Monday, 30 December 2013

Oops! No, wait, it's all good...

I've been busy with a comics style illustration project for the last little while, and today I sent off the files for final approval. Sounds like we're good to go, finally. But there were some problems during production.

Part way through, I decided I'd made a bit of a blunder, and had to make a substantial revision to one of the illustrations. Between the thumbnails/roughs stage and the final pencils I changed my mind about how to portray two characters. Compare the images below:

 I had decided to put the vampire character's face in deep shadow, to add more drama and mystery, or so I thought. But when I looked at the final inks, I was not happy. This is, frankly, crap - heavy-handed and poorly executed.

 Now, a brief aside. My typical approach to this kind of work has been to do all my pencils and inks traditionally on drawing Bristol, and colouring and lettering digitally. But I have been interested in doing more digital drawing and inking. I recently got a new computer and upgraded my graphics tablet from an old Bamboo to an Intuos Pro. I decided to attempt a digital revision using Manga Studio 5.

First, on a new layer on top of a scan of the inked artwork, I whited out the offending heads and re-drew them in layout blue, with the positions and angles more in keeping with the original rough. Already the layout is more dramatic, there is more tension. And the drawing is much better...

 Then, using MS5's incredible inking tools I inked the heads on a new layer. The new Intuos made all the difference in achieving the kind of finished line I have been looking for in a digital program.

 I finished the illustration with a simulation of grey washes in MS5, converted the file to a hi-rez jpeg and sent it off.

When I get the okay, I'll post copies of all the illustrations for this project. Now, to produce something from start to finish in Manga Studio that I will feel is of a professional level. I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Drawing the Undead!

I recently was contracted to illustrate a story for a British horror magazine. The style is referred to as "picto-fiction;" a full page illustration has blocks of text arranged on it. It's sort of a stepping stone between comics and illustrated magazine fiction. William Gaines of EC Comics fame is generally credited with the inception of the form in the Fifties, as a way to show that comics could be literature. Will Eisner took the concept further in his "Contract With God" and other graphic novels. "Graphic novel" was Eisner's term to try to elevate comics out of the perceived realm of children's entertainment into a more mature form of illustrated reading. The term has since been co-opted by most comics publishers to now include reprints of longer story arcs from their regular monthly publications instead of stand-alone projects.

But I digress! The point of this post was to share some designs for the Undead. I get to draw zombies!

When the pages are done I'll post some of them, but not likely before the magazine is out. Sorry, I don't have a date for that.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Creepy Hallowe'en Tidings

As promised, another Hallowe'en themed illustration.

This is disappointing, the colour washed out considerably when I uploaded it here; have to figure that one out...

Monday, 28 October 2013

Trick or Treat

It's that time of year again - creepies and crawlies and things that go bump! in the night. Thought I'd have a little fun with a Hallowe'en "good girl" style of pin-up, so I started doodling in my sketchbook the other night, while waiting for friends at a pub. I was looking for cute, and seductive, and a little spooky - this was the result.

Next day I redrew the concept on 9" x 12" plate Bristol, roughing out with a Col-Erase Light Blue pencil #20068.  It's not the one they call non-repro; I find this one nicer to draw with, and any leftovers after inking don't seem to scan. I tidied up the drawing with a B pencil and got to inking. (Sorry, no scan of the final pencil)

I love using a brush to ink. I've tried to use markers like some of the well known comics guys do, but I can't get the liquid line look I like. So the inking is mostly witha #2 sable watercolour brush, Hunt #108 dip pen, the really flexible one, and the occasional bit of fine marker to touch up. And yes, some white-out here and there to clean up a couple of poor decisions.

I scanned the final black and white artwork and opened it in Manga Studio5. This is superb software for any kind of comics or illustration work, and I love the feel of the natural media brushes. I've tried Photoshop and Corel Painter, and I'm much happier with MS. This was coloured on several different layers, seperating the background, skin, hair, clothes and jack-o'-lantern as individual elements, with the black and white line work on top. The glow from Jack was added on another layer on top of the line work. I also changed the canvas size eventually, to allow for the lettering, which was done in CorelDraw.

I have a couple of other Hallowe'en-themed pieces on the go, so keep an eye out - they will be along soon!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Everything Old Is New Again

I'm seriously considering trying to put together a web comic. Just don't seem to be able to get comics out of my system, so, maybe I should make the attempt.

This is based on a concept that I started developing several years ago, and then, reluctantly, abandoned as impractical. I just couldn't see the idea of an old-style jungle adventure strip in the newspapers; there just doesn't seem to be a market for that genre.

But with the increasing popularity of web comics, and comics more in the popular culture, maybe I finally have a platform for my stories. Granted, they may not be seen by many, but at least I'll have taken my shot. I'd hate to come to my last days and regret not having tried.

So, here's a teaser, with a new character for the strip. More details in the weeks ahead...

Monday, 12 August 2013


One of the areas I'd really like to break into as an illustrator is the collectible card games market. Some of the ilustration I've seen there is outstanding, much of it strictly digital. This sample is a mix of traditional and digital. The drawing was done with ink on bristol, then scanned and coloured in Manga Studio. I am really impressed with the MS brush engine; the oil brushes are great, and I still need to play more with the watercolour brushes.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Portrait Sketch

I was very disappointed to be unable to attend my monthly figure painting session today. So, in self defence, I broke out the digital paintbox to attempt a quick study.

Most of my recent posts have been comics and cartoon related, but I have been looking at trying some of the painting tools in SketchBook Pro and MangaStudio 5, just to see how they stack up against my elderly version of Photoshop. And I have been very pleased with their performance.

This is an invented head, painted in SBP. I used only one brush out of a potential multitude of choices and a very limited palette. It very much resembles a first pass or rough block in with oils. Unfortunately I didn't save enough separate files to show the progression to get to this point, for which I kick myself. I'll try to do better next time... And someone has been urging me to do some screen recording videos for YouTube, so that may be in the near future as well.

I expect to spend a little more time with this one, and try to refine it to a higher degree of finish than anything else I have attempted in the digital studio. And the beauty of digital is that I can make changes on new layers and only keep the successful bits.

While I'm sorry to have missed an afternoon with my painting friends, this has been a very worthwhile afternoon's dabbling. I think this has great possibilities.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Sweet Violet

As you've seen in some previous posts, I have been spending a chunk of my time learning about producing digital illustration. Here's a piece that is a little more cartoony than most of what I've been doing recently, produced in SketchBook Pro and Manga Studio 5. A lot of the tutorials and work I've looked at have been by Paris Christou at ToonBox Studio. He has also been very generous with his time in replying to email questions, and this piece is a little bit of an homage to his "Cherry" character. I've named this svelte little sprite Sweet Violet.

When I work on paper I often begin with a blue pencil sketch, and clean up on top of that. This system seems to work for me digitally, as well. I had a sort of Tinkerbell character in mind when began this scribble. She seems to be having a little bit of a wardrobe malfunction...
 Now I need to be a little more focused on expression and body language, clean up some of the details a little and give the whole drawing some character.
 Now to make it more like a traditional pencil drawing by drawing over the layout with black on a new layer, cleaning and tightening up as I go. While my inclination is usually to go for a more "inked" look with my comics and cartoons, this is more like the final pencils for an animation frame. I have to admit, I haven't got a feel yet for digital inking, but this pencil look is not bad.
 Now I can create layers beneath the drawing layer to begin colouring. The lowest layer is simply filled with a neutral midtone. This is a carry-over from painting - it's easier to judge lights and darks against a midtone than againt the blank white of the canvas (or LCD screen.) These are the basic flat colours for Violet; I can add shadow and highlight later, if I want to get that carried away.
 In the end I opted to keep to flat colour. The outlines have all been coloured with a darker version of the colour they surround, to enhance the animation cel look. The background was painted digitally (and very roughly) in a separate document and imported, then made slightly transparent just to push it back a bit, lessening the intensity of the colours. The wings were coloured on their own layer, and again the transparency was adjusted to make them translucent.
I'm reasonably pleased with Sweet Violet - maybe we'll see more of her in the future. Cheers!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

St. Patrick's Day Treat

The line drawing is ink on bristol, about 9x12, coloured and lettered in Manga Studio 5.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Anatomy of a Pin Up

With Valentine's Day fast approaching I thought it might be an idea to do another themed pin up. This time I remembered to keep a record of the steps.

I'm still much more comfortable with paper and ink, althought the digital work is slowly improving. I often start with a blue line layout, and then either lightbox it or clean up the original with a regular HB or 2B pencil. This time, I developed the blue line to the point that I decided to ink directly onto the layout.

Inking was mostly accomplished with very traditional tools - India ink and a small watercolour brush. Some of the finer lines, particularly the bow and arrow, were done with Pigma Micron markers. I had a concern with proportions at this stage. I was worried that the head was a little too small, and too far to the left. After scanning, I opened the image in Manga Studio, selected the head and hair and enlarged them just a bit, and moved the whole selection just a little to the right. Then I had to clean up the edges where the neck and hair touch the shoulders.

Finally it was coloured in Manga Studio. I have to keep playing with these tools if I'm ever going to get any good with them. While it looks like airbrush in places, I've actually been trying something else, an approach someone told me about with Photoshop. You can overpaint an area on a separate layer (thank goodness for Layers!) and use hard and soft-edged erasers to refine and clean up the coloured shape.

Feel free to suggest a caption in the comments. Enjoy, and Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Tank Girl Knits!

A friend of mine posted in her blog the other day a description that prompted this one. It gave me a chance to do something a little more cartoony than usual. And to try out my new Prismacolour brush markers. Then I scanned it and coloured it in Manga Studio 5. Now, on second thought, if only I had put her in the captain's chair on the bridge of NCC-1701...