Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 214

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

Avenging Spider-Man #17 hits shelves today and you can see a 3-page preview here. I didn't use any photo reference for this one, but quite a bit of other people's art went into its creation. That includes J.C. Leyendecker, one of the all-time greats (some nice scans here). And if you're ever looking for classic depictions of superheroes from all angles, you can never go wrong with Randy Bowen's sculptures. I usually defer to his expertise when I have conflicting character design reference.

In other news, Daredevil Vol. 4 hits comic shops today as well. I provided covers for 4 of the issues.

That's a lot of Future Foundation kids to keep track of...

Inks by my Pops

Digital Composite
Digital Layout

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Coast to Coast!

Space Ghost. 2012. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Action Comics 18 Cover

Action Comics #18 Variant Cover. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

This already hit the web a couple days ago, but I figured I might as well post it here. This is my first official work for DC, so I'm pretty excited about it (see below). It should be out late next month. If all goes well, I should be doing some more work for them in the future, including a short story. It's been a while since I flexed my sequential muscles. Have a great weekend!

Superboy, circa 1985 (?)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 213

Amazing Spider-Man #577, Page 17.
2008. Ink on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

I've posted reference from this page before, but here are some additional shots. Remember the awesome "trailer" I made for the issue? The boat is a Google Sketchup model I found on-line. This was my first foray into penciled work, and I wasn't doing dedicated layouts at the time.

I pretty much always make the same face.

Panel 2 depicts Punisher taking a Spider Tracer from Spidey's hand. At the pencil stage, I wasn't sure where the tracers were launched from, and so left it blank for the time being.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Presearch" — Part 3 of 3

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

Marvel Mystery Comics. 2009.
Gouache, watercolor, and acrylic on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

Part 3: How do we use reference?
— Extracting the the third dimension —

In part 1 of this series, I made the case for researching your subject prior to searching for visual reference. In part 2, I tried to refine that approach by anticipating the resources that are out there and readily available. In this, the final installment, I hope to show how to utilize the reference that you were (hopefully) able to find.

One of the greatest challenges for illustrators is formatting diverse references to match the manufactured reality of their illustration. This is primarily accomplished through the manipulation of 2 qualities, lighting and perspective, but they are merely aspects of the same underlying theme: space. Both serve as cues that our minds employ to construct a 3-dimensional world from just 2 dimensions of information.

If you are taking your own reference, this is not an issue — you have the ability to build a scene in real life and replicate what you see. But barring unlimited time and money, most of us must incorporate disparate elements into a unified whole. In order to do this successfully, we must glean visual information from one source and graft it onto another.

The Thing. 2007.
Super Sculpey Firm and steel wire, 3 × 1 × 1″.

The best example of this is the use of maquettes. Not wanting to construct a life-size dragon attacking a castle, we instead make a small one, a manageable one, and light it according to taste. In turn, we scale that information to our imaginary world and apply accordingly. If you don't follow James Gurney's blog (why aren't you?) he uses this technique extensively.

As for my own practice, I used to sculpt small, hand-held busts whenever I had to draw the same character from multiple angles. These provide perspectival information to help with draftsmanship, as well as lighting interactions and patterns that would be difficult to imagine.

I've posted previously about my tools and materials — Super Sculpey Firm, rake, dental pick, etc. — but that has since given way to a single, digital tool that saves time and provides countless options. I use a program called Sculptris, which is the little sister to ZBrush, a massive 3D program that I gather takes months (if not years) to master. I was able to pick up the basics of Sculptris in about 30 minutes. Because of its bilateral symmetry feature, you only have to sculpt one side of everything (that alone saves more than half the time). Another great time-saver is the fact that once you've designed a character, you can save a new version of it and alter the proportions and features, as you can see in the video of Punisher "Hulking Out."

Although sculpted in Sculptris, these were rendered in Blender.
Step by Step

Once completed, you can light these at will, either in Sculptris, or a dedicated rendering program like Blender (which is also free). What I find interesting about this process is that I now prefer this kind of stripped-down lighting information to actual photos. Photo-realism has never been my goal, and the hyper-reality of computer models provides much more decisive information. Now my paintings and portraits are a sort of "best of" collection of my favorite lighting effects distilled into one scene.

The Twelve #11. 2008. Acryla Gouache on bristol board, 11 × 17″.
Step by Step

Aside from my own maquettes, I often take advantage of the innumerable 3D models that are shared on-line. Google's 3D Warehouse is a user-generated collection of Sketchup models that are free to download. Sketchup is easy to learn, but I use it mostly to view existing models.

As with photos, knowing the make and model of a car, plane, or architectural element will connect you to builders who care for the subject and, therefore, make accurate, detailed replicas. Their expertise can then be downloaded and assimilated into your own work. Depending on the degree of verisimilitude that your style requires, supplementing the 3D information with real photos may be necessary. I used the U-Boat below as reference for the above image and the cover at the top.

My one admonition is that if you're going to simply trace a model (hey, I've done it), make sure you understand perspective thoroughly. I've seen far too many drawings where the computer-generated elements are painfully conspicuous. This subject is worthy of a post unto itself, but I can give 3 pieces of (very) general advice: 1. Zoom out 2. Use 2-point perspective (this keeps all vertical lines parallel) 3. Use the "match photo" feature, if possible (video tutorial).

Amazing Spider-Man #639, Page 13. 2010. 
Ink on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

Beyond simple objects lies the broader realm of environment. Need to know what a bustling city looks like? Why not visit one via Google Street View. Most of the civilized world is quite literally at your fingertips, so you've no excuse for not knowing what a bridge in Paris looks like. I've mentioned this in previous posts, but this resource also gives you access to candid shots of people in public spaces. It's limited to a diurnal cast of characters, but it's more than enough to inspire one's imagination. It's also great for flora (not so much fauna), clothing, and contemporary car reference — basically, anything that can be seen from the road (with some exceptions).

View Larger Map

But Google's treasure trove of information doesn't stop there. Google Earth contains all the information of its popular Maps feature, but fleshes it out with 3D models of architecture and terrain. While not always the most detailed, it's perfect for getting that sense of grand scale since you can try out multiple angles with very little effort. It's been particularly helpful for me since most of Marvel's stories take place in Manhattan. Below, you can see how the program provided some nice rooftop views.

Amazing Spider-Man 639, Page 4.
2010. Ink on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

The point is, when utilizing reference (especially from sources other than our own), we must glean 3D information from photos and reapply it from another angle in order to make it our own. That process becomes trickier as technology advances, of course: when I use someone else's 3D model, does that constitute copyright infringement? What if, as is often the case, they were simply copying an existing object?

I won't attempt an answer, but I'll leave you with an app that I recently came across, called 123D Catch. Using a series of photos that you capture through the program, it infers the dimensional relationships to produce a 3D model. I had mixed results using my sculpture (based on the Dynamic Anatomy cover), but I think it would be perfect for recording environmental reference.

Although we draw and paint in 2 dimensions, we must imply 3, and that means every image we create must contain the necessary clues for our viewers. Most importantly, those clues must remain consistent throughout the image — light needs to come from a shared source and all objects must be seen from an appropriate angle. Basically, If you're an illustrator of any kind, you're a world-builder, and if your world is anything like the one we all share, then it needs to have 3 dimensions and abide by certain rules. If people are to believe in the worlds you illustrate, the first step is to believe it yourself. Finding reference is finding proof.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wolvy and Wanda

Wolverine (90s era). 2012. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Let's be honest — they're both wearing 2 versions of the same mask.

I'm pretty busy these days, but here's a quick interview with Massive Fantastic.

Have a nice weekend!

The Scarlet Witch. 2012. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 212

Daredevil #3, Page 5. 2011.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

The Daredevil Crazy-Super-Awesome-Deluxe-Omnibus hits comic shops today, collecting DD 1-10.1, which (sadly) contains my entire run of 6 issues. This page is from issue 3 and features reference both lofty and (Google) earthly. First, the obvious allusion:

Michelangelo would be flattered, I'm sure.

And second, a view from the street, courtesy of Google. We're on W 24th Street, looking east at Madison Square Park (although the sky bridge I drew is on the opposite side of the park). I'm guessing the Klaw Sound Shadow found refuge in the Chase Bank on the corner. The SUV is from a Sketchup 3D model that I superimposed in the digital composite stage.

View Larger Map

Check out the bottom panel in the blue-line print below. Aside from digital borders, I ink geometric shapes in Photoshop. Rivera Secretssssssss: my Dad hates inking circles.

Blue-Line Print

Digital Composite
Layout, 4 × 6″

raw inks by my Pops

Sometimes I would make minor digital edits, post-inks — often because I forgot something, but also because I think in ink. There are some decisions that I can't make until I see the stark contrast of black on white.

...with digital edits

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Master of Disguise

Avenging Spider-Man #20 Cover. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

These covers were released over the weekend, so I feel confident I won't be serving time on the Raft for showing them here. Chameleon makes a guest appearance for 2 issues of Avenging Spider-Man in May. That meant I got to draw him doing his best Black Widow impression. I usually keep her suit zipped up, but I couldn't help myself this time — I wanted to show off Chameleon's considerable skills.

Avenging Spider-Man #21 Cover. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Green Hornet #2, X #1

Green Hornet #2 Cover. 2012.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

These covers recently debuted on-line, though they won't be out in stores for a little while. For Green Hornet, I wanted to subtly hint at the coming conflict between him and Kato — Mark Waid always has mischievous plans.

The X cover is the first in a series of variant covers for Dark Horse where I was given free reign to do whatever I wanted, including the incorporation of lettering. I've been looking at a lot of poster art lately and you'll be able to see the influence. I came up with the tagline for this one, but my editors provided the next, which features Captain Midnight. This was done completely in Photoshop — the rest will be as well.

X #1 Variant Cover. 2013.
Photoshop, ~7 × 10.5″ @400 dpi.

Because of the popularity of my latest time lapse video, I've added a YouTube playlist at the top of the blog. I also plan on recording more in the future (I use iShowU, a $20 app with tons of features).

What's that you say? You need a new wardrobe? Well, I hope you like Daredevil, because there are now 3 lovely offerings at welovefine.com. Happy shopping! Have a great weekend!

From DD#1, #7, and #18

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 211

Avengers #5 Variant Cover. 2012.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

Avengers #5 is out today, and I did a variant cover. You can see a preview here. I haven't drawn Hawkeye much in my career, but I enjoyed this attempt. Bows are always a challenge for me because so many things have to line up, geometrically speaking. Top that with sticklers for proper form (like myself) and I had my work cut out.

My trusty scissors!

After searching for images of olympic archers and modern recurve bows, I began posing in order to get a "feel" for the correct form. These photos are taken with Photo Booth on my (immobile) iMac, so I had to lean back a bit to get a slightly lower perspective. Originally, I was going to depict him post-release, but I wanted to show the bow line digging into his lip. The effect is tough to convey from this angle (and without fully rendering light and shadow) but I did my best. These photos were more for proportional reference — the final perspective is from a different angle.

Kiss the string!

Inks by my Pops
Blue-line print that he inks over

Pencils (with increased contrast)
Digital composite

I toyed with the idea of including the Avengers' Quinjet, but I saved myself the trouble and left it out. It's certainly more graphic without it. You can see the Marvel-provided 3D model in the digital composite.

Almost had a flaming arrow

Monday, February 4, 2013

Wake Up and Draw Auction

Hulk. 2012. Ink on backing board, 7 × 10.5″.

Just a reminder: today is the last day to bid on this Wake Up and Draw Hulk sketch that benefits the Hero Initiative. Bid now, or Hulk smash.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Daredevil #22 Time Lapse

Daredevil #22 Cover. 2012.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.

I'm afraid I didn't have time this weekend to finish my lengthy treatise on reference, so I hope this long-promised video will be some consolation. The cover to Daredevil #22 (final version pictured above) is a good example of my approach to a typical comic book cover. I've detailed all the major steps in a previous post (along with the accompanying Wacky Reference), but those are static images that leave out where the real work happens. Penciling and inking take a great deal of time, but they are merely rendering — the execution of a plan that was formed at an earlier, more important stage.

This is a bare bones, 11-minute video with no sound or editing, but I hope it can reveal some insights into how I work. At 20X speed, it represents over 3 hours work, all done on a Cintiq 12WX and later printed out on board to refine by traditional means. (The video is not complete, as my iCal records indicate about 5.5 hours in total.)

It's a pretty straight forward time lapse, but there are 3 things that I'd like to point out as you watch. First, I use reference of my own hand to facilitate the drawing process. This photo is taken on the fly using Photo Booth on my iMac. It's as easy as using a mirror, but with more options. Second, I employ a digital perspective template of my own design for the background. It's extremely useful, but has a steep learning curve — I plan on releasing it to the public later this year. Lastly, toward the end of the video, you can see that I had trouble with Daredevil's legs as he's scaling Stilt-Man's serpentine legs. The cover as a whole went pretty smoothly, but it took me a long time to find a pose for him that didn't look totally awkward to me. Spidey, on the other hand, was a breeze — characters who are flying/falling are always easier to draw since they don't have to interact with any other entities.

What you see below is the final digital sketch before moving on to the next stage. Printing this out in cyan, magenta, and yellow allows the automatic removal of the perspective guidelines and digital sketch in Photoshop, while leaving my pencils intact. This is sent to my Dad, Joe Rivera, who inks over a blue-line print of my pencils. Finally, I color his inks in Photoshop (a subject for a future post). It's a lot of stages, but I find that a divide-and-conquer strategy makes the task much less daunting, especially under tight deadlines.

Digital Composite