Thursday, December 31, 2009

So Long, "Noughties"

Amazing Spider-Man: Extra! #2 (page 8, panel 4)
ink on Marvel board (original art)
11 x 17.25"

As we celebrate the end of the decade, I'd like to thank everyone for reading this blog (and supporting my work in general). Despite the pervasive, media-promoted consensus that this decade "sucked," it was, in fact, excessively kind to me. I started the decade with a high school diploma and a ticket to art school... and ended it with my dream job, in every sense of the term. Next year promises to bring even greater opportunities as Marvel has given me a fantastic project, due in late July, coupled with the pledge of intense promotion. They've treated me very well for nearly eight years and, even with their new "mousy" identity, seem to be more accommodating than ever.

So with the utmost gratitude for your continued support, I wish everyone the best in 2010 and beyond. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 87

Young Allies 70th Anniversary Special #1 (page 19)
ink on Marvel board/Photoshop
11 x 17"

I'm back in Brooklyn! I had a great time visiting my 'rents in Florida, but it's time to get back to work. 2010's not even here yet, but I feel like I'm already behind. Wacky reference should help get me back in the groove, though. Pictured above is a scene from Young Allies in which Cap tells his fellow veterans what he had to go through to get that fancy arm — not a happy story. Below, you'll see me posing for most of the characters, followed by the preliminary stages of the page.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #616

Amazing Spider-Man #616 Cover
ink and watercolor on bristol board
11 x 17"

This is out tomorrow, just in time for Christmas! Here's a little preview.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Big Apple Con 2009 Commissions

Golden Age Wonder Woman
watercolor on paper
9 x 12"

Just Plain Smrt

A couple friends of mine from school just came out with a brilliant little product for the iPhone, so I thought I'd give it a plug. I don't have an iPhone myself, but I'm a fan of the design, nonetheless. You can find out more about SmrtCase at their web site.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Questions: Approaching Color

The Iliad #5 Cover (process photo)
acrylic and gouache on bristol board
11 x 17"
original art

Here's another round of student questions, this time from Narciso Espiritu Jr. on the subject of color. I'm heading home for Florida next week, so I'll still be posting, but the blog will be on auto-pilot. I hope everybody has a great weekend and some happy holidays!

Narciso: What's your color palette like? What colors are ones you turn to most often? (That's a silly one).

Paolo: I tend to use the full spectrum of colors... pretty much anything that works for me, so the combinations are always changing. Very broadly speaking, however, I can do just about any color scheme with white, black, warm and cool red, reddish and greenish blue, yellow ochre, sepia and burnt sienna. I keep them arranged in a rainbow with white and black at opposing corners. Of course, this is always changing, depending on the task at hand.

Narciso: Um, I specifically have a problem knowing when a color is just right if I'm studying something or creating something new. How would you respond to this kind of situation? I understand you use a lot of reference, (there's evidence of that every Wednesday, thankfully), do you think its possible to paint something without reference?

Paolo: It's all about trial and error. Most of the great artists in history did many preparatory studies, so any painting you see was probably painted somewhere else first, then transferred. This is especially true for subjects that can't be painted directly from life (or at least all at once — multi-figure tableaus, for instance). Almost every painting I do starts with a color study. I can paint without reference at this point, but that's only because I have painted so much from reference already. Also, most of the reference that I post on the blog is mainly for anatomy and value; color, on the other hand, is tackled primarily in Photoshop with a digital color study.

Narciso: I read through your blog on Color Theory (I wish I attended your lecture at the BPL). I'm assuming you took a Color Theory class at RISD. Were there any profound things learned about color that have stuck to your mind and how you create art?

Paolo: I never took a Color Theory class, per se, but I tended to pick up bits of information here and there. I'd say my two painting classes were pretty helpful, but spending a year in Rome and looking at great paintings close up did just as much good for me. The main thing is practice.

Narciso: (Running out of ideas to stretch the question) This may be arbitrary to the class, but how do you paint? How do you approach a painting (charging with a battlecry, maybe)?

Paolo: Since I am always on a deadline, I have a fairly measured method for beginning a painting. Basically, I don't have time to mess up, so each stage refines the one before it. I begin with a color study, render a detailed pencil drawing, paint over that monochromatically (usually with sepia), then paint according to the dictates of the particular painting.

Narciso: Since you work in comics, there a lot of made-up elements, at least in painting covers or interiors. How do you figure out color when you have no direct reference? Is it easier making up the color or copying the color? (I think it's harder copying).

Paolo: I find it easier to copy color (in other words, paint from life) because most of the work is already done for me. Once you've practiced this enough times, however, you get a better sense of how light works and can start to predict how it will behave in similar situations. The real secret for painting imaginary elements is to find reference of analogous subjects, i.e. swan or heron wings for angel wings.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cover Switch

Amazing Spider-Man #615 Cover
ink on bristol board/Photoshop
11 x 17"

I stopped by the comic shop today and was happy to see that I had something on the stands (it's been a while). Although this cover was originally intended to be the second of the two-part series, it makes sense as the first (you can see the step-by-step here , original art here, and the other cover here). Also, I'd like to note that this counts as somewhat of a jam-piece with Joe Quinones, whose art is used as the variant cover, as well as The Gauntlet insignia. It's a great story (Fred Van Lente) with great art (Javier Pulido) so I highly recommend it!

Iron Man
Iron Man (personal commission)
acrylic and gouache on paper
6 x 10"

In other news, the Iron Man 2 trailer has hit and, I must say, I'm pretty dern'd excited. You can check it out at Comic Book Resources.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 85

Mythos: Spider-Man (page 17, panel 4)
acrylic and gouache on bristol board
10.5 x 6.8"

After a flurry (read: one) of requests for more shirtless pics, I had to oblige. Here I am posing during "crazy time," a nearly inevitable period toward the end of most projects in which my deadline is so tight, I have no time to shave.

preliminary layout
pencil on paper
4 x 6"

digital color study

pencil on bristol board
11 x 17"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Guest Artists

I was the weekend guest artist on my mom's blog, Color Informal (something tells me I had an unfair advantage). Most of the featured artwork has been posted here on my own blog, but there's some new photography as well. The image above is part of a series of photos from my trip to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

I was there to visit my good friends (and fellow RISD alumni), Mike Sherman and David Pettibone during their open studio event this fall. I had always wanted to get a peek inside the vast complex, so I jumped at the opportunity, taking tons of photos along the way. Perhaps I'll post some more later in the week. In the meantime, Mike and David are going to be my guest artists.

David Pettibone. Coup D'Etat (detail)
oil on linen

Michael Sherman. Mill
48 x 60"
oil on canvas

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Questions: Sculpting Heads and Hands

Red Sonja (process photo)
Super Sculpey
10" tall

The following question is from Cathy Stephens, a student who recently asked me for some sculpting tips. The image above is a work-in-progress pic from my 2004 Red Sonja sculpture. I've been gathering all the photos I took during the process, but it will be some time before I post all of them. In the meantime, this will have to do.

Cathy: Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to ask you some questions about sculpting. I'm sculpting a 10" female figure out of super sculpey, and I just have a couple questions specifically about sculpting the hands and head. When sculpting the hands, do you have wiring going into each finger, or do you use just clay? As for the head, I've seen sculpture artists sculpt the head directly on the
body as well as sculpting it separately and attaching it after. Do you know if one way is easier then the other or is it just purely preference? I would greatly appreciate any other tips you might have for sculpting hands and head as well.

Paolo: 10" is pretty small, which has major consequences for things like hands. I've only sculpted one full figure at that size and I made sure that her hands were clenched into fists. At that scale, fingers are essentially the same diameter of my thinnest armature wire, so there isn't much "sculpting" that could go on around it. There are, of course, tricks to get around this, such as resting the hand on another part of the body — both hands of Michaelanglo's David come to mind. Try and think of the form abstractly, as if you were building an architectural structure. How much risk are willing to take on the most delicate forms? Can they support themselves, let alone an exterior force?

I don't know exactly what you're going for, but I'm imagining the most extreme case: a hand extended away from the body with fingers spread. If you're challenging yourself this much, you obviously like pain, so I would try a study of just the hand. Nothing is keeping you from testing the limits of your abilities (and the forces of nature) on a smaller scale. You might just save yourself time in the long run.

When it comes to the head, I think you'd be better off keeping it attached. Sculpture is hard enough as it is, so complicating the technical process further would only detract from your ability to evaluate gesture and anatomy, which is really about the form as a whole. That approach (I'm guessing here) is most likely taken by professionals in the field who have mastered the fundamentals (hopefully) and must bow to other concerns, such as mold-making, casting, shipping — the multitude of reproduction challenges. Keep your head on!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Planet of the Apes

Gorilla Soldier (Big Apple Con Commission)
watercolor on paper
9 x 12"

I don't get to draw apes very often, so this was a nice change of pace from the usual comic convention requests. Only three more head sketches to go, which I may drag out until the end of the month. I have tons of new artwork, but I don't think I'll be able to show any of it until the middle of next year!

Tomorrow, I'll answer some student questions about sculpting heads and hands.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 84

Young Allies 70th Anniversary Special #1 (page 4, panel 1)
ink on Marvel board/Photoshop
11 x 9"

Since I posted the pencils from this panel on Monday, I thought it might be nice to show my photo reference as well. As far as I can remember, this was the only pic I took for the entire composition. The rest of the figures were probably drawn from my imagination, my mirror, and/or Captain Catastrophe. Of course, I always have my trusty Colt 1911 on hand for the occasional firearm.

As you can see in the picture, I was posing in front of the mirror to get exactly what I wanted. With the camera right next to me, what I see is pretty much what I get.



Monday, December 7, 2009

Facial Recognition

Amazing Spider-Man #577 cover (detail)
ink on bristol board
11 x 17"

Well, despite my best efforts to avoid Facebook and, therefore, having friends, an entrepreneurial spirit has decided to take matters into his own hands and create a Fans of Paolo Rivera Facebook page. It looks as though I have to stop wearing my favorite t-shirt.

Thanks for the support! Would it be weird if I joined?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Parallel Bars

Otherwise known as a parallel ruler, this contraption is a quick and accurate way of drafting a series of parallel lines, a very helpful addition to any architectural drawing. I had previously purchased a parallel glider, but found that the accuracy was not sufficient for me, especially over long distances (I actually still use the glider, but only for interpolation between the lines set out by its more accurate counterpart).

When setting up a composition in 2-point perspective, one of the dimensions, most often the vertical, can be represented by a series of parallel lines. I've found that my freehand drawing improves in accuracy when I am drawing over and around a predetermined guide. In other words, I can draw a straight line without a ruler, which is not only faster, but livens up the line without losing too much precision.

In the panel below, you can see where I've indicated verticals across the entire composition (This isn't the best example I have, but it's the only one I'm allowed to show for now). I've gotten in the habit of using an H pencil to rule my guidelines, which is light, but withstands constant erasures. You may also notice small numbers in the margins of the page; these help to organize the converging lines in an otherwise complicated tableau. This topic warrants its own post, but in the meantime, James Gurney tackles it on his blog.

Young Allies 70th Anniversary Special #1 (page 4, panel 1)
pencil on Marvel board
11 x 9"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Rocketeer

The Rocketeer (Big Apple Con Commission)
watercolor on paper
9 x 12"

We're still going through the head shots from the last Big Apple Con. Here we have The Rocketeer, the most famous creation of the late, great Dave Stevens. Looks like ol' Rocky here just spotted some Nazis. In barely related news, Jennifer Connelly still looks good.

I should finish the Daredevil 506 cover today, but I'm not sure when I can show it — hopefully soon. On Monday, I'll have show and tell with a new toy/tool that I bought. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Empty Bowls

If you happen to live in my hometown, Daytona Beach, FL, then I hope you can make it to this Friday's Empty Bowls Event, a silent auction held at my alma mater, Mainland High School. The project, started in 1990, raises awareness for world hunger by serving a simple meal of soup and bread in handmade bowls. The auction component raises money for organizations that fight hunger — in this case, Halifax Urban Ministries.

I have donated several signed works, including prints, a Young Allies issue, and an original page from Amazing Spider-Man #577, pictured above.

The event will be held this Friday, December 4th, from 6-8PM. Further information can be found here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 83

Mythos: Captain America (page 11, panel 8)
acrylic and gouache on bristol board
3.5 x 4.4"

In this panel, Steve Rogers looks up from his bunk to see his fellow soldiers engaged in the type of revelry in which he can't partake (he must keep a low profile so as not to compromise his secret identity... you know, superhero stuff). As usual, I play all the cast members. The page itself was pretty complex, so I've included the planning stages below.

preliminary layout
pencil on paper
4 x 6"

digital color study

pencil and charcoal
(a media experiment that lasted but 1 page)
11 x 17"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Baroness

The Baroness (Big Apple Con commission)
watercolor on paper
9 x 12"

Tina Fey's got nothing on the Baroness, who's been rockin' the black-rimmed glasses since 1982. I haven't had a chance to see the live-action movie yet, but I'll probably get around to it eventually. Sienna Miller wouldn't have been my first pick, but she's easy on the eyes (Lilith from Frasier would have been awesome).

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. I am well-fed, well-rested, and ready to get back to work (if not the gym).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 82

Amazing Spider-Man #577 (page 16, panel 4)
ink on Marvel board
10.3 x 4"

Here I am hamming it up as Moses Magnum, the earth-shakin' Ethiopian. Mostly, I just needed the hand gesture, but sometimes I can't help myself. I also needed hand reference for the hired goon in the background. I figure after a few more war comics, I'll be able to pull it out of my head on command.

I'm gonna take the rest of the week off from blogging, so I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. Be sure to watch the Macy's parade: Spider-Man returns this year with a brand new balloon! I've heard a rumor that some Marvel employees will be handlers, so keep an eye out.

On Monday, I'll show you what "Tina Fey glasses" should really be called.

More Snow

I just came across a site that collected (and animated) the progress pics for Heavy Snow, Chance of Sentinels, my N.C. Wyeth inspired Wolverine Art Appreciation Month cover. I don't know much about the Spanish language site,, but I recognized my art (and appreciated the extra blog traffic).

— my original post
— the composition post
— the original art

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hey Oscar Wilde!

Well, I finally found the time to contribute a piece to Hey Oscar Wilde, Steven Gettis' collection of literary-figure-drawings. If you've never been to the site, I highly recommend browsing its rich archives (since 1998!), organized by both artist and subject. The basic premise: your favorite artists depict their favorite literary personalities, whether authors or characters. In my case, I decided to go with Mona Monzano, the beautiful xylophonist, from Vonnegut's atomic novel, Cat's Cradle.

I "read" the book a couple years ago and loved every minute of it — all 432 of them. I listen to audiobooks while I work, which helps me to focus the visual part of my brain while (hopefully) developing the other parts. I've been a fan of Vonnegut since reading Slaughterhouse V in high school, but somehow missed this particular novel. I took this commission as an opportunity to listen to the book again, which I enjoyed even more the second time.

Mona was an obvious choice for me, being the sublime beauty that serves as muse and motivation for so many of the book's characters. I'm happy to find any excuse to draw beautiful women, but in Mona's case, beauty overwhelms its host, causing her at one point to attempt to make herself ugly (this is only mentioned in passing — in an index obsessed with her, no less). She is the "reluctant, erotic symbol of San Lorenzo," the small, Caribbean island nation she calls home. Mona is the subject of poetry and painting, mosaic and music — she is even mentioned by name in the Books of Bokonon! Much like the narrator, I had no choice but to pursue her.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Daredevil #505

Among the February solicitations that were just released, you may have noticed my first professional Daredevil work. I'll be doing the covers for issues 505-507 (and I'll let you guess where the story takes place). I've always wanted to draw the blind vigilante (he was almost my first gig for Marvel) so I was very excited when my editor offered me the job.

The original art is ink and watercolor, but it required a little help from Photoshop to complete the image. My scanner couldn't seem to differentiate between the two reds, so I had to alter them digitally. This file also appears more saturated because it was never converted to CMYK (though it's tough to predict how these jpegs will actually appear to you, the reader).

I don't usually tape off something that's going to be inked, but since it was to be painted as well, I figured I'd keep things "classy."

The pencils are fairly tight and self-explanatory. This is the stage where I really nail down all the forms so that there's not too much guessing in the ink and painting stages. I like to mess up here, so I can avoid it later.

This is the revised digital color study where I honed the composition and figures. The one prior to this, which I revealed last month, was just to get the basic idea across to my editor.

Have a great weekend!