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Blue Moon Blog

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Swirly Einstein

I do occasional logo work, and in one case last year was asked to draw up a graphic take on Albert Einstein, to be incorporated into the logo and all branding for my client, Think! Creative. They've since used my curly, swirly Einstein in quite inventive and fun ways at their web site. Check it out. It's neat to see the art I created for a certain purpose expanded beyond my or the client's original intention.

think_einstein.jpg

The challenge here was to keep the design simple, while graceful, lyrical and fun as possible, and still recognizably Einstein. But it was easy to find inspiration for him, as he's so well known and such a character, visually. I sketched out the profile with the is first sketch below, then revised it to its final form. I also explored a version facing Albert straight on, and although I like it, the profile is what the client originally wanted and ended up choosing.

think_einstein2.jpg

I'm learning more about Einstein, currently reading the fairly new biography by Walter Isaacson. I've always wanted to know more of such a monumental and intriguing figure, but hadn't found the right book. Isaacson's treatment brings his subject to life fully and personally, and presents the science inherent to the story in an approachable manner, especially for a scientific layman such as myself. Good stuff!

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Comics For Health

Since the Fall of 2006, we've been working on art for a sizable campaign for the National Kidney Foundation. The main portion of the project utilizes comic book or the graphic novella format as an informational tool to educate people about the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease. For this bi-monthly series of large (2'x 3') comic book posters, I designed about ten characters (both patients and their healthcare team) who guide the reader through a typical dialysis center. I also provided art for collateral material, such as the logo, brochures, trade show displays and animation.

nkf_sample.jpg

I've been working with comics for over twenty years, and though I'm not that active any longer in the comic book industry, I appreciate the opportunities when I get to apply the language of comics in other ways. The use of words and pictures is a powerful and effective communication tool, and we see more and more companies turning to this approach. We're happy to see it, as we're wholehearted proponents; it's what we do! Four (of six) completed posters can be viewed here.

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Sea Life Sketches

I'm so used to and prefer drawing people that it's a nice change of pace to draw other creatures. These are some sketches from a recent to trip to Discovery Bay at the Minnesota Zoo.

zoosketch.jpg

Yep, we really saw that dude in the tie!

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Stop, Thief!

thief_01.jpg

For some comps for a client, I had to use this pre-existing character in different poses for potential print ads. He's angry at an ATM machine in the first. These were quick and pretty fun.  Nice to draw a character in a different style, one I wouldn't have come up with myself.

thief_02.jpg

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Pencil Pushing

In a recent post, I covered my inking tool preferences. And like my friend, Pete Krause says, "I still love my pencil!" Though I'm told my Wacom Cintiq has shipped and is on its way, I figure I'll still do a portion of my drawing at the drawing table, and you may, too, so here's a list of my favorites. In my teens, I started using a clicky mechanical pencil. Mostly, I liked not having to sharpen all the time, and didn't mind it was so thin (o.5 mm) as I liked the level of detail I could achieve. Some years later, while working on a project with Brian Augustyn (who shortly after became our editor on my self published comic book, Trollords) advised I try a thicker pencil.

leadholder.jpg

Boy, was he right! I switched to a 2mm leadholder, or "clutch pencil," and never turned back. I've been using it for twenty-three years. The thicker lead helps me keep my drawings simpler. For a time I did my light sketching with a 2H and final pencils with HB, but use only HB now; I just draw more lightly in the first pass. I use this single leadholder for sketching, storyboards and illustration. For modeling, shadowing or filling in blacks, I simply turn the pencil on it's side.

woodless-pencil.jpg

For more bold, dark and loose sketching I sometimes call on a woodless graphite pencil. It feels great in the hand, is super-thick since it's covered with balck lacquer, you don't get your fingers all dirty. I use only HB, for more full rendered drawings, one can get a full line, from hard to soft. I prefer the Pentalic, but there are other good brands, too. This pencil is sharpened in a standard pencil sharpener. For the leadholder, I sue the 2mm sharpener, with which you get a great tip as you like it, and no wood shavings, just lead, easily disposed.

sharpen-erase.jpg

For erasing large areas, I pull out a trusty Mars Plastic wedge. More standard Pink and others rub the paper, changing the drawing surface, or spread pencils across the paper instead of erasing. A plastic eraser is quicker, cleaner and faster. For smaller areas I use the Papermate Tuff Stuff Eraser Stick, a great little tool when you want to erase just one tiny line in a hard-to-get-to space.

tuffstick.jpg

With just these few, simple drawing tools, I can work on any number of projects, in the studio or out and about. Every so often, take a break from the digital graphic tablet or clicking the mouse, and pick up the old pencil. There's nothing like the feel and sound of pencil on paper for this sometimes-old-creative-dog. Happy Drawing!

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Character Sketch: Orson

orson2.jpg

Here's one of the characters I'm developing for a chapter book project. Not sure he'll end up this way, but I like this kid so far.

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Beanworld is Back!

Yours truly makes an appearance with an old photo (circa 1989 or so) at Larry Marder's Beanworld blog today. Seeing it brings back a lot of memories of good times during the early days of my career in comic books. Larry and his wife, Cory became good friends, and I developed into quite the Beanworld fan.

marderfricke.jpg

What a joy it was this past summer to discover Larry had started a blog, and that Beanworld material, both old and new is on the horizon, after a twelve year publication hiatus. Larry's been earning a living, working for McFarlane Toys all that time, but also pecking away at writing and drawing Beanworld, and now he's ready to Break Out again.

beanworld.jpg

I can't recommend Beanworld highly enough. It's cute, smart, funny, inspiring, pragmatic and a great comic. At first glance it may look simple, but there's lot going on under the surface, right before and behind our eyes with this most peculiar comic book experience. Larry's a fine cartoonist, and has created here a complex world with its own rules, his own personal myth. Reading Beanworld make me think, and want to be a better person. You can learn more at this Beanworld site, and don't forget to bookmark Larry's blog and visit often. Good to have you and Beanworld back, Larry!

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Inkers Away!

My buddy, Cedric Hohnstadt wrote recently about inking, so I thought I'd pile on and add some thoughts. Generally, I'm a fan of whatever works for an artist's specific task. I've used pen & ink nibs, a variety of brushes, markers, technical pens, grease pencils, a toothbrush; anything what best gets me the effect desired. But for all of that, a good synthetic brush has been tops for me since I finally took the leap in 1986. Before then, I was afraid of the brush, as when I'd used it I found it difficult to control with thick and clunky results. So, I kept avoiding the brush and went back to my trusty Hunt 102 nib.

hunt102.jpg

I'd used that nib for years as I liked the detail and level and command, and I stuck with it when I discovered one of my favorite comic book artists, Walt Simonson used it. I was astounded to hear that from him at a comic shop appearance, but saw his original art with my own eyes that he'd get lines as thick as 1/8" or more! He'd work it and press and stretch that sucker out then load it up for some real expressive lines, and I was convinced to stick with the tool.

colorbrush.jpg

But after inking a few issues of my self published black and white comic book, Trollords, I found myself looking for more simplicity and speed in and with my art, so I finally just jumped in with the brush as of issue #4. I cringe to look at some of the art now, but some of it holds up. I learned on the job, 'cause you gotta start somewhere. Instead of a sable, I picked up a Pentel Color Brush and dipped it in the ol' Pelikan ink. I could cap that brush after each use, which meant I could not only take it with me on the road or to do sketches at conventions, but also save time not having to clean the brush. I was surprised to learn many other comic book artists swore by the very same brush, each using it in their own unique way.

waterbrush1.jpg

Recently, it became even more difficult, if not impossible to find the Pentel brushes, so I switched to another recommended by artist friend, Terry Beatty, the Niji Waterbrush (medium). I get a thick line with it, especially when fully loaded with ink, but I like a bold, graphic look, and to compensate work larger. Best, one can load Rapidograph ink onto the brush or into the shaft, so drawing becomes a more fluid process never having to stop to dip. For me, inking with a brush is far superior and preferable as one can work more fluently and quickly, laying down in a single stroke a smooth line, varying from thin to thick, as desired. I find the brush a more expressive and efficient tool. I'd run into many artists using markers or technical pens, working over and thickening lines, all to laboriously mimic a brush look. Why not just pick up the brush? It's scary (I recall, trust me), but one will save time in the end and achieve a better look. I prefer the synthetic brush to a sable not only for the non-dipping and cleaning advantages, but also because the brush at its base is thicker, therefore holds more ink. One can achieve a thicker line in one stroke if necessary. The traditional sable brushes seem somehow flimsy to me. In regards to paper, for a clean, slick look I use on smooth bristol board, and for a more rugged look a rough surface bristol produces a great effect. Given I've put in so many years inking with a brush, I'll always use it, but with digital tablets such as the Wacom Cintiq becoming more prevalent, I wonder for many if it's a moot point? Many comic book and other artists are now darkening scanned pencils, cleaning it up and coloring for the final art skipping the inking step entirely. Others are going straight to digital. My Cintiq will arrive any day now, and I can't wait to dive in. But I'm guessing I'll use it for certain projects, or for coloring, and will still begin many pieces the old-fashioned way on my drawing board. Perhaps this will end up being a transition period, but I won't completely give it up. I'd miss the tactile and immediate sense of drawing on paper.

penstix.jpg

For sketching in ink I prefer a Penstix 0.7mm, which provides a thick (but not too thick) line. A thicker line forces one to make choices while drawing and keep things simple. To fill in larger black areas, Letraset's TRIA is a great tool. I also use the Tria for storyboard work, to beef up pencils. It has three nibs: bullet point, brush and chizel.

tria.jpg

I've another couple posts in the works about pencils and erasers for sketching, and outlining my storyboard process.

Inkers Away!

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Family Fun Time

famfuntime.jpg The families that play together, stay together, as evidenced in these spot illustrations I did for Pillsbury. Executed quickly and with a marker, I think they turned out pretty well.

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Baby Sugar-High

lifeskills_sugarbaby.jpg

I sure enjoy it when I get the chance to do some spot illustrations like this one. It's fun to turn loose with the brush for expressive and lively line, while keeping things clean, bold and easy to read, a concern especially when working in black and white. I've more samples to view from this book project, LifeSkills for Success.