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.