Category: Art

Graham Smith Marks: Volume 1 – Review

    I'm on this mission right now to collect all of the artbooks, comics, etc. from artists who really inspire me. ( I have a whole other post coming up about that subject.) For my birthday this year I decided to treat myself to something really special- Graham Smith's Marks: Volume 1. This is my experience.

    I had my eye on this book for a while. I was trying to find a way to buy it here in Europe. After doing my homework I realized these are limited edition signed prints and available only directly from the artist. Well worth the $25 cost of the book. After several months of coveting I decided to shoot him an email and see if he would be willing to ship one my direction. 

    I got an email back pretty quick. Graham was more than willing to go out of his way to help me out. He made the trek over to the post office to check out international shipping costs. Not cheap- almost the price of the book. In all honesty I expected that and had already figured it into my budget. This is where it gets good though. He was kind enough to offer to put a little personalized doodle in the book for me if I decided to buy it, since it was my birthday and all. I almost tore my pocket off trying to bet my credit card out!

    I sent him a return email thanking him and took the opportunity to tell him how much I admired his art, blog and how I found the videos from his website to be very inspirational. In response this is what I got in the mail a few days later (fastest shipping ever!). 

 

 

 

I have always been a HUGE fan of mail art. I've sent them out before but this is the first one I have ever received. Getting a hand decorated package in the mail is super exciting. 

 

 

 

He included a stack of art cards which I did not expect. The big one is signed.They now grace the walls of my studio.

 

 

 

Signed cover page.

 

 

 

The really cool thing was finding this gem. Sure beats an email!   

    I am not comfortable showing internal pages of this book. There is, however, a very extensive bookflip on the shop page. If you are into expressive mark making, texture and grunge then you will love Graham's artwork and I highly recommend his book. You get to be a supporter of the arts and get a collection of excellent artwork in your very own signed book.  If you would like to see the artist at work, check out his illustration process below. If you are looking for some inspiration his Sketchbook Fury series for Strathmore is a must see. I simply cannot say enough good things about this artist and his work.  

Inktober 2017

    Inktober was created by  Jake Parker in 2009 as a means to create better drawing habits and improve his inking skills. After working on my second installment of The Pines I did a self critique and decided I was thrashing some pretty decent pencil work with some pretty atrocious inking. My solution is to join the thousands of artists worldwide who are going to partake in this year's Inktober.  

    In order to get ready for Inktober I thought I would share some of my favorite ink supplies and where to get them - cheap. 

Pens

Graphic Pens

    I'm going to kick off this list with everybody's favorite- the graphic pen.  I don't personally use them that often but I know a lot of people do. Sometimes you just need one because no other tool will do and they can get really expensive. If I buy Pigma Microns in my local shop I spend about 4 euros each pen. Of course you need a few different sizes for varied line width. The end result is it gets expensive fast. 

    My solution, assuming you don't need them right away, is mail order. The pens shown are a knock-off brand. The still write very well. The ink is waterproof. You can order a pack of 8 for $4.99 at this shop  on AliExpress.

    If you are a real stickler and need the real deal Pigma Microns you can pick those up on Ali as well at this shop , 7 pens for $8.00. One of the most awesome things about AliExpress is many of the sellers offer free shipping.

The pens on the left I am including because I like them just a little better than Microns. They are a brand called STA. They do everything a Micron does but the ink seems to last a little longer in these. You can pick them up for less than a dollar per pen

    I love these Stabilo pens.I don't use them as often as I would like to. I like the fine liner (point 88 style) because they make sketchy lines when you fill in areas of color. I really want to incorporate more of that into my work.

    They come in a variety of colors and two different point styles-the 88 and 68. The 68 is a fatter marker looking tip. You can pick them up most places that sell stationary for about 2 euros a pen. Sometimes you can get them in 12 packs for less than 10 euros. 

Bamboo Dip Pens

I know everyone thinks of the crow quill variety when they think of dip pens. I suggest you give bamboo dip pens a try. They make really expressive marks and lines. Definitely not for control freaks as they do seem to have a mind of their own when it comes to line variation. They are excellent for drawing organic elements, animals and foliage. 

Depending on where you live and their availability you can pick these up anywhere from a few dollars a pen to "are you freaking serious?". I prefer to make my own. You can pick up bamboo at your garden center or on Amazon. A bundle of it usually costs $5-$8 and will make many many pens. You can find vidoes on making these pens on Youtube , or if you have Skillshare check out Jen Dixon's video

Gel Pens

    This pen is the reason I don't use graphic pens more often. My secret weapon- the diamond head gel pen. As you can see this pen gets quite a lot of use. I love it because the ink is water resistant. If you don't go too thick with the ink you can go over it with a wash of water and it won't move. The other really super cool thing I love about this pen is that you can turn it on an angle and do some shading with it like a pencil. When I need a pen for drawing, this is the one I reach for. 

    You can lay hands on these pens cheap as chips here. As an added bonus you can buy refills for them and save even more money. This seller  offers the water resistant ink refills. Not all refills are created equal. I knew a lady who did awesome artwork with gel pens where she would wet and smear the ink. If you are into that kind of thing you can get the non-waterproof refills here.

Brushes

Water Brushes

    It seems like over the last few years everyone has jumped on the bandwagon of water brushes and brush pens. I combined the two by sticking my india ink in my water brushes. This way I can mix the ink to the darkness I want it and then label my brushes so I know which one is 100% ink and which is a 25% wash. The points on these say nice and sharp. I've had ink in them for some months now and if I keep the caps on they do not dry out.

    You can get them here in packs of 3 varied sizes (S,M,L) or buy them individually.

 

Chinese Calligraphy Brushes

    I bought these brushes on a whim a few years ago because I wanted to see what the hype was about natural hair brushes and I thought they looked cool. They are now among my favorite art tools. I love them for both inking (in a smaller variety) and watercolor. They hold a ton of water/paint/ink. The tips come to a fine sharp point when wet and are great for painting in details, while the same brush can be used to fill in large areas of color. You can find them easily at a range of prices by doing a search on AliExpress for "calligraphy brushes".  I usually pay $1-$2 each.

Chinese Calligraphy Waterbrush

I don't use these as a waterbrush though they do have the function of being filled with water. They do not have a cap so I don't know how well they would hold ink -never tried. I am including them in my list because I like the brush quality just a little better than some of the calligraphy brushes out there. They seem to hold more water and have a sharper point. 

You can pick them up for $1 a brush at this shop. You get a choice of SML in white or brown brustles. Typically the brown bristles are stiffer with more snap than the white bristle brushes which are softer. 

Chinese Calligraphy Brushes - Small

   These are my absolute favorite for inking linework. I have tested out my fair share of small calligraphy brushes trying to find one that makes the finest most controlled marks and this one really does it for me. The lines they make are very expressive and don't look like lines made by western paint brushes. I think you have to test them out to see what I mean. 

I bought them at this shop. Even with shipping they come out to about $1 per brush. Don't let the name fool you they are not made from real wolf hair. It is actually a type of weasel called a "mouse wolf". 

Riggers

    These brushes are on the shorter fatter end of the spectrum for rigger brushes. Unfortunately they shop that I bought these from no longer carries them. They are synthetic hair and make sharper straighter lines than Chinese calligraphy brushes. I guess you could say they are the crow quill of the brush world. I quite like them even though the marks they make have a bit of a sterile feel. If you are into crisp clean lines I would give these a go. Even though they are a generic brand, I paid a little more for these than my other brushes but they are worth it. I'm sure similar products can be found at just about and art supplier in just about every quality you can imagine. 

    So, that's it for this post. I hope all of you get some enthusiasm for honing your inking skills. It should be fun to have a log of where your skill level was at the beginning of the month vs. where is ended up by the 31st. So happy inking and remember ------------------->

The Pines: Reboot

    Now that I have my script for Colony: Origins completed, and have been hard at work improving my drawing and painting skills, I have come to the conclusion I need to work on comic creation and hone my skills. 

    I have been trying to come up with some story ideas. One of them was Java Dreams, the other is reworking a story I wrote several years ago called The Pines.  The Pines is a Southern Gothic horror story. I'm still hammering out details. I am making a lot of changes to the story. I liked the basic plot of the story but there was something really wrong with it.

    After going over all the notes I can find (my original complete script is lost so I only have first attempt artwork and 25 pages of thumbnails with dialogue to work from) I came to the conclusion that the pacing is really manic. It almost goes Once upon a time - the end. What was I thinking?  Most of the time you have to cut parts of a story to make it more coherent, I actually have to add more story to my story.

    

Original Artwork

    The next thing to tackle is the artwork. With the original comic I spent very little time in character design and really rushed my page output. The result was really terrible artwork. 

    This time I am spending more time developing the look of the characters. Overall, fairly similar in general appearance, but more cleaned up, and tighter drawing. The original scratchy pencils weren't doing it for me. I think I was trying to go for a grunge look.

    Another thing I've discovered is that, after years of avoiding trying it, I love inking with a brush. I think initially the notion that I wouldn't be able to make fine lines or that I wouldn't have as much control kept me from giving it a go. Now i'm wishing I would have tried it years ago. My new best friends are Chinese calligraphy brushes.  

    

       Recently I joined the Comic Fury community. I've been picking up quite a bit of info on comic creation from those guys. One of the most important topics touched on was output. The standard output for an online comic seems to be about a page a week. I was rushing doing the penciling trying to put out at least three pages a day.

    Now that I feel like I can slow it down and do it right. I am more likely to publish my comic in coherent chunks. I don't want to publish something in mid thought. That's not my idea of a cliffhanger. My aim is to update weekly, but if it takes longer that's ok. I really am more interested in doing as good a job as I can rather than having a huge output of rubbish.  

    So script writing is where I am right now. Once I have the script completed I will begin updating the comic once every week or so until the story is complete. Stay tuned. 

New Look

Drawing Poses: Make Your Own References

       In my opinion, the hardest references to find are ones concerning figure drawing for scenes and individual poses- odd angles, multiple subjects and especially those scenes where there is action going on, like a fight. What should you do? Where can you find copyright free references to use in your artworks? You can make your own - free.  Here's how: 

Daz3D Studio

    Daz3D Studio- I'm putting this one top of the list because I think most people will find it the most appealing, and with good reason. The basic program and models are free. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of models, props and outfits in their store for you to purchase and add to your models and scenes. The models are beautiful. When working with the models setting up a scene they feel very lifelike- as if they actually had bones and muscles inside their bodies. Pretty cool. I admit having a limited knowledge of this program because it is a little overwhelming to use with all of it's options. Basically I haven't taken the time out to actually learn how to use it, so it is me being lazy. Overall I am very impressed with what I have seen and I really need to make a point to get more familiar.  

Poser

    Poser - At the moment this one is my favorite. This is the Poser 6 version. I got it as a gift years ago and it has served me well. While this software isn't exactly free (various versions have various pricetags) it is easier to use than other programs. You can set up a scene and render it in minutes. Figures can be displayed as full or as boxes. I also like that the interface is drag and drop and the posing window can be resized. The only real downside is that the models are not as lifelike as the models in Daz3D Studio, at least in my version. The link I have provided will get you a free trial version of Poser 10. 

Make Human

    Make Human - I have to admit that until I started researching for this article I had never heard of this program. I decided to go ahead and include it because it is a 100% free open source program. Should you be so inclined, you can code for it and make your own versions. I also am intrigued by other features, such as the sliders to change the race of your models. I'm curious to know if you can set up scenes with multiple models. I think it warrants further investigation. 

Posemaniacs

    Posemaniacs -  This is not as customizable as Poser or Daz3D, however, there is an app that will allow you to use it on your smartphone. There is a huge library of poses that can be rotated 360 degrees. Sadly, this only applies to Y axis. It is free, although, you can make donations on the website. More poses are being developed. 

Drawing Lights and Darks

  When I was 15  I took my first art class in high school. To get in the class I had to present some of the work I had done on my own at home so the teacher could see where my skill level was at. I presented a large portrait of a musician in a band I liked. She praised my work. Then when the class started I was informed I was doing it all wrong. Up until that point I had always drawn things by gaging angles and distance. When we started doing portraits in class I was introduced to proportional grids. This is what we were taught. This is what we were expected to do. This is what we were being graded on. And on and on this went as a red thread in every art class I took, every book I bought for the next 27 years. 

I'm not saying don't learn this method. I'm saying learn it and break this rule as fast and often as possible. The late and great Andrew Loomis has a series of drawing books you can get as a free pdf download.  Learn it, know it, do something else. Here's why: 

I drew the sketch above a few minutes ago. It is a very generic example of a face you can get drawing a proportional grid. The problem with drawing this way is that your brain switches to this mode of drawing symbolically instead of drawing what is really there. So you end up trying to draw the grid instead of your subject. Not to mention that unless you are a 20-40 year old white person of averge weight, your face won't fit this grid anyway.  I won't even mention the part where it takes so much time to get the grid drawn, then you draw your portrait and getting it looking nice, then you have to ruin your drawing trying to erase your grid. Oh wait, I just did. 

  Young white women are the most common drawing subjects for portraits among beginners. Once you start branching away from that and learning to draw other ethnicities and age groups you realize their proportions range greatly. I don't even have the same face I had 10 years ago. So what do we do to fix this problem? Learn to draw lights and darks. 

   Below are a series of sketches I did very quickly. I spent less than a minute on each. They are the first pass of blocking-in a portrait using techniques I learned from Jonathan Hardesty's Essentials of Realism class.  In this class we learned the best way to block in a portrait it to loosely measure your angles using areas of light and dark as a guide. So instead of drawing a face or an eye you draw the highlights and the shadows around it. Doing this allows you to block a portrait or entire scene in very quickly, then you make passes tightening it up. They may not look like much, but the thing I thought was really cool is that just by doing this you get the placement down lightening fast and already the sketches look like each other. This is very exciting for someone like me, who does sequential art and struggles with getting my characters to look the same in every frame.  As an added bonus, you also start paying more attention to the value structure in your subjects. I won't even mention the time saved not having to block in a stupid grid. Oh wait..

The next drawing I did of Marlene Dietrich. I did about 3 passes tightening things up. It's easier, at first, to do subjects that have a lot of contrast in them. Start by drawing the shadow shapes. Group everything into dark. light and midtone. Let your darks and lights describe your forms. Remember to squint and let your color ranges group together. This takes practice but it's very worth it. You are training yourself to see things differently. Once you get the hang of this then you can move to subjects with less contrast. In some cases the lessons you learned drawing constructively (using a grid to draw contours) will actually come in handy on subjects with few or no shadows on their faces. Still it is a good idea to think of drawing your subject by edge shapes, no matter how vague they may be, in order to keep your brain from drawing symbolically.

I wanted  to point out  that even though I used portraits as subject matter this method can be used to draw anything. I urge you to try it. If people aren't your thing try a still life. I also urge you to check out Jonathan Hardesty's class on Schoolism.  If free is more in your budget or you want to get a preview of what to expect then you can check out his channel on Twitch.

Scream for Free Kyle T. Webster Brushes

This just in......

    Adobe is running a contest for the next week to download a set of brushes and digitally copy Edvard Munch's "The Scream". The reward is $6000 cash, but that's not the best part. The best part is the brushes are FREE and created by none other than the magnificently genius illustrator/digital brush maker, Kyle T Webster

    If you are unfamiliar with Kyle T. Webster's brushes I highly recommend heading over to his site and checking them out. I started out with a few from his sampler sets and then splashed out on the Mega Pack. And I'm not even a digital painter!

    The super cool thing is Kyle is awesome enough to sell through Gumroad, so if you have a hard drive crash and lose all your stuff your brush library is safe forever. Just go to the site and download them again for free. 

    If you want to see the brushes in action check out this video: 

 

 

Art Prompt #1 – July 2017

I have been on the (nearly) daily drawing path since last October. I moved a couple of months ago and took a few weeks off drawing to get packed/moved/unpacked. When I sat down to draw again I had a killer artist block. I really had to push hard to get past it. One of the things I was having the most trouble with was I couldn’t think of anything to draw. I finally got on Pinterest and started looking for writing and drawing prompts to inspire me. Thankfully there were one or two that I liked and it got me going. Sadly, I noticed there were a severe lack of what I call “good ones”. I mostly like ones Halloween or horror themed. Most of them repeatedly listed “draw your favorite animal”, “draw your favorite food”. Well ok that’s something, but when you have a lot of years ahead to draw something every day and every prompt is the same as the next, it’s going to get uninspiring fast. Long story short, I saw a need for art prompts in the world, so I decided to make some. I have made up a full year’s worth in advance of this post. So I have a bit of material to keep me going until I come up with some more.  Without further ado, here is my first ever art prompt for the 31 days of July:

Cross Genre, Multimedia Grab Bag

1) Comic book character (already existing or one you’ve designed)

2) TV show villain

3) Steampunk

4) Noir film still

5) Movie character

6) Book villain

7) Cyberpunk

8) Video game character

9) Movie prop

10) Environment – Aquatic

11) Post apocalyptic

12) Revolver

13) Old car/ truck

14) Comic book villain

15) TV show character

16) Punk

17) Silent film still

18) Environment- Subterranean

19) Video game prop

20) Hot air balloon

21) Diesel punk

22) Post apocalyptic weapon

23)  Environment – Interior (any)

24) Book character

25) Movie villain

26) Futuristic car/ truck

27) Ray gun

28) Video game villain

29) Environment- Urban landscape

30) TV show prop

31) Victorian

The rules: There are no rules! This list is meant to be an idea starter. If you don’t like one then substitute it with another, come up with your own idea. You don’t have to do them in order. Style listings (Victorian, Steampunk etc) can be anything- clothing, architecture, a prop, an environment. Props can be anything, an example would be a priest’s bible from The Exorcist or Doctor Who’s phonebox. Environments don’t need to be detailed- draw a hallway. The idea is to get you thinking about perspective/ spacial awareness.  Use a reference. Draw from imagination. Have fun. Use any medium. Experiment. Draw as many days as you can, but strive for all 31. Good luck!