Mickey Mouse Birthday Card

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been prepping and shipping my book out to my Kickstarter backers, so I haven’t had time for much else. But I just inked up a quick Mickey Mouse Birthday Card for a friend and thought I’d snap some photos during the process just to have something to post.

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This was the initial rough sketch. I tweaked it a little in Photoshop and printed it to size so I could trace it on the lightbox.

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The pencils, up close. I darkened them a little for the blog so they’d be easier to see, but I generally try to work pretty light (4H pencils) so the rough lines aren’t so visible in the finished piece.

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I’m inking with the Sakura Pigma Brush Pens again. Working on larger areas (like Mickey’s ear) I get to use that massive Bold Brush.

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Most of the figure outline is done with the Fine Brush. It really does have a pretty dynamic range of widths. In some cases I might use the Medium Brush too, but mine’s getting a little chewed up so I didn’t want to risk using it until I picked up a new one.

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This is the finished piece. 8×10 on Bristol. Just a fun birthday illustration. I scan this in and resize it to fit the card template I created in Photoshop. And then…

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Here’s the finished product! All ready to stamp and send. Hope everybody has a Happy New Year! -v

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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

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)

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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. : )

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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My Watson Guest Strip

Looks like my Bigfoot & Scout characters had some new visitors to their neck of the woods! That’s Fudgey and his dog Watson, the main characters in the online comic Watson, created by cartoonist, family man and notorious nutball, Jim Horwitz.Watson_UntoldTalesofBigfoot_GuestStrip_VinceDorseJim came to me a while ago and asked if I’d be interested in collaborating on a Watson guest strip. Look at that winning smile. How could I say no?  Watson_JimBioNot only is Jim a funny, talented cartoonist, he’s also a nice guy with a high-energy personality and some impressive writing chops. In fact, he wrote that last sentence. Here’s a recent Watson strip that’s a good example of Jim’s style.Watson_SimonSays

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So, Jim had an idea for a gag where Watson and Fudgey meet Bigfoot and Scout, who are turning a decent buck selling Bigfoot merchandise. Jim had a script all written out, so I roughed out a first draft.Watson_UntoldTalesofBigfoot_GuestStrip_VinceDorse

I sketched directly in MangaStudio (ClipStudio Paint) this time. No pencil or paper, just digital. Jim hated it. Well, maybe hate is a strong word.  But he did want some changes. He suggested I open up the space a little more, create some breathing room between the characters. Turned out to be a good note because, even though I was shooting for BIG and BOLD, the text Jim wrote wouldn’t have fit in my original composition. So I took another pass at the composition.Watson_UntoldTalesofBigfoot_GuestStrip_VinceDorseI’ll admit…I didn’t run this second draft by Jim because I was afraid he’d have more changes and, frankly, I did not have time for those kind of shenanigans. But I was pretty confident I nailed the aesthetic he was looking for (hope so, anyway). I jumped into to the inking phase.

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Inks were done in MS with a standard brush. I didn’t try to match Jim’s style — a dynamic mix of stylized blocks of borderless color and lines so thick and heavy you could use them to beat someone unconscious. I just went with my standard style, hoping it would do Jim’s idea justice.

Jim and I bounced around a few different ideas for the color. But here’s the thing: Jim and I make different kinds of comics. His strip is punchy and gag-based and often leans toward bright, bold RGB colors while my long-form comic benefits from the laid-back, subtler CMYK mixes. So we compromised…Watson_UntoldTalesofBigfoot_GuestStrip_VinceDorse

I laid down my flat colors in MS, but went a little lighter and brighter than I normally would. Afterward, I exported the file, converted to RGB and used Photoshop adjustment layers to brighten and saturate the colors even further. In the end, what I sent to Jim wasn’t quite as bubbly as his usual strips, nor was it as mellow as my usual color palette. A decent, middle-ground.

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Here’s a close-up of some of the modeling I did on the trees and figures. All done in MangaStudio. Jim’s strip is very sharp and crisp, but since this was my guest strip I decided to throw all that out the window and try something different. I used soft, textured brushes to model the trees, and built up the highlights on Bigfoot’s fur with some rough-edged, low-opacity brushes to give him a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling. Did Jim like it? I don’t know. But what’s he gonna do? Recolor it? With his deadlines? I’d like to see him try.Watson_UntoldTalesofBigfoot_GuestStrip_VinceDorseIn case it’s of any interest, here’s what my colors look like without the ink lines.

And, finally, here’s a mock-up of what the strip looks like with all the text, full color and with the official Watson border around it. Not too bad.  Watson_UntoldTalesofBigfoot_GuestStrip_VinceDorseI had a great time working on this guest strip with Jim, so big thanks to him for giving me the opportunity! Why not visit the Watson site , support Watson on Facebook, and browse through the archives where Jim celebrates the subtle moments in life and pokes some lighthearted fun at politics, Hollywood, technology, pop-culture, and other cartoonists. -v

Giving MediBang Paint a try

I recently watched a review of a drawing app called MediBang Paint by Brad Colbrow and thought it looked pretty good. An app that’s set up for the iPad Pro/Pencil setup but also a desktop application. And best of all, it’s freeeeeee! So I figured I’d give it a try.  Since I’m new at this program, I thought I’d start off slow and just doodle canine superhero, Underdog.

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I’m really just getting started with this program but, as you can see, MediBang a very simple, clean interface. Most of the elements you’d expect in a drawing app are there.

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Looks like the color slider works in an RGB colorspace, as I’d expect for a simple, free app. The brush/tools palette has a decent number/selection of brushes and tools. I haven’t sampled many of them yet, but I plan to. The preview palette gives you just what you need, as well as easy to access size/opacity controls. And since a layers palette is a necessity for me, it’s nice to see MediBang provides one.

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So, for this quick Underdog doodle, I decided to try a few different inking brushes. The “Pen” tool has a nice, smooth line, and the “G-Pen” had a rougher edge. Both were fine for variable weight linework controlled by pressure, but I’d like to experiment more with the app. Maybe see if there’s a way to customize the brushes a little.

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I’ll admit, I only tried out the “Watercolor” tool to color this piece. It felt…well, not really anything like watercolor. But it got the job done in a smeary, blendy kind of way. For a few minutes I tried the “Watercolor (Wet)” tool and that seemed a little softer, more transparent and, possibly, closer to a watercolor feel. But that’s not what I wanted for this illustration.

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And there he is. No need to fear. Underdog is here. I ended up using “Pen (Fade In/Fade Out) for those lines denoting brickwork. The tool is very similar to ClipStudioPaint’s  “For Effects Lines” brush in that it gradually fades in and out after you lay down the stroke. A handy brush to have. Overall, Medibang Paint is a simple app to use on the desktop. I don’t have an iPad Pro (yet!) but when I get one, I’ll likely download the mobile app. And you should consider it too. Like I said, it’s free! And that’s hard to beat. -v

RunRedRun’s Hatbox Ghost Process

Hey! Since this blog is all about process – and since I just got back from Disneyworld and I still have “Small World” running through my brain – I thought I’d share this fun process post my needle-felting friend RunRedRun put up. It’s a step-by-step process on how she put together her Haunted Mansion/Hatbox Ghost felted sculpture and diorama. If you like Disney, ghosts, or needle-felting, you’ll enjoy looking at her process.

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