Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kim Jong Gi

I just ordered some books collecting the sketches of Kim Jong Gi, a phenomenally talented draftsman. Below is a 75 minute demo of the artist at work. I may be mistaken, but I think this is all stream of consciousness drawing!

Monday, July 30, 2012

BIG Bucks

by Arnie Fenner

A new record price for an original piece of American comic art was set last week when Todd McFarlane's cover to The Amazing Spider-Man #328 sold at the Heritage auction for $657, 250. Still shy of matching the amount paid last year for a piece of comic art, period (see below), it is nevertheless a staggering sum.

If you've watched pen & ink pages by John Romita, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby & Co. sell for prices ranging from a few hundred bucks to well north of a Hundred Grand in recent years, you might wonder what the hefty amounts being plunked down for comic book art really means (if anything). Why the huge leap in prices for pop-culture originals? Do the movies have anything to do with it or are wealthy fans simply indulging in nostalgia? Are these legitimate investments that will increase in value or will they turn out to be a future generation's garage sale inventory? And why these particular pieces and not others? I haven't a clue myself. But Heidi MacDonald has an interesting post on the subject at The Beat (read the comments section, too), while Jim Gurney has an equally fascinating post about value and what will (or maybe will not) last in his post "Measures of Greatness."

All of these artworks—with the exception of one—were sold by collectors (the artists had parted company the originals years ago for significantly less than these hammer prices). The exception is the Frazetta. Originally intended as a cover for Famous Funnies in 1955, it was rejected by the editors as being too violent; Frank took it to Bill Gaines at EC who gave Frazetta an option of selling the rights and original for $60 or just the rights for $30. Frank took the $30 and kept the art—the only piece of art Gaines said he ever published without owning the original. The Frazetta family sold the cover after Frank died in 2010.

Anyway, below are the 5 most expensive works of comic book original art. As of today.

#5 Spider-Man #1 cover by Todd McFarlane: $358,500.

#4 Weird Science-Fantasy #29 cover by Frank Frazetta: $380,000.

#3 Batman: The Dark Knight #3 splash page by Frank Miller: $448,125.

#2 The Amazing Spider-Man #328 cover by Todd McFarlane: $657,250.

And #1 Tintin In America cover by Hergé: $1,600,000.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Eric Fortune Mentorship

A while back we mentioned that Rebecca Guay, the brains behind the Illustration Master Class, was starting a new online mentorship program called smART School. The roster of instructors is very impressive, and includes Muddy Color's very own Eric Fortune.

Apparently, the program has been received quite well, as just there are literally just a few seats left. So if you were debating whether or not to sign up for the mentorship with Eric Fortune... now is the time!

Aside from being one of the most talented artists I've ever met, Eric is also well versed in both the illustration and fine arts markets, making Eric's class the perfect choice for those students whose work teeters between genres.

In addition to Eric's mentorship, students will also receive input from special guest David Saylor. David is the Senior Art Director for Scholastic Books Children's and Y.A. divisions, and is probably best known as being the A.D. for the Harry Potter series.

As most of you have probably experienced, getting substantial one-on-one time with any A.D., let alone one of David's caliber, is pretty difficult. Quite honestly, it's an opportunity that doesn't come around too often. 

As a special Muddy Colors incentive, any student who signs up prior to August 1st will receive $250 off their tuition!

For more information, check out the smART School website at: http://www.smarterartschool.com/

Saturday, July 28, 2012

It Ain’t Easy Being 3D

-Tim Bruckner

Let’s say you’re a 2D artist. Well, you my friend are the Supreme Master of Your Universe. You decree the time of day. Location is yours to decide, be it under the sea, on a distant planet, an endless desert or a Starbucks. The light bends at your desire; blinding sun, dappled shadows, the brooding gloom of a cloud sliced moon or the humming neon of an office cubicle. Time? Your call. Pick a century. Make up a century! In your Universe, people fly, men with super powers lift city blocks with the flex of a finger. Jugglers juggle. Pumas pounce. Robots emit lasers through their eyes with devastating effect. In short, your only constraint is the limits of your imagination.

Now, pity the plight of the poor sculptor. We share some of your powers; creation of character, size, shape, mass. We determine finesse of finish, level of detail. Action. Intent of action. Same as you. But that’s it. The context in which our work is viewed is out of our control. The conditions under which our sculptures are seen is left to the whim and whimsy of an art director who will decide which lighting setup to use. (For some inexplicable reason, they sometimes choose to light a sculpture from beneath. Will ya look at those nostrils!)

Or, the consumer who may place his sculpture in a cabinet, on a mantle, in a bookshelf or next to the toaster on the kitchen counter. And then there’s the gallery with its pin point overheads that makes everything under them look like a Judy Garland revival.

And it gets worse. In your world, you compose proximity. The dragon battles the valiant knight. A group of bug-eyed aliens abducts a leggy blonde.

Unless the sculptor’s statue contains two or more figures, it’s just as likely that Superman will be sharing shelf space with Under Dog or Wolverine paling around with Uncle Creepy.

So, what’s a sculptor to do? Well, there ain’t a lot of options, but there are a few. A base is a good contexter. (I made that up, but you get the idea) A well designed base can help set the location. It can even infer distance like a mountain top or a valley.

Then there’s weather. In the sculptor’s world, there’s often a lot of wind. Usually it blows in against the character, sending hair and wardrobe alike, undulating in elegant inverted “S” curves. Flying is a tough one. It’s that damn pesky gravity that gets in the way of a convincing airborne composition. But a sculptor is like a magician. Its all about misdirection. Look here! Don’t look there. A character who’s supposed to be flying needs to be supported somehow. It’s the sculptor’s job to help you suspend logic and physics in support of make believe.

Most problematic is the concession to the material. Its often going to be resin or silicone, and in some case, bronze. They each carry their own liabilities. Resin, as with all thermal cure plastics, is subject to heat warp. In winter, that flying super hero defies gravity at ninety degrees. During the summer swelter of late July, he’s kissing the ground. There’s a one word cure for that. Buttress! As long as you can’t see what it is, it’s a damn dandy solution. So, knowing what a material can do, or more importantly, what it can’t do, and knowing how to make it look like it can… that there is golden.

But, the sculptor has one special power all our own. And it’s a doozey! The element of surprise. All you 2D guys, you can make anything happen anywhere, anytime. You can make the impossible, possible. But the sculptor, we can give the audience something you can’t. A back view. And don’t you know, we play it for all their worth. Why, look here. It’s a statue of Wonder Woman. Just standing there, minding her own Amazonian business. But turn her around and she’s standing on a pile of skulls of her vanquished foes. Try that in 2D! A good sculptor will stack the visual deck. We’ll leave visual bread crumbs for you to follow and take you where we want you to go and back again.

And then there’s presence. As compelling and as a brilliant as 2D work can be, and man, a lot of it is just jaw dropping, they don’t share the presence that occupies the same physical space as we all do. Might not seem like a big deal, but it kind of is. You can get up all in that, with a piece of sculpture. You can get up all in that with a wonderful work in 2D art, but it takes more work.

I’ve said this before, sculptors are like the drummers of the art world. If you’ve ever been in a band or are a sculptor, you’ll know what I mean. We sculptors are not prone to great conceptual leaps. We’re often too busy trying to figure out how make a squint look intense as opposed to myopic.

She: This is something I’ve been rolling around for a couple of years. How could I contextualize a sculpture the same way a 2D guy can? Well, you’d have to start with creating an environment that, by and large, accepts traditional lighting methods as overhead and be willing to embrace the variables of that. This is the rough clay. When she’s done, the leaves will be cast in translucent resin allowing a little more light and increasing the play between light and shadow. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Guest Blogger – Vanja Todoric

 Fairy Tales With a Twist

Hey everybody my name is Vanja Todoric, and I will be your guest bloger for today.

First of all I would like to thank Petar Meseldzija, the man who most certainly was one of my biggest role models while growing up, for giving me a chance to share some of my thoughts with you.

When Petar asked me to be a guest on Muddy Colors, the first idea that came to my mind was to write about the technique, and technical process I go through while doing an illustration. But I realized that it’s kind of absurd to even consider doing that, knowing all the great and much more experienced artists that Muddy Colors have in their ranks.

So, instead I decided to write about the things that motivate me, stuff I love to illustrate and my favorite theme of all - fairy tales.

Serbian Mythology - Rebels, “Witch Flying on a Walnut” 

For the last three years, the theme that was most present in all of my illustrations was either closely or entirely related to fairy tales. Whether I was working on my personal stuff, or the “Serbian Mythology” books, or the project I’m currently working on, I just couldn’t escape from them, and what was even more interesting, I couldn’t get enough of them!

Usually any kind of overusing a certain theme will eventually lead you up to the point where you will get fed up with it, and won’t stand to look, listen, or speak of it any more.

Banished Creatures, “Midwife”, “Nightmare” and “Talason” 

So during these three years I was expecting the same thing would happen to the affection I have for fairy tales. But strangely it didn’t, and I was starting to wonder why.

I’m sure that there are many reasons that can explain this, but here is the one that I think is probably the most accurate one. Fairy tales were, are and always will be popular among us because long time ago we chose to keep that beautiful tradition of reading and telling them to our kids.

Serbian Fairy Tales, “The Groom Snake”, “PepperCorn” and “The Golden Fleece Ram” 

Even today, you can stop a kid on a street, with all the Iphone/pod/pad gadgets dangling of him, and he will still know to tell you about the Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, or Pinocchio. And it does not matter what century we live in, there will always be a new way to tell the old stories we’ve heard so many times before.

That is so awesome because, these days, most of the people in the world will be able to recognize and relate to your reinterpretation of a certain story, because most of us remember how it felt when you were a kid snuggled up in your bed, waiting for your mom or dad to read you about the three little Piglets battling the Big Bad Wolf, or how Peter Pan kicked Captain Hook’s butt over and over again.

 “Lela and the Fox”

One of the things that also drove me to this conclusion was when I remembered the first long animated movie that Walt Disney made in 1937. I really think he had in mind all the things I mentioned before when he choose “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” as the theme for his cartoon. And Nearly 80 years later, in 2012, two movies were made using the same theme, “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman”, and as I know each one of them was considered to be a great success.

I think that’s the true example of the beautiful effect that fairy tales have on people, the fact that after all the different versions of fairy tales that were presented to us for years and years, we still get excited when we hear about the new book, movie, animation, or a theatre play that is based on one of them.

That is why I love them so much, and why I will continue to illustrate them for many years to come.

 “Trivun Kalaba riding his Black Steed” 

Here are some of the fairy tales I did, which I’m sure most of you know.

Little Red Riding Hood

In this version there is no hunter who comes and rescues granny and the little girl in the end, ... wolf eats them, story over. This is the main reason why the girl has a scull instead of a face ( a "walking dead" metaphor).

This was the first Fairy Tale reinterpretation I did, I know it’s not much different from the original, but I see now that this was just a warm up illustration that pretty much defined the style and mood of the ones that were about to come.

Charles Perrault “Little Red Riding Hood” 2009. 

Goldie Locks And The Three Bears

This is the illustration I did for the CGsociety ''Secret Agent'' challenge. The illustration won the “Best Character Award”.

The World famous POTATO PORRIDGE factory gets anonymous tip of a "Mama Bears Home Made Potato Porridge" that tastes so good, the sources say it may endanger the existence of their factory and brand.

After losing trace of six of their finest agents, the board of directors sends agent "G" (AKA Goldie Locks) to try infiltrate and steal the recipe for "MBHMPP". While The Bears are away, agent "G" sneaks into their home, finds the recipe but the problem suddenly appears ... the SECRET INGREDIENT part is missing

In order to find out what the secret ingredient is, she starts tasting the porridges served on the table. They taste so good but she is unable to make out the secret ingredient part. All of a sudden her eyes feel very heavy, she tries to fight it as long as she can, but eventually she drops on the bed near by. In that moment the missing pieces of the puzzle reveal the horror, that is her soon to be future ...

The bears are the ones responsible for the anonymous tip, bears are the ones who tricked agent "G" into tasting the porridge with the sleeping potion in it, and the secret ingredient, ... well, the secret ingredients are secret agent body parts.

The Grimm Brothers “The Goldie Locks and the Three Bears” 2010.

The Little Match Girl

This is the illustration I did for the CGsociety ''DreamScape'' challenge. The illustration won the “Best Character Award”.

I'm sure most of you know the fairy tale ''The Little Match Girl'' by Hans Christian Andersen.
Well, my story begins when this one ends.

When the last match is out, and there is nothing else to keep her warm in this cold winter night. When she finally closes her eyes and drifts away into her last ice cold dream ...
Here, in this dream, she will take her last stand fighting off cold, but unfortunately we all know how this dream is going to end.

I wanted to show the girl’s struggle in a different way than in the original story, so as a metaphor for cold I used polar animals, and the matches she used to keep her warm became the sword of fire.

Hans Christian Andersen “The Little Match Girl” 2011. 


"The Execution of Lady Jane Grey in the Tower of London in the Year 1554."
Paul Delaroche, 1833. (Oil on Canvas, 97 x 117 inches)

Click HERE for the high-resolution image. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

San Diego Comic-Con 2012

By Donato

Comic-Con opening night when it wasn't that crowded!

Well, another year has past and another crazy five days spent at the San Diego Comic-Con!

I have been attending the event for over 12 years now and while each year gets easier to pack and mentally prepare for the convention, the professional atmosphere on the main floor seems to diminish.  While I am making as many business dealings as ever, the shear mass of humanity that fills the floor (and the mind numbing music rant from the FOX booth nearby at a high decibel range) makes it difficult to have a conversation on the subject of business or art.   You barely begin a discussion when another passerby, fan or professional, joins in.  This is not a bad situation per se, but makes for in depth discussions on one train of thought exceedingly rare.  A few times I found myself stepping out of the booth, into the aisles to extend the conversation so others would not know I was there to meet and talk to!

Capt Haddock strolling by!
It is frustrating to want to share and talk with so many people - from young talented beginners to highly established writers like Rachel Caine and her artist husband Cat Conrad - but find your attention constantly fractured.  Luckily I'll catch up with  Rachel and Cat in September, and planned a dinner with others who swung by, writer Christopher Paolini and his sister Angela, but when Dylan Cole dropped off his latest children's book unfortunately we had only seconds together.  I was bummed.  But luckily enough I ran into him at a late night hang out and talked for over an hour!  Others whom I ran into range from Phil Hale, Tony DiTerlizzi, Todd Lockwood, Dave Dorman, Scott Robertson to, Jason Manley, Dave Seeley., John Picacio, Allen Williams, Craig Elliot and Robh Ruppel, to name just a few.  The place was teeming with talent!!

The ritual (and necessity after 10 hours on the floor!) of relaxing business dinners and late night socializing with other professionals provided the much needed release from the 2 minute short talk which dominates the day.

It is these after hours gatherings which keep me coming back year after year to events like the Comic-Con and other major conventions.  While, yes, I am there on the main floor exhibiting art and selling drawing, paintings, books, DVDs and prints, but more importantly I am there to stay in touch with the industry.  I am very much interested and care about what is happening in our field and want to be in on the pulse of anything that transpires.  Talking with other professionals as well as fans provides insights which cannot be cultivated from other sources - people are much more candid in person.  These events keep me on the edge, never complacent and fully inspired.

I hope you get the chance to experience the same for yourselves!

A wonderful evening with Acme Archives.
Back: Donato, Madelynn and Stephan Martinere.
Front: Brian Rood, Lisa and Sean McLain, Chris Jackson.
Todd Lockwood staring down the three trolls from the Hobbit.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

10 Things I Remember...About Tracing

Gregory Manchess

Last week, I taught a class on painting at the Norman Rockwell Museum. It was the third time I’ve held a workshop there and it was a full class at eighteen painters. It was a bit difficult for everyone to see the model, but we adjusted well enough.

We loosened up the first day working quickly from the live model, and then, in order to give the entire class the full advantage of working from the same angle, I photographed her in a new pose, and projected it. Everyone worked from this new angle so that we could all talk about the same points of concern.

That may just be the first time anyone’s ever done that. The students needed to get beyond the stigma associated with using photographs. I wanted them to compare working from life and working with an edited photo. The model returned the second day and we worked from both. The Rockwell even provided color and b/w prints of the pose. This way, we worked with whatever it took to learn and get a good painting on the surface.

When I was hired for my first studio job, I refused to use any kind of projection, any kind of tracing whatsoever. Then as I watched the hours tick away while my other better, faster colleagues were covering far richer ground, I decided to use it. But I promised myself to learn from it. I would master it and use it to inform my skills.

I found it a fascinating teacher.

1. Memorize
First off, I used tracing to learn anatomy. By tracing, I could actually feel how an arm foreshortened. I could see what length the line was that was needed to foreshorten it. I could understand how eyes, noses, hands looked at difficult angles.

I used it to train my drawing skills and improve them. No, it didn’t happen right away. Like anything else, it took time. Yet I sped up, my drawings improved, and I began to keep up with the guys around me who chuckled to themselves at my naivete.

In life drawing classes we work from the model, sitting before us. But what happens when they’re not there? What most art schools fail to tell you is that you’re supposed to be memorizing. Memorize anatomy? What kind of alchemy is this? Most instructors think you learn anatomy by simply drawing the model. Uh huh.

2. Draw, don’t trace.
When I draw, I remember that using the point of the pencil is boring if all the line weight is the same. Same for tracing. I use the side of the lead, roll it, angle it, vary it for shadow lines, hair, folds, trees, etc. I get different line weight by varying the pressure on the pencil. Ultimately, you’re doing a drawing. SO DRAW.

3. Edit detail. 
Forget about tracing every little subtle light shift, or shadow, every tree branch or eyelash. Forget about drawing every strand of hair. Draw for shape, draw for tone. Generalize the reference for the most part. It’s a guide.

4. It’s a guide.
When you trace under something like an Artograph, drive yourself to get good enough to draw with it. It’s not about tracing the image exactly. It’s about using the image as a guide to correct proportions and delineate shadows, depth, line, and contrast. Give it your own technique, otherwise your work looks lifeless, pedestrian, lame. It’ll look like you traced it. Exaggerate. Use fluid lines. Any ol’ goof can follow lines. Draw with it.

5. Use your own photography.
Shoot what you need. Best that way. The internet is full of pictures you need for reference, but I use them only as reference to draw from. I still need to make the sketch my own. Whenever you can, buy the reference you need. Better for everyone that way.

6. Distortion Happens. 
No photograph records life exactly. Photos adjust the image from three dimensions to two. It’s already distorted. But you have to know when it’s telling you a lie about reality. Do not believe that photographs are real or telling you about reality. They do not. You must learn to recognize when they do and don’t and be able to compensate. Besides, it’s a GUIDE.

7. Perfect the composition. 
First, I design the composition with thumbnails. Then I use reference to draw separate elements of a complex composition on separate slips of tracing paper. I move the sheets around until the composition is refined, perfected. It’s a composition guide. Artists have been using this since the Dawn of Illustration. Today, you’ll likely do this by cutting and pasting the reference together on the computer. It’s the same thing.

8. Use it sparingly. 
As I trained with tracing, I used it less and less. It instantly improved my drawing skills, especially drawing from my head. It improved my memorization skills, but I had to focus on it. The next time you draw from life, you’ll understand what you learned from tracing. The next time you trace, you’ll understand more from your life drawing. Back and forth, back and forth. --What? Did you think there was a straight line to skill? C’mon.

9. Nothing is cheating. 
If I hear another artist talk about being a purist and only drawing from the model, I’m gonna burst. That’s just part of the training. Honestly, get over it. Now, today. If your grandma's hurt because you trace photos, tell her to get over it, too. I do whatever it takes to get the idea to the canvas because it all changes from there. If Leonardo could’ve used today’s technology, you bet your sweet maxilla he would’ve. Sorry, but there’s no “cheating” in the art field. Anybody who says you're cheating, you have my permission to, umm, enlighten them. At this point in mankind’s search for Art, all is fair game.

 Let’s see where you, where we all, can go from here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Work for DragonCon 2012

By Justin Gerard

So I have been busy working on some new imagery for DragonCon 2012. I will have a booth there (as will fellow Muddy, Dan Dos Santos.) If you will be attending, stop by and say hello.

It will be my first year at the convention, and I want to make a good impression.
So I canned my original idea of Ninjas vs. Bears, it seeming out of place for this event, and went with something more traditional. (I am not ruling out Ninjas vs. Bears for next year's Spectrum Live though.)

These are my studies for a more DragonCon-themed image. This one continues the thread of; if I was a player in some fantasy story, I'd probably be the guy who made the really dumb mistake and got us in all this trouble.
In this case, our hero is thinking, "maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all," as he tries to quietly draw his sword. The dragon has its head up, suddenly alert.

Next week: Watercolor and Final.

'White Trash Zombie' Prints

For years, I've only offered prints for sale at conventions, or through third-party vendors, making it pretty difficult for the average person to their hands get one. This is mostly because the notion of fulfilling online orders all day in a cramped studio just never appealed to me.

But I've gotten a bit more organized recently, and have a really fantastic assistant now, so I finally set up my website to take orders.

The first, of what will hopefully be many to come, is the Spectrum award-winning 'White Trash Zombie'. I am REALLY happy with these prints! The printed image is the exact same size as the original, and the colors could not be more accurate. In all honesty, it's as close to the original as you can get. Each one is hand signed, and mailed in a tube to ensure it arrives in perfect condition. Plus, it's free shipping anywhere in the USA. (Sorry, but I am currently only accepting USA orders)

To purchase one, just click here: http://www.dandossantos.com/store.htm

The first 10 orders get an extra copy free!

It's likely I will print a few other images as well. If there is a piece in particular you'd like to see offered, please let me know in the comments section.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Painting the X-Men

Mythos: X-Men, Page 8. 2005. Oil on board, 16 × 24″.

I've been a Muddy reader since the blog's inception, so it's a great honor to be a contributing artist. My favorite posts have always been about process, so I thought an appropriate introduction to my work should involve just that. Specifically, my first few posts will explore the series of styles and media I've employed over the years, as well as the reasons for shifting gears.

I began my professional career as an oil painter, and have slowly evolved into a traditional comic book style over the last 10 years. Mythos: X-Men, featured here, was the first book where I felt comfortable with my style—prior to that, every page was a true struggle. This book was still challenging, but I at least knew what my goal was and how to get there. The only drawback was the amount of time needed, and this 23-page comic (plus cover) took me roughly 10 months to complete. I was also painting other covers at the time, but my output was not adequate by any measure.

1. Pencil Layout, 4 × 6″  2. Digital Color Study

While my media have changed since this issue, my mental process is nearly identical. I begin each page with a small layout to work out compositions and ensure legibility (although now I sketch digitally). This rough is then scanned into Photoshop for a digital color study.

3. Pencils, 8 × 12″  4. Finalized Color Study

Once approved by my editor, it's just a case of refining the draftsmanship and color scheme. It may seem like a superfluous step, but it removes any doubt when it comes time to paint. Doubt can be an inspiring opponent, of course, but not when I'm trying to meet a deadline.

5. Transfer to Board  6. Final Painting.

Using a projector, I would transfer the page to custom-cut, primed masonite with burnt umber, a fast-drying oil pigment, often using odorless mineral spirits to draw by wiping back to the surface. I wouldn't do a full-fledged grisaille underpainting, but important areas—faces, hands, etc.—were fully rendered. Borders were painted in acrylic and taped off. I ended up adding the borders digitally for print, but the extra effort allowed me to sell the original paintings.

The palette pictured above is a cookie sheet that locked into place with 2 rubber door stops on the underside of the easel. It was easily removed for more detailed work. At one point, I used a glass palette so I could mix colors on top of my digital color study. It was a nice trick, but I got tired of cleaning the surface.

Panel 4

After that, it was just a case of mixing the right color and putting it in the right place. I would often paint directly on my digital print to ensure the right color mix. While I was happy with the results, this took far too much time and ended up being my last issue in oil.

Scanning was a challenge in itself, and I ended up spending a month just removing dust and glare from the pages in Photoshop. That alone was enough to  send me searching for another way to paint. In my next post, I'll show how I made the switch to acrylic and gouache with Mythos: Hulk.

Panel 5

If you'd like to see more of my work, I've been keeping a personal blog, The Self-Absorbing Man since 2007. You'll find the most information about my technique under the Theory and Step-by-Step labels. If you'd like to know how to make Cyclops' optic blast "glow," this post on lightsabers may be of interest. And finally, a good deal of my work can be viewed at my art dealer's site, Splash Page Comic Art.