Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sketch Dumping and Slurping Lucky Aphrodite

Work a Doodle: The Three Day Weekend Edition

Fridays really do seem to be turning into my official day for sketch dumps. I've been jumping between casual doodles and more serious drawings of late, and I've started keeping a sketchbook next to the bed. I'll doodle for fifteen minutes to a half-hour before I go to sleep for the night. Aphrodite was drawn in bed...which...sounds weird in a perverse kind of way. I swear the pages of my sketchbook don't stick together.

At work I've been drawn (so to speak) into a series of recurring conference calls, which happens from time-to-time when you're a project manager. We're at a stage in the project where the client is interfacing with the lead developer and having fairly technical discussion to which I don't have much to contribute. This gives me some extra time for doodling in my notebook when I would otherwise be responding to email messages. Some of these drawings are a result of having that extra time.

Those who've been following Geek Speak will recognize Wuffles the Dog. It didn't occur to me until I picked this up to scan it that he's basically reading from one stereotypical doggy potty, while using another.

A scary-as-hell little boy that I drew during a meeting with one of my team members and the project manager of another. I have an idea for something to do with this character, so I don't want to say too much more here. I will say it's something that crawled out from the darker side of my imagination and chuckled with gleeful menace.
The office managers where I work are responsible for ordering all kinds of snacks for the office. They do a great job, and there is always a selection of fresh fruit, nuts, and other healthy options. Even so it sometimes seems like they get the kind of food the witch might have fed Hansel and Gretel to fatten them up.

One of the delectable and oh so sweet treats that is often available for us to guzzle one plastic tube at a time is "Gogurt." One morning a co-worker walked past by desk nursing on one of the plastic tubes and this thing popped into my head. For some reason I find it hilarious when my characters say something patently ridiculous as though they're angry enough to tear off someone's arm.

I overheard a co-worker call a sales lead, or prospect, or some such thing a "lucky duck" because he'd be on vacation soon. Had to draw this for her. This is the same co-worker who brought us the "awesome possum."

I knew I wanted to draw Aphrodite, but I didn't expect to draw this. I like how this turned out enough to sign my name to it. Initially this was going to be part of a larger project that I'm planning to do for my kids, but it turned out too real and too..."artsy"...I work for a preschooler. It is interesting that when I draw a mythological figure who is supposed to be no less than the personification of beauty, I draw her as a tall brunette. I wonder why that might be?

There are other drawings, but...damn it...I have to have something to post next week.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Geek Speaking on Opening the Night with Mark Crilley

Geek Speak: Open Mic Night

Every so often I'll come up with one of these dumb jokes. Usually I'll turn to Mildly Sensational and start with "hey, listen to this..." That's how this strip started. When we first got together Mildly Sensational would humor my terrible jokes with a genuine sounding laugh, but we've been together a long time. Now she lets me know I've left the arena of good humor and entered the wilds of cheap puns and terrible jokes by way of a mocking laugh and a derisive comment, "oh, ha ha hah. You are so witty."

Really, I appreciate it. It helps to keep my sense of humor on the high road, and I'm not talking about the "green district" in Denver (see there I go, I need a mocking laugh and a derisive remark).

While this is, admittedly a terrible joke. I like it enough to wonder what else could be done with it. The cadence of the joke seemed to lend itself to a three panel comic with a set-up, set-up, punchline framework. I might use the setting of the comedy club whenever I come up with these gems. Open mic nights are usually well past my bedtime. This way I get an outlet for some of my worst (or maybe best, who knows) jokes and a good night's sleep. Win/win.

How to Draw - With Mike Crilley

For a long time now I've been watching the YouTube videos of illustrator Mark Crilley. He has a decidedly biased approach to drawing that leans heavily toward manga, but to he does so as a choice, not out of some artistic limitation. Crilley's drawing and painting skills are indisputable, and the best part is that he does an outstanding job of breaking down the process of drawing into concepts that are easily understandable.

I don't remember how I found Crilley's channel on YouTube, but it was near to the beginning of Geek Speak. I was watching his videos around the same time I was drawing some of those first strips. It's more than reasonable to give his videos credit for some of the early growth in my style and technique. I incorporate a lot of his advice into my drawing.

The man does some really amazing things with a simple black PrismaColor pencil.

The videos themselves are fairly well produced. We never actually see Crilley himself, which is nice. The focus of the video is always putting the artwork front and center. His narration is relatively clear, particularly in the later videos. If his narration has a fault it may be that he has a tendency to try to be funny and fall a little short, but that's a minor complaint.

By watching his videos it's possible to learn about a variety of artistic styles and techniques, even though Crilley is really known for his manga series. In the library of videos available in his channel are tutorials on everything from chibi characters, to dragons, to super-realistic drawings of random objects.

Here are some of my favorite videos from the Mark Crilley channel on YouTube

Pretty sure this is one of the first of his videos I ever watched. Judging by the quality of the video it's definitely one of the earlier videos Crilley uploaded to his channel.

He's also a solid writer with two manga series and two volumes of instructional books for illustrating manga. Here are titles written and drawn by Mark Crilley:

  • Miki Falls - published by Harper Collins. I have the first volume of this story, and I recommend it. 
  • Brody's Ghost - published by Dark Horse. I've only read the first issue of this, but it's a fun story with some unexpected turns. 
  • Mastering Manga - published by Impact. This is a great book to use as a resource for drawing, not just for manga. He covers basic drawing concepts in the book in a way that helps to create a foundation for people just starting out with learning to draw. If I were to rank books about drawing that I've read, I would rank this a close second to the essential tome that so many artists have used to get started, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Random Sketch Dumping on Blog Announcements

Random Thoughts

Coffee metaphors for life: Sometimes you're the grinder, sometimes you're the bean.

Work-a-Doodle: Another Friday Edition

Introducing some more of the doodles from the notebook I keep at work. When I look at all of these together it looks like I've been playing around with some different styles. I assure you that wasn't deliberate. Mostly I just draw whatever sounds like fun at the moment. I am kind of proud of the drawing of French lovers on a Vespa. There's a bit of a story behind that one. 


The Adventures of Normal Guy will be taking it a little slower

More like "The Vigorous Evening Walks of Normal Guy" than "adventures."

This is kind of a short blog post today as I'm running out of time in the day. There never seems to be enough of that does there? For the foreseeable future my posts will probably run a little short as I'm going to be working on something for the career I've landed into. I need to take things to the next level, which means a lot of time hitting the books. I will still be posting, but I may only manage one or two a week. At a minimum I want to try to post a new Geek Speak every week.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Geek Speaking the Game of Rimming the Pacific

Geek Speak: The Game

The first time we played this game is lost in the winding, trackless, uncharted recesses of my memory. How it works is this: I will grab the bottom edge of my shirt and walk into a room where my wife is on the computer, reading, or doing something on her phone. I'll cock an eyebrow and wait patiently for her to notice me, like a cat stalking that spot on the floor, you know the one, the spot only cats can see. When she sees me I wait a moment then I lift up my shirt and I give her my best big, goofy smile.

She will then cock an eyebrow at me as if to say, "Is that how it is, then? I accept your challenge." Then my wife will lift her shirt and we'll stand there grinning at each other for a moment. Just before it starts to feel awkward the shirts get dropped back into place and we go back to what we were doing as though it never happened.

I have no idea how this got started. It doesn't matter really. This game always works. It's always fun.

Pacific Rim: Weeks Later and I'm Still Smiling

Mildly Sensational and I have a hard time getting out to see movies, which is a well established fact of parenthood. Any set of parents will testify that getting out of the house for time together for a movie and dinner is really damn difficult after you have a kid, much less kids. Now that we are expecting our second we're put in kind of a funny place in that we have to arrange for someone to watch our daughter so that we can go out. This is to get her accustomed to being watched by other people so it's less of a shock when someone other than her parents is watching her overnight. 

The first time we arranged for someone to sit our daughter so we could go to a movie and out to dinner we went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness. That was in June around the same time as Father's day. Last month we arranged for our friends Gibbergeist and his wife to stay with Veronica and we took in Pacific Rim.

It's over a month later and I still smile when I think about it. Let's just say this up front, this movie is not American Beauty, nor is it any other Best Picture recipient you can name. This movie is one thing: giant sea monsters versus giant robots, and it is owns that shamelessly, even proudly! 

Honesty time, I freaking loved this movie. It has its flaws, and it has a couple of moments that were truly unnecessary, but the overall film was a fantastic and enjoyable surge of cinematic adrenaline. 

The thrust of the story is a war that is being fought with enormous extra-dimensional monsters who attack us from a rift deep beneath the Pacific Ocean. The giant monsters are called Kaiju, which is a Japanese word for "monster." To battle the Kaiju humanity pools its resources and develop Jagers, which is German for "hunters." The Jagers make use of a neural link between the machine and the pilot. The neural load is too much for a single pilot, so all Jagers have two whose minds are electronically linked. Through the link they move and fight as one person, and their movements drive those of the Jager. 

When the movie starts humanity is at a turning point in the war. After initial victories they've started to lose, and it's up to a small group of remaining Jagers from all over the world and their pilots to make humanities final stand, end the war, or die trying.

It's a simple plot, but the actors embrace it with gusto. The cast is an impressive grouping of international film and television stars including Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Idris Elba (Thor and Luther), Rinko Kikuchi, and Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy and Hellboy...oh, and he's the voice of the narrator at the beginning of all of the Fallout video games). 

Charlie Hunnam does a solid job carrying the film, but does seem at times to be out of his depth in scenes with Idris Elba. That's understandable. Idris Elba is an amazing actor, and he makes would could be a boring archetypal role something engaging and worthwhile. He delivers the movie's "Cripsian's Day Speech" (from Henry V) and he does so gloriously. Every one who's seen the trailers has seen a piece of this speech, " we are cancelling the apocalypse." There's more to it than that...see the's worth it. 

Rinko Kikuchi is charming as an eager rookie Jager pilot. She also serves as the movie's nominal love interest, but there's not much romance to be had in the film. In a way that's kind of refreshing. The filmmakers didn't bolt on some bullshit love story in a craven maneuver calculated to rope in female viewers. Rinko's character is unapologeticly tough, resourceful, and intelligent. She does play second fiddle to Charlie Hunnam which is a little unsatisfying as I would have liked to see this character given some more room to develop. 

The supporting cast is filled out with charming character actors who at times steal the movie, even from the great Idris Elba. 

There are some flaws with the movie. There are several plot holes that allow our heroes to escape an otherwise certain doom. Some scenes feel a little like filler between giant monster and robot battles. There are moments where performances come across a little flat. Again the cast does a solid job, so there aren't a lot of flat moments. 

My biggest complaints are in some unnecessary touches that completely removed me from the film. The biggest of which was the appearance of Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau. When his character is introduced it's on the eve of a major battle with Kaiju in the streets of...I think Shanghai. Hannibal Chau is built up as this major Chinese underworld figure dealing in black market merchandise. When the character is introduced Ron Perlman gets this major reveal with a fancy camera angle intended to accentuate how physically large he really is. The moment falls laughably flat. It should work. All of the elements are there, and yet, somehow, when we meet Hannibal Chau for the first time and it's Ron Perlman it just...fizzles. 

Perlman for his part delivers a fine performance, but seems uncomfortable in the role from time to time. Given how the character was built up and placed in a very specific setting I would have loved to see the role go to one of that region's major stars. It would have been great to  have Hannibal Chau turn around and it's Sammo Hung, or Sonny Chiba, or (best of all) Chow Yun Fat. 

The action of the movie is intense and it is underscored by a muscular soundtrack. Since seeing the movie the theme from Pacific Rim (covered here by LittleVMills) has become one of my favorite things to pull up in Spotify when I want to buckle down and focus on some menial task, like tracking my hours. From the first moment a Jager engages with a Kaiju the soundtrack thunders, and hammers, and plugs into your nervous system to keep you on the edge of your seat. It's great. I love it. 

On the whole Pacific Rim is a great action movie playing the part of a war movie where the combatants are monsters and robots. Not only would I watch this movie again, I'd pay the extortionist ticket prices to see it in the theater at least one, if not two or three, times. 

Verdict: Highly Recommended

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sketch Dumping on Ten Weeks to Baby 2

Work-a-Doodle: Sketch Dump Friday Edition

Work has been really difficult lately. With one thing and another August is shaping up to be the most stressful month I've had in a while. To try and preserve the last battered remains of my sanity I've been doing a little more doodling in my notebook than usual. Out of the pages of drawings filling a notebook that, honestly, should be full of notes here are a few of my favorites. 

T-Minus Ten Weeks

In just a little over two short months everything in my life is going to change for the second time. Mildly Sensational and I are expecting our second child in mid-October. The baby'll be a boy this time around, so we'll have one of each. 

As I sit here typing this, Mildly Sensational is asleep on the sofa behind me. Sometimes it's surprising to me that she can sleep through the vigorous pounding my martial arts strengthened fingers deliver on our innocent keyboard. It's somewhat less surprising when she's pregnant. Her first pregnancy with our daughter wore my wife out on a more or less daily basis. This time around I can tell she's fighting to stay awake by the time I get home from work.

Part of that is being pregnant while taking care of a two-year-old and all the demands she can unleash on a daily basis. The other part of that is this pregnancy is just different

Our daughter was always a quiet baby, even before she was born. She moved and squirmed, but didn't ever really fidget or kick. Our son subjects my wife's internal organs to a rigorous daily pounding. As she snoozes quietly on the couch I can see him moving around, kicking, and squirming. I watch and wonder, is he bored and just repositioning because staying in one place gets old, is he demanding attention form his mommy, or is it something else entirely? Some pre-natal struggle known only to babies still in the womb that they will forget immediately on being born? 

At some point during every pregnancy you get to a point where you start wondering what the new little person is going to be like. Are they going to be a happy, quiet, mild child, or a dervish of cries and poop who won't let anyone in the house get a wink of sleep? It's a short hop from there to more frightening questions like, "will I be a good father to this new little person? I think I'm doing all right with the first, but what if I can't handle two and I screw them both up?"

On moments like that I take a deep breath and assure myself that I'm doing everything I can. I'm doing the very best to ensure I screw up my kids just enough to be interesting, but not so much that they spend their lives living in a dumpster with eighteen cats and negotiating peace treaties between the banana peel pixies and the discarded fast food gnomes. 

I'm looking forward to meeting my son in October, but not without a certain degree of apprehension.

I take some small comfort in knowing that probably means I have some common sense. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Geek Speaking on the Heroics of Miraculous Sound

Geek Speak: Heroics...?

Running an elderly lady over with a bus? Not funny. Have the world's dumbest superhero throw her at a building so hard it breaks? Hilarious. Don't count the old lady out, yet. This may be it, or I might have more in store for her.

It turns out Wuffles has a little bit of a soft spot for his elderly owner after all. Now that she's no longer in the picture I have to wonder if the gruff little dog will put on the tutu from time to time just to remember her...probably not.

One of the ideas I'm looking forward to exploring is superpowers and superheroes aren't always what you expect. Even classic superpowers like superhuman strength and invulnerability aren't necessarily bestowed on the best people to have them.

Captain Dum-Dum is my prime example of this (for the moment). Here is a guy who is so strong he can pull battleships on dry land with this teeth. He's so near to complete invincibility that artillery shells just knock the wind out of him. He can travel miles in a single jump. He just happens to be dumb as a bag of hammers. Think the power of Will Smith's much (and unjustly) maligned superhero Hancock with the mental faculties of Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber. His heart's in the right place, his head just doesn't have the computing power to keep up.

He probably has a super-villain nemesis. I just haven't worked out who that would be yet.

Sounding off on "Miracle of Sound"

Those who play more video games than I do probably already know about the Escapist Magazine, a website dedicated to all things video game, plus some great news and reviews for movies and television. They also have a number of video features. I'm a fan of Unskippable and Zero Punctuation but I'm especially excited about new posts under Miracle of Sound.

Miracle of Sound is primarily a music series with videos instead of the other way around. The music and videos are the brainchild of Gavin Dunne who writes, arranges, and performs all of the songs. To be honest I don't remember how I stumbled onto it, I think I was just clicking around on the Escapist and happened to click the link to his page. What I found when I got there was the rock music equivalent of a candy store; all different colors and flavors of music. 

Dunne is one prolific musician. To be fair because his primary sources of inspiration are video games, movies, and television so he has a nearly inexhaustible resource from which to extract his raw materials. In addition to being a prolific creator his approach to the music is diverse and not chained to a single style or genre. He moves from blues, to rock, to abstract atmospheric pieces and manages to make it all sound good. 

If I'm being honest, the bulk of the songs available from Miracle of Sound are pretty cheesy; but so what? His raw materials are video games. What do you expect? When you get under the veneer or cheesiness there are genuinely well thought out, even provocative lyrics and good melodic work. The blending of styles over both of those makes for a genuinely pleasurable listening experience. 

Here area  few of my favorites.

The Joker's Song was the first one of Dunne's songs I listened to, and the one that completely hooked me. This song has a carnival motif and Dunne does a nearly flawless Mark Hamill that is a nice nod to that actor's work on both the recent Arkham games and Batman: The Animated Series.

After the Joker's Song I explored the website a little and eventually came to The Grind. This is a fast paced metal number that draws on the Gears of War franchise. I don't know what it is about this song, but it's one I like to listen to when I need to get pumped for something.

Finally, and the most different from the other two, is Legends of the Frost, which is inspired by The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This has an element of heroic ballad to it that I really like, and it's melodic enough I can sing it to my daughter when I'm trying to put her to bed for the night.

Draw Melting Into Uncharted Regions of Jim Lee

Wow! That title need more sleep.

Draw Melt: Uncharted Dude

This Monday's Drawmelt event hosted at Meltdown Comics by the incomparable Satine Pheonix once again featured Justin Morrison modeling hardware and desert chic inspired by the main character from the video game Uncharted. I have to play this game. Justin was telling me a little bit about it before he dove into posing for us; it sounds completely off the hook. Do the kids still say that these days? "Off the hook?" 

Drawn in 60 Seconds

I really, really enjoy drawing Justin. He puts real thought and effort into his costumes and he attempts to tell a story with each pose. Some I get right away, some take a minute to click, but his character is always doing something. It's not something that every model does, nor do they really need to, per se, but it's something Justin does well that helps add a different dimension to illustrations created by the artists of the evening.

Ten Minutes to Draw
             my favorite of the evening

Satine challenged me at the last Drawmelt event to try drawing without making use of the "structure lines" that I've used heavily for years. 

"You know proportions," she said pointing at some of my drawings of Shakti Shannanigans. "You don't need the structure lines. Get out of your comfort zone."

So I did, and the result was a little bit of a mixed bag, but in the mix was some of the best drawing I've ever done. As I was working my dad's voice popped into my head. For a few moments I was twelve or thirteen again and trying to draw Spider-Man. When I started out I didn't start out by sketching the pose I wanted using a kind of stick figure; I just started drawing the outlines of the body. My dad looked at it and told me what I was doing was "contour drawing." It's interesting to go back and do it again with everything I've learned. 

Monday was, as usual, a lot of fun. Satine is a great host, and Justin kept everything fun with interesting, dynamic poses. The mood of the evening was supported by a playlist from Satine's collection. Mixed into the tunes were some pieces that contributed to the globe trotting adventurer feeling of Justin's character. I'm looking forward to when I can go again. 

Comic Con: Jim Lee and Wrapping Things Up

One of the only disappointing things about going to WonderCon in March was that I missed the opportunity to see the spotlight panel on Jim Lee. I collected a lot of comics in the early 1990's when Jim Lee's star was really rising. He was working on major titles like X-Men, and I grabbed as many of the titles he was working on as I could afford with my allowance. In many ways he inspired my artwork, and my interest in comic books. 

When I saw that he would be doing another spotlight panel at Comic Con I made a vow, with all the appropriate ritual observances, that I wouldn't miss it this time. I almost did anyway. 

It's an established fact, even flirting with legendary status, that lines to get into panels at Comic Con suck donkey wiener. When I saw the line outside of halls 5A and 5B, which had been combined for the Jim Lee Panel, I nearly lost heart. I got in line anyway. Almost as soon as I did it started moving, much to the disappointment of the group in front of me who'd just sat down to eat. In all fairness, it was probably the cosmic forces of irony screwing with them that got the line moving, so I might need to be a little grateful to them. 

The line snaked around the hallways of the mezzanine level of the convention center and I was getting antsy as we approached the doors. Eventually the line stopped moving and they stopped letting people in, but no one came out and said, "there's no more seating for Jim Lee," so I held on. One of the people wearing an official "I get to tell you that you don't get to see this thing you really want to see" t-shirts did come out and make an announcement. She said, "There's only individual seating left for Jim Lee. Do we have any single parties."

I said, "yo!" and raised my hand. She pointed at me and said, "come with me, sir." I was led in and pointed to a seat where I squeezed in between two other con geeks and waited for the show to start.

Jim Lee. There's a lot I can say here. He doesn't disappoint. He's a class act. He's funny and approachable. He treats people with respect. He communicates with his audience. 

The panel started with Jim Lee coming out on stage, setting his bag down, and he started to pull stuff out of it. I swear he must have borrowed the thing from Mary Poppins because he just kept pulling stuff out. 

An overhead projector had been set up for him so he could draw and the audience would be able to see him work. In and of itself that is unusual for spotlight panels which usually feature artists and creators talking a little about their work, what they're doing now, and then spending the rest of the time taking questions from the audience. 

Jim was taking a different approach. Instead of talking about himself he would talk about the art, which is the reason we were in that room in the first place. He talked about what he called de-mystifying art; taking art and breaking it into concepts that everyone can understand, and just maybe igniting the artist that lives in all of us. 

Before he could do that, though, he needed to get his supplies out of his bag...MY GOD MAN! How much stuff do you have in there, really? While he excavated the contents of his bag, which was apparently manufactured in a time lord sweatshop somewhere on Gallifrey, he talked about his background and how he came to be an artist. 

His stories were largely self-effacing and funny anecdotes. The best of which was the story of the moment his parents finally came to understand what it is he does for a living. It was right after the first X-Men movie had come out, and his parents were able to make the connection between those characters and his work. Which apparently didn't exempt him from criticism as his mom asked him, "Why you draw Wolverine so short?"

Once he'd unpacked everything he needed from his bag he told the audience that he would be doing three drawings and then giving them away at the end of the panel. I have to say that again. He would be giving them away not selling them, not putting them up for auction, giving them. Those drawings could probably get a couple thousand dollars on eBay if someone were crass enough to sell them off that way. 

When he started to work on the drawings his first was going to be of the character Death from The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. As it happened Neil Gaman was scheduled to be on the next panel. He drew in some quick pencil lines, then went back over everything with pens to ink in the contours and a few of the details. Then he did something completely unexpected, he asked for a volunteer from the audience, someone with a steady hand who could handle a brush. As it happened he picked a girl from the audience who had come for the Neil Gaiman panel and was dressed as Death.

When she got on stage he greeted her, introduced her to the audience, handed her a brush and ink and showed her where he wanted the dark filled-in areas of the drawing to be, and put her to work inking his drawing. As a fan I was losing my freaking mind watching this happen.

With her working on filling in the dark areas on Death, Jim started work on the next drawing which turned out to be the Joker. Jim Lee's interpretation of the Joker is terrifying. There's something dark and visceral about his Joker that is unique to him. 

Once again he drew the pencil lines about as fast as I've ever seen anyone draw a comic book character, then filled in the lines with ink. Again he asked for a volunteer from the audience, and he pulled up a youngish guy who is currently attending art school. Again, the volunteer was introduced to the audience and put to work with a brush and ink from Jim's own supplies.

With the second volunteer working on the Joker, Jim once again turned to his own drawing and whipped out a quick drawing of Superman. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a picture of this one. It was of Supes in mid-flight with one hand raised up above him and looking up toward the top of the page.

As with the other two Jim reached out to the audience for help filling in the solid black areas of the drawing. This time he pulled up a thirteen year old boy who turned out to be attending an arts school in San Diego. Like the other two the young guy was given a brush and ink and put to work filling in the dark areas of the drawing.

Around this time the first volunteer had finished work on the drawing of Death, so she handed it back to Jim who did some additional finishing work. He showed everyone how to create a starry sky with ink, some tissue, whiteout, and a playing card. He added quick highlights to Death's hair to make it stand out, and a few other things. The audience oohed and aaahhhed. He did much the same with the Joker, but ran out of time at the end and couldn't get to Superman.

As amazing as all of that was, and it was pretty incredible, what blew me away wasn't that he asked for volunteers so he could outsource his work. It wasn't that he let total strangers inside his drawing process. What amazed me was the profound respect with which he treated everyone who'd volunteered to come up on stage with him. He didn't treat them like fans, he addressed them as though they were peers;
fellow artists who were there to draw as part of some larger panel on the craft of drawing comic book characters. Anyone walking into the room at that moment would have been forgiven for thinking this was a panel of four creators, one of whom happened to be Jim Lee.

Jim had already done something incredibly cool, and he didn't need to do any more, but he took things another step. On the two drawings he was able to finish he added his signature, then (to the amazement of the audience and scattered applause) asked the other two artists to sign their names as well; adding their signature to his.

In many ways this was the best panel experience I had from either WonderCon or ComicCon. I went into the panel really liking Jim, I came out respecting him.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Geek Speaking Quick Drawing Undies on the Outside

Geek Speak: Step Aside

You didn't actually think that I would run an old lady over with a bus did you? This is supposed to be a comic strip. How is crushing an elderly woman under public transportation even remotely funny?

Is he wearing his underwear on the outside of his clothes? Yes. Yes he is.

Sorry for the delay in putting up something new. Today's cartoon took a while longer to post for, I hope, obvious reasons. A couple of things make this an exciting post for me. It's been a long, long time since I attempted to draw anything in a full comic book layout. The last time I attempted anything like this I might have been fourteen or fifteen years old. I also get to introduce another recurring character and one of the major recurring themes of Geek Speak.
The world of the strip is definitely stranger than our own, and people with powers aren't unheard of in the general populace. The world even has its superheroes, but neither the powers nor the superheroes will always be what anyone has come to expect. At some point I may introduce super villains as well, but for the time being I think there's enough fun to be had with those in the underwear-on-the-outside-wearing people at the hero end of the spectrum.

Comic Con Day Three

Once again I'm bringing some of the highlights form my trip to Comic Con this year. Saturday was another day of panels and checking out some of the things that Comic Con had to offer in the general downtown San Diego area.  

Quick Draw

The Quick Draw panel is a year. The best way to explain the panel is that it's set up like Who's Line is it Anyway for cartoonists instead of improv comedians. The panel usually features a guest cartoonist with regular panelists Scott Shaw and none other than Sergio Aragones. In this case the guest panelist was the great Neal Adams. For about an hour the moderator challenges the cartoonists with drawing things suggested either by audience members, or from words chosen beforehand. 

The first challenge was "if they did it" which challenges the cartoonists to draw what a child would look like if their parents were famous cartoon characters. 

The combinations they came up with were Betty Boop and Bullwinkle (for the furries or those into bestiality), George of the Jungle and Smurfette, and Johnny Bravo and Olive Oil. The crowd favorite was Sergio's who was challenged with Betty Boop and Bullwinkle.

Quick Draw usually also includes participation by a notable person of some sort. When I attended the panel in San Diego they had three...celebrities...for lack of a better word. The people tapped to take part in Quick Draw, or to be made fun of by the cartoonists in front of thousands of people, were people no less notable than Peter David, Leonard Maltin, and Jonathan Ross. 

This is where the event turned a little bit less enjoyable. Each of the celebrities was challenged to look at what the cartoonists were drawing and come up with an answer for what the drawings represent. This would have been fine if the audience had let them play, but jackholes in the audience kept shouting the answers. At one point when Leonard Maltin was struggling to come up with the title of a movie based on drawings up on the screens Scott Shaw got fed up and scolded everyone, "Hey, maybe when you've written eight hundred books about movies, then you can act like an expert." Admonitions from the moderator and scolding from the cartoonists notwithstanding a bunch of assholes in the audience kept shouting answers before the contestants had more than a half a chance to guess. It to a point where I was starting to feel uncomfortable with the goings on, but eventually the event got back on track. 

The last celebrity to take part in the event was Jonathan Ross, and I'll admit that I don't really know who he is. He's British. Wikipedia says that he's an actor, radio personality, and television host. Apparently he's also the voice of the dad on Phineas and Ferb. Even not knowing who he is he won a lot of respect from me when his part in the Quick Draw event was done. The moderator asked him to talk about his projects and what he's working on and instead of doing that he responded in classy fashion with, "Oh, let's not do anything so craven," and proceeded to talk about another panel presentation entirely where he would be moderating a group of scientists talking about some of the amazing things they are doing. 

There is one other story I really want to share from Comic Con. At this time it's very late, and tomorrow is another long day, so it will have to wait until my next post. I think one final report from the trenches of Comic Con, a wrap up, and some photos of the best costumes I saw over the weekend and I can put this to bed. 

Speaking of bed...

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

August and Drawing the Star Wars Meltdown

The Melty Draws of August

Monday marked my triumphant return to Drawmelt. I've been drawing almost non-stop since the last time I attended the extreme cosplay life drawing class hosted by the amazing Satine Phoenix, but there was still some rust apparent. Celluloid Girl met me at Meltdown Comics on Monday, and when we compared notes later both of us admitted to difficulty getting into the drawing groove. 

Where she focused on aspects of figure drawing that give her trouble, I busted out Mr. Eraser and worked from the school of "If at first you don't succeed, curse yourself for being a talentless hack, erase and try again." The enrollment is higher than you'd think. In the end both of us hit our stride and produced some work that was more than passable, and some that showed genuine growth. 

Shakti Shannanigans was nice enough to model for the evening. She wore a really interesting combination of Star Wars baseball hat, corset, leotard, and stockings. Shakti was also bright, funny, creative, and a lot of fun to work with. 


The first one was actually one of the last ten-minute poses the outstanding Shakti Shannanigans did before we moved on to holding poses for fifteen minutes. The amazing thing about this pose is that she held it the entire time and barely blinked. 

The next three were all fifteen minute poses. For the first of them she did this cool pose where she seemed to be looking out and beyond. She looked like a young woman looking to the stars and dreaming of ways to get there, so that's what I tried to capture.

The third pose was a cool classic pose; one hand on the hip and one hand brushing her hair back. If you look closely you'll notice a little bit of a difference with this one. For parts of the body I didn't use a "frame," or the stick figure I use to get a rough pose in a lot of my drawing. Instead I moved right to drawing the contours, especially the right leg. This is something I need to work on. I've been drawing the stick figures under the pose long enough now I know proportions and foreshortening. 

The next pose where Shakti is sitting was meant to be like a toy that had been thrown across the room. She looked a little like a marionette that had been set aside and forgotten. Anyway, that's the quality I was trying to capture.

When we moved to twenty minute poses Shakti started with one lying down, what she called a "curvy lying down pose." It's a classic pose, and one artists have been rendering going back hundreds of years, and there's a reason for that. It's f---ing hard, yo! I'm ok with the results, but I'd like to revisit this with another model at some point. 

In the last drawing I'm including here she asked us what we'd like to see. We gave her the idea of an android doing some self maintenance. She had her leg up on a chair and was working on a knee with lightsaber chopsticks. I thought that if she has to do maintenance on a limb, maybe she has to partially disassemble that appendage to get at the problem, so I left out her lower leg. To give more of an "android" look and feel I added some lines and circles at her joints to represent mechanical gizmos that allow her to walk around.

To get back into Drawmelt was a terrific exercise, and I recommend it to any artists living in the Los Angeles area. The evening is super laid back, Satine's feedback is insightful and constructive, and everyone has a good time hanging out an drawing. You can learn more from the Drawmelt pages on Facebook or

Geek Speaking Medicinal Uses for Comic Con

Geek Speak: Medicinal Uses

The two-by-two strip is brought to you courtesy of my being terrible at figuring out mathematical ratios for the purposes of getting this down to a reasonable size to display in a single row. This is partly due to the "canvas" setting sin Sketchbook Pro, where I did the finishing work for this one. When everything is said and done the finished work is huge. I struggled with getting the panels down to a size that looked good in a single row, but finally gave up when it got to be really late and the text balloons looked terrible. 

This one marks a couple of firsts for me. I've never drawn a group of animals like the ones in panel three, and I've never made use of a cinematic device like the "pull away" that takes place between panels three and four to let the audience in on what he's seeing and the reason for his reaction. 

I can't speak for everyone, but I think buying a cart full of alcohol is a totally acceptable response to suddenly being able to understand everything animals are saying. 

Comic Con: The Highlight Reel

I've dedicated a few blog posts now to Comic Con, and as time goes on it becomes less and less relevant. To wrap things more quickly I'll spend a little bit of time on the highlights from the weekend and a few of my final thoughts now that I've had a chance to digest it all.

The Adventures of Lendell Prime
Lendell had a pretty extraordinary run of good luck on the second day of the Con. He is a big, big fan of Game of Thrones, and he had been planning, that's not a strong enough word, insisting that he was going to attend the Game of Thrones panel this year. He knew going in that it would be a zoo, but I don't think anyone was prepared for how the length of the line when we drove up at 9:00AM that morning. It was already wrapping around the convention center. With more than a little reluctance and disappointment Lendell gave up on attending the panel. At least, until after our lunch at the Rock Bottom Brewery.

We were on our way back to the car to drop some things off (Tea Leaf had scored pre-paid parking at the convention center) when he got a call from Tea Leaf. Tea Leaf had managed to score re-entry tickets to the panel. He hustled off to find them, get his ticket, and get into "Hall H" ahead of the big event.

He made it into the hall, found a seat, and got settled in before the big show. While he waited for the Game of Thrones panel I went upstairs to one of the smaller rooms for the "Spotlight on Bruce Timm" panel. As part of the panel the show was handing out tickets for Game of Thrones gift bags that people attending the show could pick up from a room in the Marriott. Lendell scored one of those, too. The bag, it would turn out, consisted of well over a hundred dollars worth of Game of Thrones merch, including a T-shirt he'd wear on the last day of the convention.  

As part of his presentation Timm mentioned that he was actually set up in a booth in the general vicinity of Artist's Alley. Known Lendell to be a big, big fan of Bruce Timm and the original Batman: the Animated Series I sent him a quick text. 

Lendell has a special book he brings with him to the convention just on the chance he'll run into Bruce Timm or Paul Dini and have the opportunity to get them to sign it. As it happened he had shared that bit of information with us in the hotel room just prior to leaving for the day. In my text I told him about Timm's booth, and told him to go get his book signed. He was able to do that after leaving the Game of Thrones panel. I was able to get Timm's signature a little thereafter.

Frank Cho
I picked up a book from Frank Cho at his booth, and he was nice enough to sign it. Frank is a cool cat. If you get the chance to buy a book from him and say a couple of words, do. He's gracious, and funny, and if you catch him at the right time he might even draw a quick doodle of one of the characters from his webcomic Liberty Meadows, as he did for me at WonderCon when he'd sold out of his books. 

Artist's Alley
Like Thursday I didn't get to spend a lot of time in Artist's Alley, but I did get to wander around some. Artist's Alley is incredible. I really hope I get to go to Con again next year, as I will likely spend at least one day just walking artist's alley and talking with some of the artists there. 

An interesting recurring theme that revealed itself in Artist's Alley was how few of the artists had gone to art school. Most had studied something else, something completely unrelated, and that's if they had gone to college at all. What they all have in common is a passion for the work, and they draw every day, they draw anything they see that interests them, and they are constantly challenging themselves. 

The other thing they had in common was most of them are really cool and gracious about talking to people who walk up. 

Tea Leaf and Celluloid Lannister
I mentioned in a previous post that Tea Leaf and Celluloid Girl had dressed as the Lannisters for the second day of the convention. The picture that I posted really didn't do them justice. 

The costumes were spot-on so much so that when they were waiting outside the convention center for the cast of Game of Thrones to go into the area where they would be signing books and whatnot for fans, they were spotted by the cast and producers of the show. One pointed them out to another, who pointed them out for two more, until the entire cast was pointing at them and waving to them. Someone involved with the show had someone run over with a microphone at some point and handed it to Tea Leaf. Both were so overwhelmed that Tea Leaf said he stammered out something like, "I really like your show..." but a couple members of the cast commented on how much they loved my friends' costumes and then went into their signing event. Shortly thereafter someone wandered over and handed them the re-entry pass that Lendell would use to get into the panel. 

As an epilogue to their day in costume, Tea Leaf had spent the entire day with his hand balled into a fist inside his sleeve. It was then wrapped in an ace bandage so he wouldn't have to clench it all day. To give you some idea what that would be like, ball your fist and hold it for ten minutes. Then imagine holding that for nearly twelve hours. When he finally changed and uncurled his fist it opened slowly like they ancient desiccated claw of the mummy. I think it might even have creaked. Anyway, it looked agonizing. 

Dinner with the Phoenix
Phoenix rolled into town later with our mutual friend Gibbergeist. She was planning to meet up later with her husband, Benni. We didn't know quite where to eat that night, so we ended up in a little hole-in-the-wall pizzeria called Ciro's. 

Ordinarily I don't go out of my way to eat pizza. When I do it has to be something like what we got at Ciro's. I ordered the fig and pig and washed it down with a Moscow Mule (vodka, ginger beer, and lime). The drink was a little light on the adult beverage content side of the equation, but the pizza was worth a trip to San Diego on its own. 

The End of Day Two
That pretty much sums up day two for me at the convention. It was really a day of ups and downs, but it was a day of spending a lot of time with some really great people, and learning a lot about an industry and a story telling medium I love. 

There was more in store for me on days three and four. 

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Work Sketching the Foglios of Comic Con

Work-a-Doodle: Sketch Dump

I'm doing the finishing work on a new Geek Speak, and while I'm doing that I would like to share some of what goes into my notebooks at work. These are some recent drawings, mostly done between taking notes while listening in on a conference call.



The first drawing, of a young witch on a broom, is me experimenting with drawing a pin up. It does occur to me from time to time that my notebook at work may not be the best place in the world for me to be drawing even mildly racy content like this, but when it turns out relatively well I convince myself it was worth it for the experience and practice. 

The next one is Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin and one of the major villains in both Spider-Man and Daredevil comics. For this drawing I actually pulled out my Prismacolor markers to do the shading. That's not something I can do a lot of at work. It takes time and attention that I usually don't have time to spare. On this day I was mostly doing time sheet updates, so I had a minute here and there to spare for coloring in a little bit. 

The third one is kind of a play on the song by Shakira. I had the thought, "if hips don't lie, what would they say?"

Finally, I drew Batman holding a toy from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. For those not hip to the MLP, that's Fluttershy he's holding. That's right. Batman's a Bronie. Deal with it. 

Comic Con - Day 2 - Continued

When I left off last I had waited in a long line (though not the long line) only to be shut out of getting into the Korra Panel. On the one hand, it sucked not being able to get in and get a look at what lies in store for the titular (snicker) Avatar in The Legend of Korra: Book Two, but if I had been able to get into that panel, it would have radically changed my entire day. 

As I said last time, after being disappointed at the doors to ballroom twenty I headed to the floor. Once I got to the floor I knew the author and artist of Girl Genius, my favorite webcomic, would have a booth in with the rest of the groups who were promoting webcomics. On my way to their booth, however, I got side tracked by another artist's display. The Noah Fine Art booth featuring works, conveniently enough by, Noah had amazing paintings featuring Disney characters. His work has a whimsy and a lightness to it, while maintaining solid technique that grabbed my attention and held me at his booth, even as I saw Kaja Foglio (who writes Girl Genius) walk past on her way to something elsewhere in the Con. I would like to have lingered over Noah's work a while longer, but I did want to try to catch one of the Fine Foglios while I had the chance. 

When I did make it over to the booth it was to find that both Phil and Kaja Foglio were elsewhere. I had a great talk with the lady holding down the fort for the absent professors. We talked about her being a preschool teacher by trade, but helping out in Studio Foglio, and about the comic in general. Then she mentioned that Phil was drawing for donations to the Cartoon Art Museum in another booth just a little distance from where Girl Genius was set up. I thanked her and headed over. 

I didn't actually get a picture of Phil, but he looked pretty much exactly as I had pictured him. I started talking to him and asked if he would mind drawing a picture of my daughter holding a lightsaber from a photo my wife had taken and modified (she added the lightsaber). He was happy to oblige for a fifteen dollar donation to the Cartoon Art Museum, which I was happy to hand over. This would be the best money I spent at the entire convention. 

Phil is a gracious, fun person, and he chatted with me while he drew, which he certainly didn't have to do. On a slight digression it's always interesting to watch pros work. They make it look easy, and every one of them has a different approach to starting a drawing.  At one point Phil asked me what I do and I said something marginally witty like, "I'm a project manager by day and a cartoonist in what little free time I get." The comment was innocuous in and of itself and he went on drawing and talking, but somehow the conversation swung back around to my drawing.

I don't really recall how we got there, but something was said and it opened the door for me to ask if he would like to see a drawing I had been working on of Agatha, the main character in Girl Genius. He hesitated for a moment before saying, "Sure, let's see what you've got." I can understand the momentary hesitation. In his position, especially attending events such as ComicCon, and presumably Emerald City Comic Con in his hometown of Seattle, he must constantly get people running up to him and saying "I'm a a cartoonist, would you like to see my sketchbook." Still, he invited me to pull out my Nexus tablet, open it to the drawing I had been working on, and hand it over. 

Whatever reservations he had appeared to vanish in another moment's hesitation before he said, "hey, I like this! This is really good!" Which he didn't have to do. He could have politely handed it back with something non-committal such as, "that's very nice," or, "nice, keep up the good work," or "is that it, whatever, NEXT!" The latter would not have been too unlike my experience in auditions. Not only did he not do that, but he took it a step further; escalated the awesome, if you will. He asked if I had comic strips up, which (if you've been watching this blog at all) of course I do, and he asked me to send him a link. 

Phil Foglio, an artist whose work I respect and follow, whose regular comic is a bright spot in my day every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, asked to read my comic strip. I never understood the expression "you could have knocked me over with a feather" until that moment. Honestly, I felt so light that a feather might have done me grievous bodily harm. 

I immediately went to the car to put his drawing of my daughter away. While I was down there, away from most prying eyes, and safely away from either of the Foglios, I immediately did an exuberant happy dance. I don't dance, at least not well, but I made an exception on this day. 

In its own way this was another authentic Con experience; making a connection, no matter how brief, with someone who creates work you admire. It occurred to me after the fact, in the midst of the glow from talking with Phil and while sharing the experience with Lendell Prime as we walked over to lunch, that if I'd been able to get into the Korra panel, that whole experience with Phil would likely not have happened. I probably still would have met him and spoken with him, but it wouldn't have been the same. 

I ultimately did send a link to this blog and, by extension, Geek Speak to Phil and Kaja through an email address they share. I haven't heard back from them yet. Whether I do or not, and whether he really intended to do so or not, that talk with Phil made my day.