Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sketch A Day #31 - Samurai!

Reworked a sketch from this last saturday and came up with one that i really like. Reminds me a little of Mike Oeming's stuff on the mid-period Powers series that i liked.

Little more cartoony than I usually do, or is this just a cleaned up version of my usual style?

"G" nib Crow Quill, Brush, Rotring Technical pen on Bristol

I know that a lot of mangaka like the "G" Nib, but i'm having a hard time using it on bristol, it stalls out when i want it to start a line. I still prefer the old style Hunt 102s. Any thoughts by other artists out there?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sketch A Day #30 - A Rolling Pin

After all the work at Dr. Sketchy's on saturday night, today you get one of the challenges from 642 things to draw book:

A rolling pin.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sketch A Day: #29 - Dr. Sketchy's Smorgasborg!

A Dr. Sketchy's night in SF! Ben was a great model for the evening, and a lot of drawing got done! Alaina came with me, and we met our friend Heather there as well. They will have to talked into posting their drawings as well.

This clearly fulfills my sketch a day requirement for yesterday. letme know what you think.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sketch A Day #28: Bad Night

Ok, so here is the story.

Nothing was working. Seriously, i did a whole steampunk woman in a cool costume that looked like complete and utter amateur night, worked two versions of her before scrapping all of them.

Did this sketch off of a profile pic of a semi-famous actress. Liked the mass of hair that she had up in back and all the strays that had gotten away. OK, decent sketch, tried to capture it about three different ways with markers, ink wash and ink.

They were all complete shit. Blew it up on the copier and put bristol over it and went to work with an HB Mirado black Warrior pencil and in 4 minutes had this.

So I quit. The rest is crap and, quite honestly, I'm not brave enough to scan them and show you how crap I am tonight. This is all you get today and its still not that good at all, lets face it. No idea why.

Going to Dr. Sketchys in SF tomorrow night with Alaina and Heather. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sketch A Day #27 - That Face

I've just seen a face, I can't forget the time or place where we just met.

She's just the girl for me and i want all the world to see we've met.


copic marker on bristol

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sketch A Day #26 - Millais and more!

two more pieces from the Cult of Beauty exhibition! A second piece by Millais on the upper level, and two smaller sketches, one just quickly knocking in the layout of the painting, and another of an intricate bust with some of the greatest marble tits i've ever seen.

Sketch A Day #25 - Kate Perugini 1880 by Millais

The Cult of Beauty exhibition opened at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco this week, and the whole family journeyed in to see it. Good crowds, plenty of turn out for the first day; it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of lovers of the British Aesthetic Movement in San Francisco.

We all took sketchbooks with us, as we do now. While I expected to see the Brune-Jones and Rosetti pieces, I was quite caught up by two paintings by Millais, and did two quick sketches of them. The first is here: Kate Perugini, done in 1880.

Its a real treat to see this here, as this is the only stop in the USA for the tour, which has pieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the D'Orsay in Paris.

More tomorrow...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sketch A Day #24: The Drummer from Planetary

And, finally, The Drummer from the series Planetary. Drums, while in most every issue of the series, and playing a pivotal role in a bunch of issues, remains mostly unchanged by the events around him. Lets face it, Ellis had a whole lot of plot and other fun stuff to do in Planetary, so Drums and Jakita Wagner get less development along the way.

Of course it is the young Drummer's comment, "Worst. Rescue. Ever." as they're blown out of the window 30 stories up that remains a personal favorite.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sketch A Day #23: A villian perhaps?

Someone new, an image that came to me with a pencil in my hand. perhaps a new villian for one of the stories that i have in my head.

Not certain yet.

Thats the beauty in art. you never quite know what you might end up with.

All i know is that i ended up with sketch #23.

Looking forward to being at Dr. Sketchys in San Francisco on the 25th for Samurai Night on Van Ness. If you're a blog reader, come up and say "hello."

india ink and Copic marker on Strathmore layout

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sketch A Day #22: Dr Strange

We interrupt the Planetary sketches for a random Dr. Strange sketch that i did last night. i realized, to my horror, that i did not remember how to do his cape of levitation, nor how to do that damn funky collar. And i declined to Google it.

so there. What you get is what you get.

Still working on a pose for the Drummer that i like, and maybe a Dr. Dowling for the Planetary series.

Yesterday, for Valentines Day, my wife gave me a book, 642 Things to Draw, that breaks you out of your rut, if you follow the book, and i may be posting from that as well...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Friedrich, Ghost Rider & that damn work for hire contract

I've not posted anything on the the Gary Friedrich suit against Marvel for the ownership of Ghost Rider, nor the recent judgement against him to the tune of $17,000, and thats partly because it has gone so viral that it really isn't necessary for me to do so.

Daniel Best has, once again, with the time and inclination to read through the court documents and understand the legalese to the point where he can break it down for us laymen. i wanted to link out to further distribute the short and dirty version of where it all stands right now, with the second movie about to open and in trailers.

Gary has no way to win this really. If Jack's heirs couldn't win against Marvel and their lawyers, then Gary has no chance of it. I guess I find it just shocking how these piddly little properties that were given away for $35 a page have turned into million dollar inventions. For the record, the second comic I ever owned was Marvel Team-Up #15, with Spider-Man and the Ghost Rider. Now there is a Kane/Romita cover I'd love to own.

And, as always, the little guy gets screwed. Period. And you'd think that Marvel would want to avoid the obvious bad press, but their lawyers are (quite correctly) worried that allowing any loophole, any crack of precedent to show through, will open the floodgates. Wolfman and Colan's heirs would go after Blade (again) and so would all the rest.

And none of this would have happened had the industry not been born on the backs of utter mobsters and crooks. Reasonable contracts up front would have taken of all of this, or at least made it a little easier. But when Seigel and Shuster and Bill Finger and Friedrich and Burgos and Everett all practically on or over the edge of poverty, there is no nice, there is no warm fuzzy spot. There is only the sound of us long time, life long comic fans sliding the tectonic plates of our nostalgia around to accomodate all the evil done to the creators over the years.

They don't sit easily together, do they?

Sketch A Day #21 - Ambrose Chase from Planetary & writing for the trade

The mysterious Ambrose Chase, who haunts much of the Planetary story, in a pensive moment, using his time stopping powers to simply slow down and appreciate a few droplets of rain.

I've never run into Warren Ellis at a convention, but will someone tell him "thanks" for me? I love this rich series and I'm having a blast doing the characters from it.

So here is the question: are stories like Planetary and Sandman things that we would consider "writing for the trade", a term using with increasing frequency in a derogatory fashion to explain the lack of enjoyment with reading the current pamphlet?

In both of those cases, I say an emphatic "No." Both of those series make sense in a single issue context, and also reveal, onion-like, many different layers upon repeated readings. They are truly the best of both worlds when they're on their game, providing both the good single issue experience and the great re-reading experience.

Now I don't believe that writing for the trade is a bad thing. For one thing, it means a longer shelf life for the work if it does read well when its collected. In many ways, it may also hasten the transition from the single issue malaise that has long affected American comics and get creators to continue to think in long form, and the inherent complexities that can are native to that (when done right).

It does mean that perhaps we can do away with the example of ultra "decompressed" comics. Catagorically, I'll state right here and now that I don't want to constantly read ultra "abbreviated" comics paced like the mid-60's DC Comics, nor do I want everything to read like Bendis' Jinx or Goldfish or Powers. Personally, I'd love to see the pace change through out the work, slowing down and speeding up when necessary. And I want my story to take me somewhere.

Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In Review Of: Genius, Isolated by Mullaney and Canwell

The artist biography writ large, that is what Genius, Isolated (2011, IDW) is. Unexpectedly hardback and beautifully art directed, one wonders why all biographies can’t be like this.

Well, for one thing, there is pretty much no one like Toth. I say this as both good and bad really, since his reputation precedes him. It colors our opinion of his work as much as the scribbled postcards that show up in Alter Ego, as much as the nostalgia factor of seeing his hand in Space Ghost, Toth the perfectionist crank has become as much of a charicature as the real thing.

But given that this is the first volume of the three volume series, lets get a few things out of the way, because this review is partly a review of the biography, and partly a review of Toth, and how he is a symbol for discussing comics from the past in a general sense. IDW has pulled out all the stops and the volume does practically what I’ve always hopes that an artist biography would be: Plenty of scans from original pages, older photographs, correct annotations, arranged thematically as opposed to simply chronologically (which accounts for the second third volumes breaking both a person’s life up as well as the different periods of work that they created), clear art direction in both layout, and great readability in the typefaces. Hardback, meant to last, even a bookmark ribbon for keeping place. Crisp printing with deep black blacks, essential for someone like Toth.

It does everything right. Interviews with everyone still living that, and research to dig up quotes from past contemporaries to illustrate both Toth’s employment situations as well as his reaction to them. Mullaney and Canwell do a good job of not trying to sweep Toth’s legendary anger under the rug, but, perhaps, trying to give it some context.

So lets ask this question: for a beautiful book like this, is Toth deserving of it?

It may seem like an odd question really. Toth epitomizes “the artist’s artist”. His work had a documented profound effect on his contemporaries, and he’s been labeled a genius too many times to count for his brevity of line, precise and deliberate negative space and pacing acumen, his work drives many an artist to simply shake their head and say, “I can’t layout that panel better than that.” But a read through the book simply points out the utter mediocrity of the early decades of comics, and how, twenty years on from Bob Kane and Bill Finger on Batman, the industry had learned less than nothing about how to do better work.

Small wonder that Toth fumed and exploded on his bosses at, it seems, almost every opportunity. All that artistic talent and no where to go with it.

So yes, to answer my own question, yes Toth the artist deserves a biography of this magnitude, Toth from the pages of the comics doesn’t. Far too many of his stories were utter crap and then they were colored by hacks who lacked the rudimentary ability to simply determine a light source for the panel that they were rolling their crayons over. I go back to the Miller quote, back before Frank went off the deep end, when he said (and I’m paraphrasing here): “People act like we’ve got fifty years of behind us when we have fifty years of crap.” And its true.

And he’s not infallible either. While the letter that he wrote to Steve Rude ripping apart a story that Steve had penciled has circulated around the internet for years, there are certainly choices where his panel to panel transitions don’t quite up. In a way, it’s a relief to see a story where there are times that he’s not perfect either.

And that moves us to an integral part of the artwork: as the Artist's artist, I certainly can look at superior storytelling and recognize it when i see it. I can also recognize lazy storytelling or inept storytelling pretty damn quick. Trying to explain the nuances of WHY Toth's work is superior is an entirely different science, and one that the book doesn't even try to do. And I'm not sure it should. Digging into the semiotics of comics is a complex science, and one that is fraught with misunderstandings. There is not a common language sometimes that even allows to have that discussion on the interwebs, so no wonder the book decides to circumvent the entire discussion. Toth's work passes the smell test for those of us who know good storytelling when we see it. And if you don't give a damn, then you're not likely to be reading this biography.

But it is a joy to see some brilliant pages where Toth’s simplicity and expression shine through in the original black and white, as opposed to through poorly printed and designed color. It is then that all the elements that make Toth that artist’s artist shine through. Beautiful examples are the originals from “The Crushed Gardenia” (Who is Next #5) pages 115-122 and “I Fooled My Heart” (Popular Romance #24) on pages 123-129.

As professionals in this industry, we take on illustrating stories like the ones presented here, stories that almost seem to prove the long held opinion that comics are for mentally deficient humans. Could Toth have adapted to deeper, more adult work had the industry been there for him to work in? Almost certainly.

It’s a shame that he didn’t have the opportunity to work in a world were Maus had won the Pulitzer, where comics had become a medium to be respected. But, sadly, one is left with the idea that Toth, the tortured artist, Toth, the emotionally immature, Alex Toth, always his own worst enemy, would have fucked it up. And that's sad. This was, after all, Toth, the man who refused to get help for his depression and his OCD tendencies.

So I’m left with two questions: when is the next volume coming out? And… if you can do this sort of treatment for Alex Toth, a true luminary, why can’t this be done for the true king of 20th Century comics, for Jack Kirby?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sketch A Day #20: John Stone from Planetary

John Stone of S.T.O.R.M., a little older, still just as deadly and still rocking those impeccable suits. It reminds me of the old days, when tradecraft was done with style.

Ellis and Cassaday give us adventures that Steranko never quite got around to drawing... well, a glimpse of them at least.

I like this one.

Ink and Copic marker on 2-ply bristol

Sketch A Day #19: Jakita Wagner from Planetary

working my way through the Planetary cast, today with the least developed of the regular cast, Jakita Wagner. Really, she gets the least emotional journey through the epic arc of the Planetary story. Its fine, she exists to hit things, which of course is why she's so frustrated in the story at the end. We'd reached a point where just hitting isn't a solution anymore.

What would superhero comics be without hitting things as a solution? Lost, I tell you, lost.

india ink on bristol

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Sketch A Day #18: Elijah Snow from Planetary

Or should i have just labeled this "the fourth man:" and let those in the know get the joke?

Sorry to have been away, technical difficulties and all that. Time to climb back up on that horse and keep on ridin'

Elijah Snow, from my favorite series of the last decade, Planetary. Ink on 2-ply bristol with brush, quill and technical pen. 

You might have noticed that i said bristol. yes, that's right, I've gotten the last piece of the puzzle towards changing my studio, an excellent LED lightbox to combine with my new table. The frustration has been knowing the method that i wanted to use for drawing, but lacking all the bits to put it together. Thanks to my generous father-in-law, I'm finally able to do that.

In the meantime, we'll be back to our sketch a day starting with...NOW!