Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Dr Sketchy's Retro Art Show: Done!

Woke up and decided the face had to change, the background details had to come back and that it was still too red.

I'm sure I'll want to fix and fiddle with it in another hour, but it's gotta be done. . . .

Gotta pick up a frame and then bring this into Toronto.

Dr Sketchy's Retro Art Show WIP4

Too tired to work on it intelligently -- I'm thinking it's done. I'll look again in the morning.

Dr Sketchy's Retro Art Show WIP3

It's getting there. . . .

Monday, 20 July 2009

Dr Sketchy's Retro Art Show WIP2

Ugh -- not sure how much longer I'll spend on this --think I'm about halfway. . . .
Background, costume and jewelry still to come. . . .

Dr Sketchy's Retro Art Show WIP1

So -- tweaked the drawing a wee bit, played with the composition, built the background in sketchup and decided that I wanted the model to take a different pose. . . . .
. . . The problem with that, of course, is that the model is nowhere near my studio.

Several thumbnails later I come up with the pose that captures what I want -- Laura (I hope I'm remembering her name), was wearing and ankle bracelet and a toe ring or two and I want to emphasise it without having the feet point into a corner. Solution -- she's playing with one of the cushions with her feet. I think the "action" being more central and vertical will allow me to use other elements to maintain the composition.
The figure becomes more generic -- though I think I should be able to tweak this likeness towards Laura as I work.
Next up -- putting all the pieces together, blocking in values and thinking about colour. . . .

Dr. Sketchy's Retro Art Show

Dr Sketchy regulars have been asked to contribute to the 2009 Sketchy Retrospective at the Gladstone Hotel -- opening will be the 23rd.

Of course I said I'd contribute -- and, of course, I forgot until today! So, I'm going to work all day (and night if I have to) to do something for the show. I went through my First Dr. Sketchy sketchbook and chose a drawing to turn into a painting. I decided on a sketch I've posted here before.
First thing up is to fix and finish certain parts of the drawing and erase most of the swaths of tone so I can work in some environmental details. I picked up a gorgeous book about women dancers in the Arab world and I'll mine that for reference.
I'll be posting updates as I progress through the day - -and possibly night!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

DR. Sketchy's, July 13 2009

I was able to attend my first Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art School in months this past Monday (YAY!)
I brought the worst paper the draw on I've ever bought (BOO!)

No idea why I bought this paper. I rarely leave an art supply store empty handed and I'm prone to just buy things that I might try out, so I must have bought this pad on a whim. I grabbed it on a similar whim on the way out instead of my other stacks of paper. I really felt like using conté Monday, but after setting up at the Cameron House and making a few warm-up marks on the paper I had an immediate sinking feeling. The wise and gorgeous Sharlena was sitting next to me and commented that she didn't like this paper when she tried it some time ago. I tried a few other media on it and settled for carbon pencils. I really should have brought a nice slick newsprint or similar surfaced paper as that was what I really wanted to work with. Bad planning.

Since that was worst aspect of the night, I really shouldn't complain -- but since I already have I guess I'll have to live with it.

The model, Mitzy Creme, was insanely cute in a biker-chick-pixie mode you don't see very often.
Her response to someone suggesting drawing a penis on her left me snickering and laughing for a while.
The first sketch challenge was the best incorporation of Teletubby Tinkie-Winkie. I won a weird blue drink that tasted like a melted mint popsicle.
The second sketch challenge was EXTREME FAIRY TALES -- so I did a Bo Peep/Goldielocks mash-up. Sharleen won with a wonderful Peter Pan drawing and got a six-pack of delicious-looking cupcakes

Next time I'll bring supplies I'm already comfortable with.
* * * * *
I found a link that ties back to the Bridgman review:
E.M. Gist, who is an artist and teacher that does very excellent work, posted a very good looking guide to studying Bridgman on his blog . He indicates that the method was likely crafted by his art instructor at the Watts Academy. It's certainly something I'd consider including whenever I start teaching life drawing again.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Carrie Catcher

I end up with some odd assignments every now and again that just fall into my lap. During the swarm of work this past spring I was asked to draw a group caricature as a part of a corporate retirement gift. The deadline was tight, but it seemed a challenge and a nice change of pace from all the perspective drawing I was working with at the time.
It was many years since my last stab at caricature and I was given the one group photo to work from, even though I would have preferred a few of each person so I wouldn't be guessing so much when distorting or exagerrating the features.
Some colour was quickly applied, as well as some asked-for text and the clients were very happy.
One of the best aspects of being an illustrator who can draw reasonably realistically is that there's an inherent versatility in the sorts of assignments you can take. I wish I had photos of the time I designed several cartoony space aliens and participated them being made into 3D props for a theme party.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Books You Should Have

George Bridgman's Books

Whenever I review portfolios I almost inevitably recommend George Bridgman’s drawing books. They were first recommended to me by the first professional comics artist I met, George Freeman. The story he told me was that these were the books that Frank Frazetta used to learn anatomy. SOLD!

I went down to my local WH Smith’s bookseller and ordered the Dover edition of Bridgman’s Life Drawing. The book was a revelation on how to approach drawing the figure. I’d already seen a number of approaches using the stick figure and spheres and cylinders, but this was the first time I saw someone using nice, solid blocks. For the first time I was reading how the body was really put together and learning a system that made sense when put in context of a real body. As limited funds allowed I obtained all 5 of the currently available Dover paperbacks of Bridgman’s drawing books.

Now, most people might think I might be as big a booster for Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life, but they’d be wrong.

It’ll do if you really don’t have a choice, but, if you’re using the internet and can follow a link like this: Bridgman’s Life Drawing , you have a choice. I haven’t parsed the Complete book to see if the language has actually been altered, or how much of Bridgman’s organization has been disrupted, but I feel that the whole of Bridgman’s intent and approach is best taken in context of the book he placed it within.

Using Bridgman’s Books
I’d suggest starting with the one book Amazon Associates seems unwilling to let me list in the widget to the right, Bridgman’s Life Drawing. Luckily, I have what amounts to at least a yellow belt in web fu and I made a link from the title for those interested.

This book is really the best place to start with Bridgman. It was suggested to me the best way to study Bridgman was to copy each page from each book, cover to cover, and repeat until I understood it all. I’m going to pass along similar advice, but in an altered form:

1. Yes, do copy all of his drawings as you go through the books, (and do make a manikin from wire and blocks like he suggests), but don’t ever let it be mindless copying.

2. Think about why Bridgman drew shapes in a certain way, about why he merged masses together in a certain way.

3. Interrupt you sessions copying Bridgman to try and apply it to drawing from real life.

4. Try to understand why Bridgman is exaggerating and simplifying and try to apply similar thinking to exaggerating and simplifying your own drawing in your own way.

5. Do read his text, but understand that the real content in his books is gleaned from his drawings.

6. Only move on to the next book when you think you’ve taken what you can from the one you’re currently studying. Don’t fight to extract every bit of knowledge on the first pass – let the information come to you when you’re ready. The book and its contents will be there for you the next time you come to it.

I think the best order to approach studying the Bridgman books is this:
Bridgman’s Life Drawing
Constructive Anatomy
The Human Machine
Heads, Features and Faces
The Book of a Hundred Hands

The last two can be interchanged depending on your whim, since I feel the real core study is contained in the first three books, while the latter two are more about refining or breaking down the approach into more complex forms.

A real benefit to be taken from Bridgman is a solid foundation in understanding form and mass in space, which if you want to draw the human figure well from your imagination, you need. Bridgman isn’t about surface or rendering, it’s about developing a structure. In many ways, Bridgman’s approach is applicable to all imaginative drawing; start with accurate, simplified forms in space and develop them into more complex and detailed shapes as needed.

On a scale of 1-10, where 1 means the book shouldn’t even be looked at and 10 means it’s an artist’s bible I rate the Bridgman books

Bridgman’s Life Drawing 10/10
Constructive Anatomy 9/10
The Human Machine 9/10
Heads, Features and Faces 6/10
The Book of a Hundred Hands 6/10
Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life 7/10 (only if the others are unavailable)


I'm using Amazon.com as the default link online bookseller for it's near-ubiquitous place on the internet. I'm Canadian and most often use Chapters-Indigo for my online book buying. You should be able to find any book I review and recommend here at the bookseller of your choice, though I might earn gift certificates to buy even more art books if you buy them from the links to the right. What's of real importance is that the artists out there get the best information and support possible.


Monday, 6 July 2009

July Zuda Reviews

My first batch of Zuda reviews after my break – lets see what all the eager contestants cooked up!

9th Year
by Alberto Lanzillotti & Manuel Bracchi

A nicely drawn and coloured strip, it avoids most of the novice issues with Zuda entries, but there are some significant storytelling issues. The reader needs to know where the action is set and who the participants are. Clarity is important – less so in the talking heads scene that opens the story than the fight scene that wraps up the entry. The big negatives with this strip is that it feels like it was drawn for a traditional format and cut to fit in the Zuda window; so it really feels like 4 pages of comics spread over 8 and it just ends.

If a team can’t take Zuda seriously enough to craft a real entry for the format and in consideration of how those first 8 pages will be received, I really don’t think it deserves to win.
2/5 stars

By Justin Jordan
It’s a visually annoying strip – the exaggerated dot-colouring emulating old four colour printing techniques doesn’t help the strip in any way – in fact I think it obscures some the details that should be readily visible to enhance the storytelling. One page of strip makes no sense until you see the first panel of the next page – considering that one of the characters was reacting to something the audience should have been able to see, it’s a dropped ball on the part of the writer/artist.

I found the “acting” over the top and the action largely uninteresting, which turned me off on a genre I usually dig.
1/5 stars

Bloody Pulp
By Jeff McComsey & Jorge Vega

A nice, solid entry. Solid drawing, the letting needs a little work to sit better within the work and the colouring is off in places (the colour of blood is rather orange and dull, for example). As an entry, McComsey crafts a nice 8-page sequence and cliffhanger that gives a sense of place, time and character and wraps up with a good cliffhanger that might drive the right number of people to want to see what happens next.
3/5 stars

Children’s Games
By Erik Valdez y Alanis

This is a weird and occasionally charming entry. I’m not partial to the drawing style of the majority of the strip, but it’s well done for its type and it’s deviations into other styles and techniques are nicely handled.

The story doesn’t really hang together too well, but it sets up it’s ending in an interesting manner.

2.5/5 stars

Interrogation Control Element
By too many people to list here.

I guess this is the start of some sort of political thriller. The drawing is, well, its okay. Some of the drawing is too sketchy or stiff, the colouring a little flat and without nuance. The Arabic characters are drawn with white features and the colouring isn’t up to the job of covering the shortcoming. Considering that this is a story that seems to be setting itself up to deal with Middle-Eastern characters on an ongoing basis, that’s a problem.

The story feels like a technical exercise at this point – touching on a bunch of points to set up its credentials and the world it exists in, but not doing so in a manner that really caught my interest. It’s a case of doing the right things, but just not doing them well.

2/5 stars

Metropolitan Siege
By Eric & Chris Zawadzki
A damn fine entry with some really, really awful colouring. Nicely setting up its initial characters and conflict and moving to a energetic and intriguing climax I can overlook the oddball “censored” banners in the word balloons. I think Zuda is cool with the occasional F-bomb. The title bothers me some -- feels like the name of a shareware video game from the 90s. Not saying it was, just that if there were a shareware game about a city under attack and this was 1997, Metropolitan Siege would be a likely name for it. Was Alien Siege or Viral Siege already taken?

If it’s picked up, the colouring really needs to improve and, while I’m making suggestions, the inking could be more sensitive and less flat.

3/5 stars

By Aluísio Cervelle Santos

Essentially a seven-page fight sequence. It have a nice, early-80s Paradax feel to the art, though not as accomplished as Brendan McCarthy’s work, nor as surreal as his narratives.

There are occasionally weak storytelling choices next to really interesting ones as well as a few nice lettering touches. It feels like its missing something that would make me want to read more, so, despite some really strong elements, I find myself less than interested in following this strip if it were to continue.

2.5/5 stars

The Adventures of Mr. Simian
By John Bivens

Bivens’s second stab at Zuda, first solo (unless I missed one along the way). This looks like pure fun – escaped super-smart lab animals on the run in a flying car. The drawing is very strong, lovely cartooning going on in here. I’m not a huge fan of the filters on the colouring, but it certainly doesn’t bother me to the degree the affected colouring of The Assignment does. I would like one word balloon moved on the last page so it’s easier to distinguish what’s so special about the car, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a perfect Zuda entry out of the gate.

Mr. Simian could be a strip that really kicks ass.
3.5/5 stars

The Ares Imperative
By Steve Ekstrom, Mikael Bergkvist & Jesse Turnbull

This very “talky” and slow moving entry serves as an intro to a story that implies some big, secret science project that falls flat with an ambiguous and actually dull final page. The final image of a few bodies, frozen in the snow isn’t particularly shocking or disturbing to me as a long-time comic reader, so it does nothing to intrigue me about where the story is headed. Writers should keep in mind that they aren’t competing with the reader’s own life experiences when trying to shock them, but more often their experiences from other comics.

The art is very derivative –Alan Davis and perhaps Dale Keown’s style are heavily stomped everywhere – and the inking is often clumsy. The lettering and colouring are actually the strongest elements in this entry.
1.5/5 stars

Vigilante Granny
By Don Kunkel and C. P. Wilson III

It sells itself as a superhero comedy, with an aged super-heroine who talks like someone in their 20s. There wasn’t much in the way of funny on display, but the B&W art is actually quite acceptable – things like solid perspective and consistent anatomy can usually be overlooked when humour is the supposed goal. This is a strip where the decision to go black and white was obviously a bad one. Colour would have greatly enhanced the feel that this was a superhero tale, and it looks like it was drawn with colour in mind. Page 2 suffers greatly for the lack of colour.

Should I go one more about how the lack of colour hurts this entry? Didn’t think so. Even with the colour the lack of real funny and sour note characterization would sink this one.

1.5/5 stars

Either I’m mellowing after my break from my quick reviews, or this month’s entries are actually better overall than those I’ve seen previously. On quality, my choice would be either Mr. Simian or Metropolitan Siege to win. History tends to favour the entry with the largest number of participants or a devoted local non-English support network, which might give it to Rockstar or Interrogation Control Element.

As I have in the past, I might expand or update my reviews as the ranks come out.


Sunday, 5 July 2009

What the Hell Have I Been Up To?

Lots of stuff -- most of it was fixing or cleaning up other people's work or stuff I can't share until it gets announced elsewhere. Oh, yeah, we also got a new puppy and the wife spent three weeks away in Europe so I had to adapt to single parenting while crate training and dealing with the last three weeks of my son's schooling. I was kinda busy.

Things I want to pick up again now that things have settled some include returning to monthly ZUDA reviews, posting developmental artwork for things I can share with you, I want to review and suggest a number of art books from my library -- both how-tos and artist collections -- on a monthly-ish schedule.

The illustration above was for Damon Sasser's Two-Gun Raconteur, an excellent journal on the works of Robert E. Howard. More info and how to order below:

REH Two-Gun Raconteur #13 in now avilable.
This issue of The Definitive Howard Journal made its debut on June 12th at the 2009 Howard Days in Cross Plains to rave reviews.

Contents include: "The Black Moon" by Robert E. Howard, illustrated by Robert Sankner; "Kingdoms of Clouds and Moonmist" by Brian Leno, illustrated by Bob Covington; "The Hyperboreans Re-imagined" by Morgan Holmes, illustrated by Richard Pace; "Kings of the Night: A: Bran Mak Morn Portfolio" by Michael L. Peters; "The Skald and the King" by Chris Green, illustrated by Bill Cavalier; "The Long and Winding Road: A Poetic History" by Rob Roehm, illustrated by David Burton; "Sailor" Steve Cositgan: A Portfolio" by Clayton Hinkle; Verse by Frank Coffman; "The Mighty Revelator Passes" Tributes and Final Farewells to Steve Tompkins, plus additional artwork and features.

LIMITED EDITION of 250 numbered copies.
Price is $23.00 per copy ($19.50, plus $3.50 for US shipping and handling)
Order from and make checks and money orders payable to:
Damon C. Sasser6402 Gardenspring Brook LaneSpring, TX 77379
Payment also accepted via PayPal:orders@rehtwogunraconteur.com

I really enjoy contributing to projects like this, partly because I'm a Howardhead, but also because the journal is so well done.

Later all!