Star Wars Cartoon – how I do it at the moment.

So, my method of going from a sketch to a digital comic is to first scan in the pencil work.  Then I open it in Manga Studio 5.  I used to work with Photoshop 6 but I as soon as I tried Manga Studio I was hooked – I think it’s brilliant – the best software for the kind of digital art I want to make.

intuospendandtouchFor my drawing I use an Intuos Drawing Tablet. It’s quite a small one but it works really really well – much better than my previous one.  The only downside is that I go through the nibs really quickly.

  I also use a couple of other gadgets to help.  I have a chronic pain condition which means that I am frequently really tired and need to spend time in bed during the day but the tiredness is a physical thing related to my muscles all cramping, my mind is still alert and fresh.

logitechM570trackball laptopbedstandSo I use a Logitech M570 trackball mouse which eliminates the need to move my arm around and I also use a laptop stand which can bring the latop to me when I’m lying down, albeit with some pillows to prop me up a bit.  Having these things means that I can still get on with things when my pain is bad.  It’s just brilliant!

So I scan the sketches into my laptop and then pull them into Manga Studio 5.  Then I start on the line art for the foreground in a new transparent layer.  Once I have the lines in place I work on the background (again in a new layer) trying to make this less distinct so that my subject is strong in front.  Then I colour the main subject, all one colour at first and then I put in my highlights and shadows (which is one of my favourite parts).  Although I have a plan for where the text will be I don’t put it in until the end.

So here I’m doing the foreground line art…


Then this is my basic background design…


Here is the background pretty much finished…


And this is Darth Maul without his tatoos yet and without any shading…


Here’s the same chap with tatoos, shading and highlights…


And here he is against the background.


Actually this panel is pretty much done but I’ve chosen not to show the dialogue.  All I need to do now is put in my shadows but I’m not going to do that until I finalise the size of the foreground character so it’s consistent across the whole strip.

Hopefully I’ll have the whole thing finished for Monday.  🙂

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)

‘Mind the gap’

gapAt some stations on the London Underground (and on other platforms in different parts world too) there is, historically, a bigger gap than normal between the train and the platform.  So they announce ‘Mind the Gap’ for every train.  However, the gap that I’m bothered about is the gap between the comic art which I love and the comic art I can do.

Here are some examples of the work I really love.  The first two are from the Dark Horse Star Wars series (Dark Times and Star Wars Legacy).  [Please note that Disney / Marvel now own the rights to this material.]  The rest are by a chap called Daryl Toh Liem Zhan. Who can be found on Deviant Art at .  I’ve followed this guy’s work for a few years now.  In all of this art work the things I would love to learn to do are:

  • To do the line work in that soft pencil-like way which they do using colours for the line other than jet black,
  • To make my background more painterly,
  • I also love, particularly in Daryl’s work, the way some of his colours don’t match too accurately to the line work.  This ‘loosness’ gives a beautiful feel to the work and I like it.  The trouble is, every time I’ve tried to do that, it just looks scruffy and lazy rather than like the loose, free artwork I’m aiming for.

darktimescomicstyle darktimescomicstyle2 legacycomicstyle2 legacycomicstyle1 fmm___the_duel_page_03_by_takeru_san-d3bol2o fmm___the_duel_page_01_by_takeru_san-d3bm5ltI think TohDaryl’s work is simpler but still extremely effective so I guess, for a beginner like me, this might be a good place to start.  I like the way his backgrounds are rough digital paintings with no linework at all.  (If you look on his Deviant Art site you can see how good he is at digital painting.  There’s some fabulous work there.)    His foreground work is mostly really quite tight these days (it used to be looser) but if you look at the handle of the sword… (below)

sword handle  …you can see the beautiful loose style which I really want to go for in my own work.

Compare this to the style which tends to come out of me when I try to draw in this genre:

Hera Portrait_BW_FIN_Small Ezra Portrait_BW_FIN_Small Sabine Portrait_BW_FIN_Small
Which is completely different and not really what I want at all.  It looks more like an animation cell rather than a cool loose comic book.

Anyway – this is the ‘gap’ I’m working on.  If any of you have any ways forward with this I would really appreciate comments!!!

PS:  EarthBalm Music and Michael Bencik thanks for the pointers 🙂

Star Wars Fan Cartoon

Having looked into just how much I have to learn about animation and cartoon drawing I thought I would try a ‘before’ and ‘after’ cartoon.  So, before Iearn how to do this better I’m going to make a cartoon strip.  Then I’m going to learn more about it and make up another one.

So, to my Star Wars fan art strip…

Well today I made the sketches.  It’s going to be three square panels with a simple, if quite juvenile, joke (which, along with ‘man fell over‘, ‘bird pooed on lady’s head‘ and ‘my accident with a rake‘ are my favourite jokes: (I removed the dialogue so as not to spoil the joke too much.)

frame1nodia frame2nodia frame3nodia

(BTW:  I came up with the basic idea for this joke, but it was my fabulous son who thought of the punchline in the last panel.)

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)

Using Gestures in Cartoon style Work

Well I had some fun today playing around with how to use gestures in cartoon-style figure drawing.  I was planning to look at a comic book style but I think the cartoon type of figure drawing is more loose and will help my comic book style in the long run.

I looked around for some examples but couldn’t really find what I needed so I just started making them up, while lazying around on my living room floor.


Next, I made a collection of the ones I liked best and drew them again in ink…


Then I scanned them in (yes, scanned!  My printer is online again!!!!!!!) and put a border around them.


Well, this is the end of my Gesture Drawing series.  I think it’s been a good journey so far.  There’s still a lot more I can learn from Gesture Drawing, especially since it challenges my autism as well as my artistic abilities.  It has also been really helpful because it’s enabled me to draw figures better and more easily and eased me into ways of making figures more stylistic if I want which I have never felt able to do before.  I’m sure I will work on them again but I’m kind of ready for something new and fresh and fun.  I think I’ll make a short fan-art comic strip based in my favourite galaxy far far away….

…and, since I don’t know how to do that, I’d better see if there are any comic art or cartoon art tutorials on YouTube!

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)

Gestures #5 – A sense of freedom

jobikeThere was a moment when I was learning to ride a pushbike when the feeling of it suddenly changed.  It went from that sweaty-palmed, fear of falling, to a sense of freedom as wide as the sky.  The time I spent yesterday looking at the brilliant gestures draw by the artists on Deviant Art helped much more than I would have imagined.  As it was with my bike, things changed for me again.  Finally I am beginning to relax in my drawing, to feel the joy of it.  The excitement I feel when looking at other people’s gesture work seems to have overcome, to some extent, my regular anxiety about making drawing mistakes and somehow not being good enough or getting it right.

I think, in any artistic endeavour – from writing, to drawing, to drama – and at any level – from a four year old trying to do ‘colouring-in’ to Picasso painting something sublime – there is a degree of courage needed.  It’s not the courage to fail, although I think failure is part of it, but the courage to keep trying.  For me that courage came today not from gritting my teeth but from the joy I feel when I look at some of the art work other folk have done which I really love.

So, here’s some of the gestures I drew today:

My favourite was the ink on paper version of a woman in a sitting pose. Having seen so many styles on Deviant Art I tried the same pose using three different approaches to see what it would be like.

I also tried this other gesture which just wouldn’t work as a gesture drawing no matter how I did it.  I think I tried 5 times.  So I let it become what it seemed to want to be and drew a stylized, but still simple, ink drawing…


Tomorrow I’m going to look at some comic book art gestures.  It should be fun!

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)

Gestures #4 – Breathe in; breathe out

My next step in learning how to draw a gesture drawing is to move on from being able to mechanically make a gesture on the page to being able to make something with some value, depth or even, perhaps, beauty.  I suspect this is a harder step than figuring out the mechanics.

Like many people with autism I find body movements and positions confusing.  I think bodies have their own language but for a long time I wasn’t even aware that such a thing existed.  When I found out I began the long task of decoding each movement and position to what it might mean.  The trouble I still find is, that any given movement or position can mean multiple things.  People without autism seem to be able to know, naturally, which of the multiple meanings is actually meant  by the person doing it, but I just can’t get that.  It’s kind of like being blind but not visually, blind in my brain. But blindness to what body language means doesn’t mean I can’t draw each position and movment or see the beauty and wonder in that.  That’s what I want to do.

(The actual drawing of gestures has it’s own challenges too because I also have trouble seeing ‘whole things’ although I have now got a way to do that by treating the gesture as a simple and very approximate map of the main shape of the body, or as a path or road through the body.)

Now, in order to breathe out, I first have to breathe in.  In the same way, to start drawing something with value, depth and beauty, I have to first see work with these qualities.  So I’m going to spend today looking at a range of gesture work by other artists, seeing what they are doing, how they are working and what of their work really strikes me.

Now this drawing is incredibly simple if you look at the strokes and yet it is fantastically effective.  I love it.  The work is by Piratoloco (Craig Harris) on Deviant Art and the original posting can be found here:


In this work the emphasis the artist has put on the gesture is subtle but no less effective for this.  Inspiring stuff!

Here’s another by the same artist:  (Original:

gesture 1 by piratoloco

Now this is exaclty what I want to learn to do.  These gesture drawings, for me,  are lively and very beautiful.  I don’t know quite how to translate what I can do at the moment into something approaching this level of expertise but I do think they’re brilliant.

OK now for some more gesture images from other artists that I really like.

These are all from artists on Deviant Art (artist names are captioned) and all of them allowed downloading.  I think they’re all fabulous.   (As usual, click any image to get into gallery mode for a closer look).

PS:  If you want to find more work by these artists, go to deviant art ( and type “gesture drawing” (without the quotes) into their search bar.  There is some fantastic work there.

Gestures #3 – Finally I’m beginning to get it…

At the beginning of today I still couldn’t work out how to really get into gesture drawing.  So I went back to the video I first looked at…

I copied what Matt from Drawing Tutorials Online did, over and over again.  I’d show you the results but they were pretty hideous and I got more and more frustrated and ended up binning them.  Then I had to go out for a while (to get my son his first electric guitar – a Yamaha Pacifica which he adores).  When I got back I felt more relaxed and then, to the sound of him playing until his fingers bleed, I had another go at using everything I’ve learned and I think I’ve started being able to do it.  There’s no real beauty in these drawings yet, but I’m finding a way into the mechanics of this art form.  Here are the pictures I drew, with a guide afterwards to show where I felt the gesture was.  Each one took between 2 and 2 and a half minutes.  (As always, click on a picture to get into gallery mode.)

After I’d done these I thought really hard about the steps I took in drawing each one so I’ll hopefully be able to build on this tomorrow:

  1. Look for the dominant shape / line / rhythm / movement which stands out for each pose.
  2. Draw that shape / line etc. and use it to lightly map out the overall structure.
  3. Using the ‘gesture map’, lightly sketch in the main body parts (and / or clothing parts if the model is clothed) in the right places generally.  (Treat the whole things as an approximation.  It doesn’t have to be complete – just enough to show where things are and how they’re arranged.)
  4. ‘Bring out’ that original shape / line with darker lines and shading.

So what I want to work on next is to get better at this and bring it to life including – showing some simple marks for depth and shape (rounded or angular) and showing marks for movement and force.  (I have no idea how I’ll do this yet!!!)

Gestures #2 – Details, Ink and Improvement

This is my second day working on a type of figure drawing called ‘Gesture Drawing’.  I began by watching this video…

I really like the video.  I like Chris Warner’s step by step approach.  It gives me a structure , a path to follow.  So I listened and wrote down his steps one by one.  Then I gave it a go.  The results were that my figure drawing got more accurate but I also got slower (5 minutes each) and the end results looked less like a gesture.  Still it was a fabulous video and I’m sure the approach he taught me will be really useful later on with longer poses.  (Having since watched the next video he made in the series I now understand more of what I’m supposed to do with these steps and how they relate to gestures.) [Click any image to go to view these images in Gallery Mode.]

Because I was getting bogged down in detail I decided to try a different medium.  I used a paintbrush and some ink.  Because this was just on regular photocopy paper I couldn’t overdo things without making a hole in the paper.  It encouraged me to use longer strokes and try to see in less detail.  Here are some of the results of this.  (The shading was done using the water I was cleaning my brush in between paintings – it became quite dark grey and was great for shading quickly to give more depth. Each one of these was between 1 and 2 minutes.)  [Click any image to go to view these images in Gallery Mode.]

This change of medium was quite difficult for me but fun because I was using a brush again (I get really excited using  brushes!)  After this exercise I went back pencil gestures and I think things were getting closer to a genuine gesture although not there yet.  [Click any image to go to view these images in Gallery Mode.]