Sunday, August 31, 2008

Roommate Times

My good friend (and roommate), R. Kikuo Johnson, illustrated the cover and feature for the New York Times Magazine this weekend. You can see the article and his illustrations here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Big Pun

I'm trying to hit this week's deadline today, so here's just a sketch from my Punisher character sheet. I couldn't help but add a little ink wash at the end. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 20

Here's one from the vaults. I don't even have these files anymore, but I found the photo printouts and scanned them in. This cover was done during wintersession of my senior year at RISD (2003). With help from my friend, roommate, and comic book colleague, R. Kikuo Johnson, we managed make fools of ourselves in the illustration studios. That's his plexi-glass mirror that I thought would make for a good windshield. Not pictured is our friend Go, who posed for the taxi passenger.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Tor, the sci-fi and fantasy publisher, has started up a great web-site that features many of the best artists out there. Lo and behold, they added me today! You can find my personal gallery here, but I would also encourage you to look at my neighbors.

And just for the fun of it, here are some Punisher studies for my upcoming Spider-Man issue.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Twelve No. 9

The Twelve cover #9
The Blue Blade. Wow. What a horrifically disturbing, yet totally awesome character design. I think this is my favorite Twelve cover so far.

Some preliminary sketches...

A digital grayscale study...

And a digital color study...

In other news, Spidey 577 is coming along nicely. I'm actually pretty fast at penciling and inking, producing an finished inked page in about 2 days, as compared to 4-7 days with painted work. I am not missing the extra hours.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Sorry to subject you to such vulgar humor, but I couldn't help myself. My roommate and I came up with this "idea" during dinner and made the poster shortly thereafter. I'm so ashamed... but still laughing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mythos: Cap, Step by Step, Part 6

Post-production... it's a necessary evil. Since I scan all of my own artwork, I have to know Photoshop pretty well (or at least aspects of it) in order to create a file that will reproduce faithfully. I've learned a lot over the years, but it's been a process of trial and error.

The benefits of scanning your own artwork are well worth the time it takes. First and foremost, your originals never leave your hands and therefore are not at risk of being lost, damaged, or sent away to the wrong person. These things happen... sometimes to me, but not anymore. Additionally, you get a second chance at correcting any mistakes before you send it off. This also happens to be a disadvantage.

Sometimes I find myself — and I'm not alone here — spending way too much time agonizing over the most trivial details and color balances, when the end result is not of much importance. Often, I will let a piece sit around for a day before I scan or retouch it. This gives it a freshness to my mind's eye that lets me zero in on what's important.

But enough introduction. What do I do once I've got the image scanned? Actually, let's start with how I scan it. Someday I'll be able to afford the Epson 10,000 XL scanner, but for now my letter-sized scanner will have to make do. I scan the page, which is as wide as a letter-sized paper is long, in 3 sections. It works for the most part, but the edges warp and dim as they exceed the prescribed boundaries of the scanner. Luckily for me, the newest version of Photoshop, CS3, has an improved Photomerge function that has made my life much, much easier.

You can find this modern miracle under File> Automate> Photomerge. The previous version was almost worthless as it made no attempt at warping geometry to line up, let alone color matching. Thank you, Adobe.

Once in the computer, I make sure all my specs are correct, i.e. dimensions, resolution, and color gamut. I then create a separate layer for borders. The borders are created with a square brush tool, while holding down the shift key, which gives me a straight line. In addition to that, using the "Layer Style" palette, I add a black stroke to the outside of my borders, usually around 8 pixels wide. In this case, it makes no difference since the border and gutter are the same color, but it matters on other pages.

Then comes the hard part, which I've shown below. I use adjustment layers to tweak everything from value to saturation. Often, one all encompassing adjustment is not enough, so I use layer masks to isolate individual panels. I'm not going to go into the details of exactly what I do, but if anyone has any specific questions, feel free to ask. I'll gladly answer in the comments, or possibly get an idea for a future post.

One other tool I should mention is the "Liquefy" filter which I use to gently nudge pixels around. This is especially helpful on faces, where the slightest change can result in a different expression. I also utilize this in the beginning stage of a color study, which I'll show in a future post. With this page, I used it to correct distortion in the woman's face and reduce the size of Steve Rogers ear (it looked good in the pencil drawing, but paint can make cartooned exaggeration look awkward).

And so here it is, the final result. I've included the original scan to show you just what a dramatic difference Photoshop can make. There were several color corrections that I wanted to make in the painting, but I simply ran out of time. Luckily for me, I live in the 21st century and can use advanced tools to make myself look better.

I hope you've all enjoyed this in-depth look at the creation of a painted page. And again, if it's sparked more questions than it has answered, please feel free to ask.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 19

I never really liked this particular panel... but I had to move on at the time (about 2 years ago). It was one of the first couple pages that I painted in full color Acryla Gouache and thus presented some technical challenges. Even so, I had the idea of putting my Harley model on my lightbox to simulate riding through fire, which was pretty effective. I used these patterns of reflection throughout the rest of the book.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Massive Splashpage Update

My original art rep, Mark Hay, has just updated my gallery at Splashpage Art. If you're looking to purchase original art (or if you'd just like to see some good scans of the artwork) then now is the time. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Inkwell Relief

This is a Witchblade pin-up that will be going up for auction as part of Inkwell Relief. It's a tribute to the late Michael Turner and will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the American Cancer Society. The auction should take place in the next couple months, but I'll post it here when I know for sure.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

CBR Interview

Comic Book Resources has a feature article on my new contract with Marvel, as well as my next project, Amazing Spider-Man. Pictured above is my preliminary sketch for the cover.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mythos: Cap, Step by Step, Part 5

Continuing our look at the painting process, we now enter the final stage. Having previously rendered the image in a monochromatic underpainting, all that remains is to add color where it is needed. This is often an involved process, so I break it up into sections and concentrate on one at a time. The only disadvantage to this, as we will see, is neglect of the overall composition.

The first thing that I sought to finish was the control panel in the lower left corner. While I did a fine job of coloring in the equipment, I sort of lost myself in the process and treated it as a major element, bathed in light. My original intent was to keep it almost in silhouette, thus providing merely an indication of technology that wouldn't distract from the main focus.

Part of the problem stems from my use of gray in my underpainting, as opposed to black, which would give me a full range of value. I tend to avoid black because it results in a very cold tint to the image, not to mention a potent residue on top of which color will be added.

In addition, keeping your composition lighter than the ultimate intent allows the scanner to pick up more information than it would otherwise be able to. The digitized image is therefore richer and can be easily adjusted to achieve the full tonal range.

Technically, the painting is all finished at this point. I wasn't completely satisfied, but Photoshop provides the opportunity to adjust and tweak as needed. Here is the unedited scan before post-production, which I will cover next week.

Update: Part 6

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 18

Nothing says, "Time to attack the day!" like tucking your shirt into your pajama pants. Whenever I descend into "crazy deadline time," my clothing habits leave much to be desired.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Heroes Con Pin-Ups

I've been meaning to post these since June... just a few of the commissions from the Heroes Con in Charlotte. As I may have mentioned, I like doing the head sketches at cons because they're easy to start and stop. I now spend much of my time signing books and chatting away at my table, so the more involved pieces require too much time and concentration.

As for current work, I'm officially 1/8 of the way through Amazing Spider-Man #577 (a 32 page book) and having more fun than ever. I feel like the work is fresher because I can finish a page before it starts to get tedious. This is something that happens to me toward the end of pretty much every painted page.

But I won't be giving up painting for long. I've got a new cover due for The Twelve, not to mention a cover for the — wait for it — Mythos hardcover collection. If all goes well, we should see it before the end of the year. I can't wait... but I'll have to.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Mythos: Cap, Step by Step, Part 4

The final panel on this page is probably the most difficult, so I have saved it for the end. In this post, we'll go through the underpainting process that lays the foundation for the color stage. Gathered above is my army of reference that helps to ground the composition in reality. In this case, my main inspiration was an extension of the Capitoline Museum in Rome that was housed in an old power plant.

I limit myself to one color, a dark grey gouache that creates a nice warm undertone. I rarely use it at full strength because I want to keep the paper absorbent for the subsequent color layer. I am treating it like watercolor, so the paint acts more like a stain than an appreciable layer. Bold strokes do not necessarily have to be thick.

Moving around the composition, I plug in the details of each area. I've already done most of the composition work, so I can concentrate on details without sacrificing the bigger picture.

The "colder" greys are a result of using white gouache to correct mistakes or add details. I don't use acrylic in this stage because there is a risk of creating a layer of "plastic" that won't accept color in the same way as untouched paper. This is just a personal preference, but I think it's much easier when the painting absorbs the color, rather than keeping it on top.

Speaking of which, let's add some color to the previous panel. Using both acrylic and gouache, sometimes mixing them directly, I paint over the underpainting. Since my underpainting is a stain — meaning it's essentially part of the paper — I don't have to worry about it washing out with the addition of water or paint. There will be trace amounts coming up with each pass, but, if anything, this will help to unify the overarching color scheme.

As a general rule, the more detail I've put into something monochromatically, the thinner the color overlay. I don't want to repaint anything, simply add a new dimension. Therefore, I keep the paint thin enough to reveal the underpainting, but thick enough to achieve the desired color. Opaque strokes are reserved for corrections and special effects, such as highlights. One of the toughest tasks is matching opaque and transparent passes of color, so I consciously try to limit when and where I use opaque color.

One place where I thought opaque paint was needed was the woman's dress, which is a deep red illuminated by a warm light. Some scarlet Acryla Gouache did the trick.

Believe it or not, we're still not quite done. Hopefully, I can wrap this up in one or two more posts. Have a great weekend!

Update: Part 5

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 17

Cooling off a bit from last week's WRW, here's a relatively tame panel from Mythos: Fantastic Four. I'm posing here as an old senator who's questioning the FF during a hearing. What could be more exciting?

Here's a picture, courtesy of my girlfriend, from our rafting trip last weekend on the Delaware. This is at the end of our journey, just before it started pouring down. Good timing.

And in case any of you have a Marvel Digital Comics subscription, I'm in the "Creator Spotlight" this week. Link.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Twelve No. 8

I don't know about you guys, but I had a great weekend. This was my last getaway before "crazy time" begins, so I spent it floating down the Delaware River with a beer in one hand and a paddle in the other. I also had a raging party on Friday for my 10,000th day birthday. Good times.

Pictured above is the cover to The Twelve No. 8, which features the forbidden temptress, The Black Widow. I've also included some of my preliminary digital sketches. And if you think this cover's "hot," just wait until you see the cover for No. 9. I'm surprised Marvel even allowed it.