Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pen and Ink Portraits - NBA Basketball Players

Here's another one in my series of portraits of NBA basketball players, again drawn in my old-school pen and ink mode. Since the last few were of NBA big-men, I thought I'd take a stab at a cool "little guy" so I chose Chris Paul, the ultra-talented point guard for the New Orleans Hornets (I always want to call them the Charlotte Hornets, but that just shows my age). I've dug his game since he first came into the league and he's playing better than ever these days.

I started this one with the idea I'd get it done fairly quickly, during an evening off, but then it all got away from me. The pencil study/underdrawing was easy enough, and I drew that up in a half-hour or so, but then when I went to render it out with my pens, I ran into a bunch of problems and actually ended up drawing it three times! First, I was half-way through an attempt when my trusty Hunt 108 pen-nib started acting up on me (they just don't make pens like they used to!) and getting all clogged up. It ended up scraping paper and putting down very 'globby' lines, so I had to scrap that drawing and start over. Then, on my second attempt with a new nib, the nib actually split on me leaving a huge ink blob right in the centre of the drawing. Now, unfortunately, pen and ink is a medium where you get no room for error, so I had to throw that drawing away and start over again. I was so upset I had to take a break and play some videogames -- the kind where you shoot people with very large guns. The third time was the charm though, and I was able to finally finish the portrait.

Like all the other NBA basketball portraits I've done, this one was also referenced from an issue of Slam! magazine, and you can check out my pencil study for it below. If you want to see my other pen and ink portraits of ball players that I've posted on my blog, you can see them here, here, here and here.


Roberto Zaghi said...

This work is simply amazing, Michael! Both the pencil and the ink are impressive.
It's funny how videogames can make an artist regain his mental equilibrium:) For me, sometimes a ps2 superbike simulator does the job!

Kyu Shim said...

Hey Mike,

Liking the diversity of your last few posts. Stuff on T-X is also amazing. Let's talk shop sometime.

Jason Chalker said...

This is such a nice series Mike. You should collect these into a sketchbook at some point.

Dan C said...

Great portrait, Mike. Both the pencil study and final inked version are fantastic.

I quite agree with you about the shoot-em-up video game thing... there's nothing like playing a round (or two) of Counter-Strike or Rainbow Six to calm the nerves when one's brush (or pen) doesn't cooperate.

Again, nice job. Can't wait to see more! By the way, when is your sketchbook going to be available again?

Michael Cho said...

Roberto: thanks, Roberto. Yup, nothing like a break shooting zombies or crashing cars to work out your frustration.

Kyu: thanks, buddy. Lets talk anytime -- you got my number and email!

Jason: thanks, Jason -- that actually sounds like a good idea...

Dan: thanks ,Dan. The only catch with some video games is that they actually leave me more wound-up than before I start playing them. Like any of those really tense stealth-game things -- dang, those really make me shaky afterwards! And don't even get me started on the time I actually had a videogame related hand injury and couldn't draw for almost a week -- suffice to say, I'll never play a skateboarding game ever again...

Alina Chau said...


RLS said...

That's beautiful, Michael. Î always half love, half hate your work. I love it 'cause it's so frigging awesome and I hate it 'cause, well, it's so frigging awesome. Gaah!

Michael Cho said...

Alina: thanks, Alina!

RLS: awww -- that's nice of you to say, Ron. But don't hate -- celebrate! :)

Jung Sang Bong said...

Yo~! My big Brother MIKE!

Long time no see. How do you do??
Whenever I come by here, your great arts give me a huge present.

Today, It`s lunar new year in Korea. Happy new year~!!
Do the great thing.

Michael Cho said...

Thanks, Sang Bong! Nice to hear from you, little brother. I know you're a basketball fan too, so I'm glad you liked the art.

I hope you're doing well in Korea -- happy new year to you too!!

Rich Faber said...

Hi Mike,

Long time since I posted, but I just wanted to tell you that I love your approach to realistic portraits (along with everything else you do!). I'd love to know how you arrived at that "planed" line art style. I do a lot of portraits in my work too, but I can't imagine working out how the ink lines work as separate planes, and yet come together so smoothly to define the forms of the anatomy of the face. In any event, it's a very effective technique. Nice work!


Carlos V. said...

love these good sir. The likenesses are always right on point.

Michael Cho said...

Rich: Thanks, Rich. Nice to hear from you again. Actually, I can't take any credit for the 'planed' line style as you call it. My approach to these pen and ink sketches is really based on the work of the older pen and ink masters like Gibson, Orson Lowell, J. Clement Coll, Franklin Booth and James Montgomery Flagg. There was a sweet period from the late 19th century to about the 1940's where pen and ink illustration really hit a groove and I was inspired by those artists when I took up pen and ink drawing.

I've mentioned in a previous post how I think this kind of pen and ink work is like painting -- the direction of the strokes define the form, while the density or spacing between lines defines the values. The rest is kind of instinct and artist taste. My advice if you're interested in this kind of approach is to check out the artists I mentioned. They're absolute masters and I learned a lot from looking at their work. Another good source is Arthur Guptill, who wrote a great book called Rendering in Pen and Ink around that same time. The book is still in print to this day, and is full of great information and technique on how to approach this kind of pen art.

Hope that helps! Drop me a line if you need any further info.

Carolos V: thanks, Carlos! I'm glad you thought the likenesses were ok -- I always think that portrait drawing is my weakness and always have problems with likenesses. My wife is A LOT better than me in that department and I always envy her ability to capture a likeness is just a few lines.

Rich Faber said...

Hey Mike,

I'm not at all surprised to hear about your influences in this style. I'm definitely familiar with most of the Illustrators you mention. Gibson and Clement Coll in particular are terrific, and I really like Flagg also. I'll have to look up Lowell, but I love learning about artists, so thanks for the tip.

I also love the Guptill book. Actually, Watson-Guptill, the publishing company that bears his name is a client of mine!

I teach, and one of my classes was a class called Drawing In Ink at Delaware College of Art and Design, so I'm always interested in other approaches to ink illustration. Thanks for taking the time to write up all the info. It's great to learn some new things, and review some familiar names!


Doc Shaner said...

That's a great flippin' portrait Mike. Captures the guy effectively but stylistically speaking it's clearly yours. Great work.

Corporate Pens said...

You are so incredibly talented! this is so amazing! Both the pencil and the ink are impressive.
I wish i could do that! Also, I have really enjoyed the diversity in your last few posts which made it really fun to follow.

Great stuff!

Promotional Pens said...

You seem to have a broad range... very creative eye... nice work!