Chutz-Pow! One Page, From Script To Print

Recently, I was invited to be part of a fantastic, truly worthwhile comic project called Chutz-Pow! Superheroes of the Holocaust. It’s an anthology series put together by local creators Wayne Wise and Marcel Walker in conjunction with Zach Zafris at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh.  The series features a rotating roster of writers and illustrators who recount the tales of holocaust survivors. And in those cases where the survivors are still living, they actively participate in the creative process.

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I’m going to run through the steps of getting a page from script to print, and show what a team effort it can be. And if you know all this stuff already, feel free to skip to the end to find out where you can pick up a copy of Chutz-Pow!

Script

I was asked to illustrate the story of Solange Lebovitz who, as a young girl, hid in plain sight in occupied France, pretending to be a member of a Catholic family. I worked from a script written by Yona Harvey (American poet and assistant professor at University of Pittsburgh), as told to her by Solange. There was a brief period of adjustment for me, getting used to someone else’s storytelling rhythms, but it just took a couple read-throughs to get my bearings and I was good to go.

I’ll show my process here for page three of the story — a good, old-fashioned, nine-panel layout. Yeah, you have to cram a lot of stuff onto one page, but when those nine-panel pages work out, they’re a great storytelling tool. Here’s a shot of the script. Throughout the project, my main focus was to do justice to both Solange’s experiences, and Yona’s literary interpretation of them.

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Pencils

I played it safe with the pencils, doing them digitally in Clip Studio Paint. Easy to rethink and try different ideas on the fly.

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Using the Blue Layout Pencil and various Ruler tools, I was able to pencil all nine panels pretty quickly without worrying about rubbing a hole in Bristol Board with my eraser. But believe me, I erased plenty with the digital eraser.

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Inking

Though I penciled the pages digitally, the vintage time period of this story made me want to go old school and ink it on paper, to have something tangible at the end of the process. It’s something I don’t do too often, and I was a little nervous about fixing mistakes, but I plugged in my lightbox, grabbed the Bristol, and got to work.

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I printed out the blue pencils on 11×17 paper, taped them to the back of my Bristol, and flipped the switch so I could see the pencils through the paper. Now it was ready for inks.

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I used a handful of tools to ink this page. For tech pen work (lines that don’t need too much variation) I use Sakura MICRON Tech Pens and PITT Artist Pens. Both have waterproof ink and lay down a nice, smooth line.

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For lines that need a little finesse, a little more life, I use the Sakura PIGMA Brush Pens. The ink is waterproof, and they make expressive, variable width lines.

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The panel borders took me a little time to figure out. I tried using the Pigma GRAPHIC 1 pen (which has a nice, fat nib point) but it wasn’t quite fat enough. Then I tried the Pigma GRAPHIC 2 pen (which has more of a chisel tip). It was big enough, but running it along the ruler felt weird. In the end I used a combination of the two to draw the outline of the borders and fill them in. So I’m still working on finding my method for this step. If you’ve got a method you prefer for inking those thick panel borders, feel free to leave it in the comments.

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And to fix the errors, I use both Pro-White (opaque white watercolor) and a Sakura Gelly Roll White Gel Pen. Used it liberally, I might add, because there’s no undo function on paper. I’m using the medium point Gelly Roll in the photo here, but I believe they have both bold and fine point options as well, I just haven’t been able to find them locally.

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And the page progressed like that, one panel at a time, — ink, fix errors, next panel — until it was done.

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LETTERING

The lettering on this project was all handled by my friend, Marcel Walker.  He scanned in my original pages, and lettered them in Adobe Illustrator. When I work on my Bigfoot comic, I do everything from script to art to letters. And even knowing exactly what I want, I end up tweaking artwork and nudging lettering up until the time I post it online (sometimes, even after) so I know it could not have been a breeze for Marcel to place the lettering into a finished, static page. Nevertheless, he did a great job.

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Feel free to compare Yona’s original script and my illustrations to see how it all came together with Marcel’s lettering.

IN PRINT

And that’s the finished product. Volume Three of Chutz-Pow! is out now and available at Phantom of the Attic, Oakland and WildCard in Lawrenceville. And I believe the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh will also be selling them on their website within the next week.

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There was a great turnout at the Holocaust Center for the debut of Chutz-Pow! Volume Three. The stack of books dwindled as the afternoon wore on, and few guests had the writers and artists sign their copies. And I got to meet Yona Harvey for the first time! Turns out we were mutually in awe of each other’s work on the story.

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ChutzPow_Process_VinceDorse

Pages On Display

In case you’re in town and want to see some of the pages, full-size prints of the artwork from the first two volumes are hanging at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh until May 31st. And the original pages from all the artists in Volume Three: The Young Survivors  are hanging at the American Jewish Museum at the Jewish Community Center, and will be there until April 20th.

Stop by either exhibit to see some nice artwork created for a good cause. -v

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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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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

I’m drawing Haunted Mansion Ghosts for Inktober 2016

Every October people all over the world people celebrate “Inktober” by getting out their ink pens, brushes, and markers and attempting to do a new, ink drawing every day of the month.

Sometimes it’s random subject matter, sometimes people try to follow a theme. This year, I picked “The Haunted Mansion” as my theme and I’m trying to draw a different Disney ghost every day. Not sure if I’ll get one done every single day, but if you want to follow along (and see other Inktober drawings that other illustrators and cartoonists are doing) check out the #Inktober2016 hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.

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As I make my way through Inktober, I’ll try to keep updating this post. Each happy haunt is done the same way: pencil sketch light-boxed onto Bristol board, then inked with Sakura brush pens and Pitt artist pens. Oh! And I’m trying to draw the ghosts in the order you encounter them in the Haunted Mansion. I’ll also try to caption them with the names they’ve been given, if any (though, there seem to be conflicting views on what certain ghosts are named, depending on what source you go to). Click to embiggen. Happy Halloween! -v

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Alexander Nitrokoff

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Daisy De La Cruz / Sally Slater

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Quicksand Trio / The Hobbs’

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Abigale Pateclever / Constance Hatchaway

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The Sea Captain / Capt. Culpepper Clyne

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Medusa

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The Hanging Man

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Vampire

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Jack the Ripper

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Madame Leota

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Birthday Ghost

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Birthday Guest

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Ballroom Dancers

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Passenger in Hearse

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The Organist

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The Duelists

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The Bride

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The Caretaker

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Pop-Up Ghosts

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Skeleton Hound

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Mummy

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Hard-of=Hearing Ghost

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Lady Opera Singer

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Opera Singer Guy

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The Executioner

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The Headless Knight

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Gus (Hitchhiking Ghohst)

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Ezra (Hitchhiking Ghost)

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Phineas (Hitchhiking Ghost)

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The Hatbox Ghost

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Little Leota

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