Always Go Her Way

First of all, Happy New Year everybody! (I don’t care if we’re passed the New Year’s cut-off.)

I made this cartoon for this year’s Valentine’s Day. The idea behind it doesn’t need any explanation, I’m sure — so let’s skip that.

cupid ffs

But I can tell you this that I wanted to make something with use of shades of gray alone because I feel the reliance on colors can become a “crutch.” And since I tend to rely a lot on colors alone, I wanted to train myself more in adding tone and spotting blacks.

I must say, I kinda like the end result, so maybe I’ll continue in this style. (But that’s a big maybe.)

So what else can you expect from me this year? Well, I can show you some character designs soon for some (mini) comics I’m working on. And I may find myself working again on some black metal band art — for an actual Norwegian black band even — no, really! — sometime within the next few weeks!

If anything else interesting pops up, you’ll be the first to know!

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When Super Mario Meets Dark Souls

Some time ago, I did a course through CalArts on video game character design. The course homework assignments had us course participants peer review each other’s work, which went well until we had to take an existing, established video game character and put it, as it were, in another game universe. Here problems arose because to no surprise — people have strong emotional feelings about characters they have spent hours of their life playing as or with.

So when I decided to take everyone’s favorite Italian plumber, Mario, and give him the Dark Souls treatment by turning him hollow and handing him a battle axe (see below) — some had harsh words for my final rendition, basically all boiling down to, it’s too cartoony to be “inspired by Dark Souls.” To me though, that was no big deal — it so happened this is just my style.

mariioooo (1)

What did bother me, however, was that there was something off about the construction of the character: there’s too much “camouflaging” of extremities, the eyebrows lack texture, the head sits ill on the romp, and the belt doesn’t compliment the roundness of the belly. But I couldn’t be bothered starting anew … until a few days ago.

You see, I’m currently in the process of redoing some oldies but “goldies,” just to compare them side-by-side — to see if and how much I’ve managed to improve. Below you can see the new version of my medieval fantasy Mario. Is it an improvement over the original? I’ll let you judge for yourself.

Mario13

Livin’ Hard and Ridin’ Fast

Earlier today someone asked me, “Do you have a site or a blog I could check to see some of your work?” Which reminded me that I do actually. And with that realization came the one that I’ve been sitting on some news for quite a while now.

My last post was about the new Cardinal logo which I ended by noting that I was working on several more. And well some of them, they are about done and with others, progress is being made.

While on the subject of band art, I also want to mention — if I haven’t done so in a previous blog entry — that I completed designing my first fully-illustrated album cover. The band members were so pleased with the design that they also had it printed as an on-stage backdrop of about ten by six feet. And it’s already seen some live use at a gig last weekend. Even so, the band have requested me not to show it in full just yet because they want to do a big reveal for the label and their fans in an official kind of way sometime soon.

I can show you, however, something entirely else — a cartoon I recently finished drawing. There’s a bit a of a story behind it, the details of which I’ll recount at a later date, probably sometime later this week. So for now, just enjoy what you see here.

old school biker (finished).jpg

“Why Aren’t You Doing Caricatures?”

Last week, some friends asked me why I don’t do caricatures. I told them it takes a special skillset to draw caricatures, let alone ones that are clever and lifelike. My friends were confused by my answer. After all, they reasoned, if you can draw caricature-like figures — how hard could it possibly be to draw caricatures? As I will make clear below, it’s very, very hard. To me at least it is.

Here’s the thing. If you ask me to draw just some old guy, then I will come up with one in less than no time. I got plenty of imagination, and I know some basic tricks to age a character with a few pen stroke (see fig. below).

 

age.JPG

But, if you would want me to draw you a portrait of my late grandfather — I wouldn’t even know where to begin! What makes portraiture so challenging is that if you don’t precisely match on canvas the inclinations and angles of the head, the face, and the ears, you’ll end up with a portrait that bears very little if any resemblance to your subject. To be sure, I know there are certain tools and tricks portraitists can play with when they go about doing a portrait (e.g., like tracing silhouettes) — and yeah, I suppose I could also employ those very tools and tricks. Yet, even so, I would still struggle to really nail a portrait.

My sister, on the other hand, has such a knack for portraiture, she makes it seem effortless. The figs. below show a portrait of my late grandfather coming to life by her hand.

But don’t ask her to draw a looney cartoon of an elderly man, because, well — cartooning is unfamiliar territory to her.

Now, how does this all relate to the art caricature? Well, to be a good caricaturist, you need not just be a good cartoonist who knows how to draw grotesque but humanly true characters, you also need to be a good portraitist who knows how to capture the likeness of the subject.

In reality, there’s even more to it than this. What separates a really good caricaturist from a merely okay one is that the former really knows how to capture the subject’s personality and his attitude — his unmistakable essence, if you will — while the latter just exaggerates and distorts the obvious (that is, what the eyes see). Meaning you need to intimately know your subject if you want to be good at it. And that’s probably, definitely another reason why I tend to stick with fantasy.

Digital Inking: Clip Studio Paint vs. Artrage

Alright, let’s talk digital inking software — but first, a little introduction.

I am especially fond of Belgian-Franco comics, also Dutch ones — party because of the way they are drawn and inked. Among the comics artists I admire particularly are Franquín (Gaston), Albert Underzo (Astérix), and Martin Lodewijk (Agent 327). You know what these guys have in common? Their linework linework has a playful smoothness  — one I, at least, find hard to emulate.

Me, I don’t have steady hands. So getting crisp lines on a canvas has been a pain and a grief since the first day I tried my hand at it. This all goes to say that I most welcomed auto-smoothing tools — especially the one of ArtRage, which is why ArtRage became my “go-to” software for cartoon inking. After some misfires, I came close to getting it right (see the cartoon below). tumblr_ogbml8bn8a1tlpjb5o1_1280

Yeah. I would say the inking looks okay enough, though perhaps a bit too cold and clinical. And I say to you now, that is the very problem with auto-smoothing, and that leads me to the irony of it all: Oh sure, you finally got your crisp lines, but all the playfulness is smoothed out.

I had already figured out that if you want to ink something gnarly organic, you’re probably better off using Clip Studio Paint (a.k.a. Manga Studio) (see the detail close-ups below of a work-in-progress) —
dauthuz

— instead of ArtRage (see the close-up below of a piece done last year).
skull-side

Why, you may ask? Why not just use ArtRage, but with a different pen or different settings? Can’t you, then, just make the same gnarly drawing? Well, I found that I couldn’t. For example, once I turned off the smoothing in ArtRage, I ended up with jaggy lines that scream “digital.” Also, Clip Paint Studio, even by default, has a bigger number of available ink brushes for selection — not surprisingly of course, because ArtRage is first and foremost a painting software while Clip Studio Paint is geared toward artists making black-and-white comic strips.

Last night, I tried, for the first time, to do some cartooning in Clip Paint Studio, without any smoothing to aid me — and I’m loving it! I thought I, with my shakey hands, wouldn’t be able to get smooth lines and curves, but to my surprise — it’s actually really easy to ink smoothly and crisply while, even more importantly, even retaining that organic “feel” (see the cartoon head below)! Truly mind-blowing stuff! Now, I’m finally close to making the sort of the comics I so love.

headshot.JPGOh, before I take off, I also want to stress that Clip Studio Paint never seems to lag on my work rig, no matter the amount of layers or the resolution. ArtRage, on the other hand, seems capable only of coping with a limited layer limit. But then, ArtRage emulates analog painting, which in real life constitutes putting down layer on layer on layer, all in the same layer if you will. If high-resolution layer management is what you’re after, look elsewhere. (Did anyone say Clip Studio Paint?)

Let me know about your inking experiences. Please share your stories, insights, and ideas by writing to me.

6 Months Later …

It’s become somewhat of a joke — every new blog entry opening with the following words: “It has been six months since I posted my last,”  but what can I say? I’m not much of a blogger. At best, I’m a seasonal one, but probably not even that. But hey, at least this way, when I blog, you can bet I’ve got something to say. And boy, do I have some news to tell you! I’m talking N-E-W-S News here! Plural! That’s right. So keep reading.

Let’s start with the big news. About four months ago, I migrated to Norway because my better half was made a job offer she couldn’t refuse even though it meant — well, moving to Norway. As you can imagine, it has been a bit of a busy and hectic time. Funnily enough, me emigrating was, paradoxically, also a bit of a non-event, not least because, for the first two months, I had to do without my computer and drawing gear and, of course, I also had to settle in from scratch. So, in a way, my social and creative life came to a halt.

Well, I’m all settled in now — my computer is at my place in the picturesque city of Bergen, I got my music, and my new friends. I got everything I need to get shit done … and, nope, there’s no “buts.” I’ve been churning out cartoons and other illustrative work at a steady pace. Let me show you some stuff.

  • Sint is Dead

I drew this cartoon in reaction to the ongoing “Black Pete” debate in the Netherlands in which one gets labeled a racist no matter what one says or thinks about the Dutch Sinterklaas celebration.

tumblr_ofol5rabmq1tlpjb5o1_1280

  • The Teddy Project

I’ve been doing some character designs and model sheets for some guys at the Bergen University who are working on their first indie game.

tumblr_ofj3frzwz11tlpjb5o1_1280tumblr_ofj3frzwz11tlpjb5o3_r1_1280

  • The Grand Gnome

I don’t know why, but for some reason, I have a fondness for gnomes. Perhaps it is because, as a child and youth, I spent many enjoyable hours drooling over the gnome illustrations of Rien Poortvliet and watching the televised adventures of David the Gnome.

tumblr_ogbml8bn8a1tlpjb5o1_1280

  • Dauthuz

Currently I’m working on some album and T-shirt designs for everyone’s favorite Death Metal band, Dauthuz.

death-metal-manga


There, now you’re all to speed on what I’ve been doing lately.

TBT: Photo Referencing, and How Not to Do It

It’s that time of the week again, when we do a “Throwback Thursday” post. Today, I want to reflect on old unfinished cartoon, which I will rename Grandpa Tells a Story*.

Grandpa Tells a Story

Let me start with saying I still think the conceit of this cartoon’s conceptualization is still a sound one: The senile grandfather, with a crown on his head, his Monty Python-esque eyes piercing his scared to death grandson, preaching, dictating, moralizing. But visually, it all feels off. I know now what is wrong with the way it looks, but back then I couldn’t really put a finger on it, and I had nobody telling me the posing of the characters and the sense of perspective just plain suck.

Nowadays I tend to draw from the imagination, with little reference material. But back then I heavily relied on photo references to create my drawings, to the point where some characters look “Frankensteined” together in a non-sensical way. See, for example, above, the grandfather’s right hand. Perspective-wise, it doesn’t match up with the overall pose of the figure. And that’s the first reason why you should never over-rely on photo reference or… well, at least take heed not to do a single figure drawing based on multiple photo references.

The second reason is because photo poses don’t always make good art poses, especially not cartoon poses. This is because when we draw, we want our character figures to have a strong silhouette so the audience can cleary read their shape and action. When dealing with cartoons, this becomes all the more important since — well — you’re already dealing with simple, cartoony designs. So as a cartoonist, you really have to exaggerate their gestures and postures as much as possible. Now if we look back again at the cartoon above, we can all see photo posing at work here, one-on-one translated in a drawing, presenting us a boring, flat silhouette at best and, at worst, an unreadable mass.

So, kids, now you know, and knowing is half the battle of doing better figure drawings.
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*) The original title was (is) a bit too racy to be repeated here.

Yuccalele

I did it! I just finished my last homework assignment for the course I’m taking on video game character design. The assignment being, “Draw a character, inspired by a real object, in three ways.” But I misread the assignment as “Draw three different characters, all based on (the same) one object.” Oh well, whatever. Anyway, I based these characters on a yucca(?) (Fuck if I know. I mean, do I look like a botanist?) plant I have had for years — and still have, for that matter. 

cartoon, illustration, gorgon, medusa, tiki, cannibal, headhunter, greek, mythology, islander, character design, video game

plant