Chris at Comic Tropes

This week I am still working exclusively digitally until I am well enough to sit at a table and paint again. I can’t wait to get back to traditional painting. In the same way that I will always prefer a physical printed book in my hand to a digital or audio copy, I much prefer physical paints. I love the feeling of the brush on the paper and the smell of the paint. That said I am learning massive amounts from this period of digital art, mainly because it is so easy to jump back a step, it gives me more freedom to venture further into an idea than I would in a normal painting.

So, for this week’s post I painted a digital comic portrait of Chris from the YouTube Channel Comic Tropes.

I’ve been following his channel for a some time now and I really enjoy his videos. He shares his extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for the comic format and really gets down deep into his subject. At the end of some of his shows he displays artwork by his viewers, so long as the work is related to his channel. I want to support him so I thought I would have a go at making a portrait and sending it in.

I began with a digital sketch…

Then I added some titles and centred the image…

My next job was to “flat in” Chris’ portrait – this adds nothing to the final image but will drastically speed up the colouring process. Basically you just make a layer with different parts of the picture in different tones. If you’re working with line art this can be fairly loose as the lines cover the colour joins, but for proper digital painting it needs to be tight with no anti-aliasing…

Next was the fun part. I got to make up a handful of 2 page comic spreads in miniature. I made up parts of random stories from a range of genres to fill each set of two pages. I had crime, fantasy and science fiction. Because some of the pages go behind my subject I was able to duplicate them and and use parts of the book which the viewer can’t see in other places. The next few process shots are of the comic pages being drawn…

(crime)

(science fiction)

(fantasy on the left and more science fiction on the right)

Then I began to colour my background. I was initially wondering vaguely about the broad range of bright colours in comics and unthinkingly added a very wide range of saturated colour. This looked OK-ish while my subjct was still in greyscale like this…

…but after I coloured my subject the colour scheme started to fail…

…and got worse with the titles coloured in…

I didn’t really like it at all. There wasn’t enough division between the foreground and the background, the colour palette was all over the place and the title lettering keyed into nothing at all. It was basically a mess.

So I went back to the drawing board and began my colour process again with a fresh perspective.

First of all I got rid of all of the different colours in the background (what was I thinking?) To guide the viewer’s eye to easily see lots of different comic books I changed each book to a different shade of grey. Then I looked at what colour’s I had Chris wearing. I tried a range of changes but actually the deeper red makes his eyes stand out and suits him. So I took my grey scale background and added a very unsaturated blue with a hint of violet. This hardly reads as colour at all but still has the effect of making my background look cool compared to my warm subject without being distracting. I changed the title colours to a warm deep yellow and red combination which is analogous to Chris’ colour and ties the title of his channel to his portrait nicely. My final step was to airbrush some shadow just around Chris’ figure to push him right to the front.

So, after a strangely satisfying struggle with colour and composition I reached my final image…

This is the one I will send to Chris at Comic Tropes! I hope he likes it and recognises what a great channel he runs.

PS: Thanks for all of your kind wishes w.r.t. my health. Things are, very thankfully, improving without needing to go to hospital which is a big relief! I am still sore and tired, but my temerpature has been down for the longest period yet and my breathing is easier. As my wonderful son says “It’s all good Mum!”

Going Deeper into Art

Like many people I’ve been in isolation for a while. At the time of writing I’m still unwell with a cough, bad asthma and a temperature. However, I am managing OK at home and my GP has now put me on steroids and antibiotics in case it’s a sinus infection which has gone onto my chest.

 

 

So, while confined to bed and watching some YouTube, I found a brilliant art channel. It’s called Art Prof Create & Critique. (If you want to look at the channel you can find it here.)

I found the teaching on this channel to be really excellent and very useful for improving my art. After watching a number of their videos I began to see art in a new way.

Firstly, I’ve become aware that I favour art which has a single detailed subject with a plain background, or no background at all. I think this is partly just personal taste and partly my interest in scientific illustration coming through. However if it also might relate to me being autistic and, in some sense, needing to see single detailed objects in a blank field.  I’ve always been drawn to this kind of 2d representation.  It relaxes me instantly!  But, while this stuff has it’s place, there is so much more out there.  So I’m going to start thinking beyond this pattern.

Secondly I’ve come to understand that the research I do on a subject is also part of the art!  I had no idea!  So is gathering a wide range of references, and not just references for the actual objects to be painted, but references for textures and colour combinations too!  Added to this is the process of trying out lots of quick thumbnails to find a way into a piece of work and the thinking behind the painting.  All of this is part of the process of art.  It’s something I’ve done, usually quickly and without showing much, if anything, of it on my blog.  I previously felt that this side of the work was just the annoying bits and pieces you have to do to be free to work on something.  Now I see it in a whole new light.   It’s like the soil you plant your painting in.  Good soil = good painting (hopefully)!

So I want to do some work as soon as I can, taking account of this new understanding, and giving proper time and energy to these other parts of the creative process.  I’m not able to work in traditional media right now as the Ventolin I take for my asthma makes my hands shake and, after spilling a glass of dirty paint water on my bed, bedside table and carpet I’m less enamoured with trying to do this while unwell.  So I will try it when I can.

In the mean time here’s a quick animation-styled sketch of the teacher I’ve been following on Art Prof.  I can’t thank her enough…

 

Art Prof

 

 

 

Process for animation-styled sketches

Here are the stages I went through for each sketch.  I followed roughly the same process each time…

  1. Sketch
  2. Pen
  3. Colour or tone
  4. Lights and shadows

Woman in Bed…

 

 

And here’s the Professor…

 

The Jelly Road

At the time of writing I am recovering from flu, and it’s half term! Why do I always get ill during school holidays?

Because my temperature has been high I have had some really vivid dreams. One of these was a dream about a family of small fish who lived in a jelly-fish-campervan and were travelling down the Jelly Fish Road, which was like route 66 but for fish. As I was noodling around with Autodesk SketchBook, a drawing app, I found myself starting to draw a scene from the dream.

Now, this drawing began as a doodle so I wasn’t thinking about my blog and didn’t make any process photos until I had finished the line art. However, being new to Autodesk SketchBook, at some point I must have accidentally switched on a video recording mode. So, although I have no process pictures of the beginning, I do have a short video of part of it…

Here’s the finished line art. I was trying to get it to look like one of those fun, detailed illustrations for children’s books, a bit like a Where’s Wally cartoon but not quite as manically busy…

Next I began to tone it…

There were some super textured brushes I used for some of the jellyfish campervan structure…

Eventually, after some ultra relaxing drawing, I completed the picture. So here is The Jelly Road

And here’s a close up…

It’s not exactly high art, but it was very relaxing and quite fun to do.

Quick Comic Practice Studies

This week I ‘ve been very busy with the end of term so here are the final panel art practice sketches I made in the summer. I had been doing really quick 10 minute sketches from TV to speed up my ability to draw comic panels. For this last section of the exercise, rather than sketching from a video, I tried to draw 3 sketches of real comic panels by artists I enjoy as quickly as possible without them becoming unrecognisable.

I began with Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto. I studied two original panels by Kishimoto and then tried to draw and tone them really quickly.

The first one was a picture of Naruto’s sensei Kakashi in a classic ninja pose. This one took about 10 minutes in total…

The second was also from Naruto and has Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura sitting together. This one had a lot more detail in it and took me 15 minutes. I blew my time limit on the background details…

The final study I did was from a comic series called DMZ written by Brian Wood with artwork by Riccardo Burchielli (and sometimes Wood himself). The panel is of the moment a nuclear device is triggered in New York during a fictional future war in the US. It’s an amazing panel. My study took about 15 minutes. Here’s what it looked like…

So, that’s the end of my quick practice studies

(NB: All three panels here were drawn and inked by me, but they are not my own original work – they are studies of the comic art of Kishimoto and Burchielli.)

Ten Minute Video Observation Practice #5

This week’s sketches were all of animals.  I mainly used my Pigma Microns and brush markers, although I did experiment with a bit of charcoal over the ink for the body of my gorilla.  I’m still in two minds about that decision.

Here are the pictures…

 

 

The dog is my favourite, despite running over my ten minute limit by 3 minutes.

 

Ten Minute Video Observation Practice #4

This set of sketches was also done really quickly while watching Netflix and YouTube. I’m working towards being able to draw fast and clearly enough to be able to draw and write a comic book one day. Each sketch takes about ten minutes. I think when working on a real project, rather than just doing some sketching practice, I would definitely take more time. The question is, how fast would I need to go to be at a professional level in terms of time?

Professional Comic Artists

Well, in the comic industry the gold standard is that the penciller would be expected to draw 20 pages a month, which, if you take account of the weekends is one page a day for four weeks straight working only weekdays. But that is just the pencils, no ink, no colour or tone and no lettering. The person who inks the drawing will take less time to ink each page than the penciller did to do the drawing. Colour and tones take even less time and lettering, when done well apparently, takes a day for a whole book! (all 20 pages).

I know that some artists find this pace way too fast and feel forced by the timeline into producing work that isn’t their best which sounds miserable. Many work at a slower pace.  Conversely, comic artist legend Jack Kirby famously drew at an even faster rate  – producing an average of 3 pages a day and sometimes did up to 6!!!  If I were to produce a comic book, with the constraints of my health and a job (which has to come first), I would have to work fast to be able to get it done in a reasonable time frame.  If I stopped all other art I think I could get a page done in a week, working just in the evenings although it would depend on my health remaining OK.

Neria the Thanatologist

Jerry Hardin as Neria in Star Trek Voyager (Paramount)

This is a sketch from Star Trek Voyager of an alien male.  He was called Neria and was a Thanatologist from the planet Vhnori.  He was played by Jerry Hardin.  I like the sculpting of his head shape and enjoyed trying to capture that in a quick sketch.  (The still (left) is not the same pose and camera angle as the one I drew when pausing Netflix.)

Here’s the sketch…

 

The Seashore

The next exercise was to draw a screenshot of a nature programme I was watching about coastal ecology.  The camera man in this series captured a really stunning shot of the coastline and I had a go at sketching it…

This one took a full ten minutes to complete and I really felt pushed for time.

Stylised Hand

The final drawing was of a man’s hand.  I was watching someone scrubbing up for surgery in a documentary.  It seemed to me that a surgeon’s hands are incredibly important precision tools.  Watching him scrub, I saw the care he took to do things properly and became really fascinated by his hands.  I made the drawing of this really quickly (less than 5 minutes) but blew another full 5 on the shading with my brush pens.  Here’s the final result…

Video Observation Practice #2

Here are some more quick thumbnails drawn from while watching various videos.  I use this exercise as a way to practice drawing panels for comicbooks.  Each one took from 5 to 10 minutes to complete and was drawn using Pigma Microns and then shaded with W&N Neutral Tone Brushmarkers.

The first is from the excellent and funny film “Shaun of the Dead” starring Simon Pegg as Shaun.  In this scene Shaun has just had some serious girlfriend trouble and is in the pub with his friend…

 

The next one was drawn while watching a documentary about US jails.  This jail is inside a really tall building and in some places the prisoners can look out at the city if they pull down the window covers.  This is the scene I drew.

 

The final panel I sketched was while I watched a piano recital.  It was this brilliant young pianist playing the piano version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.  Beautiful…

Video Observation Practice #1

While I work away on my fairy drawing which I began last week I’m going to post a series of sketches I drew in ink during the spring and summer.

I did them whilst relaxing in bed in the evenings, watching various videos – everything from YouTube discussions to regular TV series. It was pretty varied. The idea was to attempt to capture a scene really quickly as if I were planning a comic panel based on that scene. I would one day like to write my own comic book but I needed to see if I could draw scenes and people quickly and well enough for the artwork to be able to carry a story. Now, none of this is finished comic art – it’s just a series of practice sketches which I never intended to publish at all – I did them to speed up my ink drawing and get a feel for working fast on comic panels.

So here are the first two…

I love watching animals and horses are one of my favourites. So here is a fast sketch of a horse from a YouTube video about a horse rescue…

The next picture was from a Netflix series called “Sex Education”. It was a funny series about a teenage lad who’s mum is a sex therapist. Otis is pretty insecure but finds, with the help of his rebellious female friend Maeve, a way to move forward with his life by giving sex advice to other young people at his school. (Oddly, it was set in the UK but the school was run like an american school.) Anyway, here’s a scene I chose from this series…

This is the excellent actor Kedar Williams-Stirling playing a character called Jackson Marchetti in the show.

Mechanic – a large comic styled gouache painting

This week I’ve been dipping into some cool indie comics. One of them was called Quad. Each volume of Quad is a collection of four short stories in comic form. In Vol 1 is the story of Terah and Elvis written and drawn by Eduardo Shaal.

It’s a pretty good story with a Walking Dead type vibe – imagine Kirkman and Adlard’s Walking Dead after things have settled down a lot more and the zombies are just an annoying part of life which are dangerous if you’re not prepared. What I liked most about it was the feeling I got from the main character “Terah”; she had a sense of integrity lots of mechanical practical ability and a strong streak of independence. I really admire that way of being. Here’s the cover of the comic…

…and a link to it (here).

So, when I wanted to make a large comic-styled picture for my bedroom I thought of Shaal’s character. First I made an initial sketch in pencils based on a comic panel I particularly like. (If you follow the link above and use the ‘Look inside’ feature you can spot Shaal’s original panel on page two.)

I changed her hair and hat and I removed her gloves. Then I made the shadow of her cap less dense to I could draw her eyes in which were lost in shadow in the original work. I wanted to take the image in a slightly different direction from Shaal’s original. (Shaal has a beautifully loose drawing style which I love but wouldn’t be able to replicate even if I tried. So, rather than making a study of his work and style, I decided to follow his pose and work from there.)

Here’s my initial sketch…

This was done on A3 watercolour paper using pencils. It was harder and easier to draw something really big. It was harder because it took more courage to sketch something on a big scale. It was also easier because there was so much space to get every line I wanted and when you work bigger the final results are cleaner.

Then I inked her…

I used my Pentel Brush Pen for most of the main lines, which was great because you can get a very wide range of line widths really smoothly with this pen.

Then I used my Pigma Microns for the details.

Once the line work was complete I used my computer to have a play with colour schemes. I wanted blue and gold but I wasn’t sure exactly how to arrange it all. At first I thought this would work…

But her skin colour has too much yellow in for mustard coloured clothes to look right. So I changed her clothes to blue. This meant I had to work on trying to keep the blues properly differentiated but I thought it looked better…

Next it was time to paint. I’ve never tried to get such large flat washes before, especially inside tight lines. I used watercolour for the dark upper background colour (Payne’s Grey with some ultramarine dabbed into it). The rest was done with gouache. I know that professional illustrators often use a Liquitex acrylic gouache when they want large flat areas but I don’t have any of that so I did the best I could with regular gouache. It took a few hours over two days to complete the painting which is a really long time when you think that I did both digital colour scheme sketches in a total time of about 30 minutes.

Once the painting was finished I redid my line art to make it crisp and clear. This was so lovely to do, if a little nerve-wracking!

Anyway, here’s the final painting…