Friday, December 20, 2013

The Joy of Black Friday

I've been thinking about doing comics (as in humorous comic strips or gag comics) again for a while, but wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them. Then a few ideas hit me around the same time: the Black Friday joke above and using the Brent and René characters from my Wandering Koala Tales in a spinoff comic with a more cartoony and exaggerated style. So I decided to give it a spin. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Art Philosophy: Metaphors in Art

I remember one day in a high school English class we read a poem about dandelions that compared them to an invading army and fighting them to war. I thought it strange, because I love dandelions. They're one of my favorite flowers. I've never understood why people try so hard to fight them. They're pretty, and they grow with no effort. How is that now a perfect plant? (You can even eat part of them.)

I was staring at this page from Wandering Koala Digest 2 and contrasting the friendly, happy snowman with the more menacing version and realized he was a metaphor for snow. Like dandelions, some people see snow as a wonder--pretty and fun. Others see it as a menace. I don't like slick roads, but that is really the only negative to snow I see. I suppose one could say that's why I made the menacing snowman mostly cute and cuddly.

Great art allows viewers to each take something different from a work. Not so great art forcing a particular view on the viewer (such as insisting dandelions are the evil invading army of the enemy). What do you see when you look at snow?

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Joy of Christmas

It's been said that Christmas isn't Christmas without little children, and there is a lot of truth to that. To a little child, everything is magical. As we grow older, the world seems less magical. I don't think the world loses its magic, but we lose our innocence and our ability to see the wonder all around us as a result. But when we are around little children, we can see some of that magic once again thru their eyes.

Every year I create a Christmas card, but this year I struggled with what to do. I finally reached back into the magic of childhood and pulled out this: toy trains, alphabet blocks, and cute animals. Cully and the tree were inked with a Japanese brush pen while the train and rails were inked with a Zebra disposable brush pen.

I'll be posting the finished card soon, so keep your eyes open!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Philosophy: Discrimination, Priorities, and the Power of Deadlines

I remember in Art School several professors told us NOT to say we didn't finish a drawing, painting, or other assignment because we were working on an English paper, and yet students inevitably did. Which was funny, because they were Art Majors too. Their Art projects should have had top priority since that's what they were pursuing as a vocation. I'm guessing it was years of brainwashing from the public school system instilling a sense of "important" and "unimportant" and Art was pushed to the backseat.

There will always be more things vying for our attention than we have time to give. Some are important. Some are less important. Some are urgent, and some can wait. If we make a grid with these attributes, we see four categories emerge. The items in the urgent column seem to get done, because there is a pressing deadline. That's good until we realize we tend to sacrifice things that are important but not urgent for things that are unimportant but urgent. The important things that aren't urgent are the ones that get swept under the rug. These include things like improving our skills, spending time with loved ones, and other self-improvement and family improvement activities. Hence the importance of priorities.

In order to make room for all of the important things, we need to be more discriminatory. Discrimination has a negative connotation today because of decades of misuse, but if you look at the actual definition of the word, it's a very beneficial and essential activity. The definition defines discrimination as "the ability to discern what is of high quality; good judgement or taste". We must discriminate, ie. use good judgement, to determine what activities and other things are worth our time and which aren't and choose those that are of worth and discard or ignore those that aren't. Often we equate importance with urgency, but they aren't the same thing. Just because something is due tomorrow doesn't mean it's worth our time to do it.

Other times we may let others determine importance thru deadlines. Deadlines are a powerful motivator. If you never set a deadline for a task, you'll probably never complete the task, because you can always do it "tomorrow" and instead focus on things that can't be put off. Deadlines are an important and powerful tool, but like any tool, they can be used for destruction as much as construction. To avoid this, one needs to discriminate between the important and the unimportant and be willing to ignore the unimportant even if negative consequences follow. One should also realize many deadlines were contrived and can be pushed back without serious difficulty.

One must look at the important but nonurgent tasks and set aside a time to do those. Set a deadline and make them urgent, even if it's artificial and contrived. It will cause conflict with other taks and induce stress, but in the long run you will be grateful you did it. The alternative is looking back with regret, and who wants to do that?

The comic above is a page from Wandering Koala Digest 2 and a perfect illustration of a typical student/worker/person who did not exercise proper discrimination. He traded the urgent but less important for the less urgent but more important. I drew it with a Zebra disposable brush pen and colored it in Adobe Photoshop. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

High Society hits a Low

I love silent films. (Have I mentioned that before?) One of their many charms are the exotic costumes and set dressings.

This is the third page of the story Honorable Mention from Wandering Koala Digest 2 now on sale. The concept for this party was fancy costumes and elaborate hairdos. It was a blast to draw!

I drew the tale with a Zebra disposable brush pen and colored it in Adobe Photoshop. I really like how the icy blue worked with the black and white. It looks like it's been fully colored and not minimally colored.

Feel free to share your comments.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Joy of G.I. Joe

The 80s had the best toys and the best cartoons. And more often than not, the two were connected. A few meddling people saw these cartoons as nothing more than 30-minute commercials. As a youngster I asked myself what we wrong with that? I still don't see the problem. Ironically many of those same people champion and applaud certain shows that are nothing more than 30-minute or 60-minute commercials for their political and subversive propagandas, but that's a subject for another post.

One of my favorites was G.I. Joe. I've never been a fan of military anything (unless it's World War I) so it's funny I liked G.I. Joe so much. Rewatching those shows now as an adult, I realize they weren't military at all but science fiction. Cobra always had some outlandish base in an exotic corner of the world and used some science fiction McGuffen to blackmail the world, and G.I. Joe would use their scientifically advanced vehicles and weapons to stop them. This was good science fiction filled with interesting characters and exotic locals. I love shows that travel to exotic locations.

The 80s were also the era of the ninja, and G.I. Joe had their ninja, Storm Shadow. Most of the time he worked for the bad guys, but from time to time his honor would require him to assist G.I. Joe. He was always left mysterious and in the shadows with little exploration of his background, and that just made him cooler. I know a lot of people want a full back story on all characters with "character development" (a term people use without really understanding what it means), but that really limits your story options and turns a tale into a factory churned out yawnfest.

I've been wanting to have Storm Shadow meet the Wandering Koala for a while and finally got around to it. The figures were drawn with a Staedlter pencil and then inked with my Japanese Brush Pen. I created the dojo in Adobe Photoshop and colored the characters in Corel Painter.

I'm really happy with how it turned out. What do you think? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Software Review: Manga Studio 5

I love trying out new software. I recently purchased Manga Studio 5 and have been wanting to try it out. I've also been wanting to do a little more Jak Phoenix art, and so...

I'm impressed with quite a few features of Manga Studio. First, it has a lot of great tools from pencils (light, dark, rough, and more) to pens (slick to textured) to watercolors (and gauche like paints) to oil paints to pastels (including chalk like strokes). It has an amazing set of rulers from straight lines to curved lines to perspective lines. It masks. It has lettering and easy balloon creation. It has layers and adjustments one is used to in Adobe Photoshop. But it isn't feature overloaded which means one can sit down and start using it pretty quickly. It's kind of like a stripped down version of Corel Painter providing the tools you really need and will use but with the familiarity of Photoshop. And the price at under $50 at Amazon is hard to beat for all this power. Just look at the line work above. That was with a default brush, no adjustments needed.

I still have a lot more experimenting to do with all the powerful features (like 3D models for reference) but so far I'm very happy with the program.

Usually I use a more naturalistic color scheme for my fan work of Jak Phoenix, but I was curious how his universe would look in my Wandering Koala Stark style. It looks pretty good. What do you think?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Art Technique: Filters and Digital Painting

So I've wanted to get into digital painting for awhile. I've tried several times with several programs, but have yet to find a satisfying technique. Maybe I just wasn't meant to paint.

Today I tried to do a digital painting of Jak Phoenix, the star of two really fun and entertaining novels. And he's a blast to create fan work with. I created a painting completely in Corel Painter. I wasn't satisfied. So I brought the painting into Photoshop to see what I could do with it.

Needless to say after a few filters and a little simplification later and I was MUCH more satisfied. It worked because the structure was good, the design was strong, and the colors and values were almost working. I'm always amazed at how it only takes a few modifications to make a work go from almost working to working beautifully.

Here is the original. It's not bad, but it's not really good either. The background is from a public domain photo by Lynn Greyling.

But don't take my word for it. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Art Philosophy: When Universes Collide

One thing that makes the Marvel Universe so much fun is how easily and how often characters in one book will crossover into another. In the DC Universe that's always been a lot more rare. Probably why I enjoyed (and still do) SuperFriends so much.

But while I love to see Superman meet Batman and Wonder Woman and Spider-man team up with DareDevil and Captain America, I'm not sure I'm a big fan of Superman meeting Spider-man. I love both characters, but for different reasons. They each have a different tone and feel that just don't mesh well with each other. And I don't mean just because one is heroic and the other is tortured, but there is a different feel to the Marvel Universe as opposed to the DC Universe. Their universes are just so different, that they don't make sense to me together. Am I alone in this? Even when the same writer and artist team work on the different characters, the work is so different. Take a look at Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Batman: The Long Halloween and compare it to their Spider-man: Blue or Hulk: Grey--they have totally different vibes.

But there are some characters and universes that make sense to meet. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had a lot of crossovers, and those have made sense. Hellboy has shown up with characters from other companies (including Batman) and it worked. So I guess I'm not against crossovers per se, but I want the crossover to make sense. I want the characters to mesh.

So does Wandering Koala meeting Wonder Woman make sense? I think so, and not just because I created Wandering Koala. I think they work, because Wandering Koala is a pulp-style hero, and pulp heroes seem to have the most flexibility because of the visceral place they come from. Pulp art and pulp fiction is as basic to humanity and human emotion as one can get, and for that reason it makes sense with other characters. Look at Tarzan--he crosses over with everyone in one form or another (KaZar in the Marvel Universe for example) and he works. Hellboy is pulp and works. Spawn in some forms is almost pulp and he made sense crossing over with Batman. The new Arrow series on the CW is a pulp interpretation of Green Arrow, and it works better than any other version of the character.

What do you think of crossovers? Do you enjoy them? Have any ever bothered you?

Friday, November 8, 2013

It's Done!

Have you ever worked on a project and thought it would never be finished?

That's how I've felt working on the second issue of Wandering Koala Digest, which is funny, because I'm actually on schedule. I guess it's because the page count for the graphic novel portion grew to 35 pages instead of the usual 32. Oh, well, the story needed the extra pages.

I'm so excited it's finished that I decided to share the final page as a teaser.

What do you think? Be sure to leave a comment and let me know.

Wandering Koala Digest will be available for pre-order in a couple of weeks from Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo, and will go on sale mid-December.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Books to Film

Ender's Game is one of my favorite books of all time. I have been wanting to see a movie adaption of it for years, but I've been scared of seeing a movie adaption because books don't always translate well to film.

This time they did a pretty good job. They were true to the book, showed all the essential elements, and cast the characters well for the most part. (Anderson -- bad choice.) The themes and messages came thru. The few places it deviated from the book fit the later books and the author's state of mind now. It wasn't a full two hours, so they could have spent more time in Battle School developing relationships and showing how brilliant Ender really was.

I did miss all the parts that were cut, but I understand it just wouldn't have fit in a single movie. Maybe one day they'll turn it into a TV mini-series and film the entire book.

I'm just curious where they'd go with a sequel. There are literally 3 different groups of "sequels" -- the original Ender's Trilogy (which has four books for some reason), Ender's Shadow Quadology (even though there are five books), and then Ender in Exile.

And in completely unrelated news, below is a teaser from the next Wandering Koala story due in December. Being the beginning of a month, I thought I'd give you a little morsel to whet your appetite.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rude Awakening

Some people are morning people. Some people are night people. And some are neither. The first two panels in the page above illustrate how non-morning people must feel when the alarm goes off, and the last three are how a morning person reacts. The page is from the Wandering Koala Digest 1, now on sale in print and all eBook formats. It was drawn with a stick (yes, a stick) dipped in Sumi ink and then colored in Corel Painter. I thought it was pretty funny when I drew it. I'm trying for a more cartoony and exaggerated approach to drawings. We'll see whether it works or not.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Archetypes in Art

Archetypes are recurrent motifs or images in art or literature. They include the Hero, the Wise Old Man, the Damsel in Distress, the irredeemable Villain, the Magic Animal, etc. Evidences of them can be found in all cultures and all times. Some speculate that they are part of our makeup and that's why we respond to them so readily and why they are not limited to any culture or time period. One of the most famous scholars to study archetypes is Joseph Campbell. His book was a major influence on George Lucas when he wrote Star Wars.

Above is my version of the archetype of the Thief. In this version, he is a masked highwayman on a motorcycle robbing from the good and the innocent. I drew it with a zebra brush pen and colored it in Corel Painter. I really like the greyscale with one color approach, and in this image it almost looks like full color. And it's very appropriate for Halloween.

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Page 2 of the Upcoming Wandering Koala Digest

In case you are wondering about the technique, I drew the pages with a Staedlter pencil, inked them with a stick (yes a stick) dipped in Sumi ink, and then colored them in Adobe Photoshop.

Wandering Koala Digest 1 will be available in print and all eBook formats on October 16. To stay up to date, why not like the Wandering Koala Facebook page at ?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Preview of an Upcoming Graphic Novel

Next week the Wandering Koala returns in a bi-monthly anthology entitled Wandering Koala Digest. Issue one contains a 32-page graphic novel, 2 pages of humorous comics, part one of an apocalyptic virus novella, and an essay. It will be available in both print and eBook formats. You can preorder a copy at Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, or the Apple iBookstore.

But while you are waiting, you can see a preview right here. Above is the first page of the graphic novel. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Stuffing a Square Peg into a Round Hole

If you've been in a bookstore lately (and if you're like most people you haven't), you would see the titles organized by genre. The purpose of this is to help a potential customer find something to buy. The idea behind it is good, but the execution doesn't always follow.

Some books could easily fit in more than one genre. I've always found the literature section an odd one, because all good books are literature. And a lot of horror books are also science fiction or fantasy. And fantasy just means something fantastic or imagined, but it's turned into castles, magic, and dragons. Which means other fantasy books that don't include magic, dragons, and castles have to go elsewhere. And what about supernatural books? Yes, they could be horror, but they could also be fantasy or suspense.

I get annoyed for two reasons. First as a consumer I've had trouble finding a specific book I went into the store to buy, because I wasn't sure of the genre. Second, as an author I'm not always sure how to classify my books. My most recent title, Wandering Koala Digest 1, contains a supernatural thriller, but also a science fiction novella. So do I put it in horror, because it's not really horror, but there is no supernatural category? To me that's like putting a square peg in a round hole--it just doesn't fit so well.

That's one of the joys and wonders of the digital bookshelf--a title can be listed in multiple places without having to place a physical copy in each one. You can also search for a specific title and get right to it. It's no wonder I've gravitated more and more to buying books online and as digital editions even though I love the feel and smell of a physical book, and I love browsing bookstores.

So what does any of this have to do with the above illustration? It could easily fit in several categories: science fiction for the weird monster, pulp fiction for the protagonist, horror or supernatural for the weird monster, graphic novels for the visual nature, young adult because that's usually the reading level I write, or even holiday/special occasion for Halloween because of the weird monster. Maybe we just need a Weird Monster genre?

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Friday, September 27, 2013

To Color, or Not to Color -- THAT is the Real Question

In the late 19th Century thru the early 20th Century, printing technology was developing rapidly. In England, printing advanced more quickly than in the US which led to the rise of the Illustrated Children's Book with charming stories and magnificent illustrations. Color soon followed making the children's books even more wondrous. Maybe you've heard of Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Rabbit, the Wind in the Willows, or the Wizard of Oz? All of these "classics" were made possible by printing technology and brilliant craftsman on the illustrator's part of make the most of the day's technology. The usual method was to draw the illustration with a black line, then carve that into a plate and add color shapes on a separate pass. Eventually the technology reached the point where the illustrator could create the entire image in color and then reproduce it.

Of course, this wasn't the beginning of creating an image with a black line and then coloring it in. Early Christian and Muslim illuminated texts from the first few centuries AD used this method. And before that, artists used this method to record their hunts on cave walls. Today the method is popular with cartoons, comics, graphic novels, and digital illustration. The term 'cartoon' actually referred to the outline created by Renaissance artists creating frescos who first sketched the image with a pencil before applying watercolors over it covering up the sketch. But they didn't invent the method, just coined a cool word from it.

I've always enjoyed black line work colored in. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because that's what I've grown up with. Maybe it's because a black line clearly defines an object. Maybe I just like abstraction. Who knows? But it's something I've never been able to get away from, even during my watering color days when I tried for a more photorealistic approach. There were times I'd take a 'finished' watercolor (as if any work of art is ever finished), and add black lines around the figures with a paintbrush.

The above illustration is a black and white line drawing that I've colored in Corel Painter. The line work is below. I really like the black & white version, but I'm also digging the colored version. You'll notice I added a lot more texture and lighting effects than usual to give it a more painterly feel and modern finish.

Which do you like better? Leave a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Covers Decoded

The only things more important than a cover when it comes to whether someone will pick up a book are trusted recommendations and whether the person enjoyed the previous book/current author. So a cover is pretty darn important.

Essential elements include an image on the front that not only grabs attention but sells the contents of the book. The attention grabbing is important so it has a chance to sell. And I say sell, because describing or informing the potential reader what's in the book isn't enough--there's too much competition. (Of course, if you have a big name, you can fill half the cover with it and still sell books.)

Once that is taken care of, a compelling block of text telling the reader why his life will be incomplete if he doesn't read this book helps those on the edge. And a few endorsements/testimonies never hurt to add a bandwagon argument to the mix. People are suckers for bandwagon arguments. 

The image above is a combination of digital and traditional illustration techniques (can you identify where I used which?). The color scheme is one I've played with in the past and wanted to try again, but in a more developed way. The first time I felt it was too harsh. I think I've figured it out so it's striking without being overpowering. But that's just my opinion.

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Parody of the old Hostess Ads

Once upon a time, comic books were written for a general audience. It didn't take long for someone decided they should be for kids, and they were dumbed down. Ads reflected this readership.

In the late 70s/early 80s, Hostess advertised their delicious snack cakes and pies in the pages of comic books with one page stories where a silly villain (with an equally silly name) stole the Hostess treat and a superhero had to stop him and get the treats back. It usually required little work, and at the end the children enjoyed their treats. They were fun ads fondly remembered by those who read them. (This was long before my time, and I only discovered them in back issues and people's reminiscent's on their blogs and in letter columns.)

With Hostess once again in the headlines with the "Sweetest Comeback in History", I decided it was time to bring back these ads, but as a parody. (I'm amazed I was the first one to think of this.)

The above comic is a page from the upcoming Wandering Koala Digest 1, which will be available October 16 and can be pre-ordered now. This page was created entirely digitally (except for the photo of a slide which I found online in the public domain). The rest of the comic was drawn with a stick, but there'll be more about that in the coming weeks...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Art Philosophy: Silhouettes, The Penultimate in Minimalism

I'm currently working on a new graphic novel I hope to release in October. I'm a little over halfway finished drawing, inking, and lettering it. While working on it, I try to make each panel as interesting as possible and say as much with as little as possible. One great way to do this is thru silhouettes.

There is a principle of design called "Less is More". The idea is the average person tries to put too much into a work, and by stripping it down to its essential parts, one strips away the competing elements so only those that convey the message are left. The result is a clearer, stronger message without static or noise. In principle this is a good idea, but like anything else, it can be taken too far. (I'm talking to you Jon Ives and your recent iOS redesign and a few other things you've stripped too far down.)

Silhouettes are one common and powerful result of this principle. As with the example above, there is basically a large black shape with a few lines for the candles (ok, I did cheat by adding lines for the candles, but it made the panel so much more atmospheric). Even without seeing most of the details, it's clear who the proprietor is and the sense of the macabre and creepy comes thru clearly. In fact, blacking out his features may be even creepier.

Another form of this principle is chiaroscuro, or lights and darks. This was quite popular with painters in Rembrandt's day. The idea is to push the darks extra dark and the lights extra light so the image almost appears to be black and white shapes but with a few important details. Flemish painters tended to use color, but I like the modern uses in film noir and Frank Miller Sin City comics that use strictly black and white shapes with a few lines. I, of course, had to use a little chiaroscuro in my graphic novel as well.

Another advantage of minimalism is it adds to the stylization of the work. Stylization is nice, because it adds interest and uniqueness. I used to think only photorealistic renderings were good, but now I realize that the further one abstracts or stylizes a work from the way it appears in ordinary sunlight, the better (again to a point because any virtue taken too far is a vice).

You probably noticed the title says penultimate, which means one away from the ultimate. So what is the ultimate in minimalism? That's a revelation for another day.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What almost was or used to be: Archived Web Design

A few months ago I was hired to design a site for a new breastfeeding coalition. I created an initial design which was heartily praised (and I was paid for it), but then the coalition never happened. It's too bad, because the site would have looked really cool. But that's the way of commercial art. What do you think of the look?

Recently, I went thru old files when I came across this and other websites that have either been replaced by newer versions or sites that were designed but for one reason or another never launched. I thought it a shame for them to languish in obscurity. They say nothing posted on the Internet is ever permanently lost, but I think that only applies to information, pictures, and video you DON'T want to get out. Otherwise once a website is redesigned, the old version may never see the light of day. So I added a new section to my website featuring Archived Web Designs--site designs that are no longer with us, but were too good to be lost to the ravages of time. So here you go!

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Using Color Wisely in Art

It's amazing the difference changing just one element, color, can make. A few months ago I finished the text of my latest story, and I intended to illustrate it and have it released before the summer.

It didn't happen.

I'm really looking for a unique style that both stands out and is enjoyable, and even a little addictive, to look at. And I want it to be a little classic, meaning it isn't immediately and easily identified to a specific time period.

I also find myself wondering about picking a genre for my stories and sticking a little more closely to it. Looking over the Wandering Koala tales, there is romance, adventure, science fiction, fantasy, supernatural, horror, drama, and the list goes on. While I love stories that jump genres, there does need to be some sort of focus and consistency so fans know what they are getting into and are not shocked in a bad way at a new story.

So that's why I'm taking so long with this latest story. I really want it to be a paradigm example of what one can expect from a Wandering Koala tale.

The above sketches are a study of a style and technique for the illustrations. I actually drew the picture in pencil a couple of weeks ago and meant to ink it, but didn't, because I wasn't sure how. I've always loved my stick work (a willow stick dipped in Sumi ink), but for some reason I worry it won't be commercial enough, so I almost never use it. But it really does create a nice line. I'm still not sure about what to do with the color. I love color, but I also love black and white, and black and white tends to draw the reader in more once they start reading. But it is harder to get a reader to start, so there is the challenge. I decided to try the same image in three styles and put them next to each other to see which works best.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Other People's Characters: Wonder Woman

My favorite superhero is Wonder Woman (when she's done right, which is rare). Done right, Wonder Woman is confident and strong and yet very kind, polite, and encouraging. Too many people see kindness and a weakness and think the only way to have a strong female character is for her to be ornery, bossy, in charge, and brag about how wonderful she is while belittling others. Wonder Woman (when done right) is confident in her abilities and in herself so she doesn't need to act like an edgy witch to be strong or a positive role model. She can encourage, support, and lift others and see it as a strength instead of being demeaning.

This is a sketch I did with a Japanese brush pen based on the New 52 design with a few modifications. The background consists of several photos my brother and I have taken manipulated in Photoshop.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Art Philosophy: The Use of Color

Color is an interesting animal. It is one of the Elements of Art (which include Line, Shape, Form, Value, Space, Texture, Color, and Motion), and probably the most powerful element. Differences in color will override any other design elements or ideas and immediately draw the eye to it.

Because it's so powerful, it needs to be used judiciously to gain maximum impact. In the early days of printing, this was forced onto artists, because of the difficulty and limitations they had. Artists were forced to design with color and really consider and plan for its use.

In the current digital era, color is so easy to add and print, it too often is overdone with form and shading meticulously rendered on every last hair. Just pick up a comic book from 2005 and compare it to a comic from 1995 and one from 1985. You'll see the approach and use of colors is completely different. In 1985, colors were created from hand cut film with each plate (Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, and Black) being a value of the whole divisible by four (25%, 50%, 75%, 100%). This limited the number of colors, made multiple colors more difficult and expensive, and so forced good colorists to make the most of a few hues. The results were really amazing. The 1995 comic shows the beginning of computer coloring with every color under the sun thrown in as a gradation with chaotic patterns of lights and darks and photoshop filters thrown in just because you could. Comics from 2005 seem to forget there were multiple colors and use mostly browns and greys with every value of each to create a very bland and muddy look.

This is just one of thousands of examples how the ease of adding color has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because an artist can now use any color he so chooses. But that creates the temptation to use every color just because you can. There is no longer the technical restraints to force an artist to plan his color design--he has to rely on self discipline, something creative people tend to lack.

The two works I've posted are different color treatments of the same image. The first followed my current move in color to use black & white plus one color. The second is a more traditionally colored version with flat shadows added. I like both, but the first on just seems to look more like art while the second looks more like commercial pandering. Not that there's anything wrong with commercial pandering, but it is nice to have a break from it. After all, we're faced with it everyday nearly everywhere we look.

These were drawn with a Zebra disposable brush pen and colored in Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. I'm still not sure which I like better, because each has things going for it, and each have places they could be improved.

What do you think?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Character Sketch: Jungle Boy

This drawing is unusual. Usually when I create an image in this style, it's 100% digital. But for some reason I pulled out my brush and Sumi ink and drew it by hand before scanning it in and adding the colors and textures in Adobe Photoshop. I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but I thought it turned out really well. I got a lot of great comments from it (and one really pointless one, but that's all part of the game).

What do you think?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Other People's Characters: Hawkman

You've probably noticed most of my artwork is of original creations. That's not by accident. While I love watching, reading, playing, whatevering other people's creations, I don't really enjoy writing or drawing them. At least not most of the time. But every once in a while I wonder what my interpretation of another's creation might look like. You probably caught a previous serious of Wandering Koala meeting up with other famous characters like The Spider, The Phantom, Jak Phoenix, Lobster Johnson, Todd McFarlane's Spawn, and The Heckler by Keith Giffen. Those were really fun to do. So I decided to try another set, but this time just focusing on the characters from others.

Hawkman is a character I never liked until DC Comics' big Zero Hour event. They transformed Hawkman into a really cool character, and I picked up several issues. It was written by William Mesner-Loebs and drawn by Steve Lieber, both people whose work I usually enjoy. In their version, Hawkman was actually the combination of generations of Hawkmen and had supernatural powers. I'm not sure why others didn't enjoy it as much as me, because it's become a pretty forgotten chapter in the character's history.

I drew this work with my usual Staedtler 2B pencil, inked it with a Crayola marker (the original broad stroke kind) on Strathmore Sketching paper, and colored it in Adobe Photoshop with a few textures in Corel Painter. I'm really happy with how it turned out. I'm also amazed at the line quality one can get with a Crayola maker. Who says Jamba Juice isn't an inspiration for the arts!

As always, let me know what you think!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Good Intentions

This is the cover is for a short story about the near future when government decides to take scientists' fears of an asteroid hitting the Earth seriously and one very likely course of action. I used a photo by Petr Kratochvil and recolored, retoned, and cropped it. I also added the fire from the sky, prison bars, and typography. It's the third version for this story, but I think the best. And it definitely fits the feel and tone of the tale.

You can read it for free at Smashwords or one of the many fine eRetailers around.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's Done!

And it is done! The first draft of the latest Wandering Koala tale (currently titled Modest Proposal) is finished!

It's an apocalypse virus story that I've been kicking around for a while (I even started writing a version a few years thinking it would be my third novel, but the story didn't go anywhere). I was inspired to write this when I started reading Contagion (a story arc in Batman comics) when I was a teenager. There was a TV movie with a similar theme soon after that solidified it.

The title Modest Proposal is an interesting one, because while I've read the famous Jonathan Swift essay, it didn't even cross my mind until I was almost finished with the first draft and looking for a title. The working title was Disease, but that just didn't sound compelling enough. I also thought about calling it The Third Horseman (or Fourth or Fifth) but that sounded too unoriginal. Then I thought of Final Solution since that sort of fits the plot, but World War II and Nazis have been so overdone that I try to avoid them. That's when A Modest Proposal popped into my head. The prologue definitely has some similarities and parallels, so I decided to go with it for now. (And anyone searching for the essay may 'accidentally' stumble onto my book, a bonus.)

Of course, now I have to revise, revise, revise, so the title could change. I doubt the story will, because it's already been thru so many drafts and versions that I'm pretty sure this is the one. It reads and feels like a Wandering Koala story. The last one, The Green Bull, didn't. That's why it didn't make it into paperback and why the site wasn't redesigned using artwork from that story.

And the image above has nothing to do with it other than they both feature everyone's favorite Silent Wanderer. The inking was a Zebra disposable brush pen and the background is a Google Sketch Up model that has been heavily painted over in Corel Painter.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


The Universe wasn't created from nothing. God didn't point his figure at a void and boom! everything came into being. There was existing matter that God organized to create "worlds without number".

Art is no different; it doesn't come from a vacuum. Every work is inspired and informed by something else. When I was in Art School, one of my instructors after an Art Seminar pointed to a speaker and mentioned how it was patterned after the golden section the visiting artist had talked about, and how the golden ratio was based on proportions Jesus had used to create the Earth. Ultimately everything an artist "creates" is a reinterpretation of part or parts of the world around us.

And that doesn't apply to just visual art. How many times have you read a book, seen a TV show, or watched a movie that reminded you of another story? Probably quite often. There are only so many plots and characters out there.

The wall hanging to the left was inspired by Japanese and Chinese prints. I know what you're saying--it doesn't look very Japanese. And I agree. But the approach was very much inspired by oriental art, but with my western and personal interpretation. It's that unique interpretation which makes a work "creative" or "original" when everything in it came from an already existing world around us.

And in case you were curious, I drew the figures with a Zebra disposable brush pen and then colored them and designed the backgrounds in Corel Painter.

Let me know what you think!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Peoples is Peoples

People never cease to amaze me.

There is a certain group on DeviantArt (starts with Bad and rhymes with grass characters) that has requested, on five separate occasions, to add my works to their group's galleries. After the third time I figured I might as well join the group and save them the time of asking.

And they rejected me. They said they viewed my work and didn't feel I qualified. And yet they have sought me out to ask me to add my work to their group's galleries. In fact, since the rejection they have TWICE requested permission to add TWO different works of mine. That's five requests that THEY initiated. (The illustration at the left is the latest one. It was drawn with a Zig Calligraphy Pen and colored in Corel Painter.)

So here's my confusion. My work is good enough for them to seek it out and ask my permission to add it, but it's not good enough to join their group? Huh?

Peoples is peoples, and peoples is very confusing.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Third times the charm

Covers are a tricky thing for me. I know what I love in a cover, but when it comes to create one, I struggle. This is my third attempt at a cover to The Green Bull. I liked the first one I did, but it was radically different from other covers I'd done, and it didn't seem to get a much reaction. So I tried something else, but I wasn't very satisfied with it. So I tried one more time.

This time I finally got the kind of image I want for a Wandering Koala story. It's moody, it's pulpy, and it is a scene from the story that whets one's appetite for the rest.

The story is now available for all eReaders at Smashwords, and is available at most individual stores and will soon be available at all fine retailers.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Joy of Sketching

When I started this blog, I meant it to be a place where I posted sketches, rough drafts, and work that wasn't included in my portfolio but was still worth looking at.

As time passed, I started posting more and more finished work, work that was also included on my website, and updating my website less and less. So I decided to take a break from that and post a quick digital sketch.

I love sketching. It's a way to explore ideas without getting bogged down by things like good composition, design, anatomy, and all the rest. It's a time when mistakes are ok and even encouraged, because they may lead to something wonderful, or at least interesting. I have tablet after tablet filled with sketches. The good ones usually make their way into a finished work, but they tend to lose something in the translation--a freshness and spontaneity. I always wonder if there is a way to preserve it while still looking polished, but then I realize the very act of polishing is to rub away the interesting character bits.

This sketch was created in Corel Painter using a 2B pencil to layout a basic composition and then inked with a custom brush I created based on the Crowquil Pen. I really love the action, the flow, and the pose. I may actually redo this in a more finished work. And I may not.

As always, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Green Bull redux

Just before Christmas I published a new illustrated novella titled "The Green Bull (a Wandering Koala tale)" and made it exclusive to the Amazon Kindle to take advantage of their lending and free days. I thought it would be a good way to promote my work and get my book in the hands of more readers.

It wasn't.

The 90 days are up and I am now publishing it to all formats. I think this will get the story into more hands.

What's it about? Here's a brief description:
Kinghorn never expected to see a murdered co-worker's body tied to the blade of a windmill he helped have built. He is even more shocked to learn his best friend is the prime suspect!

The case appears open and shut on the surface—but dark secrets never stay buried. Can Kinghorn deal with the truth behind the man he worships and the cause he's given everything to support? What price will he pay for his loyalty? And what will it cost the city around him? Can even the intervention of the Wandering Koala solve the riddle of the Green Bull?

The Green Bull is a 17,000-word novella with 20 original illustrations and a new essay. 

The title refers to both the idol the cult worships and the fact that the whole green movement is a pile of -- I think you get the idea.

Preserving the environment? Good idea, I'm all for it.

Going Green ie. turning into an irrational madman who sacrifices everything else for measures that don't actually help preserve the environment (CFL bulbs, windmills, cap and trade, electric cars, Al Gore)? Not a good idea. In fact, a very bad idea. But so many people have drunk the Kool-Aid. And they proudly announce the fact to the world.

Read the book. It's an exciting murder mystery with many good messages:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Telling a story with black & white illustrations

A single illustration has the ability to tell an entire tale and has been used since the dawn or history to do so. Whether drawn for children or adults, images speak a universal language that all can understand. The right drawing will jump out and grab you by the throat—but in a good way.

Black & white illustrations are the clearest and most direct intimately drawing the viewer in in a way color can’t. Some artists have compared it to type—black letters on white paper—claiming it has the same clarity as words. I certainly find myself getting draw into (pun intended) a story more white black and white images that were meant to stand alone without color. I do plan to do a color version of the above image. I'll post it when I do and you can compare.

The drawing above was sketched with a Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2B pencil and inked with a #8 brush dipped in Sumi ink.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Drawing with a stick

In my never ending quest to find just the right line quality, I've gone back to a method I discovered in art school but have done little with since. One of our assignments in Illustrative Drawing was to go outside, find a stick, and then come back inside and draw a costumed model with it (yes, with a stick). It was probably the best drawing I did the whole class. I decided to try it again to see how it compared with the digital work and calligraphy work I've been doing. I drew this image with a Staedtler mars Lumograph 2B pencil, inked it with a stick dipped in sumi ink, and then colored it in Corel Painter.

To the right is the original linework. I'm always amazed at the different line quality one can get with different tools. I've been wanting a line quality that had some grit. While I think this is a cool drawing, there's still something about the digital line that compels me.