Friday, February 28, 2014

A Show of Hands

By Justin Gerard

I did a post back in 2011 on different ways that different artists painted eyes. So for today's post I thought I would revisit this theme, only this time, to see how some of my favorite artists paint hands.  

There is so much to learn by seeing how different artists tackle the same subject. Comparisons like this can allow us to see the effect that an approach can have when working on your subject.  Do you want to refine your subject down to something extremely soft? Or would you rather thrash brushwork into the canvas in order to achieve texture and character? How does leaving an outline around your subject change the way it is seen?  Seeing how other artists solved these problems and the effect it can have on their work is always fascinating.  

Link to the Original Post: The Eyes Have It

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Beren and Luthien - Tolkien's Silmarillion

by Donato

I have been sketching out ideas for a new series of works based upon the great love story J.R.R. Tolkien created within the Silmarillion - The Lay of Leithian.  It is about two lovers, Beren and Luthien, and their trails and passions for each other in the First Age of Middle-earth.  I look at this as a wonderful chance to play in the world of Middle-earth without relying upon the highly recognizable characters from the Lord of the Rings, and to build upon images not imbued with conflict but rather subtlety and companionship.

Below are a few adventures in exploration!

Huan, Luthien and Beren on their way to Angband

The meeting of Beren and Luthien


The Greatest Deed - Luthien and Beren take a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Comfort in Dying

-by Eric Fortune

This piece was done a few months back for Copro Gallery's "Espionage Miami" show.  It started out as a tiny piece of chicken scratch done several months prior that sat around collecting dust until I felt I was ready to more fully realize it.  I have a gang load of vague scribbles that I keep and every now and then flip through them to see if any jump out.  Most probably won't turn into anything.  But you never know.

Said chicken scratch, and slightly more refined chicken scratch.

Photo Reference is your friend.  But try not to become a slave to your photo ref...
Unless of course it's consensual and you're into that kinda thing.  Always have a safe word.

I used to just transfer my thumbnail sketches onto the watercolor paper and then use my photo reference to make the final drawing just the once.(vid of my transfer process here)  Usually that's fine.  However, every now and then the proportions of the figure are too skewed or something just isn't clicking enough that I end up doing more erasing on my paper than I would like.  So I started making adjustments at the smaller scale and solving some of my issues prior to transferring.  In the long run it saves me some potential grief even if it adds some redundancy.

Final Drawing
And the "Color Comp of The Year" award goes to..... not me.

Don't judge me.

Something I tend to do somewhat early in a painting is choose a spot that I know will be fairly dark and try to punch in the color and value to give me a relative sense of value so that I'm not making my washes too thin or building up my value too slowly.  It's a slow process and I never "nail it" when it comes to color and value. It's always a build up of layers, and making slight adjustments as I move in the needed direction. But this does help me from being so slow that I start traveling backwards in time.  I also started taking my own advice that I give to students excited about a new piece.  Don't get crazy and do an extra large painting that can be even more time consuming than you want it to be.  Nothing wrong with working in your comfort zone, especially if you have a deadline.

My little set up at Columbus College of Art and Design.

I find it helpful to get out of the studio every now and then to paint with some old friends, teachers, and art students.  Art school is nice because there's so much creative energy.  One thing I hear from a lot of other freelancers is that sometimes we get stuck in our studios with little time for socializing.  We often have to force ourselves out of the house after realizing it's been weeks since we've been out.  Having a strong work ethic is cool but a little balance is required as well.  I probably don't read this often enough but here's a great list of things to keep in mind as an artist, "Tips and Tricks from and Art Slave".

Here is a short process video of this stage:

My work space at home.

And finally, the finished painting...
"Comfort in Dying", by Eric Fortune

As always, look forward to any questions or comments.  If you enjoy this piece and are interested in prints this will be my first print available through INPRNT and I'll hopefully be adding more soon.  The print is available Here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Beginning Your Own I.P.

-By Dan LuVisi

LMS: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter 

This on-going article is based on how I made and released the above title, and creating your own IP. It's something I suggest to a lot of new artist, as I feel we are the future story-tellers, as Hollywood is running dry of fresh or risky ideas. 

Part 2 of Creating Your Own IP -

(Read Part 1 Here.)

Hey guys! Long read here, so if you're ADD like me, good luck! That said, I tried to spill my heart in how I created my book LMS, and what I learned from it. I will continue writing everything I've learned as well.  For you beginners out there who look to make their own IP, I hope you can learn from my struggles! 

Best of luck, enjoy the read, and thank you for the support!

As I stared at an empty screen, I contemplated the first, actual, step of creating a book. I had just received the green-light by Kevin Eastman, publisher of Heavy Metal, to partner up and release LMS: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter.

This was going to be difficult, I realized, staring at screaming-white canvas in Photoshop. I had never made a book, written a book (published, as I had written tons of non-released short-stories in my nerdy-thankfully forgettable-teens), more or less designed a book. Hell, I didn't even go to college, relying simply on what I've been inspired by, or have learned from over the past few years.

I would say I had drive, thankfully due to the stressful side of freelancing. I'll admit, I was jaded at the time, due to it being--well--extremely hard to find work. Anxiety every morning began to grow in my stomach, contemplating how I'm going to get by the next month. Checking my Chase account to confirm I had enough to pay rent, and buy my cat Gizmo and myself food, was a nightmare eerie enough to wake me up, and realize I had to stop being a wimp, put on my big-boy pants (pjs) and start this damn book.

So, I began with a process, and below are the first two steps I needed to plunge into my world and begin it. I hope you can gather something from it, because during the creation of this book, this was one of the most difficult situations; how to start the actual book.

    Drawing from my childhood inspirations
     and how it helped build and jumpstart LMS. 

It all began with an inspiration. My childhood was filled with colorful characters and worlds, dreamt by geniuses like Todd McFarland, Stan Lee, Bob Kane, Kevin Eastman and Marc Silvestri. I looked up to these artists as if they were Gods, studying and learning from anything they supplied. I stayed up late, reading their comics, growing continuously lost in their worlds. What truly captured me though, was how they were the ones owning and writing these books.

Films played a huge part in my childhood as well. My bestfriend and always wanted to be a director, and I wanted to as well--just I didn't know anything about it, so I stuck to art. I was a huge fan of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorcese, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Verehoeven and Francis Ford Coppola. These were the type of directors that could grab a viewer, and take them to another world. It didn't feel like I was simply watching a movie when viewing their art.

Writing was something I picked up in my teens, inspired by a lot of books directed from the Star Wars universe. After school, I would always race home to write my book "Tales From The Empire" a collection of short-stories about moments we never got to see in the movies.

I never figured myself to be good at writing, it was just a hobby I enjoyed and gave me an excuse to create even further. When I was fifteen, I began writing stories not based off anything other than my own ideas. Jewelry heist films, stories about S.W.A.T. or alien-wars, anything that I was into.

As I began to dive deeper into writing, I wanted it to at least make sense. I figured, if I knew and understood the structure of a story, than that could at least take me somewhere. So I began reading up on these artists, and listening to their interviews and commentaries. I would watch and learn from who inspired these giants to do what they do, and then learn from them as well. From this, I found two very important books that began to help my form of story telling, below are the titles:

Author: Robert McKee

A Hero With A Thousand Faces
Author: Joseph Campbell 

With these two titles, I was able to learn the basic fundamentals of telling a story, which would come in handy when writing all of the book's character's individual stories, not to mention the protagonist himself, Gabriel.

The Hero With a Thousand Face's book is one that I feel everyone should read, but not use. There is a great, universal walkthrough that hundreds of movies follow, and I have to warn you, once you read it, you'll be picking apart movies left and right.

But if you can learn from this book, and then apply your own way of going about its structure, I feel there is so much you can pull from it, and in a way, manipulate the audience in a positive way, rather than a negative.

Once I had those books, and with enough art of the characters (I had eight when I began writing LMS, including Gabriel), I opened up MS Word and began to dive in deep with Gabriel and his world of deadly, and insane friends.

How LMS went from a Zombie apocalypse to a superhero-satire.

LMS upon first glance, is a cocktail of flashy, in-your-face, sci-fi and videogame cliches. And you know what? That was goal....well kind of.

But before I get to that, let's go back. When LMS was first being written, it was about a prisoner on death-row, Gabriel, as he was about to be given the lethal injection. But just before the poison is thrust into his blood-stream, a gang of zombies breaks into the room. From here, Gabriel is released and must thrive through this zombie apocalypse and find out who set him up.

Right? Terrible idea. 

I scrapped it, and tried to rethink it. I kept looking at Gabriel, who would be my protagonist of the story. Below is the first painting I did of him.

Gabriel, at first, was only a bounty hunter. Badass, with no identity or backstory, other than being a killer who enjoyed his candies. I knew he would be my main character, because out of all of the ones I had put online--it was Gabriel that got the most attention.

Being a sucker for revenge tales, such as Count of Monte Cristo, Kill Bill, Oldboy and more, I decided to base his origin off of that. The story began to build, and evolve. I'll give you what I original wrote back then, and what it's turned into:


LMS is about Gabriel, a genetically-modified super-soldier, who is framed for a crime he did not commit and sentenced to a maximum-prison. After breaking out nine-years later, he ventures off to find out the ones responsible for doing it. 

It was so cliche. So been-there, done-that. But that's when it clicked.

Isn't that what I'm trying to make fun of? How whenever something new and flashy comes about, everyone wants to make it, beating it to a dead-horse until a change has to be made? Superhero movies? Reality shows? Music? Tons of the same old...

I realized that instead of trying to tell a story we've heard a thousand times, why don't I satire the whole situation? Inspired by films like Robocop and the humor/violence clash of Tarantino, I finally had a handle on my themes and style, resulting in:

CURRENT STORY (2013-2014):
(Editor Note: Most synopsis aren't this long, merely 3 paragraphs. These were my notes for the Killbook when I reprinted it for Dark Horse Comics.)

Set in the year 2666, The United States of Amerika has entered a war with an alien colony on Mars known as the Nomen race. After losing to the alien's increasing threat, Abram Stone, CEO of the private-military-corp Armtech, offers the people of Earth a solution: Gabriel, the Paladin Soldier.

Built to be indestructible and harnessing the strength and wit of a million soldiers, Gabriel enters Mars' battlegrounds and, single handily, wins the war in a mere two-weeks. After returning to Earth, Gabriel is celebrated and awarded for his contributions and receives the title Protector of Amerika.

And to think, he was technically only 3 years old.

By the age of five, Gabriel has turned the country into a utopia, where the people and government thrive. Crime rates drop, and the people of Amerika begin to feel safe yet again. For this, Gabriel is rewarded handsomely. He's given unlimited funds, TV shows, magazine covers, toys, clothing and more. Gabriel himself, becomes the cash-cow that everyone wanted to be a part of. And because of it, he blew up, big time.

But the higher you go, the harder you fall, and with the constant stardom and stress of saving the country, Gabriel begins to break down, resorting to the vices of Amerika. As he killed his image with drugs, alcohol and a self-sabotaging attitude, the world watched a once glorified hero turn into a washed-up joke--LIVE, all for the price of $99.99.

On the night of the premiere of his film The Guardian III, the last of the Paladin Trilogy, Gabriel was framed for a crime he had no hand in, and ordered to be shut-down due to an internally-released toxin, Gabriel is disabled and sentenced to Level-9 Facility--a prison which would put Gabriel through the fight of his life.

After nine years of destructing Gabriel from the inside-out, an illusive suit known as AGENT O offers Gabriel a chance at redemption, but for a price. Giving Gabriel what he needs to breaks out, the once famed hero comes to realize that the country he helped turn around for the better has changed for the worst.

Gone is the Amerika he helped create, and in return is a corporate and conglomerate hostile take over. Gangs, ruthless killers and bounty hunters, drug dealers and more plague the street, but above them the Suits watch, as they plunge their money-grubby hands into the wallets of the lesser people below. From here, it will be up to Gabriel to go out one last time, and save the country before it runs itself into the ground once and for all.

Phew. That, was all I needed to get started. Was that the full story? Nope, not at all. Five percent, maybe, if that. I had so much more to tell, from who Gabriel eventually turns himself into, his friends and enemies, and of course, lots and lots of action.

So once I had that, I knew and finally trusted my direction. The world began to build in my head, mixing my love for 70-90's film pop-culture, with the hyper violence and hypocrisy of today. I had understood my protagonist and his intensions. In a way, relating it to situations in today's world that bothered or upset me: ranging from the media, society or the acts of human nature in general. LMS began to form in my head and continuously made me push to make it more than what it was on the outside.

However, Before I could tell that full story in the comic-world, I decided to switch it up and do something different. I wanted to give the reader a tease of the entire world and it's gallery of hostile characters. I wanted to give them a book that was worth their money, filled to the brim with details, stories, art and more.

For whatever reason I chose to make the Killbook, as difficult, stressful, and enduring of a challenge as it was---I will never regret it, as it changed my life. As grateful and humbled as I am, and considering how far LMS has come and the amazing support it has received--I couldn't be happier.

However, I just wish someone warned me about the next five years. Because man, the dark days were about to hit hard.

To follow more of my work:

Facebook: HERE
Twitter: @DanLuVisiArt

Monday, February 24, 2014

Unsolicited Advice #2 of 4: Get C&C

Above: The Far Side by Gary Larson. © Universal Press Syndicate.

by Arnie Fenner

And by C&C I mean Compensation and Credit. That's pretty much a no-brainer for any artist, and yet there are plenty of folks out there who will happily deny you both if allowed.

Don't let them.

The copyright laws these days are pretty clear-cut: you own what you create until you assign those rights to another…or give them away. Give away? Who would do such a thing? Well, more than you might think.

Now copyright is a gigantic can of worms I'm not prepared to open very wide with this post: it's a complicated issue that few agree absolutely about, which is made only more abstruse and puzzling by the internet and social media. Anyone who claims to be a copyright "expert" (including plenty of lawyers) is probably full of baloney: interpretations of the laws are constantly being challenged, revisited, and revised. Toss in mentions of Work for Hire and the Fair Use Doctrine (which grants others the right to use your art without asking in certain circumstances, such as in news stories or as part of an educational or historical publication/presentation) and the "rights" conversation only gets more confusing. So I'm going to keep it simple and leave off the varnish:

Don't let people use your art without permission. Don't let them print it, copy it, share it on the web, or otherwise publish or disseminate it in any way without your say so.

With the current laws the onus is placed on you to protect your rights; there isn't a Copyright Cop asking anyone if they had gotten permission before using your painting for whatever they want to use it for. Corporations have lawyers patrolling their territory, but you're pretty much on your lonesome to ward off pirates. If you find someone that has used your work without authorization, you can't shrug it off: unless you challenge infringers whenever they're encountered an argument can be made down the line that you've abandoned your rights and made them freely available to whomever wants them. (A "laches defense" that, if successfully argued—as it often is—could…no, no, no, no! I said I wasn't going to get into all of the vagaries of copyright this time and I'm gonna stick to my guns.) have to be vigilant and you have to be selective with how and where you make your art available.

It goes without saying—but I'll say it anyway—that you should confront anyone who uses your art without asking you first. Begin nicely, but if you get attitude as a response, give it back in spades. It's a hassle, it's stressful, it's infuriating, and potentially expensive to make the other guy accountable but…infringement is infringement. I don't care if they're friends, relatives, amateurs, or pros; it doesn't matter if they "assumed" or "thought you'd be pleased" or "didn't make any money" or any other half-assed excuse they might make. You don't take their car or enter their home without their permission and they should not be allowed to use your art without yours,

And when you do grant permission for someone to use your work, get something in return.

Above: John Fleskes produced commemorative books for SFAL 1 & 2 with sections devoted to the work of the show's guests. Each artist receives a royalty for every copy sold: wouldn't it be nice if every convention that produces some sort of souvenir book that they sell did the same? Sure it would. Covers by Brom (on the left) and Peter de Sève (on the right, courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd. and Walt Disney Studios).

(A social media aside: Under the terms of Facebook and similar sites, you have agreed to "share" with members anything you load and they in turn have the right to share your stuff with others. That's not waiving your copyright outside of FB's confines, but it can make your work readily accessible to the unscrupulous and be difficult to track or control use.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah: getting something in return.

Regardless of appearances or perceptions, not everything makes money, not every project is for profit (or for very much profit) and if you want to allow someone to print your art after they've asked nicely—in a magazine or a book or on a poster or as part of a convention souvenir or in an exhibit catalog, whatever—that's your right. But part of the deal has to be that your art is properly credited with your copyright and that you get, at the bare minimum, a copy of anything published that features your work. Don't listen to the crybabies who whine about the cost of producing this convention book or mailing that catalog. Your generosity should not be rewarded with discourtesy: their bank account is not your concern. And for God's sake you most certainly should not be expected to purchase anything that you've granted permission to publish your work. Don't be shy about demanding a copy and don't take "no" for an answer.

We teach people the way to treat us: unless you place a value on the use of your work, why should they?

Likewise with receiving credit for your art.

Having your name appear with your work can grow the audience's appreciation for what you do and get the attention of potential clients and art directors. You should not rely on a signature in your work to be sufficient (they can often get cropped or covered by type), but should insist on a credit/copyright notice whenever your art is published or put online. It's a friggin' line of type: it doesn't cost anything, but you'd be surprised at how stingy some can be in giving it. Just because you're doing Work For Hire (which is common in the comics, game, and entertainment fields) and are reassigning your copyright to whomever as part of the job, that doesn't mean you shouldn't or can't receive credit for your work.

It doesn't have to be hard: just include a line in your invoice or contract or any other communication stipulating that a credit for you accompany your work every time it's used. If it is your client's contract you're signing and no mention of credit is made, write the requirement on every copy, date, and initial it. Most clients honestly don't think about it or really care and are happy to accommodate. If on occasion you get push-back, it's an opportunity to have a discussion.

Above: Regardless of what we advertise, shows or books, we always include a credit for the artists whose works appear in the ad. I don't know how legible they are in the images included here, but we also started including the artist's websites, too. It doesn't cost anything, helps the artists we work with, and, shoot…it's just the right thing to do. 

Admittedly there are circumstances when you might not get it. Advertising is notoriously reluctant to credit artists, partly because of the old saw that they don't want to distract from the message of the ad. (All a bunch of hooey, especially when you consider the legalese and fine print most ads run as a matter of course.) Warner Bros. or Sony or any other major corporation will probably smile and refuse, but it never hurts to try: persistence can sometimes pay off.

But when it comes to freebies, in print or online, never let anyone use your work without crediting you.

A big part of being a professional artist is managing your assets: recognition for your work and acknowledgment of your copyright (when you retain it) has value. Receiving copies of where your art appears is a document of your career (and history of use of various works, which can be important when licensing of secondary rights comes into play) that can have value to you in the years ahead.

Don't willingly let anyone rook you out of either.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Drew & Bob : UPDATE

A short while back, I mentioned an exhibit in Glendale, CA showcasing the work of Bob Peak and Drew Struzan. At the time, very little was known about the show. We did not know what works, how many, or why the whole darn thing was being held at a funeral home.

Thanks to some faithful Muddy Colors readers, we now have some additional information and pics for you.

Firstly, The Forest Lawn Museum has a rich history. A lot of famous celebrities are buried on the grounds, and the museum has been host to a great many shows. Their collection includes a beautiful Bouguereau, amongst many other works.

Though the dates are still not set, we are told that Drew Struzan and Thomas Peak (Bob's son, and author of Bob's recent monograph) will be doing a lecture and signing at some point.

Overall, the show seems to be exactly what you'd hope it would be. There are a little more than 40 works on display, about 20 from each artist. Many of these pieces are some of the artist' better known works, including the art for Apocalypse Now, Superman, Harry Potter, and The Walking Dead.

A good friend, who shall remain unnamed, was brave enough to bring a camera behind enemy lines and made it back with the following pictures unscathed. We apologize for the imperfect shots, but espionage can be a dangerous game.

The show will be up for a few more months still. If you are in LA area, be sure to check it out.