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Archive for March 2012


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 8

Lotsa great panels on these next two pages of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac. For context, and/or to read the story in its entirety, visit Michael Sporn's splog. Page 23 starts with a wide shot, re-establishing the characters and surroundings as Smith rejoins the fray. Same deal here with Toth placing a post in the foreground for depth and to divide the frame into thirds, the figures and vessels in mid-ground, a criss-cross web of the dock behind. The chiaroscuro rendering of the splash and water bring energy to the panel. Positive and negative space are key here. Clint and Mac get wind of what's up above, the upturned head of Clint giving us a sense of placement and sound, even in a close-up shot with a black background. Without showing us again who's where, Toth suggest it cleverly. Back above, top deck with the three men. The POV is just below eye level of Toby and Smith, so we look up at them, then past to the skipper. Perspective, gesture, expression, composition, rendering of folds and hair, spotting of blacks - all are so well done here! I removed the color and cleaned up panel 4 as the coloring was distracting to the power and energy of this frame. With an illustrative touch, Toth leaves open portions of the sides and bottom of the frame, the negative space bleeding beyond its border. Roughly rendered (or printed) all details of the boat, dock, rigging etc. are rock solid, even while Toth draws our attention tot he serpentine rope Smith tosses, leaving the skiff behind. This panel is seriously great. The final panel of the page shows Mac frantic, Clint brandishing his pocket knife for the next action... They make their way out of the locker to the cabin, the drama heightened by Toth's choice of a low angle, the perspective shadowing and cropping used for great effect. Clint begins to cut the gas line in the next frame, the boy's head framing the point at which blade meets tubing. I love the scratchy rendering of Clint's hair and bold stripes on Mac's mac. Next are a couple unassuming panels: a close-up of gas running from the spliced tube; then a long shot from under the dock. Though striking no doubt in black and white, Toth designed his panel for color, the boat and its passengers knocked with a simple outline. Panel 5 is another shot from below eye level, Smith threatening but casual, an effect conveyed and enhanced by how he dominated the frame, the folds in his jacket (suggesting his left hand in pocket) and the slight cock of his head. Toth is nailing it with every panel here: perspective, cropping, loosely-rendered details of the gun and ship, facial expressions and wisps of smoke. Gad, this man makes it look easy! It ain't. As if the previous frames weren't impressive enough, for the final panel of page 24, Toth places Smith in the extreme foreground, with a POV from above, looking down from overhead to the Skipper in the cabin. Man, what a shot! Some challenge his claims, but this is done so naturally I can believe Toth achieved shots like this without reference. Staggering. More next week. In the meantime catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.


Buster Squared

A couple drawings of my favorite silent film star/filmmaker, period: Buster Keaton.

Both were drawn in Manga Studio, the first without any rough or underdrawing.


Marilyn Reads

I tweaked some of the line art from this piece I drew for the daily March Madness sketch blog, refining Marilyn's likeness as best I could, and shortened her left leg. Dropped in some flat color. I don't mind this one at all.


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 7

Page 21 of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac is just a great page, the last panel of which inspired me to cover this full story with this series of posts. That "closing the hatch" panel is still one of my all-time faves in Toth's canon.

In panel 1, the boys are still in the water under the dock, cropped and hidden as they eavesdrop and plan. The page all told is well composed, each panel also superb, working together with patterns of angles and curves, focusing not on a money shot of a particular character or close-up, but establishing the characters and objects in relationship to each other. The hatch is is the prime focus of the page. Rather than showing us more face-front views of the characters in action, Toth forces us to pay attention to that hatch. Storytelling, man - storytelling!

Sure, in Panel 2 we see the Skipper, an incidental character (and a fantastic drawing, by the way), but other than this and the medium/long shot of Clint & Mac in frame 1, that's all we get. Why? Here, we see Toby from behind. The point at which his hat crops said hatch in the background is nearly in the exact center of the panel. We think we're focusing Toby & Skip, the boat, perhaps any of the details that might catch our attention (the joists, light, rope, satchel...whatever), but actually all these elements point us back to the hatch. All of them. The perspective and angles of the joists lead to each side of the hatch, even if one side is obscured by Toby's head/hat. The exchange between Toby & the Skip is secondary. All lines lead to the hatch.

See? Like this:
If we didn't get the point, Toth leaves us no choice in panel 3: the hatch takes up just about all of the frame. Though the satchel is cropped and partially obscured, we get that Toby's hiding it in the locker. The perspective here is spot on. No tangents, all details drawn so well, but so simply - the handle, Toby's hands, etc. So good. What'd Toth say again?

Emphasize what is important in a scene. Save drawing!

Eliminate the superfluous, the unnecessary...In other words: strip it all down to essentials and draw the hell out of what is left!

In panel 4 (above) Toth takes us underneath the dock again, nearly all in shadow or silhouette.

A terrific overhead long-shot re-establishes the boys, the dock and the boat, and despite all the detail of the boat, all eyes are on the boys making their way aboard. Then, of course: the shot. Love it!

On the next page (22), Toth brings us inside the locker with the boys to enhance the immediacy and drama. Much of what works here is weakened by poor coloring, so...

...let's take a look in black and white. Ah, that's better. The shots here are from below, dark, cramped and claustrophobic. Medium-dark coloring would've reinforced what Toth has set up so well. And how more effective panels 3 & 4 would have been without narration and dialogue. An additional panel after panel 4 with that dialogue would've improved things.

Back above: top deck. Our two rascals move the satchel about again. The cropping of the characters put it again at center stage. I love the angle on Toby, so natural and emphasizing his girth. There's a real flow and sway to the gestures, hands, jacket folds and face.

Moving the "camera" above, Toth makes a tough shot to pull off look easy. He usually does....

Next week: More great stuff, go figure. It's hard to believe there's so much done so well in a mediocre kids comics adaption of a sub-par Disney television serial...but there is!

As always, you can refer to and read and view the story in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog. Catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.


Brute: In Stages

I sketched up and inked this brute in Manga Studio, then added a textured background and colored with the Chalk brush. On that rocky surface, he seems pretty solid.


A Bunch from Sketchbook Month

Some doodles I've done during March as the Saturday Sketch-Day blog has gone daily for a time. Drop in and see what me and my SketchPals have been up to. Esperanza Spalding! If you haven't watched her perform you owe it to yourself to check her out. A couple memory sketches of students...

Elongated Archibald Leach at the piano from The Awful Truth -

This lady's neck was even longer in the photo from which I worked.


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 6

More of Toth's Clint & Mac picks with a nice page with great compositions, blackspotting and tons of folds. There's an illustrative quality to the art here and it looks decent in color...

...But I blew out the color and cleaned things up for a closer look in black & white. Take this first panel from the top of page 18. Toth crops the figure on the left (Smith), his head in a halo of smoke, bathed in shadow which swings us on a curve as we move right to his partner in crime. What natural gesture, and with not the easiest pose, at that. Could Toth have pulled this off without a model or reference? He said yes, his reference file in his head, and that every artist should strive for the same.

This is a comic for kids, but everybody's smoking! So: Smith leans forward. Sweet black areas, expression and folds in his jacket. Toth looks like he could draw this stuff in his sleep. Behind him, the limehouse room walls are decorated with pin-ups of gorgeous women. This guy's lamp is all askew (right), casting dramatic shadows around the room . Most of this frame is taken up by Smith's dominating figure, his buddy taking orders, diminished, then - cropped at right.

(Not facing panels.)

From the lower tier, we cut to Clint & Mac turning over the skiff. Toth achieves tremendous depth, a shadowed post and pier in the foreground, the boys in the mid-ground, surrounded by receding decking and posts underneath the dock. He stages and renders a complex scene simply. By cropping Mac with the foreground post, we focus instead on Mac with the strong diagonal of his body and rope as he lowers the skiff - one can really feel the tension and effort! A more open space between the posts frame and highlight his head, and the impressionistically rendered splashes of water around the skiff add contrast and draw attention to the object, and lets the reader's eye finish the picture.

Here's the entire page in black & white, just for grins.

The top tier of page 19 features to wonderful panels, the boys framed by the opening between the dock and gate, the wake from a ship in the distance providing another halo. Then the boys are in the water and Toth takes us under with them. What beautiful flow and action, as the curve of their bodies leads us to their destination: the skiff. Great composition and design here with a variety of patterns: the long, horizontal ellipses of the ripples on the water surface; the rounded, billowing cloud of their path; the diagonals of the skiff and wood. Just superb.

We're back on the surface in the next frame, the POV just above the water's surface, actually. It brings near the boys' POV, accentuating the anxiety of their situation. In this long horizontal panel, the skiff covers a good portion of the panel, cropping the boys underneath, emphasizing its importance and framing the two gents on the dock.

Before giving us a two-shot of Toby and the Skipper with some cash and the satchel, Toth keeps the camera angle low but from another POV, showing us the skipper's ship. A trail of smoke is in each panel, leading the eye through and framing figures.

Toth continues to vary the shots, this time from above, the top of the skipper's ship and a light in the foreground, the two men cropped by those foreground elements in mid-ground, the ever-present skiff behind. Toth is moving about, showing us who and what is where, objects and people in relation to each other. An overhead shot focuses on that skiff - will the boys be discovered?

Then we cut to a close-up under that boat as the boys decide to take leave, Toby and the Skip pull up the skiff, which has seen some action!

Rather than repeating with another shot of the boys swimming underwater, that action occurs between frames and in the final large panel of the page, Clint & Mac have safely escaped, now under a pier, it and them in silhouette, Skip and Toby ready to set out. Cool shot!

Next week: Some choice panels from the next few pages as we head into the final third of the comic.

As always, you can refer to and read and view the story in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog. Catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.


Alive Day III

It's been three years today since I slid a snowmobile into a tree.

It seems like yesterday...and an eternity. Doctors tell you the trauma will always be with you, but that it will fade. And they're right. For me, that tree becomes less solid, less an immovable object ahead of me I'm going to run into and more something I can leave in the distance. I may not have passed it that night three years back, physically, but I'm passing it emotionally and metaphorically. I dwell less in the icy, windy, frigid darkness of that night, less in the moment in the hospital nine days after when I thought I was checking out for good. More often I strive for the light, the sun, my family, longtime friends and new, for activity and life.

Doctors will also guesstimate how long recovery will take. The say six months, a year, maybe two years. Then after two years pass, they say I'm on track, that a trauma like this can take 4-5 years to overcome. They project because they don't really know. Each person and experience is different. They favor less time for the sake of hope, and 'cause a shorter recovery time may turn out to be true. And maybe not.

My bones are still healing - I'm no spring chicken. I can still hear and feel them click and clack as I move about, and I'm sure I always will. But they don't hurt as often, pain comes less sharply to trigger anxiety. But sleep still bleeds into the sense of dying and panic is not always a thing of the past. In the Summer of 2009 hearing or speaking words about death would send me into a tizzy. I'd have to turn off quickly the baseline of a Michael Jackson song used in an online commercial lest it spark an anxious tingling through my body. I was that sensitive. News of celebrity deaths don't have the same effect now. From a purely selfish perspective: what a relief.

My challenge now is beating bad habits that have formed over time as I ween further off medication. Going to sleep at a regular time each night is something with which I've had little success. I snack too much before bed and don't exercise nearly often enough. I've got to go cold turkey on nervous, twitchy compulsive behaviors. And I don't find those tasks as easy as they may sound. But my path is more clear to me since my accident than ever before. I'm more active and social, interacting and connecting, producing more. Leaning towards the light, making progress.

I'm confident I can get over these next hurdles, and hope it will be sooner than later. And I'm pretty sure a year from now my next Alive Day, I won't feel the need to draw that darned tree again.


TothPix: Clint and Mac part 5

Time for more Clint & Mac as drawn by Alex Toth! As always, you can refer to and read the story in its entirety at Michael Sporn's splog.

From the top tier of page 16, a very sweet illustration by Toth, and a wonderful comic book panel. There's not much to the rendering in this frame, but it creates an impression, with simple lines, dots and dashes - all the details we need are there. The trees bleed into a mass of green, the building a series of steps slitting the middle to frame the limo. Again, he knows his cars. I love the sharp slashes of shadow on the road in the foreground - Toth kept in mind the high sun in the sky so the shadows fall on the surface in proper perspective.

In the middle tier, Toth does plenty. The POV just below eye level, we see on the left indications of the dock and harbor; on the right a man entering the warehouse. Clint & Mac hide behind a stack of boxes in the center, but the main points of interest are offset and not nearly center frame.  This make for a dynamic and interesting composition. Lotsa little details, that help establish the environment, all without distracting: post; rope; rigging; ship; flag; handtruck and tag; hanging lights in the warehouse, etc.

In facing panels on the bottom tier the boys peer through a gate to a pier and boat, which is central to the next several pages.

Kicking off page 17 is a set of two top tier panels. Of a piece, they're drenched in black, the figure dissolving into the shadows, the only light source being the flashlight. Very moody and cinematic, these frames have an illustrator's touch with some hatching for tone and texture and clever, effective coloring - only two colors utilized. But these are not illustrations, but pure comics, great compositions - all about telling the story.

Toth uses plenty of page-space for the next shot under the dock as the two make their way to the skiff. A moody dramatic shot, the boys are shown in silhouette amidst a maze of posts, joists, rails and decking. The perspective is solid, yet Toth found ways to create other various angles. The boat is the obvious center of interest, once again off-center, highlighted by the green.

Inside the warehouse, our heroes become one with the shadows. Cool shot. Then back outside, the boys will be trapped inside. Nice angles, perspective, balance and blackspotting.

Next week: Goons, the Scotland Yard, the Bookworm, the skiff, Toby and...the package.


SpongeMonkey: Dad & Sis

Two more character sketches for my SpongeMonkey story. Sid's Dad and sister, Imogen.

As I continue to write the story, I notice it's changed it's focus a couple times as I honed in on what's it's really about, keeping that clear now in my sights. Knowing the themes, plot and story points informs the character sketches, and vice versa. Imogen had a different name earlier, and certain traits I wanted in the sketch were at odds slightly with how I was writing her. This sketch has altered her character and will change a scene or two, some lines that don't fit anymore.

In just the last week or two: the story has taken more solid shape; I've settled on the look, process and format; and the characters are becoming more whole and complex, both visually and in terms of personality.

What fun!