Kickstarter Commissions Rolling Right Along

Hey everybody. Just a quick one this time. Along with everything else that’s going on, I’m diligently working on the commissions that certain backers of my Kickstarter get. I want to get them finished in time to ship them with the books (which should arrive in the next couple months). So, While I don’t have a lot of time to make process posts, here’s a quick rundown of the latest one I did.


It’s Scout. One of the stars of my book. And, as usual, he’s nervous about something. The fact that he’s quick-to-panic is a big part of his personality and character. And that’s exactly what this particular backer wanted. A good, old-fashioned, scared Scout.


So here we go. Pencils on Bristol Board.


I’m using those Sakura Pigma brush pens I’ve been fiddling around with lately. Really like the control and variable-width line I get with those.


All done inking. Time for color.


He may seem white, surrounded by all that color in the comic, but Scout’s not white. He’s kind of a very light cream color with warm brown markings. I’m using a Utrecht marker I like for the base color, but most of this will be finished with Copic Markers.


So there’s Scout’s markings and shadows, done with Copic Sketch Markers. I like those brush tips. Not much left to do here….color in the mouth area, text, and grass.


Not sure my phone camera captures color very accurately, but here’s Scout — all finished and ready to run from trouble. When I start sending out Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Crossing Paths to backers in a couple months, he’ll be packed into the envelope with the book. So. Another one down. But I have more to go. Better get to work. -v

What’s in the case?

I rarely leave the house without a sketchbook and this beat-up, old, faux-suede-covered pencil case. I’d have preferred black, but it was a gift so who am I to complain?


Anyway, at home I’ve got shelves loaded with art supplies (and, of course, my trusty computer). But what if I have to go outside?! The horror! Well, this case has everything I need if I want to make some art on the fly. People have asked before what tools I use to draw, so I figured I’d lay it out here in this exhaustive post that is for drawing nerds only. The rest of you will fall asleep. So. What’s in the case?


Organized, right? But this is just the first side. This case has a second compartment ’round back:


I’ll run down most of the things in here on the off chance you wanna try ’em out for yourselves. I’ve burned through a lot of different tools over the years, and this is my current set-up because they get the job done. Maybe there’s better stuff out there – and if you’ve found different favorites, feel free to let me know – but so far these are my go-to tools. Let’s get to it!

Pentel Finito X-Tra Fine (Pentel)


We’re starting off slow. This Pentel Finito X-Tra Fine was given to me by a Pentel rep as part of a sample package and, though I don’t use it often, it’s a great pen with a fine-fine tip that’s nice for detail work in a pinch. I also like to sign artwork with it because it’s just a nice pen in general. Very precise, but no give or variation in stroke. Perfectly workable all-purpose fine-tip pen, though. And not expensive.

Pentel Sign Pens (Pentel)


The Sign Pen Variety Pack is an all-purpose set of pens from Pentel. Two of the pens are basically regular felt-tip pens with medium to heavy nibs. Neither one has a ton of flexibility. The best pen in the pack is the brush tip with the speckled barrel. That one has a great little felt brush tip that offers a good deal of variation in line weight. Here’s some quick scribbles:


The first two Bigfoots were done with the felt tip sign pens. They’re klunky. Good to have if you don’t want variation in your line, or if you’re filling in small areas with black. But that third Bigfoot that I sketched with the brush-tip pen? You can tell the line just feels more natural on the paper. You get a pretty broad range of thick-and-thin considering how inexpensive this pen is. You can buy the 3-pack, but honestly, that brush-tip pen is the only one I really use. When these dry out I’ll likely just replace that one.

Pilot Precise V5 and Mystery Pen


Look, sometimes you just need to write something. Not draw. Write. These are just pens I use to write/sign with. The Pilot Precise V5 (extra-fine) is a great everyday pen. So is its brother, the Pilot Precise V7 (fine). They both have these teeny-tiny needle points that are great if you like to write small. If you’re one of those people (like me) that’s always looking for “the perfect pen” then give these Pilots a try. EDC06a_Dorse

That other pen? I have no idea what it is. It was part of my sample pack from Pentel. Take a look at the odd point, though. What’s going on with that point? It’s like a weird spear-head with a nib threaded through the center. I have no idea what pen this is (the markings have all worn off), and I only keep it around because it’s a mystery I’d like to solve. So if you know (and if you understand what that weird tip is all about) leave me a message in the comments. I rarely use it and I’ll probably ditch it soon unless I can figure out what the heck it’s for.

Pencils & Erasers


Nothing to see here, folks. Just a mechanical pencil I use sometimes (with a darker 2B lead), some regular pencils (4H, very light) and erasers. There’s an old-fashioned pencil holder/extender because I’m too cheap to throw away short pencil nubs. I also keep a 6-inch ruler and a small pencil sharpener handy.

Now, the real workhorses in my inking workflow:

White Gel Pen (Sakura)


Lots of different folks have lots of different solutions for white ink pens. I’ve tried a few different brands, and this Gelly Roll White Gel Pen by Sakura has proved to be the most effective and reliable. It lays down a smooth, opaque line, and unlike some others I’ve tried, the gel doesn’t dry out too quickly. I’ve thrown away white pens half-unused because the ink dried in the barrel. So far, the Gelly Roll has stayed fluid the longest. And they’re inexpensive.

Pigma Brush Pens & Graphic Pens (Sakura)


If you’ve read through my recent Bigfoot/Star Wars post, you know I recently discovered these Pigma Brush Pens and that I love them. They come in three sizes (fine, medium, bold), have a lot of bounce to the tips, and lay down a very nice variable-width line. The ink is waterproof and dries quickly. No refills, by the way. Like most of the pens in my case, these are disposable. Here’s a look at their felt nibs.


And if you’re looking for a bold, consistent line, the Pigma Graphic Pens are great.The #1 brush is your basic, bullet-tipped felt pen, while the #2 pen has a broad, chisel tip. Great for lettering too!


And I don’t know what to call this version of the Pigma Brush Pen to distinguish it from the other Pigma Brush Pens above, but the felt nib on this version is long and wiggly.


Not quite as bouncy as the three Pigma Brush Pens above, so my control with this isn’t as great, but it lays down a nice thick-thin line. This brush pen (and the #1 & #2 graphic pens) boast archival ink.


You can see this nib is getting a little chewed up. I’ve had it a long time. And since finding those other Pigma Brush Pens, this one might work its way out of rotation. But, in a pinch, it’s a nice brush pen if you can’t lay your hands on anything else.

PITT Artist Pens (Faber-Castell)


I use the PITT Artist Pens from Faber-Castell a lot. They’re great technical pens that lay down a consistent line. I mean, if you fiddle with your hand pressure a bit you can get a teeny-tiny bit of variation in the line, but mostly these are great for solid, consistent lines. There are different sets available, but the one I always pick up has four sizes: Medium, Fine, Super-Fine, and Extra-Super-Fine. Kooky size names, but great pens.

Now, the ink in here is said to be “water-resistant” and “permanent”….which may not be quite as good as “waterproof and archival” but the ink comes out so smooth and solid that I can’t give them up. Somewhere in my art shelves I have a set of Sakura Pigma Technical Pens…maybe I’ll dig those out and see if they’re waterproof and archival. I may be switching up if that’s the case. But aside from that, I really love these pens.


And their brush pen (above) is also a nice felt-nib brush pen. Good responsive tip. One drawback I’ve found with this brush pen – and maybe it’s just me – these tips seem to lose their points quicker than any other brush pen I’ve used. They mush down and get a little ratty. Maybe I’m pressing too hard? Maybe when I’m out the cat’s messing around with my brushes? I don’t know. But that’s been my experience.

Pocket Brush Pen (Pentel)


Finally, probably my favorite (and a lot of people’s favorite) brush pen, the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. Yes, the Sakura Pigma’s are great and I love ’em. But this pen is the closest I’ve come to an actual brush feel without digging out my Windsor-Newton and bottle of India Ink. The tip isn’t felt. The tip is actually made up of synthetic bristles that fill with ink once you snap in the ink cartridge. You can lay down a line that has amazing dynamics – from a razor sharp fine line to a really thick, heavy line. It’s a very expressive brush pen and it may take some practice to get used to how live the tip feels. Lots of play in those bristles. But if you want something close to a brush, you should give it a try.


As I mentioned above, the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen is refillable. And they sell the refill cartridges in these handy six-packs.

So that’s what’s in the case. I got to this point by constantly experimenting with different pens and brushes from various companies. But just putting this post together made me realize some stuff in the current line-up could be replaced with some new heavy hitters. Maybe there’s something out there I’d like even more. If you think there is, drop a note in the comments and I’ll probably give it a try. I’m always on the lookout for ways to make my workflow flow more smoothly. -v


Untold Tales of Bigfoot/Star Wars Mash-Up Commision

Just finished up a commission for a client who wanted me to mix Star Wars with some characters from my Untold Tales of Bigfoot comic – and I had a blast! Here’s the basic brief: B/W illustration, Princess Leia’s escaping from Jabba’s palace with Chewbacca and Han Solo. But in this case, Chewbacca’s being played by my Bigfoot character, and Han is Scout… and he’s frozen in carbonite. A brilliant idea and I was happy to work on it.


Aside from the idea being crazy fun, another reason I was excited to work on this was because I wanted to try out some new brushes I recently picked up. Of course I used my Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens. They’re an old stand-by that are part of my regular workflow. But I also tried these Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens. I saw them in an art store recently and thought I’d give ’em a try.


But before we get to the inking, I had to come up with a composition. I sketched this pretty quickly (the scene kind of writes itself) and got approval.


Luckily, the client trusted me even though all I’d sent him was this chicken scratch. And when I had a chance to take a second look at it, I thought it might be a stronger piece if I centered the whole composition. So I lightboxed the doodle and penciled something a little more polished.


The sketch line’s a little light right now and hard to see, but it’ll all be much clearer when I slap some ink down on it. Time to get out those new pens!


You can see these Pigma’s come in 3 sizes, Fine, Medium, and Bold. The tips are flexible and have a great feel to them. The ink is supposed to be archival and waterproof. And – as you’ll see later in the post – they held up very well to toning with Copic Markers and I didn’t even have to wait overnight to make sure the ink was dry.


In this image where I’m inking Leia’s leg, I’m using the Fine tip Pigma. I wasn’t sure what kind of line it would lay down (this being my first time using the brushes), and I was nervous about making it too thick. As it turns out, I went back over the fine line with the Medium Pigma and got a good weight with a nice variation.


One of the things you can tell up close is that I never learned to hold a pencil correctly. Busted. But you can also see that I’m using the Medium Pigma for some medium detail work. I think I switched to the Bold Pigma soon after this when I felt more confident with the way the ink was laying down. All three brush tips have great control and a nice, bouncy feel.


The inks aren’t finished yet in this image above (still have to add Bigfoot’s hatching) but you get a pretty good idea of the line weights achievable with these three Pigma brushes. Because Leia’s face was pretty tiny (about the size of a nickel on the paper) I wasn’t sure I could ink her features with the fine brush without screwing it up, so I opted for one of the Pitt tech pens. It gives you a slightly less organic line, but it’s better than a giant black smudge where her nose should be.


The original commission was for linework only. Just black inks. But as I was working on it, I saw some opportunity to drop in some accents with grey Copic Markers. Nothing crazy, just a little toning here and there. I checked with the client and got the okay. Scans really show the difference between the cool greys of the stone wall and the warm greys in the skin.


And like I said, I went in with the Copics no more than an hour after I’d finished the last ink line and I didn’t get a single smudge or smear. So Sakura Pigma, as far as I can tell, delivers on their promise to be waterproof. Are they archival? Only time will tell. But if you’re looking to experiment with a new brush pen, I’d definitely give the Pigmas a try. -v

Copic Marker Wonder Woman (Yeah, I gave her straps to hold up her top…what of it?!)

First, some good news: My Kickstarter is 100% funded. But I have another week to go to hit some stretch goals. I’m hoping one way of doing that is by people choosing the “private commission” rewards where I’ll draw any figure you’d like (black/white or color). Since I’ve been working on some examples of those commissions, I thought I’d post some process shots of some of them here.


So here’s ol’ Wonder Woman. I did this line drawing on Bristol Board (smooth) with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and some Pitt Artist Pens. The brush pen is great for those thick/thin lines, but my hand is way too shaky to attempt tiny details with it yet. So the Pitt pens come in handy for that.


I started with the legs. Not because I felt really confident about the colors I chose, but I figured I could douse them in shadows if I really screwed up. But they’re not too bad. I think I used four different colors (E colors in the Copic line of markers) and a blender to smooth things out. If I’d had a few more dollars in my wallet, I might have picked up some light pinks and blues and really gone crazy, but these few light-peachy colors get the point across.


Real quick: There are a handful of different styles of Copic markers. I used to use the squarish, Copic Original style (on the bottom in the photo). They have a chisel tip end and a small, pointed nib. Perfectly good markers. But lately, I’ve grown accustomed to the Copic Sketch Markers (on top in the photo). They’ve got a chisel tip as well, but their opposite side is a really nice, long, felt brush that has a lot of give (for nice weight variation) with a point sharp enough for detail work. It’s entirely up to you, though. So try out a few different styles. Different tools for different jobs.


Ever stand in front of a rack of Copics and try to pick colors and stay on budget? It’s nuts. There were about 50 blues that were calling to me. In the end, I thought these three could do the job. I think these were Light Blue, Cyan Blue, and Peacock. Don’t quote me, but you get the idea. Three values of blue, and I dragged a toner grey over some of the skirt to dull/darken it.


Here I’ve started in with the reds. R22, R29, and R59 I think.Basically a pinkish highlight, a bold, bright midtone, and a subdued, darker value. There was a lot of blending (and these reds seemed really liquid…not sure if it was just the three I happened to buy, or if they’re always like that) so I didn’t have to use a colorless blender with them. They self-blended for the most part. Some of the highlights you see are either blank paper or, when I needed it, white gel pen to add highlights. Speaking of which…


Here’s a close-up of her headband. I wanted some variation in the colors (not just flat yellow and red) so there’s a bit of yellow, orange, and brown in there to make the gold. And in that bottom image you can see that I went in afterward with a white gel pen to add highlights. I’m always looking to try new white inks, so if you’ve used one you love, let me know about it in the comments and I’ll probably try it out. In this case, I used the pen below.


This is a Gelly Roll 08 White Gel Pen by Sakura. Like I said, I’ve tried a lot of white inks, and this one, so far, is pretty smooth, covers well, and doesn’t dry into a hard, white brick of useless ink inside the pen too quickly.


And here’s the final full-color Wonder Woman. I figured, with a metal chestplate like that, she’d probably need some sort of support straps to avoid a wardrobe malfunction during battle. It just feels more secure. Ladies? Agree? I’d have put tough, leather leggings on her too but that’d cause a riot. As it stands, I think I covered her in enough armor to make it believable,  while still doing that ancient-Greek-warrior-aesthetic justice.

Hope you got something out of that. Or at least had fun reading through it. And hey, if you wanna show me your undying appreciation, feel free to head over to my Kickstarter before next Thursday the 23rd and drop a couple bucks in the pot. Every little bit helps. Have a great weekend! -v

Shameless Plug: My Kickstarter is Live!

If you’ve been coming to this blog to see my process work (thank you) you may know I also work on an award-winning webcomic called Untold Tales of Bigfoot. Well, I just launched a Kickstarter Campaign to get that comic into print, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t post that info here.

If you have the time, go check out the Kickstarter. Untold tales of Bigfoot is an all-ages adventure about a lost dog and a lonesome bigfoot, and the theme revolves around the importance of friendship and family (but Bigfoot also wrestles with a mountain lion and stuff like that). Thanks for listening to my pitch. : )

Untold Tales of Bigfoot Kickstarter Page


Quick as a Flash! A speedy marker sketch process.

Hey everybody! I haven’t posted in a bit because I’ve been getting the Kickstarter for my graphic novel ready (it launches Tuesday, May 24th). But I was just fiddling around with some grey Copic markers and thought I’d snap a few pictures and run through the process just for the heck of it. (The Flash ©DC Comics, Silver Age Flash design by Carmine Infantino)


I wanted to draw The Flash. I love the original, winged-helmet, Jay Garrick-Flash. And I’m a big fan of the re-design they did on the CW TV show. But my first Flash was Infantino’s Silver Age re-design, and my version sticks fairly close to that. So I sketched out a rough, then used a lightbox to clean up the lines a little. That’s smooth Bristol paper. It’s a little dim….not as bright white as some others, but still pretty bright. Most of the yellowing in these photos is from my terrible phone camera. : )


I used the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen to ink most of this. It has those long, flexible bristles that allow for a nice variation in line weight. But it’s got some play to it, so you have to have a steady hand. Mine’s not as steady as I’d like, so I chickened out and used a Pitt pen for the fine features in the face.


Another thing about the Pocket Brush is that ink takes a while to dry. Especially if there are large black areas (like under his left arm). So I finished the inking and let it dry before laying down the markers.


I’m just a newbie with the Copic markers, but I love the smooth flow of the tones. I just wanted a greyscale image, so I used an array of Copic greys and a clear blender. The blender is nice to have in a pinch, but I find that if you lay your colors down quickly enough, they start the blending on their own.


You can see in the is last detail, even with the smooth Bristol, you still get a good deal of texture from the paper. There were a few spots where, even after hours of drying time, the Copics re-hydrated the ink lines and I had to use the blender to work in the smudges. Overall, I enjoy working pen-to-paper every so often. It keeps you sharp, and this was good practice. -v


Playing Politics: Process for my latest editorial assignment

Here’s the thing about editorial illustrations during this particular election cycle: no matter which direction the job leans, left or right, you risk upsetting somebody. Depending on how you choose to look at it, this cover could go either way. I suppose that means I run the risk of upsetting everybody.DunkTank_CityPaper_VinceDorseStill, when Lisa, art director at the Pittsburgh City Paper, offered me this assignment, I took the job despite not being very political. Not because I enjoy upsetting people, but because Lisa’s great to work with and this cover seemed like a fun challenge.


It was a simple brief: Sanders and Clinton hurling baseballs at Trump in an old-fashioned carnival dunk tank, while he hurls insults at them. The concept was simple, but I was running into a roadblock. Sanders and Clinton are both right-handed (I researched it to make sure) so I was having trouble getting the angles right while still showing their faces. Nobody pays for a caricature of the back of someone’s head.DunkTank_CityPaper_VinceDorseI suggested a slightly different Whack-A-Mole concept to avoid the issue and Lisa basically said, Vince, stop goofing off and make the dunk tank work! See? I was already upsetting someone! She sent back an altered version of my rough with Hillary rotated to make her point. She was right. I could make this work if I really tried.


Lemme tell you something else about editorial illustrations that should be fairly obvious: You’re often called upon to do caricatures of notable people. Thing of it is…I’m not a caricature artist. It’s not my main gig (though, come to think of it, I’ve done nine or ten caricatures for the City Paper and they’re still coming back for more…so maybe I’m doing something right).caricature_heads_dorseI posted these sketches in a public forum where a few cartoonist friends hang out and got a lot of positive responses. Even Mad Magazine caricature illustrator, Tom Richmond, chimed in to offer his two cents. I took in everyone’s feedback, made some adjustments, got close enough for horseshoes, and moved on to the next stage.


Here’s my finished pencils with the inks started. I used the Layer Color option to turn my pencils into a blue-line sketch, then inked on the layer above with a standard brush.


This is a series of close-ups of Bernie from pencils to inks to flats to final colors. All of it done in MangaStudio (or ClipStudioPaint, depending on what you’re used to calling it).


Pencils. Done on paper and scanned in.


Inks. I think this was the G-Pen brush.


Flats. These are just there to help separate the colors, no finesse needed. I think I put them in with a no-frills, flat, round inking brush.


Final colors. Most of this was done with a chalk brush, or pastel. I like the textured feel of it. Maybe some airbrush for soft highlights too.

DunkTank_CityPaper_VinceDorseThese insults in the word balloons?  That’s an idea I brought to the table. I thought it’d be fun to have Trump bellowing some typical zingers (and to zing myself in the process). The art director ran it by the editor and I got the green light…they even wanted him to zing their election guide!  Assignments are more fun when you get to bounce ideas back and forth with the client.


untitledSo here is the final CityPaper cover. I was surprised to see my “insult balloons” were the only text on the cover! And there was a bonus! We had a little extra lead time, so Lisa asked if I’d like to do an interior spot illustration of a wet, angry Trump who just got dumped in the drink. In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess…

DunkTank_CityPaper_VinceDorseI ran a few different poses by Lisa, (this trio of sketches makes it look like he’s doing a little dance) any of which she said she’d be fine with. I ended up going with one that was less “Hulk Smash!” and more “angry tantrum” because it fit the tone of the assignment better. DunkTank_DampTrumpSpot_CityPaper_VinceDorseI’ll end with this final, damp Trump (inks and full color). This editorial assignment was probably one of my favorites I’ve drawn for the City Paper despite the subject matter being a bit out of my comfort zone. I just found out Donald Trump’s gonna be in town today, the day this City Paper cover comes out. I sure hope this doesn’t upset him. -v