I’m not one for enjoying reading things without pictures. As a comic artist that goes without saying, but even as a kid it was more so, than most people know. At the earliest age, I showed a tendency to only see things, not read them. Granted I could read well enough, but I tended to focus on the visual side of books. When my parents saw that I loved to draw comics they went out and got me the “How to Draw the Marvel Way” book. When others look at it, this is what they see on the page.

But for me it always looked like this.

So fast forward 35 or so years, and you see me now. Still drawing, and still hating to read long sections of copy. Most art text books I avoid like the plague, mainly because they don’t seem to acknowledge that artists are visual and need things explained that way, but Andrew Loomis understood this. I think that’s why his books have been sought out by artists more so than any other. His have taught me tons, and I still go back to them on (almost) a daily basis. For years you couldn’t find them, except as expensive collector pieces, since they’ve been out of print for decades. Luckily they’re being re-released by Titan books and the first two, Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth  and Drawing the Head and Hands, are now available.

But at a recent art session, I was sitting near a girl who was just whipping out sketches. There was something that I recognized in the approach, so during a break I asked- “Are you an animator?” to which she said “How did you know?”. It was obvious from the way her pencil skated about the paper and how her pictures were more about capturing the feel of the pose than reproducing it. I noticed that after she had exhausted the pose multiple times over the five minute pose, she would expand to drawing other artists in the room, quickly capturing the essence of their stance. So I started thinking about how I needed that energy in my own work, to loosen up, to capture the feel of the pose, and not get bogged down in detail. To help me achieve this I found the Drawn to Life series by Walt Stanchfield. They’re not so much books, as they are a collection of handouts he did for his drawing/gesture class at the Disney studios.

What’s happened is I’ve been totally taken in by them. I’m reading theory, and further more, I love it. Perhaps it’s age, which has allowed me to develop… oh, what’s the word, ah, patience. They’re all theory, talking about how to see the figure, how to study it, interpret it, and only then convey it onto paper. He talks about not drawing what’s in front of you, acting like a camera, but living the pose, stressing the important elements, and letting the message of it fill the sketch. Sure there are the visual examples of what he’s talking about, and the lectures (completed around the time Disney was doing the Little Mermaid) have drawings by young animators who are now legends in their own right. It’s a concept, supported by visual cues, but ultimately it’s about how you draw in the brain, not on the page. It’s funny that to me, an artist with 20 years of professional experience (crap, now I feel old), can read this, get excited, and learn as much as a first year student. If you feel caught, stagnated, and frustrated with where your art is, take a look at these. It’s the basics, and as with any profession, be it music, sports, or art, you have to go back to the essentials now and then. This is a great way to do that, and still feel like you’re moving forward.  It’s sad that it’s taken me so long to get to an age where I can realize this, but to para-phrase a line from “It’s a Wonderful Life” , “Youth is wasted on the wrong people.” So be a kid, and learn a little.

So in an effort to post more, and to get ready for the convention season, I’m trying to force myself to do a sketch (or at least a quick tight pencil drawing) every day -or so. This often leads to the trouble of picking subjects, but one thing helps with those decisions, the birthdays of my favorite editors. I’ve done several for my gang of compadres in the UK offices of Titan Books. When my wife and I were in London, that band of rabble quickly became good friends, something we’ve maintained since our return. Recently, Den’s lovely lady Philippa had her birthday, and  he mentioned he had purchased a beautiful Mucha print for her (as if Mucha did any ugly images?), so I decided to whip up a drawing for her. I had gone through a strong period of Mucha-envy after seeing an exhibit of his work in Tulsa (during my days of living in Oklahoma) and went to see it several times. I was more amazed by his pencil drawings than his paintings or posters, mainly for their delicate line work. That was something I tried to emulate in my own work for a long time, but I hadn’t tried a drawing like that in years. What the heck, I did my best. I must say that front hand was a total pain and garnered more time than I wanted to spend on it, but it ha(n)d to be done.

Philippa seemed to like it, and what guy doesn’t want a beautiful girl to consider his drawing of her to be flattering.

Or as I call it "Philucha"


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. 


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.


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.

Finally- some COMIC stuff

January 29, 2009


Recently a friend sent me an email chewing me out for a lack of art related postings, so this will be the first in a several attempts to remedy that. Most of you probably know already that I’m one of several artists producing books for IDW based on Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, and Dreamworks’ Monsters Vs. Aliens for Titan Publishing. Sadly, until the books hit the stands I can’t post any of the artwork. For now what I want to do is take some pages from previous works and talk about the process involved.   

The images below are from the series “The Executioner: Mack Bolan” that I drew for IDW. What follows is the script,and later I’ll post thumbnails based on that, and then the final pencils for the page. The book can be found in a trade paper back now, so for those of you truly interested you can purchase that online or thru your local comic shop.
The following is the script that Douglas P Wojtowicz, who is one of the official writers for the Don Pendelton estate, so he really knows these characters. Luckily, Doug made it quite easy for me to work on this, Doug had the nice habit of including descriptions of characters that made sense to me. He often referenced things that a comic fan would know; for example, he described one character by saying “… he looks like Walt Simonson’s Thor”. It was helpful for me because it put us on the same page, so to speak. I often ask writers to give me names of actors that they would cast, that can really help keep things clear. After all I don’t want to draw Nimoy when they wanted Shatner. 
Take a look at the script and try to picture it in your head. If you haven’t seen the book, then this will be a nice exercise. If you have, sorry, you’ve been tainted. Later on I’ll post my thumbnails and discuss why I made the decisions I did and what I was attempting to do. 
Five Panels
Panel One
Wide angle shot of BOLAN approaching the Thugs, still in the shadows.
1) Bolan: Pardon me, please.  I’m lost and late for an appointment. *
2) Thug #1: Esse, you shouldn’t be in this place.  This is what they call a bad neighborhood.*
3) Bolan: I’m sorry, but I’m really running late.*
4) Thug #2: You didn’t listen to mi hermano?  This is a bad place for white assholes.
5) Caption: * Translated from Spanish
Panel Two
Wide angle shot of BOLAN in closeup, frowning, but without anger.  It’s almost as if he’s sad about what he’s supposed to do next.  STRAKHOV is visible in ghostly inset over his shoulder, talking.
6) Strakhov: We need to put together what we know about this man.  The Executioner has had plastic surgery several times over the years, but there are certain unchanged details.
7) Strakhov: Jet black hair.  Height of six foot two to six foot three.  Blue eyes.
8 ) Bolan: I would just like to get to the shipment before it comes in.  No reason to be violent.
Panel Three
Wide angle shot as Thugs 1-4 draw weapons.  Thugs 1 and 4 draw knives, Thug #2 has a pistol, and Thug #3 has a lead pipe.  Thug 1 has a nervous look on his face, while the other three are a mixture of hostility and glee.
9) Thug #3: F— this chump up! 
10) Thug #2: Oh, you just made my night.
Panel Four
Wide angle shot of  BOLAN as he grabs the wrist of Thug #2, turning his gun to one side.  BOLAN’S other hand is a fist, smashing the teeth out of Thug #4’s face with a vicious backhand.  STRAKHOV continues to speak in ghostly image.  Thug #3 rushes in, poised to cave in BOLAN’S skull with his pipe.
11) Bolan: Only if you’re a massochist.
12) Strakhov: (narrating) Bolan is capable of appearing as fearsome or helpless as the situation warrants.  He is a master of role camouflage, able to fit into almost any social situation.
Panel Five
Wide angle shot of Bolan pushing Thug #2’s face into Thug #3’s, with a sickening crunch.  Thug #1 watches in horror, holding his knife like a crucifix to ward of a vampire.  STRAKHOV continues to speak in ghostly image.
13) Strakhov: (narrating) Even unarmed, he can be very dangerous.
Check in later to see the thumbnails!