Monday, December 31, 2012

Bye Bye, 2012.

Amazing Spider-Man #638, Page 25, Panels 1-2.
2010. Ink on Marvel board with digital color, 11 x 17.25".

Happy New Year, everybody! Party hard, but party safely.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


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

Here's another commission from the Thought Bubble batch. I was a huge G.I. Joe fan when I was little, but haven't kept up with the team much since. This definitely brought back memories, though. Down below is an interview from NYCC. Hope you enjoy. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Wacky Reference Wednesday, No. 205

Avenging Spider-Man #15.1 Cover. 2012.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

Avenging Spider-Man 15.1 comes out today (the "point one" signifies a good jumping-on point for new readers). The cover features a montage of my favorite Doc-Ock-themed Spidey art, all of which are featured below. They may not be photos, but I couldn't have drawn it without them, so I think they count as reference. Down below, you can see a detail of my pencils where I forgot to draw the under-arm webbing on Spidey. Fortunately, my Dad caught it and picked up the slack.


Blue-Line Print

Digital Composite

Digital Layouts

Digital Layouts

No Webbing!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Film Noir from Life

This is a cross-post with Muddy Colors — An Illustration Collective

Merry Christmas Eve, folks! I'm taking a break from my treatise on reference because I'm on vacation. Instead, I'd like to share some sketches from a life drawing session at the Society of Illustrators. It was led brilliantly by Bil Donovan, who decided upon a Film Noir/Pulp Fiction theme. From fedoras to femme fatales to flasks, the props and models were perfect. Hope you enjoy. (The drawings are done either with a brush pen or black and white watercolor).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Power Girl

Power Girl. 2012. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Here's another commission done in preparation for Thought Bubble. If you don't already know Power Girl's power, then you obviously didn't look at this picture long enough. As for me, I'm pretty sure the world is ending today, so I think I'm going to go visit my parents. If it doesn't end, well then I'll already be with them to celebrate Christmas. Everybody wins (unless we all lose).

I was going to do part 2 of my reference manifesto this Monday, but I'm feeling sort of lazy, and it will be Christmas Eve, anyway. Might post some life drawing instead. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wacky Reference Wednesday, No. 204

Daredevil #21 Cover. 2012.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

Daredevil #21 comes out today, the last issue in the Coyote saga. (You can see a preview of the comic here.) I've been loving the arc from afar, as a true fan, and can't wait to see what the team has in store next.  Issue 22 will be my last cover for the series, and while I'm sad to hand over my last, tenuous grip on the book, Chris Samnee is making it easier by providing some truly gorgeous art (at a pace that makes me want to tie weights to his drawing arm).

  • Pencils: 6
  • Composite: 2.5
  • Layouts: 5
  • Colors: 2.5

Inks by my Dad
Blue-Line Print

Digital Composite

Digital Layout (with Color)
Digital Layouts

Monday, December 17, 2012

Green Hornet #1

Green Hornet #1 Cover. 2012. Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Catwoman (and Such)

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

"I wouldn't touch you to scratch you." Love that line. Just a random smattering of art today, folks. Down below, we've got the cover to Avenging Spider-Man #17, followed by a sneak peek to my The Walking Dead #100 sketch cover. I penciled 4 covers this week, a little more than I was planning to, but it's been a blast. I've got a bunch more to do before the end of the year, but I hope to re-focus on writing come January. You could say that's my New Year's resolution. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wacky Reference Wednesday, No. 203

Daredevil #9, Page 4. 2012. 
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

Daredevil Vol. 2 came out today and I just got my comp copies from Marvel. Here's a page from issue 9 where Matt makes a quick change from his alter ego. The panel this was used for was mostly in silhouette, so what I wanted wasn't detail, but gesture. I tried to give as much information as possible without showing very much. For me, the key was the glasses hanging from his mouth — I wanted to give the impression of haste.

The bottom panel was completed with the help of a Sketchup model, supplemented with various photos found on-line. The perspective grid is a Photoshop template I'm still developing for wide release, which includes a window pattern, among many others. It's finished, but I need to make an instructional comic first. That'll be one of my projects for the coming year.

Taken with Photo Booth on my iMac


Digital Composite
Digital Layout

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Presearch" — Part 1 of 3

Amazing Spider-Man #638, Cover. 2010.
Watercolor and gouache on Illustration Board, 11 x 17".

Part 1: Why do we need reference?
— Refining searches through specificity —

Today begins a 3-part post on "referential" advice. I will include a smattering of links that some of you may find useful, but my main purpose is to convey my thought process — in particular, the way in which I increase the depth of my knowledge pool (despite starting at the shallow end).

One of the key elements in nearly every image I create is reference, photographic or otherwise. Even those images that require no direct quotations benefit from previous memories, whether consciously cited or not. Aside from my weekly exhibition of embarrassing photos, it is a subject I frequently talk about, often because I am asked, but also because I think it speaks to some larger themes in my work and creative process. On a purely conceptual level, reference (of any kind) is all about knowledge; it informs us so that we, as comic book artists (illustrators, cartoonists, whatever), can inform our readers. Ideally, this is done so smoothly, so unobtrusively, that the richness of detail in subject and setting enters the reader's mind without conscious consideration, submitting focus to the narrative while simultaneously supporting it.

Amazing Spider-Man #590, Cover (Wolverines Playing Poker).
2009. Acrylic and gouache on bristol board, 11 x 17".

This quest for reference reveals something about the basic structure of our minds. Anyone who has made an attempt to create a representational image of any subject will quickly realize that our natural talents lie in recognition, not reproduction. While I believe the former is an instinctual capability, the latter can, through attention to detail (and years of practice), be honed to a comparable, if not equivalent level.

Steve Rogers Head Study. 2010
Gouache and acrylic on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

Most of us can, from our earliest years, recognize familiar faces (though not all of us), and yet portraiture is consistently regarded as one of the more difficult disciplines within representational art. But why is that? Because we can all tell if the artist got it wrong. This is why phrases like "a good likeness" came into existence. Broadly speaking, this suggests that inside each of our brains is a catalog of 3-dimensional models with which to compare and contrast the faces that we see. Unfortunately, that information can be difficult to access. Have you ever tried to draw someone from memory? It can certainly be done (and practice helps), but my point is that nearly everyone comes with the facial recognition "software" pre-installed.

I use the example of faces because we are so incredibly sensitive to them, but I think the same mental process (admittedly inexplicable) applies to just about everything in the visible world. You may be able to recognize a plethora of different vehicles, but drawing them is another challenge altogether. As representational artists, this is our central challenge. Our audience knows when we don't know. If this were not true, then we wouldn't have popular artists — no one would be able to tell one from another.

Young Allies, Page 13, Panel 3. 2009.
Ink on Marvel board, 11 x 17.25".
Reference Used

Because of this imbalance, those of us in the image-making business must reinforce our work with research in order to make a convincing reproduction of the world around us, regardless of our particular style's proximity to reality. Individual style can, of course, dictate the type of reference needed — I take different photos for a painting than I would for a line drawing — but even the most abstract representation can benefit from real-world, visual anchors.

Amazing Spider-Man #639. 2010.
Ink on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

So now that we have some basic idea of why we need reference, how do we go about getting it? For me (no surprises here), the search usually begins on-line with an appeal to Google Images. Most of you are probably quite familiar with this resource by now (I've been using it for well over a decade), but what I'd like to share are some of the key strategies that help me to find the best kind of reference for the task at hand.

The world wide web, since its inception, has been a text-based information system. It has come a long way over the course of its life, its visual literacy improving with time, but symbols and syntax are still at its heart. In order to search for images effectively, we must take this into account by tailoring our queries to that language. Sometimes this means researching a subject before the image search even takes place — what I call "presearch."

Mythos: Captain America, Page 15, Panel 1. 2008.
Gouache and acrylic on bristol board, 11 x 17".
Reference Used

If you're designing costumes, establishing the technical names for clothing and accoutrements will vastly improve any search. For example, most people refer to Captain America's armor as chain mail, but you'll be far more likely to find the appropriate plating and pattern if you search for scale armor (or lorica plumata (or lorica squamata)). By getting to know your subject, even superficially through Wikipedia articles, you'll be able to target your search with greater accuracy. Not limited to clothing, this applies to architecture, vehicles, weapons, appliances, tools — virtually anything. Most avenues of human endeavor demand increasingly specific nomenclature so as to match the depth of study. Use that propensity to your advantage.

(I should also note that what I'm usually aiming for is not strict historical accuracy; rather, it's the "feel" or "spirit" of a particular era or genre that I'm trying to emulate.)

Marvel Illustrated: The Iliad #6. 2008.
Gouache and acrylic on bristol board, 11 × 17″.
Reference Used

A convenient consequence of this strategy is that you'll find people who actually know what they're talking about! There are thousands (if not millions) of internet-savvy people across the planet who are more than willing to share their expertise in a given subject. Some of the most helpful are reeanactors, such as The Greek Warriors, who not only go to exhaustive efforts to fabricate authentic costumes and props, but also document their work and any events in which they participate. What more could you ask for? Perhaps a trireme instead of a Greek ship? In Captain America's case, the best resource I found was from Renaissance Faire artisans who fashioned their own costumes (and documented the entire process).

In other words, know what you're looking for before you go searching. No matter what it is, it's probably out there — it's just a matter of asking the right question.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Two Faces

Two-Face. 2012. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Here are a couple of head shots done in preparation for Thought Bubble in Leeds. I was heavily influenced by Batman: The Animated Series growing up and am still in love with the designs from the show. I bought the art book when I was in high school, but lost it somewhere in the course of college. Sigh. The portrait of Two-Face above is just a Bruce Timm rip-off, but done with great respect (I saw him talking to William Stout at San Diego this summer, but I failed to introduce myself to either living legend).

Batman, himself, is much tougher for me. More than any other superhero, he shape-shifts from artist to artist, and there are just too many versions out there that I love. I haven't found "my" take on him yet, but maybe someday I'll figure it out. By the way, since people seem to like having the hour tally, Batman took 2 hours (what I usually shoot for with head shot commissions) and Two-Face took 3. Have a great weekend!

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wacky Reference Wednesday, No. 202

Amazing Spider-Man #699 Cover. 2012.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

Amazing Spider-Man #699 hits shelves today, which means I can finally reveal the brainy background to this tentacular cover. I didn't need a great deal of reference for this one, so a quick Photo Booth pic did the trick for the hands. I also looked at a lot of Humberto Ramos art since I wanted to stay on-model for the tentacles. You can see the solicited version in my previous post and a comic preview at CBR.

  • Pencils: 9.5
  • Composite: 3
  • Layouts: 3.5
  • Colors: 3.5


Blue-Line Print

Digital Composite
Digital Color Studies