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.

Coming Soon: Giant Sea Monster!

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This is a quick sneak-peek of a project I’m working on with some comic-creator friends. Just an informal art-jam kind of thing. We’re supposed to wrap up by the end of the month, maybe a little while after that. But when we do, I’ll be sure to post my process on this monstrous page. I just wanted to give you a little preview because I’ve been having a lot of fun working on it and I wanted to share. -v

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

Sleestak Vs. Gorn! Winner Eats Chaka!

So, if you’re into retro, ’60s/’70s sci-fi television at all, you might recognize these goons. The Sleestak terrorized the Marshall family in The Land of the Lost, and the Gorn famously kicked Captain Kirk’s butt around the desert in the Star Trek episode, Arena. I’ve watched rerun after rerun of these shows and these creeps still give me the heebie-jeebies. So I thought it’d be fun to do a mash-up where they battle each other.

SleestakVsGorn_VinceDorseI ran a poll on Twitter to see which monster people thought would win this scrap. 21% sided with the Sleestak, 79% went with the Gorn. I’ll embed a poll down at the bottom of this post. Maybe you guys have a different opinion on who’d beat who, but if you want to see how I put this mash-up together, you can scroll through my process below.

PencilsPencil sketch. I sketched these guys and scanned them in, put ‘em on different layers in Photoshop to arrange them, then roughed out a general idea of the background and masthead. This is the point in the illustration where I ask myself, do I really wanna blow off my current illustration job to goof around on this junk? As usual, my answer is yes.

Layer Color button in MangaStudioI pull the piece into MangaStudio to begin inking. MangaStudio has this great little button in the Layer Property palette called Layer Color that gives everything on the selected layer a specific color cast. You can choose any color, but the default is this light blue, which is perfect for what I need.

Inking in MangaStudioInks: I use the Layer Color effect on my pencil layer to give them the look of traditional comic pencils done in non-photo blue pencil. Then, on a layer above that, I start my inking. It’s a lot easier to see the inks against the light blue pencils then the regular black/dark grey pencils. If you’ve never used that Layer Color button, give it a try.

Background inksBackground Inks: Here’s a detail of the cover where you can see some of the background inks. I just scratched in some tree bark and long grass with a standard brush. To draw the fern-like leaves in the background, I first filled the space with black, then switched my “ink” color to white and painted in the leaves.

Imaginary comic pitting the Sleestak against the GornFinished Inks: So here’s the finished inks for the illustration. Those hissing sound effects were done in Photoshop. I’ll keep saying it until it changes, but the text tool in MangaStudio is subpar and most of the time I pull things into Photoshop or Illustrator to layout/modify text. I guess I could’ve hand-lettered those hisses, but I really like the look of that typeface. For those of you who’ve never heard it, here’s the sound of Sleestak hissing.

Flat colorsFlats: If you enjoy coloring books, then laying down flats is your dream job. Otherwise, it’s a spirit-draining exercise in painstaking rigidity. It’s all about filling in the shapes and staying in the lines and it has to be done so there, I did it. Ladies and gentlemen…the flats.

Modeling the backgroundModeling the background: Here’s where I get to add some texture to the environment. You can see I sprayed the ground with some speckles of black during the inking stage to give the idea of a granular, sandy surface. Now I can use a rough-edged brush to splotch in some lights and shadows on the ground, varying the opacity, layering the color, keeping it nice and random.

Modeling the figuresModeling the figures: For the figures I used a harder-edged brush to add highlights and shadows to the rubber costu— er, slick, leathery, reptile skin. I dotted in the idea of scales with some lighter and darker greens, supplementing the scales I brushed in during the inking stage. Look at that toothless, old-man mouth on that Sleestak. I can only assume, in hand-to-hand combat, they must be deadly with those horns.

More modelingMore modeling: I used the same technique on the Gorn’s skin. In this progression of images you can also see the flat-color tunic, followed by the highlight/shadow version, followed by the finished tunic with that trippy ’60s design. The Gorn were such space-hippies. I had a Great Aunt in Philly and that mini-dress thing looks like it was cut from her plastic-covered couch.

Masthead letteringFinally, the masthead for my fake comic book cover. I hand-scrawled “Sleestak” to emulate the hand-scrawled “Beware Of Sleestak” warning from the walls of the caves in the show. The Gorn text I typed after routing through some monster-type fonts on my system and finding one that fit the bill. So, now that you know how I did it, who do you think would win this fight? -v

 

 

Happy Holidays 2015

Happy Holidays, everybody! I made a one-page comic for my holiday card for this year — using MangaStudio and Photoshop — and I’m gonna break down my process below.Holiday Card 2015 Vince DorseYeah, I’m defending Scrooge. Somebody has to. The man changed! He embraced Christmas, raised Bob Cratchit’s salary and saved Tiny Tim’s life! But his name gets dragged through the mud. Hopefully, this comic will change all that. : )

Okay now,  I wanted to do all of the inking and lettering in MangaStudio. So I scanned in my pencils, typed in some text (to make sure it’d fit), then dropped in temporary panel placeholders (the yellow boxes) so I’d know where to drag MS’s Frame Cutting tool. It’s the first time I’ve really used that tool, and I used the placeholders as a guide.Happy Holidays 2015 Vince Dorse processIt took some fiddling around with the settings before I was happy with the width of the vertical/horizontal panel breaks and the black line around them, but eventually I got it the way I wanted it. After that, I inked in the characters and background (mostly with the standard G-Pen).Happy Holiday 2015 Vince Dorse processI also forced myself to use the word balloon tool to hold the text. Meh…it seems a lot easier in Adobe Illustrator, but I gotta learn this so that’s what I did. I tried all three tools to see which worked best for me:MS Balloon PenThe Balloon Pen was too freeform for my shaky hand and I couldn’t draw a smooth enough ellipse.

MS Ellipse Balloon ToolThe Ellipse Balloon tool draws a nice, smooth shape, but tweaking all the vertices to get the shape you want gets a little hairy.

MS Curve Balloon ToolIn the end, I went with the Curve Balloon tool. Fewer points to tweak and it got me closer than the other two tools to the shape I wanted. I don’t think I’m even close to getting the hang of the balloon tail tool, but I got lucky and what I ended up with looks okay. Maybe I’ll improve with time.

The coloring stage is where MangaStudio and I parted company. Photoshop just feels so much better than MS for color. So I exported the inks, opened them in Photoshop and started laying in the flats.

Happy Holidays 2015 Vince Dorse processI wanted a natural media look to the colors, so after the flats were done, I grabbed a custom watercolor brush and layered in some highlights, shadows and texture. Hard-edged lines on the modeling would’ve worked fine, I just wanted something softer.

Happy Holidays 2015 Vince Dorse processI did use a hard-edged brush to paint in the holiday graphics on the shopping bag and wrapping paper.

Happy Holidays 2015 Vince Dorse processI dropped in a grungy texture overlay to give the page an organic feel, then, finally, dotted in the snowflakes. I used an irregular brush to give the flakes a sense of randomness. I didn’t want them to look like perfect little polka-dots.Happy Holidays 2015 Vince Dorse processAnd that’s it. Thanks to everyone who follows the blog or stops by when I post something. I hope you all have a great holiday. See you in the new year! -v

Tiger’s Tale: Process steps for an editorial illustration with a storybook feel.

I got an editorial assignment this week, and the subject of the piece lent itself to a storybook approach. So, instead of my editorial style, I decided to use my softer, “kid lit” style. Here’s a quick step-by-step showing how I put it together.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseLong story short, they’re closing down Wilkinsburg High (mascot:tiger) and now those kids’ll be taking classes at Westinghouse High (mascot:bulldog). The art direction was to draw a bunch of super-cute baby tigers attending school at a bulldog’s doghouse. A perfect opportunity to use a kids’ art style, right? So, first things first, the pencils…

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseThis is the pencil sketch, roughed out on printer paper. I didn’t take the time to work out all the details of the building, figuring that’d take long enough in the computer and why do it twice? I worked the tigers a little more, though, because I needed to know if Lisa (the art director) thought they were cute enough to fit the brief. They were. : ) I got approval, so I moved forward.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseI did these in MangaStudio with a pencil tool, tracing over the scanned sketch. Since Westinghouse High is the home of the bulldogs, the school was supposed to look like a doghouse. I decided to combine the classic, backyard doghouse with an old-fashioned, one-room schoolhouse complete with belfry. MangaStudio‘s rulers are so versatile and easy to use that I’ve actually learned to enjoy drawing houses and other structures.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseNext step was coloring the schoolhouse. Sticking to that storybook aesthetic, I chose a watercolor brush, fiddled with the opacity, and just started brushing color and grain into the boards. I masked out the overlap, adjusted the levels, and after the house was done, I started in on the characters…

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseI picked a few warm colors for the tigers (oranges, reds, yellows) and painted in some base flats. I didn’t have to worry about being too neat, since I planned to blend the colors in the very next step…

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseThe colors of the clothing and accessories were determined by the school colors. Wilkinsburg, red and blue. Westinghouse, blue and white. Once I had all the colors of the tigers roughed in, I blended them, stroking the colors to look like fur. Time consuming, but I like the way it turned out. I normally block in the backgrounds first, but I saved the minimal environment until the end.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseHere’s a quick progression of the foreground/environment. I started with some earthy colors, scribbling in some texture with a watercolor brush, adding more texture with an overlay, and deepening the shadows. Then, a rough-edged brush to map out patches of grass, followed by scattering blades of grass over the whole thing.

After that it’s just a matter of color adjustments, playing with the levels and it’s done. This was a great chance to add to my children’s illustration portfolio and still turn in an editorial assignment. The finished piece is down below, and, to see it in context, check out this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper. That link to the online edition also gives you a look at how Lisa scattered my tiger students throughout the issue and article (pp. 5,6,8&9).

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Gobbled: A Horror Comic, Process

About a year ago I did a four-page horror comic called Gobbled for an anthology that vanished into thin air. I finally decided to post the whole comic at my comics blog, but if you stick around here I’ll show you how I put it together. It’s a pretty simple process, nothing tricky.4-page story about Abraham Plotz, a kid who hunts vampiresStep One: Pencils. I sketch out my ideas in sketchbooks or computer paper, scan them in and organize them into a page layout. My pencils are usually a little looser, and not this polished, but I wanted to get the shadows right and the pencils stage was a good place to practice.

4-page story about Abraham Plotz, a kid who hunts vampiresStep Two: Inks. The figures and backgrounds were inked in MangaStudio. I love the inking brushes in that program, but I can’t stand the text tools. So this was actually lettered in Adobe Illustrator. You can see I took out the bedroom mirror (didn’t want to deal with reflections and bouncing light sources) and chose (wisely) to plaster more posters on the wall instead. You can also see I was experimenting with different kinds of hatching for the shadow areas.

4-page story about Abraham Plotz, a kid who hunts vampiresStep Three: Flat Color. I colored this in Adobe Photoshop. You know the drill — just fill in the shapes with flat color. It might be the most mindless step in the process but it takes…so….long….

4-page story about Abraham Plotz, a kid who hunts vampiresStep Four: Full Color. Again, Photoshop and, again, experimenting a bit with different brush textures. I wanted a real pulpy look, like an old newsprint comic book. Someday I’ll get brave enough to ink, letter and color all in one app. Until then, I guess I’ll keep leapfrogging from one program to another. If you missed the link at the top, you can read the whole four-page comic on my comics blog. -v