Brilliant

March 26, 2009

I’m not an animator, but I also don’t know of any commercial illustrator in the past 30 years that will not admit to having started drawing because of the Warner Brothers cartoons they watched as a kid on Saturday mornings- something they hardly do any more. My favorite director of those is Chuck Jones, and this isn’t a debate about who was/is the best, but rather about one cartoon he did. The other night on TCM they did a fantastic retrospective of his work, that included a short documentary. I was only familiar with his Tom & Jerry work at MGM, but one of the shorts they showed was an MGM short based on a children’s book called “The Bear That Wasn’t”, and it’s incredible. I wanted anyone who hasn’t seen it to check it out. The UPA influenced design in this is incredible, and you can see hints of the Grinch in it as well. The office scenes are especially fascinating for me because of the “acid-nouveau” elements (as I call them). The Morse Code quality of the line work set in french curves, and exaggerated proportions to the objects, must have freaked me out as a kid, or swirled my imagination somehow. Born in 1970, I caught the tail end of this design movement, filtered out of the works of Milton Glaser and others, who brought that hand drawn quality back to graphic design. On a side note, if you haven’t rented or seen the film Helvetica (yes, about the font) then find it. The film discusses the organic design reaction against, and the return to, the aesthetic that is embodied by that font, and the influence it had on pop culture. 

For now, enjoy this incredible cartoon. Thank you Chuck, we owe you. 

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Mo Monsters

March 25, 2009

As promised, here are a few pages in pencil and their final version, from the comic adaptation of MvA. My art can be seen on the second half of the book, as the first part was draw by Alex Dalton who did a great job. Even with our adherence to the character design, you can see the switch over. Alex has a nice clean style, that focuses on the characters, mine is much more- cluttered. Regardless, if you can’t tell the AD-SG switch over, it happens during the Golden Gate bridge scene. In my first attempt at the opening page, I was so excited about drawing “Link” (the Creature) who is my fave of the characters based on his look, I made him the focal point of the page. Unfortunately the script specifically asked that Ginormica be the focus. Oh well, so as a bonus to everyone out there, here are the original version of that page,  the final revised pencils, Gary Erskine’s inks, and the colored art. The nice thing about this, is you can see how the same information in a scene can be shown, but the focus can be shifted by the artist, who had other priorities at the time.

Here’s the original script that I was working from for this page. 

Splash page: Recapping the end of the last issue: Susan is in the clutches of the Alien robot’s claw, she is struggling to prise it apart as the robot pulls her towards its grinding equipment in its open middle section. Angle this so we are looking up at the action and Susan is twisted so we can see her straining face. We’re on the Golden Gate Bridge, so frame the shot with its famous pillars and suspension cable. The bridge is canted at an angle where the weight of the robot has tilted it. Terrified civilians are leaving their cars and running towards us in a blind panic. Make this all very 50’s B-movie poster style.

CAP: This wasn’t the way Susan Murphy thought she’d be spending her honeymoon: being attacked by a killer robot from beyond the stars.

CAP: But then again, she didn’t plan on getting struck by a meteor on her wedding day and growing to the size of 50 stories.

CAP: It’s funny the way things turn out sometimes. She’s now a member of a government team of monsters on a mission to stop a potential alien invasion.

CAP: She’s GINORMICA – and she’s in trouble!

SUSAN: Oh boy, this is not going well! Guys! A little help here!

Here’s the version I sent, which was quickly rejected by a sympathetic (but hard-nosed) Andrew James. Yeah, I just wanted to draw Link, what can I say. Shout out: Andrew went thru a LOT on this book, from me and Dreamworks, but he was a trooper. 

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Now how it was supposed to be.

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Now the awesome inks by Gary Erskine. 

mva_03_01_inks1Lastly the colored version.

mva_03_01_clrWell, the film comes out Friday, and although I don’t get anything from the take on the film, I hope everyone will get a chance to see it. Unlike Watchmen there isn’t a giant, er, uh… if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I’m talking about. Enjoy!

We need MONSTERS!

March 21, 2009

With the release of the comic adaptation this past week, and the movie coming out Friday, I thought I’d talk about my work on the Monsters Vs. Aliens adaptation for Titan Books. Even though I had drawn Shrek and Bee Movie for Titan comics, I had to get approved by Dreamworks to work on the MvA book. For that I had to draw sample images of the characters from the film, which can be insulting, but it’s part of the process. The only good part about it is it gives you a chance to practice the characters, although I don’t feel you get a true understanding until about 8 pages worth of images are under your belt. The other problem is, unlike traditional animation, they don’t use model sheets per se. They build the characters in the computer and then pass them around to the animators. So I only got one or two poses to work from, or if I was lucky, I got an animated rotation. Some characters were still being tweaked while I was drawing my pages, so sometimes they don’t match up. The problem in not having a model sheet, is that the approval process becomes a shot in dark. A normal model sheet has notes about things the directors want to make sure you get right, like this one from Don Bluth’s Dragon’s Lair work. Note the instructions on how to draw certain elements, and things to keep in mind while working. Those types of insights really help, but you don’t get those very often anymore. 

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When you don’t get this sort of information, you’re guessing as to what a character’s build is, or the traits that really define how they look. These little notes really do help to make things consistent.  If you know for a fact a character is 5 heads high, or their heads are two eyes wide, you save a lot of guess work. If you don’t get this stuff, it’s really hunt and peck until you get comments back from the studio. Invariably they go something like this “… these are totally off character- isn’t the artist even looking at the materials we sent? By the way we’ve changed the nose since the last email, it’s longer now, but we don’t have a rendering to show- think more Bob Barker.” Wha-wha-WHAT?! Yeah, welcome to my world. On audition sketches I try to have fun with it, and since my editors on this were in England (Shout out to Andrew James- the coolest editor in short pants) I liked to “Brit-ify” my sketches. I’m sure they thought I was lame, but it makes things fun for me. Here are some sketches I did of the main characters and the bad guy to get approval from Dreamworks. Later I’ll post pencilled pages from the story, the fantastic inks by Gary Erskine, and some of the colors… or as they say across the pond- “colours”.

Enjoy these for now. 

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This next one was fun for me, only because I’m a dork and I enjoy old Dr Who shows. You ask the average Who fan, and they snicker when you mention the Daleks, as if they’re not cool because they’re so popular. It’s like Trekkies who snicker at Klingons, but we all know they’re cool, so admit it and move on. Davros was never my favorite Dalek related character, but he just seemed a good fit for this one.

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If you HAVE to know what they’re saying- here you go. 

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slgallant_mvsa_03Eh, it’s a living.

Duke pt2

March 18, 2009

So here are the final pencils for the previous post. The process skipped a bit and went from my hands to the colorist. Normally on a book, the stage after my pencils would be inks. For those who don’t know, that’s when another artist (and I do mean artist) comes in and goes over my pencil lines with ink. This helps the art reproduce properly by cleaning up the images with smooth lines and strong contrast for the printer’s cameras. Usually the inker will also embellish the page a bit by adding more textures and any details I may have forgotten. A good inker is worth his salt, but sadly because of time and/or money a lot of publishers have been forced to push this practice to the side. I pencil pretty tight, so we can simply scan my work, bump up the contrast in the computer, and allow the colorists to do their magic. Below are the pages in the final pencil stage and then what they look like with color and balloons attached.  Enjoy!

 

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Now the color version of this page.

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gij_duke_iss01_p15Here’s the color version.

ayout 1

Yo JOE!

March 14, 2009

So now that the first issues of the GI Joe movie prequel has hit the shelves, I can finally post some art from them. The first issue was a bit of a challenge for me as I never served in the military. Additionally, I’m not into guns, tanks, planes, bombs, killing, paratroopers, C-17s, M-16s, frag grenades, or any of that overly macho stuff. My knowledge of those things is equal to that of the mating practices of the woodworm… nil. I try my best to get all the details right (but the fan boys are already trying to nitpick it death on the IDW forums- so head over there for a laugh). I do my best, but what kills me is when everything else is correct, they never consider what I did, was done for a reason. Naw, they never think of that. Ultimately it’s a comic book, and considering what some other guys call research, I don’t feel so bad. Of course they never point out what I got right! Anyway, below are a couple of thumbnails for the issue, none of which give much away in terms of story, but I thought you might enjoy seeing the process again. 

The first is page 08 from the issue, and this one is already getting gripes from comic book guy’s real life counterparts. Evidently I placed the soldier with the SAW rifle in the wrong spot, so I’ll remember that when I’m on a mission. I didn’t know this comic book was supposed to be a training manual for jungle warfare. Anyway, it was intentional since the guy is a friend of mine and whenever I had the chance, I pushed him to the front, regardless of accuracy. Besides if you’re that picky about military details then why bother reading a fictional story about a secret elite fighting force that only battles a clown costumed organization, pathetically trying to dominate the world, while being led by the most inept strategic planner  in history, who also has a lisp? To borrow a catch phrase… I digress. 

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Next is page 15, more jungle, more covert stuff. I enjoyed this one because I was excited to do this first panel. Don’t ask me why, maybe it was the angle or something that made it fun. It just had that feel from when I was a kid running around in the woods behind my house playing Photon with Mike. I never won, hence my short lived desire to join the military as a kid. I had cannon fodder written on my head from the word go- no thank you.

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Come back in a day or two and I’ll post final art and color versions of these for comparison. Other than that, hit the stores, grab some copies, and if you feel up to it, post some support in the IDW forums.

Later next week, my work on the Titan Books adaptation of Dreamworks’ Monsters Vs Aliens will hit the stands and I’m going to throw up a couple of pages from that as well. It’s always fun for me to do realistic stuff like Joe and then turn around to do something more cartoonish like MvA. Keeps the chops fresh. Until then, have a great weekend.