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!”

Anatomical Construction Drawing Vs Anatomical Reference Drawing

For this week’s post I compared two methods of drawing a person, working specifically on male anatomy. The first method was a way of constructing a person by dividing the person into four and building on a basic stick frame. The second method was simply drawing and painting from reference.

The Construction method was based on a brilliant video by a super artist and story teller, Mark Crilley

I’ve followed Mark’s work ever since I read his brilliant Manga Brody’s Ghost. So I thought I’d have a go at using his tutorial to draw a man.

NB: Now at the time I attempted this I’d just hit the Whitsun half term holiday and was really unwell. I’d been in bed for 36 hours with a big fever and massive head, neck and face pain. I was feeling quite sorry for myself.   I still like to draw even when I’m ill, mainly because drawing calms me down and helps me stay OK, but the results were not great.

Anatomical Construction Method

So I began with a basic stick figure construction…

I built on it…

I inked it…(the head is too big here.)

And then, later when I was feeling better, shaded and coloured it. (The shading was done with graphite and the colour was digitally added.)

It was OK, recognisably a man I think, but not what I was hoping for. I do find drawing without any reference VERY difficult.

Next I thought I would compare this to a sketching a male figure from reference.

Anatomical Reference Drawing

I used Michaelangelo‘s iconic Statue of David as my reference. It’s as good an example of male anatomy as I could find. I was also feeling much better by this point thanks to an excellent practice nurse who precribed the antibiotics which I needed. Since I was going to draw this on A3 paper and my reference was A4 I decided to use a grid to help me enlarge my drawing to the right size.

My first job was to mark the outlying edges of my figure, height and width…

Then I used my grid to make a basic sketch…

Once I’d done that I cleaned off my gridlines and worked on the details of the sketch…

Finally I painted it using Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolours. I used a purple (ultramarine, lamp black and Alizarin crimson) with a yellow ochre (yellow ochre pale toned down with a tiny drop of ultramarine to drop the saturation a bit.)

I painted large sections at a time so I could wet a whole area and use the residual dampness in the paper to soften all my edges…

Then I added some wet on dry marks to bring out certain shapes in the knees and face and hands. Finally, I used another purple with more lamp black in it to push the contrast. And here’s the finished piece…

 

 

So, what have I learned?

Well, first of all, while sketching still has a nice calming effect on me when I’m unwell, running a temperature over 38 deg C does affect my ability to draw properly. Secondly, I still struggle with constructing accurate anatomical figures without reference. Lastly, I am stronger and more comfortable at drawing with reference than without it.

October Ink 5, 6 and 7 – Water, Mammal, Tree

The next three October Ink drawings I did were of a splash of water, a mouse and a bonsai tree.

 

Water is something which has always fascinated me.  I could watch ripples and splashes in water for hours, literally.  This summer we made a trip to Paris.  There were beautiful fountains and overflowing pools of water in the Trocadero Gardens (just the other side of the river from the Eiffel Tower, right next to the Pont d’Lena).  It was SO beautiful there.  Paris is a wonderful city and the people there were really helpful when I needed a wheelchair for my pain condition or help to find a taxi  – such lovely people!  The food was absolutely fabulous too!

Here are some photos of the gardens.  It was a very hot day (31 deg C) so many people were enjoying the water…

 

 

 

With repect to my October Ink drawing of water I tried to use just flat colours with no gradients to see what effect it would have.  Looking back I think it would look better if I had used some gradients in the blacks and greys.  Here’s what it might have looked like with a gradient watercolour wash over the top…

I added the colour digitally to see how much difference it made – I think it works better.

My next sketch was of a little mouse…

 

When I was at secondary school I used to keep 2 white mice in a special habitat at home.  They were lovely but they sometimes chewed their way out of their habitat (which was made of wood).  One day I remember getting ready for a hockey lesson at school when I found one of my mice in my hockey boot!  My PE teacher initially didn’t believe me when I told her what had happened, until she saw the mouse! I had to take it to the biology department so it could be looked after until the end of school.

My last drawing of a Bonsai Tree was another experiment where I was trying to use a very rigid drawing style.  Here it is…

 

It wasn’t as effective as I’d hoped.  However, if I add some digital colour, it really comes to life…

 

An Easy Digital Colouring Process

This week I worked on a number of smaller images in my sketchbook and started a bigger project.  The smaller images were in ink and pencil…

 

[Pencil on paper]

 

 

[Ink on paper]

 

[Ink on paper]

(NB:  The Drawing is my own but the character ‘Strontium Dog’  (aka Johnny Alpha) belongs to 2000AD (Rebellion) and the art style I used was my own version of Carlos Ezquerra’s brilliant work.)

Then I coloured them digitally.  I thought it would be fun to go through the basic colouring process I use with the gecko picture as an example.

(1) I start by scanning in the art work and cleaning any scanning artifacts (I always get one which is irritating).  I also do a general clean up of the image and adjust the curves and levels if it’s needed.  I usually do this bit in photoshop.

(2) Then I save the cleaned image and open it in Manga Studio 5.

(3) My next big job is to put in the ‘flat colour’.  Basically this process involves colouring every pixel of the drawing in flat solid colour with no anti-aliasing, shading or anything else – just flat blobs of colour right up next to each other.  I tend to use colours similar to those I want to use in the final product but you don’t have to.

So here, I’m putting in the flat colour for the first few leaves…

To combine the colour with the line art like this I put the line art in the top layer and set that layer to ‘multiply’.  Then I paint my flat colour in the layer below.

Here’s a bit more flatting done…

(Here you can see I’ve accidentally painted the flower properly with final colours in the flatting layer.  I could have wiped it all out and made it white but I knew there wasn’t much I wanted to do with that part of the picture so I left it.)

Generally I paint the flats using the polygon selector with anti-aliasing off so I get a clear division of one colour or the other with nothing in between.  Once I’ve selected my area I just fill it with solid colour.

Finally when all the flat colour is done it looks like this (without the linework on top of it)…

 

So with the linework we’ve now got to this…

 

I really love flatting images, I find it repetative but nice and it makes me feel relaxed.

(4) Next I complete the detailed colour and shading for each flat area.  This is where the real digital painting starts and I find in a lot of ways I can paint in my PC just like I paint on a canvas.  I can’t always get the same effects digitally but I do have the advantage of the back button which will undo my last few changes – I wish I had that on paper sometimes!

Here’s the painting done for the leaves but not yet the gecko…

And here’s the desktop with the gecko painted fully too…

 

(5) Finally I put on any borders I need and save the fullsize image, then reduce the size for the web and it’s ready to go.

Here are my final coloured pictures…

 

 

Lionfish, Ink and Digital Colour

I have been planning a new watercolour this week.  It’s of a lionfish.  I started out making a sketch and then developing it in ink as a sort of practice run.

Here’s the lionfish practice…

 

Also this week I’ve been playing with some digital colour using some other ink drawings in my sketchbook…

Original ink…

And with digital colour…

 

Original ink…

Digital colour…

(Ink and colours are my own work but ‘Old Stony Face’ as a character belongs to Rebellion and the brilliant people at 2000AD.)

Original ink…

Digital colour…

 

Original ink…

Digital colour…

 

Original ink…(inspired by George Todorovski’s YouTube Video)

Digital colour…

 

Original ink…

Digital colour…(this one’s for Dave from Davezart)

 

And last but not least – Gotham City’s moody Bat – 10 min quick ink sketch…

And in digital colour…

(Batman Inks and Colour are my own, by the character belongs to DC Comics)

Fishing, a Baby and Some Rocks…

This week I didn’t have too much time for art (still recovering from my cold) but I did manage some simple stuff.

The first was a sketch of some rocks with water running over and around them.  I found it really challenging.  I would like to paint a watercolour of this and my idea was to try to do a value sketch so I could see where the complicated light and shadows are in such a situation.

Here’s the sketch, such as it is…

rocksinwaterfin_web

 

Then I went on to draw a relaxing fishing scene.  I got the idea for this painting from some work I’m doing with the children in school.  We’re planning to make sillouette pictures of the Great Fire of London.  I was thinking about that and then wondered if I could make a painting using sillouettes of fishing – my favourite relaxing passtime.  (I haven’t fished since the summer but if it’s not too cold and if we’re both well, my son and I might go out this weekend.)

In terms of planning this one was easy.  I just made a sunset coloured wash – all reds and oranges and yellows and then sketched my fishing scene over the top.

Initially I was going to ink my scene onto the paper over the wash but my pens didn’t take kindly to the paint and I didn’t want to ruin them so I painted the black stuff using gouache black.  At the end I put in some highlights using yellow mixed with some gouache white.  Here are the results…

sunsetfishingfinweb2

The last thing I worked on this week was a Madonna and Child sketch in my sketchbook.  I got the idea from a Christmas card which somehow escaped my post Christmas clear-out.

I drew it in pencil and then inked it using a watersoluble multiliner.  Then I used water to move some of the ink to add some tone…

mamabubafin_web

I like how most of this turned out, but you can see some errors.  For instance I used the water soluble pen in the baby’s hair to give it some texture when I should have used a water resistant one so that the ink there didn’t move when I toned the hair.  Oh well, as our head teacher has on her door…

“If you want to succeed, double your failure rate!”

PS:  Just to see what it was like I also coloured this picture digitally…

mamabubafin_web_col

I used the Manga Studio watercolour brushes to add some texture.

Days 96 to 102 – Using art to avert ‘Death by Chrismas Concert’

As the school term goes on (and on) and the staff (and I suspect some of the children) all begin to edge towards ‘Death by Christmas Concert’ syndrome I’m finding myself increasingly tired.  Not just a bit worn-out but bone-achingly, think-my-body-will-seize-up-any-minute tired.  It’s no wonder that, when I hear the introduction to ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ for the eightieth time and try to smile and encourage the children, I find myself losing the will to live.

So this week, art has been a bit of a refuge.  I’ve not had a great deal of time but what I have had I’ve used to do some ink work and then mostly to colour it digitally.

The first drawing began as a serious sketch of a Northern Saw-Whet Owl (which is a massively cute little thing with big big eyes.)  Gradually though it became more of a decorative ink pattern owl.

Here’s the final ink drawing…

northern-saw-whet-owl_fin_web

 

Then I coloured it in Manga Studio 5…

northern-saw-whet-owl_fin_web

At first I naturally tried to colour the leaves green but that added another hue to my colour pallette which I didn’t want so I played around with the colour and finally settled on blue.  The more I look at pictures with limited colour pallettes the more I like them so I’m trying to use this in my colour work.

 

Then I went on to sketch a butterfly while I waited to collect my son from his after-school session.  This was really just a way to relax…

made-in-the-image_fin_web

 

As this was done mainly waiting in my car I had no computer, only a wet brush, some inks and some watercolour pencils.  I’m not sure I really captured the effect I was going for, where the butterfly brings colour to everything it touches, but it was fun to do.

The last picture I did this week was done quite late at night when I couldn’t sleep.  I recently got a set of Winsor and Newton Brush Markers (instead of Copics as my budget won’t stretch that far).  But I’d not had time to use them for anything, so since I couldn’t sleep and needed to relax I made a quick cartoon sketch of a Mr Fox character…

mr-fox-ink-fin-web

 

The markers were great to use although they bled a bit on the Moleskin paper and they blended really well.  (They also ruined the picture on the other side of the page but I was aware of this possiblilty and should really have thought about it and used some Bristol Board.)

I was pleased with the Fox character – I think he looks quite jaunty.

Then the next day I coloured him in Photoshop…

mr-fox-colour_fin_web

 

PS:  I wish you all a Happy Christmas!.  I do the artwork for my blog and write it up a few weeks in advance and then schedule it, so this work was done near the beginning of December when we were rehearsing like mad for the school Christmas performances.  It’s quite nice to think that by the time this blog is published I shall be sitting in my cosy living room with a cup of coco and my feet up!

Days 57 and 58 – Hooded Manga Man – Watercolour Vs Digital Colour

Originally, all I wanted to draw in this image was a man in a hooded robe.  Inevitably, for me,  he turned into a Jedi!

So here’s my lineart…

hooded-manga-maninkfinweb

Originally I planned to paint this in watercolour.  My first draft of the watercolour looked weak and uneven…

hoodedmangawatercolour1_finweb

So I painted over it with a second layer – evening out the colour and generally trying to save the picture.  He’s how the second draft looked…

hoodedmnaga-watercolour2finweb

It still wasn’t how I wanted it to be, so I coloured it in Manga Studio.  I think it’s better coloured digitally, even though I rushed the digital colour work in about 20 minutes.  I just have to work harder and practice more with watercolour I think.  Here’s the final digital picture…

hooded-manga-mancolwebfin2

Days 45 and 46 – Three-Banded Armadillo – Ink and Digital Colour

From the same issue of National Geographic I was looking at a few days ago I found a great picture of a Three-Banded Armadillo.  They are such unusual creatures and I always think they look really cool.   So  sketched this one…

3bandedarmadillosketch_web
My Sketch Above with Nattional Geographic Reference Photo below.

Then I inked the picture with watersoluble ink and added some greyscale tone using water…

armadillo-ink_fin_web

Then I scanned it in and coloured it digitally…

armadillo-colourfin_web

I think he’s a pretty cool looking little dude!