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!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Visions of Valenciennes

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

I'm going to France! Next April, I'll be heading there to attend a convention in Valenciennes, a town not too far from the Belgium border. I expect to see all of you there. If, for some strange reason, you can't make it, you can find more information at the convention blog (translated version here).

By the way, the above head sketch of the android Avenger, Vision, was done at the last Big Apple Con. In semi-related news, it was painted for Thomas... who is from France. Yep.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 81

Mythos: Captain America
page 20 (11" x 17"), panel 3
acrylic and gouache on bristol board

Continuing our look at last week's page, we focus now on panel 3. Although a relatively simple composition in terms of subject matter, I still felt it necessary to take reference photos to get it just right, particularly for the draped hat and coat.

You may notice that the final painting is from a higher perspective, but I didn't feel it warranted the time and effort necessary to shoot from that angle. Instead, I put the tripod (which you can see in the background below) at the highest setting and made do. Once I captured the information I needed, I simply "mapped" it onto the drawing I already had in mind.

You might also notice that I don't look like Captain America. As usual, my 1:4 scale maquette was there to help fill in the blanks.

The background is based on a staircase I photographed at the armory (the same one from last week, just a different area).

And finally, I happened to take a progress pic right after the gouache underpainting stage, so I thought I'd share. The first panel was done in black — as opposed to sepia, my typical choice — to create the cooler atmosphere of a rainy day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Optimistic in New York

The White Queen (Tending the Hellfire)
personal commission (detail)
acrylic and gouache on bristol board

The New York Optimist has featured me on their web site, so I encourage you to take a look. For regular readers of this blog, some of the content may look familiar, so I've added details for two of the pieces.

Mythos: Captain America
pages 18-19, panel 2
acrylic and gouache on bristol board

Sunday, November 15, 2009

(Sc)Avengers Assemble!

Well, our team, The Dark Knights, won Saturday's scavenger hunt, which was a superbly organized Met Museum romp, from a human pyramid in front of the Temple of Dendur to adding knights and steeds to the medieval armory display. There were claims of unfair advantage since three of our team members went to art school, but, for me, it was the many (many) hours I've spent in the Met sketching and wandering — it's probably my favorite place in the city. Although I was able to identify and locate a few works of art from memory (Lepage's Joan of Arc and Saint-Gaudens' Diana, for example), my "mad skills" were nicely offset by a brisk walk into a bench — not something I usually do. A little too focused, perhaps? Who knew I could move a stone bench so far using just my shin? It smarts still.

The accompanying sketches are from my many trips to the Met. I often find myself coming back to Degas' sculptures (previous posts here and here), but lately I've been trying to branch out. Photographs, convenient as they are, will not commit works of art to memory as well as a studied drawing.

In other news, this is my 400th post! As always, thank you for reading.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Big Apple Con 2009 Commissions

After some coaxing, I agreed to accept commissions on the blank covers of The Marvels Project variants. The paper is not great to paint on, but it is acceptable for ink with watercolor washes, which is what's going on here. You might notice a certain co-creator of Captain America actually signed this one as well — I'm in pretty good company. I also wanted to mention that the Marvel characters frame is by the mega-talented Jimmy Cheung.

Next week, I'll have more head sketches from the Big Apple Con, and possibly my new Daredevil cover (if it gets solicited), plus an official announcement for my next convention.

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend. As for me, I'm going on a scavenger hunt. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Barking Spider

I don't know why I've never linked to Maris Wicks' blog, Dots for Eyes, before, but now I've got no excuse. When she came down (along with Joe Quinones) for the Big Apple Con last month, she did her fair share of superhero commissions in artist alley, one of which I insisted on coloring. The above collaboration (which still makes me laugh) was the result.

And speaking of collaborations, for anyone who is interested in our Green Lantern/Spidey "cover," Joe will be selling the original art (pictured below) through his Etsy shop. At the bottom of the post, I've included a scan of the art after Joe was finished with his portion of the work: Spider-Man, lettering, and inking. Painting that sky was hard, Joe!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 80

Mythos: Captain America, page 20, panels 4-5
acrylic and gouache on bristol board

In honor of Veterans Day, I thought I would feature a panel from Mythos: Captain America in which Steve Rogers attends a reunion at his VFW post. In order to get an authentic feel for the scene, I visited a real post in Manhattan and brought my camera along. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it ended up being the absolute perfect setting. Many thanks are due to the sergeant who gave me a personal tour of the building.

The building itself was actually the same one used for this year's MoCCA Festival. The dark and intimate hall was only a thin wall away from an arena-sized floor (complete with a parked Humvee during my visit). It also happens to be the site of the famous Armory Show of 1913 (which I was unaware of at the time).

There were two main rooms that I used, the second of which will be featured in a future post. The first hall was filled with photographs from the history of the 69th Infantry Regiment, which makes it's home there (I should note, however, that we used the 26th Infantry Division as Cap's unit).

Of course, the setting would not be complete without figures, the reference for which can be seen below. Today's panel is a higher res file, so be sure to click on it for the full effect. The two objects in the glass case are a chaplain's kit and the eye patch from one of Cap's fellow veterans who has, presumably, passed on.

Please remember our veterans today and every day. And if you'd like to support them directly, Any Soldier is a great way to find out what soldiers need and how to get it to them. You'll probably find comics on quite a few wish lists.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Big Apple Con 2009 Commissions

Here's one of my favorite commissions from last month's Big Apple Con. I call it Hungover Iron Man. This is how I spent most of October. Fortunately, November is shaping up quite nicely.

Also, just to keep everybody in the loop, I'm currently pencilling the second issue of my four-issue Amazin' Spider-Man arc, which I've just learned will be published starting in July of next year.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Marvels Project, Part 4 of 4

This is the last piece from my series of promotional illustrations for The Marvels Project by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. I highly recommend the series (now 3 issues deep) and I hear my images may be on the back covers of certain variant issues (though I'm still not certain).

I also wanted to mention that I attended Brooklyn's King Con on Sunday and it was a huge success. I only heard about it through a random link Sunday morning, so I decided to drop by in the afternoon. While I was just visiting this time around, I'm pretty sure I'll be involved in next year's show. Brooklyn is home to so many comic creators, it just makes sense to have a con close by.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Google Street View (and Me)

You heard it here first: I'm famous. If you'll indulge me for a moment, you will (hopefully) find that this post is not as off-topic as it first appears.

Several months ago, as I was walking to the venerable Jim Hanley's Universe in Manhattan, I received a call from my Dad. Being the loving son that I am, I took the call and proceeded to carry on a rather long conversation with him. After some time, I saw a van drive by with a pole on the roof, capped by a circular, black gadget. Using Google Street View extensively as a reference tool, I immediately knew what it was and watched it drive past with the hope that someday my image would grace the internet — that day has finally arrived.

The above image is an embedded version of the larger internet application. You can either click and drag to navigate through the space, or press the arrow keys (left and right to pan, up and down to travel).

Aside from the thrill of being an instant internet superstar, I've been wanting to do a post on Street View for some time. It's a fantastic resource that I often use for inspiration and research. For instance, in the Young Allies one-shot I drew earlier this year, I took a virtual spin along the River Seine to get a feel for a Parisian high-speed chase.

Environment and architecture reference are the two most obvious benefits of Street View, but it's also a great source for candid shots of people and vehicles, especially in a traffic-heavy city like New York. As you can probably see, Google makes every effort to blur out faces using an automated program, but there's still enough information there to inspire personal clothing styles and body types.

While the panoramas are fairly up-to-date, I hope that Google will someday archive subsequent "passes" into a searchable database, allowing us to not only explore cities in space, but time as well. I can't wait to look back (wearing shiny spandex, I'm sure) at how silly my clothing choices were in the first decade of the 21st century. I know they've already updated New York at least once because the current crop of photos is at a much higher resolution than the previous (making my job even easier).

What I would like to stress, however, is that I glean visual information from Street View, rather than directly copying it (though I read of at least one project that does just that on Lines and Colors). I am searching for ideas, relationships, and experiences, rather than compositions. Admittedly, that can be a gray area, but that's the general principle I adhere to when finding inspiration on-line, whether through Street View or a general image search.

I hope that was at least slightly informative. Now I look forward to basking in the glow of my newfound celebrity status.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Big Apple Con Commissions

And here we have The Scarlet Witch and Thanos, a lovely couple. Thanks for the scans, Eli!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 79

Mythos: Captain America, page 20, panel 2 (detail)
gouache and acrylic on bristol board

Giant Man may be too big for the frame, but I'm not. I was so pressed for time towards the end of this project that I didn't have time to paint his hands (or place another character in front of them), so I just "hazed" them out, hoping that there was enough other detail throughout the panel to distract the viewer from the fact. I never liked the resultant shape tangent to Thor's ear wings, but I had to move on. Maybe next time.

Too lazy to set up my tripod, the rung of my loft ladder sufficed.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Live Long and Prosper

Because you asked for it (well, two of you did), here are some pics of me as Spock on Halloween. Yes, that is my real hair — I had it cut on Friday night. Yes, I am battle-ravaged — the pointy ears I bought looked horrible, so I needed a viable excuse to cover them. I told everyone that Kirk beat me up after I gave him a funny look (I can't help it... my eyebrows are just like that). But don't worry, as you'll see below, we eventually resolved our differences.

Here I'm looking less Zachary Quinto and more Sacha Baron Cohen.

I went to my first burlesque show on Friday night at Galapagos Art Space. Lucky for me, they had a hallway that made for a great backdrop. Unlucky for me, Spock attracted a lot of attention and I was selected to be a "volunteer" for a "Sexual Fortune Telling." All I can say is that I hope no one took any photos.

Spock gets artsy.

On Halloween night, I went to a huge party in my 'hood only to find worlds colliding. Fortunately, my rival "Stars" were willing to pose for a photo.

I eventually ran into Kirk and we made amends over beer.

And, as it turns out, he was in the band.