I’m gradually starting to get caught back up, after a disastrous few months. I decided that I didn’t want to end 2011 with nothing completed, so I manged to kick out two pieces of art in the last couple of days. The first was the skatedeck art, The All-Mighty Dollar (see it here), and below is the second one.
This one doesn’t quite catch me up to the current Alphabeasts letter (it’s about to be “L”), but hopefully I can start the week with an “L” image. This one is for “J”, and it’s based on the Japanese mythological character of the jikininki.
A jikininki is a creature that is doomed to eat corpses, often called a “hungry ghost”. Check out this page here for a good reference about the creature. I thought it would make a pretty good Alphabeast, so I started inking it.
The challenge with this one, as it often is with pen and ink art, is to give the impression of textures and shadows. Shadows are a given, of course, being black and white. But texture can be trickier. Everything you see in the art is created with only a series of black lines, some crossing and some not. As an artist, I have to develop certain looks to the different areas to get the texture of it across.
The best example in this image is the difference in texture between the headstone on the right of the image and the wood of the coffin. I only have lines to play with, so I have to put those lines down in a manner that suggests that these are two different textures. On top of that, other lines have to give the impression of shadows, which can easily throw off the textured look.
As with the other Alphabeasts, this is ink on 140 lb. Cold Press, 5″ x 7″. Let me know what you think, here is J is for Jikininki. As usual, click on the image for a larger version:
For awhile now, I’ve been interested in trying new materials to work with, something other than canvas or paper. A few artists that I know paint on wooden skateboard decks, and I thought that would be something very interesting to try.
My friend at the local Rendition Gallery (go check it out folks) ordered a few skatedecks for the upcoming show at the gallery, so I picked one up from him to get started.
It’s a bit of a departure from the canvas I’ve been painting on (with acrylics). Brushstrokes are smoother, of course, without the canvas texture to catch it. The dry paint even picks up a bit from the wood, something I hadn’t run into with the canvas materials.
It’s been a fun experiment, and this is how it turned out. It ended up a little more “political” than I normally do as well, making a statement as it does. Though all art, really, makes a statement, this kind of image calls for a course of action or for recognition of an issue. I hadn’t really done that before with my work, but I thought this particular image lent itself to that.
Here it is, I call it The All-Mighty Dollar. It’s acrylic on a wooden skatedeck, approximately 32″ x 8″. It will be on display at the Rendition Gallery in Fort Collins, Colorado, this coming First Friday (January 6, 2012). It’s also available for purchase at any time, just let me know.
Click on each image for a larger version.
I’ve been busy for some time now, and I haven’t been able to post the newest ebook cover that I created a couple of months back. I thought it was time to show it off, so here it is.
For those that follow this blog (both of you), a few months back I was in the middle of creating a very nice, calm seascape (see it here). I joked on the social networks that, while I was creating this nice art piece, at the same time I was creating what might be my goriest and most horror-filled piece ever.
This is that one.
This the cover I created for author Gerald Rice’s ebook Fleshbags, but first let’s see how it came about.
The story revolves around zombie attacks, and a unique sort of bag of skin that each one has at their midsection (hence the title). After a bit of back and forth on sketches (as is the norm), we ended up with a final design, below:
The challenge on this one, aside from avoiding the typical zombie cover, was being accurate with the anatomical pieces that were in the “bag”. Now, as an artist, I’ve studied anatomy for years. But that’s usually the outer anatomy, what you’d see when someone is in front of you, not the insides.
So I did lots of other research, and other sketches of individual parts, before diving into the digital art. I painted each part on screen as it should be, carefully creating an accurate portrayal of the various human parts that would be on the cover.
Once that was done, I had a lot of very slick, very smooth looking body parts. In other words, completely unrealistic. So, I turned to some of the many texture files I have on my computer. Here’s a sample of some of them you’ll see in the work:
I also listed what some of those things really are.
Now, the trick here is not just to slap on the photo texture and rock on, because the texture isn’t the end-all-be-all answer to everything. Much like a paintbrush, it’s just a tool. So, I spend a fair amount of time squishing the texture layer, stretching it, masking or deleting parts of it, cloning (and heal brush) it, and even dodging and burning it, to get what I want.
Here’s the art with the textures applied. Note: I used a number of photos as textures, but none of the objects are directly from photos. They were all created by hand with a brush in Photoshop (and shaded), then textures and effects on top.
Which just looks like a bunch of parts floating in the air. So, I added a new texture of a plastic bag over the top of all of this, and manipulated it until I liked what it looked like. At the end of that, I changed the layer blending mode in Photoshop to “Hard Light”:
Which gave the overriding plastic bag a transparent, yet still existent, look and feel:
I manipulated the bag texture a bit more, to match where the parts underneath it were a little better. That way, it really looked like those parts were putting pressure on the bag material. Then I adjust the color cast a little bit to give it all a greenish-yellowish hue.
After the actual art was all set, I looked at the best way to put the text of the cover on it. After talking with the author, we ended up with a tape look, as if the parts inside were marked with what they were:
That also took a bit of manipulation and creation, to match the shadows and gaps of the tape with the underlying plastic. It didn’t need to just sit on top, but I had to create an interaction between the tape, the plastic, and the shadows. After that, it was a simple matter of adding the cover text, and highlighting certain areas of the text to match the shadowing of the tape.
Here it is, my final design of the Fleshbags cover. It was a fun challenge, and a good reminder of anatomy (and all its uses).
For many years, coming from both illustration and graphic design, I’ve heard different discussions about what people charge to do their work. Sometimes it even sounds like a big, secret mystery, as if you aren’t supposed to talk about it in front of anyone.
Which, as all of you who are consumers would be quick to see, makes it difficult to know what it costs to do the business that you need to. From the side of the artist or designer, I’ve been told not to post rates as it’s simply not done, that you want to start that conversation and not lose them with costs.
But recently I’ve thought more and more about it, and I’ve been in a few situations where I do need to tell someone what I charge to do art or design. Sometimes I tell them what I might charge, and they run off screaming into the night, never to be heard from again. Other times I mention it, and they say, “great!”, and off we go to building things together.
So I’ve decided to post my rates, at least as ranges in most cases. In fact, that’s them at the top of this site.
Having my rates posted seems to be a good way to let everyone know exactly where we stand right off the bat. It lets those folks who are really interested in having me create art what their costs should be, and keeps those folks who are unwilling to pay more than pennies from asking about it.
On the good side of things, we now have a place to start the conversation. It’s not over yet, since I don’t know what they would want, but it’s a start. From here, if there’s something more detailed, or more precise or unique, we can go on and talk about it.
On the bad side of things, I imagine there are plenty of people who will see the rates, balk at them, and then run off and never come back. They might even go post on their walls and such about how stupidly expensive I am, and how now they hate me for daring to want to feed the family on my art commissions.
More power to them.
All of the rates have been compared with lots of places. Local art galleries, local designers and local artists giving feedback, comparing my rates to those of others online, in different fields sometimes as well. It’s something I do all the time, to make sure they are somewhere in the middle of reasonable.
There will be plenty of people who find my prices too low, and others too high. But I’ll do as I always do, see how my paid jobs are going, or sales from art, and decide how they should fluctuate. I think too, that they should fluctuate some. If I get more popular, or as demand might grow for more work, I should be able to adjust those rates accordingly. At that, I’m far cheaper in rates than nearly all of the listings in the various books and sites of popular guild rates.
So after comparing the market, I’ve decided that I hit somewhere nicely in the middle. Being published for twelve years now, listed in Spectrum, working with places like Cemetery Dance and authors like Ray Garton and Brian Keene, I think I’m about where I should be.
All I can ask is that you go take a look, and consider commissioning for some work. It’s a career I love, one that I hope I can continue to produce for over many years to come.
My good friend Patrick Douglas has a new book coming soon, and I created a new art piece for him to use as a signature sheet. The book itself is great, and tells the story of an outcast girl who has stumbled into a lost tribe in a cave system.
Signature sheets, at their base level, just need to have a space for authors to sign, place notes, or even have numbering. Otherwise, they are pretty open to interpretation, from simple designs through highly elaborate designs. In this case, we decided simply to highlight one of the characters, a tribesman known as The Fox.
Since signature sheets are often grayscale or even simply black line art, I decided to do an original ink of it. Though early in my career I had a number of inks published, in the last couple of years I’ve been doing inks based on photos and still life. Those had a purpose, not only getting me back into ink, but also in working with photos. Using reference photos was something I’d never really done, so the ink works have provided me that experience.
In this case though, I wanted it to be fully original, not based on a photo at all. So, after some sketching and discussion with Pat, we ended up with the illustration you’ll see below. It was a good challenge, and a good place to spring from to do more original inks (Click on the image for a larger version).
I wanted to leave the bottom area open for his signature, and I decided that a rough, unfinished look would be pretty interesting. I also decided to throw in a digitally colored and textured version as well. Simply because I have to (click on this one too for a larger version).
Overall, they were fun, and I’m hoping to start trying more original inks very soon. I’m looking forward to getting back to the elaborate, detailed inks that I used to do, and The Fox here gives me a bit more confidence moving forward.
A few years back, I wrote an article about the art technique books I have (it’s here). I thought it might be a good time to revisit that, as well as post some of the artist books that I have as well.
However, reading a bunch of text is probably pretty boring, and artists are visual people, so I decided to just take photos of the books I have. There are plenty of books that, if you’ve seen them here, might now be easier to recognize in the stores.
I’m particularly picky about the books I buy, I’m looking for great quality and for books I’ll probably flip through on occasion. So I stand by the books here, I like them all and each has something great to offer.
Notably missing (they are upstairs) are these books:
- Icon: Frank Frazetta Retrospective
- Color and Light: by James Gurney
- Scratchboard for Illustration
- Various history and supernatural/non-fiction mystery books
I also noted below if there are books you can’t quite make out, otherwise the pictures speak for themselves. If you’re wondering about a particular book, just ask and I can give you more info on it. Apologies on the angles of the photos as well, the shelf sits behind my big computer desk in the corner.
Starting from the bottom, and not including the other fiction shelves I have. Click each for a slightly larger view:
I think the only ones you can’t see above are on the left, Wild Predators and A Chronicle of Knights. Next to Norman Saunders is the EC Foul Play book.
In this one, you can’t quite make out Dore’s Illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy, The EC Companion, Vertigo Visions, and Dore’s Illustrations for Paradise Lost.
You can pretty much see all of the here, except maybe Pirates, Patriots and Princesses: The Art of Howard Pyle next to Spectrum 1. Also, the one on the far right is The World of Delacroix.
You can see two of my older sketchbooks on the top shelf (which are all signed, limited books, not art). Otherwise, next to Comics and Sequential Art is the catalog of a company called Skulls Unlimited (useful to have for reference), and next to that is Hogarth’s Drawing The Human Head. Next to Blair’s Cartoon Animation is How To Draw Animation, and next to Dynamic Anatomy is Perspective Without Pain.