Remember that X-Files episode “Shapes”? If it was a FRIENDS episode, it’d be called “The One with the American-Indian Werewolf.” No, really.
So I have a couple of pages of my Thor set done. Asgard was a bitch, but I think I pulled it off… after a fashion. Posting those when page three is in the can. Here’s the thing though: I get about half way through the loose pencils of page three when I start feeling like my art style is becoming contrived. Choked even. I prop it up on my desk, take a step back, and I swear I feel like killing something. Then I flash back to what a friend said about the faces of the characters in my Next Wave set. Apparently I have this bad habit of, maybe not changing characters’ faces, but changing the styles with which those faces are drawn from different angles. D’ya get me? And she was right!
I start to remember that in the nineties, as I was just starting to get serious about my sequential art, I needed to really have a solid foundation in drawing the face from different angles. But instead! Me being the total hack that I am, I looked at so many of my favorite artists for reference that I subconsciously incorporated too much of their face styles into mine. Madureira’s distinctive side views. Hughes’s front shots. You get the picture. Along the way, not only did I become some sort of clone — WORSE! I became a mishmash of different styles that were in constant flux and conflict with each other. I became some stylistic ersatz Frankenstein.
I can draw, sure. But it’s not me drawing.
So I tear my third page into bite-size bits (It takes a while, it’s 11×17 after all) and spend three days finding it—finding the convergence of everything i have ever absorbed from every artist I have ever admired. Fine, it probably didn’t all happen in the past three days… they might have simply been the culmination of this, for lack of a better way of putting it, artistic digestion. And it’s still happening to me.
I craft a sort of mission statement for my style, realizing that since my influences are mainly of the cartoony sort (Madureira, Campbell, Pearson, Drucker, Frezzato, Ramos, Immonen, and Adams), it makes no sense to contrive it with the “serious” sensibilities. All this time, I’ve been trying to do a Jim Lee piece with Campbell’s hand, know what I mean? Yes, I know I’m no J. Scott Campbell, but come on. It’s a metaphor.
I remember some concept art videos I saw. Some cool Gnomon shit. And I remember the importance of creating strong, defined, and unique silhouettes. And then I wake up and see that my strengths have always been in shapes. Spheres. Cubes. Cylinders. The whole shaboodle. And I’m focusing these insights into a conscious effort to create a style that is more cartoony than my past work, but not overboard. Coz the way I figure it, the only real way my stuff is gonna look consistent from page to page, panel to panel, is if it’s really my stuff. It’s high time I ditch my crutches and grew some sea legs. So there, as far as figure and face work goes… I’m going with this more rubbery, animated feel. The serious sensibilities will be maintained only in the other details. Shadowplay (Mignola), camera placement (Hitch), figure dynamics (Frazetta), that kinda stuff.
That said, here’s some of the stuff I just did. And I love ‘em.
Thor (current style)
Thor (Shitty older version)
And lastly.. Logan and Emma
I am happy now.
On with page three.
“I’m going to clap when this movie ends,” comic-buddy Alex says. I just nod to him. “Hell yeah,” I whisper. The Dark Knight ends, and the credits roll. As the lights fire up, Alex applauds the film’s awesomeness out of sheer fanboy glee. My hands meet three times, and I stop when I look around at the people obviously not as enthused as we were. WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!? It was an awesome film that challenged its audience intellectually. It was a grown-up comic book movie. Apparently too grown up for some. And I fucking loved it! And I hate myself for not clapping. Last movie that made me feel that good about being a comic geek was V for Vendetta, so screw you guys who gave me dirty looks when I woohooed at this film.
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I’ve finally been making some headway on my Thor pages. I have about two pages done (again, out of six), and I plan to clean up the second and hopefully start the third this weekend. Finally working on 11×17, and I gotta say I’m enjoying it way more than I thought I would. I was initially approaching it with a healthy dose of trepidation, worried that my layouts would get fucked, my faces would distort, and my rendering would get offset… but I’m doing it by the book and sticking to my thumbnails.
So far so good.
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I spotted a coupla comic guys in DA a coupla weeks back. Honcho of the bunch says he’s looking to put together a team for a pitch to Red5 and whoever else may be in range. I link ‘em to my Next Wave stuff, and they think I’m decent. I’m on board for this project, which is funny… coz they need me on 11×17. So I guess it’s coincidental that I just happen to have started working on that size already.
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And speaking of funny stories. The marketing company I’ve been doing freelance gigs for, for a while now has hired me as their creative head. I’m now quite literally the go-to guy for all the artists of the Philippine branch. I’d be lying if I said the title isn’t intimidating, but I’d also be lying if I said this didn’t rock so fucking much. No idea why they chose me though, makes me question their mental health sometimes. Was it my “meh” cap that screamed professionalism? Probably.
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I’m scheduled to watch Dark Knight yet again. The Doomsville Crew, co-genius Matt, ChampionMan, Spanish girls and all, have demanded my presence tonight.
I will clap.
Just received feedback from C.B. Cebulski of Marvel and artist Sean Murphy (Batman/Scarecrow: Year One, Hellblazer) on my Next Wave pages. I guess my storytelling is relatively solid since neither of them brought it up. Sean mentions though that my backgrounds need a bit more of a three-dimensional feel. Looking back now, I do agree with him. I use gray tones a bit too much and probably ended up somewhat reliant on them to create depth. Grays are good, sure, but I once read in a Wizard article that it’s vital for your illustrations, if you’re drawing for comics, to be able to stand up on their own without depending too much on Photoshop effects. I think it was a Greg Capullo tutorial. Hehe. Notches.
C.B. says I need to work on my female expressions. I do notice that I tend to make my male characters more expressive than my female ones. Perhaps I have a subconscious fear of making my female characters ugly? So I try to keep their faces as generically pretty as possible? I don’t know… something to look into, I guess.
Somewhere along the chat, I mention to C.B. that I generally work slightly larger than actual print size. He informs me that a lot of current artists actually do this, but these same guys also tend to ink their own work. Makes sense — if you wanna work small, don’t drag an inker into your pencilled eyestrain-o-rama. I’m a horrible inker though, so I have the dilemma of either learning to ink my own stuff at this current size (which is pretty cramped if I need to ink my own stuff, believe you me) or starting to draw at professional standard size… 11×17. Derrick Fish, who’s got some Atomic Robo stuff due out soon, taught me a lot of cool tricks and stuff over a chat once — blue pencils, drawing roughs at print size then drawing tight pencils on blown-up versions — I might give those a try sometime; but as of now, the plan is to do some THOR pages on 11×17.
Yes, I’ve decided.
Also, the size will allow me to do some heavier details, and I’ll have no excuse not to do decent backgrounds. Thanks, Sean.
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The Chaz and I got together to do a little ditty recently. There was this Steampunk Fairytale thing running on DeviantArt, so we decided to play along. Our concept was of Captain Hook, but as a steamboat captain. Yeah, yeah, not very mindbending… sue us.
Initial draft pretty much captures what we want off the bat. Nothing too fancy. Big figure so we don’t need to do too much detail. Heh. Chaz’s request, not mine. Ssssshhhh….
Final pencils get a wider canvas coz the steamboat in the back was actually an afterthought. I know. Stupid. I ended up killing the virtual frame that his arm was subliminally creating, so I added some rocks in the background to make up for the fucked-up compo.
His colors save the day by focusing our attention with some warm directional light.
We chatted quite a bit throughout the process, he probably hates me now for being such a pain in the ass about the way the light radiated up at his face. You can view more of the Chaz’s art here.