Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Moriarty, The Lazurus Tree

 This month I  have an issue of a comic book out on the stands. It is Moriarty: The Lazarus Tree, published published by Image.

Moriarty is the brainchild of  writer Daniel Corey and artist Anthony Diecidue, and of course the central character is the villain from the Sherlock Holmes stories. However, Dan has added a number of interesting twists to the plots and has really explored the character beyond his relationship to Holmes. The series is a fun read and watching both these creators develop over the past couple of years has been a treat. (They also have a trade paperback version of the first series, Moriarty, the Dark Chamber, that is available.)

(Lira posed for a number of Retrowood paintings I did for development.)
Anyway, Anthony had a big wedding coming up to the lovely  actress and model Lira Kellerman, and this slacker actually wanted to take some time off from his schedule for a honeymoon. So I got recruited to do a fill in issue. Because of my schedule, I realized I'd have to do the job very quickly, so I decided to approach the work less as I would a traditional comic and instead draw it as if it were a storyboard. People are always hounding me to have my comics have more of the spontaneity of my boards, so I thought I'd give it a try.

The entire twenty pages took my seven working days, and I don't think I ever worked more than 7-8 hours a day. There certainly is a freshness to the finished work that I really like. Dan was gracious enough to provide me with excellent reference on the stories specifics, so I didn't have to spend much time on that. I was also very familiar with the period so my reference time was kept to a minimum. And I had the excellent help of my assistant Mitchell Reslock, who handles all the hard stuff I didn't want to spend time on, like backgrounds, spotting blacks, erasing, scanning,etc. Ideally, I'd love to just have him do all the work and then I'd just sign it.

Of course Anthony couldn't keep his hands out of the mix, and he ended up coloring the book. A beautiful job that really takes the work to another level. But that was hardly a surprise since I've worked with Anthony on a number of jobs and have always loved the results. (As I finished the comic in record time, it was ready to go months ahead of schedule. Consequently, Anthony also had me do layouts for the previous issue, which you can also probably find at your local comic shop.)

So break open that piggy bank and head down to the comic shop and look this stuff up. You'll thank me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Prom Night at the White House

    In 2008 I had the chance to storyboard a documentary called Prom Night in Mississippi. The story revolves around a school in the South that, in the 21st century, still had segregated proms (one for blacks, one for whites). Morgan Freeman, who was from the area, offered to pay for the prom and everyone's expenses if instead there was simply one integrated prom. While a majority of the students readily accepted the offer, and plans went ahead, a small segment of the school and their parents insisted on having a "whites only" prom.

(Director-Producer Paul Saltzman and producer Patrica Aquino on the road outside the White Prom.)
    Paul Saltzman, the director who had been shooting footage of this from the beginning, now ran into a snag. He was denied access to film anything connected with the white prom. Paul needed a series of illustrations depicting all of this action. That was where I was called in.

    I wound up doing about thirty plus drawings for six or seven sequences. Paul was always really easy to work with. (With what he was paying me, he couldn't afford to be too picky.) And the project was one I was extremely proud to be a part of. (Two out of three isn't bad.) When I wound up watching the finished film I found  it intensely engrossing; Paul brought a warmth with his interviews with the students that made the film a very personal experience. It's definitely worth  adding to your Netflix list.

  Recently Paul sent me an email to let me know there was going to be a special showing of the movie at the White House. So just in case he'd never seen an episode of Tales from the Crypt, G.I. Joe, or any of the Narnia movies, President Obama was now going to have a chance to view MY work. I'm excited about this. However, when the president does see my drawings, I hope he realizes that, like many Americans, I am often looking for work that is usually hard to find.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Using Reference

One of the myths that all artists have to dispel is that we all make it up out of our heads. Everything that ends up on the drawing board is a distillation of the mass of influences that permeate our lives. While some artists might claim they don't use reference, they might more honestly explain that they can't remember where they got their inspiration from. As Mark Twain wryly commented, "amateurs are inspired. Professionals plaguerize."

Above is a painting that I finished a week or so ago of a character I have been developing called Gris Gris Girl. So here is a look at the working process from start to finish.

This is the original rough I did for the painting. I had picked out the model in the photo below for what I thought worked for my character. However, as I was going through more scrap, I came across the second photo and realized this model has much more of the attitude and character that I needed for the story.

For the Voodoo elements of the picture I went to my files on this subject and picked out a few items. From these I selected bits and pieces for arcane props that would apply.

I have no shortage of cat reference pictures, and my little friend Repo wound up modeling for the feline in this shot. For the crow, I googled some reference off the net. For the tree and the swamp reference I went to my personal library and found a National Geographic book with the right image.
Even for color I tend to look at a lot of stuff. While I loved the model I chose for the picture, I had to find some different reference for the proper skin tones for a black woman. Playboy is always a good source. I also pulled out some Bob Peak drawings that used very hot colors that work very well on darker skin. 

I started a storyboarding job this week that will keep me fairly busy for the next few weeks, so my blog might be a bit irregular for a couple months. But I will have lots of time to think about what I want to rant about next.
My lovely wife Annie and myself in a recent photo.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Working for the Hell of It

I've been working on some paintings and drawing more in my sketchbook the last couple weeks since work has slowed down. Above are a couple of pages from my current sketchbook. The page at the top was from a photo of one of the Russian women who was a survivor of Chernobel and the ever lovely  Toni Czechorosky, one of the best life models in LA, and always a remarkable conversationalist. Not only are the poses superb, but the drawing sessions are never boring. The life models on the other page are all from sessions at Bill Stout's workshop, and the background images are just me doodling away to create an interesting composition.

This is a painting I just finished of Jon Hamm of "Madmen" fame. I thought I would try a more appropriate Don Draper by surrounding him with iconic ad art images of that era, so the pencil below is my attempt at that. The background images are from illustrations by Al Parker, Coby Whitmore, and Bob Peak. The other pencil study is of Bill Nighy, who is currently in the PBS spy thriller by John LeCarre, "Page Eight."

Living in LA I've really been blessed with an incredible selection of life drawing models over the years and two of my favorites are Sara and Cassandra, who were the inspiration for my Retrowood story, "The Gypsy Twins." I've been working on some new paintings of each of them with different degrees of success. Below is a frame from that story and below that the latest painting of Cassandra.

More than any model I know, Sara brings a sense of drama and story to every pose she creates. In the photo session we did a couple years back she used this incredible cloak as a costume and a prop combined, and the hourglass was also her addition. I threw in the cats, raven and rune stone backdrops. While I love the compostion and story of the dancing cats, I was unhappy with fleshtones on the one painting. I was much happier with them on the hourglass piece. But, with models like these, it's difficult not to come up with something that works.

And here is one I did a while back of Sara which gave me a chance to try a study one of Picasso's paintings. Jezebel, the one time mistress of the household,  managed to wander into this one.