Just looking at these gives me chills! My mom has this book about witches that I had only looked at once or twice as a child. The Illustrations by Jos A. Smith literally gave me nightmares! They are as excellent as they are powerfully creepy. I snapped some pictures on my iPhone. The book is full of amazing illustrations, so I recommend picking up a copy if you can find one. It was published in 1981. Jos. A. Smith is a professor of Fine Art at Pratt, according to his website. I felt these needed to be shared.
The title of this post comes from a story a friend of mine tells. He was at a video store of some kind, and this African American family is there. One of the little boys yells across the store "MAMA, CAN WE GET HARRY POTTER?" and the mom says "NAW, THAT'S WITCHCRAF’!"
Today I wrapped up some sketches for a record cover I picked up, and finished an interview for http://livefastmag.com (NSFW-ish). It's by far my most in-depth interview. I'd like to thank Abby Wilcox for the opportunity.
Doing some more sketching on the record cover art now. Working on the type. I'm really excited about this one, I think it's going to come out awesome! Kinda slow today overall though, I've not been feeling 100%.
I went to Las Vegas a few weeks ago for a wedding and I saw a woman that looked something like this. I was just so captivated by how perfectly Las Vegas she looked, as well as the stories I imaged she would have. She was in the casino, smoking with a broken arm, huge gnarly scar on her calf, haggard looking, tacky dress, big fake breasts, and a tattoo she must have gotten a couple hours ago because she was still wearing the plastic wrap. Amazing. One of those things where nobody noticed her except me. This image has just been sitting in my head since then. I finally got a chance to sketch it out. The tattoo was just little lines, looked like a bar graph.
Last night I went to CCA for John Hersey's lecture. The photo is of some wrapping paper he was nice enough to give out to people after the lecture. I like the little cube faces. I have to admit that, even though I respect him as an illustrator and designer, his work is not really my cup of tea. I'm sure he would say the same about me, we have very different styles. Still, I think it's important to participate in illustration-centric events when you can find them, and it's always good to listen to lectures and interviews from illustrators. You never know what you might learn, and sometimes you can find a new respect for their work. John's presentation was light-hearted and very funny at times. I do like his isometric work quite a bit. When I saw it I wondered if e-boy had draw some influence from John's work, as he was doing digital isometric illustrations as far back as the 80's. I was especially interested when he was talking about an economic recession in 1993 that almost wiped him out. He took the time to make a book of his work and mail it to people. Not sure if that helped, but either way he made it through the economic downturn.
I talked to Barron Storey after the lecture about how I've been having trouble finding work, and my concerns about it being due to the quality of my illustrations, since I know many art directors have seen my work, and not hired me for one reason or another. He didn't think it was because my work was bad at all, and told me a story about how he had done some illustrations of Despair and sent it to Neil Gaiman. He heard nothing about for 7 YEARS then Neil started writing about it on his blog out of the blue. I suppose that the connections you make can sometimes take years to bear fruit. Doesn't really help my situation now, but it does put my mind at ease a bit. Robert Hunt weighed in on how he thinks that mass mailing is plainly not effective. I'm inclined to agree with him. Bob knows his stuff, and is excellent both as an illustrator, and a businessman. I'd like to know more of his thoughts.
I went out to drinks/dinner with everyone afterwords. Hanging out with a bunch of other illustrators is THE BEST, so I was happy to be there. I was glad to see Chris Koehler, Alexis Lopez, Caitlin Kuhwald, Randy Chavez, of course Bob and Barron, as well finally meeting John Hersey and Owen Smith. I saw Alexis Mahrus and Mark Eanes as well, but didn't get to talk to them much. Randy told me about figure drawing on Wednesday nights at CCA. It's free, 7-10. I think I'm going to start going after Thanksgiving. I heard about it, but didn't think much about going since drawing figures is not what I'm focused on at this point. I'm more interested in ideas, composition, storytelling, and color. I don't feel that technical skills like chiaroscuro, line work, and anatomy are really low points in my skill set right now, but still I'd like to go for community reasons. Hang out with some other artists, do some drawings, talk shop, etc. These things are fun to me, and productive, so it seems like a good idea.
Today I'm not drawing (as much) because I'm client shopping. Essentially what that means is I'm looking for potential clients, and taking down their contact information so I can try to solicit my services to them later on. It's a necessary task for all illustrators at one point or another. In my case, I haven't been marketing myself, and I haven't been getting work, so I badly need to address the situation. One reason I don't market myself more is that it can be very expensive, and it's a gamble. My past experience hasn't been so good. For a year I had subscribed to a pricey contact list that gave me essentially any email or postal address I could want in the publishing, advertising, or music industry. I sent out lots of email blasts, and one postcard mailer, and after all was said and done I only got one job, which was nice, but the payment for that gig was not nearly enough to cover the costs. Most people would say that I need to do many more mailers, but they cost about $200 every time, mostly because of the postage. Email blasts only have a small percentage of success. If you have a service for mass emails, you actually get some analytics back about how many people opened the email, who they are, and how many clicked through, meaning that they clicked a link to your website. I noticed a spike in visitors to my site every time I sent one out, but still no work. I'm also on Altpick and theispot.com, both of which have not brought me work personally, in spite of other illustrators I know swearing my them. What to make of all of this? Well, I'm doing something wrong, but I don't know what it is. Thousands of people see my work every day through the various websites I'm on, and still nothing. The only thing I can think of at this point is that my work must not be very good, and that seems hard to believe considering a lot of other encouraging things that have happened over the course of my career. When I was doing my senior thesis portfolio revue, I remember Shawn Barber told me "All you have to do is get this in front of people." Sadly, that didn't work out, and it's left me pondering what I'm doing that is not appealing to potential clients.
So what's next? Cold calls. The last thing I ever wanted to do, and who would? It's basically focused telemarketing, and I'm not a good salesman. On top of cold calls, I need to try to meet more people in person and show them my work. I might not get any jobs this way, but maybe I can find an art director who will be honest enough to tell me why I'm not getting hired more often.
On that note, I'm available for work of all kinds, and will be happy to talk to anyone who would like to purchase my services. I'm specifically looking for book cover work, posters, and editorial, but I'm open to record covers, tattoos, dog portraits, covering your dish-washing shift, whatever! No graphic novels though, sorry. Send me an email or give me a call if you've got a project for me.
This time on my comic book series, Wildcats! There wasn't a single person who wanted to see this one, but I had to do it. I fell in love with Wildcats because of the work Travis Charest did on V2. If you haven't seen them, he did the first 6 and a half (ish) issues if I remember correctly, as well as Wildcats/X-men: The Golden Age, which is the best drawn comic books of all time in my opinion. I also love Ladytron as a character. I'm a huge fan of the cyberpunk genre, and she's definitively got that appeal. 80's future is the best future! I was having so much fun working on this that I pulled an all nighter! I've never done that without the impetus of a deadline.
I've been wanting to make covers that directly illustrate specific issues, but in this case I read the last couple issues, and it seems to be in the middle of a multifaceted story arch that I just felt out of tune with. So I made up a story for this illustration, something along the lines of Ladytron fighting against the team in a good robot being turned bad scenario. In this case, the piece evolved instead of being spelled out completely in a sketch. There was a time where Ladytron was the only thing in the page, and it looked fine. A little background work and it could have been a cover on it's own. There's no shortage of covers with just a posed character (or 2, or 20), but I honestly believe that all illustrations should tell a story! Otherwise they are just portraits, and that's not very interesting. Even Gil Elvgren would tell a story with his pin-ups, like her dress is being pulled up by a lobster or whatever, and that's enough story to make the piece work, campy as it is. He also painted "girl laying there provocatively" as well, but I don't think those are as interesting. With that being said, I give cover artists a lot of slack, because often they are on a tight deadline, or not even privy to the contents of the book, so sometimes a character pin-up is the best solution.
The process I used for this was unnerving, and I couldn't get over how weird is was during the drawing phase. It's a pencil drawing. Like a fucking #2 HB pencil with shading and everything. I usually only use pencils for sketches, and drawings that will be inked or painted over later. I haven't done a polished pencil drawing since high school, and I couldn't get over the feeling that I was going backward. There's nothing inherently wrong with working in pencil, it's forgiving and versatile, but I associate it with amateur artists and the very worse kinds of art you can find, like that guy at the rib cook-off who sells photo-realistic pencil drawings from celebrity head shots. Somehow people who don't know anything about art think he's the next Michelangelo. When I was drawing, I felt like any minute I would have to draw a heavily referenced wolf with a dream catcher behind it. In the end, though, I got a result that I couldn't be happier with. The pencil give the drawing a nice texture that helps balance out the slickness of working digitally, and it was a fairly fast way to work. All the values were set up in the drawing, so once I got it into Photoshop, it was more like tinting it with watercolor than opaque painting.
I should also point out that these characters are not mine, they are property DC/Wildstorm comics, and I made this purely for fun and portfolio purposes.
Wrapped this one up today. I still think the idea is funny, but I'm not sure if I did the best job of getting it across. My idea was a vampire is attacking a girl, but instead of being terrified, she throws her bra at him. Did you get that? Let me know if you have an idea about how it could be more clear. I think something to note is that even though I wanted to only spend a couple hours on this illustration, I still went through the whole thumbnail process. When I was a student I hated doing thumbnails, but these days I fill pages with thumbs without even noticing. It's extremely important to work out your compositions, and I genuinely enjoy it now!
One reason why I want to do illustrations like this, besides it being a good exercise, is that I've been unhappy when I look at my portfolio lately. I feel that one reason I haven't gotten an illustration call in a long time is that I don't have any illustrations! I've been doing personal paintings for galleries, and they've taken up my site. I'm taking steps to make more illustrations. Telling a story is fun and important. I wish I hadn't lost sight of that.
I wanted to see if I could do a little editorial illustration in a couple hours before I go to bed. Didn't quite finish. I'll probably wrap it up tomorrow. Overall though, not too happy with it. I think it would be nice to make quick little opinion drawings, and have them look nice. Needs work. The idea behind this one was a commentary on the rampant spread on vampire love in pop culture.
Alllllright. So, I had an idea to do comic book covers just for fun. This would be my idea for the cover of Zatanna #1, July 2010. I have a whole list of books I thought would be fun to make covers for, and this is where I started. I like the character, the magic/witchcraft aspect, there's lots of demons which is a big plus for me, and she lives in San Francisco, big plus! I'm happy with this, I think switching to digital has really opened things up for me. I'm much more inclined to experiment and paint with reckless abandon because I'm not afraid to mess up some part of the painting I like. The way I think about it, it's like a game of 21. When I'm painting with acrylics, if I've got an area of the painting that's a 19, I usually play it safe and stay there.
The guy with the knife is Brother Night. I know he looks like the Joker, but that's because he looks like the Joker. Take it up with DC. I took liberties with the characters. Ember is a half dragon lady, I wanted her to look a little more dragon-like than she is in the book. I gave Romalthi an octopus mask, even though he (she?) only turns into a frog/pig/and snail in the book. I also wanted Zatanna to be more dark looking. I feel like she usually looks kinda.... ordinary, for lack of a better word. Like a school teacher with implausible mams. I thought she should look a little more dark and mystical, like a Selma Blair, or Catherine Zeta Jones maybe. I'm sure if this was a commissioned job, I wouldn't be able to take such artistic liberties, but hey, this is just for fun. I've been "painting" this for a few days, kinda losing track of time because I just zone and noodle for hours when I'm working this way. At some point it's good to just stop, call it done. I want to make a lot of these, so I can't get too hung up on small details. It's easy to do that when you can zoom in %2400.
I have a list of covers I want to make. I plan to keep chipping away at it until I finish, or get pulled away on some other work. I chose them either because they are my favorites, or the play to what I consider my strength, which is creepy monster stuff. Here's the list in no particular order. If you have a suggestion, speak now or forever hold your peace!
Batman Akira Hellboy Judge Dredd Conan Zombies(as if for a zombie comic, not a specific one) Zatanna Wildcats Lobo Tank Girl