Thursday, November 29, 2012


Hawkman. 2012. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

I thought I'd wrap up the week with 3 DC characters — ones that I'm not all that familiar with, but had fun painting, nonetheless. I spent most of this week playing catch-up and doing layouts for pending covers, but I did get to do a Walking Dead sketch cover that I'm happy with. It's part of the Hero Initiative's auction, and I'll post it as soon as I'm able. It's painted in grayscale Acryla Gouache, something I haven't had the pleasure of using since Mythos: Hulk.

If you missed it on Twitter, I've got a new interview up, courtesy of Milán Kovacs (who happened to be one of the winners of WRW 200). We had a good chat at the Thought Bubble Festival. Check it out if you want to know why I am at peace with myself. I also have a quick quote posted at Creativity Decoded.

Have a swell weekend!

Phantom Stranger. 2012. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Batgirl. 2012. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wacky Reference Wednesday, No. 201

Daredevil #20 Cover. 2012. Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

This cover hit stands last week, but I wanted to share the reference that went into it. I have my own personal arsenal at home, one of the few things that I actually collect. Never thought I'd say this, but I might actually need a gun rack pretty soon — at 1:6 scale, of course. Party on, Wayne (did I just date myself?). You can see more pics of my collection in previous posts.

Flats by Orpheus

Inks by Zeus

Blue-line to ink over

Pencils by Apollo (me)

Digital composite with perspective grid...

Before I added action...

Before I added feet...

And a detail...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Captain America #1 Cover (Variant)

Captain America #1 Cover (Variant). 2012. 
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I'm just now getting back from a week in St. Louis, which was preceded by a couple weeks in London, Dublin, and Leeds. Now it's time to get back to work, but I wanted to feature a cover that was released while I was abroad.

My editors wanted something resembling an old-school propaganda poster, which meant a little more Photoshopping than usual. These inks are by my Dad, Joe Rivera, but the only pure black that shows up in the final is in the border. The inks are still an important step, however, since the crisp delineation facilitates the selection process. It took extra time to remove some of the outlines, but the style just didn't look right without flat color.

Since we do the pencils and inks separately, I tried to save him some time by doing technical elements — borders, lettering, stars, etc. — all in Photoshop. The image above is what he printed out and inked over. I added the title because  it didn't feel complete without it, but that's something that Marvel always does in-house. I just swiped the logo from the reference they sent.

As you can see in the penciled version, the shells colliding with Cap's shield were originally much smaller. At first, I had intended to have the onslaught include parts of the German war machine, which would smash and crumble into oblivion. But while they liked this idea, my editors also wanted it to be the modern version of Cap, who happened to be debuting in this issue, a new #1 that's part of a line-wide relaunch called Marvel Now.

I got hung up on the anachronism of a modern Cap fighting WWII-era Germany and was at a loss for brief spell. Fortunately for me, my editor, Tom Brevoort, suggested the shells-as-metaphor solution which worked perfectly for the tone of the piece (and was a lot easier to draw). Pictured above is the digital composite that I penciled over, complete with perspective grid.

This year, I started expanding the digital canvas of my cover files to include room for inspiration. Previously, each project warranted a folder on my desktop filled with random jpegs of reference that had to be opened individually. Now, each layout file contains all the images I need, each on its own layer, and grouped into a folder that can be easily hidden. Most of the posters above were found on-line, while the Cap art and style guides (by John Romita, Jr. and John Cassaday) were provided by Marvel.

Finally, just a quick note on digital coloring: I have an assistant who "flats" the artwork, meaning all the major shapes are separated into different colors, making them easy to be selected. Once I receive this prepped file, I go through each shape, playing with the color until I strike some kind of harmony. Having established characters like Captain America make some of the choices pretty easy, but subtle shifts can make a world of difference. I find that much of my decision making takes place with the white objects in a composition. Once those are established, everything else seems to fall into place.

The finishing touch is a filter over the entire image that adds "color noise" to the flat hues. It's one of the simplest filters (Filter Gallery: Texture: Grain) but I find that it activates the color in the same way that I would layer pigments with real paint.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Dragon (Finally)

Avenging Spider-Man. 2012. Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

I'm off in the UK, but here's a drawing of a dragon (with a bunch of superheroes around him).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wacky Reference Wednesday, No. 200!

Wonder Woman Defaced. 2012. Gouache and watercolor on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

We have a winner! (And it has nothing to do with the election.) Nick from the UK provided the winning reference and this painting is his reward. Not only did he have an intriguing concept, but he did an entire photo shoot allowing me to choose my favorite pose. He must have known that I always have a skull sitting on my drafting table. The painting was also based on a John Byrne drawing that was "updated" by English street artist D*Face.

But that's not all — 2nd Place goes to Milán with his Dr. Hurt.

And 3rd Place goes to Freddie for Witchblade. Congrats, guys!

I'm off to the UK today and will be taking a blog break until the 26th. I'll have limited email access, so I'll be slow on the reply. Thanks to everyone who entered! This was a blast and I hope to do it again for Wacky Reference Wednesdays 300!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sandy Relief

Amazing Spider-Man #577, Page 29. 2008. Ink on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

No matter who wins this election, I'm leaving the country (but only because I'm going on a European vacation). I'll be signing at Forbidden Planet in Dublin this Sunday, November 11th from 2-4. Do I have Irish fans? We'll soon find out. I wonder if I have time to read Ulysses.

Next on the itinerary is the Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds, November 16-18. I'll be at table 28 (next to the award-prone Mark Waid) and will be participating in a sketching event on Saturday from 2:40-4pm. Please double check these details on-site, just to be safe.

In the meantime, if you'd like to own some of my original art while helping out those affected by Hurricane Sandy, you can bid on a couple of pages from Amazing Spider-Man #577. The page 19 auction is in effect. Stay tuned to Art for Sandy Relief for details on the next page. Huge thanks to Rich Ginter for putting this all together.

Update: you can bid on the piece here!

Amazing Spider-Man #577, Page 19. 2008. 
Ink on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

If you're sad to see me leave the country, be sure to stop by the Society of Illustrators, which is displaying this unused cover to Mythos: Ghost Rider. It's part of the recently acquired Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art collection. It's like my 2 favorite NYC institutions combined, Voltron-style.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dark Horse Candidate

Two Past Midnight #1 Cover. 2012. Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

This cover marks my first foray into Dark Horse territory — and my first non-Marvel cover since 2004. It's part of a digital comic incentive program that you can read about at Comic Book Resources. I'll be doing all 5 covers (the third of which I should really be working on right now). And just today, I finished pencils on my first X-O Manowar cover. Valiant Comics has some familiar faces (from the Marvel staff) and it's been a pleasure working with them.

Carnage. 2012. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

These are some Spidey-related commissions from earlier this year. Painting them prior to conventions has made the process much easier, but I've still got a bunch to paint before Thought Bubble in Leeds. I'm leaving next week for the UK, so I'll be taking a big blog break until after Thanksgiving (assuming I can escape from New York). More details next week. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a 15-question interview at Sequential Highway.

Spider-Man. 2012. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Green Goblin. 2012. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.