Showing posts from July, 2010

COMIC-CON 2010 (part 4)

At Comic-Con, artist Neal Adams defined a comic book artist as: someone you put in a closet with a drawing table, a lamp, a radio, art supplies and you slide paper under the door and he'll keep filling it up -- just so he can get new paper to draw more.There must have been a thousand artists at Comic-Con who fit that description. Some of them were still blinking as their eyes adjusted to being out in the light. At tables on "artist's alley," in booths and leaning up against fire hydrants, you saw them inking highly detailed backgrounds and individual strands of hair. They didn't seem to be weighing the costs and benefits of their actions, the way sensible people would. They drew unfazed by the economics or the logistics of what they were doing.

There must have been 423 of them specializing in slick, polished images of huge breasted barbarian women in leather and chain mail bodices. (Question: if there are only 360 degrees in a full circle, how is it possible…

COMIC-CON 2010 (part 3)

Comic-Con provides a unique vantage point on the digital future of the popular arts.

The invention of digital media had an obvious quantitative impact on art, but I always listen at Comic-Con for early evidence of a qualitative impact.

Everybody knows the quantitative benefits: computers enhance the efficiency, speed and precision of the creation and distribution of images. They permit sharper, more consistent pictures than traditional tools can. They expand the range of possible subject matters by overcoming previous limitations on scale. For example, animators today have the ability to show individual strands of hair, or flowers in a field, or faces in a crowd that once would have been economically impossible to convey.

Yet, it is not clear that any of these miracles crosses the line between quantitative and qualitative change.

Contrast digital art with the invention of oil paint, for example. Many historians believe the invention of oil paint transformed the nature of art qualitati…

COMIC-CON 2010 (part 2)

John Henry said to his captain,
"Well a man ain't nothin but a man,
But before I let that steam drill beat me down,
Lawd, Lawd, I'll die with that hammer in my hand."
Tim Lewis 2000

We have had several discussions on this blog about the expanding role of software in the creation of art. I have argued that programs such as Painter and Photoshop allow people to purchase a level of talent that previous generations had to struggle for years to master. Others have responded that you can't hide bad digital painting/drawing in Corel Painter or bad character animation in Maya any more than you can hide bad oil painting.

Our discussions have ranged across a wide variety of theoretical scenarios. But in the words of the great Yogi Berra,In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is. One of the great things about Comic-Con is the opportunity to watch experts perform live demonstrations of the latest art software. After watching the curr…

COMIC-CON 2010 (part 1)

The ancient marketplace of Byzantium swarmed with traders, cutthroats, fishermen and merchants selling spices, livestock, textiles and goods from all across the known world. Its crowded stalls and narrow streets reeked with exotic smells and clamored with a dozen languages. When normal language failed, the vocabulary of commerce always prevailed.
[I just returned from the world famous San Diego Comic-Con-- always a mind-altering experience. This week I am posting a series of observations about my experiences there.]

The exhibition hall at Comic-Con is an airplane hangar sized petrie dish, where the conversion rate between artistic talent and cash is renegotiated thousands of times each minute. Art is bought and sold in every form, both as originals and in all manner of tangible and intangible reproductions. Oil paintings from the past are marketed alongside vapor ware from the future. The tools for making the next generation of art-- magic brush pens from Faber-Castell, Tombow and…

Comicon Portrait Demo

Here's my charcoal portrait demo from Comicon, it was great to see all of you who stopped by.

And much thanks to the Laafa folks for hosting.


English illlustrator W. Heath Robinson (1872-1944) was hardly an adventurous guy. Meek and withdrawn, he loved to stay at home surrounded by his books. For excitement he puttered in his garden.

In just about every way you can imagine-- his wardrobe, his manners, his relationships, the food he ate, his morals-- Robinson lived a cloistered life. He courted his future bride on Sunday afternoons dressed in a top hat, frock coat and high collar. Even after he mustered the courage to propose marriage, their engagement lasted for nearly five years (he didn't believe in acting impetuously).

Yet, Robinson fell instantly in love with Japanese woodblock prints-- an exotic art form that had newly arrived in England by way of Paris.

He loved their flat decorative patterns, their asymmetrical and diagonal compositions, their creative use of high viewpoint, and their stark use of negative space. He was smitten by the clean, simplified line and highly stylized designs of Utamaro, Hiroshige and Hokus…

These are digital landscapes painted in photoshop. They're meant to serve a very different purpose than the plein air gouache paintings over on Landsketch. These are exercises to improve my digital chops for my day job in entertainment art.

In my class we've been studying painting with theatrical light sources. Here are a couple of my demo sketches. Watercolor and gouache on heavyweight craft paper.


Decades after fine artists embraced photography as a tool for drawing and painting pictures, illustrators remained wracked with guilt about the practice.

Artists such as Cezanne, Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin, Toulouse Lautrec and Eakins enthusiastically used photographs as a starting point for their work.

They openly enjoyed the exciting new medium. But illustrators-- nursing a giant inferiority complex-- remained concerned that using photographs might somehow be cheating.

Norman Rockwell recounted his shame when he began to use photographs:At a dinner at the Society of Illustrators, William Oberhardt, a fellow illustrator, grabbed my arm and said bitterly., "I hear you've gone over to the enemy." "Hunh?" I said, faking ignorance because I realized right way what he was referring to and was ashamed of it. "You're using photographs," he said accusingly. "Oh...well... you know...not actually," I mumbled. "You are ," he said. "Yes…

How to Train Your Dragon: Location Design


I very much enjoyed doing rockwork for How to Train Your Dragon. My Dad is a geologist and he passed on a strong interest in it to me. This area is meant to be a granite mountaintop carved out by man and nature and it was important to describe a sense of the overall structure to the digital modelers.