Thursday, April 26, 2012

Batter Up! (Wandering Koala plays ball.)

I don't like baseball--playing it or watching it--but I do think it's visually interesting and makes great art. So I decided to make art with it!

This was inspired by a collection of old comics I recently purchased. Back in the early days of the golden age of comics, superheroes (or costumed characters as they were called back then) would appear in anthologies, World's Finest and Comic Cavalcade, and share the cover doing some mundane task like playing baseball, waterskiing, or walking a tightrope in the circus. Until World War II, and then they punched out the Axis. I always liked those covers (the everyday and the propaganda ones). I thought Wandering Koala would work well in a similar situation, so I drew it.

As usual, I drew this with a Staedtler 2B, inked it with a paint brush and sumi ink, and then colored it in Adobe Photoshop. It turned out well. I just with I could bring myself to use hard lines instead of the more painterly look. One of these days. I just found a whole bunch of great old Steve Canyon covers...

As always, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Color Illustration: Chained and Doomed

I'm not sure why I felt like drawing a six-armed beast with a blade in each hand ready to slice a chained Wandering Koala, but I did. Chains look really cool, have great texture, and take forever to draw. I really like how there are only two colors on the beast, and yet he looks like he's in full color. I also beat up the Wandering Koala more than usual with cuts, bruises, and torn clothes. Usually he escapes untouched, but that can get boring after a while.

I drew this with a Staedtler 2B pencil, inked it with a brush and sumi ink, and colored it in Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. I used a more painterly style, because this was a fantasy illustration and fantasy looks best in surreal paints.

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Cover: Jak Phoenix 2

What you see above is the cover to the latest novel in the Jak Phoenix Adventures series written by Matt D. Williams. I illustrated the cover, and it is pretty darn cool if I do say so myself.

If you read the first novel, then you know the series is classic space opera. The title character would rather kick back with a cold one than save the galaxy, but somehow he manages to do both. What's nice about this second book, The Markazian Deception, is it has all the charm and character of the first, but it is a completely different kind of story so you don't feel like you're reading a remake. So what's it about? Here's the synopsis:
Destroying a megalomaniac’s dreaded star cruiser was just part of another day for Jak Phoenix. The real trouble comes when it’s time to find steady employment.
The Miraltans simply need a pilot to help them evade trouble with bandits along their shipping routes. While the job doesn’t sound like it’s boiling over with excitement, it may be the easy money Jak and Baxter are looking for.
But, things aren’t always what they seem when Jak finds himself forced to take sides in a dispute he doesn’t fully understand. Never a man to volunteer help easily, Jak is quickly thrown far out of his element and finds his choices could jeopardize not only himself, but his friends and countless others.
Friendships will be tested and loyalties will be questioned in the second action packed Jak Phoenix adventure!
Sounds pretty exciting, doesn't it? This book is another classic work of space opera that's lots of fun to read and filled with wild shenanigans, back room deals, and several twists to hold your attention until the very end. It's currently available in all eBook formats from Smashwords, for the Kindle from, and will soon be available at other retailers and in paperback--but why would you want to read a paper book when an eBook is so much better?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wandering Koala meets The Heckler

The Heckler was a great comic from the 90s created by Keith Giffen that ended way too soon along with Justice Society of America and Green Lantern: Mosaic. It was clever, witty, and made fun of so many conventions. I wonder, why didn't DC bring it back with its New 52? I really enjoyed The Heckler and wanted to see more of his adventures.

So I drew one.

I used a painting texture style that I developed while illustrating a children's storybook a couple of years ago. I really liked the effect and thought it would suit this work. The line work was created with some funky Zebra disposable pen brushes I purchased at JetPens. I included the black & white version below. It works really well in black & white, something I always try to do. Not only do I end up with two illustrations, but if an illustration works in black & white, then it seems to work better in color.

As always, let me know what you think.
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Digital Watercolor - Ladybugs

I've begun an exciting animation project, and as part of that I've been trying to come up with a style for the background paintings. I've created animations in the past, but I've never been happy with how the backgrounds turned out. I've studied hours and hours of animation, and the backgrounds I've been most impressed with were the ones created in watercolor and gouache (opaque watercolor). But I'm not the greatest watercolorist, and doing them on paper and scanning them in would add to the already incredible time burden.

So I decided to go digital and let the computer do the heavy lifting. I've tried several different methods in Corel Painter, the greatest paint program ever created, but I've never been satisfied with the results. I even tried using Brushes for the iPhone.

Then a few months ago I developed a technique to add textured shading to illustrations in Adobe Photoshop for a black & white illustrated novella, The Caveman Conspiracy (a Wandering Koala tale). I loved the results. I wondered if the technique could be used with color to create digital paintings. But how to approach it?

Then today I went to see The Secret World of Arrietty by Studio Ghibli. While watching the film, I studied the backgrounds and thought of a similar technique. Of course, I don't have a tenth of their skill or talent, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try.

So using the shading technique and a texturing technique I developed while working on Wandering Koala uncovers the Sixth Figure, I came up with this. I really like how much it looks like a watercolor painting, how bright the colors are, and how quickly and cleanly I was able to create it. It still needs some work and refinement, but I think I'm on the right track.

But that's just me. What do you think?