Back From the Dead / The Fisher Boy

Hey, Folks.

It’s me… back from the dead.  Thanks for bearing with that very extended hiatus.  I have been making art sporadically, but not a whole lot that I expect to see the light of day.

Oh well.  There are some spiffy ink and watercolor drawings from a model session last week that just need scanning.  Also in the queue are some caricatures that I did for a contest at work.  They were very well received there, so I hope the same will be true of my online ‘office space’.

To get back into the swing of things, though, today’s post features a little drawing that’s been sitting in the back of the digital drawer for a long time.

The Fisher Boy

This was just a fun one to do.  The original inspiration for it eludes memory, now, but it was fun playing around with a limited color set, the water, and drawing a posture that conveys pent-up energy about to be released!

Some of my favorite parts are the little fold of the belly just below the navel, the color and style of the guy’s hair, and the sustained rhythm of the line work throughout the piece.

What do you like here?  What would you have done differently?




Making Lanterns (pt 1)

Sorry, folks, for making you all wait so long for a follow-up to the last post.

[Gabriel pictures hundreds of people hunched over their computer screens in cities across the world.  Many of them are chewing on their fingernails, a few are even sweating.  Such is the painful anticipation his blog’s followers must feel when having to wait a week to hear from him, their friend, their teacher, their life-line to all thing arty.  Gabriel savors the image, nods his head with approval, both solemn and self-satisfied.  He would deliver them from their agony tonight.  For tonight: WE POST!]

As promised, today’s post will delve into the making of the Lanterns commission that was the subject of the last installment.

Step 1:  Meet with the Client

In this case, the client was a coworker.  We met in the cafeteria at our place of employment.  Ryan had already approached me with the idea of drawing him and his wife as super heroes.  In order to get a better sense of what he had in mind, I asked some general questions about what sorts of things he and his wife enjoy.  We quickly settled on the Green Lantern as the character of choice.  We discussed style, referencing styles of mine that he liked, as well as professional comic styles.

There were more mundane considerations like the printed size of the image and whether or not I would provide a mat and/or frame.  We settled on timelines for the various steps and the finished work.  And the price and payment method, of course.

I requested some reference photos of the subjects and some specific Green Lantern drawings that he liked.  Here’s one of the three of the courageous couple:

Corders together outside - small

It’s nice to have more than one photo reference, which gives the artist more information allowing him or her to take greater liberties with the angles and poses.

Step 2:  Thumbnails.

I try to do bunch of ‘thumbnail’ or preliminary drawings for the client to choose from.  He or she can also mix-and-match various aspects of them.  For instance, he might like the poses in one picture but the colors in another.

In this case I only did three options:

Corders I

This one is fairly straightforward, but static.  The background coloring shows promise, and Ryan liked the glow on the power-rings.

Corders III

This one has a more dynamic pose.  I was trying to figure out an angle that would allow more emphasis on the faces, so it could more like a portrait.  Unfortunately, it feels a bit forced and awkward. With more work, a picture like this could work nicely, but it didn’t get the nod.

Corders II

This one formed the basis of the eventual finished work.  It’s got a composition with plenty of movement and points of interest.  It has nice facial placement and fun poses.  Ryan especially liked the fiery yellow and shiny green power manifestations.

Step 3:  Finalize the Plan

Looking over the JPEGs in his email, Ryan informed me of his preferences.  It was time to start the finished piece.

Step 4:  Do the Art

…And that will be what the next post is all about.  Hopefully you won’t have to wait too long for it.

[Gabriel smiles, fiendishly, for he knows they will wait, feverishly, until he’s good and ready to post again.  He also knows it could be a while…!]


I had the opportunity to work on a few special projects over the holidays.  One especially interesting one was a digital picture I did by request for a co-worker.

See, there are a few of us who enjoy the comic books.  My coworker Ryan is one such person.  I happen to be another, but you probably already know this.  So it was a perfect intersection of interests when Ryan asked me to do a picture of him and his wife as super heroes, which was to be a Christmas gift.

On those occasions when I get commissions, I like to meet with the person and get a good sense of what they’re looking for.  Often, people don’t know how to put into words what they want, or there are aspects they haven’t considered in advance.  I see it as my job to make sure the expectations are clear up front and that the end result marches those expections.

Ryan is a Green Lantern fan, so some research was in order to fill in the gaps of my knowlege.  We talked about the drawing/coloring style he liked, and some potential poses.  He chose from a few thumbnail sketches that I provided, and the finished piece satisfied everyone involved:

Corders - Finished - small

There will probably be a post or two soon focusing in more detail on the process that went into creating this work, from thumbnails to printing.

BONUS QUESTION:  Do any followers of this blog know the name of the character that the lady is based on?  Hint: in the comics, this character would have had reddish skin.

Spruce Lily

Proceeding backward through the collection of color studies, today’s piece was the one that started it off.  It didn’t come from a magazine, though.  Inspiration for this exercise started with a Christmas card.

It was a really pretty one that Tony had bought, but which hasn’t been sent to anyone yet.  It featured gold inlays, which I did not try to replicate.  The interplay of the greens and the melony/salmony hues were the highlight here.

Pallette III - Spruce Lily

Never intended to be a finished piece, this sketch was created at a very low resolution, which is why the edges are blurry and the lines are consistently fat.

I played with some playful patterns that weren’t exactly present in the card itself.  These palettes seem to work best because they’re fairly simple, but contain a high degree of contrast in intensity, hue, and value (light/dark colors).

What are your observations?

Brutal Tropic

The last post embraced the cold arms of winter.  This post takes a little different tack.  Now it’s time for a little escapism.  Time to turn up the heat.

This color-palette study took its cue from the New Yorker again.  This time it was a spot illustration that caught my eye, rather than an ad.

The illustration was drawn simply, with a few bold colors and strong contrasts.  The study based on it is not as refined as the Alaskan one: the purpose was just to jot down a record of the colors.  Here’s how it came about:

Step 1:   Fill the entire picture-plane the main background color (paint bucket tool).

Pallette - Brutal Tropic 1

That is one gorgeous block of orange!

Step 2:  Use the rectangular marquee selection tool on a new layer and fill the area with the next color.

Pallette - Brutal Tropic 2

It’s already taking on a little more character.  The maroon color is still vibrant, but a touch cooler and lower in intensity than the orange.  This, coupled with its placement on the ‘page’ make it seem to recede a little bit, thus creating a hint of depth.

Step 3:  Draw in a ‘melting ice cream’ sun-shape.

Pallette - Brutal Tropic 3

These colors really vibrate against each other.  They’re all high-keyed, so they compete for our eyes’ attention, which causes the liveliness.

Step 4:  Add the foreground shape outlines.

Pallette - Brutal Tropic 4

The fat lines are not quite black, but darn close.  If I wanted this piece to be a finished one, these line would have to be much more purposeful and refined.

Step 5:  Fill the foreground shapes.

Pallette - Brutal Tropic 5

This dark gray is actually a ‘de-saturated’ version of the sun-orange color.  I started with that bright color, then darkened it, and took almost all of the color out of it.  It was important to make it distinct from the near-black line color, but still far darker than the oranges.

Step 6:  A little texture.

Pallette - Brutal Tropic 6

The texture was added using the same oil pastel brush setting that was used on the mountains in the last post.  This is the only blue-based color in the whole piece.  It’s not much brighter than the gray, but provides a little pop against it because the colors are essentially complimentary.

This last color was not present in the work that inspired the piece, but it seemed the piece needed that little something extra, so I tried this out.  I think it worked.

Alaskan Night

Baby, it’s flippin’ cold outside.

Which somewhat justifies the pounds I’ve put on since Thanksgiving.  Thank you, Mother Nature, for giving me an excuse for my hedonistic eating habits.

The other wonderful thing about the weather this time of year, in Northern climes, at least, is the clearness and (occasional) stillness of the air.  Having grown up in northern Minnesota, it’s what we Iron-Rangers associate with the holidays.

And with Alaska.

I’ve never been there, but one makes assumptions.  So when I created a piece that seemed to embody a crisp, gorgeous night in the mountains, Alaska is what sprang to mind.

Alaskan Night

The picture was really even meant as a picture.  It started out as the third in a series of color samples I’ve started.  The idea is to collect examples of various color combinations that are particularly striking.  The majority of them so far have come from spots in the New Yorker.

This mountainous scene was actually a photograph in an Olympus ad.

I’ve taken to reading the prestigious (and often self-important) magazine while using the elliptical machine at the gym.  Most of the magazines there are geared toward women, so it’s been my habit to bring a book.  Finding myself without a novel, however, one day, I resorted to rooting through the periodicals selection, and finding this arts-and-culture rag.

What struck me about it was the color of the sky.

The version above was built through a few layers of straightforward drawing – a separate photoshop layer per color block: brown, light verdigris, and the deep dark aqua.

The texture was created using an ‘oil pastel’ brush setting.  This was used to add a lighter and darker brown to the sky and the lightest gray-green in the mountains. The halo was done using a lighter brown and applied with the gradient tool behind the peaks.  The stars are simply dots made with a fade-out brush.  The color has just a hint of yellow in the white, since true white looked too dead.

That’s about it.  The whole idea was to capture a color palette that I could reference in another drawing, so you may see this scheme resurrected down the road.  Who knows?

An assortment of the stuff that probably shouldn’t ever see the light of day.

So much for that….


Model - sketches - sm Model - Hands sketch II - sm model - arm - sm Odd Self Portrait - sm
I’ve done a rotten job of remembering to scan most of the commissions I’ve done lately.  Most of them have been quick 20-minute live portrait paintings, and in the rush to get the customer his or her picture, I’ve neglected to get a copy for myself.  Just one more moment of self-sabotage, brought on by airheadedness.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse inside the sketchbook, in the meantime.