I am sure you are wondering where I am, or at least why I haven’t been posting much lately. I have had my hands quite full with a few projects that I hope to post results for very soon. Aside from trying to close out “The Island and the Plough” and shop it around to a few potential distributors I have been working on the next book as well as some super cool commission projects. I will be doing the album art for Ultraswing, a UK gypsy jazz band. They decided they wanted a little change of pace from their prior albums and wanted a full black and white illustration spread. Once they are ready to release on their website I will begin posting some images soon. All I have to say right now is that this was a really great project, creating some awesome little characters and vignettes and had a lot of fun. Can’t wait to show it off.
Goodnight, Maurice. Thank you for everything. “I refuse to lie to children.” – Maurice Sendak 1928-2012
Be sure to watch the great interview I posted a little while back.
Here is a sneak peek into the process behind one of The Daily Mobster characters and a quick tutorial/explanation of how I work and how to design a character.
1. I, of course, start with a sketch which are usually smaller thumbnails on a scrap paper until I find an acceptable shape and basic look. Because of the nature of mobster characters this often revolves around exaggerated features or an interesting shape. This rule works pretty well for non mobsters as well. If you can create a silhouette or a shape that is instantly recognizable to that character you are already on our way to great design.
2. Then I do the light sketch with all the details fleshed out; this allows me to give a little extra focus to certain areas like hands, belts, buttons, or others that need extra attention. This is also the step where you can focus on contrast, as it is the first thing the human eye notices, it is important to decide where heavy blocks of color/black will be and where dense detail will be. A general rule of thumb, when certain areas are very large in area (such as a belly or a chin) give them less detail as their size will attract attention, and when they are smaller or require extra focus fill in the detail (faces, hands, accessories of interest). Use the lines and shapes to help direct attention as well, notice the tie points to the chin and continues the crevasse in his chin.
3. Then I simply start inking over the pencil. Sometimes I ink over the entire drawing with a single width then fill the blacks and weight the lines afterwards and other times I do the complete process little chunks at a time (as seen here) moving across the drawing. The contrast between full black, white with hatching/textures, and full white is very important in a black and white illustration; luckily suits play a big part in the mobster world. If the background is dark, realize that a heavy black suit will act as a subtle part of the character and his face will stand out. If the character has dark skin, often you want to put him in lighter color costumes, unless his environment will be mostly light. I usually try to balance out the black and the white to create a focal points.
4. Once completed, I erase the pencil lines that poke out.
5. The final step is to bring the scan into the computer. Since the original ink is fairly clean there isn’t really any digital treatment of the character itself other than to overlay it on one of my backgrounds and apply some simple shadowing/lighting effects behind him. I hand draw the background designs as well (I may post a tutorial about how to make repeating wallpapers from drawings like this) in line format, then scan them in, convert them to white and overlay them on grey repeatedly. Tommy will be posted on Thursday, so be sure to check out The Daily Mobster and read his story.
Who knew I could make it this far with just a silly mobster theme? I have to admit that I worried, I cried, I even confessed to “Mad Ma” Johnson that early on, I would run out of ideas and she might have to break my knuckles. But, I am quickly finding out that just about anything can be turned into a goofy character; I mean, there is a character based entirely off of neckties, and looks like a necktie! The Daily Mobster has just reached 40 mobsters and is quickly nearly the 50 mark! I have a special announcement to make when we reach 50 so make sure to stay tuned, and share with a friend. New readers are always welcome and if you have ideas, thoughts or comments, share them! Thank you all for the following and support.
I like Johnny Cash; I also like the way he looks. His appearance and personality make for a great caricature. Here is an original ink drawing I did (before) and then a treated poster print (after) of Johnny Cash as “The Man in Black.” It is actually available for iPhone skin and poster print, but I am wondering what I might ultimately do with some of these caricatures. They were on Etsy as cards a while ago, but I guess cards aren’t the best application for a caricature.
Normally, when I check my stats page in the morning the usual search terms that bring people to my page have been “Django Reinhardt”, “Django Reinhardt Cartoon”, “Book Layout”, and “Black and white characters.” Today, however, I am delighted to say that I come up under “crazy illustrator.” I am not sure what this means. Am I crazy creative, crazy good, crazy bad, crazy crazy? Anyway, thank you for making my day fellow searcher.
This also begs the question why “Jack Benny’s Suit” leads people here. “Magneto’s Helmet” seems to quite popular as well. Regardless of all this, thank you all for each and every visit, no matter how you get here, really! Thank you!
Tell Them Anything You Want
Illustration Friday’s topic popped up as “Fluid” and I immediately thought of a past project I was working on about three years ago. The villains in the story shed off black, inky, fluid as they moved about. Unfortunately, this was one of those projects I just had to let die as, every time I sat down to work on it I drew a blank and struggled endlessly trying to achieve what I wanted. It definitely taught me how to learn to let something die. I have to admit that I really want to complete this project, but am not regretful that I dropped it. It allowed me to clear my head and start over on several other projects since. I still love the story and the concept, so I am sure I will return to it in the future. The manuscript actually came together quite nicely with the exception of one plot hole, as did some of the initial pencils of each page. But, when I sat down to some of the very important page layouts, to finish the ink for each page, or do the final treatments (and this book had a lot of “effects” involved) it just never looked the way I wanted it to and unfortunately the mood and plot of the story relied very heavily on the visuals. I hope to add it back into my queue of projects sometime.
The basic set up for this page is that Benjamin Brigham is a rotter and just a really nasty little child. He plays horribly (really horrible, some times life threatening ;p ) pranks on people, is grouchy and grumpy, and puts up a fight to nearly anything his parents or teachers wish him to do. After being thrown from several schools and scaring away countless nannies and sitters, his parents receive a letter in the mail regarding the most prestigious academy for troubled youth that guarantees perfect results. Madame Lynch, the administrator of the academy has come to collect young Benjamin.
I hate redundant blog re-posts, but I have to say Happy Valentine’s Day to all you lovers and haters. What would a Valentine’s day be without a a mention of a very famous day in the mobster world with a Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre post from The Daily Mobster?
Happy 200th Birthday Charlie Dickens! He is probably my favorite “classic” author. The imagery and moods he builds are so robust, not to mention the themes and brilliant characters he designed are right up my alley. London, smokestacks, chimneys, murders, dry humor, smart humor, dark humor, despair, hope, fear, shadows, chases, rooftops, thievery, spying, seedy underworlds, gangs, wars, and ghosts, all in tailed coats and top hats; what’s not to love?
Woohoo, I have been posted on IllustrationMundo in their illustrator database! If you haven’t browsed their content, make sure to check it out; there is so much to see in a huge array of styles and themes. With such a vast amount of talented people, it’s quite a task to let it excite and encourage, rather than discourage.
I have long been inspired by the “Gypsy Jazz” musicians of the twenties and thirties, specifically Jean “Django” Reinhardt. One might say he invented the Gypsy Jazz style (sometimes called “Hot Jazz” stemming from his home venue, “The Hot Club” in France) and it could very well be all because of his handicap, which I think is quite incredible. As a young man, he was in a fire which literally seared the last two fingers of his left hand together, fingers that are obviously very important to a guitarist. Being greatly inspired by Spanish Folk, Gypsy music from eastern Europe, and American Jazz which was in full swing at the time seemed to have helped lead way to his two finger quick style; it is unmistakable and often replicated. The fact that he worked with his handicap rather than letting it overcome him, much like Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder, is simply astounding. If you have yet to hear any of his music, you simply must. Below I have included some of his songs as well as other artists like him including the new wave of more eclectic gypsy jazz revivalists such as Caravan Palace and even DeVotchKa.
Django Reinhardt: “Belleville”:
Django Reinhardt: “Minor Swing”:
Opa Tsupa: “Les Deux Guitares”
And something a little more contemporary:
Caravan Palace: “Jolie Coquine”
Caravan Palace: “Suzy”
If you haven’t found Greg Peltz yet, now is the time. Obviously the dapper Star Wars characters are right up my alley, but the other stuff he does is incredible. I mean he made his own Magneto helmet from scratch. That’s crazy.
Hello all and Happy New Year. It was quite a busy holiday for me, but I have been able to keep up with The Daily Mobster. I have high hopes, good intentions, and a flurry of ideas in my head for this coming year and will be posting plenty of good content, illustrations, links, and fun. I thought I would start this year off by sharing, hopefully something new, with you in hopes you find something inspiring. Here are a few of my favorite links:
I will bring more in future posts.
Come witness, the amazing, brilliant, shocking, stunning Miraculous Marvelous Marvin! For one night only watch this one man show; no assistants needed! You won’t believe your eyes and you won’t believe the astounding, wonderful, thrilling, mind bending, brain boggling tricks, illusions and feats of disaster! Watch a single man appear, disappear, eat fire, blow fire, jump through fire, juggle knives, dazzle with costume changes, practical illusions and perform his most incredible illusion of sawing himself apart!
(For Illustration Friday : “Separated” )