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Archive for April 2012

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Coast Guard Lobster


I recently had the pleasure working on a piece for the Coast Guard, a cartoon lobster illustration to be used on a coin and more. I did the art while the agency I worked with handled the rest of the border design and display font.

My first pass had the lobster simpler and happier:
I was provided more reference for the buoys. They also wanted to see his eyes on stalks and a bit more of his lower body, so...
And everyone liked it fine. But with more time to assess and with more eyes on it, they wanted to go a different direction, so I drew up this new rough:


I like how it turned out, but still have a soft spot for my first lobster.  =  )
Here's a look at my final illustration sans border:

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TothPix: Model Sheets

Alex Toth spent a portion of twenty-five years of his career doing character design and storyboards for TV animation. And for about a decade after artists and animators passed along to each other huge stacks of those designs (and still do). In 1996, Toth friend and fellow animator Darrell McNeil gathered it all together is one big package, the Alex Toth: by Design book. I was fortunate to snap up a copy upon its release, and good thing I did, ’cause the book fetches around $300 nowadays, long out of print. Folks have taken to selling small stacks of portions of what’s included in the book on ebay.

Here's some faves I scanned. (Check out more I posted previously.)  

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Art Students at Work

The latest class was a workshop day - no lectures, demos, guest speakers or in-depth critiques. That leaves less for the teacher to do. Luckily, I had my trusty Pentel Pocket Brush and some marker paper, so was able to sketch some artists at work.

Sure, a good amount of what artists do is drawing, but so much - especially in early stages of the creative process - is the hard brain work of writing and/or planning. Considered and refined are characters, design, composition, layout. Stories are tossed, creative lovelies are snuffed out, the work takes shape as decisions are made, new paths discovered and forged.

Every artist is not only in the process of honing their skills and craft, settling in on their style, but are in the act of creating themselves. Call it exploration, expression, self-actualization. These presentations and personae are experimented with, some discarded for a new look, sometimes they fit like a glove and stick...at least for a time.

Each artist gets comfy with how they like to work: tools, environment, trappings, habits and posture. Most have a tendency to get their noses right down there into the work. I know I do.

Students nowadays come equipped with their own laptop and headphones. They're plugged in to keep inspired and entertained, to research conceptually and visually. Alongside the traditional tools of brush & ink, pencils and a sketchbook is a tangle of cords, and a slick screen.

A relaxed posture can belie a confused creative mind. Those somewhat scruffy-lookin' can have the most ordered thoughts and/or work spaces. Some that appear more together can be most disorganized or work away amidst chaos. I've been all of these and more.

Drawing/writing/creating is part what we see, part what we know. We observe the people and world around us, filter it through our selves, our personality and sensibilities to capture truth, perhaps create new worlds. We explore, test an idea there, make a mark here, feeling things out tentatively, striking out boldly in an effort to convey and connect.

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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 11

This post will wrap up my examination and analysis of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac, in my opinion one of his best efforts for Dell Comics. For context, and/or to check out the story in its entirety, visit Michael Sporn's splog. Page 30, panel 2: Bad boy Smith chases the boys back to the chain locker, only to come upon them discovering a box of flares, cropped but positioned prominently in the frame on a bed of chains both in front of and behind the box. A torn flap of the box is in shadow, jutting into Smith's face, bringing even more attention to his reaction than if we had a more unobstructed view of his face. Smith has hightailed it outta there so Mac climbs out of the hatch and the boys light the flares. Smart spotting of blacks on both frames.

Now viewing the seen from behind Toby and Smith, those two ne'er-do-wells largely in shadow from the glare of the flares, frame Clint & Mac. I desaturated this panel as it looks even better in black and white. The rendering on the bad guys is superb here - folds, hair, body language and modeling. On the next page, now outside the boat and from a distance, rescuers make a 180 and are on their way in this action-packed image. The coloring is crude but simple and effective, cools in the foreground, warms in the background with the exploding flares really popping and grabbing our eye. Nice composition! Toby and Smith try to make their getaway, to no avail. Fun! The goons now apprehended, the boys discover what's been in that satchel all along... Not much going on on the last page, but Toth gets to draw one of his much-loved planes in a nice aerial shot. I blew out the color and tone for a look at some signature Toth line art. Beautiful! That's it for Clint & Mac! If you've missed some or all of the previous installments, check 'em out!

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Hai! Sensei!

After an exchange in class last week, one of my students whipped out this quick cartoon - LOL! I was incredulous, throwing my head back, laughing at the notion she plans to do a story 4-5 times the length required for her Final. I wasn't laughing at her, but bowled over by her audacity and confidence. A wonder to behold! And more yet, she'll no doubt pull it off and with panache. The Future of Comics is here, folks. We'd all best get our butts in gear! FYI - I am too large for my own good, do wear Hawaiian shirts, but go sans belt and do not tuck.

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Blind Ghost

The Alphabeasts project has run its course, but I'm catching up and completing the series after the fact. Something had to give the last six weeks, and it wasn't gonna be me! In case it ain't obvious, Te-no-me is the ghost of a blind man, with his eyes on his hands.

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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 10

Nearing the end of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac. For context, and/or to check out the story in its entirety, visit Michael Sporn's splog.

A single panel comprises the top tier of page 27, a nice shot, almost entirely in silhouette, the boat and all players hiding beneath the dock. I desaturated this because the coloring isn't good and the effect of the searchlights in the background come across more. Other than minor rimlighting all is in shadow, save what is backlit by the lights. Between the swaths of light, Toth rendered those areas with crosshatch.

After a slap to the face, Toby's had enough and strikes back against the bully, Smith. Action! Toth uses motion lines at the point of contact and to indicate Smith is reeling, but otherwise the motion is conveyed by the sweep of a scarf, the flow of jackets, and a cigarette dangling in the air. Though he uses comics techniques and tricks and that vibrant sound effect, the drawing is naturalistic, but not nearly static. Toth's use of shadow and spotting black solidify the figures and action, adding depth and weight.


There's a lot crammed into the next panel, but it all works. Toby's imposing figure looming over the fallen Smith, Clint & Mac and the Skip in the background.
The boat is on the move again, now with Toby in charge. What a wonderful 3/4 overhead view, the composition defined by wake as the boat slices through the dark waters. There's an illustrative touch here again, with the wake bleeding into an open border of the panel. All details of the ship, now from another angle are spot on, the water rendered with impressionistic virtuosity.



Atop the next page, Toby is in control as they head out to sea.


A nice shot of Toby, underlit, finishes off the page. What an expression! What a character!

I'll wrap up Clint and Mac next week. Be here next Tuesday for the fireworks!

In the meantime catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.

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King

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Fractured Fables Trade Paperback

The Fractured Fables anthology (Image) to which I contributed has been released now in softcover. To get a taste, read the Pippi van Wrinkles story I did with my pal, Len Strazewski and wife, Mary at my comics site, bluemoontoons.com.



We're honored to in such great company with creators such as Ben Templesmith, Terry Moore, Doug TenNapel, May Ann Licudine, Bill Alger, Alex Grecian, Christian Ward, Jill Thompson, Scott Morse, among many others. There's such a wide array of tales, tones and styles you're bound to like most presented here. And for only $4-5 more, one can still pick up the hardcover copy. Either way - good deal!

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TothPix: Clint and Mac part 9

More great stuff from the next pages of Alex Toth's Clint & Mac. For context, and/or to read the story in its entirety, visit Michael Sporn's splog. Top tier of page 25. The first panel is a 3/4 overhead shot. Of course, the perspective is spot on, the two figures placed properly, also in perspective. The shadows add depth, mass, drama, and lead the viewer's eye. Smith's face is obscured by his hat and shadow. Just behind Smith is the small corridor where the boys had crawled to cut the line. In the following frame, the Skipper discovers the boys, who've been hiding in the locker. Most of this frame is in shadow - more drama! Smith takes a look, and we see him from inside the locker, behind and framed by the boys in silhouette. Extreme cropping in the next panel, by borders and word balloons. Though the close-up and hovering Smith convey danger, they frame and direct our attnetion to Clint & Mac. Toth continues to move us around, in and out of the ship, varying angles for interest, establishing who's where, when. In panel 5, Toby and Smith are obscured by the silhouette of the skipper's foot and the ladder. All three bad guys take a secondary position to Clint and Mac and their plight. That's further developed in the final panel, with Smith shown from behind, separating and dividing the boys as their led to the bunks in the cabin. Though in a different environment, this shot is a 180 from panel 3. Cocky and resourceful throughout the story, the boys continue to plan. I love the angles and body language in these two frames. Mysterious and dark, the villains move about the ship, this time Toth cutting to a close-up of Toby making his way down the ladder. With the characters and ship well-established, this type of shot is atypical for most artists but not unusual for Toth. In this case, it adds to the feeling of danger and claustrophobia. More of that in the facing panel, but from a different angle as the Skip closes the hatch. God, I love this shot! Great angles, composition, spotting of blacks, shadows on objects and figure. That the skipper is cropped and obscured by his tilt of head directs attention to his action and the voice coming from the galley. Next page, frame 1. I wish I could concoct and construct a picture with such apparent ease and sophisticated design as Toth does here. The varied shapes, black areas, bold curve of the tunnel, perspective and car details - wonderful! That said, he's created a couple tangents with the top and bottom of the tunnel shadow which intersect with the top and rear of the car. Had he to do it over, I'm sure he'd move the car a tad further into the tunnel to offset those lines. Back in the boat, the boys are manhandled and silenced in this tight, cropped shot. A superb shot from below - what a stellar composition! The perspective, angles, expressions and action are so good, so natural, yet all in service to heightening the tension. Cropping is so important in Toth's work. There aren't many panels better than this to show how and why. We peer into the cabin from the entrance; an interior shot. The entrance on either side crops Toby and Clint, enhancing the action. Just look at Mac's head turned upward and away from us, drawn in so simple but effective fashion. The angle of Toby's figure in the foreground frames the rest of the panel, balancing the diagonal of Clint's shirt. Smith takes center stage here, but even his gaze and arm lead our eye to his thumb grabbing Clint's shirt. Clint's face is really the center of interest here, and go figure - way on the right side of the frame! The next and final panel of the page is a nice close-up of the skipper, looking a bit frantic as the authorities close in. We're nearing the end now. Maybe a couple more posts to finish off this story. So, more next Tuesday In the meantime, catch up on other Clint & Mac installments or the 80+ Toth posts I've done the last two years for TothPix.

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