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Archive for May 2008

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Breathe Right Storyboard Frames

I'm currently working on another round of Breathe Right storyboards. I can't show those yet, but here are a couple more frames from those I did last month.

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Yep, they've got these strips for kids now, to help children sleep more soundly when they're congested or have a cold.

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Coldplay iTunes Video: Viva La Vida

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You've probably seen the latest iTunes commercial, featuring Coldplay. It's sure gotten my attention. Like all of the iTunes spots, it looks and sounds beautiful, very well conceived and edited. Despite being piano-based (which usually attracts me), nothing Coldplay has done up to this point has really done anything for me. But from the sounds of it, their latest, Viva La Vida is changing that. I'm going out on a limb here, having heard only a few songs, but I think this album is going to be huge, having an impact not seen since U2 released Joshua Tree. Listen to a few tracks, courtesy of imeem.com: I'll wait to hear the album in its entirety, but listening to just a bit makes me think of U2, The Beatles, Brian Wilson's Smile, and more.

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Memorial Day

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Thanks to all those who've served, and to the families of all those who've served. Their incredible and selfless sacrifices of many kinds afford me the life I have, the work I do, and allows me to do things like this little blog. This illustration served as a cover for a small magazine, done in 1991. Executed entirely without holding lines, just hatches and crosshatching, it's a style I wouldn't use now, but seemed right at the time, and for the subject matter. I colorized the line art a blue/green for the blog today.

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Blue Moon Junior Artists

Our daughters, Laura and Emily recently had their artwork displayed in the art fair with the local school system. Their art has been chosen nearly every year since they started attending. The art program and teachers in our school system are impressive, giving all the kids a good taste of many media and techniques, all on full display at these fairs each year.

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Emily with her "Picasso Face."

 

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Laura with her "Leaves." This photo doesn't do the art justice.

 

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A close-up of Emily's art.

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PROOF Short Story Layouts

Between other jobs, I've been working on roughs and layouts for that back-up story for the Proof comic book I mentioned here a bit back. For "thinking work" like this, I like to get out of the studio sometimes, and kick back a bit, more comfy-style. That was easier to do this week since it's finally warming up here in Minnesota, so I was able to get some sun or at least fresh air as I sketched away while sitting on the deck or patio. Lately, for my comics work, I've been doing breakdowns for each page right on the printed script in red pen. No one else (not even the writer, I'd guess) can tell what the heck's going on in these tiny page roughs, maybe 3" tall. If I wait too long before going to the next step, even I can't decipher some of the strange scribblings!

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The next step is to do a larger layout. These I do at print size, so I can get a more clear idea of the actual size and proportions of things as it will appear to readers. I'm showing here just a few panels from this page, so as not to give away too much or ruin the story for those who'll read it later when it sees print.

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I like to draw these layouts quickly in marker to figure composition, character expressions and gestures. For me, word balloon placement is integral to the page and panel design, so I draw those in at this stage, rather than later, to allow enough room for both word and pictures, that they support each other and work together seamlessly. Boy, there's just nothing I like doing more than this. Comics! I hear more and more comics artists are printing their layouts in non-repro blue on larger sheets or bristol, and that's what I'm planning to finally try for this story. I'm getting awful tired of transferring pencils to board on my light table. It seems like an extra step to me more than ever, and I'd rather streamline the process. We'll see how it goes....

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Feeling Lucky?

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Like a fine wine, Clint improves with age. Ten minute sketch with my trusty woodless pencil.

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Prince Caspian of Narnia!

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When reading to my daughters the second book in C. S. Lewis's Narnia series a few years back, I made up a theme song I'd belt out, and they'd join in. We'd all sing over and over, "Prince Caspian of Narnia!" That's all there was to the lyrics, really, but gosh, it's majestic! You should have heard it. Emily didn't want to hear it as we watched the beginning of the movie. They don't like when I sing in public, even if it's a whisper. We went on a Monday night right after school, having instead enjoyed some long-overdue nice weather during the weekend. There were only eight of us all told in the theater, which was kinda nice. We all enjoyed the movie, though agreeing it wasn't quite as good as the first in the movie series. I'd give it a solid 3.5 stars (of 5). The story was engaging and well-adapted from the book. This article makes the case that the movie improved upon the book, and it's hard to disagree. Not my favorite of the Narnia series, the structure of the book is out of whack. What makes the book is the concepts and characters, all of which are captured well or improved in the movie. The kids from the first book return to Narnia, this time hundreds of years after they last left the land as kings and queens. With this device, Lewis shows the long, slow pull of history, and the threats sometimes faced by civilization, a potential danger whether in Narnia, World War II Britain, or for us today. Heady stuff for a kid's flick.

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There are lots of battles and some scary stuff towards the end with an evil werewolf and totally creepy BirdLady, but the most fun for me was seeing come to life on screen the little mouse warrior, Reepicheep. He was easily our favorite character of the book, and the movie does him proud, even if Laura was critical of his design: "He doesn't look like a mouse!" But she's something of a rodent expert. Reepicheep provides unexpected action, comic relief, and a sense of honor. I read a review which said that the Narnia movies are "Lord of the Rings Lite," but that's unfair. Lewis's books have a tone and charm not found in the Tolkien stories, and to me, they're preferable. I'm looking forward to the third in the series, as Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a good book; they'll have even more to work with.

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Brain Balance

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Being a creative person, one might think my Right Brain would be in charge. Not always so. I've also got a logical streak, so sometimes my Left Brain is in command and dictates. My pal, Mitch has coined a term to describe the condition: Corpus Callosum Dominant. The corpus callosum is that thing in our little mammal brains which connects the left and right hemispheres, a bunch of white matter that handles much of the correspondence between the two. I'm not sure if too much communication is ever a bad thing, but the good ol' CC can sometimes cause me some real headaches, blessing me with perhaps an enlarged or overactive conduit. Depending on the personal situation, I'm not always sure which half will take the lead. At times of indecision or agitation, I wish one of the sides would just take over, making it easier on me. It can get a little goofy in here, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone to get a glimpse inside my sometimes confused mind! Of course, being Corpus Callosum Dominant can have its advantages for work, coming in handy for running a business, or when assessing, planning and executing creative projects, especially those large or complex. The left brain kicks in overdrive when: taking direction, asking specific questions about details of a job; figuring measurements and specs; or doing multi-panel and multi-page breakdowns. With those last two items, we start to enter areas where both sides work together, not entirely analytical nor creative, but rather a synergy of the two. That's when it's best, when there's a balance and one gets in a groove to solve creative problems and challenges. Sometimes it's tough to sustain that balance during the creative process. For me, the danger comes in over-thinking a piece, where the art can become stiff and I can wring all the life out of it. I can run into this while songwriting, as well, find myslef trying to shoehorn a melody around a buttoned-down song idea, or well-thought-out lyrics. Sure, sometimes it takes extra work to fashion something worthwhile, but work it too hard and you can kill it. And while it's nice -- essential, actually -- to go totally Right Brain and play around without thought about a finished product or piece, in the end an artist still needs a more reasonable voice to find structure in a work or make the call that a piece is indeed finished. I'm sure I'm not alone. All of us dance back and forth between logic and emotion every day, every second. And maybe my case isn't all that extreme, really. But sometimes it sure feels like it! What a relief and pleasure it is when things are clicking on all cylinders, to tap into a small portion of the power of that incredible lump in our skulls.

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This is Not a Question?

Taylor Mali: he's so like, right...you know? This one, The The Impotence of Proofreading, is also very good. Twice while writing this post I typed out his name as "ATylor Mail." Blog nod: Ultrapastor.

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Sean Phillips: Not a Hack

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I've loved the comics art of Sean Phillips for years, since first seeing his stuff on Hellblazer, a title on which I was astounded hear he didn't pencil. Still can't believe it. But after reading his insightful and self deprecating blog, there's a hint to his creative process. It seems he draws in blue marker a guide from his small thumbnail roughs, from which he goes directly to ink. I love the the idea of streamlining and speeding up the process, but you have to be good enough, as Phillips is, to pull it off. Because of the approach, he's able achieve a looser, more expressive and energetic dry brush look. Great stuff. And he can paint, too.

I just received in the mail this week his self published (through lulu.com) book, Blow Up, a 400-page collection of sketches, comics panels, paintings and layouts, all enlarged and blown up to see the detail and true nature of what makes his art tick. Probably more for the die-hard fan, it's well worth picking up. And if you're among the uninitiated, I'd start with the superb Criminal, hard-boiled modern noir comics written by Ed Brubaker.

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