So here is a new thing I’ve been drawing lately. If you accept last November as lately because that’s when I started doing them. Sketch covers. Sketch covers are comic books printed with a cover that is blank except for the logos. The covers are printed on a heavy card stock rather than the usual gloss stock. The idea is that a fan can buy one of these comics (they’re variant covers that they only print a few of) and have his favorite artist draw a sketch right on the cover. Plus sometimes artists buy the covers themselves, draw on them, and then sell them for a few bucks to fans. I decided to be one of those artists. I like comics and I draw cartoons so why not?
Of course the first problem I had was what to draw. I don’t draw super-heroes much and, as I’ve mentioned before, I am really not much of a sketcher. I make drawings my own way that doesn’t really fit in with sketch covers so it was a bit of a challenge figuring out what to do. I decided to start by copying. The Wolverine drawing on the “All New X-Men” cover is taken from a panel in the comic. I blew it up and made it into the sketch cover. I did it in India ink and Copic marker. That’s what I’ve worked with for all my sketch covers. I think it came out alright and served it’s purpose but after a couple more coversfor which I took an interior panel and made it into the cover I was done with that.
The drawing of Cable from “Cable and X-Force” was the next step on my sketch cover journey. It’s taken from a panel in the comic but it’s not as much of a copy as the Wolverine one. I drew it more in my own style than the ones that came before it but still it’s not a whole lot like I’d draw normally. Or at least the subject matter isn’t. I’d never drawn Cable before and don’t have much reason to again. I decided to put some of these up on Ebay to see if anyone would want to buy one so I kept things pretty normal and what passes, to me, for commercial. Turns out no one really cared though. Even for the low price of thirty dollars no one bid on one. I’m pretty much losing money at that price too. Still I persevered.
For the next step I stared doing some of my own figures. They are generally less super-hero-ish than the sketch covers I had done before but at least this “Fearless Defenders” drawing of Valkyrie has a little more of myself in it than the other ones. I did this one as a black and white ink drawing to see if that interested anyone on Ebay any more than the marker ones did but it drew just as much non-interest. Eventually I colored it with markers because I like it better that way even if no one else cared. I like working in color.
Now we get to the one sketch cover that someone actually bought on Ebay. It’s a mash-up of Calvin and Hobbes and Wolverine and Captain America. It was fun to do and came out looking good but took me way longer than it was worth to sell for thirty dollars. Plus how many mash-ups could I do? I’m not a huge fan of them. They just feel a little cheap and exploitive to me. At least doing them does. Of course I’m doing sketch covers which already have me drawing someone else’s characters so what difference does it make? I did one more mash-up before I got tired of them.
Since nothing, except one mash-up, that I was trying to sell on Ebay sold I started drifting farther away from commercial art and more into my own quirky art style. This drawing of Aquaman has nothing to do with the Aquaman inside the book. It makes no attempt at a super-hero style and the character isn’t even on-model with the one inside the comic. It even has one of my weirdo building in the background. I wasn’t even thinking about selling this one and so worked only to please myself. If it’s not going to sell anyway who cares what anyone else thinks? I think it’s a fun drawing.
Next comes “Peace Sign Wolverine”. Talk about out of character. With this one I started making these sketch covers like I would any other of my drawings. I looked through my inkbooks to find a small drawing to work from and found one that inspired this. I have no idea why a small drawing of a guy giving the peace sign reminded me of ol’ Wolvie but it did. I drew the guy up as Wolverine in the cartoon style I had originally done the ink sketch in. I like it. It’s fun. No one one on Ebay cared. Such is life.
Next we have Thanos on a “Thanos Rising” cover. I had completely given up on Ebay and selling these in general at this point. You can tell because it doesn’t have the nice neat border and info type presentation that I was using for Ebay. Nothing but a plain scan here. Still I like this one. It’s more me. It’s fairly on-model for the Thanos inside but his face is twisted and marked up as I’m fond of doing in my non-sketch cover drawings. He’s not the oh-so-serious scary monster of the Marvel Universe but I think the drawing is interesting. At least I can look at it.
Finally we have what might be my least commercial drawing of the bunch. The character’s name is Arcade. He’s as on-model as he can get in this distorted style that I’m using but he looks nothing like the drawings inside. I like him though. I’m glad I could come up with something to do with him that wasn’t par for the course.
What did I learn from this whole sketch cover experience? I still have bad instincts for sales. Some people are good at having their finger on the pulse of what people want but I’m not. When I’m thinking about what other people might like my work gets boring. I don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. When I’m working to please myself I think my work is more interesting. The general public might not but it turns out that they’re no help to me anyway. Oh, well. Looks like I’ll have to go on being unknown for a while longer.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got four new comics:
And now for a review of something I’ve read recently.
”Mind MGMT” Issues 6-10 by Matt Kindt
I’m writing a little review of ”Mind MGMT” again after reviewing issues 1-5 last fall. I wanted to revisit is because the book has gotten even better. It’s a conspiracy story with weird super-powers thrown in. It’s full of secrets and twists and turns so I won’t reveal any of that here.
The first story arc was fairly straight forward. A reporter was working on a story and trying to find stuff out about a secret government organization called Mind MGMT. In particular she’s looking for one legendary agent who might have answers for her. It was a good story with a nice reveal at the end.
This second story arc deals with that reporter and a few ex-agents of the now dissolved Mind MGMT (or it may have already been dissolved before the first story arc I can’t remember) as they try to stop someone from recruiting former agents with super-powers for nefarious purposes. The reporter who was an outsider character now has other outsider characters to work with. It’s a fun scenario filled with tension and intrigue.
Kindt’s art and storytelling are top notch just like in the first story. He has a drawing style that might not appeal to fans of super-hero art but I like it a lot. He also added a new thing to the storytelling of this arc. He’s writing a text story in the margins of the pages with a sentence or two on a page. I guess you can read all that stuff after the comic but I like to read it as I go along. It’s odd. It interferes with the standard storytelling of a comic page but I like it. Somehow the interference of another level of text works for me.
So what are you waiting for? ”Mind MGMT” is a good comic. One of my favorites right now.
A couple of years ago I wrote about getting into using magic markers as a medium after not having used them since my college days. As I have now settled into a marker technique that I’ve been using for a while I thought I’d write about it. First off I’ll start with the paper. Most of the marker drawings I’ve been making lately have been small. Though I’ve used bristol board and special marker board lately I’ve been using Strathmore Ready Cut 5×7 140 lb 500 Series watercolor paper. It’s nice paper. I like the feel and color of it and it soaks up the ink nicely. You can get a pack of twenty five 5×7 inch sheets of it for about six dollars. I often cut larger sheets of paper to size for other tasks but here it’s easier to spend the six dollars.
The markers I use are Copic markers. I’ve tried a lot of different brands of markers over the last few years, ShinHan, Chartpak, Blick, and Prismacolor to name a few and they’re all pretty good but I like the Copics the best. They have a lot of good colors to choose from and are a quality marker but what I like best about them is that they’re refillable and the nibs can be replaced. They’re expensive to begin with at six to eight dollars a marker but throw in a six dollar bottle of ink that refills the marker ten times and the individual marker cost comes way down. Still fifteen dollars a color to start out is a lot of money. I usually only buy the refill after I try out a color and decide that I like it.
In this first drawing I’m featuring a single color, the purple, and building the rest of the color around it. The brightness of the green hair grabs you attention first but everything is still built around the purple. That’s the rock. I’m also bouncing the flatness of graphic forms against the modeled features of her big-eyed face and strange arms. I’m a fan of flatness and that is a big part of what this image is about. Many of my paintings feature the flat plane of the canvas. It’s the legacy of modernist painting and I find that it suits me. Besides the Copic markers there is some white charcoal pencil in there.
In the second drawing, that has the obvious title of “I See You”, you can see my love for drawing weird faces. Oddly enough the black line in all of these marker drawings isn’t made with a Copic marker. I find that is I use a black Copic marker it bleeds/blends into the color. That makes sense since Copic markers are made so you can blend the colors together but I never want my black line to bleed into the color. I ended up using a Japanese Sign Pen for the black line. It’s dull, water based, and stays put. Just as often I’ll use a brush and India ink but never a Copic black sketch marker. The Copic Multiliner black marker is a different type of marker and won’t bleed but is too small for my taste except on rare occasions. In this drawing I’m using a scumbling technique to dab color on and blend layers of different color together. I’ve only used that technique recently and find that I like if for my weird faces.
The third marker drawing is one of my “Eyeboob” drawings. Don’t ask me how I think these things up but the naming is rather straightforward. This one is not about flatness but about modeling. I used the color techniques that I learned way back in the mid 1990s when I was learning to painting gouache and there is more color in there than is obvious. I start with three values of a color. Let’s say a dark, medium, and light of her skin tone. After I draw those in I pick a dull shadow tone. That pushes the shadows back in space. After that I pick a warm highlight tone and use a little of that to add life to the lighter areas without pushing them back in space. Finally I go in with some white charcoal highlights. These I like to make dance around the surface of the drawing. They’re not always about reality but too many of them in the wrong places can make everything look phony. White highlights are the final touch but I have to be careful not to overdo it.
The fourth and final marker drawing here is another of my faces. I made both of these faces this week and couldn’t choose between them so I posted both. Once again I’m using that scumbling technique. Much like the figure drawing from above there is more color in there then is first apparent. There are darks and lights and dulls and cools plus some highlights. This face is about roundness but with some flatness thrown in too. The first face had barely a hint of flatness but this one has the big black shape of his shoulder standing up to be counted. Here I used flatness to bend the space. That shoulder is so long and not exactly where it would be in reality so it starts to more forward in space a little. It’s one of those weird things to be found when sketching and playing with shapes. Sometimes I like to reflect reality and sometimes I like to play with it.
One last thing. What do those two faces have in common? The color of their lips is red. I like to make faces of every color. I’ve got green and blue on this very page. One of the stranger things that I’ve learned about making weird colored faces is that the lips can’t be a weird color. I used to think that if I made a blue face the lips should be blue and a green face should have green lips. The color of the lips should be a darker color of the skin tone similar to what our lips are. I could never work that out. Whenever I would make blue or even bluish lips on a blue face it would look funny. So I started making them all red all the time. I find that works much better even when I think it shouldn’t. Take, for example, this green face. Green and red are complimentary colors which means that they have habit of fighting each other for our visual attention. You have to be careful with complementary colors because they don’t harmonize well together. But the red lips look perfectly normal even on a green face. Red lips seem to anchor an unreal face in reality. At least for me. Maybe someone else has a different approach and can make it work but not me. Lips will almost always be red.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got four new comics:
And now for a review of something I’ve read recently.
”Harbinger” Issues 0, 8-10, and Harbinger Wars 1 by Joshua Dysart and a different artist every issue.
Since I read all of these issues of “Harbinger” together I thought I’d write a blog about them. The first one is a “Zero” issue that tells the origin story of the super-villain who runs the Harbinger corporation. He was a kid in Hiroshima when the city was destroyed by an atomic bomb. There was some pretty horrible stuff going on in these flashbacks especially knowing that real horrible stuff went on then. But Toyo Harada, the main villain, discovered his super-powers because of the chaos and devastation. The rest of the story takes place in the present day as Harada is using another child with super-powers to complete a violent mission. It’s a good story and a good comic that’s loaded with layers of grey. “Harbinger” is not your regular good versus evil super-hero story.
Issues eight through ten of the regular series bring us back to the present day story of Peter Stancek, a super-powered teenager recruited by Harada, who is recruiting a team of other super powers teenagers (who Stancek “Activates”) to fight against Harada and his corporation. There is a real order versus chaos thing going on in this comic. It blurs the line between good and evil. Harada is the villain but he’s also on the side of order. He wants to remake the world so it’s a better place but he’s going about it by being violent and using people. The kids are chaos. They’re untrained and therefore dangerous and don’t really have any kind of plan besides to fight Harada and his plans. So far they haven’t needed a plan since Harada has been after them. Sometimes I feel for Harada’s point of view but when the weight of his violence comes down on people that feeling goes out the window. These three issues were the best of the bunch. It’s well done stuff.
“Harbinger Wars” number one is a mini-series cross-over story with another Valiant published comic “Bloodshot”. This was the weakest issue of the bunch. That’s mostly because it spent it’s time telling the story of what has been happening in the two series over the last bunch of issues. If you’re coming to “Harbinger Wars” cold it sure has a bunch of story info that you need but if you’re not then it looks like the story will start for real in issue two.
All of Valiant’s comics have been of pretty high quality since their relaunch. Despite their being a different art team for each of theses issues they were all solid. If you’re in the mood for modern super-hero-ish comics check these out.
I got it in my head this week to write about pencils. Not just any pencils but he pencils I use and how I use them. Pencils are such a simple tool but there are a lot of different kinds of them. Some artists only ever use one type of pencil and I actually have more pencils than this but these are the seven that I use the most. These are the ones that are always on hand in the side tray of my drawing table. The other types of pencils that I have are tucked away in a box and only taken out on the rare occasion that I need them. Or the other pencils could be ones that I bought to try out and see what they can do but I never found a good use for them. I always like try out new pencils and new black markers.
The first three pencils on the left are all mechanical pencils. I used mechanical pencils a lot in my youth, didn’t use them very much in my twenties, and then picked them up and again used them regularly sometime in my thirties. Mechanical pencils are all identified by the width of the graphite (it has never been lead in my lifetime but I still call it that sometimes) that they hold. The yellow one is .9mm, the blue one .7mm, and the black one .5mm. That means that the yellow one has the thickest lead in it. That’s a fairly new pencil too. I bought it within the last five years. I don’t even think they made them that thick before then. At least I never saw them. It’s still a pencil you can only find in art catalogues.
The black mechanical pencil it the size most people have. It’s the .5mm size that’s found in every school supply store around. This particular pencil is a specialty drafting pencil that, I think, someone gave to me or found at a garage sale back when I was in high school. Functionally it’s no different than a cheap .5mm pencil that can be found anywhere but it’s much better made and feels good in the hand. The black pencil also looks a little different than the standard model. The yellow and blue ones are how a Pentel mechanical drafting pencil usually looks and I have some .5mm ones that look like that too but occasionally I find an off-model one like this black .5mm. I don’t know why it was made differently but I like it.
The blue .7mm pencil is the one I use the most. If I want a little blunter lead I grab the .9mm or if I want a little sharper point I grab the .5mm but it’s mostly the .7mm. I find the size suits me. As a matter of fact I think the .7mm size was responsible for me using mechanical pencils again back in my early thirties. I had mostly used the more common .5mm in my youth and it was okay but when I discovered the .7mm later on I liked it much better.
I use soft graphite in these mechanical pencils. Graphite goes from “B” which is soft to “H” which is hard. Numbers modify the letter too. So 6B is really soft and 2B soft while 6H is really hard and 2H is just hard. I keep 2B in these pencils. That’s very soft for a mechanical pencil and you wouldn’t even be able to find that graphite in a school supply store. You have to find it in an art store or catalogue. Most school supply mechanical pencils come with HB graphite that is right in the middle of the softness scale. I keep an extra one of each of these size pencils around with HB graphite in them just in case I need some harder graphite.
The fourth pencil in line is a wooden one that I use for graphite transfers. It’s a 2H which makes it a fairly hard pencil. I don’t like to draw with hard pencils. I used to use them all the time in my 20s because they’re what a lot of cartoonists use but they never suited me. I only use them now when I’m transferring a drawing using graphite paper. Graphite paper is sort of like old-time carbon paper except instead of ink the paper is covered in graphite. You put down a clean sheet of paper, set the graphite paper on top of it, then put a paper (usually an inkjet copy in my case) with a drawing on it on top. Then trace the drawing that’s on top. The pressure of the pencil transfers the graphite from the graphite paper to the bottom blank sheet. I need a hard pencil to get a good transfer line. That’s why I use the 2H.
The fifth and sixth pencils are the same. General’s white charcoal pencils. I use these to add highlights to my marker drawings. Plus I sometimes draw on black paper with them. That’s kinda fun. I put two of them in the photo to show you my improvised pencil extender. That’s the blue part on the bottom of the first white pencil. It’s an old “Click” eraser stick with the eraser used. I find that a short pencil fits in the end perfectly and I can hold the pencil easily again. I use one of these with all of my wooden pencils once they get halfway done. I’ve been doing that since my early twenties so that makes those plastic eraser stick holders over twenty years old. Time flies.
The seventh pencil, the green wooden one, is a 4B pencil that I start most of my drawing with. Sometimes it’s a 6B depending on what’s available but I like a nice soft pencil to start out with. The soft graphite is easily grabbed by the paper and I can use a light hand and move fast. With a harder pencil I was always pressing too hard, moving too slow, and gouging the paper. A soft pencil is harder to erase since the graphite is much darker but that’s okay with me. It’s much worse to press ruts into the paper with a hard pencil trying to make a dark line.
The eighth and final pencil is a General’s sketch pencil. Once again it’s a soft pencil, 6B, and there is no point to be found on this one. It’s blunt. I use this when drawing bigger. If I have a big 16×20 inch piece of paper I need to scale up my tools. This fits the bill nicely. I’ll switch over to a regular wooden pencil eventually but for the beginning sketch it’s the General all the way. There is no obsessing over tiny little detail when using this one. That’s what I need in the beginning stages of a drawing.
So there they are: pencils. A tool I hardly ever think about yet I use each pretty specifically and each developed their place in my side tray on their own. Interesting.