Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sports Illustrated Kids October Illustrations

It has been an incredibly busy last few weeks and, more than once in the last few days, I have felt like I might have bitten off more than I can chew. But, I just keep working along every day and, little by little, things seem to be getting done.

Of course, I did work a little bit on Thanksgiving and I did spend the holiday weekend chained to the art table but I did have some great food that Thursday so I really can't complain.

Ah, the life of a freelance artist where weekends and holidays don't mean much but I always tell myself it's better than digging ditches and I am still amazed I get paid to do something I love so much.

Sorry the blog has suffered in the last week but here are a few illustrations that graced the pages of October's Sports Illustrated Kids magazine. See if you can tell what's going on and let me know what you think the call is.

Have a great day!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Alternate Soccer Cover

It was a really busy weekend and I spent most of it chained to the drawing table getting multiple projects a little further along on their journey to completion.

But, I didn't want to neglect the blog for too long so here is one of the alternate illustrations I did for the Jake Maddox covers I showed you last week. The kid playing soccer was my first attempt at the the cover before I was told to change it entirely and then to change it again until I finally got to the final piece. I didn't need to ink any of this character but I was messing around one night and I liked him so I laid some ink over him. I guess I didn't like his arms or legs too much because I stopped with inking a head and a torso.

Oh, and the headless basketball figure next to him? The one that was actually used for the cover? Well, when I did my initial illustrations for the covers I was working from provided photo reference and all the characters had their heads looking to the left or right. After I penciled them I was told that they wanted all the characters looking at the viewer. So, instead of erasing a perfectly good head and working over an erased and marred piece of illustration board I simply drew a new head separate from the body and digitally attached it once everything was scanned into the computer. It looks a little creepy here but it all turned out well in the end.

OK, back to work for me. But I thought it would be cool to show off some of the work that didn't quite make the cut.

Have a great day!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Troubles and a New Toy

On Tuesday night I was working away on the computer I use to do all my artwork and music. After a while I started smelling something that had the odor of burnt plastic. I looked at the computer and hit the whole thing with a little compressed air. Then it smelled like burning bacon.

I walked around to the back of my desk and took a look at the computer from the back. The power source fan was not spinning at all, no air was blowing, and the whole power unit was burning hot to the touch. I shut the computer down. I knew I needed a new power unit but the last one I bought was at the now defunct CompUSA. I didn't know if anyone in town would actually have what I needed on a shelf and I was afraid I'd have to order something online and wait a few days and hope it would serve my needs.

It was too late at night to roam out around town looking for something so I'd have to do it in the morning. Needless to say I didn't sleep to well on Tuesday night.

I woke up early on Wednesday, unable to sleep, and set out to find my computer a new power source. I went to a local electronics shop I'd done some business with and asked if they had what I needed. I didn't think a big box store would have computer parts so I figured a local place might be my best bet. Turns out they didn't sell anything like that anymore but the guy behind the counter suggested Best Buy. I've bought TVs, DVD players, CDs, and DVDs at Best Buy but I didn't know if they had actual useful computer parts. I was a little skeptical but I took a drive over there anyway.

And, what do you know, they had exactly what I needed. Actually, the power unit they had was more than I needed but I was just happy to have something in hand. I was so happy I walked around Best Buy for a bit looking for an item I'd been reading about online for the last few days.

While watching the Amazing Race I noticed they used and were promoting a little video camera called the GoPro HD Hero2. It's one of those cameras that has all sorts of rigs you can build and attach it to helmets, a bike, or even the end of a surfboard. I've never owned a video camera in all of my life. The closest I have is the little webcam built into my laptop computer. The webcam works great but it's hard to run around with a laptop shooting video or suspending it above my art board so I can get some video of myself drawing.

So, feeling good about finding the power source, I bought myself a new toy. I am now the proud owner of a GoPro HD Hero2 camera. I even bought a few accessories for it so I could mount it in different spots. And, what's coolest of all, it lives inside a little plastic case that not only protects it but is water tight up to about 190 feet. I'm not about to go throw it into the pool anytime soon but it's nice to know I can.

After I went to lunch I got back to the studio to fix my computer. While I dealt with emails and phone calls from clients I had my computer on the floor, cover off, and pieces all over the place. I used to be a guy who was scared to even take the cover off of the computer for fear it would shine some holy light on me like the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark and melt my face off. Now here I was, cover off, ripping out wires and power sources, fingers crossed that when I put it all back together it would work.

And, luckily, everything is now working better than ever.

With the work of the day done it was time to play with my new toy.

I rigged up one of my microphone stands so it now holds the camera as well as one of my vocal mikes. This way, I figure, I can record both audio and video in separate ways and then link them back together in post editing and get the best of both worlds. It took some playing to figure out some of the camera settings but here are a few tests I did with it.

First, using the microphone stand, I mounted the camera above my art desk. Originally I focused and framed the camera on a huge piece I've been working on that is 28"x17". So, when I threw that aside and started drawing on a little 8.5"x11" piece of copier paper I didn't quite have the shot framed right. But, you get the idea. And, if you click through to YouTube to watch this video, it's in 1080 hi def. The music I added is from the Angels and Airwaves' album Love, Part One. It's an instrumental of the song "Hallucinations."

And here is the second video test I did. I mounted the camera to my bike's handlebars and set off. I walked with Monika over to her gym and then took a quick ride around the block. It was a bit too cold to go on my hour long bike ride and I really wanted to see how the camera worked in low light. It turns out, when there is any decent light present like a lamp post, it looks really good. But when there isn't much light it almost goes completely dark. I sped up the video about four times so it wouldn't get too boring. No music on this one but I also muted the sound of me pedaling away.

So, what started out as a day full of not sleeping, being anxious, and feeling nervous, turned into a great day after all. Don't you love it when that happens?

OK, back to work for me. Have a great day!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Soccer Cover Figure

Here is the last cover I did for the latest round of Jake Maddox books and, believe me, it was the one that gave me the most headaches.

For the covers of this round of books I was given some photo mock-ups created by my art director to give me an idea of what he had in mind and how he wanted the figures to look. I went through and penciled all of the figures and did my best to match his ideas. There were a few initial changes that needed to be made and, overall, most of the figures were a go ahead to finish. But not this soccer kid. I made the changes, sent them back in, and was told that no one was really feeling the action. I was sent another photo that everyone agreed was better and I did a new pencil sketch based on that. Nope, no one liked that one either.

So, instead of sending me another photo I was told to do what I thought would look cool. I did a quick pencil sketch and emailed it over. And, what do you know, that was the one that was chosen to go to a finished piece. It took a while but I'm glad I finally got there and I'm happy with the way this guy turned out.

And, while I have finally read the basketball book I did the cover for the other day, I still have yet to read the story about this soccer player. So, I am really hoping I got the feel of this guy right and it works with the interior story of the book.

Hopefully I'll know soon enough.

Have a great day!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Basketball Cover Figure

Another one of the books I am doing for the Jake Maddox series is a new basketball book. The difference between this cover figure and the two I showed earlier is that, on the other two, I had read the books and already illustrated the interiors. I had already lived with the characters for a bit and had a good feel for them artistically.

This and the next one I am going to show I was asked to illustrate with no idea what the story was about, who the characters were, or what they even looked like.

I never like doing covers this way as I fell the cover should be the last piece you do when you illustrate a book. I feel it should be the best of the interior work and really portray a good sense of what happens in the book. Drawing the cover this way and having the cover be my first stab at the character always feels very backwards to me.

But, there are deadlines to meet and I understand this. I don't have to like it, I just have to do it.

But, I still think the piece came out well and I'm looking forward to starting the interior of the book sometime this week.

Have a great day.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Baseball Cover Figure

Here is the cover figure I did for the latest Maddox book I just finished.

It's the story of a little league baseball catcher who has lost his mojo and can't seem to throw the ball back to the pitching mound much less throw a base stealer out at second.

Here's hoping he can figure it all out before the next big game!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Football Cover Figure

As promised earlier this week here is the full color piece I did for one of the newer Maddox books.

Like I said before, since the colors will probably change by the time this piece sees print, I painted this illustration in layers to make it easier for the editors and designers to change my work. There is a layer of color under a layer of shading and, as far as I know, there will be some sort of background behind him.

As to what it will look like when it's all completed I have no idea. But, this is how I would have colored him if it was up to me. We'll have to see what changes on him once the piece sees print early next year.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Exit 6 Pin-Ups

Alright, the initial first draft of the Exit 6 book has been completely written. I am taking a quick breather before I take some time to go through everything I have written and make sure it is all written well and makes sense. The last section I had to write about before the first draft was finished was a chapter on all the artists who did pin-ups for me through the books first publication run.

From left to right, top to bottom, the artists who did the above pieces are Dan Eaker, Rob Kelly, Ken Truhan, Dominic Tucci, Jermaine Newman, Craig Patrick, and Dan O'Connor.

It was fun writing pieces on all my old friends who contributed some art to my little book. It also gave me a chance to get online, find some websites, discover what everyone is up to now, and share that information with the readers.

And it was fun to revisit how different artists rendered my characters. Thanks guys for taking the time to do these for me in the first place.

One more little step down and who knows how many more I have left to do before this book is finally a reality...

Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sports Illustrated Kids September Illustrations

Here are a few more of the illustrations I did for Sports Illustrated Kids magazine a few months ago that were featured in the September issue.

Here is what I was told about each piece:

1) A pitcher throws a pitch. The batter swings and misses, but the catcher misjudges the ball, and it gets stuck in the catcher's facemask. (I'm not really sure what the question is on this one but I did like drawing the movement of both the batter swinging and the catcher getting a ball right in the face...)

2) A women's college lacrosse attackman takes a shot but the ball whizzes by the goal and rolls toward the out-of-bounds line. On a shot out of bounds, the ball is awarded to the person closest to it. Player A outraces Player B, but player B holds her stick out in front of her so that it is closer to the ball than Player A's. Who gets possession?

3) A running back on Team A takes a hand-off and finds an opening in the defense. Just as he is about to cross the goal line, a safety on Team B catches up to him and punches the ball out of his grasp. The ball rolls out of the back of the end zone. Who gets possession and where is the ball placed?

So, if you're the official on the field, what's the call?

Have a great day.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Zip-A-Tone Test

Here is another quick test I did this weekend.

Last week I was finishing up the latest round of kids book covers for the Jake Maddox sports line of stories. Usually I do full paintings for the covers, create the backgrounds, and turn in a finished piece of art. But, the last time around the art director and editors went through each piece of art I did, warped the backgrounds, and changed every color I painted on every character. Yellows turned to reds, bike colors were changed, you name it.

So, for this round, to make it easier for them to change my art, I was asked to keep the characters in layers of color. This meant I had one layer of flat color and one layer on top of it with the shadows. This way they could just go into the color layer, change the colors, and all the rendering and shadows on the characters would be kept intact.

I am beginning to feel less and less like and artist and more like someone who is simply creating jig-saw puzzle pieces so someone else can put together the puzzle. But, that's not the point of this post.

Anyway, to do a quick zip-a-tone test (making basic gray scale painting into dots of pure black and white to replicate gray) I took the shaded layer and put it through a few tests in Photoshop. Basically what I am trying to do is replicate the old zip-a-tone sheets of tone I used to use back in the days when I did Exit 6. I like it graphically a lot better than a simple gray wash over everything (to me, simply graying everything always turns everything muddy) and I think it turned out well.

Some of the future art I do will look like this but probably not as rendered in the shading with all the dots. But, I still think it was a successful test.

I'll try and find the time to post the full color covers I did last week so you can see what I've been up to. But, I can pretty much guarantee that what I show you here won't look anything like the printed product that will be coming out soon. Oh well...

Have a great day!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Test Page

I've been thinking about starting a new OilCan Drive comic book story lately. The way I've always been taught to do comic book pages was to draw them at a 10"x15" size and then shrink them down to fit the actual book. But, I've been working at different sizes for so long lately that I thought I might be able to draw a comic book page a little smaller to save some time.

I figured it might be good to do a quick test page to get a feel for how it would be to draw the page at a smaller size. I have been so busy these past few weeks that I just never found time to do it. Until, one night, right before bed, I decided I'd sit down and simply draw out the boxes and see how big a space I was dealing with.

I started drawing and laying out the lines of the page at around 3am. Once I got the layout done I figured, to heck with it, I'm just going to sketch out the page until I am tired. So, with a blue pencil in hand, I started sketching away. And, in about half an hour this is what I came up with.

I shot the photo in color but turned it into a grayscale piece so you could see the drawing a bit easier. I did like the way the drawing felt at this size and sketching out the page gave me an idea of what I might need to change or some of the problems I need to address in the future when I do a page. One of the first problems I saw is that it's been so long since I've done a comic book page is that I didn't leave too much room for word balloons or dialogue. So, I'll need to keep that in mind a bit more when I start drawing actual pages.

And, as far as decisions, after doing this test page I think I will go back to the 10"x15" page size. It will give me more room to draw and, hopefully, will let me draw stuff around the same size but still leave room for dialogue.

But, it was still a good test. And it felt great to sketch out a comic book page again.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New OilCan Drive Piece

As promised the other day, here are a few photos of the work being done on the newest OilCan Drive piece that I used for the blog header this month.

I didn't do this piece for any real reason in particular other than I hadn't drawn the characters in a while and I simply missed them. It also gave me a chance to look at each character and think of ways I might change little details here and there as I looked at the finished piece. Some things I love but other little things bugged me so this piece helped me sort out some of those problems.

I also gave myself a few free hours yesterday to sit down after lunch at Einstein's Bagels and write a good chunk of the Exit 6 collected book. It felt a little weird to sit there for about three hours in the corner typing away but the people working there like me and came over to chat a few times as I worked. For some reason I have a hard time sitting at home and writing anything of length other than a blog post or an email. So it was nice to sit somewhere else for a while surrounded by people and just write.

The good news is that, because I sat there and gave myself the time to do it, the first draft of the Exit 6 book has been completely written. There is one more part I want to write about the people who did pin-ups for me when the original comics were published but the bulk of the story of how I worked on Exit 6 and what happened after is now complete. It felt good to write those last words and feel like I had completed something of worth in telling my story. Now I just need to go through the whole thing again and fix whatever needs fixing and then give it to someone else to read and see what they think.

But, after counting pages last night, depending on how I format the book, it looks like there will be about 230 pages of art with about 150 pages of the story behind Exit 6. I'm really looking forward to getting all of the writing done so I can get to the fun part of designing the book. But, one step at a time. I felt like yesterday I made a nice giant step.

OK, back to work for me. I have a few pages of a kids book to finish up today.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy November!

Wow, it's November already. Things have been so busy around here that I honestly can't remember the last time I took a whole day off of work. It's been so busy that I didn't even have time to color the newest OilCan Drive piece I did for the blog header. So, you'll have to live with just seeing some nice line art up there above the blog for the next month.

Tomorrow, when I have a bit more time, I'll show a few more photos and scans of this newest piece. But, for now, it's back to work.

Have a great month!