Friday, August 31, 2012

Digital Skin

-By Serge Birault

I think I have to speak about skin because I had a lot of questions about this. Here's a list of tricks to do paint more "realistic" skin with your computer ...

I. Skin Tones

Avoid simple gradients. You cannot obtain convincing skin if you only add black and white to a basic skin tone. It's more complex than that.

Of course, all skins are different but you can try this :

- A little bit of olive green on the shadow.
- A little bit of blue under the eyes (lower lids).
- A little bit of red on the cheek bones.

Just work with low opacity (0 - 5%), on a separeted layer and with the soft round brush.

By the way, if the contrast is not good, it will not work. Contrast is more important than color.

About black skin, I never find a good and single way. It's really depending on the color of the skin. As black skin is usually very reflective, the light has a big influence on the tones.

II. Influence of lights

Don't forget the ambient and the direct lights could changed your basic skin tones. With a strong light, shadows are very dark and the contrast of your picture has to be high, for example.

The color of the light is  important too. Your palette depends on it too.

You can easily adjust the contrast/the tones/the luminosity of some parts of your picture with your favourite software. It's not the better way to work but it could sometimes be helpful.

III. Skin texture

I use the "dry brush" to do skin textures. It works pretty well if you use it carefully. Once again, try to work with very low opacity and on a separeted layer (so you could change the opacity of the layer too).

For the beauty spots and the freckles, I use the soft round brush ... A very small one. Working on a high resolution picture is easier ... It's not very long and you don't have to be very precise.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sketchbook 2012 Shipping Out!

by Justin Gerard

Sketchbook 2012: Ents & Orcs ships out today!  
 The first 50 are individually numbered and have a personal drawing in them.  

#1 this year went to Dave from Kalamazoo, who managed to order in the first 15 seconds of it being live somehow. I believe that aliens were somehow involved. Dave isn't saying anything.  Either way, he will be getting a dragon. 

The sketches this year feature a lot of wizards, dragons, vikings, elves and as you might expect, a lot of Ents...

 ...and orcs. 

But there are also dwarves,

 And others of a less than savory nature...

As well as some old friends, 

And the Were-rabbit makes his return for #40:

If you haven't gotten one and are interested, there are still a few left on the Store.
And I will of course be selling them at DragonCon this weekend in Atlanta.  

Thanks again for all the orders and support! You guys are awesome. 

Touching Up

by Donato

This past week found me on vacation with the family (thus excuse the brevity of this post), but before that happened, I had four uninterrupted days in the studio.  Time which allowed me to put finishing touches on a major commission and luckily find rare hours with which I could revisit a handful of paintings which had been lying around the studio begging for a little love and care.  Why are there unfinished works around the studio? (a laughable question I know!)  Let me make excuses...

As you can imagine, the constraints of commercial assignments place deliver dates above any other factor in the work.  The old adage of an illustrator is that there are three issues at stake in commercial work: quality, price and deadline.  The client gets to pick two of those, the artist the third.  Thus with many commercial assignments,  date and price are the main constraining factors, with the artist left to decide on the quality they wish to deliver.

While I always strive to give my clients the best my skills can offer, sometimes a bit more time is needed on a work of art, time my commercial clients tend not to have.  Therefore, I polish the work so that it is fine for publication, with the intent that I will revisit and put that last 5% back into it to at a near but later date.   Many times those near dates stretch into months and then into years!  As a traditional artist, once a painting leaves the studio you will never get to work on it again, and it is for this reason I will only exhibit and offer for sale original works which are 100% completed.

While I have dozens of works in this purgatory stage, some good news this past week is that I was able to finish eight oils, and they are now ready to photograph and share online and at conventions.  Dan Dos Santos recently posted on how he touched up work for DragonCon, likely with similar reasoning behind the presenting of his works.  Luckily I am not alone in my procrastinations!

Below are two of the oil paintings.  I will post the others when scans are finally ready.  To some of you who have seen these works in other venues, the changes may be imperceptible, but there certainly are surface modifications and detailing which makes all the difference to me...


Genghis Khan    18" x 24"   Oil on Panel   commissioned by Der Spiegel

Shattered Pillars  16" x 30"  Oil on Panel   cover commission for novel by Elizabeth Bear 

Shattered Pillars   rough drawings

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


By Jesper Ejsing

This is a cover I did a while back, that has just been released. The book is called Menzoberranzan - City of Intrigue, and is all about Drows. The assignment asked for a beautiful female drow, flying through her underground city.

Here is what i think is super difficult about Drows: they have black skin and live underground! Which means you are actually painting a dark figure - since they also like to dress black and dark - in a poorly lit environment. As you can see, I chose to do a dark figure against a light back ground.

The steps I am showing are: Thumb/sketch, transferred sketch on board, value version on board and final.

When looking at it now I really wanna change the armguards. they look like something out of a Spiderman Movie.

The original is size 40cm by 50cm and is painted in acrylic. The inked value version I inked with a waterproof filtpen and toned with black acrylic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dragon Con

-By Dan dos Santos

AUGUST 31 -  SEPTEMBER 3,  2012

Dragon Con starts this Friday, and I am super honored to be this year's Artist Guest of Honor.

Some of the AGoH's responsibilities include creating a custom piece of art for the program guide (which I will share with you all in a few days), giving various lectures and demos, and putting on an exhibit in the art show.

Normally when I exhibit for a convention like Spectrum Live or IlluXcon, I rarely bring more than 5 or 6 large paintings. You really can't fit much more than that in a 10' x 10' booth. But being the Guest of Honor at Dragon Con means I have to fill the space of 3 regular booths. That's a LOT of wall to cover!

For those of you who have never exhibited at a large convention, you may not realize how much work goes into actually prepping for just a few days of exhibition. From business cards to lighting... there are a LOT of things to do. I have spent the past week touching up more than a dozen paintings, varnishing, matting, framing, printing, crating, and finally... shipping!

A week's worth of work quite literally came down to me driving 2 crates down the highway at 75 miles per hour, and making the Fed-Ex cut off today with no more than 4 minutes to spare! A feat, I should acknowledge, which would have been impossible without the help of my stellar assistant, Lindsey.

So what was in all those crates? Quite a lot, actually! In addition to the typical prints, books, and DVDs, I will also have with me more than a dozen original works. Here is a sampling of just some of the pieces I will be bringing:

I will also have with me 2, as of yet, unseen paintings... and a limited edition print.

Dragon Con is a pretty large show, and as such, a lot of really talented actors, writers, and artists show up for it. This year's artist list includes:

Justin Gerard
Todd Lockwood
Bill Sienkiewicz
David Mack
Tim Sale
Neal Adams
Larry Elmore
Bernie Wrightson
William Stout
Mark Zug
Stan Lee

But why else is Dragon Con worth visiting? One word... COSPLAY. Dragon Con has one of the most active cosplay communities of any convention, even San Diego Comic Con doesn't compare. It's so big, they literally have a parade. These aren't just your average Halloween costumes. Some of these things are movie quality works of art! Don't believe me? Just watch the video below, it'll blow you away.

I hope to see some of our readers there! If you think you're going to make it, let us know in the comments section.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Is That a Pledge Pin On Your Uniform?

by Arnie Fenner

The topics of art schools, higher education, degrees, and the price tag attached to them come up all the time. You have to go/you don't have to go. This school is great/that school sucks. They cost too much, they don't teach the fundamentals, the instructors are incompetent, they don't prepare students for a career that will pay a living wage, etc, etc, and etc.

The complaints aren't always wrong, of course. These days a Bachelor's Degree can saddle the recipient with a student loan debt of $100K to $200K, depending on the institution. For every inspiring, nurturing instructor there undoubtedly is an equal number who are intimidated by creativity in others and shouldn't be teaching at all. Because of shifts in the marketplace—largely attributable to changes in both technology and society—some schools have pushed the fundamentals of drawing and painting to the rear to emphasize computer skills. Does that frustrate some students? Absolutely. Are the schools wrong to take that direction? I guess it depends.

What does the student really want? Do they want to paint book covers or work in comics or enter the advertising field or design films or become a gallery artist? What do they aspire to? What are their goals? Sure, everyone wants to be the best they can be, but it's not enough to "want to create art." The questions have to be asked: for whom? How? What? And the biggest question, of course, is: who will pay you to draw or paint or sculpt or film?

Yeah, it boils down to dirty old dollars. If you don't make don't have a place to live and you don't eat. If you can't figure out a way to make your art cover your bills, you're not going to have the time to create it—because much of your time will be spent working at a different sort of job that will. I don't think I have ever known a successful artist who could only devote their energy and attention to their art part time. It's the way of the world—and while we all surely know someone who floats through life on a wing and prayer with barely a nickel to their name but who seems to get along just "fine"...we all know that person is an anomaly, an exception to the norm, and not us. (An exception who eventually gets hit by the proverbial bus.)

Above: A Life Magazine photo of students at the University of Iowa painting a model in 1961.

So we go to school, any school, for a number of reasons, and shoulder the expense to prepare for a future in which we can take care of ourselves and earn a living. To achieve the credentials that help us be able to earn a living. And if some schools think that teaching you how to put things together in Illustrator or Photoshop is more important than teaching composition, color, and anatomy...well, that's appropriate for some artists. Just as it's not for others. (And, yes, if you want to function as a commercial artist today, you had better bet that you will need some computer chops.) That's why you pick and choose your educational options carefully. Thoughtfully. Deliberately.

The flip side of the coin is that for any class, any school, any experience to be worthwhile, the student has to invest themselves in it, to literally wring every last bit of knowledge and inspiration that they can from it. One of the most valuable aspects of college—or junior college or workshops—is the interaction with other artists. The friendships, the shared experiences, the dramas and silliness, the failures and the successes, all are as important to making the artist who they are. And those contacts and friendships can go on to help your career when it's least expected (and perhaps most needed).

Do you have to have a 4 year degree to be a freelance artist? Nope. You just need to be good. Real good—which means you have to work hard, learn everything you don't know, and work harder. The competition is stiff and the market is fickle: what's hot today isn't tomorrow and the artist has to be like a  sapling and bend in the wind, not break, then spring back with quality work that the market will respond to (and pay for).

Above: A Life Magazine photo of Thomas Hart Benton painting "Persephone"
at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1939.

If, on the other hand, you want to work as a staff artist for a corporation—Disney, Hallmark, Bernstein-Rein, National Geographic, et al—you need the degree. Skilled or not, without the paper Human Resources tends to toss your resumé in the round file. (Why work for such stiff-necks? Insurance. Security. Paid vacation. Educational opportunities. Retirement benefits. You know: dumb stuff like that.)

Freelance Vs Staff Artist is a topic for another day, but I think what I wanted to briefly touch on is that, regardless of your career path, if you want to be a successful artist you have to work at your craft and keep it fresh. Increasingly there are non-traditional avenues for artists to do so. And—here's the important thing—no matter if you're self-taught or have an MFA from Ringling, whether you're a novice or a pro of long-standing...

You should never pass up an opportunity to learn. You must never pass up an opportunity to get better. You never close yourself off from new experiences and influences and opportunities.

Independent schools and workshops have taken a firm hold on the illustration community, particularly in the last decade; their focus and structure can be invaluable to artists of all ages, stripes, and sensibilities. They can and do provide life-altering learning experiences at a cost significantly less than what is available at most institutions of higher education.

Being an artist means you're on an unending journey of discovery. You never learn it all. You never know it all. Your education never stops. And you should never be satisfied. That's why taking advantage of classes like the something worth serious consideration.

The Art Department in Kansas City is headed by John English and features a stellar list of instructors including Jon Foster, Anita Kunz, Sterling Hundley, Jason Manley, Gary Kelley, C.F. Payne and the legendary Mark English.

The TLC Workshops in Bothell, WA got off to a rousing start this year with intimate, hands-on classes conducted by Justin Gerard, Brom and Iain McCaig [above], Terese Nielsen, and, this Fall, Gregory Manchess.

Rebecca Guay's The Illustration Master Class in Amherst, MA boasts an intensive week of instruction by such masters James Gurney, Boris Vallejo, Julie Ball, Greg Manchess, Dan Dos Santos, Irene Gallo, Iain McCaig, Brom and more.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

ParaNorman Behind the Scenes

Ain't it Cool News did a great write up on the making of ParaNorman. The pictures are absolutely awesome! Read the article HERE, and check out some videos HERE

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Christmas Carol Collection

-By Tim Bruckner

I’ve read Dickens A Christmas Carol nearly every year since my early teens. And as familiar as I am with the story, I still find it inspiring, revealing and reaffirming. It’s said that every generation gets the Christmas Carol they deserve. Looking over the many interpretations of this classic tale, I’m inclined to believe it’s true.

I’d thought about doing a set of figures based on the book for years. The “how” has gone through as many alterations as Scrooge’s “reclamation”. My first attempt was a full figure of Marley (1982). After I’d finished it, I realized there was something missing. Damned if I knew what. Could have been that I hadn’t really thought about how to work in the other figures, or how to hold them together as a group. So, I left it be for a few years.

I had a window of down time in 2007 and wanted to revisit the idea of a Christmas Carol collection. I reread the book, bought a couple of CD versions of it and immersed myself in the story and its characters. And, as I’ve freely admitted before, studied Rockwell, a lot.

I started with Scrooge. I knew once I had him, he’d lead me to the others. Of all the times I’ve read this story I don’t know why him having chin whiskers, or a “wiry chin” didn’t register. If I’d overlooked that, what else had I not picked up on? Aside from the physicality of the man, how was I going to revel his nature as being “a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone. A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!”

I played with a couple of clay studies until I found what I was looking for. Made a waste mold to wax and started the finish work.

There was a lot I wanted to include but hadn’t resolved how to do it. In one of those all too rare flashes of inspiration, the double sided base with the book ornament presented itself. With the two sided base, the three-sixty pivot just made sense.

The front of the base is an old style table-top book stand. The stand holds a sculpture of an open book, which can be removed and hung as an ornament. Since everything is tied to the book, I wanted it to play a significant role in the design of the line. Each ornament carries text from the book that applies directly to the character. The cover of the book is my interpretation of the 1843 first edition.

The back of the base is a set of stylized, parted bed curtains. Scrooge’s bed and bed curtains play a big part in the story’s unfolding. They were also designed to look like theater curtains, pulled back to reveal something relevant to the character the base supports. For Scrooge, Marley’s head glows like “a bad lobster in a dark cellar”.

I worked on Tiny Tim next. Same process as Scrooge; rough clay to waste mold to wax. Being at the end of the hand-me-down line, nothing of Tim’s outfit fits quite right or matches. The back of his base shows his crutch and leg brace, which is often overlooked in interpretations of his character. A big shout to Norm in helping me with Tim’s design.

The Ghost of Christmas Present was next. He’s’ described as being a “jolly giant” He’s the largest of the characters in the line and I had intended to make him larger still, but scaled him back a bit out of concern for context. The back of his base, “From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom.”

What I’d missed in the first Marley was the movement of his clothes and hair “for though the Ghost sat perfectly motionless, its hair, and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot vapour from an oven.” In the rough clay I had his left hand pointing, palm down. My good friend and master sculptor, Tony Cipriano, suggested I open his hand and turn it palm up to show the duality of his mission to Scrooge. Great call, Tony. Thanks!

One of the most enjoyable things about sculpting Marley was getting to do his alternate head after he removed the “folded kerchief bound about its head and chin” so “its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!” The back of Marley’s base shows the ringing bell that announces his visit.

The line has been close to being manufactured several times. When I first posted pictures of it in 2007, I’ve gotten, on average, a handful of emails each month asking when/if the line with be available. Well, it looks like 2013 will see The Christmas Carol Collection come to market, manufactured and distributed by Diamond Comic Distributors. To paraphrase Tiny Tim, “God bless them, everyone!”

Next up…