Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Resolutions

     I resolve to make T shirts for Real Life Fiction! Oh wait, I just did that!

    Honestly, it's hard for me to come up with a resolution that I know I can keep. Instead, perhaps I should break it down into something bite-size that may, inadvertently, become an ongoing thing.

     This may sound like a recipe for failure, but I actually find that it works. I basically trick myself into maintaining good habits such as regular exercise. I tell myself I'll exercise for twenty minutes and then, at the twenty minute mark, decide to go for forty. 

     In the same vein, I hereby resolve to update RLF weekly, without fail, for one whole month. And at the end of that month? Well...we'll see. Hopefully I can trick myself into maintaining the trend!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Tamit, Revisited
      As you've probably read on one of my other sites, I tried drawing one of my old characters from my Mixed Myth days. Much to my surprise, I really nailed the style. Having done the comic for four years must have hardwired it into my hands.

Steampunk Red Queen
     I do want to do some more stories related to Mixed Myth at some point. But doing so is awefully intimidating. I do not wish to repeat the mistakes of, for example, George Lucas and completely ruin the world for readers. Then again, Pixar has proved with its Toy Story series that you can come back to material years later and do a proper job of following up on it. So maybe there is hope. Whatever the answer is, it likely will not be anytime soon as I have my hands full with masks and RLF. But maybe I'll do more of these sketches.
Vole-Demort the Parseltongue

     The sketch in question is of Tamit. I drew her for one of those sketch cards (ACEOs) that I've been fixated on. There's three in the newest batch, including a Harry Potter parody and a Steampunk version of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. As usual, you can find them listed here.


Monday, December 20, 2010


Think I've got this ACEO thing down! Caran D'ache was the answer. The funny thing is that I've had a set of Caran D'ache sitting here for literally twenty years....and yet when I go to use them, they work just fine! Now that is a quality art supply. The only sign of their age was a bit of wax bloom on the tips that didn't interfere at all.

I retouched Alice's card and I"m much happier with the result. I also did an art nouveauish piece. Alice, the dapper Cthulhu, and the Queen of Stars are all up for auction.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


     I took the plunge and got a copy of Cash for Cartoonists. It's an ebook by DJ Coffman...well, more like an epamphlet. It's an interesting read. He takes a look at ways he's used to make money as an artist. Currently I do not have a job, so most of my income comes from doing masks and writing articles for the internet. Anyway, there's clearly a lot of experience in these digital pages. I think some of the numbers are a bit inflated, though. Which is not to say they're inaccurate...but a number of them are based on how big of a following you have. The results you get by trying different things are very much dependent on that.

      That said, there were a few options that I hadn't heard of before. ACEOs, for one. They're artist trading cards, basically, each one 2.5" by 3.5". They're miniature works of art, either entirely original or a limited, numbered print run. I like the idea of it as I've always had a fondness for things miniature so I decided to try my hand at it. I'm not too thrilled with the results so far, but I think the idea warrants more experimentation.

     This one started with a great idea: Steampunk Alice in Wonderland. And you know, I still might come back to that. I'm sure people have done it before, but I think it has a lot of potential even so. I tried using archival pens on this one and then adding a wash of paint over it...but my wash skills are not the greatest, as early Metrophor strips can attest to. Definitely not my preferred coloring method, though I like the ink work.

     Ah yes, dapper Cthulhu! He even has a monocle! I did him entirely in acrylic paints. Kind of like the result, but it's very time consuming. Probably too time consuming to be worth while. Plus I'm still learning to get color schemes right with paints...I mix a lot of my own colors, and that alone takes a lot of time. It might be different if I had a wide range of colors to begin with, but the expense puts a damper on things.

     This one is my favorite of the bunch. I didn't know where I was going with it when I began, but that ended up being a good thing. The design came from a number of Japanese prints that I admire, and the face from Kabuki and Noh masks. Okay, she is an elf and that's a little anachronistic, but that doesn't seem to have stopped anime! I'm leaning towards something more in this style, perhaps with Oddewulf-style shading.

Goggles and Jabberwocks!

I'm a wee bit behind in posting some of my new mask pieces, but here you go!
I made this pair based on a rough comic I did a while back called Sophie the Steampunk Ninja Catgirl. I actually have a sketch of a poster that stars her that I really want to do at some point.

I've also been in an Alice in Wonderland mood. Or at least, a Jabberwocky mood. I tried to base this mask off of some of the old illustrations, which is not easy to do in a half mask. And since the originals were black and white I sort of had to guess on the coloring.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Making Masks

            If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And then if you still don’t succeed, take a break and go play some Robot Unicorn Attack. Then try again. At least, that’s my approach to art.

            Take my mask making. The first few masks I ever did were back in college. I used some of those cheap plastic masks from Hobby Lobby and painted them up. Hell, I did all the ornaments for them out of Sculpey and glued them onto each face. Not very chic, I have to say.

            I let the mask thing slide for a few years until I found myself in a bind for a Mardi Gras costume for a party. Suddenly I found myself doing all kinds of research into what sort of materials I could sculpt it from, how to construct it, etc. When I was done I had an iridescent green mask with a complete mane of peacock feathers.

            Only to find out that the party had been canceled. All dressed up and nowhere to go, as they say. But that one project had put a bug in me. I just couldn’t stop making masks. Over time, my materials and methods have changed considerably. There were some failures. I keep them in the Drawer of Shame where they will never see the light of day to offend me with their monstrosity. But without them, I would not have improved.

            This is my workspace today:
    Yes, it resembles a war zone. A war zone of art. Those paints gave their lives gladly for the cause, oozing their colorful liquids onto the uncaring tabletop. Even my poor tools are so coated with resin that I occasionally have to chisel them apart. But the process of evolution goes on. With each mask I learn what is and is not possible, thereby improving my technique.

As it stands now, I sculpt each mask on a model, with a covering between them to keep the resin from irrevocably bonding to the model beneath. Then I leave it to harden overnight.

Next I pry the mask off, shredding the covering to pieces in the process. This is somewhat tricky as the mask may not be fully cured and is therefore delicate. I let it sit a little longer, then go around the edges of the mask to trim off excess resin.

I then apply a basecoat. I usually choose black, as it provides the most contrast for the mask as a whole. Once that is dry, I begin to paint in earnest. I use several different techniques. I’m a big fan of drybrushing, which helps to leave some shadows in the mask, but sometimes I have to paint those in by hand. Once the painting is done an the iridescence has been applied, I seal the entire mask to keep the paint from flaking under stress. And this is the result:
And honestly? If you want to make a mask, I wouldn’t put too much stock in my process. Mess around. Find your own way. My method is geared towards my strength: sculpting. Find one that suits yours. The beginning results might be modest and take a long time, but so long as you keep tweaking your process you’ll keep getting better at it and cut down on the time it takes.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ghost of Christmas Present

     I've been getting into a bit of a holiday mood lately. Add to this the fact that my mask making supplies finally arrived and you get trouble. Behold! The Ghost of Christmas Present! He's one happenin' guy!

     The trickiest part was actually painting the face. I wanted it to be entirely gold, but I still needed the star and the beard to stand out. The trick was to use different tones of gold- a yellow-gold for the teeth, an antique gold for the skin, a copper gold for the beard, and a super-metallic gold for the star. I even managed to make his cheeks a bit rosy!

Friday, December 3, 2010


An example of my current style

I admire Mike Mignola. And not just because of his incredible ability to juggle humor and horror at the same time, although that is certainly enviable. I admire him because he’s developed a comic art style that is fast.

Because let me tell you, coloring takes for freaking ever. No, let me amend that. Shading takes for freaking ever. The beauty of Mignola’s Hellboy style is that the heavy use of black replaces shading so that all he has to do is fill in matte colors. The trick is to make the page look complicated and dynamic when, in reality, all you have to do is fill a few spots with color. Brilliant.

Because of my tendonitis, I have had to develop my own simplified style, which I now use for RLF. I draw the inks by hand, scan them in, convert them to vector to clean up the edges of the lines, and then bring them into Photoshop. At that point it’s a simple matter of filling the linework with color. Sure, there may be a lot of detail, but many of the lines in that detail do not actually connect with each other. They only look like they do. The only time lines join up is when they form a ‘barrier’ for the color to keep it from bleeding into a part of the picture where I don’t want it. Simple!

Well, that’s how it started out, anyway. Unfortunately, I keep getting more and more elaborate when it comes to shading. I’ve tried to simplify this process by using the pen tool, but the fact is that shading is just going to take forever if you want it to do it well. That is, unless you use a heavy black style like Hellboy has. I’ve experimented with that for Oddewulf and like some of the results. However, that style only really works for dark, gothic stories…it is not well suited for a lighter comic like RLF.