Saturday, March 26, 2016

Double Duty

As the birds chirp outside of my studio window and I have my first cup of morning coffee I look back on my second week of double duty doing both The Phantom and Judge Parker with satisfaction. It was a hard week, but I've had harder for sure, the main thing is getting the reference I need for The Phantom, but luckily both Tony DePaul and Terry Beatty have been great at helping me with anything I need.

I'm so comfortable with the Judge now I can sort of wing it, and I look forward to getting some years into The Phantom so I can feel the same. I have spent time surfing the web and finding a lot of great sources on "The Ghost Who Walks". I'd love to get some reprints of Sy Barry's run on the strip, but everything seems to be currently out of print and unavailable.

I'm looking forward to doing a little painting today and catching up on my commissions list.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

New Artist In The Skull Cave

The news has finally broken about King Features hiring me officially as the new artist on The Phantom, picking up from Paul Ryan who passed away suddenly two weeks ago. I was just as shocked as everyone else to read about Paul's sudden and truly sad passing at only 66 years old. I didn't know him well, but had met him a few times at cons over the years back in the 90's, and I followed him at Marvel on Quasar, my first regular book in my career as a penciler.

Ryan was a sold artist, in there delivery strong drawing and great storytelling and he excelled at doing those group books like the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, etc. Those books are a lot of hard work, much harder than most fans realize. When times and styles changed in the 90's it was great to hear and see he landed doing The Phantom. Paul was a great fit for the character, did great work and I hope to follow him and fit in too. My dad was probably the most excited about the news as he was a huge Phantom fan as a kid.

Brendan Burford and the folks at King Features have been great and very helpful, but Tony DePaul the long time Phantom writer has really been fantastic as well as my fellow Skull Cave artist Terry Beatty who does the Sunday Phantom Strip.

The announcement on social media has also been great, I don't think I have ever had news of me working on a character better received. Hundreds and hundreds of comments and "likes" as well as overseas fans from around the world flooded my inbox.

No one likes to take over a gig this way, due to a death or tragedy, yet this is exactly how I inherited the Judge when previous artist Eduardo Barreto passed away back in 2010.

If I passed away suddenly, the same thing would happen and the syndicate would be forced to hopefully find a worthy successor for me on the strips as well, its the nature of he business. Luckily Tony and Paul were months ahead on the strip so I had a bit of cushion, but I will be burning a lot of coal to do both strips as I will continue to do The Judge and The Phantom. My first strips on the Phantom won't appear till the end of May-first week of June.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy 7th Anniversary!

Though time in the world of Judge Parker moves at a snails pace, it seems like time has flown in my world. In a way the idea that I am starting my 7th year on Judge Parker this week seems kind of crazy, but the huge stack of 2555 originals tells me this is true.

Here is my first daily and my first Sunday strip from way back in 2010. The strip came along at a great time as I had just been burned by a comic project that went south and left a huge hole in my finances and I was still in my undergrad at PAFA, which made that hole even deeper.

But the first few months, even the first few years were a lot of growing for me as an artist in getting used to the characters and Woody Wilson's stories as well as comic strips vs comic books, the big difference in the restrictions in format, but I feel very comfortable now on the strip. It was tough to follow Baretto's run on the strip as he passed away so suddenly, and he did great work. You never like to inherit a job in that fashion but the reality of a comic strip is that even death or sickness doesn't stop the deadlines.

I feel very comfortable drawing the strip now and the characters are real for me and live in my imagination now, which is great, as it helps me draw the strip in a way I couldn't when I started it, the characters are like actors for me now. This is never an easy job to be sure, many days or weeks its really just having to sit in the chair and push the pencil, but its much easier than my first few months where every week was more of a challenge as I didn't know the world of Judge Parker or characters as well.

Jungle adventures, marriages, break-ups, retirements, kidnappings all have swirled by in the past few years, but I still figure since we have never had a change of seasons, any holidays or Sophie going to a dance or going to the 11th grade we are actually still somewhere in 2010, the year I started on the strip.

We did however age her the most of any character in the strip to make her a more modern teen girl. The strip has been pulled and put back in some papers, it seems we are lucky to have some real loyal fans who bombard the papers if we are dropped of fall victim to an editor who tries to nix us from the comic section. Its a yearly fight for all of us comic strip makers as it seems the newspapers are always trying to dump the strips, or even worse sometimes, shrink us down to the size of a stamp. But the Judge still has is white streaks in his hair--so here's to maybe another seven years!

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Plein Air Painting from Photographs Workshop

A few weeks back I taught a two-day painting workshop at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts entitled Plein Air Painting from Photographs. 
It was a lot of fun for me and my class to work together for the two days, which went by fast.

The idea to pitch the class came to me because I know many, many people who love to paint landscapes but for a variety of reasons find painting out doors difficult. 

I also know many people paint from photos, so I thought about the strategies I have come to develop and employ when painting en Plein Air that aid me when working from photography, as well as the limits and the benefits of a photo, which are many. 

How we see verses how the camera sees, lens distortion, the contrast of photos tends to be greater, the color more intense, what the processing of  traditional or digital does to the color verses seeing it with out own eyes. The limit of the position of the camera in that moment, etc. There is a trade off when using photos, and the trick is to not let them or the  photo limit you or hem you in, but become a springboard for what you want to paint. An aid, not a crutch.

I do a fair amount of work based on my own photos of subjects I wouldn't be able to paint live on location. So having spent several years doing this I thought I could show students how to use the photos in the right way, to adapt them and ways of working in a classroom setting instead of outdoors.

Now nothing beats being out in nature for your senses as an artist, the sun on you, the sweat, the wind, the smell of the location, the meal you ate, the humidity, bugs, etc. Your sense memory is very essential, vital to pull from when working indoors and using photography, and that is something I stressed first off in the class.I try and remember the feeling of a place I took the photos and imagine myself back there and the conditions of the weather, etc.

Of course one of the biggest arguments that continues to play on like an endless game of badminton or tag is the argument against or for using photography as tool in painting. My students all told me they had been told to,"Never paint from photos!"  Of course one man's never is another man's must!
Photos--Bad! If I had a dime for every time I heard that in school I could buy the most expensive camera ever!

This is big art crime in art schools and was something I heard when I was first in college in the early 80's before dropping out, and I still found the same argument going on when I went back to the academy decades later. But at the same time everybody seems to be using pictures to paint from. And lets not even get side tracked by the whole Photorealist movement which started in the late 60's.

Honestly its a very silly and boring argument for me, and one I never heard Illustrators going on about, just mostly "Fine Artists" and those of a certain generation who grew up during Abstract Expressionism. And you hear all kinds of conflicting arguments form all camps in school as a student which my students said they found very confusing. Looking across the vast plain of contemporary art you can see the camera is a tool used by thousands of artists from Eric Fischl, Jenny Saville, Alex Kanevsky and David Hockney to name just a few. My favorite Illustrator Norman Rockwell used photography extensively as a tool and there is a great book on it Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera. Just using a camera will not make you a Rockwell, that's for sure, there still has only been one of him.

To prepare the class I brought in a lost of paintings to show, paintings done plein air and those from photos and where and why I decided to shoot pictures that sometimes I would not come back to work from as a source for months, even years later. My Commuter Series was a good example where I have done many paintings from photos I took commuting on SEPTA into and out of Philly,

I gave a slide show talk on my laptop to start and next I did a demo for the class working from a photo I snapped in the Brandywine to show how I used the photo and the changes I make, which might be the same ones I would make on location. How the shadows were very dark in the picture but were not in real life, now the computers colors were much more intense and how I could decide which way to push these things as well as adapt what I see into a more pleasing composition. Move or eliminate trees, fences, etc., and in the end what my painting needs to work as a painting that trumps anything in the photo. Every painting is a process of choices, statements and corrections, of memory, even on location, you look at the subject, think and then look away to your canvas to make a stroke---in that few seconds you must use your memory to hold that "thought stroke" as I call it.

I finished up the demo and then we took a lunch break after which I had the students use their photo sources to develop their paintings with sketches first, starting with thumbnails and playing with the compositions. That took most of the rest of the day which ended with the students just starting to paint before the end of the first class. But I feel they got a lot out of the thinking part of the workshop on the first day.

The second day we started off painting again and worked till early afternoon again pausing for a lunch break, I worked a lot with each student as the class size was small, which was nice. By afternoon most had finished their paintings and wanted me to do another demo, which I did and they wanted me to do a night scene.

I choose a scene from 69th Street near my house which was very mysterious and sort of blasted out in parts which i told them allowed me a lot of freedom to interpret and play around and invent. 

 It started very abstract and I worked explaining my thought process as I moved along. It takes practice to do this two-brain way of working but the class was very good with questions which helped.

In the end the workshop was fun for me and for 
the class and went over so well I'll be offering another one in the summer.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Judge Parker Process

Here is the process from pencils to inks on the latest Sunday strip. I was able to adjust the layout a bit on the bottom tier to get the bigger panel. The Sunday format is very restrictive as none of the upper two tiers can change panel size. I used my trusty Hunt 108 and a brush for inking, except the ruling which was done with a rapidograph.