- In this Issue
- Kristen Bell
- Not Comics
- Press Release
- Story Archive
- Video Games
- March 2009
- February 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- August 2007
- July 2007
- June 2007
- May 2007
- April 2007
- March 2007
- February 2007
- January 2007
- December 2006
- November 2006
- October 2006
- September 2006
- August 2006
- July 2006
- June 2006
- May 2006
- April 2006
- October 2005
- September 2005
- August 2005
- June 2005
- May 2005
- April 2005
- March 2005
- February 2005
Archive for March, 2005
Member of the Week: Matthew Barr
As told to Comic Foundry…
Well, I’ve always read and loved comic books, but it was really only until the past couple years that I actually paid attention to what I
was reading. Before that, I’d go for anything and everything, no matter how bad it was. I was just so in love with the medium itself,
that it really didn’t matter about the content. I’m a little more discriminating now, but not much.
With this love of comic books, came a love of creating them, which is basically the only career I’d ever entertained notions of having.
I’ll be graduating college in a couple short months with a degree in illustration and a minor in creative writing. And although I will
still be working toward my dream career, I’m a little more realistic these days about the immediate money-making possibilities of comic
books. So I’ll be getting my teaching certification and seeing what happens from there.
Although it might not really show, my influences include Chris Bachalo, Mike Mignola and Michael Avon Oeming. My four years studying illustration have also exposed me to some great traditional illustrators, including my idol, James Bennett
Want to be the Member of the Week? Better your chances by uploading to your portfolio…Posted by Tim Leong on March 30th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |
Would You Spend $3 for Stick Figures?
Look, I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m one of those nuts who thinks he’s just entitled to a shot at the big leagues without paying his dues. It’s not like I stepped out of the bathroom on The Strange Night on the John When I Became an Aspiring Comic Book Writer and said to myself, “Yo, Grand Funkmeister General [what? that’s what I always call myself], the smaller publishers are for dorks. It’s Marvel and DC or bust!”
I didn’t do that for a number of reasons. First off, I’ve long been well aware of my own not-so-subtle dorkiness. Secondly, this was back in my high school years, when my appreciation for indy comics was at its apex.
All this to say that despite what you might think, it’s not as though I haven’t considered self-publishing.
I’ve considered self-publishing.
Can’t do it.
I can’t, and it’s not just because that type of thing requires significant start-up capital and I’ve only got thirty bucks to my name and bruisers from MasterCard who are only waiting for one more missed payment ‘til they come by the house to make origami swans with my precious limbs. It’s not even that I’m too lazy to come up with original characters because I’d much rather play with the conventions of mainstream superhero fare, utilizing established continuity to address my own thematic interests and concerns (read “Spider-Man poo jokes”).
Are both of these things true? Well yeah, but it’s not like the whole world needs to know. I won’t tell anybody if you don’t.
No, the big reason I can’t self-publish is the simple fact that I can’t draw worth a damn. I mean, unless you count stick-figures. Wait, do you count stick-figures? ‘cause if you’re willing to spend 3 bucks a pop for a monthly indy book illustrated with stick-figures, I’m willing to give it a shot. I wasn’t kidding about having done 2500 pages of crudely doodled graphic novels…
What? Is that a no? Well that just figures.
Anyway, like I said, I can’t self-publish because I’m not an artist. I don’t have the visual nuance of Daniel Clowes or Adrian Tomine’s eye for detail and clean line work. And while that may not have stopped Harvey Pekar, I don’t just happen to be friends with Robert Crumb. Hell, I’m not even friends with Rob Liefeld for petesake!
Clearly, I need a partner. (You can thank me later for not making some lame Batman and Robin reference, although honestly, I was leaning more toward a Captain America and the Falcon thing before I just said “The hell with it!”)
Where are all the aspiring comic book artists out there? I’ve checked the Match-Up boards, and all I see are poor schmoes like me desperately seeking artistically talented gents and lasses we can abuse with our densely plotted and unnecessarily detailed scripts for no discernible compensation other than a share of whatever meager profits we imagine we’ll get when we get these labors of love out in the world. Why aren’t you pencil jockeys banging down our doors?
You know, I imagine I certainly haven’t helped my case with the “pencil jockey” bit, but I figured what the hell? It’s not like I’ve got anything to lose.Posted by Tim Leong on March 30th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |
The Uniball is Mightier Than the Lightsaber
It seems logical, right? Mass production would mean more room for error. Tell that to Grant Gould who, in the job of a lifetime, had to draw 1,000 sketch cards for the upcoming Star Wars movie. The catch? He only had two weeks to finish all 1,000. Grant talked to Comic Foundry about how he got the job, how he finished on time and what shortcuts he picked up along the way.
What do you do as a production artist? How did you get that job?
“Production artist” sounds a lot cooler than it is. I basically work on large-format layouts for corporate presentations and then print and mount them. Earlier in my career, I was a graphic designer, which is actually what I went to school for. I graduated with some awards and was offered a job very quickly. I had to spend a couple years working my way up to the position I wanted, but eventually, with a good attitude, I got there.
I’d imagined that as a graphic designer I’d really be able to flex my creative muscles, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. It ended up being restrictive, and the bottom line is that executives were making all of the design choices, not the actual designers. So it was unsatisfying. Then after being laid off in 2002, I was offered my current job in production, and it turned out to be something I really enjoy. I can go to work each day without feeling weighed down by corporate decision-making, and then in the evenings I work on my art. I suppose you could call me a full-time production artist and a part-time illustrator, though it would be nice to reach a point where my drawing could become the full-time job.
How did you get the job doing the Star Wars card series? What did that job entail?
I really have StarWars.com webstrip artist Tom Hodges to thank for that. I was an online friend of his for some time, and Topps was interested in finding new talent for their upcoming “Revenge of the Sith” sketch cards. Tom had seen my art and liked it, and he knew I was a huge Star Wars geek, so he gave them my name and e-mail address. Shortly after, I received an e-mail from Matt Saunders (Topps’ product manager) saying that he liked my stuff and wanted to know if I’d be interested in doing the cards. After exploding into a million pieces and choking on my own tears, I calmly said, “Yeah, sure.” And that’s how it happened. Lucasfilm reviewed my stuff, and I became an official Lucasfilm-approved artist.
Going into it, I had no idea what to expect. I could only guess at how long each card would take me, how much pressure I’d feel, etc. But I knew I wanted to give it my all. I told them I could do a thousand, and shortly after that I received the blank cards in the mail. I’ll be honest with you, it was intimidating. I had a thousand sketches to draw in about two weeks (and for someone with a full-time day job, that’s insane), and they were for Star Wars! Fans would be looking at them, judging them, selling them on ebay! I had to wrap my head around it. But I plowed through ‘em and tried not to second-guess myself. I made friends with some of the other Star Wars artists online, and that was a great help because they gave me confidence. They were going through the same craziness.
When you’re doing so many sketches in such a short time, you have to keep it interesting. I mean, I was drawing at least 30 different characters, but I had to draw some of them many times over. I had to mix it up a little. I ended up switching between pencil, pen and marker a lot.
I also let myself spread out in terms of drawing style. For the most part, I stuck to my usual comic book style, but occasionally I’d spend a little more time on a card and try to stretch myself. The Topps cards were a great experience, and it taught me a lot in terms of what I can do, what I’m good at and how fast I can work without losing my mind.
How fast do you work? How long did it take you to do all 1,000 cards?
Well, as I mentioned, I had about a two-week time frame for the Topps cards, so I finished my thousand in about two weeks. But that was unusually hyper for me. Given my deadline, I only had a couple minutes to work on each card. There were a few I was able to spend more time on, but for the most part they truly are sketches in every sense of the word. Quick, raw output.
What shortcuts helped you work faster?
The biggest shortcut I had to learn is finding an image or pose that I could sketch quickly, and then repeat it, you know, 40 times over or something. At first I wanted to put a lot of detail into the cards, but I learned quickly that I had to keep it simple. I also discovered that sketching with markers is a lot of fun for me, and for some reason I can do it much faster than I can with pencil. So I think those things kept me alive on the project. And, of course, I had Star Wars DVDs constantly playing in the background for inspiration. It was a good excuse to catch up on listening to all of the commentaries.
What mediums did you use to complete that project?
I’m a low-tech guy when it comes to that stuff. I had my box of four-dollar automatic pencils, Uniball pens, and Sharpie markers. Another thing I learned over the course of drawing the cards is what works and what doesn’t in terms of color. (Most of the sketch cards aren’t colored, but a few here and there got the special treatment.) I started out using colored pencils, which I shouldn’t have done. They don’t look as good as the ones I colored with Prismacolors toward the end. I now have much better tools, and, again, it was a learning experience. I never used to pay attention to what other artists were using, but now I’m beginning to understand that I have a lot more to learn in that area. Still, I love my Sharpies!
Where did you receive your art training?
As a kid I would stare endlessly at comic books, cartoons, and role-playing books and try to mimic the artwork. Even in high school I remember cloning Jim Lee’s work, trying to replicate his poses. I eventually grew out of my copycat phase, and after a few years of procrastination, I went to college for visual communications. At the time I didn’t think enough of my drawing skills to believe I could make a living off it, and I had a real passion for design and layout, so it seemed like the smart choice. I had one or two actual drawing classes in college, but for the most part I’ve had no official training. Just a lot of practice.
Any words of wisdom to those looking to pursue freelance work?
I think networking is really important. Create a Web site, promote yourself, get to know other artists, join forums, go to conventions, be friendly and get your name out there. I think a lot of artists jump into the game expecting too much too quickly. They get a table at a convention and expect everyone they talk to to buy their comic. They set up an online store and expect everyone they know to buy one of their prints. It just doesn’t work that way. You need to go into it with low expectations and high spirits.
If you’re good at what you’re doing, and if you have a good attitude, then one day something big will probably happen. Be patient with it. Fortune favors the bold, right?
How does trading card work differ from sequential work?
The sketch cards are essentially quick, small-scale pin-ups. Sequential work involves planning and a lot more time. I suppose I can’t comment too much on how different they are in the professional comics world because I’ve yet to draw a comic with an actual deadline. All the comic work I’ve done in the past has been for my own self-published creations. But I’d imagine they each have an advantage over the other.
From my personal experience, the sketch cards were more exciting because they move quickly. There’s no time to second-guess yourself or start over. Sequential work is fulfilling, though, because in my mind it’s more like a movie. It tells a
story, and that’s something the sketch cards generally lack.
How did you establish your style drawing with something that’s been drawn before?
That was the scariest and most amazing part of working with Star Wars characters. I don’t need to tell you, that’s a big pool to be jumping into! I mean, here are these iconic characters, and suddenly I’m drawing them.
It was a little overwhelming at first. But as the days went on, I sort of put that out of my mind and just went with the flow. By the time I was through the first four or five hundred, the way I was drawing some of the characters was already evolving. I had never drawn most of the Episode III characters before, so I had to find my groove as I worked.
Overall, it was a fantastic experience, and I’m looking forward to seeing fan reaction when the cards hit stores on April 2.Posted by Tim Leong on March 28th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |
Grant Gould: Step Eight
STEP EIGHT: Finally, once my layers are shadowed and my opacities are where I want them, I go in for touch-ups. I generally give each touch-up its own layer, just in case I decide to erase or change something. In this case, I did touch-ups on their eyes, including light reflection and shadow. I added some additional shadows on their own layers. For example, I felt there should be a few more shadows on the right sides of their faces, as well as on some of the clothing. I also used the pen tool to create a faint light source coming from the left. I selected one of the large “fuzzy” default pens and then adjusted the opacity so that it wasn’t overpowering. You can achieve a lot of nice glows by using the fuzzy (or blurry) pens and then adjusting the opacities.
So that’s it! Once you’ve done your touch-ups, the image is done, and hopefully you’re happy with the end result.Posted by Tim Leong on March 28th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |
Grant Gould: Step Seven
STEP SEVEN: Here you can see I’ve used the same “shadow layer” technique with the rest of the image. I selected, filled with black, cut out sections, then reset the opacities. Get to know the selection wand in Photoshop. Get to know layers and their different functions. Different things work for different people. There are probably three various ways to achieve any one effect in Photoshop, but the trick is to find the one that works for you. Don’t feel obligated to follow the trend.Posted by Tim Leong on March 28th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |
Young Avengers’ Young Writer
As a writer for the hit show
The O.C., Allan Heinberg got to live vicariously through fan boy character Seth Cohen. Now it’s his turn, as fans and creators alike are living through Allan while he creates the newest hit book for Marvel - Young Avengers. Allan took time out of his California and Marvel Universes to talk with Comic Foundry about how he drafted the ultimate love letter to The Avengers.
How did get this Young Avengers gig?
I spent the last two years working on a show called The O.C., and I was fortunate in that the show’s creator, Josh Schwartz, allowed me to share my lifelong comic book/superhero obsession with one of our lead characters. So, I suddenly found myself in the enviable position of being able to write about comics I was reading and loving and about creators I admired on national television.
When this came to Wizard Magazine’s attention, Matt Senreich, an editor there, called and asked me to do an interview about Seth Cohen’s comic book collection. So, in that article I geeked out about the comics I was loving and explained why I named a character “Mr. Bendis.”
So when C.B. Cebulski, an editor at Marvel, read the article, he asked if I’d be interested in writing something for Marvel. At that point, I couldn’t. I knew I didn’t have time to do any outside writing, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to sit down with C.B., Dan Buckley and Joe Quesada. And, since there is no saying “no” to Joe Quesada, suddenly I was writing a book for Marvel. I had no idea what the book would be, but a month later, Joe and Brian Bendis pitched me Avengers Disassembled and — because I’d spent a lot of time writing teen characters on shows like Party of Five, Sex and the City, The O.C. and Gilmore Girls — they wondered if I might want to write a book about a group of young Avengers that could spin organically out of Disassembled.
They didn’t have a specific pitch, but Joe and Brian thought if I was interested in the area, I should think about it. So, I did. But I confess I had enormous reservations about doing a book called Young Avengers. For so many reasons. Not least of which was that it might easily be perceived as a Teen Titans rip-off. Geoff Johns, the writer of Titans, is one of my best friends in the world, and I didn’t want to alienate him. Nor did I want to alienate the audience with a book that didn’t have an essential reason to exist. As a fan I know I’d be suspicious of a book called Young Avengers, so I spent a great deal of time trying to come up with an idea that was new and surprising, but respectful of Avengers history at the same time.
Eventually I came up with a pitch that Brian, Joe and I got excited about, and the guys at Marvel have been unbelievably supportive ever since. It’s been a dream gig because I got to invent the book’s core group of characters, and then fully integrate them into the Marvel Universe.
How did they react when you told them you wanted to create new characters?
Actually they were the ones who suggested it. When Joe initially said “Young Avengers,” I was confused. Bucky’s been dead for years, Toro’s dead and Stan Lee had reportedly always hated kid sidekicks. When I pointed this out, Joe told me I could have my pick of any teen heroes in the Marvel Universe – the New Warriors, New Mutants – but to me their stories had already been told. So, in the end, Joe said, “Create your own.”
How did you decide which of the younger versions you wanted to use?
I wanted to go iconic. And you can’t get more iconic than Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk.
How do you develop so many strong characters while also trying to cultivate an audience?
The only way I knew to get readers to care about these new characters was to have the Avengers themselves care about them. Or, if not care about them, then at least want to know who these kids are.
So in YA No. 1, readers spend the first half of the book with characters they already know and love: J. Jonah Jameson, Jessica Jones, Cap and Iron Man. All of whom are comparing notes and asking the same question: “Who the #%@& are the Young Avengers?” So, after setting up the mystery of the Young Avengers with characters that readers are already invested in, I felt safe bringing the kids onstage and putting them through their paces.
In terms of developing the characters, I knew I was going to have the four icons on the cover, so I worked backwards from there in terms of who these kids might be and how to structure their team dynamics: how many boys, how many girls, how many Caucasians, how many non-Caucasians, that kind of thing. Then I tried to explore their different backgrounds in an attempt to forge a group dynamic where everybody brings a unique and essential point of view to the mix.
Lastly, I put all the characters through what I call “The Naked Man Test.” “The Naked Man Test” is: “If you lock a character in a room with a naked man, do you know without having to think about it too long, how they’re going to react?” If so, you probably have a pretty sharply drawn character on your hands. If not, keep working on it. For example, all four main characters on Sex and the City are going to have very different, very specific reactions to that naked dude because they’re great characters.
For me, though, the most important aspect of developing a new character is figuring out, “What does s/he want?” Long-term, what’s their super-objective? Because that’s what’s going to drive them through the course of the story you’re telling. And that, more than anything else, is going to define that character.
How much do you rely on the art to provide characterization?
I am blessed with one of the most talented artists in comics today. Jim Cheung, the co-creator of this book, designed all the characters and we work very closely together on every aspect of the storytelling.
Generally the way we work is, I write up a two-page outline each issue, which is broken down in terms of each page’s story points. I’ll send it to Jim and to Marvel, incorporate everybody’s thoughts, then start writing a full script. Then once Jim finishes his pencils I’ll re-write the script, sometimes fairly extensively. Jim’s art is so good he’ll make a lot of my writing unnecessary. Nothing makes me happier than cutting a huge chunk of dialogue because Jim’s conveyed it all through his pencils.
So I’ll do a pretty extensive re-write once I get the art back from him, and then once the lettering comes back, I’ll do another re-write to make sure the art and the text are working together to tell the story in the cleanest possible way.
Even though you’re only a few issues in, can you see a progression in your work?
I think I’m too close to the work to be able to say. I’d never written a comic script before Young Avengers No. 1, and I had no idea how it was done. Joe Quesada coached me through it. And Brian Bendis and Geoff Johns shared their processes with me, as well. So, I tried to incorporate a little bit from everybody else’s processes and am slowly developing my own, I guess.
What’s one solid piece of scripting advice you’ve gotten while working on this?
Less is more. Especially where dialogue is concerned.
But there are no rules. Everybody’s got different storytelling values and everybody’s got a different approach as to how to achieve them.
I tend to write comics the way I write television – going from scene to scene rather than from moment to moment. I’ll start with the scene in dialogue form, then direct it into panels so that each page makes a compelling storytelling unit on its own – ideally with a last panel that makes the reader want to turn that page and find out what happens next.
Between this and The O.C., how do you manage your time?
I’m actually no longer writing The O.C. anymore, though I’m still a consultant on the show. I’ve actually got several other projects in the works right now, though, and am generally working on whatever is due soonest.
How does writing dialogue for television characters affect your writing for a static medium such as comics?
Writing dialogue for comics has been a bit of an adjustment actually. In a static medium like comics, the writer doesn’t have the benefit of an actor’s voice, charm or inflection to rely upon. So as far as comics dialogue goes, the writer has to make certain the words carry the weight of the scene’s (or the panel’s) comic or dramatic intentions all by themselves.
As far as Young Avengers is concerned, I have the good fortune to be working with one of the most talented artists in the business. Jim Cheung is extraordinary. His characters’ emotional lives are just as clear and dynamic as their superheroic ones.
What type of advice would you give for young writers for realistic dialogue?
Listen to the way people really talk to one another. The pauses, the repetitions, the stresses and rhythms. Develop your “ear” for dialogue. I very often end up speaking my dialogue out loud at the computer to see whether or not it feels right in my mouth. It’s weird, but it works.
Then, as you’re writing, make sure your dialogue is always in the service of your story. Try not to over-write or waste words – to write for writing’s sake.
I try to write as little dialogue as possible, to be honest. I think there’s a common misconception about writing in that “good” writing equals more writing. But the opposite is true. There’s always so much more drama in what lurks beneath the surface of a conversation – everything that remains unsaid because it’s too dangerous or too emotional.
And not all comic readers crave realistic dialogue. Personally, I love it. It’s part of the reason I’m so in love with Brian Bendis’ work. Brian has an infallible ear for the way people communicate (or fail to communicate). That said, he doesn’t just transcribe the pauses and the repetitions he’s discovered in everyday speech. He skillfully crafts uses them to craft the dramatic shape of a particular scene or story.
What’s the target audience for Young Avengers?
There is no target audience. It’s an all-ages book for people who love comics. It’s for longtime Avengers fans, for New Avengers fans, and for people who’ve never even heard of the Avengers.
Do you have any advice for writing characters outside your age group?
I try not to write them as “younger” characters. I try to write them simply as characters. I actually don’t think much about the age of the Young Avengers. I try to focus on the circumstances of the daily lives, their backgrounds, their relationships with their parents and authority figures – all the universal, human stuff we all share regardless of age.
Do you feel like you made any rookie mistakes?
I’ve made countless rookie mistakes, but that’s how you learn, right? I’m new at this and am trying my best to become a better writer every day.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from this?
To have respect for — but not be intimidated by — the form itself.
When I started writing YA No. 1, I was paralyzed by self-doubt and had a million questions: What should a script look like? How do you break a scene into panels? How much dialogue goes into a panel? How many panels go on a page?
In fact, I quit YA three times before the first script simply because — after having been a very opinionated fanboy my whole life — I didn’t want to be a bad comics writer.
And it turns out, the mechanics are important, but you can learn that stuff. The key to writing comics is the same as the key to writing any dramatic narrative: it’s all about STORY. And the story is all about the CHARACTERS.
With comics going appearing more in pop culture in The O.C. and success in film, do you see comics going in a certain direction in the future?
I would like to think that comics’ success in other media will bring more people to comics – that people who enjoy The O.C. will be more inclined to pick up a comic and read it. The same with movies like X2 and Spider-Man 2.
And I’m optimistic about the future of comics. There are more extraordinary writers and artists in the field than ever before. And both Marvel and DC seem to realize that success comes from investing in their core characters and in bringing the best talent in the business to bring out the best in those characters.
Allan writes Young Avengers, which is available on the stands now. He’ll also have a stint co-writing JLA with Geoff Johns starting in June.
—Interview by Tim LeongPosted by Tim Leong on March 28th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |
Try to Contain Yourself
Here it is: Proof that you can achieve success pitching your work to a major publisher. Artist Nick Stakal got his break working with horror guru Steve Niles on a one-shot comic for IDW Publishing, and now he’s paired with screenwriter-turned-comic-scribe Eric Red for Containment, a zombie miniseries set in outer space. Nick gives CF the lowdown on his methods, his style and his streak of good luck.
What sort art direction (if any) did you get from Eric Red for Containment?
Eric gave me somewhat detailed descriptions of the crew members and some of the environmental props like the ship, the containment pods and some elements within the ship that play into the story. He also wanted it to feel very claustrophobic. That was the groundwork, from there I was able to design stuff as I pleased, provided I stuck to some of those key elements.
Did you make any specific stylistic decisions for Containment based on the script and overall feel of the book?
Part of Eric’s initial art direction was that he didn’t want a shiny chrome space rig, so I did my best to make it feel like a boiler room running on old Atari equipment. Instead of flat-panel widescreen holographic plasma screens, they use 15-inch tube monitors, and they hang everywhere and are stacked up, making it feel cluttered. There are a lot of tubes, wires and ventilation shafts everywhere … everything is exposed. It wasn’t a clean passenger ship designed for luxury, it’s an industrial tool used by a handful of specialists on a job. I tried to make the space suits they wore have that feel too. I wanted them to feel kinda classic, but not be actual replicas of any existing suits. So they sorta came off looking like these old-timey deep-sea diving suits.
I noticed there’s no separate credit for penciling and inking, just “Art by Nick Stakal” on the inside cover. Do you execute all the art steps yourself?
Yes, all the art is done by me. I pencil it out, ink it, scan it into a computer and color it.
IDW seems like a really keen publisher for showcasing new talent. How did you get started working for them initially?
I was actually approached by them to do a book with writer Steve Niles. I had been a fan of his writing, and he has a nice Web forum where people will chat about comics and post art to get critiques and meet other artists. I posted some pieces there and Steve asked me if I’d like to do a book with him. Of course I wanted to, so I think he forwarded IDW my Web site and soon after that they asked me to draw the HYDE one-shot he wrote. After that I think they were pleased with my work because they’ve continued to offer me jobs. I thank Steve Niles for getting me in there. Basically, without his interest in my stuff, who knows how long I would have had to do all that fun stuff new artists have to do to get noticed? I got kinda lucky and managed to bypass having to repeatedly go to portfolio reviews or send samples of my stuff out to publishers.
Walk us through the process for producing a page (or group of pages, however you submit your work) from start to submission. Please feel free to include as much detail as you want remember, most of the people reading this won’t really have much of an idea how to produce finished art for a comic publisher, so every step will be new for them.
I do my pages fairly traditionally. I use standard 11-by-17 Bristol board … sometimes the pre-lined comic ones, sometimes just out of a Bristol board pad that I get at any art supply store. For Containment I used a bunch of photo reference, something I didn’t do at all with HYDE, but I think it’s become an integral part of my work. I basically read through the script and highlight all the panels and shots that I’d like a reference for. I get some of my pals together and have them model for me. Sometimes I’ll shoot really dynamic shots that I use almost verbatim on the finished page, and sometimes I just take more generic reference shots. I use a digital camera for this and upload it all to my computer. From there I’ll pull up images on the screen to draw from, or sometimes I’ll print them out. In the end, I may not even use the reference I initially thought I would have liked for a specific panel or scene, and I just pull everything out of my head for it. Using models and photo references for Containment has been sort of the backbone for the feel of it. I really wanted the people to have a realistic vibe; I’m influenced by artists like Kent Williams and George Pratt who manage to pull off realistic, yet still very stylistic, figures in their work.
From there I lightly pencil out the page and ink it. I ink using a dipped ink pen and a brush. I like to ink with a painterly approach – my pencils tend to be sort of loose and that leaves room for improvisation when I ink. It’s a lot more enjoyable for me to work this way than if I were to pencil really tightly and then just kinda redraw it over in ink. Even though I use plenty of references I don’t want the work to feel photographic or static; I like it to stay fresh and dynamic as much as possible.
After I ink it, I scan it into the computer and color it. My colors are a mixture of textures I’ve made that I stack up into layers and manipulate to get some desired effects. I use a watercolor approach to coloring that looks a bit washy and textured. It works well in horror comics I think. It’s a similar approach to Ashley Wood’s Hellspawn stuff, or Ben Templesmith’s stuff … which has all kinda descended from guys like Dave McKean, who’s a master at digital collaging and manipulation.
Then it’s done. I upload all the finished artwork to the publisher, where the lettering is added and it’s off to print.
What sort of schedule do you operate on? How far ahead of your deadlines do you try to stay?
I sometimes work for long stints, drawing and inking anywhere from two to five pages at a time. I drink a lot of Jolt, lots of caffeine, to stay up all night or often for a few days. That’s probably unhealthy, I wouldn’t recommend it. It will probably give me some unpleasant digestive cancer if I keep it up. My pacing is fairly quick, I think, compared to some artists, but it all depends on the page and the task at hand. I’m fairly new to this game so sometimes I’ll get tripped up on a specific drawing. Ask me to draw a zombie biting someone’s face, no problem, I can whip it up. But ask me to draw a schoolyard full of children playing, then I gotta get some reference. So in the end I will do maybe eight pages a week … sometimes a lot more if there’s a deadline approaching quickly.
Staying ahead of deadline is pretty important … it makes everybody happy. That way if there are any changes or bumps long the way, you’ve got some wiggle room. When I did HYDE it was a nice light workload so I had everything in to IDW on time weekly. Now I’ve been doing Containment along with pieces of a Silent Hill graphic novel simultaneously. It’s been a heavier load so I’ve been having to turn some art in at the last minute.
Any other helpful hints and tips you’d like to share with up-and-coming artists?
Get a Web site, it’s super useful. That way you can easily refer people to your work online. From where I stand the Internet has been the single most useful tool I’ve used so far to generate interest in my work. Having my Web site, lurking on art and comic book forums online to meet other artists and writers … it’s a huge resource.
Speaking of sites, visit Nick’s at www.nickstakal.com.
—Interview by Patrick RollensPosted by Tim Leong on March 28th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |
How to Avoid Carpal Tunnel
An artist’s career is wrapped up in his hands, and just a few wrong moves can bring the rise to fame to a screeching halt. You’ve heard of carpal tunnel and repetitive stress syndrome, but do you know what it is? And do you know how to prevent it from standing in the way of success? Here, CF gives you the facts about an artist’s worst enemy—and tips on how to beat it.
Carpal tunnel develops with repetitive movements of the hands or wrist. The tissue in the carpal tunnel swells with constant use, and over time this swelling increases the pressure placed on the median nerve. The tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome stems from this pressure on the nerve.
Some of the milder symptoms of carpal tunnel include numbness or pain in your hand, forearm, or wrist that awakens you at night, tingling, the feeling of your hand falling asleep, and numbness or pain that worsens with use of the hand or wrist, especially when gripping an object or bending your wrist.
While it’s important to consult with your doctor as soon as you start feeling any of these symptoms, surgical treatment—called a carpal tunnel release and involves a small incision to relieve pressure on the median nerve—should only be considered after all other non-surgical treatments have been attempted.
Prevention and Exercise
• Use movements that spread the pressure and motion evenly through your hands and wrists.
• Vary positions often when using repetitive motion.
• Avoid a lot of salt if you tend to retain fluid.
• Reduce stress on your fingers, hands, and wrist even when you’re not in control of them—such as while sleeping—by wearing a wrist splint.
Pull the fingers of your hand back and away from the palm. Let your wrist relax and follow the movement of the finger. Hold for five seconds and repeat with the other hand.
Stand, put both hands with palm facing down on the top of a desk with fingers facing in toward each other. Push down gently, and slowly stretch your wrists backward.
Extend forearms parallel to the floor with the palms facing down, and make fists with both hands. Flex your wrists downward while holding the fist. Count to five
Slowly (and gently) pull each finger for a few seconds. A loud popping sound is okay. Use this exercise last, after warming up with the previous ones.
—Paddy ManguntaPosted by Tim Leong on March 28th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |
Grant Gould: Step One
STEP ONE: I obviously start with a sketch. I begin with really loose, light doodling, and then kind of flesh it out as I go. I’m a very low-tech guy in terms of what tools I use. I don’t go out of my way to buy expensive pencils or pens. I’ll head down to my local office supply store and buy four-dollar automatic pencils, click erasers, Uniball pens, and Sharpie markers, and I’m so used to using those, it’s pretty much second nature by now. I know how they work and I’m comfortable with them.
Over time I’m sure I’ll try new tools, especially if they’re recommended to me, but for now this is the way I do it. This particular sketch was done on an 8.5-by-11 sheet of cardstock, and took me about a half hour to do. I sometimes use reference, depending on what it is that I’m drawing. For this image I googled a couple photos of the “Battlestar Galactica” characters for reference. I try to keep their faces somewhat true to the actors, but at the same time try to give them a more cartoon-y or comic book feel. I’m definitely not going for realism with my art. I’m going for something in-between.Posted by Tim Leong on March 28th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |
Grant Gould: Step Two
STEP TWO: After finishing up the pencil sketch, I hold my drawing up backward to a bright light or window. Seeing the artwork in reverse really points out any obvious flaws my mind didn’t catch while drawing it, and it’s proved to be a very useful trick with making final adjustments before inking. Once the sketch looks good to me, I ink the image and fill in the areas that I want black. (I usually color those areas with Sharpies and then adjust the contrast later in Photoshop so that the marker lines aren’t visible.)
Sometimes, when I know I’ll be coloring an image, I don’t spend as much time inking because I know that I’ll be able to enhance everything digitally, so I try not to worry too much about depth at this stage. It’s more about bold framing. I use some marker lines to exaggerate forward characters and treat some of it loosely, as I would a sketch. At this point, almost anything I screw up can be fixed in Photoshop, so that takes a lot of the stress off inking. For example, Apollo’s eye was a little off, so I went into Photoshop, used the selection tool to grab his pupil and move it around. Simple as that. Of course, anyone buying the original artwork may be in for a surprise when they see that Apollo’s a little bit cross-eyed.Posted by Tim Leong on March 28th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |
Grant Gould: Step Three
STEP THREE: After I scan the inked image (usually at 150 dpi, or if I’ll be printing it then 300 dpi), I make sure it’s in grayscale and adjust the contrast so that the blacks are solid. I then begin a working document and save it as a Photoshop document. I make a duplicate layer of the original drawing and choose the “multiply” option for that layer. I add all of my flat colors, and by this point I’ve switched back to RGB and am careful not to flatten my document. Using my mouse, I first select the different areas on the original layer and fill them in on the duplicate layer with base colors; then I zoom in and use the paintbrush to fill in the smaller areas. This is probably the most time-consuming part of the process for me, but it’s necessary, and if your flat colors don’t look decent, then it will only hurt your final image.
And keep in mind, there are many, many different styles of digital coloring out there; this is just the way that I’ve been doing it. I enjoy the cell-shaded style.Posted by Tim Leong on March 28th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |
Grant Gould: Step Four
STEP FOUR: After getting the base colors down, I begin shading. I tend to do each area separately, so for this drawing I did Apollo first, then Starbuck, then the background.
I’ll walk you through the process with Apollo. On the original layer, I select all of the colored spaces on Apollo, except for the eyeballs. I like to leave the eyeballs white for now. Keeping the same pixels selected, I create a new layer, call it something like “Apollo Shadow,” then fill it with black.Story Archive |