Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Marauding Maulhorn

-By Jesper Ejsing

This illustration for Magic the Gathering, is a kind of a twin to the Baloth monster I showed some weeks back. The description was a charging beast with hooves and giant horns.

I did 2 sketches. One,  which you could argue is totally wrong, since it is resting and looking mean and badass, but not charging at all. And one with the full-on charging pose.

Jeremy, my art director picked the charging one ( not surprisingly since it was the right answer to the assignment) sometimes I wonder why I think my off-suggestions are going to work. I KNOW they are wrong but I fall in love with the sketches and toy with the idea that they could be wonderfull pictures.
Well; for the face of the one that was approved I was inspired by a bat face and the jaw/face structure of a moray eel.

I transfered it to board and inked it and added greytones in black acrylic.

The colors for this one is, once again, a result of having done a couple of previous paintings in a more dull or muted down pallet. So with this one I wanted to go all in. What I really aimed for was to keep all black or even dark colors away from the background to make the environment seem light by strong sunlight. Also I love when the colors vibrate and comes alive without the use of value contrast but by the temperature and the color contrast. Notice how close the values of the colors are in the rock wall and yet how many different colors it consists off. That is something I have been concentrating on for the last many years. Creating interesting vibrant textures with many colors but within the same value range.

When the image was done I thought it looked too cute. the black snout made me think of Disney's Stitch figure. So I changed it digitally before sending it off. I am very glad I did. I constantly try to drag myself out of Cute-town. This time I kind of got a few steps before they dragged me back...

If anyone have questions to technical stuff I would love to go into details; just ask?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Studio Equipment: Color Changing Bulb

-By Dan dos Santos

I'm currently on my way back home from my 3-day workshop in Seattle, which was a ton of fun! One of the coolest things about the weekend (And there were many, many, cool things), was this really neat light bulb that one of the students introduced me to.

This is a 10w LED lightbulb (60w incandescent equivalent) which changes colors with the touch of a button. You screw it into any regular lightbulb socket, and with the remote, you can change the color to any of 15 different hues! You can also select from 4 different levels of intensity.

The bulb is obviously intended for casual party lighting, but it's absolutely perfect for artistic applications. We used the bulb as part of a softbox set-up and photographed the model in a variety of fantasy lighting scenarios. It was really useful, and really easy.

Although the bulb isn't bright enough to compete with a flash bulb set-up, it is great for those that use incandescent set-ups. I often use a low-wattage incandescent setup when photographing various reference in the studio; like mannequin heads, miniature models and dioramas.

When I saw how cool this bulb was, I expected it to be really expensive. I was really surprised to find out that you can order it on Amazon for just $20. Plus, it's an LED bulb, so it should last much longer than a tungsten bulb. I just ordered mine, and can't wait to try it out when I get home.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Hall of Fame

-by Arnie Fenner

The Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame honors artists whose works have had a significant impact on the the illustration field. Selected by a panel of former presidents of the SoI, the 2013 inductees are:

Sandy Kossin

You can find a complete year-by-year list of past honorees at the Society's website.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Designing Characters

-By Mike Butkus

This illustration is from my upcoming book on 'How to Design Characters'. For this demonstration, we’ll be using Vellum paper and black and grey Prismacolor pencil.

Step 1. The thing I do first is figure out the composition and block out my main character.

Step 2. I experiment with different heads for the character on the edges of the page. After I created the head I liked, I erased the others and redrew the head onto the body. I begin to chisel out his arm and torso.

Step 3. I define some more of the value in his musculature and his costume with the grey pencil. I’ve now completed the head and move on to the background. I thought a provincial European city might look fun.

Step 4. Here I start to design a tattoo for our hero. I thought it would be cool to have a snake emanating out of his veins and bursting through the skull.

Step 5. Here is a close up of our character. You can see the evolution of the tattoo. Instead of having it come out of the skull’s mouth, I decide to have it slither through the eye socket.

Step 6. In this step I’ve completed the majority of the tattoo. I wasn’t happy with the initial city backdrop because it didn’t seem whimsical or creepy enough. I wanted to push more organic forms into the architecture versus the traditional village structures.

Step 7. Here I start to develop the creepy little critters and people that inhabit this village. As you can see this is a three pillar composition; the city and the crazy inhabitants book-ending the main character.

Step 8. The main character is almost finished along with the city and now we’re going to start having some fun with the bad guys. I wanted to make sure that every single character expresses a different attitude towards our hero. I decided to have a wicked dragon-like snake pop out of the pig mayor hat and try to bite our hero. Compositionally, it ties in all three pillars while adding depth, perspective and drama to the picture. This whole illustration is about designing your characters and keeping them whimsical and playful.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Red Sonja at 30,000 ft

By Donato

Mentioned in my previous post about how much I like to draw during airline flights, and the success I've had with these images,  I was once again able to tackle the subject of Red Sonja while on my way out to the San Diego Comic-Con last week.  With the drawing well established and 95% completed during the flight, I then took a cooling off period to let the work settle in my mind for a few days.  I always find this a productive step as it allows some distance from the work and its initial act of creation.  Thus with a fresh set of eyes returning later to the piece I can catch anatomical and composition anomalies and provide finishing touches.

In some down time during the convention (yes it actually can get 'quiet' at the booth, typically in the early morning hours even with thousands of people swarming around you!) I was able to resolve another image from my recent readings on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire from which the HBO series A Game of Thrones is based upon.  I am currently working on images and paintings for the 2015 Calendar.   So, with Arya on my mind I thought I would share a second drawing as well from the convention.  More on that project in another post!

Red Sonja - Archer    11" x 14"   Pencil and Chalk on Toned Paper

Arya - Weirwood    11" x 14"   Pencil and Chalk on Toned Paper

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Getting You Paid, Part 2: Contracts & Licensing

-By Lauren Panepinto

So last post I started talking about what goes wrong with invoicing and accounting and all that, all the teeny little things that can add up to payments being delayed, missing, lost in transit, etc, when you are working with legit companies with proper accounting departments. Pretty much the moral of the story was: Generally people are not out to screw you over, things just get screwed up. And neither artists nor art directors are terribly good accountants generally, so we're mostly self-taught, and we all make mistakes.

Well, let me tell you, artists and art directors are not trained to be lawyers either, yet contracts and legal terms, legalese, and fine print are very much a part of our business. For generations most artwork was commissioned with a gentleman's agreement (and a martini if you're watching Mad Men), but more and more companies are insisting on proper paperwork to get you paid. Also, issues of licensing and rights are changing rapidly with internet games, apps, and ebooks. And most artists are very happy to get work, so they generally sign a contract without looking it over too carefully (especially if it is coming from a legit company), and then find themselves complaining later about terms they unwittingly agreed to. Every company is different, and there's a great deal of variance on things like territories, languages, kill fees, reproduction rights, etc. So I'm going to go thru some common terms and also some issues you should really be thinking about when you take on a job from a new company. Obviously, I'm going to be talking from a books centric view, but most of this is translatable.

Make sure a contract clearly states what the project is, how much you're being paid for it, and when it is due. Generally a fill-in-the-blanks section. The more detail the better here.

You are agreeing that this is your original work, and no part of it is under contract to anyone else. You are "representing" yourself as an artist available to hire (not under exclusive contract to anyone else) who does original work. Pretty much, this means if you're found to have copied or stolen something later, the company is not responsible, you are.

Warning: If you use stock imagery, or any found imagery, in your work, you are responsible for making sure it is clear for use, and that you pass along the information to clear the art & pay the copyright holder along to the art director. Fonts too. There's even tricky laws about using photos for reference too closely. Let us all remember the Shepard Fairey/Obama photo fiasco.

Is the client paying you for one usage or all usages? For example, At Orbit we license for book use only. which means you retain the right to sell the same image for sneaker ads, album covers, to publish in a magazine, sell prints on your website, etc. If someone is buying all your rights to use the art for anything they want (called "Exclusive" Rights), and more importantly, keeping you from reselling the art for different usages, then they should be paying you more. Don't forget merchandising rights too...just because I am buying rights for use on a book cover doesn't mean I get to sell t-shirts with your art on it, even if its the whole book cover on the t-shirt.

Warning: "Work for Hire" means "Exclusive Rights" to the max. It means that you do not have the right to use the artwork you create for any purpose, even self-promotional. Although most companies will allow an artist to show work-for-hire work in their portfolios, unless it says so in the contract, you do not automatically have the legal right to. Most work done for well-known licenses (Disney, Star Wars, Tomb Raider, etc.) will be work-for-hire, because they can't allow you to sell that work for any other purpose. Or show it to anyone without their say-so. License work is also usually protected by a Non-Disclosure Agreement "NDA", which means you can't show the work to anyone until the license makes it public.

Most contracts will state that they also have use of the art to promote the product. Your art can be taken off the cover and used as a background in a newspaper ad, or on the author's website. We can also make merchandise to give away promotionally. I have to explain this to authors a lot - you can absolutely have things printed with your cover art on it - shirts, posters, coffee mugs, whatever - but you can only give those items away to promote your book, not sell them for profit.

Art used to be licensed by physical territory - for example, before ebooks I always bought rights for just North America. However, with the internet and ebooks, where a product physically ships is less and less relevant, we are now licensing by language. So I am buying rights to not only use the art on a book cover, but only book covers in English, wherever they physically are. This is pretty standard now in books, apps, advertising - it's called licensing "World English". If a company wants all rights everywhere in every language, they call it "World" Rights. Or this may fall under the umbrella of "Exclusive Rights" - again, read the contract carefully.

This means that when a foreign publisher or company buys the rights to the book or product content, they need to relicense the art. If you've ever heard the term "sub rights" and not known what they do, this is it. We give the foreign publishers your contact information, and they are supposed to approach you to pay you to reuse it. Generally this is 50% of the original fee or less, but it depends on the country/language. It's kind of a bluffing game, because you don't want to quote a price so high that the publisher wants to scrap your art and make their own cheap ripoff.

Warning: Some countries are more well known for being shady (I'm looking at YOU, Poland) and will just take the files from the publisher and never contact the artist. Sometimes they're even worse and they'll swap art from one book to another. Sometimes they'll literally buy the english edition, scan the cover, and photoshop off the text. Unfortunately it's not the original company's job to police that. Trust me, they're stealing the content too, not just the art. I remember hearing about a foreign card game that just scanned and stole a bunch of Magic card art and reused it on their own card game. Good luck hunting them down, and even more luck getting them to pay you or change the cover.

This is pretty much a clause saying the pesky Art Director can do whatever they want to your art after you hand it in - crop it wildly, change the colors, any revisions they want, and they do not need you to do it for them, and they do not need your permission. This is one that does tend to piss the crap out of artists, but look at it this Art Director wants to make more work for themselves monkeying with your art. If they're making revisions it's to please someone who has the power to kill your artwork, and they're trying to salvage it. Most of the time they'd be much happier (and I speak from experience) to leave it as you handed it in, but if recropping, or changing the color of something, will get the art approved, they will do as much as they can to keep from killing it.

Many companies have kill fees (often 50% of the initial hiring fee) that you are given when you get partially thru the assignment and then it gets killed. Or even if the artwork is done, but for some reason doesn't get used. However, a lot of companies can't afford kill fees on top of the cost of restarting the art, and it needs to say so in the contract somewhere.

Warning: Make sure there is mention of a kill fee or what happens in the event a cover is killed. This might be one of the most frequent problems that pops up between artists and ADs. You can't demand a kill fee if it's not in the contract.

This is kind of a miscellaneous heading, and it's kind of "What-If" terms. kind of "If this happens, then we have the right to do this, so long as we pay you." Sometimes a company will say in the contract they have the option to use the art for different usages as long as they send you more money. This comes up in books a lot, because I will license for hardcover use, but in the contract it says I have the right to put the art on a second format (like paperback or audio) without needing to get your permission again, so long as I pay you X% of the original fee, or a flat money amount.

Artists rarely think this way, but remember, you're not necessarily being paid to create the art, you're being paid to license it's usage. Think of it that way and you'll automatically be a more savvy businessman.

So I'm sure I'm leaving some finer points out in my generalizing, so feel free to ask questions in the comments!

See Part 1

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jake & The Other Girl

Greg Manchess

There’s another way to make successful thumbnails that can lead to a final sketch.

Get right to the research first. Instead of exploring small thumbnails on the page, searching for the right image design, there are times where I know that the assignment demands a clearer knowledge of the setting before an idea takes hold.

I read this short story for, a follow-up for a previous story, “Dress Your Marines in White,” by Emmy Laybourne. I toyed with a short-lived idea that might connect with my illustration for the first story, based on a set of men’s arms.

But I had a clearer idea that I needed to know & show the environment for the piece. The mood needed to be established instantly.

The story is post-apocalyptic. I quickly rejected that early approach after researching, at length, war-torn cities, destroyed cities, hurricane, tornado, and earthquake damaged city streets. There is only a brief scene where the main character is outdoors, but it gives the tale a sense of place and I wanted the reader to feel that.

I gathered abandoned cars, some parked, some wrecked, some neglected. I used the status of the cars to reflect the status of the story. I researched shots of broken buildings, street scenes, and abandoned towns. I put all of these images up on my computer and freehanded a large scale thumbnail as the main sketch.

With that much information, I only needed to hit it one time. Most times, you have to create your own luck.

But the challenge after getting the idea was to pull it off. It must read fast and it must feel factual. Rendering cars is not so fun, but discovering and simplifying their shapes to read quickly was very gratifying. But I had to show more than just shiny cars parked. I wanted some to feel like they had just been abandoned, while others had been there for some time.

Again, getting the value correct meant the difference here. Capturing that feeling meant I had to forget what it felt like, and pay more attention to exactly what it looked like. By doing that, I managed to capture the feeling of a dust covered car.

Not so intuitive. I had to study and mix the difference in value range to get shiny vs dusty. I wasn’t surprised to find out how much I learned from this painting about simplifying detail.

As painters, we must sometimes compartmentalize our feelings to actually capture those same feelings in the image. We start with the impression of feeling, reverse-engineer it methodically through observation and application that then re-communicates the feeling we were after originally.

Using contrast was another way of projecting that feeling. I decided to have someone leave a cryptic message on the windshield, like a “wash me” note. The difference between the soft values of the dusty windshield and the crisp, hand drawn letters brought this across. To get that affect, I had to pay attention to exactly what value would be revealed if someone had haphazardly wiped away some dirt.

I could’ve added that passage after the oil was dry, but instead, I painted it digitally. This allowed me to give the art director, Irene Gallo, the choice to keep it or not.

This is yet another way in which digital is informing my analog painting development.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sketchbook 2013 Preview

by Justin Gerard

Hi guys! Quick post today as I am drowning in oil paintings at the moment. These are a few teaser images today from this year's sketchbook which will be available this September.

This year's sketchbook will be a little different than previous year's books and will be leading up to something a lot bigger that I hope to release in 2014.  I've been doing some writing...  (More on this soon.)  

"What do you mean, 'some writing?' You have all the grammatical abilities of a three-legged goat.  
You couldn't write your way out of a paper bag Gerard!"

I hope it all works out.  More details next time!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cintiq Tips, Part 3 of 3

By Paolo Rivera

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 Variant Cover. 2013. 
Digital sketch. Final Artwork

If you've ever seen the Brushes palette, then you know it can be pretty daunting. I keep it open at all times so I can always see the stroke of the brush I'm using and the criteria that govern its behavior. There's no easy way to learn what all the parameters do, so experimentation is key. Among the many options, Dual Brush is a nice feature that provides another level of texture and richness, but I find that it sometimes slows down my computer. If and when that happens, I just turn it off — a lagging cursor defeats the purpose of drawing on screen.

The Brushes Palette

At their heart, digital strokes are nothing more than a stamp that is repeated at a level that approaches fluid motion. One way to counteract a "stamped" or "patterned" look is to play with the Jitter sliders for each variable. I will often set the Angle Jitter to 60% so that the "stamp" will automatically rotate as I draw. You can do the same with opacity and diameter, or tie them to pen pressure for complete control. The more you use them, the sooner you'll discover your favorites (much like real painting).

Brush Presets

When you do find something worthy, save it as a Brush Preset — they're the key to a facile drawing and painting experience. I have all my favorite brushes at the top of the list, which is available by right-clicking (or Control clicking) while using the Brush, Pencil, or Eraser tools. I sometimes save them without the Shape Dynamics checked so I can toggle it on and off in the Options bar. This makes it easier to draw fixed-width straight lines by shift-clicking.

The Occultist #1 Variant Cover. 2013.
Photoshop, 7 × 10.5″ @400ppi.

While some of the parameters overlap, Tool Presets are different from Brush Presets. They appear in their own palette and can be saved with the current painting mode intact, which is perfect for "special effects." Painting modes feature the same names as Layer Modes and behave in much the same way, only they do their magic as you work, as opposed to being applied universally across a layer. I have brushes saved to Darken (only affects lighter colors), Screen (great for glowing effects), Color (shifts hue and saturation without altering brightness), and Dissolve (gives the airbrush tool a speckled appearance).

The airbrushed effect is courtesy of my "Dissolve" brush.

The easiest way to change brush size is to hold down Control and Option on the keyboard while dragging the pen left or right. Dragging up and down modifies the hardness. As you move, a brush tip preview will transform accordingly. This is probably the single most important keyboard shortcut — I simply can't draw without it.

The HUD Color Picker (and Spider-Man)

If you hold Control, Option, and Command while clicking, the Heads-Up Display (HUD) Color Picker will appear, making color selection easier than ever. But if all that seems too complicated (or you're left-handed), you can assign those same keys to a single Cintiq button. (You can also use the pen's eraser as I detailed in a previous post — I never used it for its intended purpose, anyway.)

Everyone should be familiar with using the Space Bar to bring up the Hand tool — it's essential for navigating around your artwork. Basically, my left hand never leaves that area of the keyboard: The Space Bar, Shift, Control, Option, and Command, whether alone or in concert, are constantly being used.

Iron Man 3. 2013. Digital Sketch.
Final Artwork

Under Photoshop Preferences, you can choose what type of cursors you like. I prefer Precise ones for the painting tools (a crosshair) and Standard ones for everything else (tiny icons of the current tool). If I want to see the exact shape of the brush I'm using, I can always press Caps Lock to bring it up.

Felt Nibs from Wacom

Finally, you should pay special attention to the act of drawing itself. Since I like a bit of resistance while I draw, I use the felt nibs that come with the pen (I can't even use the plastic ones). I've tried the rubber-tipped nibs as well — they've got a great feel, but for as much as I draw, they wear out far too quickly.

The Interactive Pressure Profile

The pen's pressure sensitivity can be customized as well, and it's well worth experimenting to achieve the desired response. The quickest way is to choose your preference along a scale of Soft to Firm, but if you click the Customize button, you'll see a graph that displays the Interactive Pressure Profile. The graph that is displayed represents the ratio of pressure to output. There's even a space at the right where you can test the results.

Because drawing against mild resistance facilitates hand control, I move the Click Threshold slightly to the right. This means that the pen won't register a stroke until that pressure is met. On the other hand, if I were to use the full pressure that the pen is capable of, my hand would quickly fatigue. To combat this, I set the Max Pressure a quarter of the way to the left, so I never have to press that hard to get the full range of sizes from my brush.

The blue square represents Sensitivity. By dragging it around, you can alter the curve of the graph. Moving the square to the right makes it concave, the result being that low pressures yield low sensitivity while high pressures yield the opposite. If I'm pressing that hard against the pen, chances are I just want the brush to get as large (or as opaque) as possible.


That wraps up my in-depth look at the Cintiq 13HD. If you have any other questions — or great tips of your own — feel free to comment. But before I let you go, I wanted to mention SmudgeGuard, which is the perfect companion for any tablet or Cintiq. It keeps the screen clean and allows the hand to glide freely over the surface (I sometimes even use it in the analog world).

Part 1
Part 2

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tomb Raider

-By Dan dos Santos

Here is a newly released piece that I created for Dark Horse Comic's upcoming 'Tomb Raider' comic.

The comic was originally slated to be released along with the game, but was unexpectedly delayed. Because I had to create the piece long before the game's actual release (almost a year ago now), there wasn't a ton of material to work with. The game was still in development, so the lack of screen grabs, 3D models and advertising available at the time definitely made capturing the character's likeness a real challenge.

Below is an unused sketch that I thought could have made a cool cover as well.

Like I typically do when painting a celebrity or likeness, I photograph an actual model for the body, and try splice in a referenced face (or alter the model's face accordingly).

In this case, I actually used more than one model.

Firstly, I met and photographed two Lara Croft cosplayers at Dragon Con who just so happened to be models! It was totally serendipitous, and I decided to take advantage of it. So I did a super quick shoot with Erin and Tara in my room simply to help me generate some preliminary ideas. Nothing crazy, no lights or anything, just a few rough shots to get the ideas rolling.

Then I hired friend, and fellow illustrator, Liza Biggers to pose for a more controlled shoot where I could really nitpick stuff. I shot Liza both indoors and outdoors, where she proved herself to be not only incredibly fit, but remarkably patient as well!

After the shoot, I reworked my composition digitally, printed it out, and began re-drawing directly on my illustration board. As usual, I started with a fairly tight underdrawing...

And then a light wash of oils to establish the overall color scheme...

And finally, the the finished painting.

'Tomb Raider', 2012, oils on board, 16 x 24 inches.