Friday, August 30, 2013

Loki (Take 2)

Loki. 2013. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Busy, busy, busy. Almost finished with a gloriously over-the-top movie poster. Next week I should finish my first short story for DC. Then a sculpture project for a very picky client. Have a great weekend!

P.S. Thanks to all the blog followers... we just passed a thousand!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 235

The Green Hornet #5 Cover. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board with digital color, 11 × 17″.

Green Hornet #5 is out today! (Preview here.)

1940s ship pics from the Charles W. Cushman Collection

inks by my Dad
blue-line print of pencils

pencils over digital print
digital sketch


Monday, August 26, 2013

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #6 Cover

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #6 Cover. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

Here's the latest Spidey cover, featuring the Superior Six. The first cover in the series will be on display in Ormond Beach next month, part of the Rated G for Graphic exhibition. I won't be able to make it to the reception, but I'll have a dozen pieces in the show. Hope you can make it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ben Affleck Commission

Batman. 2013. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.
In case you hadn't heard: we have a new Batman.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 234

Captain Midnight #1 Variant Cover. 2013.
Photoshop, ~7 × 10.5″ @400 ppi.

This hit stands last month (preview here), but I wanted to show some of the inspiration behind the cover. The older I get, the more I realize how important graphic design is to art in general and comics in particular, so I've been looking to 50 Watts, an eclectic collection of illustration and design for classic examples. The sole criterion seems to be "damn good."

check out 20 Swedish posters... for more examples 

As for process, the cover was assembled in Photoshop with a vectored assist from Illustrator — that's the easiest way to create letters from scratch and all manner of graphics. The spatter was made with a custom brush, but I've since found an easier way to achieve the same effect. Setting the mode to "dissolve" on a standard airbrush works wonders, and since it only uses one color (i.e. no variation in opacity) the pattern remain easily selectable with the magic wand. The final step — on this and all my digitally colored covers — is to "activate" the solid color with a subtle grain filter. It gives your eyes something to grab on to, replacing the pristine computer glaze with a more printed look.

and here's another 30

Monday, August 19, 2013

Red Sonja Sculpture

Red Sonja. 2004. Super Sculpey and bass wood, 10″ tall.

Way back in 2004, although I was just a year out of art school, I was fortunate enough to already have a solid career as a comic book artist. My first professional gig, however, was a sculpted bust of the X-Men's Mystique for Dynamic Forces (the same company I still do Green Hornet covers for). When they came back to me with a more involved project, I jumped at the chance, thinking I could easily supplement my painting gigs with a few weeks of sculpting.

As you can probably guess, a few weeks turned into 2 full months of intense noodling. Aside from the challenge of being my first full figure, the mass production process required it to be divided into several pieces — what ended up being 6 in all. I let the professionals do the casting and painting this time, as I had learned my lesson with Mystique.

Just like any project, the first step was to sketch out ideas. I submitted several rounds of gesture drawings and, once we decided which one to pursue, I made detailed turnarounds for final approval. I had a tough time visualizing the as-yet-unrealized sculpture, so I made a tiny mockup to facilitate the process.

I used Super Sculpey, a polymer clay that you can bake in a home oven (or with a heat gun, which is great for solidifying small, delicate details). Nowadays I would use Super Sculpey Firm, a more detail-friendly, gray compound. The armature is steel wire with aluminum wire wrapped around to give the clay something to hold on to. If I were to do this now (which I will in a few weeks for a personal project) I would use aluminum for the bigger wire since it's easier to manage, and steel for the smaller, which is strong even at small gauges. The base had some aluminum foil in it to bulk out the major structure.

As you'll see in the (slideshow) video, I actually sculpted some things twice — first to get a sense of the proportions and flow of the final figure, and once again during the final pass. There were a couple reasons for this (one being that I barely knew what I was doing). The main idea was to ensure that I didn't have any surprises during the sculpting process, which allowed me to finish certain areas before moving on to the next.

I made the weapons out of bass wood thanks to sound advice from my roommate at the time, an industrial design grad. The tiny implements were ground into shape using a Dremel tool and were split into 2 pieces, handle and blade (a result of which was a less than straight line between them).

The chainmail was formed with a tool that I made out of Sculpey. I don't have a picture of it, but recently I came across a much more official version touted as a mermaid tail sculpting tool.

What took the most time (by far) was polishing. When I got my first sculpting job, they said "no boogers," meaning everything had to be nice and smooth — almost glossy. Easier said than done. Essentially, every square inch had to be painstakingly brushed to a uniform surface. I used oil (Canola, I believe) to expedite the process, but I've seen some people work wonders without (here's a prime example).

I took decent photos of the final piece before sending it off and I'm glad I did — the mold-making process was not kind to her, resulting in several cracks to the original. Fortunately, an accurate master copy was salvaged and she went into production.

Because I wasn't completely faithful to the style guide, I had to make some last-minute revisions. This was entirely my own fault. I didn't care for the rounded ends of her loin cloth, so I had made them square. They kindly asked me to round them off.

They also asked if I would mind my turnaround sketches being used as a cover for the comic series. I agreed, but only if I could redraw the figure with a little more attitude. In retrospect, I probably should have asked for an additional fee, but my work was essentially done. They had someone else digitally paint over my pencils.

And that was that. From then on, it was out of my hands. I wasn't crazy about the mass-produced piece, mostly because of the paint job. The master copy (shown above) looked fine, but something was lost in translation to the castings. Also, although this was the most intricate thing I had ever sculpted — and I was happy with its many individual elements — I didn't care for my overall design. My first foray into professional sculpting, the Mystique bust, was much more elegant in its simplicity. Details are important, but composition is king.

For more on sculpting, please check out these previous posts:

(My fiancée likes to point out that the arch in her back is "totally unrealistic." I don't dispute the point, but I would contend that it's still the most realistic thing about the sculpture.)

Friday, August 16, 2013


Storm. 2013. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 233

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

It's very (very) rare that my editors at Marvel asks me to revise any artwork, but this was one of those times. After completing the first and second covers of the new Superior Spider-Man Team-Up series, they informed me that his costume had been revamped. Fortunately, they compensated me for the extra time (about 2 hours for each) and gave me a style guide by the always awesome Humberto Ramos. The issue came out a few weeks ago, but if you haven't checked it out, here's a preview. Lastly, I sometimes try out various color schemes to show my editors other options. We ultimately went with my first choice, but you can see the others below.

I want my own official sketch paper!

inks by my Paw
blue-line print of pencils

pencils over digital print
digital sketch

digital layout

color alternatives

Monday, August 12, 2013

Green Hornet #7 Cover

Green Hornet #7 Cover. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

Here's the cover to Green Hornet #7, in stores in October (solicitation here). I "penciled" this one digitally while I was in temporary housing in Santa Clara (I didn't have my bristol board at the time). Even though I drew both Hornet's and Kato's faces, I blacked them both out during the coloring stage — I just liked the effect and went with it.

digital "pencils"

Friday, August 9, 2013

Unity #1

Unity #1 Variant Cover. 2013. 
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

Valiant released a "Murderer's Row" of variant covers for their new ongoing title, Unity. I'm not sure how I feel about that, since that makes me a "murderer," but I'm learning to live with the guilt. As usual, my Dad (also a suspect) took care of the inks.

Unity #1 Variant Cover (detail). 2013. Pencils over digital print.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 232

Indestructible Hulk #10. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

The sketch for this cover was originally an inside joke — basically a reference to my own Daredevil #1 cover — but my editor liked it, so we went with it. You can see my other ideas down below, including and what the Hulk would use for a billy club.


inks by my Dad
blue-line print of pencils

pencils over digital sketch
digital sketch

digital layouts

Monday, August 5, 2013

Spidey Team-Up

Spider-Man. 2013. Inks and watercolor by Joe Rivera on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

Hey folks! I penciled this Spidey head sketch while I was home in FL and my Dad inked and colored it. This was an experiment, but it worked out really well, so we might do more of it in the future. In the meantime, I put it up on eBay in case anyone would like to own it. Bidding starts at $100, and includes shipping. I'm afraid this is only open to customers in the States — I don't like dealing with customs forms. Thanks!