Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer Heat

Summer has pretty much cooked off here in the studio, literally so in the past few days with temperatures with a heat index of 108-112 degrees. It has been so hot I was forced to put in my second air conditioner up stairs to try and make it workable for me. Having my arm stick to the paper and the paper act like a damp cloth is something that makes deadlines even less bearable and inking suck. As a result I have been taking the afternoons off in the peak of the heat and working later in the night when the temps drop. I look forward to the crispness of fall, but honestly dread the idea of winter and snow. I can't see myself living in snow the older I get, and the idea of a sunnier climate appeals to me more and more. Another hottest year on record they say and I can believe it!

Working away and feeling a bit of strain these weeks to be honest I came to realize it has been six years since my last real vacation, and that I won't have one this year--again. I'm certain many cartoonist, or strip cartoonists feel this pain. Trying to build more time into doing the strips is a constant battle. I remember hearing a quote from the late, great Leonard Starr that one day he looked up from his drawing table and 35 years had passed. Well I am close to that very number now myself as a pro cartoonist but almost 40 since I started working in art at 15.

There are days you feel the Burn, the energy is not quick to come and those are the hard days to be sure where its habit and practice that server as much as anything else to get the job done---though I have to say this Phantom story is fun, and a lot of research.

                                                      Two more pages from the DC job

Things will be very different this fall for the first time in 15 years as I will not be teaching any classes. I some ways I will miss it and in someways I will not, it was sometimes a big deadline crunch for me on teaching days, but mainly I am just so busy now with two strips. Things have certainly changed a lot school wise and price wise in that time, some places literally doubling in price, or more. I feel for any kid with a dream, but I am less and less about the colleges and art schools and more about the ateliers these days where you can get the skills without the BS and expense. I just interviewed Jeff Watts about his Watt Atelier near San Diego for the next issue of Draw!

                                            Pencils from an upcoming Judge Parker Sunday

 Jeff has a great school and one I did consider before PAFA, but at the time I didn't want to move and like Nelson Shanks school, Incamminati, didn't offer a degree ( Incamminati does now through a local college)-- at the time I wanted the degree as I was teaching, and something you need to teach on a college level now. But I wonder sometimes how different things could have been if I did go to either of those other places or move to California 10 years ago.

So, I will be putting my energies more into focusing on new projects like getting a collection of Comic Art Bootcamp from Draw! ready to print for 2017 and another book or two including a new version of From Script to Print with Danny Fingeroth, the first version is now out of print and going for over a hundred bucks I have been told. I also will be focusing more on some personal painting or art projects I have been too busy to do. Teaching is just one spinning plate I have to let drop for now.

                                                Another week of the Phantom in progress

I have painted the least this summer and this year of any since I started school and graduated, though I am thinking about painting all of the time and want to get back to it in a big way by next year. My mind has been changing about maybe what I had originally intended to do as a painter and the fact that I am not/and will not be a full time painter and that its a real probability I will never be one.

I would have to sell an awful lot of paintings to equal my commercial income and I don't see that as a current possibility. When I was in school I thought that maybe I'd transition over, but the the financial collapse happened and the debt from school piled up too. But Art is long, so I hope I can paint into  my 70-even 80's if I live that long, and my eyes stay good, so I took that pressure off the table. I will also need to market my art maybe in a different way and the traditional galleries seem to be suffering, at least in Philly. So many things to think over and study while working away on the guy in the purple underwear.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Phantom The Bat and Supes

Here are a few more pages from the Tomb job for DD Digital. Here are my layouts and my pencils. I drew my layouts at print size, scanned them in, blew them up and worked over them on my lightbox for speed.

                                      And here is the last week's worth of the Phantom.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Phantom, The Bat, The Kryptonian And The Minivan

This was one of the heaviest lifting weeks in the studio for a long time. On top of the two strips which keep me plenty busy, I also got a rush 10 page penciling job for DC Digital books, written by old buddy Phil Hester and inked by Comics god, Tom Palmer. I think it will show up on Comixology.

Tom and I last worked together over 20 years ago on Spirits of Vengeance.

you can see more of Tom's great work on his website

Its Supes and Bats vs Darkseid and DeSaad. It was a fun romp, better for an annual than a 10 pager as it was very dense and I had to get used to the DC Digital format which breaks things into two tiers for the cellphones and tablets.

The rough for page 1 on the left and the finished pencils on the right.

Still I was happy old Marvel buddy Steve Buccellato asked me to do it.  I got to draw the new costumes on Supes and Bats which made me miss the old ones--well at least on Superman.

This weeks was also a hard drawing week on The Phantom as week get Kit to his new school hidden away in the far off Himalayas. Great vistas and people, new character and street scenes, so it was a fun lush week written by Tony that called on all my drawing muscles!

 And here is last week's worth of The Phantom strips.

The band's trip back from Morrisville/Morristown continues in the Judge. This is from a plot I pitched to Woody back at the beginning of the year. Woody is scripting and adding his own flair of course. The band is on the way back and there looks to be some back seat hijinks. Oh, Oh, drama!

It was also a cleaning out week, out with more old and unwanted  comics and books into the recycle--I have acquired so much of everything it seems---so my rule is if I haven't looked at it in 5 years--it goes in the "out pile". Some stuff I will keep, but frankly its so easy to keep things you think you will look at again--then never do!! I brought crap home from my studio in school that I thought I'd want or would go through two years ago that I am just going through now--and most of the stuff I am tossing.

I think all mid career artists have to do this, out with as much as you can so what you have is good and easily found. One of the museum conservators at PAFA told me that when they get in an artist studio, all their material, sometimes after they pass, it's so daunting the family goes ,"Here you guys can have this stuff".

Then they have to go through a huge amount of junk that is basically mostly just junk to sort out the envelope with a doodle  that was some link in the artists work or process that is important, from the real junk mail. She told me to toss away as much stuff as I can along the way to avoid the huge pile of art debris she was going through. It was sound advice I should have listened too!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Catching the Digital Wave

 This week was the first all digital Sunday strip I produced for Judge Parker and the direction I plan to head with that strip, though I will continue to produce The Phantom "old school" with traditional tools. Nothing beats pencil, pens, brush and ink! I never loose anything, paper doesn't crash or have to be migrated to another format, tech, but I can't keep putting it off either. I'm hopping on the digital wave.

It was a bit tricky to draw this as I was using my Wacom tablet and have yet to purchase my Cintiq, which will probably happen this week. That means I was not drawing on the screen but looking at the screen as I drew which made it a bit slower and having to redo things a few times to get the line right. Here is where the 30 Plus years of muscle memory come in. I know how to make the strokes from memory, practice, its just a bit of finagling to get them in the right spot using the Wacom, the Cintiq will solve that.

After nearly 7 years on the Judge I have a huge stack of art and I need to save space as I go forward doing two strips, essentially doubling my output, and there is not much of a market for the art on the soap strips, though there is a big demand for the Phantom art, I have already been getting inquiries for dailies.

I also hope to be able to speed the art up by going digital--or that is the theory that all my fellow artists who have gone digital say will happen. Terry Beatty produces both his Phantom and Rex Morgan strips digital and he says its faster. I think doing backgrounds with programs like Manga Studio is faster as I can go over my swipe without having to draw it out then ink it. I used to do this in a way back when I used my projector and I could project the swipe/photo and ink it directly under the projector. Its also the way things are going commercially and I have to adapt to the needs of the jobs.

A year back I had to produce a Star Wars kids book and they need the art all inked digital so Disney could re-purpose any of the art later. I also want to produce some digital paintings and concept work for myself. If I continue to teach in the future, something I am sort of on the fence with at the moment, I will want to be proficient with the digital tools--besides I think it will be fun!

                                              The most recent week of the strip in process

I just turned in my 12th week on the Phantom and I think its my best week so far and Tony DePaul's scripts are a joy to draw, especially when he gives me room to stretch out like this week. The Phantom is a fun job but a hard one as any long running legacy strip is full reference issues. So far I have received love and also a bit of hate from the Phans. I knew coming on some folks are not gonna like it, they hate change just like when I came on The Judge, but it's mostly love, and some are great folks, welcoming me in and following my work over the years and some are whack jobs, going over every single line and are quite insulting. To those types well, they can take a long walk off a short pier. They are the type you can never appease and I know from many Parker Snarkers they are the type to just always say negative things no matter what.

I have a lot more Phantom reference now and that helps a lot, and its still a job I feel I'm growing into and will for a long time. I haven't even draw The Phantom himself more than a few times in the purple costume, I've drawn him in his civilian guise the most. Studying Sy Barry's work on the strip I can see his evolution on it as he grew with each story, and the different pencilers he had draw the strip also evolved and change his style. He started the strip the year I was born, funny to think 54 years later I'm doing the strip.
                              Below is the most recent week of the strips which ran in the paper.

Here is another Judge Parker week drawn by me and guest inked digitally by my best buddy Bret Blevins. Bret has been doing a lot of digital work for several years now and I think he really knows how to use the programs and give it that "old School" juice!

I have also been on a bit of a buying binge with all the great books coming out now on comics and strips. This is the haul from the last few weeks, the IDW Artists Editions are really fantastic! So great to see the Adams one and the Wrightson as well. I think Thrill Kill might be Adams best drawn story and the Muck Monster leads us right to Wrightson's never topped Frankenstein adaption. These guys were huge heroes to me as a teen and still are a big influence on my work today as well as Toth and the great DC War Gods of Kubert and Russ Heath. For up and coming artists we live in a golden age of great repro of great work to study, love and learn from.

 I have also had a chance to get out and do some painting which you can read about over on my Philadelphia Plein Air Painters Blog!

I have also been really going through a huge cleaning and purge of the studio which will go on for a while. I recently got rid of my stereo in the studio as I listen to all my music over my computer now, and which loading the equipment out I came across this old tape of the voice track from working as a storyboard artist on the Batman cartoon. I have many of these tapes and eventually the switched to CD's and then MP3's. I'm sure in another 20 years I'll have a similar pic of some old and no longer used platform or tech.

Monday, May 30, 2016

First Day In The Skull Cave

 Today marks my start on The Phantom as the regular artist on the daily strip as the torch is passed officially on the comics page from the late Paul Ryan to me. Its hard to still process that it all happened so fast, Paul passed away only two months ago and within a few days of his passing I was hired by King as his replacement and had to hit the ground running fast. Luckily Tony DePaul the long time Phantom scribe as well as the folks at King and fellow Phantom artist Terry Beatty who does the Sunday strip gave me as much help to get up to speed quickly as I came in on the very end of the current story line. I also did all of this while still keeping up on drawing Judge Parker.

This was exactly the same situation that lead me to get the Judge Parker strip when Eduardo Barreto passed away back in 2011. No artist likes to inherit work this way but the comic strips must go on and this situation is very similar to what happened to John Prentice jumping into the drawing chair on Rip Kirby when artist Alex Raymond was tragically killed driving Stan Drake's new sports car. King was is a panic to replace one the the greatest cartoonists ever on short notice.

I met Paul only once that I remember clearly at a con many years back though we rubbed shoulders at Marvel on books like Quasar with me following him on that book when he left to do other books like The Avengers and The Fantastic Four. Paul left us all a great legacy to enjoy and be inspired by for the ages with his art for Marvel and his long run on the Phantom.

I posted the pencils for today's first strip and the final versions and you can see there were some changes swapping the King and the Colonel. its hard to jump in on something like this and grab the characters and the feel of where the story is at and the actors as it were so I spent as much time as I could reading over the last several weeks of the story and Paul's art.

I also belong to s small club of artists who have also drawn both Batman and The Phantom. They include Jim Aparo, Terry Beatty, Don Newton, Carmine Infantino (As a Ghost for Sy Barry), Joe Giella ( Ghosting for Bob Kane), Graham Nolan, Paul Ryan and myself. That's pretty good company!

 Here is a recent commission just off the drawing board I completed for a fan of Bats and Killer Croc based on my cover for Batman 512. For now back to the drawing board!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Playing Catch Up

 Its been a month since I last posted here on my blog and it has been a very busy month between doing the two strips, teaching and attending the East Coast Comicon. Cliff Galbrath is a great guy and his con is a lot of fun because its NYC without the NYC and mostly just comic guys and not TV stars, though he did have Nichelle Nichols form Star Trek there. The best part of the con for me is seeing fellow artists and hanging out with my buddies Jamar Nicholas and Bill Wray. Bill even pitched in and helped me ink some Phantom and Judge Parker in the hotel to keep up on the deadlines.

The Ghost Who Walks has been a lot of fun though, and I am really enjoying myself so far and each week I feel like I'm settling in a bit more. Still, I know based on Judge Parker, it will take me at least a year on the strip to really sink into the feel of the strip and the characters live in my head on The Phantom in the same way they now do on Judge Parker. Maybe it will happen faster on The Phantom than the Judge, but every week is something new and I haven't really drawn any character that much yet, especially The Phantom himself. Luckily a great Phantom Fan helped me with links to the Sy Barry strips which really helps with feel and research and you can see how the character changed stylistically over the years as Barry changed and had several other artists ghost pencil the strip. Everybody draws the mask differently--even Barry.

Another one of the main differences is how heavily or almost over-muscled characters are now compared to the classic years. They were more Steve Reeves than Arnold, more athletic than pumped up and full of steroids as most comic characters are drawn today. That muscled but more lean build is how I want to handle the character, not super jacked, but  built more like Reeves, or Billy Zane in The Phantom movie. I also love how so many artist used the classic figure model and actor Steve Holland for the face of the Phantom as well. Holland is most know probably as the model James Bama used for his fantastic Doc Savage illustrations. Holland must have been the most in-demand and used figure model of all time as he can be seen in literally hundreds of paperbacks and illustrations including these Phantom ones below.

 Here are some of the dailies for my sixth week on the strip which still had to have the lettering, zip and touch-up yet to be done. A few of the strips were drawn in Photoshop as they required maps and a lot of extra work. The Phantom requires more production with adding zip-a-tone which takes extra time on any daily he is in, but it does look nicer.

Meanwhile in JP land I have pitched a plot to Woody Wilson for the next story arc featuring Sophie and her rock band. I did up this sketch for Sophie in her typical young rocker gear with ripped up pants, which never seem to go out of style. I also want to have some fun here as most of the strip is pretty dry style wise with soap opera type characters. That's why I pushed it with the Chubbs by basing them some characters Frazetta drew in his short run comic strip Ace McCoy/Johnny Comet, mostly the Pop Bottle character and making his wife more like Aunt Bee from the Griffith show. That gives me some fun characters to play around with compared to Sam or Abbey who are really straight characters with not much room to push as far as expression or acting.

Keeping up with doing two strips is a crazy amount of work, and everybody wishes me well and thinks I'm crazy to try, but its mostly just sitting in the chair and not getting up except for meals, coffee and the bathroom... and not painting for a while, which kind'a sucks right now to be frank. However I can see that I will soon gain enough time to get back to the oils!