Pencils, Inks, Colors, Done.

Just a real quickie. Been a little busy to post here, but my promo image for this week’s Untold Tales of Bigfoot page happens to be a snapshot of my basic comic-making process. So I figured this process blog would be a good place to post it. Full page here (where I posted a few more inks).

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Quick Rundown of a Bigfoot Page

Busy, busy, busy. But I thought I’d throw up some quick screenshots of my digital process for a page from my latest Untold Tales of Bigfoot short, Devil In The Details. Nothing too hairy here, just quick shots of my steps.

Step 1: PencilsUToB_DeviInTheDetails_process

Terrible, right? I scribble this stuff on paper and scan it. Sometimes the images are tighter, sometimes looser. It depends on my mood and how difficult a particular pose or scene might be to ink without guidance.

Step 2: Ink

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Inked in Clip Studio Paint. I letter in Clip Studio as well, but leave all that on a separate layer in case I need images of the art without text.

Step 3: Flats

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I’m doing this story arc in a faux-aged black-and-white palette to add to the creepiness. So my colors are muted, but warm. I did the flats on the figures first. Why? No reason. Sometimes I start with the background.

Step 4: More Flats

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This page is a little different than some of the others in the story because that third “panel” is really just the page, acting as a background for the top two panels. Just more warm greys, getting things prepped for the final stage…

Step 5: Modeling and Effects

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The last step is usually the highlights and shadows, modeling the figures and background so they have more dimension. I also leave any sort of lighting or atmospheric effects until the end and place them on their own layer. In the case of this short, I also added a roughed-up, worn paper effect to age the image a little and give it a retro feel.

And that’s that! If you wanna read the story, I think we’re about halfway through and starts right here. Thanks for looking! -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

Up And Away! A Collaborative Art Project

It’s the 1930s. Big City has become a place where greed trumps goodness, a city in desperate need of a hero. A hero like no other. The very first superhero.

Planning The Caper

This year, The Pittsburgh CLO invited members of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators to attend rehearsals of the CLO musical Up And Away, as a collaborative effort to produce artwork inspired by the show.

In this post, I’m going to break down my basic illustration process and ramble on a little about the show (because it’s really fun and you should go see it if you can).

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Assembling The Team

I think there were six of us invited to attend early rehearsals for the show. We were there to get a feel for the show, and then create anything we wanted. Some of us illustrated scenes, some of us did renderings of the rehearsals, some did portraits of the cast. But from the very start, I knew I wanted to create a fictional comic book cover that featured the characters from the superhero-themed musical. Here’s the thumbnail I sketched out during that first rehearsal:

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Clip Studio Paint To The Rescue

I used Clip Studio Paint to set up my image. As usual, the perspective rulers were invaluable in helping me redraw the background architecture over my sketch (the show is set in “Big City”). I used the blue drafting pencil to sketch in characters based on reference sketches I did at rehearsal, and a G-Pen to ink them in. These aren’t caricatures of the cast as much as representations of the archetypes the actors portray in the show.

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About The Show

Up And Away is jam-packed with references to comic book culture. The two brothers (who leave their farm to find adventure in Big City) are Jerry and Joe Jessup (a nod to Superman creators, Siegel and Shuster). There’s a fast-talking lady-reporter, a mysterious billionaire, a tough but doting mother, and a host of costumed kooks running rampant in the city.

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One of the most interesting things about this project was seeing director Marlo Hunter, creators Kevin Hammonds and Kristin Bair, and the cast members hammer the show into shape during rehearsals; changing blocking and choreography, editing scenes, working out the props and stagecraft. Process. It’s fun to watch things unfold, piece by piece, whether it’s an illustration or a comedy-musical.

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Kevin Hammonds (Book and Lyrics) and Kristin Bair (Music) put together a catchy bunch of tunes. I must have heard “New Kind Of Hero” two dozen times that first day. Anyone who’s ever rehearsed a live musical performance knows you’re going to go over and over and over the songs. But that was fine, because when I saw the show opening week, I could practically sing along.

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The performers are fantastic too.  It’s one of those shows that employs a small cast (just five) who have to race through backstage quick-changes to play a series of alternate roles (with those roles sometimes possessing alter-egos themselves).

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And, in keeping with the stripped-down feel of a small cast, Up And Away employs classic, lo-fi stagecraft to achieve its own brand of special effects. Think “standing on one leg and bending at the waist with your arms forward to simulate flying over a collapsible MDF cityscape.” I don’t know how you’re picturing that, but trust me, it works.

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As the little corner box intimates, Up And Away made it’s premiere here in Pittsburgh in January. But it’ll be running at the CLO Cabaret at Theater Square through Sunday, April 22nd. If you’re in Pittsburgh during that time, and you want to spend a fun couple of hours at a musical comedy made for comic fans, try to get tickets.

Art Show And Sale

And, as of this Wednesday, March 14, the Cabaret Gallery will have the Pittsburgh Illustrators’ Up And Away art on display and for sale, with 20% going to the Pittsburgh CLO. I’ll have two pieces there — the comic book cover (signed & numbered prints) and an ink and marker rendering of the villains in the show (based on brief descriptions in an early draft of the script). This was a fun project, a nice way to spend a few weeks with some talented creators and performers, and I got to see a superhero musical for free! Whooooosh! (that was me, flying away, in case you didn’t catch it) -v

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And here, just for fun, the fictional comic book cover:

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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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ChutzPow_Process_VinceDorse

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

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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