I've become really frustrated with my drawing lately. I haven't been improving at the rate I expect of myself and my anatomy, particularly female anatomy, has been pretty abysmal. So I decided to take a few weeks off the comic, take a refresher course by pouring through some anatomy books, and draw a bunch of pin-up pieces.
I did an Emma Frost piece that, while okay, still had some issues. Yesterday, I decided to take a stab at Phoenix in her white duds. I found a pose I liked (one that seemed challenging with foreshortening and weight distribution) and had at go at it. This is the result. I'm really happy with it and I think I nailed the anatomy pretty well. I feel like I found a good balance between "hot comic book girl" and "well-proportioned, somewhat realistic heroine". As some of you know, I have huge issues with the sexualization of women in comics and prefer to draw my female protagonists with smaller breasts, reasonable proportions, and more clothes.
I've been working on something for the past few days (and even posted something over on the Gen Discussion forum to get feedback) and now, I'm ready to announce that it has gone from Alpha to Beta status.
It's a new way of reading Variables, not unlike what you see Mark Waid doing over at ThrillBent. I wanted to do this way back when I started Variables and after seeing its implementation by Waid & Co. I felt it was time to jump in. Their solution is simple, elegant, and entirely manageable for one person to handle (unlike my previous attempts at the system).
I really need feedback on this. Please take a look and let me know if you love it, hate it, don't care, and why you feel that way about it. I'm trying to improve the system and the only way to do that is to hear what others think of it. Cheers!
I'm tabling my first convention this weekend so, in an attempt to draw people in, I've been doing more superhero stuff and less stuff on my comic. Here are the past few drawings I've finished. All the pieces were inked with Copic Multiliners while the Doom/Reed pic was colored in Photoshop, the rest were colored using Prismacolor/Copic markers.
I'm getting ready to table at a convention for the first time ever and to prepare, I've been drawing stuff unrelated to my comic. I figure I need to have more superhero stuff to display so here are a few of the pieces I've done lately. The Doom/Reed pic was inked with Copics and colored in Photoshop, the others were inked with Copics and colored with Prismacolor/Copic markers.
I came up with this idea a few weeks back but didn't have the time to work on it until now. I spent a few hours yesterday playing around with the art style and decided to go with something really simple. The drawing makes me chuckle.
This started out as a practice piece done on 9x12" bristol board with Copic Multiliners. I thought I might be able to sell it at a con for $25 this summer or something. As it developed, I started liking it more and more and now I'm considering making it into a print. I'm even thinking of doing an "Marvel, Autumn of '68" series where I do things like draw Reed Richards playing chess against Dr Doom in Central Park.
I was flipping through some forum posts and noticed that several artists are working in an ink wash style again. It drew my attention and I realized that I haven't tried an ink wash in almost (gulp) 20 years. So I drove off to the art store, picked up more superfluous supplies I didn't really need, and decided to give it a whirl. I did a five minute Batman on a half sheet of paper , hated what I saw, and then decided to go ahead and try a "real" piece anyway.
My first attempt was Kitty & Lockheed. Kitty looks too masculine but I like how Lockheed turned out. I drew in pencil and then finished with inks and wash using a brush. My second attempt was a manga-style Leia. I haven't drawn in this style in years but it came back to me rather quickly. Overall, I enjoy it. I finished Kitty in about 90 minutes and Leia in just over an hour. Not a lot of time spent on either piece. Leia was penciled and then washed with a brush, no real inking done. I'm trying out different things to see what I like best. I think I prefer inking the piece instead of letting the pencils show through the wash.
I haven't entered anything in the January contest this month because my comic pages have been really dialogue-heavy and not visually exciting. While I enjoy drawing action scenes, I often find myself struggling more with a dialogue-heavy page than I do an action-y page. First, it's a challenge to make the page interesting to look at. Second, you have to factor in character positioning far more when there is a back-and-forth conversation in play otherwise the word bubbles just won't work. Third, you have to figure out different angles to draw because generally, the characters won't be doing much other than looking at one another.
But they're necessary. Probably even more necessary than action pages, especially for a comic like Variables that doesn't have a clear-cut villain (well, yet, anyway) and one that is more bent around exploring the minds of superhumans, not pitting them against one another in mortal combat over and over again because when people fight in this comic, one of them will usually leave the battle dead or crippled beyond recovery. It's the heart of the comic, really. If you have super-agility, your only defense is to not get hit, EVER. Because if you do, you'll take a bullet or superhuman punch just like any other poor ol' sap, meaning that you'll probably collapse a lung and bleed out before anyone can do a damned thing about it. That's why my current character, Karter Floros, is armored up like a SWAT member. First, he wouldn't be able to design a "costume". Where would one buy such a thing? Second, he'd want dark-colored body armor far more than he'd want brightly colored spandex (all the better to see him clearly and get a clean shot) just for survival's sake.
Anyway, I'm rambling a bit but I'm excited to start to get to the core of who this character is and why he's in his current situation. He's not a particularly nice guy. In fact, he's pretty much a terrorist. And as one of the primary characters to star in the Variables universe, it will be fun to explore what motivations drive a character who is as nationalistic and bitter as Karter. If you want to check out the first 11 pages of the issue, you can find it at http://variables.selfcentent.com. Here is the latest page.
Slowed down a bit during the holidays but I got back up and running last week and have cranked out two pages during that time. Every time I have a week or two off, I seem to return to the comic with a new idea on how to change my process. This time around, it was how I apply lights/darks to my flats. I used to color in cel-shading, then later I moved entirely to gradients. In the last few pages, I've started by using a gradient base layer and then using a low opacity brush (20%) to build layers of highlights and darks to the image. I like the effect, though right now it looks very tiered, almost like an old-school 256-color GIF image. In the future, I'd like to find a way to minimize that effect a bit. I may try dropping the opacity down to 15% to see if it helps.
Overall though, I'd call it an improvement. This technique allows me to easily create highlights or darks close to center on a cylindrical object (like a leg, arm, etc), where the only way to do that with gradients is to use the quite tedious lasso tool and build the highlights that way over the course of several "lasso, gradient, lasso, gradient" repetitions. This way is faster.
I think the page turned out okay. There are definitely some anatomy issues going on in a few panels but I was so burned out by the end of pencils that I was kind of phoning it in. As a whole, I think it's a decent piece of work, though far from my best. This page won't go up on the site until Tuesday so here's a preview.
Here is the second page of an action scene in Variables, the first I've done in over 7 months. Over the past several months I've improved several facets of my art in the areas of background, coloring, and inking but action scenes are still a weak point in my arsenal of art. Plotting them out, developing the best way to flow the action, and then drawing the poses is a real struggle for me and since Variables isn't terribly action-based in the first place, the problem only compounds because I don't get a ton of practice drawing these scenes (and I don't have a lick of time to draw anything BUT the comic most of the time). In any case, I think this action scene is decent but there are definitely areas where I could improve. Opinions?