Busway. A Pittsburgh City Paper Cover.

I had a lot of fun with this one. The City Paper’s editor, Lisa, wanted an illustration for a cover story on Pittsburgh’s Busways. And she wanted it to evoke that kidlit feel of something like a Richard Scarry book (with anthropomorphized animals going about their daily business).

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I also thought about those hidden picture puzzles in Highlights while I was setting up the composition. Just a lot of little things, all going on at once. I used Clip Studio Paint for this illustration. Here’s my process.

Pencils

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This was all sketched loosely in Clip Studio using the Blue Real Pencil. I just wanted to get something down quick to get approval from Lisa. Once she and the writer hammered out a few details, I was given the go-ahead.

Inks

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Inked in Clip Studio, with various inking tools. The most important tool at this stage were the Curve Rulers. I used those to ink all of those long, sweeping, curved lines (on the guardrail, sidewalks, roads, etc) and to help keep the lines of the buses and windows smooth.

Colors

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I used a couple layers in Clip Studio to keep the flat colors and the highlights/shadows separate. I do this mostly so if I change my mind about one or the other, I can make tiny changes without having to redo the whole thing.

Details

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The tortoise here is being trailed by a hare (running up the stairs) that just can’t catch him. As usual, the tortoise wins this race.

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March just wrapped up, so I had lions and lambs on my mind. I also threw in a bear with a Steelers jersey. Gotta rep the local sports teams.

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In this section, the Pirates and Penguins get a nod. So does Pittsburgh legend Mister Rogers. His X The Owl character is going about his day wearing a classic Mister Rogers sweater.

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The City Paper was kind enough to throw me this gig, so I made sure to put a CP Newspaper box in the picture. It was also a convenient place to put that banana the monkey’s so interested in. Oh, and that chicken? Originally, he was ‘crossing the road’ but that’s one of those edits they made at the paper. No crosswalks on busways. So now chicken’s riding the bus. I guess there’s more than one way to cross a road.

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Ducks feeding ducks, a teddy bear at a picnic, just another pleasant day in the park. And is that a familiar friend in the bottom right?

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Yup. I snuck in alternate universe versions of my Bigfoot and Scout characters (and even their squirrel pal, Squeaky). It’s a friendly city. I’m sure Bigfoot would feel right at home here.

And if you’d like to read the City Paper piece about Pittsburgh Busways (by Ryan Deto), here’s a handy link to the online article. -v

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I’ll be at NYCC This Weekend

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If you’re headed to New York Comic Con this week, you’ll spot me sitting in with the National Cartoonists Society (Booth #304) on a couple days:

• Saturday, October 6th  1 – 4

• Sunday, October 7th  10 – 1:30

I’ll have the new Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Fall Special with me, as well as my other books. And if I can manage to get him onto a crowded train without starting a riot, then lug him to Javits Convention Center, I may also have my furry buddy, Puppet Bigfoot (he’s a long shot, though. It’s like lugging around an unconscious badger around the city).

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Anyway, stop by and say hi. I’ll be sharing the table with some really talented cartoonists. -v

Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Fall Special / Printer Review

The Untold Tales of Bigfoot Fall Special books are in — and they look great! I’ll have them with me at New York Comic Con this October when I sit in with the National Cartoonists Society. I also have some copies in my online shop (just $6 plus s/h/tx)!

Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Fall Special

What’s Inside

  • 35 pages of fall-inspired art and story from the Untold Tales of Bigfoot webcomic,  including Devil In The Details and the Reuben-Nominated Heading For A Fall!
  • Two pages of story not published online (I added a couple pages to give Scout a little more room to babble and complain.)
  • Devil In The Details (published online in black and white) is now printed in full color!

Review: Comix Well Spring/Greko Printing

You may or may not recall, I had a negative experience with Ka-Blam Digital Printing that sent me looking for a different printer for this project. A friend recommended Comix Well Spring, so I thought I’d give ’em a try. How’d they do? Let’s see…

Colors Look Good

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Comix Well Spring did a great job of matching my CMYK colors. The brights are bright, the darks are dark, and the subtle gradients all came out the way I wanted them to.

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Mind you, I opted for the hard copy proof to be mailed to me (a nominal fee of $10) so I could adjust my files before going to final print. And I’m glad I did. There’s always a possibility that what you see on your screen won’t match what the printer puts out. So using a hard copy proof to help make your adjustments is a good idea.

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I opted for the heavier paper (80# gloss text) and the pages feel substantial, with no bleed-through (unless you hold the pages up to a light). The cover was standard (80# gloss cover) and it feels durable and looks great.

Quality Packing and Shipping

With Ka-Blam, it was damaged books and poor customer service response that led me to look for a new printer. How did Comix Well Spring stack up?

Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Fall Special

Comix Well Spring packed my order in a sturdy box, lined with a thick layer of packing paper. The comic books were then shrink-wrapped and packed (in bundles of 25) into padded, sealed UPS envelopes. Did that protect the corners? Darn tootin’!

Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Fall Special

I unpacked every shrink-wrapped bundle of my comics and every one of them looks like this. Pristine corners, no dings, no folds, no spine damage. I couldn’t be happier with the packaging.

Customer Service Is Excellent

Ka-Blam Digital Printing dropped the ball with their customer service. In contrast, Comix Well Spring was more than happy to answer a ton of questions for me before I even ordered. I wanted to make sure my colors and templates were set up properly, double check their shipping methods and return policy — they answered all my questions before/during/and after our transaction promptly and politely.

Final Review

I give Comix Well Spring a solid A and happily recommend them to anybody who wants to get their comics printed. Their prices are competitive (especially in larger quantities) and their product is impressive. They also have a handy price quote calculator on their site so you can see how much your project might cost before you order. -v

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Pencils, Inks, Colors, Done.

Just a real quickie. Been a little busy to post here, but my promo image for this week’s Untold Tales of Bigfoot page happens to be a snapshot of my basic comic-making process. So I figured this process blog would be a good place to post it. Full page here (where I posted a few more inks).

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Quick Rundown of a Bigfoot Page

Busy, busy, busy. But I thought I’d throw up some quick screenshots of my digital process for a page from my latest Untold Tales of Bigfoot short, Devil In The Details. Nothing too hairy here, just quick shots of my steps.

Step 1: PencilsUToB_DeviInTheDetails_process

Terrible, right? I scribble this stuff on paper and scan it. Sometimes the images are tighter, sometimes looser. It depends on my mood and how difficult a particular pose or scene might be to ink without guidance.

Step 2: Ink

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Inked in Clip Studio Paint. I letter in Clip Studio as well, but leave all that on a separate layer in case I need images of the art without text.

Step 3: Flats

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I’m doing this story arc in a faux-aged black-and-white palette to add to the creepiness. So my colors are muted, but warm. I did the flats on the figures first. Why? No reason. Sometimes I start with the background.

Step 4: More Flats

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This page is a little different than some of the others in the story because that third “panel” is really just the page, acting as a background for the top two panels. Just more warm greys, getting things prepped for the final stage…

Step 5: Modeling and Effects

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The last step is usually the highlights and shadows, modeling the figures and background so they have more dimension. I also leave any sort of lighting or atmospheric effects until the end and place them on their own layer. In the case of this short, I also added a roughed-up, worn paper effect to age the image a little and give it a retro feel.

And that’s that! If you wanna read the story, I think we’re about halfway through and starts right here. Thanks for looking! -v

 

Mister Rogers City Paper Cover

Pittsburgh City Paper came calling last week to see if I’d do another cover for them. As art director/managing editor Lisa Cunningham explained it to me, this cover was going to represent a combination of a few things: the start of Pride Month, the release of an upcoming documentary on beloved Pittsburgher Fred Rogers, and the point at which those two entities intersect — Mister Rogers’ radical history of accepting all types of people and minorities before it was commonplace.

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I didn’t have to do much layout work for this image because Lisa wanted it to echo the feel of a much-later photo of Fred Rogers where he’s shown welcoming friends to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

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I did a quick, blue-pencil sketch in Clip Studio to map things out.

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And then I went in with a pencil tool to work out the caricature. Initially, I was going to go over the pencils with a digital inking, but the sense I get from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is a very warm, soft, gentle feeling. So I thought I’d leave the pencil work as the final line.

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After that, it’s all about adding color in Clip Studio. Again, I chose tools that might have a softer feel — pastels, colored pencils.

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Initially, the job called only for Mister Rogers and Trolley. But he seemed a little solitary in the Neighborhood of Make Believe, so after handing in the assignment I requested a chance to add in some of my favorite neighbors. It just seemed like a happier scene with everyone in there.

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Of course, I always leave a little extra in the composition because I never know how Lisa’s gonna crop/edit the illustration to fit the needs of the cover text and masthead. I like what she did with it this week, masking around the castle turrets.

For those interested, the City Paper article this cover points to is about how progressive Mister Rogers ideas were for their time. It’s written by Alex McCann and you can read it here. -v

Untold Tales of Bigfoot Nominated for Another NCS Reuben!

UToB_ReubenNom3_DorseHere’s some fun news (for me, anyway). Untold Tales of Bigfoot has been nominated by the National Cartoonists Society for a Silver Reuben in the Online Comics: Long Form division. This is Bigfoot and Scout’s third nomination (they won in 2013).

We’ve been buzzing about this here in the cave for the last few days, feeling very honored and grateful. Congratulations to my fellow nominees, John Allison and Ru Xu. Bigfoot and I consider the nomination itself a win, thrilled to be recognized alongside some other very talented creators. Scout, however, really wants the wall plaque and he won’t shut up about it.

Either way, we’ll be having a great time rubbing elbows with all the other cartooning professionals at the 72nd Annual Reuben Awards, May 25th-27th in the City of Brotherly Love, good ol’ Philadelphia, PA! Whether we go home with the bauble or not, it is always a sincere pleasure to spend the weekend hanging out with some of the funniest, creative people I know. -v

For a complete list of the nominees in all the divisions, CLICK HERE!

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