Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Here's my holiday card for all of you who've dropped by to check out my blog this year. May you all have a wonderful season, and a bright start to 2010. And if you're a freelancer like me, I sincerely wish you some extended time off with no last minute deadlines over the break.

And yes, my holiday card has a drawing of Darkseid on it. I wonder how many other holiday images he's been in?

Monday, December 14, 2009

In time for Christmas: Penguin does Posters!

A week ago, I got in the mail a nice package from Penguin Publishing with some excellent posters they'd made of my cover artwork for Don DeLillo's "White Noise". I did a blog entry a few months ago about the creation of that jacket illustration, but I didn't know at the time that they were planning to make posters from it -- a nice surprise.

Anyway, mine isn't the only artwork that Penguin decided on. They also printed up a great poster from Tony Millionaire's remarkable "Moby Dick" cover.

They're both available for purchase from the Penguin website, and would make terrific stocking stuffers for book and comic fans. Check out the links below to get your copy today:

Order the "White Noise" poster
Order the "Moby Dick" poster

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Mighty Avengers!

Sorry for the long delay in between posts, folks. To make up for it, here's a drawing of that old-school Marvel super-team, the Avengers. I think this particular lineup only existed for a couple of issues (Hulk was never much of a team player), but it remains a personal favourite. You really can't go wrong with any group that includes the "fin-head" Iron Man.

This drawing is actually a companion piece to a drawing I did years ago, of a group of DC heroes. I pencilled it months ago, but didn't have time to finish it up until recently. The final art was painted in markers and ink, and you can check out the original pencil sketch for it below:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bill Russell - the greatest Celtic of all time

As some of you may know, I'm a basketball nut. I'm the kind of fan that follows NBA teams even during the off-season: reading about trades, personnel changes, summer league games and obsessive things like that. So, with the new season almost about to jump off, here's a recent portrait I did of Bill Russell - the anchor of some of the greatest Boston Celtic teams of all time.

I drew this one up as a commission - one I was glad to do. It was painted in markers and ink, with a few white highlights painted in gouache. The image was referenced from a photograph of a young Russ from the Sports Illustrated archives.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Amazing Absorbing Boy - Book Cover Art

Above is the final artwork for a recent book cover assignment for Random House Canada. I was contacted by art director Jennifer Lum to illustrate the cover and 20 small interior illustrations for The Amazing Absorbing Boy, a new novel by Rabindranath Maharaj. I enjoyed this assignment very much, and working with Jennifer was a real joy. Like my last post, I thought I'd share here some of the process and roughs that led to the final art.

The book focuses on the culture shock experienced by a teenage boy as he immigrates from Trinidad to Canada, specifically to the Regent Park area of Toronto. With that idea in mind, I drew up 2 initial cover concepts, in colour like I usually do. Both the drawings below were drawn quickly and featured Regent Park, a distinctive area of Toronto, as a specific location:

While I liked the first concept, I hated the 2nd one. But I sent them both to Jennifer, to get her suggestions. After talking with her and getting the proper final dimensions for the artwork, I drew up another round of cover concepts: some were slight tweaks to previous ideas, while others took the cover concept in different directions:

After sending these to Jennifer, I was told that concept 6 was approved. She also sent back a rough mockup of the cover with all the copy in place:

That mockup formed the basis for the final cover illustration, which is at the top of this post.

I also drew 20 black and white interior illustrations, to be printed very small, as chapter openings. You can see a sampling of some of them below:

All in all, this was another highly enjoyable project to work on. Jennifer Lum gave me a lot of freedom on this, especially with the interior art, and was a great collaborator to work with.

For more information The Amazing Absorbing Boy, you can check out the the listing on Random House Canada's website.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Penguin Classics - Don DeLillo's White Noise Book Jacket Art

This is a bit of a long blog post. But that's because it's about a dream assignment that I recently completed. A few months ago, I got an email from Paul Buckley, the wonderful art director at Penguin Classics, who asked if I wanted to illustrate a book cover for him. Naturally, I was thrilled, but I was even more thrilled when I read what book he had in mind: Don DeLillo's award winning White Noise. When I got to that part in the email, my jaw hit the floor.

Now, to explain a bit, I should tell you that White Noise is a favourite book of mine. I read it in my late teens, and it has a place in my top 10 books of all time. So I was more than thrilled, I was humbled.

After talking to Paul a bit more about the assignment, I was actually awestruck. Basically, he gave me carte blanche to do whatever I wanted -- something I rarely ever get as an illustrator. And not just on the art, but also on the design. I mean, I was allowed to put whatever copy I wanted, in whatever way I wanted, pull quotes as I saw fit, and even draw on the flaps if I wanted to. The only restrictions I had were to make sure that the Penguin logos were on the front, spine and back and to leave room for a UPC box. Honestly, I'd never experienced that kind of freedom with a book jacket assignment before. Usually, at least marketing factors partially determine how a book jacket will be illustrated, but in this case, I was asked to just follow my muse. Amazing.

Now, I thought I'd spend a few paragraphs here detailing my process for coming up with the jacket art. The first thing I did, of course, was read the book again. It had been over 10 years since I last read it, so I needed to re-familiarize myself with it. After reading it though this time, I skimmed it again but with an eye toward the major concepts and images. Then I sat down over a few nights and thought about what the book meant to me.

Once that was clear, it was easy to come up with some jacket concepts. The first thing I wanted to do was use multiple images, similar to comic panels, or layers of competing media. After working out what those images should be, I drew a quick pencil thumbnail:

You'll notice that the main image on the cover is missing in the above thumbnail. That's because I already knew what was going to go there, but I didn't have the heart to sit and draw such a complicated scene in a thumbnail. I'd already drawn something like it in a comic I wrote a while back, so I decided to just lift that and use it as a temporary placeholder.

After that pencil thumbnail, I went to work and drew up a colour rough in markers. I usually send in colour roughs to art directors, since my pencil roughs can be a bit misleading. I also wanted to work out and present a colour scheme. Normally, my colour roughs are just that - roughs. But in this case, I was inspired to add a bit more polish to them. I also roughed in by hand where the copy should go, with some placeholders for the various pull quotes I had in mind. Below is my first colour rough:

The turquoise images on the left and right are obviously the flap artwork and the crop marks indicate the trim area.

Having drawn that first rough, I thought it was a bit busy, so I eliminated one of the back cover images and came up with what I thought was a much better design. I liked this one better, and showed it to Penguin:

They were happy with the rough, but wanted to run it by Don DeLillo to get his thoughts. After some back and forth, a few images were swapped out on the flaps, and the likenesses of the main characters on the cover were tweaked. I then arrived at this new rough, incorporating the changes in pencil:

Finally, everything was approved, and then it was time for me to paint up all the images in gouache and ink and then composite them together to make the final art. While a lot of people think I work digitally, I actually paint my artwork the old fashioned way -- with brushes, paint and ink. After a week of painting, this was the final jacket art I submitted:

I left it to Paul Buckley to do what he felt best with the copy and title treatment. Originally, He suggested I that could hand-letter the type if I wanted, but I felt that White Noise was too "cool" a book for such a "hot" approach as hand-lettered type.

Overall, I have to say, this was one of my favourite jobs in recent years. I was humbled to be able to illustrate a book jacket for an author like Don DeLillo, especially a book that is a favourite of mine. And I was grateful to Paul Buckley and Penguin Classics for giving me the freedom just follow my inspiration.

If you want to see a final hi-res version of the book jacket, with all the type in place, you can check it out on Paul Buckley's flickr.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

One Last Fan Expo sketch

Here's one last pre-fan-expo commission I drew. This one was a quickie of Zorro (duh). I actually left this till really late, mainly because its pretty daunting to try and draw a drawing of Zorro -- the late Alex Toth pretty much set the bar on drawing that character, and it was a very high bar indeed.

I enjoyed Fan Expo very much, and was very gratified to meet and chat with all the people who came by my table to buy a print or get a quick sketch. My thanks to everyone who stopped by. I think I drew about 20 "head shots" over the weekend, and enjoyed them all since I didn't feel as rushed as last year. I even found some time to wander the tables and see the show a bit. Goes to show what a little pre-show planning can do.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More Commissioned sketches

These are three more quick sketches I did, as pre-fan-expo commissions. Like the others (see a couple posts below), they were done on 9" x 12" bristol, in gouache and ink. I'm sure you can recognize 2 of the super-heroes depicted, but the fellow with the plunger on his head might be a bit obscure. Apparently, his name is Herbie the Fat Fury -- a character from a comic I was completely unfamiliar with. Needless to say, I needed some reference to draw that one.

Friday, August 14, 2009

illo Magazine Issue #2

Illo is a gorgeous, high-quality magazine about contemporary illustration, produced by Daniel Zimmer. Discerning art connoisseurs might already be familiar with his other wonderful publication, Illustration, which focuses on the history of the art form.

The second issue of Illo is now on the stands, featuring interviews with and lots of gorgeous art by such great illustrators as James Gurney, Nancy Stahl and Zina Saunders. In a stroke of crazy good luck, I also happen to be featured in the issue. There's a very long and exhaustive interview with me and a lot of my artwork.

I got my copies in the post this week, and I have to say, I was utterly humbled to be included in such a beautiful publication and in the company of such incredible artists. They even put me on the cover, which will probably make my mom extremely happy.

You can find Illo #2 on newstands and bookstores now, but you can also check out images of the entire magazine on its website here.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Ryerson Journalism Review

As a change of pace from all the super-hero commission drawings I've posted lately, here is a full page illo I did for the Ryerson Journalism Review in the spring. The subject of the story was about John McFarlane, who took over as editor of the well-respected magazine, The Walrus here in Canada. The assigning art director, Fernanda Pisani, thought a "pulp detective" feel to the drawing would suit the copy, which was written in a similar hard-boiled style.

Above is the final art, painted in gouache and ink. Below is my pencil sketch.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Galactus vs. Iron Fist

Continuing on with my theme of pre-Fan Expo comissions, here's two more. This time it's of Galactus (eater of worlds) and Iron Fist (that blonde and blue eyed kung fu hero). I've doodled Iron Fist a few times in the past in my sketchbook, but I always avoided drawing Galactus -- that armour of his is really complicated and hard to draw. Don't get me wrong, the Kirby's design is great, and he makes a hell of a silhouette, but getting all those details right took a lot more time than I expected!

Like the other sketches in this series these were done on 9" x 12" bristol, in gouache and ink.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Captain Marvel vs. The Punisher

These are another couple of quick pre-convention sketches, which I painted in gouache. Like the last two, these were drawn for pick-up at the Fan Expo show, coming to Toronto in late August (see sidebar for more details). I've been enjoying drawing these, as they give me an opportunity to geek out and paint some images of super-heroes after I've finished a day of freelance illustration work.

Both of these were painted in ink and gouache on 9" x 12" paper, and then scanned and colour corrected in pshop. I did things a bit differently this time out, and drew the rough sketches digitally, using Alias Sketchbook before painting the final art in traditional media. You can check out the roughs for them below:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pre-Convention Sketches

I'll be appearing at the upcoming Fan Expo comic convention in Toronto, at the end of august (see the sidebar for more details) this year, and this will be my second time at that particular show. Last year was my first, and I was surprised at how big and busy it was. The crowds were huge, and I was actually a bit overwhelmed by the sketch requests from collectors. I was sketching so much, I barely had any time to leave my table at all see the show itself, and I was sad to have to turn away people because I just couldn't add more drawings to my list.

In order to prevent that this time around, I thought I'd take some pre-show orders for drawings to be picked up at the event this year. I put up a little announcement here on my blog's sidebar a week or so ago, and since then I've had several emails from people who wanted to take up that offer. So, I've been taking an hour or two each night to try work on those drawings. Here's a couple of completed drawings from that pile.

These were both drawn in gouache and ink, on bristol, at about 9" x 12" size. They were both actually painted in blue gouache, but then I scanned them into photoshop and colour corrected them.

The originals are a bit more loose and not quite as flat coloured, but I thought I'd clean them up a bit before posting them here on my blog.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Dark Knight Returns

Here's a commissioned painting of Batman and Robin that I finished recently. The more astute comic fans among you might recognize that it's actually a painting of the senior-citizen old Batman and teen-girl Robin from "the Dark Knight Returns" -- a seminal Batman mini-series from the mid 1980's. When I was a teen, that book was probably my favourite super-hero comic, and it still holds up pretty well. I have an old paperback collection of all 4 issues, and when I went to reference it for this painting, I had a chuckle at how dog-eared it had become from multiple readings.

Anyway, I had some fun working on this piece. I've mentioned in the past how uncomfortable I am in drawing Batman, so I used this painting as an opportunity to try and get over that hump. Drawing the Joker, however, is always fun.

The completed painting was done in gouache and ink, and colour corrected in photoshop. You can see the preliminary sketches I did for it below, and compare how I tweaked a few small details the road to the final art. The only major change is that I made Batman beefier and more wide-shouldered than in the pencil sketch -- something that was suggested to me by my pal Steve Manale. When I showed him the drawing, his first reaction was:

"Dude, its Batman - his shoulders should be HUGE!"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iron Man - again!

Here's a quick drawing of Iron Man I finished a few nights ago. I drew it up in ink markers, but scanned it into photoshop and added a bit of paper texture. As some of you might know, I doodle Iron Man quite a bit, though not as much lately. But I felt like drawing him again, so I took an old sketch from my sketchbook and inked it up to share on this blog.

Incidentally, I do keep another blog of all Iron Man sketches (you can see a link to it on my sidebar), but sadly, I haven't had any time to devote to it, so I'm thinking of closing it up. For those of you who sent me Iron Man drawings over the last few months to post, I'm very sorry for not getting around to it. The demands of freelance work and family life just haven't left me much time to spare lately. I'll try and post all the ones sent to me before I close it up for good.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

An Offensive Rip off

Ty Buttars, comic enthusiast and all around nice guy, sent me this photo he took today saying that he knew I "wouldn't like this". He's right. The photo above is of a fellow he ran into at Heroes con in Charlotte, who was wearing a t-shirt featuring a rip off of my artwork. According to Ty, this guy said he "found it at a goodwill", which may or may not be true.

Either way, let me just say a few things about this. Firstly, I don't like people ripping off my artwork to put on t-shirts. Even if they print only one, for themselves. My work is clearly copyrighted by, and owned by me. It says so at the bottom of this blog. If a company ripped off my work to reproduce in mass quantities for profit, I'd be really pissed. If its just an individual doing one for themselves, I'm not pissed but still offended. Especially if, as is clear here, that person has removed my signature from the art. And please note, this isn't a "re-draw" or a "re-creation" or a drawing similar to mine, - this is just a straight grab of my artwork, as is, minus the signature.

Secondly, I am particularly offended by this specific drawing being reproduced on a t-shirt. Why? Because its a drawing of Jack Kirby: a creator whom I have immense respect for, and who was also routinely and unfairly exploited during his lifetime. I did this drawing as a tribute to him, to post here on this blog, and have had several comments from people suggesting that I make it into a shirt for sale. Unfortunately, I'd never want to do that. The reason for that is obvious: I don't want to make money off of his memory or likeness. Kirby has a fine estate, and unless they authorized the work, I would never ever want to violate his memory by exploiting him one more time.

In that same spirit, I've inked several pages of Kirby artwork for fun over the years, yet I'll never offer them for sale for that very same reason. Its just a personal decision of mine.

So, I'm posting this blog entry to make it clear that this t-shirt was never authorized or approved by me, and to ask a favour. If you're the guy who printed this shirt and you did it just for yourself, please be kind and stop wearing it. You're probably a Kirby fan like me, but please understand that you're not only ripping off my artwork, but that you're using it in a way that is upsetting to me. I don't want anyone to see the shirt and assume that I was responsible for it, especially anyone connected to Jack Kirby's estate. If you like, I'll send you a blank shirt or any of my other t-shirts I've designed over the years to make up for it. Contact me via email, and I promise to honour that pledge with no hard feelings. However, If you're a company and you printed this shirt for profit, stop being a douchebag and desist right away. I will do everything in my power to stop you if you don't.

I am also asking a favour to anyone who sees someone wearing this shirt. If you could be so kind as to tell the person wearing this that the artwork was ripped off and that he should stop, I'd appreciate it very much. I realize that's a big favour to ask, and I wouldn't ask for most other rip-offs of my work, but this particular case really bothers me. And if any of you know any more information about this rip off, especially if it's by a company producing mass quantities, please contact me. I'll make it worth your while.

For those who read my blog regularly and were hoping to see an art-post here today instead of this rant, my apologies. I'll get back to posting art again here soon, but I really needed to bring this problem to attention.

Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Billboard Magazine

Here's a recent 1/2 page illustration I did for Billboard magazine, concerning the decline in British music retail. Above is the final art, and below, you can check out my colour rough.

I usually hand in colour roughs to most clients, as I find that it gives a much better idea of what the final will look like than a pencil rough. Since I usually pencil in "clear line" without indicating where the tones will be placed, it can be a bit misleading -- especially since I tend to drop out most outlines in my final artwork and only use the pencil as a guide for "painting" in tone.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Astro-girl 2009

Just a quick sketch I drew up in gouache and ink today. I added some textures and fiddled with the colour a bit in pshop before posting. Drawing girls in space-suits seems to be a common theme with me...and a zillion other illustrators.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

TCAF and Spider-man

Well, its 3 days later, and I'm pretty much recovered from the madness that was TCAF this year. It was a great show, and much busier than other shows. I got to meet some truly exceptional comic creators and chat with fans, and I have to say, as much as I like super-hero stuff, indie comics are where the real energy is at. Highlights included meeting for the first time Joe Ollman (whose work has been an inspiration to me for years), Matt Kindt (who created the wonderful graphic novel "Super Spy") and Maurice Vellekoop (who needs no introduction). All of them were charming and gracious and a pleasure to finally meet.

I picked up a lot of great mini-comics and zines from people, but I didn't get to leave my table and wander around as much as I'd hoped. The crowds this year were just so big that there wasn't much free time to check out all the cool stuff on display. Thanks to everyone who came by my table to chat or buy a print - its always a joy to talk to comic fans, especially at TCAF.

Even though I wasn't sketching at this show (I never sketch at TCAF), I did bring by a bunch of original art and sketches for sale including this Spider-man drawing which was snapped up pretty quickly. I had a bunch of other never-before-seen sketches at the show, but sadly, no scans of them.

Monday, May 04, 2009

...and a Quick Zatanna

This is the 2nd quick sketch I did this week, for a friend who wanted a drawing of Zatanna. For those who don't know, Zatanna is a DC Comics super-heroine, who happens to be a magician (The top hat and tux kinda gives that away, I think). I'd never drawn her before, so I was pleasantly surprised at how simple she was to sketch.

Like the Batman I posted earlier, this one was also done very quickly, in gouache and ink, with a little pshop cleanup after scanning. For those who might be interested, you can check out my pencil sketch for this drawing below.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Quick Batman

I was laid out pretty badly the last couple weeks with a nasty flu, so I haven't had much new stuff to post on my blog, but here's a quick Batman sketch I drew up tonight. I painted this really fast in gouache and ink, and did some corrections in photoshop to even out the tones before posting. For those who are interested, you can compare it against the uncorrected scan below.

Keep in mind that I am lousy at drawing Batman, so if you see me at a convention, please don't ask me to draw him. You'll only make me sad.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Canon Street

This is a quick sketch I painted up one night while battling writer's block. Actually, it's probably more accurate to say that I painted it while procrastinating from some writing. It was painted in gouache and ink, and the background was inspired by my memories of growing up in Hamilton, Ontario. This sketch is also a companion piece to an older sketch I posted ages ago.

Monday, April 06, 2009

My Favourite Cartoonists Part 4: Wally Wood

My appreciation for Wally Wood is complex and contradictory, much like the man himself. He was one of the greatest inkers ever, with a virtuoso ability to render images in black and white. Yet his inking almost completely obliterated the penciller's work. He could draw beautiful and fluid cartoon figures, full of energy, life and charm, yet his more illustrative work often looks stiff and stilted. His work is marked by an attention to detail and obsessive craftsmanship, yet his thoughts on his art are often filled with cynicism and a "just get it done" mentality. He was nothing if not complex.

Wood was, in many ways, a tragic figure. His tale is a cautionary one, and several books and articles have been written about this aspect of his legacy. But for all the darkness that surrounded his personal life, I'll always remember and treasure the great cartooning he left behind: Superduperman and the Mad magazine parodies, the endless stream of inventive sci-fi imagery that poured out of him, the big-foot cartooning that looked so solid and believable with his application of light and shadow and, of course, the gorgeous women that only he could draw. And I'll always remember the sheer joy of looking at the art of a virtuoso cartoonist working with total confidence and a with a staggering command of his tools.

For samples of Wood's art, you can check out this very nice blog dedicated to his work. Thanks to Rich Dannys for the link.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Girl With A Red Scarf

Lately, I've been so busy with assignments and deadlines that I haven't been able to draw anything for myself. However, I finally got an opportunity last night to break out the gouache and ink and work on a quick sketch.

I drew this one up for Ramon Perez's excellent Pin-up blog, She's My Kind of Girl, which features girlie drawings by a lot of us Canadian artists. For what its worth, this one came to me in a dream, during an evening nap (I've been so busy lately that I've needed naps to recharge for some all-nighters). I pretty much took what I saw in my dream and tried to copy it as best I could onto paper. But like most pin-ups I do, by the time I finished it, it ended up looking more like a drawing of my lovely wife.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This is REALLY old...

...but I thought I'd post it anyway. I've been a bit swamped with deadlines lately, so I haven't had much time to devote to posting new work here. So forgive me if I pull out an image from my files to share now.

This one is a really old drawing, I think it was drawn back in 2005 or 2006, and it was drawn as collaboration with a friend, Darwyn Cooke, who needs no introduction. During that time, Cooke was living in Toronto, so we'd hang out each week as part of our regular "Superman club" lunch group of local comic artists. Of course, after he left for the east coast, we've since taken to referring our Wednesday meetups as "the Jimmy Olsen club", but I digress.

I think during one of those lunches we were all talking about our love of Kirby's Inhumans (particularly my favourite, the big-headed Karnak), and Darwyn suggested we collaborate on a drawing of them. So here it is -- I pencilled this one night after work, and Cooke was gracious enough to ink it.

And just to give you an idea of how much I dig the Inhumans, you can check out another old drawing of them here. And I always put Karnak at the front.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Marvelman (or Miracleman)

This one's a quick painting I did as a commission request, and its a portrait of Marvelman (or Miracleman as copyright demands he be called here in North America). I was a fan of the character in the late 80's when a friend lent me all 15 (or so) issues of Alan Moore's superb take on the character. Seriously, I read all those issues in like, 1 night because I just couldn't stop. Anyway, I hadn't really read or heard much about Marvelman since that one time, but I still kept a fondness for the character based on Moore's writing. So when I got a request to draw him, it was fun to spend a day revisiting him. I also liked the opportunity to draw a superhero that fit a more contemplative composition, as opposed to the usual "Wham! Cominatcha!" type of shot.

The final painting was done in gouache and ink, about 10"x15" in size. Usually, I draw a pencil sketch first, but for this one I thought I'd experiment and draw a rough digitally in software, which you can check out below. It was a novel thing for me to draw the sketch on my computer, but it actually took longer than a pencil drawing would. And I kept thinking throughout the sketch "here I am, using a $100 piece of software, and a $1000 replace my $1 pencil."

I think I'll just stick to using the tablet for touchups and revisions.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Abraham Lincoln x 2

Here's an illustration of Abraham Lincoln I did for this week's New York Times Book Review (AD: Nicholas Blechman). I actually enjoyed this assignment so much that I did 2 different drawings of Abe for the art director to choose from. They ran the more iconic "bearded Abe" above, but you can also see the younger, "clean and fresh" Lincoln below.

One thing I learned drawing these: Abraham Lincoln had great hair.