Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sketchbook to Strip

When I draw or illustrate, it's really difficult to get the finished version to look like the pencil sketch. The rough lines and loose drawing very often feels more lively, with more personality. However, the pencil sketches lack what the finished drawing needs- stronger layout, better-defined lines so the picture reads with more clarity. To look professional and suitable for print you need that extra step.
Below you can see what I mean. This is a comic strip- called A Case Of The Mondays- that I do for our internal company newsletter. This one is based on the premise that we have a lot of potted plants in the office.

I can't really say much for the joke, except that if you worked here you'd probably like it.

Anyway, I feel that the pencil sketches, particularly on the first two panels, have a great quality to them. I could have matched the poses up better if I spent more time on it, but with cartoons a certain amount of spontaneity is really important.

I'll leave you with a panel I cut. This would have been the second panel- but it actually kind of works by itself in a way, doesn't it? In a creepy kind of way. 

Monday, March 22, 2010


Here's a cool illustration I came across a few days ago on the Illustration Art blog:

It's by Frank Frazetta, who is primarily a science fiction illustrator but must have done this for a book or magazine or something along the way. For me, it's a shining example of what makes illustration stand alone as remarkable, underappreciated art form. The forms are rendered so well, showing real weight, movement and power. Positive and negative shapes are clearly defined to create a complete composition. And despite the broad, heavy brushwork, the details are all there (click on the image for a closeup- in particular, look at all the muscles and bone structure in the horse's face).

If you were to see this same scene in a modern art museum today, it would be made in primary colors and intentionally made to look like a six-year-old did it. Personally, I am much more impressed with expert craft than any abstract statement about the artist's life. A picture like this speaks to me and really turns something on in my mind.

This is my attempt to copy Frazetta... I figure if I copy guys like this it can only help me improve in terms of composition and contrast.

Above is my drawing laid on top of Frazetta's, to see how accurate I was. The horse is ok, but I admittedly spent a lot more time on it. The guy is more off- his leg is too long and not high enough, the arm not thrown back enough. Looking at my version on its own, though, I do still think it works.

Here, I digitally went over it in Photoshop just for kicks. (I actually think it may be an improvement on the straight pencil version.)

Above: From MAD Magazine #90, 1964. More on Frank here!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

So, Ye Be Wantin' Me Gold???

It's St. Patrick's Day! That means corned beef and cabbage (which I had on Sunday at my Grandma's house), immense quantities of heavy, dark beers (which I had last weekend at a party), and those rascally scamps, the Leprechauns! Every year I scheme to catch one so I can plunder his fortune, and every year I am thwarted by their wily ways.

This image best represents the little devils: impish, hateful, willing to do whatever it takes to keep me from his pot o' gold.

This was an earlier attempt to depict the leprechaun. He's got the gold, and he's not willing to part with it, but I wanted something more sprightly and demonic-looking. Something you absolutely NEEDED to catch, for his gold as well as the three wishes he'll grant you. There should be no sympathy for these critters.

Here are a couple of earlier sketches. The one on the left was getting closer, but he looks a little too manic- make no mistake, these fellows are very crafty. They have outsmarted me time and time again, and as most of you know that is no small feat.

This little doodle is a few years old. It's a very different style, but you still want to punch him in the face, don't you?

Which image is your favorite?

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Floating Head

I drew this fellow, again, as a doodle on a piece of scrap paper at work, and after a process of scanning, coloring, and painting, he found himself a disembodied glowing head floating outside his freaky cave on Mars or something.

What hideous misfortunes could have led this man to such a state?

Late Night 'Tude

Like a lot of art professionals, I regularly follow John K's blog for info on cartooning principles, drawing lessons and hilarious rants about the state of modern art and culture. One of the things he consistently rails against is the proliferation of "'tude" in modern cartoon marketing. You definitely know it: it's that smarmy, smug facial expression that denotes no kind of emotion but turns up everywhere:

I think it's supposed to show that the character is one step ahead of the game, hip, and with it, man. They have "attitude", as it were. Marketers get the same effect by slapping sunglasses on their characters.

Bugs Bunny is always saddled with this identity now, even though in the original cartoons he was much more wily and likable. This expression just makes him look like an obnoxious, arrogant jerk. There's nothing at all appealing about this.

Now to the point of this post. I thought to myself, do you ever really see this expression on real people, or was it just invented out of thin air for cartoon characters? Of course, it does occur in real life, and I suddenly remembered the best recent example I saw on TV:

John K's rants can be found here:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Classy Lady Doodle

Hey folks. Just trying to keep this thing from getting too stale (in case there's anyone who actually reads it!). This is just a quick doodle I did at work today and colored on the tablet for fun. It's just a regular ballpoint pen like all us desk jockeys use at work, so it is very rough.

I've got a few topics to talk about on here, and plenty of sketches, so I'll get to those when I get a chance.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Green Ghoul

Today I just have a sketch of a weirdo guy I drew in the late hours. Just practicing digital coloring/painting.

Not a very friendly-looking customer, is he?

He looks like someone out of a Coen Brothers movie. He could be played by John Turturro.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Flintstone Buddies

Thought I'd give the old Flintstones another go:

This one came out a bit better, I think. Again, I did it on the Wacom tablet, which gives me these raggedy, wobbly lines that I can't seem to avoid. I may be better off doing the outlines in Illustrator in the future (these are Photoshop). Here's how I did it:

Step 1: Pencil outlines. I sketch it in very rough on one layer with a pencil-like brush to get everything down.

Step 2: Inking. This is done with a more solid brush, with an attempt to clean up the lines and clarify everything. Thicker brushes for the larger forms, smaller brushes for the details and smaller forms. This is where I get these wobbly lines I mentioned earlier. Sometimes I'll use different colors for different parts of the outlines, but not here.

Step 3: Coloring. Separate layer. The nice thing about drawing with the tablet is I can place the layer under the lines, and not worry about layer blending options or how to get the outlines to show through the color.

Step 4: Backgrounds. Again, separate layer. I do solid colors first, then...

Step 5: Details. I use a different layer again to add shading and brushstroke effects. Here, I kept the characters flat, to preserve a cel-like look, but sometimes I'll add these effects to the characters as well.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


A little Donald doodle I cooked up.

Cartoon duck heads are incredibly fun to draw. The bills have these very satisfying curves to them. I always loved the way Donald's (and Daffy's, too) beak came to that rounded point and you could see where it folds back up around itself. There's a delightful logic to it.

I could draw duck bills all day. Here are some drunken unpleasant ducks I drew on Post-Its at work. They're hidden on my website.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Pre-War Ladies of the Ink & Paint Club

An interesting article I read in Vanity Fair (weird magazine for me to be reading, I know):

"Behind the breakthrough magic of Walt Disney’s first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and his other 30s and 40s classics—Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi—toiled as many as 100 young women, the inkers and painters, working from dawn to dusk on thousands of cels that brought his dreams to life. The author recaptures their white-gloved esprit de corps, and a golden age of Disney that would be disrupted by strike, World War II, and, eventually, the Xerox machine."

It's a really cool profile of the ink & paint department of Walt Disney Studios in the early days of their feature animation in the 30s and 40s. One of the most interesting aspects is the accepted sexism that went on in those days, not unlike the popular and highly-rated cable TV series Mad Men. The department consisted entirely of young women, and it seems as though the male animators were almost encouraged to flirt with them. Look at Walt's invitation to the company Christmas party:

"All fillies should come in slacks or other very informal attire. Of course, if you want to be glamorous in a little satin or velvet guimpe for your favorite animator, that’s your privilege."

They worked like dogs, but the result was glorious. I know it's ridiculous to pine for the past when the modern computerized systems are so much faster, cheaper, cleaner, and more efficient, but doggone it, the result sure looked great.