Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Twelve: Spearhead (and Beyond)

The Twelve #9 Cover (raw scan detail). 2008. Acryla Gouache
and gouache on bristol board, 11 x 17". Original Art.

For those of you who have been wondering about the status of The Twelve, I have some good news. As for those you who haven't been wondering... well... I'm sorry. I have nothing to offer you today.

In an interview with Newsarama, J. Michael Straczynski hinted that their may be an announcement regarding the series this month. I painted a total of eleven covers in all, one of which was recently reappropriated for a one-shot, The Twelve: Spearhead, written by the series' artist, Chris Weston. I haven't heard whether or not I'll be doing another cover, let alone two, but a boy can hope. I really enjoyed the characters and story, so I'd love to get another crack at them.

In the meantime, you can check out the prequel issue, which comes out later this month.

The Twelve: Spearhead, Cover (originally The Twelve #10). 2008.
Acryla Gouache and gouache on bristol board, 11 x 17".
Original Art.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Michael Maher's Namor — A Critique

Michael Maher. Namor (work in progress). 2010. Digital.

Today's post features my critique of a work in progress by Michael Maher, a talented, up-and-coming illustrator. We've been communicating via e-mail since 2008, but this is probably the most formal and specific of my replies. What follows is the unedited correspondence regarding his latest work. We may return to this as he decides which pieces of advice to heed. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out his web site. I've included my favorite cover of his at the end of the post.

Have a great weekend!


Hey, it's Mike. It's been a while sir. I have a question for the master about painting/physics/light and I would appreciate your help. I am currently working on a painting of Namor that I have attached unfinished.
My question is in regards to the shadow cast by the large, rocky peak which over takes the blue female beside it. I have struggled to find reference of cast shadows on water like this. I understand that water would reflect the sky quite a bit even in shadow, but is my value for the shadow too dark? Would the shadow be darker in shallow water?

I would love to hear you take on this, and anything else that sticks out if you have the time.

Thanks much,



This looks pretty good overall, but there are some elements that you could push for greater effect. I would exaggerate the foamy froth in the foreground, making it as bright as possible, but with a warm hue, so not pure white. Then pump up the brightness of it in shadow as well for a nice transition effect. Whatever color you decide to go with, you ought to use the same on his ankle wings.

I might also add something in the immediate foreground, maybe a rock with algea, to push them back a bit and give us an even better sense of space.

You've got the shadow value just about right, but I might lighten it behind her back leg. You can stretch these things to do whatever you want, so go for contrast where you can. The light from the sky behind would be the light to shoot for... but that is still darker than the color of the foam in shadow.

Also, I know this may be in an early stage, but I'll go ahead and be nit-picky. I think her right arm could be better. Try taking a photo of yourself walking to get just the right gesture. Also, her head looks a little stiff, I might tilt the head in some manner to convey whatever emotion it is you're going for. She could just be looking up at him. If she had pupils, I might tilt her head down, in fact, but have her staring up, which could be read as confrontational and/or seductive.

I might brighten the sole of his right foot... maybe it's covered in sand? I don't know, but play with it.

To get that fish scale look on his trunks. I would brighten the highlights to near white, and surround it with a darker value than you've got. Light reflected from shiny objects isolates the hot points and dims everywhere else. The back plane of his butt should be reflecting sky, not sun. Does that make sense? You still want a glow around it, but it should be short and sweet. Also, you could have some of the light from the mountain behind him reflect off the left side of his trunks... just a subtle rim of light.

His ear should flare out a bit more, meaning we should see a bit more of its back than you've currently got. Also, his cast shadow is too dark. In water that shallow, the sand would be reflecting more of the sky.

If you really want to challenge yourself, see if you can use the sunlight reflected off the sand to under-light him. It's usually good to go for colder shadows, but in this case, it could work to have some extremely warm ones. See if you can find reference on-line... or make your own.

It might be nice to shift the hue of the ocean slightly greenward. This would be a nice contrast to her skin color, which looks about the same now.

And finally, I might change the shape of the rock shadow. It looks too sharp and spire-like to be a formation on this beach... although I do like that it crosses his right foot... just keep it from hitting the left of the painting. Imagine what shape you want the rock to be and paint the shadow accordingly. You could even add a second shadow behind the first, indicating that this formation juts out to sea. Maybe it crosses her, maybe it doesn't, but it could be another nice compositional element.

Michael Maher. Nightcrawler. 2009. Digital.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 95

Mythos: Ghost Rider, Page 18 (panel 4 detail). 2006.
Acryla Gouache and gouache on bristol board, 8 x 12".

Here I am posing as a distraught Johnny Blaze, aka Ghost Rider, racing out of the cemetery where his adopted parents are buried. I took this shot mainly for hand reference, but, as you can see, I can't seem to help myself from hamming it up. Such intensity for a guy wearing a "Paco's Tacos" t-shirt.

On an earlier page, we have an establishing shot of the cemetery, which was inspired by an actual cemetery in Daytona Beach, FL. Daytona natives (especially ones with motorcycles) will probably recognize it.

For extra "points," can anyone name the painting that the following panel was an homage to? It's a stretch. I'll give you one hint: the painter is French.

Mythos: Ghost Rider, Page 8 (panel 2 detail). 2006.
Acryla Gouache and gouache on bristol board, 8 x 12".

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Broken Satellites

Silver Surfer vs. Gladiator Study
. 2004. Pencil on paper (sketchbook), 16 x 13".

Here's an odd sketch from way back. My roommate and I had discussed collaborating on a short story concerning a dispute between Silver Surfer and Gladiator over a broken satellite. What were we thinking? Perhaps we just wanted to draw a super-powered fight in space.

In other news, issue 3 of my upcoming 4-issue Spidey run is penciled (phew), so I'm moving on to the final. And for a nice change of blog pace, this Friday I'll feature a critique via e-mail for an up and coming illustrator.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Young Allies Studies—Work in Progress

Young Allies Studies (Bucky detail). 2009. Pencil,
ink, and watercolor on bristol board, 11 x 17.25".

More unfinished business! This time I've got some studies from my Young Allies issue, starring Bucky as the new Captain America. I've presented some of these sketches before, but this is the whole page as is. I can't wait to finish the Cap shooting sketch, but who knows when that will happen...

In the meantime, I'm almost done penciling my third issue of Spidey, leaving just one more to do before I move on to inking and coloring the series. Have a great weekend!

Young Allies Studies (unfinished). 2009. Pencil,
ink, and watercolor on bristol board, 11 x 17.25".

Press Time!

My good friend Adam Agee is running a promotion to raise money for a letterpress machine, so if you have any need for some custom-made posters, he's your man. Good luck, Adam!

For a cool video of the process in action, check out's steampunk posters.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 94

Mythos: X-Men, Page 5 (panel 3 detail). 2005.
Oil on masonite, 16 x 24".

We have more guests this week, this time playing the roles of Professor X (R. Kikuo Johnson) and Scott Summers (Matt Moore, who was also my original model for Peter Parker). In this panel, the two lead the team down to the Danger Room to commence their afternoon exercises. You can see my preliminary pencils for the page on Kikuo's lap as he tries to match the pose. As for the other picture? Well, you can see how much beer was being consumed in my house around that time. That's what happens when you mix 4 guys, a car, and a Costco membership.

Digital Color Study (panel 3 detail). Photoshop, 810 x 1214 px.

Preliminary Sketch (panel 3 detail). Pencil on paper, 8 x 12".

Daredevil #505 This Wednesday

Written by ANDY DIGGLE
Special Variant by TBA
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy President's Day!

Mythos: Captain America, Page 10 (panel 3 detail). 2008.
Acryla Gouache and gouache on bristol board, 11 x 17"

Well, I didn't have any "presidential" artwork aside from last year's Livid Lincoln, so you'll have to settle for a Captain America painting detail. Below, you'll find the final drawing that served as the painting's foundation, the color study, and preliminary layout.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wolverine Studies—Work in Progress

Wolverine Character Studies (unfinished, detail). 2009.
Pencil, ink, and watercolor on bristol board, 11 x 17".

I have yet more artwork hanging around the studio, waiting to be finished. These studies were done during my work on Amazing Spider-Man: Extra! #2. As usual, I had a tight deadline and never got around to inking and coloring everything. Such is life.

Things are still pretty busy around here, but I definitely have plenty to show for it (just not on the blog). I've even had to turn down some (sweet) projects to ensure I'll hit my June deadline (even still, it's not going to be easy). That being said, the work's going great and I think it's going to be a good read. A nice side effect of working so much is that I've gotten better at drawing. Yesterday, I had to trace a figure I did in October for a repeated panel; I couldn't help but see what was wrong with it and, more importantly, how to fix it. Fortunately, I'm penciling all four issues first, so I'll be able to unify the book during the inking stage.

Have a lovely weekend.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 93

Mythos: Captain America, Page 2 (panel 4 detail). 2008.
Acryla Gouache and gouache on bristol board, 11 x 17".

Here I am tormenting myself (as usual), playing the roles of a scrawny Steve Rogers and his childhood bully, Dougie Huggins. In addition to using myself as a model, I turned to the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection for candid historical inspiration.

Monday, February 8, 2010

¡Es Clobbering Tiempo!

This April, Mythos comes out in Spain! More details at Marvelmanía.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mono Zero

Young Allies Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1, Page 21
(panel 1 detail). 2009. Pencil on Marvel Board, 11 x 17.25.

It's no secret that I love buying tools and art supplies. This weekend, I received my newest gadget, Tombow's Mono Zero, a pencil-style eraser with a 2.3 mm "lead." I love it.

When I pencil a page, I tend to work in two broad stages: the first pass is drawn lightly and loosely with a lead holder containing a 2mm 2B lead; the second pass requires a harder lead, HB, with a smaller diameter, .05mm, to tighten up any important details—most often faces, hands, and technical objects. As a result of this process, the majority of my erasing is done during the first stage with a kneaded eraser (attached to a pushpin magnet, of course). I tend to make less mistakes during the second phase (mainly because I've worked out most of the quirks already), but the details are usually of greater importance. The margin of error for lines on a face, for example, is practically nonexistent. Because of this, I need an eraser that's as accurate (and easy to use) as my pencil.

The price, $5.25 with 2.25 refills, is high compared to other erasers, but not exorbitant. Luckily, I don't use it all that often (but need it dearly when I do). I purchased it from, which gave me free shipping (for orders over $25) and prompt service. They also have a rectangular version that looks pretty useful.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

On Contrast, Part 3 of 3

The following is an expanded excerpt from my February 4, 2009 lecture at the Brooklyn Public Library. You can find additional excerpts (including Parts 1 and 2) under the theory label.

Earlier, I described value as being primal, which has two meanings, both of which were intended. Value is primal in the sense that it is the most significant and fundamental of color’s attributes. It’s the foundation of our understanding of the world around us because it reveals what, if anything, lies before us. It is also primal in the primitive sense: it was the first part of our visual system to evolve.

Because of this, I give it greater weight in the balance of color composition. As I mentioned previously, I begin most paintings with a monochromatic underpainting. It’s the foundation on which I construct the rest of the painting. It is the axis upon which the globe of color spins!

But let’s take a nice trip down Pragmatic Blvd. (my favorite place to "cruise for chicks") to the local Kinko’s. In this command center of paper clips and photocopiers, they thoughtfully display an informational poster. It is provided to customers as a general guide for selecting colors that are best suited for creating legible text. To see the reason for this, all we have to do is convert the image to grayscale. It is their great hope that you don’t end up making something like this:

The point is that contrast, not what is commonly known as "color," is what we see. People (and, quite possibly, anything with eyes) see change, which is the key to understanding—and reproducing—the myriad of images that life brings us.

As representational artists, we must balance many factors, sometimes conflicting, in order to arrive at our goal. But by isolating one of color's three variables, value, we can significantly reduce the guesswork from the total equation. Furthermore, through diligent practice and repetition, a more natural sense of relationships will eventually develop, meaning we can "skip" that step physically because we have already completed it mentally. I liken this to using cylinders to construct the human form: it's not that I don't think that way when I'm sketching, but rather that I've surpassed the need to record it. The process happens without much thought because I know the rules of perspective and believe in the space (and forms) that I'm trying to represent on a flat surface.

There's actually quite a bit more I'd like to say on this subject (don't be surprised to see a Part 16 of 3 at some point), but I am out of time for the moment. I would, however, like to leave you with my favorite chapter from one of my favorite books, The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins. It provides a concise summary of how our vision works on the molecular level, but more importantly, it was instrumental in shaping the way I think about color and perception. The Howler Monkey's Tale explains how a chance mutation can provide unexpected benefits. The larger question—how a brain can cope (brilliantly) with such changes—remains unanswered. Fortunately for us, the opaque process does not need to be fully understood to be enjoyed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 92

Mythos: Fantastic Four, Page 2 (panel 3 detail). 2007.
Acryla Gouache and gouache on bristol board, 11 x 17".
It's Soy Good! This rather mundane scene is from the origin of the Fantastic Four. Paul Jenkins did a great job of establishing the family dynamic by page 2 of our 22-page story: Reed Richards is lost in his calculations while Ben and Sue banter, complaining of space's only edible option—soy. Johnny, in true fashion, is cavorting outside the ship, unbeknownst to the rest of the crew. They are rotating high above the earth, it's blue light pouring in from stage left, adding to the calm before the (cosmic) storm.

Here my colleague, R. Kikuo Johnson, poses in a terrestrial kitchen.

And just for fun, here's the color study for the page which, as usual, I like more than the final. One of these days, I'll have to do a book that's just "studies."

Mythos: Fantastic Four
, Page 2 Color Study.
2007. Photoshop, 800 x 1200 px.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Marvel Illustrated Classics: The Iliad #2 Cover
color study. 2007. Photoshop, 800 x 1200 px.
I thought I might mark this milestone with a post. Just a hundred more followers and I'll be able to stand my ground at the Hot Gates (for a little while, at least). As always, thanks for reading.