Another Dead Soldier

I have killed another soldier, a faithful old pen.  He was but a commoner yet filled a many jacket, blackened a many hat, and darkened a many tie.  Yes, I use a Sharpie, sometimes, for inking.  I know it is not preferred and you may already be furling your brow at the low manner in which I behave but I have come to like the Sharpie.  It is simple and consistent and widely available.  I can carry them in a bag and are great for travel or quick works.  I know my dirty, low class pen will never survive the test of time without any “archival quality” ink.  It will wither and fade in the brash sunlight of west Los Angeles, but I don’t care, for it is a impotent artist who requires special tools.  It is a sad artist who blames his tools.  I too, once brandished a fancy Moleskine notebook of which holds glorious, legendary powers in hopes to harness the same genius that bled from Hemingway’s veins, hoping it would make my work magical.  I too, once carried the famed Micron pen and the Staedler pencils, because no actual artist would dare carry (dare not say use) an unbranded, hideously yellow, #2 pencil of which is not even worthy of using the HB insider lingo.  Alas, I still use India Ink, metal tip pens, and brushes but for most everyday workings I have squandered such dreams of Hemingway and draw many of my characters on the forbidden copy paper of which a common, gasp, digital printer might use.  Sure, judgments are passed, scoffs and tisks are handed by those in the supply store.  But I have work to do, dear critic; I have not time to wander the supply store in search of the lesser user of commoner tools I feel may need a lecture.  Unfurl your brow, fellow inker, embrace your unorthodox use of illegitimate tools.

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.

40 Mobsters for The Daily Mobster

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.

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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.

The Daily Mobster Process : “Prepare”

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   Several have asked to see and learn more about the way I work and how I prepare for drawings;  I hope to post additional drawing processes in the future.  Here is an example from The Daily Mobster in which I prepare a concept which is usually a character name or an exaggerated feature I want to focus on and begin generating the look.  I can usually come up with a name, but I also wrote a little script that will generate random names and nicknames for me if I get stumped.  Some occasions produce the drawing first and the name afterward, but that is usually an exception.

   I begin with a flurry of rough shapes and mood arc lines; in this case the mood line was straight as this guy is pretty somber and straight-edged.  When dealing with exaggerated characters, especially ones that will only be seen in black and white and have no obvious color to define them from the others, shape is very important.  It is the second thing our eyes process after contrasts.  I play around, drawing and sketching various shapes, silhouettes and sizes until I find one that captures the personality and allows for the details I want to include.

   Once I choose a sketch concept that seems fitting, I may do a quick study of a specific spot or detail that needs further revision or attention.  In this case it was the hand holding the scissors.  Then I draw the to-scale underlining sketch.  I will ink directly on my sketch, so this is drawn very lightly and somewhat loose as I already have the thumbnail to guide me.  The first line of ink goes on, directly over the pencil, which defines all the major lines and I do the small detail accent lines with a different weight ink pen. Then I block in the blacks with a heavy pen or ink brush (if I am at work or traveling, ink brush is a little too messy).  After all the blacks are filled, then I do the line weighting and the line shading/hatching.  I prefer to control the line weight by simply inking in more lines next to the originals rather than using a brush pen with pressure or a heavier pen, which would be faster, but I feel I need more control over the exact thickness.  Finally I fill in the hatching for the fine details or denote key shadows that help to give depth or define shape.

   The last step is to do a quick composite on the official mobster background and paint in some shadows on the wall.  Preparation in any project is important.  Sure there have been several drawings that are really just sketches and turn out great, but as soon as something expands to more than that or has an ultimate goal preparation helps a lot, thumbs and rough ideas are always the way to go.

Linked to Illustration Friday’s “Prepare”