Monday, July 28, 2014


(This is the frontpiece for issue #4. Never let it be said that you can't use great
reference more than once. Thanks ,Sara!)

(And this is the pencil for the cover of issue #3. My homage to  King Kirby.)

This week I finished the rough pencils on the fifth issue of The Mad Mummy. The story incorporates two of my favorite characters from fiction, Harry Flashman and Dr.  Fu Manchu, and I had a great time drawing them even if I can't identify them by name in the story. In terms of chronology, the story takes place right after Flashman 1860 adventure in China with the Tai Ping rebellion, and involves a meeting of the Council of the Seven of the Si Fan with our hero Aten Ra and a very young Fu Manchu .

For the latter, I pulled out all the reference I could find on the mummy of Seti I, which Sax Rohmer described as his physical model for the Doctor. Of course, despite having the silly mustache named after him, Fu Manchu never had any facial hair. And the ideal Flashman was of course Errol Flynn, who not only had the physical attributes of the character, but lived a lifestyle that would have made even Harry jealous.

While my friends are always asking me if I'm the model for Aten Ra, the Mad Mummy, I have to insist that I am not. For the face in general I have a folder on actor Ralph Fiennes, and the only time my likeness comes into it is when I'm trying to get a cartoony facial expression.  And I somehow doubt that Mr. Fiennes would take it as a compliment that I am being mistaken for him, or that I used him as the basis for a mummy.

In issue six, the back story of Aten Ra (now known as Adam Ray) continues in 1928 in Egypt when he once again meets the Chinese doctor, who is now extremely ancient, and his daughter Fah L Suee who is the reincarnation of Aten's estranged lost love, Ankhesenamun. The story explains Aten Ra's part in helping create the elixir vitae that restores Fu Manchu's life force. In issue seven, this triangle continues in the late 30's, and eventually reaches it's conclusion in current time where the doctor has finally retired to the beaches of Malibu. Lots of fun things to draw.

The first two issues of the books are available through iVerse/ComicsPlus at:
Then type in AV Publishing or Mad Mummy in the SEARCH button.

I  thought I would ad the favorite portrait of me that was done by my friend Matt Crosby during a lifedrawing session back in Battle Creek Michigan many years ago. I think the picture says it all.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


A few words of wisdom for you who are adventuresome enough to enter the field of illustration from the late, great Austin Briggs's How I Make A Picture.

In many ways, making an illustration is a much more complex and demanding job than making a painting which is expected to have a purely aesthetic value. The aesthetic painter can choose a surface of any size, shape, or material that appeals to him, and work in any medium that he feels will best express his idea. The extent to which he follows the subject he has chosen as a point of departure is again a matter of personal choice. If he likes, he can indulge in a variety of technical tricks which are useful and interesting in a wall painting, but which would probably harm, rather than help, a painting done for purposes of reproduction. In short, the aesthetic painter concerns himself entirely with his own personal problems, without any consideration or restriction which is not of his own choosing.

The illustrator, on the other hand, must combine the knowledge and talents of a dramatist, stage designer, costume designer, director, stage manager, lighting expert, photographer, research man, advertising man, art director, salesman, diplomat, accountant - and painter! Every illustration he makes involves all these varied skills and talent. Unless he is accomplished in these fields, his technical abilities as an artist will be of little financial value to him. It is true that what he finally sells is a painting or a drawing - but the actual art work is only the final culmination of many different kinds of activities which are completely foreign to the purely aesthetic painter.

The illustrator must be a dramatist in order to sense which situation will have the most dramatic appeal for the widest number of people, and in order to present these situations with the greatest force and conviction. He must be a stage designer to create a setting for his characters which will underscore their personalities, create the proper mood, strengthen the action portrayed. As a costume designer he is responsible for every detail of dress, make-up, grooming, etc. In dealing with contemporary characters he must even "guess ahead" of current styles, so that his women will be dressed in the style of the moment when his picture appears in the magazines, months after it was painted.

Once he has settled on the scene and action he is to illustrate, created the setting, designed the costume, and assembled the props, he must serve as a director who can cast the roles involved and then direct the action so that it will be the most natural and convincing. As stage manager, he must see that all these different elements are related and assembled together at just the right time. He must be a lighting expert to make sure that he will have exactly the effect the drama involved requires. Whether the mood of the scene demands completely flat lighting without any visible source, or start contrasts of dark and light, or any variation of these - he must be certain that he has complete control of this highly important factor.

Still further removed from his job as a painter are the variety of other skills mentioned. He must be a photographic expert, to record the scene he has created. he must be a research man, so that he will know how to check the authenticity of every detail he includes in the picture. He must have a good understanding of advertising and be a practical psychologist, so that he will know what will make people who see his pictures react as he wishes them to, and so that he can understand why the representatives of magazines and agencies insist on things which seem picayune or highly annoying to the aesthetic artist.

Furthernmore, he must have a good insight into the problems of the art director. His painting, after, all, will be considered not by itself as work of art, but as it will appear in relation  to the design of the magazine or page, the copy blocks associated with the it, the headlines and caption which will accompany it. In addition it must be carefully planned to meet the rigid technical requirements of the process by which it will be reproduced. For after all, the illustrator is not working on a painting which will be seen as he made it. His illustration will be seen - and have value - only in its reproduced form. If his painting reproduces badly, it is a bad illustration from that important point of view, no matter what its other good qualities may be.

Unless and until the illustrator is able to hire a representative, he must also serve as his own salesman, diplomat, and accountant. he must be able to make contacts with art directors and convince them that he can do the job they want done. Although his paintings will do most of his selling for him, such intangible factors as personality and appearance will certainly help or hinder his cause. Inevitably problems and differences of opinion will arise. If he has some ability as a diplomat, he will be able to explain his own point of view pleasantly and convincingly. If and when he does complete an assignment, he must make sure that he is properly paid for his work, and that the the government, local, state and national- receives its proper cut of the proceeds. This can be a career in itself.

And in addition to all these other things, he must also be an artist.   Austin Briggs

Next time, more Mad Mummy artwork from the current issue.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Recently I had an assignment to do a Wonder Woman commission for a fan and the job should have been pretty simple: A standing figure with a bit of background behind it. You're looking at two hours work at the most. However, about halfway through the first drawing, I was unhappy with both the pose and the facial expression, so I started a second version.

This one went very well in the pencilling stage, but when I started inking it, I was again dissatisfied with what was happening. But I did finish the drawing and then went back and finished inking the first drawing, which I then liked better than the second.

The next day I looked at them both and decided I could do better, so I sat down and knocked out the third version in a little over an hour. That's the one I was happiest with. I also kept that one and gave my client the choice of either of the first two. All three were completely acceptable as commissions, but if you don't satisfy yourself as an artist, the work gets pretty dull.

Another example of this was the Lady Gaga paintings I did. Since I'm not really familiar with the singer, I was really impressed with a photoshoot that my wife showed me in one of her fashion magazines. There was something very dramatic about the pose, and a wonderful softness and vulnerability to the woman's face. It just looked like it would be fun to paint.

In my first version I threw in a bunch of Robert Fawcett studio junk, just because I find doing studies of that stuff an interested excercise. I also tried to keep the piece fairly monochromatic. But somehow the finished version never really got a great reaction from me emotionally.

 A few weeks later, Annie showed me another photo display with some great jungle foliage and really interesting building....the perfect backdrop for another stab at Lady Gaga. This time I added a bunch of my favorite models to surround her. The results were worth all the extra effort for me.

One of the problems of working on tight deadlines where there are a myriad of drawings to continually produce, is that we tend to accept a lot of compromises in the work out of necessity. If you want to continue to be a success as what you do, you really have to find the time to push yourself as an artist outside the workplace. The truth is, your employers are for the most part NOT interested in you getting any better as an artist; they want you to either sell products or produce mass quantities of work at minimum prices. The struggle to rise above the mediocre is a journey you really have to take by yourself.

 Here are a couple of other illustrations that I finished up this week. One is a pinup for my Retrowood series, inspired by a photo of Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. Another is a recreation of a She Hulk cover I did years ago. Hopefully, I won't be redoing either of these when I get into a critical mood.

 (And just a word about a real talent who worked for Marvel named Ed Hannigan. He must have produced hundreds of cover idea roughs that were sent onto the artists to finish them. I remember a number of that I took to a finish...including this one. A great designer and storyteller.)

And lastly another commission.