Monday, February 22, 2010

Character Sketch: Cowboy

A month ago I mentioned wanting to do a series of Character Sketches to help me develop a style. If you read the four posts after that you'll notice I didn't post anymore after the fireman. I was going to, but I had been commissioned to create a set of icons, then I finished my short story The Hook (a Wandering Koala tale) and needed to illustrate it. Well, the story is illustrated and published (go buy a copy on or and the icons are almost finished. So here is another character sketch.

The fireman sketch was inspired by a magazine sized comic book called Heroes by Marvel Comics. It focused on 9-11 and showed a lot of firemen. This one is a cowboy inspired by the graphic album Tintin in America.

I had never heard about Tintin until recently when a comic book blog talked about the new movie Spielberg and some other famous director are making. It was the writer's favorite comic. Then a month later I made some comments on another artist's work, and he emailed me back saying "thanks" and mentioned Tintin as one of his major influences. Well, I said to myself, "Self, you should check into this Tintin character." So I Wikipediaed him. I discovered there were two dozen graphic albums of adventures, the first two being black & white.

So I went to and ordered the first three, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Tintin in the Congo, and Tintin in America. Then I emailed the fellow artist back and asked for a recommendation.

I finished Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and really enjoyed it, and am a little over halfway thru Tintin in America. Part of the story involves Tintin dressing up like a cowboy and getting captured by indians. I kind of like cowboys & indians, so I decided to do my next sketch of a cowboy.

This one is different than the first, because it was done completely in Painter. (The fireman I drew with a pencil and inked with a Brush Pen.) I've been wanting to get more into digital art for a while, and Corel Painter plus and Intuos2 tablet work well. I'm happy with how it turned out, and how quickly I was able to finish it. The background is a photograph of the Australian outback, which I thought looked western enough.

So, what do you think?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Illustrated Stories

I've always loved the format of children's storybooks, where they have a picture on one page and the words on the adjoining page telling the story. I've never understood why nobody creates books like that for adults. Comic books and graphic novels are close, but I think something that was written so you only needed the words or only need the pictures for the story would be stronger. (Greg Rucka did create a miniseries released thru comic book stores called Elektra & Wolverine: The Redeemer in this format, and I thought it was brilliant. I used it as a model as well as a book by Jim David called Garfield: Babes & Bullets.)

So I decided to create that. My first story is called The Hook (a Wandering Koala tale). It's about 23 pages of story (small type) and 24 new illustrations with a full color cover. I'm really proud of it. It's a story I've been working on for a long time, and I even have an almost finished comic book version of it. A few panels of the comic made it into the story. Can you guess which ones they were?

Right now I've only published it electronically thru the Amazon Kindle Store and SmashWords (which supplies Barnes & Nobel and the Sony eReader store) so you can find it in any format, including a text file or web page. It's only $1.29, which is a steal. I'm hoping to write a whole slew of short stories. Once I have a dozen or so (or maybe a half dozen) I'll collect them into a paperback.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Digital Art

I've always been a traditionalist, mainly because digital art rarely turns out as well as the traditional stuff. I offer two reasons for this.

First, the technology takes a long time to catch up. Digital is pretty new. The computational power to actually create art has only existed for about 20 years. Traditional art has had thousands of years.

Second, the people that do digital art are usually technology enthusiasts or fairly unskilled artists; the skilled ones are too busy learning the traditional method to do the digital stuff. Just look at all the junk that's been thrown up (pun intended) on the Internet with Flash.

These two factors are why I am a critic of digital art and an opponent of 3D computer generated stuff like Pixar or Dreamworks. I've always said that if you got a great sculptor to create art with a 3D program you would come up with something pretty amazing.

I recently purchased a program called Brushes for the iPhone that is a pretty cool painting program. The artwork you can create with it is really nice--it has a certain Jack Vettriano feel to it. Programs like it and Corel Painter make me feel a lot more favorably towards digital art.

Here is a video of me creating my first painting with Brushes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Black & White vs. Color

I post a lot of work on a site called People can look at my work, rate it, comment on it, or buy it. Most of my work is black and white linework that I scan and digitally color. Sometimes I'll post both the black and white version and the colored version. I always find it interesting how much more popular the colored version is. I always get more views and more comments.

I personally love black and white. When I was little I had a Richie Rich book that was black and white, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it; they were some of my favorite comics. When I was in college, I picked up my first black & white Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic: Michaelangelo's Chrismas. It was black and white and I couldn't put it down. I immediately started doing everything in black and white and loved it. I started collecting as many back issues as I could. When I got to the colored series, I was very disappointed in the color and felt it detracted. I was glad when they went back to black and white.

But it seems we live in a world where people expect everything to be full color, HD, 5.1 surround sound, on a 72" screen. Is it because all of that adds to the content, or are people just spoiled. If it adds, I'm all for it. But if people are just spoiled, then there is a problem. Sometimes I feel that art is like over seasoned food--there is so much pizzazz that it hides the real beauty or essence. Black & White, I feel, really allows the essence of a work to come out. Also, it's more flexible in reproduction: black and white illustrations work in many more book formats and ebooks, something I'm currently pursuing.

I'm posting two versions of a Christmas card I sent out years ago. When I finished with the black and white linework, I was truly taken back in amazement: it was the greatest thing I had ever created. Then I added color and was again taken aback. Years later I was going thru some old artwork, and I stumbled on the black & white version and was again impressed beyond words. I'm posting them both for you to see and judge for yourself.

Do you like Black & White Art, or does everything have to be in color?