that could be easily re-drawn. So I took a crack at it and came up with this drawing and named him "Zubelflex".

At some point, I felt the cast needed to be rounded out more. Mike had added in a race of creatures that were somehow supposed to be related to salamanders and he named the lead one Sal and based his personality on our friend Nick...but I thought this group was the perfect place for a character I had drawn on my own several years before called "Cap Transfo". I first drew Cap in 8th grade science class putting together a bit of cartooning I had mimicked from practicing drawing Roger Rabbit & the Loony Tunes characters. He was blue because I only had a blue color pencil in my bag. He was a scientist that had barrel-like attachments to his arms and legs that could shoot fire, launch grappling hooks, or eject buzz saws (think part Inspector Gadget part Gizmo Duck).

Over the course of high school, the characters became more refined. With Jesse as the most accomplished artist of us at the time, we all emulated his style of drawing. I certainly copied his style of drawing eyes from Cats Trio when drawing these characters. Cap became smoother & squatter. I nixed the multi-purpose barrels that his arms formed into in favor of him having a single "tech bucket" device that had a data screen and could shoot fire (I figured it was small a modified ship engine). Sal, Davis, & J-man simply became my interpretations of Mike or Jesse's drawings, and Zubelflex got more gangly and tall. I based Zube's vest on the longer sleeveless liner of my winter trenchcoat (we all wore trechcoats at the time..it's wasn't a cult thing...they were warm and we thought they made us look cool).

That last evolutionary jump was more about simple refining of what was already there (and learning how to draw something consistently at all). But later on...much later on...I thought it would be fun to revisit the characters. Not just revisit them, but redesign them. From high school through college and beyond up to that point, any time I'd drawn them, it was just a slight revision of the style you see above...like I was staying on-model for a client. But I wasn't drawing that cartoonish/animated look any more, and it was time to break free of the old designs. I kept the overall shapes of their anatomy, but tried a new line style and a look of something more like a creature than a cartoon.

While the Sal above looks more like a creature design, I felt I lost something in him, I also didn't tackle J-Man or Cap. So here is a doodle from a notepad (I was on the phone) where I got back to some of Sal's original charm and versions of Cap & J-Man in this style. J-man with a pipe worked for me instantly...but there was somethin about Cap that looked a little too Ninja Turtle-ish and not pushed far enough away from my high school era shapes and design.

I looked at a few of Bobby Chiu's demos and took a stab at a digital painting of cap...I don't know that I got away from a blue TMNT, or if the look serves the character...but It was a good excersize in getting far enough away from an original concept to see where the boundaries are.

Later I gave the same design another shot, but in pencil (with digital colors) I made his head wider, his eyes smaller, and his neck longer (and a few more than his on-model 3 whips of hair). I like this version, but the angle of the eye still makes him look unfriendly compared to past versions.

Now because this project or the characters have never been committed to anything published (I tend to think of stories and characters not really 'existing' until they are made accessible for a fan to see it presented in a completed form...otherwise it's all concepts in flux) There is no happy ending or 'right' or 'final' design to share with you...only the most recent drawings I've done of them and the ideas of direction I'd like to take them if I ever had the time & resources...

While I love comics, I think the sci-fi series would be even better as a TV or webisode project. The alien characters would all achieved with  puppets of different types: Zubelflex: costumed body with an animatronic head (think the 1st TMNT movie or Dinosaurs...but with a skinny furry galoot) J-Man: a Full body puppet with the head operated by the puppeteer's arm (think big bird or Bear in the Big Blue House) & Sal and Cap are hand puppets with digital bunraku used when full body shots of them are needed....and Davis is performed by a human teenager. Of course if that were to happen, a whole other round of visual development would need to happen to realize the characters in 3D and with the materials used to make puppets and the limitations of their types of movements in mind (or to positively look at it, to take advantage of the types of movements & looks puppetry does best).

Holiday Sale:
In my online store, I've started an online sale that runs through the end of the year! Enter code MOUSEGUARD at checkout to receive 10% off your entire order. I've also added some copies of the RPG Boxed set. In those copies I've opened the sets and signed the rule books, but there aren't many of them, so if you'd like a copy, now is the time.

We have tried our best to get the cheapest shipping rates on everything we can (also accounting for our boxing & packing materials). I know the prices on a few items is high, but I assure you they are as-close-to (and in some cases cheaper) than the best shipping prices we can find.

Watercolor Wednesday: In case you missed last week's Watercolor Wednesday pieces, here they are for a closer look. The first was a fairy tale type giant. Perhaps he's not even an ogre-ish race of giants, but a human who grew to giant size. And where would you sit if you grew that large? You would want a nice sturdy chair that didn't stand a chance of toppling over. 4 closely growing trees would be the legs of your resting spot. You would also have to commission a talented knitter to make your striped socks in 27XL and a very good hatter to fashion a cap large enough for your crown. Oh, you would also nap in your tree chair when your socks and cap were made...

Also...a tiki mask in a harvest looking theme (you know...for Thanksgiving last week)

Tomorrow I'll post a few more paintings in my online store.

2013 Appearances: Emerald City: March 1-3
Fabletown Con: March 22-24
C2E2: April 26-28
Spectrum Live: May 17-19

Heroes Con: June 7-9
San Diego Comic Con: July 17-21

*more 2013 dates coming*

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Usagi Pinup Process

Better Late Than Never: Usagi Yojimbo Pinup Process:
In 2006 I first met Stan Sakai, creator of the long running Usagi Yojimbo comic. Mouse Guard has just hit on a national level and Stan stopped by the Archaia booth at San Diego to offer very kind words and support of my work. His book is a perfect example of the kind of material I wanted Mouse Guard to be: talking animals, historic setting, a bit of humor, grounded in plots that have a weight and sincerity to them. Usagi also has a wide age readership and while it does show the consequences of death, it never glorifies it or shows the goriness it.

Stan asked to swap pinups for each other's books (Stan's appears in Winter Issue 2 and also in the Winter 1152 hardcover)

For my pinup of Usagi, I decided to go for a four seasons theme. It would allow me to draw the character a few times to show the range of storytelling Stan does...The spring kite flying shows some levity, the summer has a bit of action and focuses on Usagi's training, Fall is about how interesting a mundane task can be, and Winter is all about severity, focus, and mood. I sketched out the four poses on scraps of bristol board. At the time for Mouse Guard, I was trimming down 14" x 17" pieces into 12" x 12" pages, so I had scraps like these all over the studio as scratch pads.

I don't seem to have the file of the scanned sketches resized in a template for the pinup's final art size...but that's what I did..and then printed it out and inked the piece on bristol board using the printout as a guide behind the bristol on a lightbox.
I checked with a few folks to make sure the kanji for each season was correct before I committed them in ink to the piece. I also wanted each image to look like a Japanese woodcut, so there was a focus to add a decorative element and composition to each 'panel'...the kanji was part of that, but so were the choices for the cherry blossoms, the koi, the scallop pattern on the bowl, and the falling snow

The artwork was scanned in for digital coloring. Here I established the color areas, which is a fancy way for saying, without shading, I colored in the lines. I cheated here a bit and re-created this for today's blogpost. I did not save a version of the file just flatted at that time, so I went back in to the final color file and made this example of what the piece probably looked like before I started the final colors.

The final colors are seen here and were achived using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop with a textured brush. I probably over rendered and texturized the piece compared to what I would do today, but I think it still holds up pretty well. The pinup appeared on the back of Usagi Yojimbo issue 104.

Watercolor Wednesday:In case you missed last week's Watercolor Wednesday pieces, here they are for a closer look. I started by drawing one of these and I thought "This is Tough Pete, nobody messes with Tough Pete" And I decided he was one of several brothers all named Pete who boxed...or just fought. I then drew and painted Angry Pete and Strong Pete. I had a lot of fun playing with the shapes of their anatomy and making them so odd looking. There was a conscious decision to make each wear primary colored pants and hats...but not the same color on any one Pete. I was torn about the idea of selling these individually or as a group. In the spirit of trying to keep prices down on these, and hoping to make more than 1 person happy with a purchase each week, I opted to split the brothers up....

...perhaps down the road I'll have to paint their rival cousins..three scrapping brothers named Mad Pete, Crazy Pete, and Big Pete. Tomorrow I'll post a few more paintings in my online store.

2013 Appearances: Emerald City: March 1-3
Fabletown Con: March 22-24
C2E2: April 26-28
Spectrum Live: May 17-19
Heroes Con: June 7-9
San Diego Comic Con: July 17-21

*more 2013 dates coming*

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

College Printmaking Work
Please excuse a third week in-a-row of blasting you guys with a ton of images. It seems that every so often I run out of things I can blog about because I can't share some of the stuff I'm working on until later. So this week I'm sharing a bunch of my printmaking work from 1997-2000. Printmaking was my major (I started at Mott Community College under Sam Morello, and finished at EMU under Richard Fairfield), and I've done a few posts in the past on Relief printingIntaglio Printing, & a combo of the two. There seems to be several plates & blocks I remember doing at EMU & Mott that I don't seem to have prints of anymore. But there are still more than enough images here I can bore you all with.

Mott Era:
The 2nd etching I ever did
Low on ideas, I mocked up a book cover 
for what was then titled "1149"
(this is the story that will be the 4th 
Mouse Guard arc titled The Weasel War of 1149)

Sgt. Pepper style collage of faces from my life at the time 
including fellow students, friends, family, and professors.

A quick etching I did as a Mother's Day gift after the studio had 
been closed down for the semester & the supplies were packed away. 
Tried to do this with as little cleanup to the studio afterwards as possible.

This was a direct photo rip. I was trying to perfect my technical s
kills and had also gotten into late night session 
of playing Axis and Allies with friends.

EMU Era: 

A group of foxes wearing garments. I didn't think I was 
finished with this print until a group critique where 
everyone told me I shouldn't do a thing more to it.

A lot of my EMU prints were on discarded zinc plates. I'd burn away the old etching
with acid, but hints of light & dark spots and texture would still peek through.

Wish I had been more diligent with the bone anatomy and cathedral anatomy. 
I may revisit this composition again as I like the idea of a cathedral 
full of skeletons bathing in the dusty sun beams

A direct photo rip of a kid with a cape tied around his neck 
and holding a fat bunny. The magazine I found the image 
in was torn and beat up, so I gave the edges of the image some distress.
I was flirting with Julia when I was etching this

a combination of 2 plates. The stones were part of a plate
I started my first semester at EMU, the Turtle in my 
last. I printed them atop of one another for this print.

Lino cut portraits I used as Christmas gift tags that year for some of my family & Julia's.

A color reduction woodblock from my last summer semester at EMU. I wasn't in town for the class, but finished up the projects on my 1st semester back on campus. 

My feet. In the technique of intaglio woodcuts I've shown before with the Hands series.

A summer home from school and a block of wood...
so I did a big Flint summer friends woodcut 
(Real life inspirations for Rand, Kenzie, & Lieam are all in this piece)

A singing mouse I did as a demo to teach a friend how to etch.
 I don't think I was supposed to let non-registered 
students use the facilities...but I did.

I had a Gilligan hat and out of boredom, I did a print of it with 
a background of the hat repeated in different positions

Another 'looking around the room for inspiration' piece. These bundled stacks of old silk screens atop the flammable materials cabinet had a nice rhythm of repetitive shapes. (the edge of the drying rack and the old bricks helped too)

These two were an experiment of scratching (drypoint) an image right into the surface of a plate...but instead of using zinc, I used plexiglass. The prints turned out great, but the downside was the chemicals used to clean the plate of ink dissolved the surface details of the plate, making good multiple reprints impossible.

Another recycled plate. This time I was trying to recreate a moment I'd had the summer before in CA rebuilding my 1974 VW Beetle. This is in a partial state...the image was never really finished

And the last two are companions. I told the story on twitter a while back about the left print 'Chickens in the Closet' being about a funny/embarrasing story from Julia's childhood that was told to me early on in our dating. The print on the right is from a story of my childhood where I drilled a hole in the roof to put up an antenna. 

Watercolor Wednesday:
 In case you missed last week's Watercolor Wednesday pieces, here's the first I offered up: Mr. Toad from one of my favorite books, Wind in the Willows. I'd love to be able to illustrate a full version of the book someday, but until then I'll just do a fun character piece to satisfy myself.

The second Watercolor Wednesday piece was one of my own creation. I was trying to channel the sleeping gnomes I drew on my honeymoon 9+ years ago (here & here) I ended up with something a bit more Dwarven than Gnomish I think...but still in that same arena.

 Tomorrow I'll post three new pieces in my online store.

2012 Appearances:
Thought Bubble: Nov 17-18

2013 Appearances: Emerald City: March 1-3
Fabletown Con: March 22-24
C2E2: April 26-28
Spectrum Live: May 17-19
Heroes Con: June 7-9
San Diego Comic Con: July 17-21

*more 2013 dates coming*

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Winter Black & White edition is now AVAILABLE!
The long awaited Winter B&W edition (I talked about it here), is now available on the Archaia website. I've been getting questions about buying directly from me. I won't have my copies to sell (only about 35) until later (I'm guessing early/mid Dec.). Those will get doodles in them and be more expensive. I'm not taking any requests/reservations for those, they will be 1st come 1st served. I'll also gladly sign & doodle any Winter B&W book you buy from Archaia at any convention or signing you bring it to, so buy from Archaia with confidence that you will get the book you want and can still get it signed and drawn in at a later date.
Unfortunately those will be the only two ways to get one signed & doodled (bringing one to me at a signing or buying one from me) as I will not be doing any mail-order signatures.

Commissions New & Past Due:
I'm running a bit behind this week, so the blogpost will be just a view of some of the commissions I've wrapped up recently. Some of these were past-due from San Diego or Baltimore, one is a personal thank-you/favor for someone, and most are the pieces from the New York Comic Con. I'll be opening a pre-order list later this week in my online store for the Thought Bubble con.

Watercolor Commissions:
I also wanted to share these past watercolor commissions. Most of these were from New York.

Watercolor Wednesday:
One of last week's Watercolor Wednesday pieces is from my favorite Stephen King book IT. After re-listening to the audio book (read by Stephen Weber) for the 4th(?) time, I felt it was time for me to try my hand at painting the book's horrific villain Pennywise. I'd drawn him once before in middle school for an illustration project in 8th grade art class (this was around the time the TV movie came out). That piece is long lost, but I suspect the only scary thing about it is how badly it was drawn. This piece may be too creepy for many of my regular blog readers, but I put it up as last weeke's painting as a Halloween treat.

The other treat from last week was a series of 12 Jack-O-Lanterns that I sold individually (though I think 6 of them were snagged by the same buyer).
 Tomorrow I'll post something closer to my normal subject matter in my online store.

2012 Appearances:
Thought Bubble: Nov 17-18

2013 Appearances: Emerald City: March 1-3
Fabletown Con: March 22-24
C2E2: April 26-28
Spectrum Live: May 17-19
Heroes Con: June 7-9
San Diego Comic Con: July 17-21

*more 2013 dates coming*

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