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    How to be The Hulk’s Cover Artist

    Dick Ayers. John Romita. Sal Buscema. Frank Miller. What do these guys all have in common? They all had the duties of creating the covers for the Incredible Hulk series. Next in line after Jae Lee’s run is Andy Brase, who picks up with issue No. 83. Andy talked with CF about his cover process and what it took for him to get here.

    How did you com to create this style of art?
    Practice… my art was mainly self-taught. I grew up in Iowa and spent a lot of time in my room drawing and working on creative projects.

    You do a lot of gaming art — how is it applicable to what you do on comics?
    I really like game art because it’s based in the fantasy/horror/sci-fi genres and that’s the stuff I really love to draw. When I was breaking into freelance work I found it was easier to get work in RPG (role-playing game) art. The pay is not great, though it helped me build a strong portfolio. When I first showed my portfolio to Marvel last year, I had already been working in game art for a couple years and had a strong portfolio. That lead to my first comic cover work about a month later on Identity Disc No. 4 for Marvel

    How do you go about achieving such realism in your art?
    When I first started freelancing I already had very stylized pen and ink work, though it was more cartoony and the anatomy was pretty bad, or off in many areas. So I cracked down on learning anatomy — I studied from life, anatomy books and photos, etc. I also looked in the mirror a lot to see how shadows fall over a face, arm, hands, etc. At the same time I discovered artists like Bernie Wrightson, Frank Frazetta and Brom. I was inspired by their works and I think that lead to more realism in my work.

    Do you use reference/models?
    Sometimes…it depends on what I’m drawing and the look I want. I don’t use very much reference on the comic covers I’ve done (for Marvel and Devil’s Due). The figures are all done from my head and checking lighting in a mirror on myself. When I drew some pinups of The Victorian (for Penny Farthing Press) I used photo reference and tried a little more photo-real style. The model was myself, though I did alter things to fit the character.

    In working with all that detail, how do you go about coloring it?
    On my covers for Marvel, someone else colors it…so I don’t have too much say in that. Some of my detail gets lost in the saturated colors that comics use. Personally, I would use less saturated colors, just because I think it would fit my work better. It’s still great to see what the colorist comes up with. Overall they have been good, though.

    Most of my game work is published black and white. I add monochrome tones when I post things in my web gallery ( I would love to see some more of my art published with the monochrome tones, though most publishers want full color. I sometimes color my work and use Photoshop or traditional medium.

    What tools do you use to draw/ink with?
    A mechanical pencil, kneaded eraser and Sakura Pigma Micron pens. Sometimes a blush (WinsorNewton Series 7) and India ink.

    What’s your process in approaching a comic cover?
    The editor usually gives me a short description of what they think would look good on the cover or what the comic is about. I do some rough sketches to get some compositions. Usually one has some design elements to it and another is more of an action scene or event from the story. I get one approved by the editor then I light-box the composition of the sketch to Bristol board and do a tight pencil drawing. I make sure most of the anatomy problems are worked out at this stage. I ink the drawing next. Then I go over it lightly with a clean eraser to get rid of extra pencil marks. Finally, I scan and send a file to the comic company via e-mail.

    It seems that you use your backgrounds and environments to frame the main art a lot — why is that?
    Design and atmosphere have always been important elements to me. I think this is partly something that just happens when I do my work. A lot of times I’ll just start with some main characters and when I add the background I try to have it flow around them or be very balanced with the characters.

    What affect does that have?
    I think it can help create a piece that draws the viewer’s eye in to the design more. It puts the characters in an environment, gives an atmosphere to the drawing while at the same time having it be a balanced, interesting design to look at.

    Why is symmetry important as a design element?
    It gives a piece balance and order — it keeps the viewer’s eye from falling off the piece and interested in the design.

    What’s your process for including texture in your work?
    Many of the textures are just inked in by hand. I have also used black or white ink splatters to add a different type of shading to some pieces. I sometimes leave backgrounds fairly empty and add some textures in Photoshop. I have scanned in photos I have taken with interesting textures, then manipulated them in Photoshop a little and add them in backgrounds.

    What’s the best way for young artists to approach gaming art?
    For RPG art, put together a portfolio of your best work. Quality is more important than quantity. Go to a game convention, such as Gen con, to show your work around. You can also send submissions to companies. Look at what the publishers print to see what type of work they may be interested in. Osually fantasy/horror/sci-fi is more important than superheroes in gaming. They also are looking for fully finished illustrations, not just pencilers or inkers. The work can be fully shaded pencils, detailed ink drawings, ink wash, paint, watercolor — and digital painting is also a very popular choice of medium in the field right now. Video game concept illustration is, for the most part, a different game industry, and I don’t have experience with that yet.

    Best Photoshop tip?
    Save your work often, so if the computer freezes/crashes you don’t have to start over.

    You do a lot of duo-tone work - what advantage does that give you?
    I’ve never used duo shade board and only used zip-a-tone once a long time ago. So most of my duo-tone is done by hand or pen and ink. It gives the work a unique look doing it all by hand, which is what I like. A lot of comic and game art these days is being shaded on computer, which gives things a different more digitally painted look. This isn’t bad, it’s just rare to see art shaded with ink, and I like to ink, so I do it. It’s definitely not a time-saver to shade this way — I get many comments from other artists like “you are crazy.”

    What’s one thing every amateur artist should know, but doesn’t?
    When a small publisher says they will give you work “for exposure” or for a “percentage of profits,” that usually means little or no exposure and no money. Be careful…

    Andy begins his Incredible Hulk cover run with issue No. 83, which hits stands July 6. Also, be sure to check out Andy’s image gallery at

    Posted by Tim Leong on June 21st, 2005 filed in Story Archive |

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