Big Bird’s Pal, Caroll Spinney.

I recently watched the Caroll Spinney documentary, I Am Big Bird. It’s so fantastic, I was inspired to doodle this illustration in Clip Studio Paint (colored in Affinity Photo).

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Rough Sketch

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I started out sketching in Clip Studio with a pencil tool. It’s a really rough sketch, but I like to start out loose and tighten it up in the penciling stage.

Pencils

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I create a new layer, lower the opacity of that rough sketch, and draw a more polished version using the rough as a guide.

Speaking of sketching and drawing, did you know Caroll Spinney began his artistic journey as a cartoonist and animator? One of the best things about that documentary is listening to Spinney recount the early days of his career.

Inks

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Digital inks in Clip Studio. I used a brush that I picked up online from a third party vendor, but Clip Studio comes loaded with a nice selection of brushes. The G-Pen, for instance, is a reliable inking tool.

About the early days of Spinney’s career — did you know it was at a puppetry festival in Utah in 1969 that Jim Henson offered Spinney a chance to work with him and the Muppets? Spinney said yes, of course, and performed the character of Big Bird (among other characters) for roughly fifty years.

Affinity Photo

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Looking for alternatives to Photoshop, I discovered Affinity Photo not too long ago. I’m stiill a novice with Affinity Photo, so I forced myself to color this illustration in Affinity just to get the practice. Practice might not make perfect, but it’ll sure help if I ever decide to ditch Photoshop.

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Affinity Photo has very similar tools to Photoshop (the shadows on Big Bird were done with one of the bristle brushes that comes standard with AP) and a similar interface. It’s also one of the few digital art apps that offers a true CMYK workspace like Photoshop.

Final

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This is the finished piece. It was a fun diversion, and I got some much-needed practice in both Clip Studio Paint and Affinity Photo. If you haven’t seen it already, I hope you check out that Caroll Spinney documentary. It’s a must for any fans of Sesame Street and the Muppets. Even if you just like watching creative people talk about their craft, do yourself a favor and watch I Am Big Bird. It may inspire you too. -v

Nightmare Ride: Inking an Illustration in Clip Studio Paint

This young couple’s plans for a pleasant evening have been ruined because they’ve clearly called the wrong rideshare service. So it’s a trip through the boneyard for them.

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I plan on coloring this piece, but first I have to ink it in Clip Studio Paint. My process is fairly simple, nothing tricky or difficult. But I do use some pretty handy ruler tools included with the app, so I thought I’d point those out.

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First, I do a quick, blue-line sketch of the idea (above). It’s drawn with a Pencil Tool, then color-shifted to blue with the Layer Color button, then lowered in opacity so I could ink over it on another layer.

Building The Tires: A Three-Ruler Job

You can see in my freehand drawing of this creep’s jalopy that I cannot draw a perfect ellipse. That’s why I use the Figure Ruler (which has a few options, one of them an ellipse you can shape to your needs).

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Using the Object subtool of the Operations Tool allows me to select, resize and move the ellipse ruler in order to draw all the different parts of the wheel.

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For the spokes on the wheel, I use a subtool of the Special Rulers called Radial Line. It sets a center point from which the lines you draw emanate.

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The third and final ruler I use for the tires is also a Special Ruler called Concentric Circle. I set it in the center of the tire so I could quickly ink the motion lines revolving along the circumference of the tire.

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Enough With The Tires! Let’s Ink The Car!

I’d like this image to have a hand-drawn feel; organic, imperfect. But I want the long, smooth curves of this cartoony Model-T to look machined. So I use the Curve Ruler (the pink lines in the image below) to describe the shapes before inking with a Brush Tool.

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When I start blocking in the blacks, I freehand the parallel curves on that running board and fenders. The ruled edges help me keep my hatching under control, and the freehand brush strokes help to ‘humanize’ the overall feel of the inks.

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Tightening Up The Spooky Background

In the initial blue-line rough (near the top of this post), I sketched in a creepy cemetery for a background. But it was quick and sloppy. So I use a Pencil Tool to polish up the rough sketch on another layer, click Layer Color to make it a blue-line sketch, then ink in the crypts with a Brush Tool.DateWithDeath_inkprocess_VinceDorse

I needed to add rising clouds of mist and road dust. But after all the work I did on those tires, I felt a little weird about erasing them just to hide them behind the dust clouds. To give myself the latitude to change my mind about things later, I use the Lasso Marquee to select the parts of the tire I want to obscure, then click on Layer Menu > Layer Mask > Mask Selection to achieve some non-destructive ‘erasing.’ If I ever get rid of the dust, that tire can be brought back without having to re-draw it.

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People, People, People, People

The inks for the human (and non-human) figures in the illustration are done the same way as everything else: rough sketch, followed by polished blue line, followed by inks (with changes made along the way to suit my whims).

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Inking Finished

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Here are the finished inks. Like I said, fairly simple process involving rulers and a brush tool (as well as a Tech Pen tool I like for less-expressive lines). I’m going to color this in Clip Studio Paint as well, but I’ll save that for a future process post.

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

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

Hyperloop! Drawing Faster with Clip Studio Rulers.

Here’s the latest Pittsburgh City Paper cover I was assigned. This used to be the kind of assignment I’d worry over — quick turnaround and lots and lots of lines.

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But since I started penciling and inking in Clip Studio Paint, jobs like this go by lightning-fast thanks to the ruler tools. Lemme show you. Here’s the rough I handed in to Art Director Lisa for approval (drawn onto the template supplied by City Paper):

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I had just a few days to finish it (along with other projects on my board) so I thought I’d start inking over the rough sketch (rather than take the time to do finished pencils).

Inking in all those long, smooth lines used to feel like a lead weight on my shoulders. But the Clip Studio Paint Rulers are just like using a regular ruler on paper — only easier.

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Those magenta lines are the rulers I’ve set up to help me draw the lines of the train and track. Specifically, it’s the Curve Ruler tool, which can be a straight line if you wanted (like a straight-edge ruler) or curved (like a flexible curve or french curve).

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The pen tool will “ride” along the track of the ruler, allowing you to use as much or little pressure as you prefer when you lay down your lines. In that way, the ruler tools allow you to draw expressive, hand-rendered line work while maintaining a precision that’s hard to achieve drawing freehand.

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Buildings no longer give me the cold sweats. I just place and adjust my rulers (those magenta lines) then use them to guide my inking.

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Clip Studio Paint Rulers speed up my process, and that’s key with tight deadlines. Below are the finished inks. You can see I drew beyond the CP template to allow myself (and art director, Lisa) some wiggle room.

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And, finally, here’s a gif that flips between the inks and the final color version. Yeah, there are plenty of things in the illustration that I DIDN’T draw with the ruler tools, but the rulers were invaluable in helping me get it handed in under the deadline without banging my head on the desk over and over. -v

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And, as usual, if you’d like to dive even deeper into this illustration, read the City Paper article about the hyperloop kerfuffle right here, Thanks for stopping by! -v

Process: How To Ruin Christmas in Two Easy Steps

Hope you all had a great holiday! Here’s how I ruined my friend’s Christmas.

I got my friend the Kong: Skull Island Blu-Ray. For some, this alone would’ve been enough to ruin a holiday, but he actually likes the movie and so it was an appropriate gift.

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To accompany the disc, I did an ink sketch of the giant gorilla. I used Pitt Artist Pens and Sakura PIGMA brush pens. The paper is that cheesy, yellow craft paper that they gave you in grade school when they didn’t want to waste the good paper. I like it for some projects because it gives the finished art an aged, vintage look and feel.

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The images look dim and yellow because the lighting in my studio at night is dim and yellow. If my friend knew what kind of jeopardy I was putting my eyesight in just for his Christmas present, he’d probably appreciate this gift a lot more.

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So that’s the finished sketch. It doesn’t look half bad. And you might be thinking, “Well that’s a nice drawing! I’m sure that only made Christmas better!” Slow down. Let me tip you off to my “How-To-Ruin-Christmas” process. Like I said, it’s just two easy steps:

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Step One: Use the drawing to wrap the gift on which it is based. This achieves the effect of removing all surprise and wonder from a wrapped gift. As soon as your friend sees the package, he’ll know exactly what his gift is (extra points if you give it to him a few days early, so he’ll just sit and stew about knowing what his gift is, but not be able to open it until Christmas morning).

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Step Two: You might think, “Yeah, you blew the surprise. But at least your friend got a nice drawing!” Not necessarily the case. Because, when you use the drawing as wrapping paper, not only do you end up bending and folding the artwork, but the liberal use of scotch tape makes it virtually impossible to remove the wrapping from the gift without tearing the artwork into pieces. So they don’t really even get the drawing…unless they never unwrap the gift. It’s genius, really.

Anyway, that’s how you do it. Two simple steps and everybody’s angry with you on Christmas morning. Yeah, everybody, because I did it to my other friend who wanted the Wonder Woman movie too.

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UPDATE: Top marks for effort, but despite meticulous care, the Kong sketch was torn during the opening process as predicted.

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Hope you all have a nice new year! -v

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More Politics For The Pittsburgh City Paper

Today the Pittsburgh City Paper puts out their 2017 Election Guide, featuring the Mayoral Race between incumbent Bill Peduto, and challengers Darlene Harris and John Welch.

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And, once again, I’ve been chosen to do caricatures of local politicians for the cover. Oh, politics. At least you afford me the opportunity to draw an elephant once in a while.

But the assignment was for more than just the cover image. This time I also had an interior spot illustration of Mayor Peduto, all gussied up as a circus ringmaster. Here’s some behind-the-scenes steps to getting this illustration from concept to print.

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Normally, doing political caricatures makes my stomach feel like I swallowed a bowl of thumbtacks for lunch. Too much pressure, too many politics. But Peduto is kind of fun to draw, so I didn’t bang my head on the desk too much during this job. First thing’s first: I collected my reference and worked up a sketch.

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Peduto’s a little cartoony to begin with, so it’s not that far a leap from photo to caricature.

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The original brief called for the mayor to be balancing on a rubber ball, like a trained seal. But (CP Art Director) Lisa and I batted it back and forth and decided on one of those pedestals that lions perch on — maybe because he’s cast as ringmaster rather than performer, maybe because it creates the illusion of more stability, maybe it just looks better.

So, the finished sketch gets approved and I move on to inks.

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Digital inks, done in ClipStudio (Manga Studio) with a standard brush.

We also had a brief discussion about color. Traditionally, circuses use the primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and I went with that. But Lisa thought, since it was an election guide, we should go with the good ol’ red, white, and blue. I agreed.

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Once the base colors are in, I start layering in the highlights, shadows, and texture. Here’s a gif that takes you from sketch to finished rendering.

CPElection_07_DorseEven though I’ve done quite a few of these political pieces for the City Paper, these caricatures are always a learning process for me. Sometimes I think I nail the likeness pretty well, sometimes I’m off the mark. But I never set out to mock anyone with the illustration. I just try to highlight predominant features or exaggerate attitude or bearing. Hopefully, it’s all taken in the spirit with which it was doodled. Good, clean fun. -v

Here’s the digital online version of this week’s City Paper, in case you’d like to read it.