Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Art Department Strikes! Extra: Collaborating

As promised, an early post to finish out the week. I was going to start another 'theme' today (just finished the last touches) but thought better of it. Besides, I wanted to show this off.

This might look familiar (scroll down. go ahead, I'll wait.) See? It's the Iron Man picture I posted last week. But it's more than that. My friend Joey pulled the original picture off the blog and went to town on it with his own considerable Photoshop skills. Take a good look at it, then check out the original post. See how the light gleams off the armor? Joey did that. See how the armor actually goes from lighter to darker, giving it depth? Yep, Joey did that. Pretty cool, huh? That's what experience will do for you. I've been drawing for almost as long as I could hold a pencil, but I'm still new to the photoshop/digital art revolution. This is why I have friends like Joey and Dave to show me the capabilities of these crazy programs. And I'll tell you, it's wicked fun. Digital art is apparently the one thing that brings out a streak of meticulousness in me. I can spend a loooong time working a picture over, one pixel at a time. Thank god that doesn't carry over to anything else though...

Anyway, I just wanted to show off some of the capabilities of Photoshop, and more importantly, the joy of collaboration with your friends. In a way, this is a continuation of this week's theme of past projects, since the highlight of those was working with friends. Hopefully Joey will pick out some more art to work his photoshop magic on- OR HE WILL START HIS OWN BLOG TO SHOW OFF HIS ART.

just sayin'.

That's it for now- nothing new until... Tuesday? Let's say Tuesday. Have an excellent weekend, wherever you may be, or wherever you may be going. I will.

Music: "With a Little Help From My Friends" - The Beatles

Bonus Track: "Dreamline" - Rush (for the trip, of course)

Art Department Strikes! 2

Well Dan, I hope you're happy.

Continuing with this week's theme of "Art Department Strikes!" (not to be confused with 'UAW Strikes!' different stories altogether), here is another blast from my past. Conceived back in those heady days of college, this character was yet another half-formed idea that had no home. However, unlike most of the others in my notebooks, I gave this idea away to my friend Dan, in the hopes that he would do something cool with it.

(listens to sounds of crickets)

But, since he's been on my case for the past hmmm... 10 years to do something about any of the ideas I'd/we'd had back then, I figured he wouldn't mind if I borrowed the character back for a return visit.

Let's see if I can remember the gist of the character... oh, wait, I remember now. Pretty much I came up with the name, 'technopire', and left it at that. Pretty sure I couldn't copyright that... okay, a little more detail. I think I came up with the basic idea back in one of our biology classes back in the start of my college career. Something about a bunch of evil government scientists (my favorite kind!)getting their mitts on a real vampire, and attempting to make a supernatural predator into some manner of controllable weapon. Let's just assume for the sake of argument that the plan wouldn't work out and some manner of over-the-top action/violence would ensue.

That's about it, really. Yeah, honestly, a lot of these ideas weren't exactly groundbreaking or visionary. I kinda feel like the Jerry Bruckheimer of daydreamt story ideas. Except without, you know, money. Or connections. Or power. Or Kiera Knightley's cell number. You get the picture. But, they were a lot of fun to work on- again, that world-building I love so much. Even more fun was the collaborative process with my friends. It is a tremendous amount of fun to brainstorm with friends- ideas will build on top of ideas, and the craziest of them seem perfectly reasonable, and everyone is always more than ready to take it to even higher levels- things you would never have thought of, and things you only dreamt of, all seem to fall into place like they were meant to be, when working out these ideas with your friends.

That, my friends, is gold.

Oh, one last thing- he never had a name before. This one is an homage to a well-known comic and gaming artist, Tim Bradstreet. When I first started drawing this out, I was very definitely trying to emulate the stark, detailed style he's made his signature, while keeping it true to my own particular artistic quirks. And then I got all Photoshop on its ass. Visit Tim's site here.

I'll be out of the labs this Friday (even a mad scientist's ghost needs let out now and again, especially when it's to vacation with friends), so there will be no post then. However, since I like y'all, I'll post something up Thursday.

Until then...

Music: "Supernaut" - 10,000 Homo DJs (with Reznor vocals)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Art Department Strikes! 1

A long time ago, I used to be a fairly imaginative guy. An 'idea man', if you will. As I mentioned in my first post, you could often find me around work with a scrap of paper (or cardboard) in hand, jotting notes down for one epic idea after another. The ideas usually came out in a plot form with lots of dialogue and scenes laid out (known as a 'scriptment' in Hollywood). They were to end up as either a story or as a comic book. I would usually catch on one basic idea (the "hook", if you'll allow the continued Hollywood analogy), then hang the plot around that. Sometimes the hook was nothing more than a quote I'd heard somewhere, or a basic question I wanted to answer. Then, characters to fill the needs of the story. Then, and this was my favorite part, the world-building.

One of the things I love best about books and comic books, and to a lesser extent, some movies, is the amount of world-building that goes into it. To me, the world-building is all of the history, science, culture, characters, and whatnot that goes into the world the story inhabits, but doesn't necessarily directly influence the story itself. This is most common in science fiction- Peter Hamilton's "Night's Dawn Trilogy", for example, uses some 600 years of future history to explain current events in the series, but only indirectly mentions those events. It's left to the reader to make the connections, and create the history. Some better examples of this world-building include J.K. Rowling's Wizarding world in Harry Potter (him again!), Gene Roddenberry's 23rd-century Utopia in Star Trek, and most famously, J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, in which Tolkein actually created the entire history of Middle Earth, along with languages, people, lands, etc., most of which never ended up in the main story.

I think the reason I love this part the best is that it makes those worlds feel that much more real to me- like it would only take finding the right road to wander down to end up in Middle Earth, or Godric's Hollow, or any of a thousand imagined worlds. So, I used to spend plenty of time developing the worlds my stories would inhabit- histories, technology, historical characters- all of them were worked out beforehand. To be honest, I frequently spent more time on the world-building than the story itself, which would explain the lack of actual stories.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the picture.

I decided, since I was drawing again, to go back and revisit some of those ideas that had been rattling around either in my head or in a box somewhere for the past 15-20 years. This is the first of the sketches looking back at those old ideas.

This guy is called the Dragonheart. Why? Well, cause he has the heart of a dragon.

(Time for an aside- this name may sound familiar to you. "Dragonheart? Wasn't that some crappy movie from the mid-90's with Dennis Quaid and Sean Connery?" Why yes, it was. However, I actually came up with the idea for a character who possessed the heart of a dragon some 3-4 years before the movie came out. This happens an appalling amount of time to any creative types who focus on genre-specific stories. Oh sure, you can write an O. Henry-ending to just about any old movie and get away with it, but try to write another story with a guy who's got a dragon's heart and see if you can avoid the cries of "rip off!". sigh... welcome to genre entertainment...)

Anyway, this guy's got a dragon's heart for his own- and as a result, he's immortal, can throw around fire, and some other stuff I can't remember. His outfit is more an attempt to show he's been around a long time rather than any specific design/costume idea. It's meant to show a number of eras (pocket watch, armor pieces, etc.) And no, that's not a robotic arm- it's armor covering his arm. A cyborg magician? That would be silly... He's one of those times where I came up with a character, but he had no story to go with him. See, he had plenty of backstory, but no story. So, he languished, until I came up with another idea into which his story could play out. But, that's a tale for another time.

Alright, seriously, this went on longer than expected. Carry on now. I'll be back Wednesday.

Weekend viewing highlight: "The Fountain", by Darren Aronofsky, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. An amazing movie, and one I need to watch again, since I'm still not sure how I feel about it. Recommended.

Music: "Please Stay" - Warren Zevon (because of the movie)
Bonus cut: "Radio Nowhere" - Bruce Springsteen

Friday, September 21, 2007

Test Your Mettle

Today I'm rounding out this week's theme of "guys in armor" with the best-known armored comic book character, Iron Man. I've always been a big fan of Iron Man... or at least his armor. This picture came about mostly because I was looking for a chance to draw Iron Man, and I finally had a pose come into my head that worked for him. The armor is no particular era (Iron Man changes his design pretty darn frequently), but is probably most like his "Mark IV" armor (if anyone cares) which is the one most people who've seen the '60's cartoon would recognize. I'm pleased with how smoothly the picture came out, especially since this was the first time I'd drawn any kind of comic book character in some time. It's always a challenge to draw their over-defined musculature without making them ridiculous (setting aside the argument over the inherent ridiculousness of superheroes). They're always fun to draw, regardless of how muscular they are. The other goal of the picture was to get a sense of motion in the figure- I'm working to avoid making my figures look stiff and unnatural. Making them look like they're 'alive' is the hardest part of any drawing.

And here's me fooling around with Photoshop. I thought I'd give a go at coloring this one first- mainly because the lines were pretty solid on him, which made it easier to use the "paint bucket" feature to fill in large areas. The whole color job took about 5 minutes. Again, much to learn.

Nothing more to report here... have a good weekend, and I'll see you back on Monday.

Next week: Revisiting (very) Old Haunts, and the Return of the Art Department!

Music: "Flathead" - The Fratellis

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"You're My Only Hope"

Another day, another knight. (I'm sorry, I just realized that's a pun...)

This image has been kicking around in my head for literally years. I first came up with the concept back in the early 90's, I think probably from having seen a number of shirts with "clever" sayings on them about what one would do for food (or beer, most likely). For whatever reason, the phrase "will slay dragons for food" leaped into my head, along with the general idea of the picture (kid, bum, food, shield). The one previous attempt at this was a total disaster, so the idea was set aside and more or less forgotten for the past 10 or 12 years, until this little Renaissance came about. The idea is the same as before, but it's all in the execution. For me, the real goal was to convey as much information as possible about the "story" in this one picture. I thought the best way to draw it would be to approach it from the girl's perspective, thereby letting the viewer in on her world a little bit. And this way, it gives us a chance to see the 'knight'. By the way- he might look similar, but he's not the wandering knight from the past post of the Grail Knight. I figured being homeless and being made to wander across Europe on a quest for the grail might leave a fella looking in a similar state of discomfiture.

Who is this broken down, obviously delusional homeless guy? What is he doing with a sword? And where are these so-called "dragons" he'll slay?

Ask the girl. She knows.

There's a story to be told in this picture, though even I'm not entirely sure what it is. I'm pretty sure it has to do with school, parents, mean classmates, self-confidence, failures, and redemption. And possibly dragons.

You should ask me about the tale of the snow dragon sometime. Talk about keeping an idea with you- try 25 years...

Oh- you'll also notice this picture looks a bit more "finished" than past efforts. I've been using Photoshop to clean up all the sketches (mostly for clarity and erasing extraneous marks on the paper) but this is the first time I've actually used Photoshop beyond its ability to change contrast and brightness. It's not much, but I like the texture it's given the picture. Now heaven help me when I start coloring with it.
New poll to the... right. Feel free to e-mail me with new poll topic suggestions (or comment below).

Alright, that's it- off wi' ya!

Music: "Hands Held High" - Linkin Park

Sunday, September 16, 2007


As you can see, sometimes, when I say 'sketch', I really mean "scribble". Aa much as I might wish otherwise, I don't always have a very strong idea of what is going to end up on the page when I sit down to draw. While sometimes ideas just spill out of the pencil, other times the ideas must be coaxed out, encouraged to find their ways onto the page, or bludgeoned over the head and dragged out. These two pages are good examples of what's going on all those times I lack the strong idea.

In the first instance, at least I had real(ish) life to draw on. On the way home from work one day, as I was driving through an intersection, I happened to look over and saw this girl sitting in her car, waiting for her light. Looked just like I drew her! Well, sort of. The glasses and hair were definitely right on. But, since that's all I had to go on, I made up the rest. This is known as "artistic license", my best friend. The evil scientist-looking guy on the other side of the page was initially nothing more than a few arced lines I had drawn down- testing out a head-shape, I think(ultimately not used for its original purpose). Anyway, a few days later, I was flipping through the sketchbook when I came back across the lines, and I started sketching in some more. Eyes first, then nose, then mouth. Once I saw how unpleasant he looked, he obviously had to be wringing his hands in an appropriate evil mastermind-way. And again, I really had no idea what was going to end up on the page until it was done. I like working like this- it keeps me from going back to the same well too often (intentional projects like HP aside). I often let the shape I sketch out determine what I'm going to continue drawing. "Function Follows Form", so to speak.

The second page is Kommandant Blitzendorf, an "idea" inspired in a roundabout fashion by a dinner conversation between myself and two friends of mine. All I'll say of the conversation is I have a tendency to occasionally intentionally mis-hear things (yes, intentionally), and it often gives me some pretty ridiculous ideas, or at least funny stories. This character is essentially a combination of Commandant Klink from 'Hogan's Heroes', Yosemite Sam, and Tim Conway's character Dorf. You really probably don't want to know any more than that, and perhaps I've already said too much. Also on the page is a very rough sketch for a figure of a cowboy-type figure. I couldn't get a solid lock on what direction I wanted to take that, so I shelved it for the time being.

The other thing you'll see on these pages are all the notes I leave myself. My mind wanders while I'm drawing, oftentimes to something else to draw further down the road. Since I can't do it all at once (that would be exhausting, then boring), I write myself notes on these convenient sketch pages so I can return to them later on if I'm looking for something in particular to draw. Or, if not an idea for a particular sketch, I'll write down something I've hear or seen or has occur ed to me- a story idea, or the background idea of a sketch, or the voices in my head, whatever. I'll say no more on these scribbles other than you'll probably see the results of these down the road.

That's about it for tonight. It's been a long day...

See you on Wednesday!

Music: "Earthbound" - Rodney Crowell

Friday, September 14, 2007

What is the secret of the Grail? Who does it serve?

And now, at long last, for something different.

You ever have one of those moments when you realize something, with complete clarity, down to the last detail? Whether it's a game being played, a puzzle being assembled, or whatever? One of those times when you have to just go with it, and trust it'll all sort itself out.

That's what this picture is.

Of course, it decided to hit me shortly after 1 am or so, after I was drifting off to sleep. Naturally, I got up out of bed, went downstairs, found my sketchbook and pencil, and came back up to draw it.

I really have no idea what brought on the images- I hadn't been reading or watching anything about knights, but there it was anyway. The dirt-covered, worn-out knight was standing there waiting for me to draw him. So I complied. Afterwards, I realized that the gist of the idea came from a scene from the movie Excalibur, specifically when the knights were on a quest to find the holy grail (or Holy Grail, if you like). Percival was the last of the knights questing; the others had died, either by their own hand, or by another's. Hence the hanged knight in the background. Percival was ultimately successful (wouldn't have been much of a story if he'd failed, right?)but in this image, I think he was wondering if it was worth the cost...

Anyway, it came together pretty well, though the image itself would benefit from being inked, or being photographed instead of scanned. There's a bit of detail lost, mostly in the sky. One more thing to learn.

That's about it for now. Next week: random sketches!

Have a good weekend- I know I will! (Behold the power of positive thinking!) (and the power of exclamation points... )


Music: "Secret Journey" - The Police

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Just a quick note for a change. This is Draco Malfoy. Judging by his name, you can guess that he's not a nice guy. Draco is Harry's opposite number in Hogwart's. Imagine the most stuck-up, arrogant kid you can think of, and that's only the start to Draco. And of course, given J.K. Rowling, there's more to him than that.

Draco's sketch here was fairly easy to come up with. I figured he was never happy, and drew him like that. His hair was originally all slicked back, like sometimes done in the movies, but I didn't care for that. So, manga-hair instead.

This is the last Harry Potter-related sketch for a while; not because I don't have more, but it's getting too far out of order, chronologically. So, back in time we'll go...

See you Friday...

Music: "Double Agent" - Rush

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Greatest Gryffindor

Greetings everyone, and welcome back.

Today, yep, another HP character (is it my fault there's like 3.5 million of them?). This unassuming fellow above is Neville Longbottom. In the books, Neville rarely gets much attention- in fact, he's usually played for laughs, accidentally causing some manner of damage to himself or otherwise serving as a source of humor. However, he is slowly revealed to be one of the most interesting and sympathetic characters over the course of the series. Like Snape, he is a character of hidden depth, though unlike Snape, Neville is always likable.

At first, Neville was a hard character to get a handle on. Matthew Lewis, who plays Neville in the HP movies, makes such a strong impression that it's hard not to instantly think of Matthew as the character from the book. He very much personifies Neville. I had set Neville aside to work on some other pieces (yes, what you're seeing is out of order) when I eventually took another thought at the character. What I liked most about Neville in the movie is that he doesn't look like a lead actor- he looks like a regular kid. So I tried to think of Neville as more of an "everyday" kid rather than as one of those kids everyone wanted to be growing up. Someone less photogenic, but more likable. I gave Neville more rounded features, and made him less slim than the others- he hasn't lost his baby fat, and probably won't. Neville looks like a softy. I tried to give him slightly larger, darker eyes as well, showing him as an open, straightforward kind of guy. Also, Neville ended up in street clothes rather than robes for some reason. Neville's favorite class is Herbology, so I figured he'd be holding some kind of plant- this is apparently some manner of magical sunflower.

Hope everyone's weekend was enjoyable. I went to the Baltimore comic book convention (or comicon) this Saturday with my friends Dave and Thad. As always, it was a very enjoyable time. I really like going, because it's a chance to meet the creators of some of my favorite comic books, as well as maybe discover some books I've never seen before. It was the opportunity to see artists in action, drawing sketches for folks left and right- from young hopefuls sketching for $10 up to pros charging multiple hundreds. A good gig if you can get it! I met some of my favorite artists, both new and long-time favorites. I've added links to their sites to the right.

This was also a special convention- this was the first comic book convention since the passing of Mike Wieringo (see my first entry), and it was the industry's chance to express its love for and appreciation of Mike. Judging by the events throughout the day, Mike made a huge impact on just about everyone he ever met, let alone worked with, in the industry. There were a number of vendors and pros who were in some way or another honoring Mike. Mike Wieringo loved animals, at least as much as he loved comics (and that's saying a lot). So, to honor Mike, creators teamed up with the convention showrunner to hold fundraisers all day long, with the intent to donate all the money raised to the Baltimore County Humane Society. Best of all, this is going to be an annual event. It was pretty awesome.

Oh- as you've all seen, I've been drawing a lot of Harry Potter stuff. Well, if you didn't know it, there are hundreds of other folks out there doing some amazing jobs drawing the characters. One woman I found on Friday just amazes me. Imagine Walt Disney making a HP animated movie, and you've pretty much described her style. They're fantastic pictures- I'm glad I only found them now, otherwise I'd have given up drawing them from the start! Check out some of her HP work here and more of her artwork here.

That's all for now! See you Wednesday...

PS You'll be happy to hear I've kinda/sorta started drawing some real people. You know who you are...

Music: "Keep Me In Your Heart" - Warren Zevon

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Trust Snape/Snape is a Very Bad Man

Back to Hogwarts...

Here are a couple different shots of the best character in the Harry Potter books, Severus Snape. Snape might not be a favorite character to many, but I think it would be hard to argue that he's not the best character in the books from a purely story point of view. Of course this means that you would probably all argue it, but it's my blog, so there. The reason I think he's such a great character is that, although he's supposedly one of the good guys, there is absolutely nothing good about him at all. He's arrogant, he's supremely self-confident, and he hates the hero of the book with a passion. And yet, he's trusted completely by the supposedly wisest character in the books. The question of whether or not Snape is really on the side of the good guys is a theme that runs through the entire series.

Okay, the pictures. This ended up being more of a set of ideas rather than a single defining sketch. Once I had abandoned my original idea for Snape (see Lucius Malfoy below) I knew I needed a different approach. For me, the idea that brought it all together was by giving Snape the white-on-black eyes. I'm not sure what made me come to that conclusion; it might be that Snape is very talented at hiding his thoughts from even the most powerful wizards. And, as they say eyes are the windows to the soul, I felt that the white-on-black would make for a nice image of shuttered "windows". Kind of convoluted thinking, but that's what I do.

The first sketch was the small one to the left- this was done to try to get a feel for how his face would look 'framed' by his hair. Snape is described as having stringy, greasy hair. Next, I went for the main headshot. This came across very well, I think. I wanted Snape to look very confident, almost condescending, but not actually evil or anything like that. I wanted him to look like he knows something very embarrassing about you, and he wouldn't hesitate in the slightest to use it against you. And again, the eyes. The last shot, the profile, was done to try to get a better feel for Snape's nose. I always imagine it as broken (it's described as hooked), and I like the idea of him looking down his nose with disgust at someone (most likely Potter). All in all, I'm very pleased with these shots- if anything were to be changed, I'd like to try for a more greasy look to Snape's hair, and maybe try to make him even more condescending and smarmy.

Also, there's a new poll to the right.

Baltimore Comicon is this weekend- you all know where I'll be now :) Have a good weekend; come back Monday for more Pottery. (sorry, it just typed itself out)


Music: "The Hand That Feeds"- Nine Inch Nails

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Melancholy; or, a non-musical interlude, with music

I felt like posting again tonight (as I seem to be falling to Tuesday/Thursday/weekend rather than MWF), but not another set of HP sketches or something like that. So, here's a painting I did back in my previous attempt to rekindle the artistic fire, my watercolor class.

I found the original of this(and a number of other pictures) on, a lovely place full of all kinds of pictures from many talented photographers. Something about this picture really struck me, and I thought it would be worth giving it a go in attempting to paint it. It is a deceptively simple photo- I mean, hell, it's snow, a guy, a tree, and water. But, it was exceedingly difficult to make look like it's meant to be seen. I'd say I've gotten about 70% of what I wanted out of the picture. The problem with the scanner is that it has a tendency to wash out the colors as seen on the page; this is probably why Dave suggests taking pictures of the pictures. But I am impatient and like playing with Photoshop. This image was orignally posted on my livejournal site.

As far as the picture, I really like it. It's a very stark and lonely image. This poor fellow, standing in the biting wind, wrapped up against the cold and the snow, is keeping watch out to sea, waiting for someone to arrive. There's a story in that picture. Maybe I'll tell you sometime. Maybe you already know it. Maybe you've told it yourself. That's what I saw in that picture.

That's all for now... see you on Friday.

Music: "Falling Slowly"- Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The music itself sounds very haunting, the lyrics perhaps even moreso, yet still I find them uplifting. It makes for a good companion piece to the art.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Wonder Twin Powers...

Welcome back from the holidays.

Today I'm continuing with the HP sessions, so to speak. This time around I've got the scene-stealers of the HP books, Fred and George Weasley. Fred and George rarely take center-stage in any of the books, but are still very popular. They are unrepentant tricksters, always willing to test out some new trick on an unsuspecting victim. However, they are loyal friends of Harry. Anyway.

With these pictures, I was trying to hit a couple of notes. One, I wanted there to be some resemblance between these sketches and Ron; after all, they're family. I tried to use a similar jawline and nose as with Ron's picture a few days ago. Also, the freckles. Two, I wanted to get across some of the rebelliousness of the characters. Whereas I imagine most of the folks in the HP world to have longer hair (being out of touch with muggle styles), I wanted the Twins to have short, stylish haircuts. Fred's wearing a stylish dragon-skin coat, while George is wearing his Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes work-robe. Hopefully they look like they're full of fun and life, while being guaranteed to be pulling a fast one on you. And they're wearing bolo ties, for some reason...

A short post today, so hopefully I'll have something more to contribute next time around...

Music: "The Other Side of the World" - K.T. Tunstall