Wednesday, August 14, 2013

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment