Thursday, June 30, 2011

Teen Titans GO!

One of the cool things about attending so many conventions is that I get to see the same people more than once.  Sometimes it's the same con year after year and we get the chance to catch up, even more rare is the con junkie that will hit 3 or 4 major cons in one year. Those of us who set up in Artist Alley at the cons start to recognize the regulars. 

One said regular is Jeff Streeter. Good guy and fun to talk to. He first got a sketch from me in San Diego. This DeathStroke. If I remember correctly since he had a sketchbook I bumped him up the list at the last minute and in fact, I wasn't able to finish a few sketches because I spent so much time on this one. heh. He didn't mind at least. I had never seen this costume version of him and this was the first time I had ever drawn DeathStroke before.

Next I met him in NY (I know across the country, so you know he means business!) and I recognized his face immediately. He came over and because he was a repeat customer I bumped him up the list again. There were sooooo many that I didn't get to in NY that were pre-order sketches. So I kind of felt bad about doing it, but man Jeff just has this likeable mug and I couldn't say "no" to this guy.

So he requested this Arsenal. It was the first Arsenal that I've ever drawn, but while I like the character again this wasn't my favorite costume. Still fun though, I liked doing the cybernetic arm.

Again, I meet Jeff at the Chicago C2E2 convention this last spring. Turns out, repeat customers for sketches can either be considered stalkers for following you around the country or just become good friends. It's all just how you look at it. I choose good friend because the alternative is scarier. 

So to follow a Teen Titans theme Jeff had me draw this Robin, in this now familiar sketchbook. I've just realized I have done more finished drawings in his sketchbook than in my own in the past year... 
Again first time drawing Robin, but this is a costume I actually really liked. So very fun to do considering Robin and Nightwing are two of my favorite DC characters.

The only sad note to this story is that I saw Jeff again earlier this month at Heroes con in Charlotte. He had his sketchbook in hand and a glistening hopeful look in his eye. But alas, I wasn't able to get to his sketch by the end of the show. We left the show a day early and I had a limited amount of sketches I could squeeze in. I didn't want to rush it, and the only other option is an unfinished sketch and a promise that I will finish it someday. 
(*Shane knows all about that*)

So thanks Jeff, for sticking with me and being a familiar and friendly face at all these shows. I'm sure I will see you again. Probably in NY this Oct. and chances are you'll get the unfair bump up the list because I feel bad about Charlotte. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wishful thinking part the third...

Licenced properties. Well, I could have just said Independant comics or "not the big two", (Marvel or DC) but then I decided to touch on the characters that I grew up on and loved! I've actually had the chance to do a few of these in some way. My career goal would be to draw each of these professionally to some extent.

1. GI Joe:  I think I have that one covered. GI Joe was my very first solo comic. Snake Eyes: Declassified #2 and #3. Since then I've either penciled or inked 30 GI Joe comics and have drawn 41 covers!

2. TMNT: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, how awesome is it that the craziest idea possible would hit so big. It nailed one of the coolest things about the 80's...Ninjas. Everything else was just extra cheese on the pizza. Awesome character designs, and a whole world of characters to explore. It just struck a vibe with me as a kid. I remember playing with the toys at the school playground during the summer. We would dig holes and set these toy-size death traps. Then play out this huge martial arts fight scene with crazy looking mutants, Foot ninjas and that nutso, ex-jock Casey Jones. Im excited for IDW to have the license to the TMNT comic property now. Definitely check that out when it hits shelves!
Leonardo- My favorite one

Once again colors by the amazing Simon Gough!

3. Transformers: I've only done a couple pages of Transformers. And actually the main Transformers title was offered to me, but I decided to take on the current Snake Eyes title instead. Talk about a stupid-tough decision. Ugh. I would still like the chance to do something on TF though.

This character actually isn't a transformer in the official sense. In fact it's the Muni Public transportation rail in San Diego. I was commissioned by someone with the city to do this. It was the first time I had to work out a transformation and I was hooked. I loved all the detail and trying to figure out how it all works spatially.

4. Thundercats:  I actually don't even have any art to back this up. Which I will be remedying soon. I have a commission and a full week devoted to those citizens of Thundera in July for my daily sketch challenge. The whole week leading up to the new TV show, I will be doing all the main characters! I should be ashamed how pumped I am to draw this....but I'm not.

The new cartoon info!

1-hour series premiere will air July 29, 2011 at 8PM PST/EST ON the Cartoon Network
Then every Friday starting Aug 5 at 8:30PM. 

Mumm-RaaaaaAAAAAAGGGGGH You should put some pants on.

5. Star Wars:  Believe it or not, again, I dont have any art in the world of Lucas. It's a crime really. Nobody has asked me to draw it at a show and I never take time to draw what I want. So again, Im taking this year to drown myself in Star Wars sketches. So be on the look out for a FULL MONTH devoted to Star Wars daily sketches. 

Thanks to Ryan Drost , co-host of the Star Joes podcast, He gave me a butt-load of Star Wars suggestions! I totally peed myself arranging characters for Sith Week. 

Though the character Im most anxious to draw is Mara Jade Skywalker. She's strictly an E.U. character (Expanded Universe for all you trekkies) , but her design and they way Timothy Zahn built her character up, I've been wanting to draw her for years.

Well, I wish I had more art to show for these, but again.....thats why it's called wishful thinking.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Galactus at a Doughnut shop

Galactus sketch in one of the CranBoyz sketchbooks at Heroes con this year. First time drawing Galactus, and I realized that I haven't drawn many of Jack Kirby's designed characters. That stuff looks simple, but man, it's complicated as all get out.

I'll stick to reading about it, heh, I like detail, but his designs are like Escher drawings when I try to duplicate them. Crazy stuff, awesome...but it sure is crazy.

" I want that one...yes the one with Bavarian creme. mmmmmm." 

Thanks to Dave for letting me draw this for him! I need to do a post of all the CranBoyz sketches I've done. Well all of them besides the Ripper I did for Shane. I think I owe you some money for that one man.

Edit:  Ambrose sent me this pic of Galatus' version of Krispy Kreme.

Galactus' new title : "The Devourer of Large round worlds, especially those with a hole in the middle, perfect for dunking in the Milky Way."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Beachhead...or was that Firefly?

I've found there are 3 kinds of Joe fans

1. The fan that watched the cartoon as a kid and has fond memories of GI JOE but cant recall too many specifics beyond that Snake Eyes was cool, Shipwreck could do anything for some reason and with a bird involved in most cases, and that Cobra Commander wasn't nearly as cool as Destro.

2. The fan that read the comics and took the property seriously. Larry Hama is a god to them, they worship the silent issue, and chances are the book either got them into reading comics or GI Joe is the only comic they read to this day.

3. The toy collector. An awesomely fanatic compulsion to buy every single figure that comes out, and even builds armies of the trooper figures. Literally ARMIES of hundreds of these figures all lined up ready for battle. These collectors are split into two groups. Those who keep their figures boxed or strictly lined up in full command attention on the shelves, or those that actually get their figures down and play with them creating some pretty awesome dioramas of action scenes.

These 3 categories can certainly cross over. But depending on wether you know the difference between Beachhead and Firefly when it isn't a colored illustration is a marker on how devoted you are to the property. For those hard core fans, it's a no brainer.  But for you casual fans can you tell me which is which?

Who is this guy? A

Who is this guy? B

I can't tell you how many times I'd be at a convention drawing a Firefly and someone asks if I'm drawing a Beachhead or vice-versa. Im sure it's the mask.

Beachhead is option B: He's a GI Joe, real name Wayne Sneeden. He was previously an instructor at the Ranger School and an advisor at a Covert Ops School in Central America. "He doesn't get angry...he gets even". In the comics he was often stinky and other characters would comment on it. In the cartoon, I remember him yelling alot and training new recruits.

Firefly  is option A: He is a mercenary, who often will work for Cobra as long as the money is good. His real identity is unknown, which only makes him cooler. His background has been tied to the Arashikage clan in the past, but other than that his training or past is unknown. He is a demolitions expert and usually if he's around you can expect an explosion or two.
That completes your lesson for the day. For your next lesson we will be discussing Tomax and Xamot, which is which? 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saints and Commissioners...often one in the same.

This was a commission I recently finished for a guy that is in the upper echelon of patient commissioners that will ever be praised in my mind. I have a small group of people who enjoyed my work enough to commission me to do a piece of art for them. The people in this group have waited anywhere between 1 and 3 years for their respective commissions. I can't thank them enough for sticking with me, some haven't and I completely understand.

The turnaround on my commissions has always been dependent on my regular deadline work. I'm grateful that GI Joe and other projects have kept me so busy within the last 3 years or so. But it has meant that those waiting would be willing to continue to wait until my schedule opened up a bit. This Lightning Lad is one of the convention quality commissions that the owner was incredibly patient.

Battle worn Lightning Lad from the DC Comics,  Legion of Superheroes.
Thanks Tim!
 I have just a few cover quality commissions left on my list to get done and before I start my daily sketch challenge I will be wrapping up my long awaited commission list completely. (with the exception of one, which I'll talk about in a minute)

Mostly I just wanted to say thanks to those who have stuck with me and waited. The commission that had to wait the longest was in fact the one that took the longest. It consisted of two pieces, each page was 18x24 inches and had 5 characters on it. So a combined width of 48 inches. That is a 4 foot, 10 figure commission, and needless to say it took me awhile. On the whole I've had a great experience doing commissions and have sincerely appreciated the support.

This next year, during my sketch challenge, I won't be taking commission besides a GI Joe #1 cover recreation, except replaced with Star Wars characters and ships....I will wait a minute while your head explodes from the awesome.

Cool, so with the exception of that cover quality commission, I will be doing my typical convention commission at shows and my daily sketch challenge for the upcoming year. Keep on the look out for the characters that I post, if it's one that you would like from me, they will typically be available for sale and it will be first come first serve on the art.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"It's DC Noise Baby!"

This was a recent commission sketch I did for Mike, one of the co-hosts for the DC Noise Podcast. Some day Im going to have to do a Disco Collar Nightwing for Keith, and a Captain Kirk for Darrell.

I did an interview with them for their episode 124 and they talked about Snake Eyes #1 for a little on episode 129. If you haven't listened to their show I suggest going back to atleast 120 and listening from there. I am laughing out loud every time I listen.  My wife will often ask from the other room why I'm laughing to myself in my studio. I tell her it's a podcast, and it's inevitably DC Noise.

I got a ride, along with Mike,  from the airport in Philly as we were going to CGS Super show. Mike had wanted a commission from me at that show, and I just couldn't get to it. So I knew he was going to be at Heroes con about a month or so later, and at the last minute I found out I was able to go as well. In my regular fashion, again at the last minute, I finished this up and was able to get it to him there in Charlotte.

I've never had a chance to draw Deadshot before, and this kind of character is right up my alley! Good pick Mike.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hard at work, or Hardly workin'

These last couple days have been a blur. I've been up to 5 am working then back up and working by 10 or 11am the next morning. Not bad amounts of sleep, but I've been at the drawing table for most of the time I haven't been sleeping.

My friend Matt came over today and helped me sort out my suggested character list for the coming years worth of daily sketch suggestions. We had a ton of fun going through all the wacky and cool characters that Im getting excited to finally draw.  It was a daunting task and one that Im not nearly as organizationally equipped to deal with. But we've broken the list down to periodic themed weeks and even a couple full months of sketch events and amazingly large properties to focus on.

I tried to take everyone's suggestions into account, some were soooo obscure that I had to let them go to keep the majority of the audience for the blog interested. However, there are certainly a few that were left in that will be surprising to say the least.

More on that soon, but keep posted I will begin the year long, daily sketch challenge starting on my Birthday this year July 7th!

Because I've got to get back to work, I don't have much to say about this piece. It was a lot of fun to do a classic Batman and Batgirl. I haven't drawn that many DC characters, and I do enjoy the commissions that give me the chance to do them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Never stop the learnin'

One aspect to my job I never thought I would love so much is the research that is involved in drawing comics. Each project or book I work on takes me to new places, across all walks of life. With every script I get, I do an initial read through to get a feel for the story. I immediately read through it again and start sketching in the margins page layouts, poses for figures, facial expressions or scenic shots that come to mind. I also highlight or circle all the things in the script that I don't know how to draw off the top of my head. Turns out, that ends up being quite a few things!

Then comes the research. I usually hit up Google images, or various magazines and reference books I own to compile an image bible for each issue. I keep that with my script as I work through the book so I have it handy whenever I come to that particular scene where I need to make specific things look.... well...specific.

Here in Snake Eyes #1, for instance, I have never gone mountain climbing. I've done it indoors or repelled a few times.  But obviously nothing to this extent growing up in Illinois where the highest elevation is the quesadilla I just dropped on the ground. Hence the research.

Or in this case, for the Savage Sword anthology for Dark Horse comics I had to draw a convincing 15th century France.  Convincing being the key word. I'm not an expert, or even incredibly educated on the subjects I research out by simply compiling photos. But I like my work to seem real enough that it's a believable scene, and a believable environment. That means I need at least a base knowledge of how things look and work to convey it properly.

That also means that when I have to make something up and fill a space with a combination of real objects and fictional items, they look believable together.

Stark Industries (Iron Man)

Village in the Mountains (Forgotten Realms)

The PITT (GI Joe)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My personal Point of View...

Im always intriqued to see other artist's workspace. So I thought I'd pull back the curtain and show you what my office looks like.

 Growing up my Mom would get the urge to rearrange the whole house every 6 months or so. That might be an exaggeration....but at least for us moving the furniture around, it sure fealt like it.
Some of that probably rubbed off on me, because this studio space has had a face lift quite a few times already.

In fact these pictures came about because I had just cleaned my studio, and I wanted to document the fact that I can actually keep a "de-cluttered" space. I understand that with all the junk I have surrounding me....(and by junk I mean awesome toys).... de-cluttered is a relative term. Still, this is about as good as it gets and I thought some photos were in order.

My bookshelves on either side of the door as you come in. Hanging on the door is my Joe bag with all my Convention Badges from the last couple years. To the left of the book shelves is the Science Dog sketch Ryan Ottley did for me! My DC Universe toys. Loads of Marvel trades. 
On the right bookshelf some of my Joe toys. On top is the 2010  GI JOE Convention sign I stole off the wall on the last day of the con . I was with my friend Shane (he works at the Sheriff's Dept)  and as I showed him the swiped sign I got a disapproving look.  Until I showed him the extra one I swiped for him too. Then he said, "well....its not like they are using them anymore, it says 2010 on it."

Because seriously...who doesn't need a life size bust of SnakeEyes?

If you walk in and look to the right in my studio, this is what you see. Reference books surround me. Couch for visitors and naps. Tie fighters for awesomeness. Framed Superman II boardgame that we used to play as kids! White board on the wall to keep track of projects. Black carpet so my wife doesnt know how much ink I spill.

This is the clutter corner. I need to go through all the junk on the shelves. On the shelf though is my anatomy skull with all the muscles of the face sculpted with clay on the surface to help me understand facial structure and expression. 3 big windows for plenty of light. If you are standing here, there is a sky light right above you. I forgot to take a picture of that. FYI this AT-AT walker is exactly the same size as my dog.  Bonus!

This is right behind me. I wanted an Optimus Prime in both Robot mode and Truck mode so I didnt have to figure out how he transforms. Robert = Lazy

 My Point of View. When I look up from my table I can see my computer on the opposite wall. iPad on my desk for finding quick reference and access to my music and audio books. Mirror for facial expressions and hand reference. A grided cutting mat on my table keeps me from having to use a T-Square and I use the grid for perspective reference points when they are off the page. Old cigar box to the left is perfect for holding my pencils.

My microphone for podcasting (search Darkhan City Times on iTunes to check it out!)
Captain America and SnakeEyes, two of my favorite characters!
My Ninja Turtle shelf. Just to the right of my computer. On the shelf below is a row of varying colors of Hiss tanks...and a mini fridge. 

Alright, enough goofing off....time to get serious and back to work.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

One in a Million...okay well maybe a hundred.

With the amount of time I've spent on GI Joe, I have racked up quite a few Snake Eyes sketches. Either done as panels in the books,  commissions or quick head sketches,  drawing Snake Eyes has easily topped the hundred mark in 4 years.

My favorite sketch that I've done was actually for the one and only Chuck Dixon (writer for GI Joe and just about every thing else). I did this sketch at a convention in Orlando a few years ago in Chuck's sketchbook. Often fans will have me draw in a sketchbook that they've bought and then collect sketches from artist's filling the book and ending with a bound art collection. (i.e. Chuck has a similar book, but instead of a character theme, he has a collection of art from professional artists that he has worked with over his 27 years of writing comics.

So in Orlando at the con he sets this Indiana Jones worthy treasure of a book down on my table and asks me to draw in it. I think I hardly answered him "sure thing" in a weak prepubescent voice and started to sweat. I licked my lips, and pulled out a small bag of sand from under the table. I weighed it in my hand thoughtfully, taking a pinch out and weighing it again. Then as swiftly as I could, I traded the bag of sand for the book and high tailed it for my hotel room.

Okay, well that last part is a lie, but I did take the book... and Im pretty sure I was sweaty.

After I flipped through the book of phenomenal artist's sketches I sat thinking about how much I sucked.

Thanks Chuck.

Then I got started. I usually do a quick thumbnail sketch, very tiny, to get the idea of the commission or sketch. I dont know what I was thinking, but the one time I should've had a plan before drawing in a BOUND BOOK, I didnt do any prelim sketch. I just started with an uzi and went from there.

Sidenote: I hope I dont ever have to use that sentence again.

Much to my surprise and delight, this is the sketch I ended up with. I handed it to Chuck the next day and was pleased to see he enjoyed it. There are a few things I would change if I had to do it again, but thats just me being nit picky. Overall, because of who it was for, the book it's in and the drawing itself, this is hands down my favorite Snake Eyes sketch.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Wishful thinking part deux...

It's Marvel time folks! Don't get me wrong, I love DC characters (as anyone who has seen my son's and my own action figure collection can attest).

However; Marvel characters got me into comics, I've grown up with these characters. The first comic I ever picked up was an X-Men book from back when they were thought dead and living in Australia. Wolverine went by "Patch", and I didn't know what the heck was going on! My next book was an Iron man issue where the bad guys (3 no name grunts in black body suits with their number on their chest) were going through a gauntlet of trials and finally a death match to determine who was the strongest to face Iron Man. The other side plot while this was happening had Iron Man taking out a Santa Claus impersonator who went crazy at a mall.


But I was an impressionable youth and man, I soaked that right up!
I would deliver papers on our paper route, then stop by the Huck's corner store and look through their magazine rack comics.

I really do love Marvel comics and luckily I've had the chance to work with them doing fill in work inbetween GI Joe projects. I've been able to work on Amazing Spider-man, Ult. Fantastic Four, X-Men Forever and Heroes for Hire, She-Hulk and a few side projects.

Here is where the theme of the blog comes in. Down the wishful thinking road, and if I had the opportunity to work on a mini series or ongoing title at Marvel, which characters would I love to take a crack at?

1. X-Men- of course! Now there are literally dozens of X-Men related books. So if Im being picky in my own little dream here, it would be a team consisting of Cyclops, Beast, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm and probably Wolverine. I know thats a pretty "Giant-Sized" group, but I can't help that they are my favorites. (It kills me that I wouldn't draw a team with about 30 characters on it. There are too many that I like)


2. Avengers- I say this because there are too many "solo" characters that I would want to draw, and this  allows me to hit most of the bases. One of my favorite Marvel collections is Avengers Forever by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco. It's not the quickest read, but it is so steeped in Marvel history and is packed with literally hundreds of Avengers. I would really get into drawing Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow and Hawkeye especially. If Stingray showed up....I could put up with it.

StingRay...I swear he's an Avenger.

3. Captain America-  Steve Rogers: He is one of the last "good" guy heroes. His old school values and moral code is something I appreciate in a day where that can sometimes be mocked or considered naive. Im glad it's Steve Rogers getting back into his old costume and filling that position as the embodiment of what America should stand for.  (however I do suck at drawing stars, I don't know what it is, but it takes me forever to draw stars. You can see here how I cleverly cover up most of them!)

4. DareDevil- Matt Murdock:  I've always enjoyed the street level characters that pursue being a hero because of that call of duty and responsibility to protect others. It seems that much more dangerous and real when they do it with little or no powers. True DD has a radar sense that helps him get around, but only somewhat compensates for the fact that he's blind. Plus I love ninjas, and this book is typically packed with 'em! It was Quesada's run on the book that got me hooked, then I've since gone back and read loads of back issues and collected trades.  DD rocks.

Well thats it for part deux.... next up Licensed Properties! Woot!