Covering A Health Issue (Ha! Pun!)

HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_01Here’s my latest cover for the Pittsburgh City Paper. They’re publishing their 2017 Health Issue this week, so Lisa the Art Director had me draw a kindly old doctor for the cover.

The Brief

Lisa gave me a few options to play with for the cover assignment, but they all centered around a doctor making a house call, so I tossed out a couple quick sketches. I toyed with the idea of having a young woman doctor with a modern feel, but the concept of making house calls is so quaint and outdated, I decided an old-timey doctor would fit better. The illustration was done in Clip Studio Paint, including these sketches.

HealthIssue2017Lisa liked the one on the doorstep, so we went with it. I only had a couple days, so the quicker we nail down an idea the better.

Side Note: One of the reasons it’s so fun to work with Lisa is that she has fun doing her job. She told me she kept flipping back and forth between my two sketches to make him dance. So I made a gif for her to enjoy. In fact, she just reminded me that I didn’t include it in this post, so I’m adding it just for her. : )

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Line

HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_03When I do work for the City Paper, I often use a style that tries to evoke retro comic book inks and colors. But, for this doctor piece, I wanted something a little softer, a little more storybook. So I decided I’d use one of the Clip Studio pencil tools for the linework.

Flats

HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_02aEven though I’m trying to avoid a comic book look, I did begin the coloring process with the standard comic book practice of laying down the flat colors. I used a standard, smooth, round brush for this.

Background

I started with the background first knowing it’d be relatively simple. The clouds in the sky were done with a low-opacity watercolor brush. The houses and trees in the distance were just blocked in with a chalk brush (you can see the rough edges), then blended into a soft blue.

HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_04I used that same chalk brush for most of the rest of the illustration, including the work on this picket fence and grass. The sweeping crossbeam on that fence was drawn with the assistance of Clip Studio’s curve ruler. It’s an indispensable tool I use with almost any image that has long, smooth curves.

Sunbeams

I had this idea about kitschy lighting in the background: sunbeams radiating out and upward like vintage product packaging for butter or oranges or some other wholesome food.HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_05I flipped the sunbeam layer on and off a few dozen times before finally deciding to keep it. I think it helps give the illustration more of an old-fashioned feel.

Modeling The Figure

The really fun part was adding all the highlights and shadows with the chalk brush. I made this animated gif to show the progression from flat color to fully-rendered.HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_06Here’s another reason doing the background first is helpful. The color of the highlights were pulled directly from the sunlight behind him. Same thing with the shadows. This way the figure looks like he belongs in the scene. The rosy reds on his cheeks and nose don’t really exist in the background, but they’re there to give him that friendly, cherubic glow.

Text

HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_07I hand-lettered the words on this cover (based on existing typefaces) because I didn’t want them to look too perfect, but I needed them to be clean and readable at a distance. For “Health Issue” I added a slightly offset drop-shadow to really give it some oomph.

Grass and Shrubs

I ran a really rough chalk brush over the lawn a few dozen times to give it a little more texture. The bushes were done with a watercolor bristle brush because I wanted the slightly ovoid stroke of a brush for the leaves, rather than the blunt mark of a chalk tool.HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_08I handed the piece in and then realized I’d forgotten to draw the bottom beam on the picket fence. So I fixed it and re-sent the final-final illustration to Lisa. This is why I usually sit with an illustration for a full day before handing it in — so I can catch some of my mistakes before the client does.

Finished Cover

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And here’s the finished cover with the masthead added by the City Paper. If you’re interested in the state of health care and how it effects Pittsburghers, feel free to zip over and read the digital version online. -v

Rush Job! City Paper Cover.

Right before the weekend I got an email from Charlie Deitch, Editor at the Pittsburgh City Paper. “I know it’s short notice, but do you have time to do a cover this week?” The answer to this, even if I don’t have time, is always yes. Yes, I do. Because money. And because I could use another portfolio piece. Not to mention the CP staff is great to work with. And, honestly, I kinda’ like the challenge of a rush job. So here’s a quick process breakdown.311_citypaper_digitalcover_sm_vincedorse-copy

Lisa, the art director, wasn’t in the office this week. But vacation be darned, she still managed to scribble her idea for the cover on the back of what looks like some humorous, cat-themed notepaper and get it to me. I hope she won’t mind my posting this, but I thought it’d be fun to show the process of building a cover from start to finish. 311_citypaper_process_dorse_02

That first, rough drawing is really all about getting the idea across. And Lisa’s not the only one who scribbles out wonky doodles in a hurry. Here’s the one I sent Charlie for approval.311_Process_DorseTerrible, right? Still, it’s about getting the idea across. I thought it’d be fun to spin the angle a little and have the girl walking right out toward the viewer, but basically, everything Lisa mentioned in her scribbled notes is here. Approved! Next step, polished pencil sketch.

311_Process_DorseWith these covers, I always begin with the file of the City Paper masthead that I keep handy. It helps me lay out the composition. Here are the polished pencils I sent in to Charlie, done in Clip Studio (Manga Studio) with a basic pencil tool. The brief didn’t indicate “Fall” but the first day of Autumn had just gone by and I thought it’d be appropriate to do a cover with a bunch of warm, Fall colors.

Initially, I was planning to ink over these pencils, like a traditional editorial or comic illustration. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt the image would work better as kind of a softer, storybook illustration. So I left the pencils in as my main lines and started in on the colors. Clock was ticking, too, so not inking over the pencils saved me a little time.

311_CityPaper_process_VinceDorseClip Studio has dozens of brushes I like for this kind of work: chalk brushes, watercolor, airbrush, and plain old flat fill brushes. I used all of those (and more) to start laying in color under my pencils.

311_CityPaper_process_VinceDorseI think most of what you see in this detail was done by various chalk brushes, layered on a little at a time. I enjoyed figuring out different textures (like the hair and sweater), and I’d be lying if I said drawing a nutty squirrel didn’t make this job twice as appealing.

311_CityPaper_process_VinceDorseThe water was done with a couple different airbrush tools in Clip Studio. I wanted the sidewalk to look a little wet and sparsely covered in fallen leaves, so I used a watercolor brush to get a bit of a wash effect on the colors.

311_CityPaper_process_VinceDorseThe manhole cover was textured with a pastel brush and some pencil tools. Same with the hole in the sidewalk, and then I blended it with a watery blender.

311_CityPaper_process_VinceDorseThe thing that took the longest was this tree. It was easy enough laying down colors in the trunk and then blending them, but those leaves! I know I could’ve gone with a red/orange/yellow watercolor wash. And I almost did, because I was under the gun. But once I started painting in the leaves (pencil tool) I really liked the look of them. So I just kept doing it until I was done. I turned in the illustration the next morning and it’s on the stands today! Here’s the finished illo without the cover text:311_CityPaper_process_VinceDorseThis was a really fun job. I got to experiment with some brushes, made the folks at the City Paper happy, and added another amusing illustration to my portfolio. Wins all around! I hope the City Paper considers me for their next rush job. I’m up for it. -v

Here’s a link to the online issue of this week’s City Paper.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Pencils. Done on paper and scanned in.

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

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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.

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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.

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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