Featured in Lee+ Magazine

If you are in Mexico or have access to Lee+ magazine, my work has been featured in an article about Charles Dickens.  It looks pretty cool in print!

Charles Dickens, Lee+, magazine, print, skethbookjack, jack, sketchbookjack, illustration, black and white, ink, design, feature, caballero, mexico, mx

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The Process Projects

I am very excited to announce that Carlos R Gomez (of Robots-n-Aliens) and I have teamed up to create The Process Projects, a web series that documents the creative process.  Each season we will chose one project (a book, a game, board game, animates short, etc) and record the entire process, beginning to end so everyone can follow along, learn, engage, and watch it evolve from initial concept to product in hand.

If you have ever had an interest in creating an illustrated children’s book, illustration in general, writing a story or just learning what the creative process looks like, join us at www.theprocessprojects.net and follow along.

 

The Composer

I finally finished the commissioned portrait for Stephen Pikarsky (from All Keyed Up Media).  He’s been a huge help to me in some personal projects and did the original score for the Island the Plough App (which is still, slowly, slowly happening).  It was a lot of fun to do this project and it inspired me to do a series of them.  This, being “The Composer,” I am hoping to also do “The Writer,” “The Dancer,” “The Singer,” and “The Painter” to sort of round out the various artist/creator profiles.

the composer illustration illustrator black and white pen and ink vest glasses papers musical score keys piano keys falling apart floating ink wash splatter spatter splash messy sharp style design sketchbookjack jack kasprzak stephen pikarsky stylized

Tommy “Buttface” Jones : Process

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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.

The Man in Black

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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.

“Salvador” Character Concepts

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This is the very early part of the process where I begin designing the characters based off the rough outline I have for the story.  I usually write the story in conjunction with the design/illustration phase because they feed off each other so well.  The raw idea sometimes comes from an image or a drawing of a single character or it can come from a single sentence, or verbal conceptual idea.  The writing then instructs the drawing and the drawing feeds back and instructs the writing.  I suppose this is the benefit of being the writer and the illustrator as usually the writing is completed and illustrations are filled in after the fact; however, this can pose a challenge as well being that the writing is not in stone and allows for much variation and meandering.  I think the visual aspect of illustrated stories (hence being illustrated and not novels or short stories) plays a stronger role than many give it credit and needs to inform the very construction of the story.

Here are the first few pages of the Captain character.  Like I said in my previous post, this story has some of the same themes as “The Island and the Plough.”  The main characters are going through a similar sort of learning, exploring the world around them, but yet have a bit more wisdom than the naysayer villagers.  That said, he needs to be reminiscent of a boat captain, but not too stereotyped.  He also needs to seem wise, but eager to learn anew as well.  He is not hardened by the bitter landscape or the cynical villagers so his face needs to be somewhat kind.  I fear already that he begins to look much like the character from “The Island and the Plough” so it may be that the beard needs to go.  This is one of the most fun parts of the design phase, but can also be fairly frustrating.  These are just four of the twenty plus character pages I have done for him.  If the “what I think I want” phase does not work, then I often go in a radically different direction, maybe tall and thin, or short and beardless, perhaps younger even and begin to veer far away from what I had originally envisioned.  That type of process usually helps to refocus what is working, what is not, to bring a vision of it I may have yet thought of but also help show me from what to stay away.

I will post some concepts of the village and landscape next.

Happy Birthday Charlie Dickens

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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?

The Angler Boys

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Lament the story of the Angler Boys.  Surprise and joy befell the Angles household when Mabelle and Hank Angles announced she was expecting.  The excitement grew further when Mabelle learned it would be twin boys.  But, at birth, something was revealed as strange.  The doctors called it “Acute Lophii-deformes” and it would seem the bouncing baby boys shared undisputed features of the Anglerfish.  The Angles were advised to shut them away, home school them, and to investigate special therapies and operations to remove them of these “features.”  Mabelle and Hank didn’t feel right about shutting them off from the world, so they decided to go on as if nothing was the matter.

Things were rocky, here and there, but the two boys lived together in a happy, loving home.  It then came time to enroll them in school.  Little Luke Angles did quite well; the other children thought his “lightning ball” was cool.  He was the best to have sleepovers with because he could keep the blanket fort lit nicely.  The girls thought it was cute too and they would sigh and dreamily stare, saying, “To be with Little Luke Angles was like being under the twinkling stars.”

All was not so well for Young Leopold Angles, who inherited the unfortunate features of an anglerfish teeth and tail.  The girls were all scared of him, and the boys called him snaggletooth, jaws, and walrus.  He was a favorite target for the bullies and often found himself escaping to the far end of the playground to be alone.  Luke would try to stick up for him and include him in their games, but no matter his efforts, the other children would shove him away.

One day, Mabelle Angles came to wake them for school, but Young Leopold was gone.  Hank, Mabelle and Luke looked all over town and asked everyone around, most of whom just laughed.  Days passed, weeks passed.  Leopold was nowhere to be found.  Luke would search through the night with the help of his lightning ball.  And thus, began “The Riveting Adventures of Angler Boy.”  (A follow up to “Flashback: Angler Boy“)

¡Lucha!

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Lucha Libre character designs

 

Who doesn’t like Luchadores? The always look so schnazzy in their pressed suits and fancy masks. I had started a series of Lucha Libre wrestlers a while back that took it one step further and got some goofy characters and costumes out of it. I started to make retro style advertisement posters for each character. I found the few that I did and decided I could come up with a few more, so here is the series as it stands now. I am not exactly sure what I might do with these, but I think retro/circus/advertisement style posters might be kind of fun to do, each with its own theme.  From top-left on: “El Dios”, “Gaucho Marx”, “El Cactus”, “Chupacabra”, “Oso”, “El Rey”, “Toro Toro”, “Mini Mono”, “El Capitan”, “Sr. Muerto” and “El Bandito.”

Bah Humbug

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The cantankerous old grump hobbled his way home through the blustering snow and dangerous ice, completely unaware his life was following in his wake.  A young weak flame, his past, hovered right behind him.  A giant lumbering man, his present, walks careful aside him as not to fall out of step.  Ahead of him, creeps the shadows of his future and into them he ventures.   A lingering cry haunts the alleys and the streets, chains clank and rattle of warnings to a ruined man as he bitterly  scoffs off the world, heading home to sulk.

    Here is this year’s rendition of Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge along with all four ghosts.  I stayed with the traditional flame character for the Ghost of Christmas Past.  I had to do three or four thumbnails, and a nearly full render of another drawing to get a composition that I liked since I wanted them stacked, using the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come as the backdrop.   I haven’t really seen Scrooge done with a beard, sometimes Victorian chops, but usually clean shaven.  I thought it might be fun to give him a cranky old beard and make him stout rather than long and lanky.  I had a lot of fun doing this one, hope you enjoy.

“Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” – A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens.

The Miraculous Marvelous Marvin


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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” )

A Word of the Wolf

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    Say it a villain, but I like the wolf; I think he is rather dapper.  Fables, rhymes and fairy tales unanimously agree that the wolf (or fox) is a mean, shrewd, cunning, coy, heartless villain, a thief, a robber, and a murderer.  There, of course, are a few humorous attempts in looking at the wolf’s side of the story such as “The True Story of The Three Little Pigs,” but I declare justice is not served.  I do applaud Roald Dahl for allowing us into the life of Mr. Fox; however, he is still hunted and villainized by the farmers of the land despite being the hero of the story.  Certainly stories of the natives include heroic, god like wolves but American culture would much rather idolize the lion over the wolf.

    We have a lot to learn from the wolf, and not just about how to dress.  We see ourselves in him which perhaps gives reason to villainize him.  By some social mythology structure, the goat, or the pig has inherently done no wrong and even in mistake can be forgiven, actually idolized for learning a profound lesson.  The wolf, however, gains no such glory.  His very presence is greeted by hiss and boo.  Perhaps the sharp teeth, or sleek eyes have gained him no ground.  The story could equally be rewritten to warn of tattle tale little girls, men with guns, forgetting to look in the clock, and snarky construction working pigs.  Just look how regal, how clean and cunning, dapper and dashing, steady and stark, alert and acute is the wolf.  If he were human, he would be a knight, or a Robin Hood at least.

    Certainly there is an elephant in the room.  I may be carefully avoiding the fact that the wolf is, indeed, a predator and the goats and pigs certainly should be afraid of him.  He is their villain, I cannot argue that.  Yet, the wolf has a villain as well, as do we all, and despite the long held cultural structure of an innocent goat, perhaps we should write a story about The Three Grass Brothers, or The Daisy and the Tulip.  We will see how cute and innocent that goat remains.

Flashback : Jacob Marley

Now that it is officially December, I thought I would post a flashback illustration in a Christmas theme.  This is one I did several years back of Jacob Marley appearing before Ebenezer Scrooge to warn him of his impending future.  Although, in life, Marley was probably a normal sized person, I felt he should probably be larger than life in his ghostly form.  Instead of wailing from afar, he certainly would be in Scrooge’s face, shaking him up as to make sure he gets the message.  I sold several prints of it at a Silver Lake, California show last year and is available on Etsy around Christmas time.

Sketchbookjack Jacob Marley Appears Before Scrooge

Jacob Marley Appears Before Scrooge