Friday, December 19, 2014

Color Theory: How many colors should one use?

It doesn't take an eagle eye to spot the differences between the two illustrations above. One is colored with blue and the other is full color. So, which one is better? Which one is right? That's not an easy question to answer.

Color has been a part of art since the first work of art was created. Throughout history, its use has largely been dictated by the technology. Oil painters were limited to whatever colors they could make and mix with the materials they could find. Printers were limited to whatever colors their presses could produce, first just black and then slowly adding more and more colors until full color was feasible.

Today artists have more options available than ever. With that blessing comes a curse--too many colors to choose from. It's caused many artists to become lazy. During times when color is limited, one has to think and design much more carefully about how to render the work. This extra thought and effort shows thru and is one reason why old illustrations hold up so well. But when every color under the rainbow is available, some people are like kids in a candy shop and make themselves sick eating too much (and the viewer as well).

The advantage of the first illustration with a monochromatic scheme (blue plus black and white so technically there are three colors) is its simplicity. It's easier to read and communicates more clearly, because there are fewer colors to distract the viewer. Also, black and white art has the advantage of being visual text in that people can more easily read it like they read black and white text. That's one reason the black and white daily comic strips in newspapers are so effective, they clearly communicate the concept. The disadvantage is it isn't as pretty and therefore not as eye catching. It requires more effort from the viewer to notice and appreciate. Of course, that usually leads to a higher caliber of viewer.

The advantage of the second is it is prettier and attracts more attention. The disadvantage is there is so much going on that the message isn't as clear. Sometimes that isn't a problem when the message is a feeling or emotion conveyed largely thru the colors.

To decide which color scheme you should use, you need to first determine the purpose of the art work and who you want to see it. (You should probably consider how the final product will be delivered as technology will dictate your options, but you should consider that at the beginning when initially conceptualizing the work.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 Christmas Card

Merry Christmas from Jeff!

Each year I create a Christmas card and send it out to family and friends. Then I started adding it to my website. And now I share it on my blog and social media.

This year's card was inspired by the dressed up shop windows that lined a town's main street stores. The beginning of A Christmas Story is probably most people's experience considering how everything has gone to shopping malls, discount stores, and online shopping.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe were some of my favorite toys growing up, so I had to include them in this year's card.


Friday, December 12, 2014

The Auction preview 2

Below are a few more days' worth of a new webcomic, Wandering Koala outbids The Auction, now appearing daily at Be sure to go there and check it out!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Preview of a new Web Comic

Below are the first four days of a new webcomic, Wandering Koala outbids The Auction, now appearing daily at Be sure to go there and check it out!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A New Web Comic is coming!

It's been a little quite on this blog, hasn't it? You know what that usually means--a big new project is coming. And this time it features a certain Silent Wanderer(TM). Starting Monday you can read the new webcomic at with a few appearances here.

Stay Tuned!

Friday, October 31, 2014

How to Format a Website for Mobile Devices (like the iPhone) using HTML 5 and CSS

Have you ever worked really hard to created a really cool website that looks great on a browser and large tablet PC only to view it on a mobile device (like a Smartphone) and have it nearly impossible to read? Me, too. But what is one to do? Create a whole separate website just for phones and try and reroute traffic? And what happens when something new comes up like a Retina display? Create a third site?


Someone came up with a really cool solution that is known today as Responsive Design. You can read the original article (according to Wikipedia, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone else stumbled upon this earlier) by Cameron Adams in 2004 at You'll notice he called it Resolution Dependent Layout. I used to design websites with the same mindset that they reshape themselves to whatever size starting in 2002, but we didn't have the cool CSS tools, the large bandwidth, or the wide browser support we do today. I called my approach Organic HTML, which I still think is the best name. Feel free to spread it around and see if it catches on.


There are a lot of different approaches that one can take. There are also hundreds of different devices and screen sizes one has to consider. One school of thought is to create a separate site for each screen size. But this becomes a nightmare to update.

My approach is to basically design your site so it works well for larger screens (desktops, laptops, and large tablets) and small screens (phones and small tablets) and use Cascading Style Sheets to create a different layout for each. You may be saying to yourself, "But i want to customize my site to look just so on every device." Yeah, there are too many devices--your code will be so bulky it won't load right and your sanity will have checked out long before you get halfway thru the list.

There are two important subjects to consider. First is the code to make the site behave how you want. The other is designing the site to look good and to be easily read and navigated. Both must be skillfully executed to successfully create a site that adapts to different devices. This post will cover the code aspects. A later post will cover design considerations.

It is also important to note, that this approach works best with what is wrongly called html5 and modern browsers, i.e. Mozilla Firefox 3.5+, Google Chrome 2+, Apple Safari 3.1+, and recent versions of mobile browsers. Versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer before 9 were NOT designed to properly render html5, CSS 3, or other techniques. While these browsers make up around 10% of the market, they are still significant enough to consider. You may need to add IE specific code to correct rendering errors of an html5 approach.


Below are some tricks and techniques you can use to code your site to adapt to different screen sizes.
  1. Set the iPhone Retina (or other mobile device with high density display) to view the site as a mobile device with a low resolution display and not a desktop even though you have the pixels to do so.
    1. Add the following tag inside the <head> tags: 
    2. Set the min-width of either the <body> or the <div> containing the site to around 800. This isn't essential but will help you control how your site appears on smaller screens.
  2. iPhone Home Screen Icon
    1. Create a 57 x 57 png. Do not create rounded edges or a shiny effect. The iOS device will do that for you.
    2. Call it apple-touch-icon.png
    3. Place it in the root directory of your website. This will be the default icon for your site if someone wants to save it on their home screen like it was an app.
    4. iPad Home Screen Icon
      1. Create a 75 x 75 png. 
      2. Call it touch-icon-ipad.png. Do not create rounded edges or a shiny effect. The iOS device will do that for you.
      3. Place it in the root directory of your website.
      4. Add the following tag to the <head> section of EACH webpage: <link href="touch-icon-ipad.png" rel="apple-touch-icon" sizes="76x76">
    5. iPhone Retina Display Home Screen Icon
      1. Create a 120 x 120 png. 
      2. Call it touch-icon-iphone-retina.png
      3. Place it in the root directory of your website. This will be the default icon for your site if someone wants to save it on their home screen like it was an app.
      4. Add the following tag to the <head> section of EACH webpage: <link href="touch-icon-iphone-retina.png" rel="apple-touch-icon" sizes="120x120">
    6. iPad Home Screen Icon
      1. Create a 152 x 152 png. 
      2. Call it touch-icon-ipad-retina.png
      3. Place it in the root directory of your website. This will be the default icon for your site if someone wants to save it on their home screen like it was an app.
      4. Add the following tag to the <head> section of EACH webpage: <link href="touch-icon-ipad-retina.png" rel="apple-touch-icon" sizes="152x152">
    7. Fonts
      1. In the Style Sheets, set the fonts using ems, NOT pixels or points. Ems will allow the fonts to scale as the size of the website changes. 1 em is a good default for text meant to be read.
      2. Caution: If you set multiple rules, the effect will multiply. For example, if you set the font-size of 1.2 ems for elements in a <div>, and then set 1.2 ems for an specific element inside the <div>, it will be 1.2 times larger than the 1.2 of the <div>, i.e. larger than you were expecting.
    8. Images
      1. Set the Width and Height of images to 100%. Set a max-height and max-width to the size in pixels you want the image to appear on a desktop at full screen. This will allow the images to scale smaller.
    9. Layouts
      1. While <table> provides the most robust and consistent layout framework, it won't work with Responsive Design, so you'll have to use <div> and CSS-P techniques to layout your site. But you've probably been doing this for years.
      2. Use percentages and NOT pixel sizes to set width and height. This will allow the design to adapt more freely. Pixel sizes are good for max-width and max-height (or min-width and min-height).
    10. CSS branching
      1. Write your CSS code like you would normally for a desktop browser.
      2. At the bottom add @media screen and (max-width: 980px) { } (or use a different pixel size for the max-width) and write a new set of CSS code in side the brackets for the specific elements (NOT all elements) that need to change for the smaller screen. For example, if you have three columns in your site, you may want to reduce them to one; use smaller images; enlarge text; set certain elements to disappear with the display: none; style attribute.
    11. Test your site on several devices. Depending on the design of your site and the audience, you'll want to adjust the numbers and settings until it appears just right on your site. The above is just to get you started. Modern browsers allow you to drag the corner of the browser and resize it to give you a rough idea of how it will appear on a mobile device, but it isn't perfect. You need to test the site on a real phone.

    The above list are basic techniques and approaches to turn your site into a mobile site. It's not meant to be exhaustive covering every technique, but it is sufficient to make your site mobile friendly. And there are lots of other resources on the web for other techniques. Here are a few I've found helpful:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A New Website Created by ?

I've been a little busy putting up a NEW website. And not just any website, but one I've been thinking about for a long time.

I have a lot of websites, but most of them have weird names like SkyFitsJeff or Jatce Studios that don't make a lot of sense. I've been wanting one a with a little more normal name, and I've wanted one that showcased my best and more recent work. I've also wanted one that was just freaking cool to look at with an original illustration on the front page.

And I finally got it!

For now there's only a home page with links to pages on my other websites, but I plan to fill this one out and keep it updated. The others I haven't, because they just weren't a good representation of what I wanted to do. This one is.

So where is it?

Visit it and then come back here and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Something Wicked This Way Came

Here is the drawing colored.

And here is a greyscale version in the vein of classic horror movies.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Art Philosophy: Power of Line

Line is one of the most basic, and yet most powerful, elements of art. With just a few strokes, an artist can communicate a person, an object, an emotion, a place, or just about anything else. And with many, many lines, and artist can create an image that looks like a photograph. 

Sir Kenneth Clark remarked, "The difference between what we see and a sheet of white paper with a few thin lines on it is very great. Yet this abstraction is one which we seem to have adopted almost instinctively at an early stage in our development, not only in Neolithic graffiti but in early Egyptian drawings. And in spite of its abstract character, the outline is responsive to the least tremor of sensibility."

And Lance Espland remarked, "Line is a rich metaphor for the artist. It denotes not only boundary, edge or contour, but is an agent for location, energy, and growth. It is literally movement and change - life itself."

It's amazing how something as simple as a line, a mark, can convey the weight, the feeling, the emotion, and the identity of a subject. It can make the viewer think and feel if executed well. And it can be created with almost any object imaginable.

Line work has the power to stand on it's own, and yet it also plays nicely with others. You can fill it in or paint over it and create a completely different and yet equally successful work such as in book illustrations, scientific illustrations, comic books, graphic novels, and fine art.

The drawing above is the line work of a Halloween illustration. I do plan on coloring it, but the line work worked so well it can stand on its own. So I'm letting it. I drew it with a Copic pencil, a Bamboo brush with Sumi ink, and added a few finished in Adobe Photoshop.

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Illustration - Emotions and Telling a Story

One aspect I've noticed in really great illustration is the effective use of emotion and the skillful communication of it. So often I see illustrations where the figures in it have a blank stare or a generic look. Other times I see where there is emotion, but it doesn't really fit or make sense with the rest of the composition. And there are illustrations where I've seen the artist try for something with limited success.

Nothing is more impressive than an illustration that seems to come to life and jump off the page and make the viewer feel something, but to do this successfully, one must be conscious of two major considerations.

First, the artist needs to figure out what emotion should be conveyed. It doesn't matter how skillful his execution if the thing he's going for doesn't fit. Well rendered mistakes, no matter how skillfully done, are still mistakes. Decide the overall message of the work. What are you trying to say? Then consider the viewer, because communication is a two-way street that requires effort from both the communicator and the communicatee. Who is going to view it? Why are they viewing it? Where will they view it? What will they be thinking and feeling when they encounter the work? What do you want the viewer to think and feel when they see it?

Second, decide how you will communicate that emotion. It has been said that the eyes are the doorways into the soul, and that is true. You can see so much in someone's eyes. The face is also a powerful communicator. There's a reason why in person communication is so much more effective than merely talking over a phone or through words. The facial expressions say so much. Many artists are very good at creating great facial expressions, but they forget people also use the rest of the body to communicate. Consider the gesture of the body. A happy person stands/sits/walks differently than a depressed person. Have you ever seen a person from a distance and could identify how they were feeling even though you were too far away to see his face? Or how about knowing without doubt how a person is feeling from just his silhouette? Body language is a subtle but powerful form of communication, and one that elevates a work once mastered. But don't rely on figure alone. The rest of the work can also contribute to the message with color and form. You may want to continue the emotion to the edges of the canvas, or you may choose to show a completely different emotion as a foil to create contrast with the main figure or figures. Again, consider the message and audience and ask yourself what will relay your message most effectively.

Of course, all this assumes you have a message to communicate. Some people just like to draw pretty pictures, and there's nothing wrong with that.

In the illustration above, I've decided to show a witch at the beginning of her mischievious night. The figure is in a ponderous mood reflected by the body position, facial expression, and eyes. The environment is also in a someone static and indecisive pose. I drew this with my new Copic pencil (an AMAZING new tool!), inked it with a Chinese bamboo brush dipped in sumi ink, and colored it in Corel Painter 12.

Let me know what you think!

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Possible Cover

If you've been following one of my other blogs, you know the first part of a major Wandering Koala epic is over. Above is a possible cover for the collection. I drew it with a Prismacolor Brush Marker which gave me a really nice line. I'm not sure if I'm in love with the coloring though. What do you think?

Thursday, June 26, 2014


I just finished the last two illustrations for the first book of the ongoing Wandering Koala eSerial at I can't believe it's done! I still need to create a cover and color one or two more illustrations before I publish it in print and eBook format as Wandering Koala Digest 4, but the blog parts are finished and scheduled. And after the first part of the story is finished, they'll be a few days of bonuses, so be sure to check back for those.

So what's next? The next book in the series, of course, although I think I'll go back to the Picture Prose format I used in The Caveman Conspiracy, because I really like it and think it will work best for what's coming next. I'm not sure if I'll have it ready to go when the bonuses run out, but I'll try.

So, have you been following the story? What did you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Before & After - A Great Kick

 On the left the original hand drawn artwork inked with a Japanese Brush Pen for the ongoing eSerial at

On the right the finished illustration colored in Corel Painter.

I think they both turned out spectacularly well. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Concept Art: A highly stylized town

In my never ending quest to find "my" style, I find myself wandering back to previous attempts and combining two or more of them. The above illustration is an example. While it's not "there" yet, it is moving in an interesting direction.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Before and After

Just thought I'd post a quick before and after coloring for a page from the latest installment in the Wandering Koala eSerial. This almost makes me want to color the whole thing...

Friday, May 9, 2014

Character Design: An Odd Couple

For my ongoing eSerial I needed a rich couple that stood out intentionally. So I drew from my love of things Roaring 20s and came up with these two characters. The woman has a Jay Leno chin, but it adds character. They were inked with a Japanese brush pen and Sharpies.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Art Philosophy - The Power of Black and White Shapes

Shape is one of the basic Elements of Art. Line is little more than an elongated shape. It's amazing how one can place a few shapes together and create a powerful and emotionally stirring image, especially when one is limited to only two colors -- black and white.

The illustration above is from an upcoming page in the ongoing Wandering Koala eSerial. When I finished drawing this with a Japanese brush pen and a Sharpie marker, I was amazed at how well the emotion was conveyed without color. Color is a very powerful element and by far the most effective to convey emotion. I wasn't sure the black & white shapes would be sufficient, but they were. The zoomed in composition helped to turn the hair and facial features into shapes so the design dominated which also helped greatly.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Art Philosophy: To Color or Not to Color a Line Drawing

Color is the most powerful element of art, and all works of art have it -- even so-called "black & white art (black and white are colors despite what many painters and art teachers may tell you).

In all periods of art one can find examples of line work that has been colored in from early printing to illustrated manuscripts to cave paintings. People seem to be hardwired to capture an object in lines and then add color.

Incorporating this element in a line drawing presents several interesting questions:

To Color or Not to Color?

That's a mute point since everything work of visual art has color. The question should actually be should one add colors beyond black and white. Black and white artwork is unique in that the viewer reads it much like one reads words. Black and white art tends to create an intimacy with the viewer and draw him in. That could easily be one reason why Japanese Manga is so popular and independent comics have such a following.

How Much Color?

Should a work be monochromatic (meaning one color with its associated shades, tones, and tints), or should it use every color in the rainbow? Should one limit oneself to two colors and make the most of them? The fewer colors one has, the more one is forced to design with them, and the more harmonious a work can be. The more colors one has, the less harmonious a work tends to be, because the eye and mind has so much more to process. But this extra processing creates a certain buzz and overload of senses people like, so there is a reason to go for it.

Flat or Gradiated?

Many early printed works were printed flat (meaning a block of solid color) because of technology. Just read old comics -- you'll find simple gradients but that's about it. When technology reaches a point that colors no longer have to be flat, a common trend is to go overboard and overrender a work to death. Just pick up a comic book from the 90s. Garrish. Even if one is using a monochromatic scheme, one can use a few greys, flat greys, or the full gambit of 256 greys.

So what's the Right Answer?

The right answer really depends on the question, and the question for coloring art is what is your ultimate goal or purpose. Once you know why you're creating a work, then the question of how to apply color becomes simple and obvious. Of course, answering the question of a work's purpose may not be so simple and obvious, but that's a question for another day.

The illustrations above were inked with a Japanese brush pen and colored in Photoshop. The illustration is part of the ongoing Wandering Koala serial that presents a page of text and an illustration each day. If you haven't checked it out, go there now and enjoy! The story is just getting started.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

It's Finally Here!

The ongoing Wandering Koala Serial has officially begun! 

Each weekday visit to read the latest page and see the latest illustration!

Below is the first page of the story:

The sun has finished his day’s work and is heading home somewhere over the horizon. The owl will soon begin its hunt. But it won’t be the only one. Soon I will join it chasing a rodent of my own, only one much more clever who has evaded governments, local law enforcement officers, and even small armies.

But he won’t escape me, the great Thylacine.
I’ve tracked him across several borders to one of the largest republics in the southern hemisphere. Only a few years ago this nation made headlines for its explosive growth and potential to become a major player in global events. But like so much promise, the hype was greater than the reality, and the people are left singing about what could have been.
It’s a perfect location. The eyes of the world have turned away from here, and everyone thinks he’s on the other side of the world thanks to regular “candid photos” going viral on various social media sites. This man knows how to hide, at least from normal eyes.
Unfortunately for him, I’m not the usual anything. Hundreds have said good-bye to this world without even knowing who stamped their passport. Even the majority of my clients have no idea to whom their money went. But there are those who know, and they do their job to connect A to me, discreetly.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A New, Yet Old, Enemy

Here is another preview image from the upcoming Wandering Koala eSerial that is set to launch next week. The image above is a new enemy for readers, but an old one from Kyle's past with a grudge the size of the Rocky Mountains.

This was drawn with a Japanese brush pen with a little assistance from a Zig Writer.

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's coming!

The next chapter in the Wandering Koala saga is coming soon, and it won't just be a chapter. I'll have more details soon as I'm planning to launch it next week, but until then, enjoy this teaser image from the beginning of the story.

I drew this with a Staedlter pencil in a Strathmore sketchpad and then inked it with a Japanese brush pen and a Zig Writer felt-tipped pen. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out and that I didn't need more than a single line of whiteout. Right now I'm planning for the illustrations in the story to be black and white, so I'm really focused on design and light and dark patterns.

Let me know what you think! And stay tuned for the launch of the most ambitious project I've attempted in the Wandering Koala world.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

All's Quiet on the Western Front -- But Not For Long

You may have noticed I've been pretty quiet lately. In fact, I managed to go an entire month without posting.

Don't worry, I'm not dead, just busy. I have a day job, and it's been occupying my time. It's good to be busy, but that doesn't mean I've forgotten about the Wandering Koala universe. In fact, I've been working on something pretty exciting that I'll be unveiling soon. Keep an eye open.

But until then, have you checked out any of the recently released Wandering Koala Digests? Each one has comics, prose, an essay, and more! The image at the right comes from the first one.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Putting It All Together

I've been working on a new style for my characters and a new style for backgrounds. I finally put the two together and came up with this. It was inspired by a trip to the grocery store this week. It was about 40 degrees. I noticed a little old lady all bundled up walking out of the store and a young guy in a t-shirt and shorts behind her. The contrast made me laugh. Temperature is definitely relative.

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Imaginary Worlds

Something I've really been struggling with is backgrounds. I'm just not sure what I want the backgrounds in my work to look like. I've tried many styles and techniques, but I have yet to come onto one that makes me jump up and yell, "Eureka!"

The above image is one of my latest attempts. It's completely digital--a mix of Google SketchUp and Adobe Photoshop.  It took me three days to build, but now I have a whole town that I can twist and turn and photograph from all angles.

I've created digital backgrounds before (just look at my most recent posts), but this one is different, because it has a painterly feel to it and a storybook vibe which I kind of like. I'm not sure if this is the direction I will pursue, because there is another very different style I'm also exploring, but I do like it and it does offer many advantages.

But I'd love to hear what you think.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Never let anything good go to waste

Previous posts have followed the evolution of the cover for the latest Wandering Koala Digest. I did like the original try, but not for a main cover image, so I used it on the back cover. It makes an excellent back cover, because it looks good, but it's also simple enough that it can be covered up with the barcode and book description without obfuscating what it is.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Correcting Mistakes

A couple of posts back I posted a potential cover image. When I created it I thought it was great. Then I looked at it the next morning and wasn't as impressed. And judging by the weak traffic to the image on DeviantArt, neither was anyone else.

The title of one of the stories in the latest issue of Wandering Koala Digest is Mistakes, so the title of this post is a bit of a pun. The first cover was a mistake, but instead of pushing ahead with it I decided to start from scratch and create a new cover. And boy am I glad I did!

The figure was drawn with a pencil, inked with a Pigma Graphic 1, and colored in Photoshop. The background was created in Google Sketchup with textures from Photoshop. The figures are from previous projects. The phoenix and fire are from the original try.

I am really happy with how this turned out. This is a style I could get behind. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Catch the Readers' Attention

Something that is almost as important as the cover of a book and the name of the author or series is the description. A good description will have the reader drop everything to pick up a copy of the book. A bad description will make the reader wonder why this person thought they had any right writing a book.

Coming up with a catchy summary that both tells enough to hook the reader but holds enough back to not give everything away is a challenge. Below is the description of my latest publication, Wandering Koala Digest 3. The illustration was created in Corel Painter.

Henry Conrad has made the find of the millennium—an actual living, breathing dinosaur! The only problem is, in a drunken fit of rage, he killed it. When he seeks aid from a man of science, he realizes too late that the scientist is as unscrupulous as he with his own agenda.

On the other side of the country, a young doctor finally discovers a cure for the unidentified illness ravaging his state. Unfortunately, those he depends on to distribute the serum are the very ones who created the disease.

Only the intervention of the Wandering Koala, a mysterious figure left speechless since childhood, can untangle this juggernaut of deceit and betrayal.

Wandering Koala Digest #3 contains a 35-page science fiction graphic novel, the conclusion of a 3-part science fiction novella, an original essay, humorous comics, and more!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Art Philosophy: The Next Morning

I'm always amazed at what a fresh perspective can do.  Often I'll finish a work of art and think it either looks great or terrible, and the next morning I'll wake up and look at the same work and think just the opposite. I'm sure the art didn't change (although art gremlins sneaking into my computer and altering my illustrations would explain a lot). The illustration above is just such a case.

I'm finishing up the latest issue of Wandering Koala Digest and have everything ready except the cover, and the cover is probably the most important part, because it is what will catch the readers' attention or wave them off and away. The image above is my first attempt. I thought it looked pretty good last night when I went to bed, but this morning it's disappointing. The drawing is nice. The composition works. The colors are unique. But it doesn't seem catchy and inciting enough. Which means I need to come up with a second version. And it also makes me glad I didn't rush out and publish the work without taking a second look at the cover.

I remember in art school how one of my instructors told me he would set up a painting at the end of the room so he'd see it first thing every morning for several days. This allowed him to see the work with fresh eyes and catch things he missed initially but those looking at it later would catch. It's a good technique and practice, although a bit of a luxury in the commercial art world were work is literally being pumped out with tight deadlines.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

World Building

One of the great things about fiction is the ability to create imaginary worlds. (And if you saw the last State of the Union address, you'll note imaginary worlds aren't limited to fiction.) Fiction gives both the author and the reader the opportunity to explore worlds that don't exist but wouldn't it be wonderful if they did? One can travel thru time, space, and cross any dimension and explore the many 'what ifs' that one could come up with.

German Expressionist films of the 1920s were especially groundbreaking in this regard (as were the films of George Melies). Most early films (and most films today) are set in the normal world and involve normal, everyday tasks. German Expressionist films were some of the earliest to create a world made out of expression and emotion. It was this genre from which I drew inspiration for this latest tale.

German Expressionism is known for its odd angles and distorted perspective as for its arbitrary use of color. And they tend to lean towards the horror and macabre. I thinks you can see a little of each in the above illustration.

I'm still really liking the style, but I wonder if the digital inks are too cold and lack humanity. Part of me really digs them, but part of me misses the warmth and craft of the traditional. I'll have to do some more sketching.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Art Philosophy: The Right Color

 Mark Twain once said something to the effect that the difference between the right word and almost the right word is a big one. I believe the same is true for color.

I've created numerous sketches and works of art in black and white with one color, and some have been very successful while others fell flat on their face. A large part of the success/failure was the color I chose. Some colors really do have the ability to stand on their own and make a work feel complete, while others just don't. I'm still not sure what the difference is, but I've noticed colors that are mid to mid-dark and have high intensity seem to do better than light or dark colors and muted tones. I've also noticed the primaries seem to work better than the secondaries or some intermediate mix. (Before you say anything, green is a primary for light.)

When I started Wandering Koala Digest 3, I was pretty sure I wanted to to be green to complete the primaries (the first one was red and the second blue). I wasn't sure of the green, but I thought something in the ectoplasmic family would be good, and it was. The page above really looks like it's colored, even though there are only 4 colors (5 if you count the white paper). It's amazing how the addition of just one color turns a black & white comic into what could be considered full color.

I hope you like my latest efforts. Let me know!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sneak Peek: Mistakes

This story has taken me a while to finish, because I really wanted to try something different. I've been looking over the past Wandering Koala Tales (and boy has the catalog been growing!) trying to decide what I liked, what I didn't like, and what direction I want to go. I've tried a lot of different genres--novels, comics, graphic novels, short stories, novellas, and anthologies, and a lot of different media and styles exploring the world of the Silent Wanderer.

One important element of the Wandering Koala when I created him and his world was the flexibility to literally do anything I wanted. And while I've had fun doing that, it's probably been kind of schizophrenic for the reader to follow the story told in so many different formats and style and not even in order. And the publishing schedule has been erratic.

With the launch of the first Wandering Koala Digest, I've finally figured out the format that works for the stories I want to tell that both provides the flexibility for the character and the wide range of tales I want to tell but is still easy enough for the reader to follow so he doesn't get lost. And a bimonthly schedule gives me the time to craft quality tales while still providing a regular dose of Wandering Koala action at predictable times.

With the third Digest I think I've finally figured out the art style that I'll stick with for most, if not all, of the tales. I'll admit it isn't the most polished art I've ever created, but polish isn't what I'm looking for. Wandering Koala was inspired by Boys Adventure stories like Hardy Boys, Pulp Fiction like Doc Savage, and adventure comics like The Phantom that were pumped out at a frantic pace by people who had energy and excitement oozing out their pencils and typewriters. The tales were fast and furious and spoke to something visceral inside the reader instead of merely stimulating the intellect (although they certainly did that with the wide range of topics and knowledge the authors possessed and displayed). This art style is a lot more raw and rough and expressionistic. It's supposed to illustrated the mood as much as the scene (and maybe even a little more).

I'm in love with this first page, and I'm excited to release the whole story in February 2014 so you can enjoy it as well. Be sure to leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sour Grapes, or Typical Rantings of a Graphic Design Degree holder

Recently a friend of mine shared a blog post by a graphic designer via Facebook. This wasn't the first time he had shared one, and I doubt it will be the last.

In this post he was lamenting the loss of the HTML/CSS guru and blaming it on web standards. I found this post odd, because whenever I look at job listings, there are just as many listings for an HTML/CSS guru as there have ever been. The author of the post talked about how web standards had eliminated all the quirks that used to exist between differing browsers. I wondered if this guy had built a website in the last month, because there are still a mountain of quirks one has to deal with just as there were over a decade ago when I started designing sites. True, many of the old quirks have disappeared, but with the introduction of HTML 5 and CSS 3 have come dozens of new quirks designers and programers have to deal with. If you write old code (HTML 4 and CSS 2) then yes, the code will be very consistent across browsers with very little need to write extra code to handle the quirks (but it will still require some). But who wants to hire someone to write old code? Most people have jumped onto the HTML 5 bandwagon thinking they need it without really understanding what it is or why it exists.

Reading that post, I was reminded of another rant another friend had posted about the decline of the art industry. At one time, the author had a booming business, but his clients had moved to outsourcing to cheaper labor in other countries that could deliver the same product. His solution was a certification program to block new entries into the job market.

And that post reminded me of a third post where a graphic designer was ranting and raving about people getting access to professional graphics software (especially of the Adobe family) and thinking they were designers but producing horrendous efforts. (This one I did have some sympathy for, because I have seen some pretty awful work by people who had never learned the basics of design.) His argument was the graphic design was some magical skill only a few possessed and should not be undersold. (He apparently was being underbid.) Graphic Design is a skill, but unlike other art skills (drawing, painting, storytelling, sculpture) anyone can learn it. And anyone can learn it from books or online resources--you don't need a special class or degree.

All three of these posts reminded me of numerous people I have come across who have BFA degrees in Graphic Design but couldn't find a job for years. They blame the market, the economy, and everything else but themselves. For some reason, it never occurred to them that they just weren't as good as they thought they were.

I've been a professional graphic designer/web designer for over 11 years. I got my first job as a designer two months after graduating with a degree in Economics. A couple of years later, I was offered another job replacing a guy who didn't even have a college degree, but was producing professional graphic design/web designer/motion design for large clients and delighting them with his work. Later I worked for several years as a Senior Designer/Webmaster for a large financial institution. In all these different positions, I've worked with many other designers, and I've noticed a pattern: the majority of those I work with do not have degrees in Graphic Design. Those that do tend to have less ability and fewer skills than those who majored in something like Communications.

But there is one thing that holders of BFAs in Graphic Design have that others do not--an excess of EGO. I don't know why, but designers think they are wonderful, everything they produce is a masterpiece, and everyone else is incapable of producing anything worth looking at. And this seems to be unique to designers. I went to art school, and I have a lot of artist friends. The illustrators, draftsmen, sculptors, and others are all nice, easy going people that admire others' work when it is good and recognize that they could improve their own. Those that are professional graphic designers with degrees in something else also recognize and acknowledge good work regardless of the source.

And that brings me back to this post's title: Sour Grapes. The three blog posts I've mentioned were all very negative and very angry. The authors were not having the success they wanted, and so they lashed out placing the blame on various sources. And others who felt the same way or were in the same boat reposted and/or shared these posts thinking they were masterpieces that hit the nail on the head. But never once did any of them even consider that they weren't as good as they thought they were. They never once suggested that they had gotten complacent and hadn't bothered to update their skills or learn new ones. They also didn't consider that the economy is a dynamic place with jobs and careers disappearing or being reinvented in all industries, not just design.

Being an expert with Photoshop is nice, but anyone can learn the commands and techniques. And when the new version comes out, many of the processes, short cuts, commands, etc. will have changed, so the old skills lose value. What does have value--and always will--is an eye for what looks good together, what fonts should be used, what colors, how the elements to be arranged in relation to each other, how to organize a work so it is accessible. These skills will always have a place, although their application may change drastically. Design has as much to do with taste and fads as fashion, and designer that was hot last year may be yesterday's news this year. And these are the skills the designers who write such blog posts seem to be weakest in.

The solution to their dilemma (not as much work, money, or prestige) is to improve their skills and make themselves better designers. Instead, they take the approach that many other failing and failed businesses have tried and that is to eliminate competition and vilify whatever elements they see as the source of their problems. It rarely works, and when it does work it's usually temporary and requires a great deal of maintenance. (Does Detroit and the car industry ring any bells?)

Writing this post, I realize that those who would benefit most from it will probably never read it, and if a few of them do, they will be sitting at their computers yelling at the screen arguing against the points I've made claiming I just don't get it not realizing how ironic that accusation is.

The expressions of the muses on the book cover at the top reminded me of the expression I imagine these blog post writers having and their desire to control the world as if they were the three fates of Greek mythology. Fortunately, they do not have that power. Just imagine what the world would be like if they did.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Character Sketch: Martial Arts Student with a Bow

I'm currently working on the third volume of Wandering Koala Digest, and I'm playing around with different techniques and approaches. I really want to try another all-digital story. I haven't done one since Wandering Koala meets the Beast who came for Christmas, and I wasn't all that thrilled with how it turned out. The Phantom Coach looked cool all digital, but the Beast just didn't. That's one reason I went back to such traditional media as dipping a brush in ink.

So while I finish up the story, I've been doing a lot of sketching in various programs including Corel Painter, Adobe Photoshop, and Manga Studio 5 trying out all the different ways one can make a digital line. Some have turned out well, and some will never be seen in public.

The figure above was created in Corel Painter. The background was rendered in Adobe Photoshop. I really like the look, style, line quality, and colors. I may just have found my next story's style.

What do you think?