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Showing posts with label sketches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sketches. Show all posts

Sketches with Watercolour

Apologies, folks. It has been a little while since my last update. Things have been busy, but in a “slow simmering” kinda way.

The big news is that I finally took a deep dive into the world of WebToons. There’s an interesting learning curve there, mainly oriented around adapting my work to the constraint of that format. Plus the constraint of the specific platform I’m using (in my case, Naver WEBTOON). I get a little jealous of prose writers; as long as you respect a few guidelines, it is not difficult at all to transform one’s prose into .epub and have it beautifully reflow on all kinds of devices. Comics? Well, that’s a trickier beast.

For those not familiar, a WebToon vertically scrolls, so it makes comics ideal for reading on small devices like a cell phone. However, horizontal panels in comics (everything from wide panels to splash pages and a lot in-between) are not ideal. That means that things have to be “rejiggered” quite a bit. I’m still in the experimental phase right now, but it took quite a bit of research and a goodly amount of math to figure it all out. As with most things, trial and error does the trick.

I’ve put two of my short stories up. You can find these at https://www.webtoons.com/en/canvas/wizards-for-hire-cheap/list?title_no=959052

Am I going to continue with this format? Well, that’s harder to say. The big problem I’m running into — aside from the sheer amount of work that it requires to transform my comics to vertical scrolling — is that there are a lot of comics on that platform. A lot. It’s mind-boggling, actually. That means that discovery is a problem and one I’m not sure how to solve. That’s always one of the problems with the internet; it is an amazing resource, but the sheer amount of content on it can make finding things tricky. Even on a dedicated platform like WEBTOON, it’s not easy. To quote Wikipedia, “As of March 2023, Webtoon (sic) has grown to receive more than 125 billion views annually. It has 85.6 million monthly active users worldwide, and has become the top webcomic platform in the United States with 12.5 million monthly active users.” In an ecosystem like that, I am an incredibly small fish.

To transform WOLF’S HEAD into that format would require a good chunk of time. And the key point is this: it would take a lot of time WITHOUT any guarantee that I would find many readers. So it’s a bit of a poser and one not easy to resolve. I’ve got more figurin’ and thinkin’ to do!

And now, here’s some art!

Buck-A-Store Perspective Sketch with watercolour by Von Allan

Buck-A-Store Perspective Sketch with thumbnail and printout by Von Allan

Wolf’s Head Issue 18 Page 1 Process

I thought it would be fun to share some of the ol’ “process” behind a recent page from WOLF’S HEAD. In this case, it’s the first page to issue 18. And hey, 18 issues in for an indy comic book series is not too shabby, folks.

This page features Lauren Greene and Super Bob Sanchez chit-chatting in a diner in Alberta. The page also builds off of issue 17 and the various struggles that Lauren is currently going through. While I don’t think there’s any “right” or “correct” way of starting a comic, I’ve long been partial to opening with a splash page to get things going. This is especially useful here because the preceding panel in the previous issue was actually very small. So if one is reading these issues in sequential order, it should be fun to leave off last ish with a tiny panel and then start this one with a biggie.

I’ll start with the final coloured and lettered page and we can work backwards to the initial layouts. Oh, one important caveat: while some pages take a bit of visual brainstorming, in this case I knew exactly where I was going (building from last issue, right?) so I didn’t need to do that. That’s often not the case and many pages take a bit of thumbnailing (usually tiny thumbnails) to work out mentally how I want to approach a page. This is often especially true for covers; considerations of logos and whatnot influence how the page might look. In other words, sketching and “mucking about with page design” is a tried and true way to go.

WOLF'S HEAD issue 18 Page 1 Final Page illustrated by Von Allan

Next are the final inks, including screen tones (or, if you will, Ben Day dots or what I long called “zipatones”). Generally I do not include the lettering in the final inks (well, at least for colour work) and that is reflected here. Inking is one of my favourite things to do and this page was a blast to work on!

WOLF'S HEAD issue 18 Page 1 Final Inks illustrated by Von Allan

Next up are the final tight pencils. There is a bit of visual cheating going on here. I actually rarely rough out a page like this as one individual unit. Rather, I actually do various pencil sketches (and sometimes even inked sketches) on different sheets of paper, scanning them into my computer and finalizing the pencil layout that way. I like that approach, mainly because it allows me to isolate various parts of the illustration and work on that. In this case, the diner is a good example: isolating the perspective drawing from the figure drawing allowed me to play around with some ideas, something a bit harder to do if everything was on one sheet of Bristol board.

WOLF'S HEAD issue 18 Page 1 Tight Pencils illustrated by Von Allan

The next two illustrations showcase more of what I mean. First is the tighter pencilled perspective sketch of the diner and that’s followed by the very loose sketch (this time with my trusty Tombow brush pen) as I loosely laid down some ideas. These actually follow part of the same process I described here, but in this case I did do a round of tighter pencils rather than just go into final inks because I needed to be sure of a few different things. The trade-off is time, but I felt it was worth it in this case.

WOLF'S HEAD issue 18 Page 1 Tight Background Pencils illustrated by Von Allan

WOLF'S HEAD issue 18 Page 1 Loose Background Pencils illustrated by Von Allan

Not included here are the separate figure sketches. I generally do loose little gestures, often in ink, and then scan, check, print out, and tighten into final pencils. You can see the final result in that first sketch above.

Some pages are slow, some go surprisingly quick, and this one was somewhere in the middle. It was a lot of fun to do and hopefully starts off issue 18 in an engaging, intriguing, and beautiful way.

Quick Perspective Illustrations

I’ve been working on changing how I approach perspective drawings. The main issue I felt that I was having was that I wasn’t quick enough. For the most part I liked how I was handling perspective — especially when compared to where I was years ago — but to be able to produce comic book pages at a quick enough rate that was acceptable to me was always a bit of a challenge.

Given how difficult the past year has been, I decided to take some time to really think about how I approach perspective. I knew I wanted to get quicker, but I also wanted to start incorporating more screen tones into my work, mainly to create more depth. You can see all of this in the artwork below.

So what’s really changed? Well, initially I would do a loose thumbnail, then I’d fuss with the perspective — mainly through creating various perspective grids — before working on a tighter pencilled illustration. Only once I was happy with that would I then ink it. Well the result was fine, this was a very time-consuming process. Too time-consuming, really, and that was the crux of the problem.

My new approach is very different. I quickly lay out a perspective grid and then sketch using my trusty Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip brush pen. In other words, I’m skipping the pencil stage entirely and just going directly to ink. You can see that in the loose sketches below, though I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a bit hard to tell that these are using the brush pen. Why? That’s because I’ve lightened the pen’s value digitally, which gives it a more “pencily” feel than it actually has in person. But! You can see the actual process in the final image of this series, a “process photo” that shows how I’m doing this more clearly.

Is it working? In other words, it is quicker? Yup! I’m very happy to say that it is. And I kinda wish I hit on this process a few years back, when I first started WOLF’S HEAD. Live and learn, I suppose. And hey, maybe some artistic growth and development helps the whole thing? I think that’s fair to say. Still, it’s been a neat change up in my approach and a great deal of fun to do, too!

You’ll notice that Lauren from WOLF’S HEAD makes a few cameo appearances. I’ve also been changing up how I approach drawing tiny little background characters and I plopped some of those in the final inked versions, too. More on that development on another day.

Anyway! I hope you enjoy these process illustrations!

Various Inked Perspective Panels by Von Allan

Various Loose Perspective Panels by Von Allan

Inked Perspective Panel by Von Allan

Loose Perspective Panel by Von Allan

Inked Perspective Panels by Von Allan
Loose Perspective Panels by Von Allan
Inked Perspective Panel by Von Allan

Loose Perspective Panel by Von Allan

Inked Perspective Panels by Von Allan

Inked Perspective Panels by Von Allan

Von Allan perpsective process with pen

Drawing Kids

Given everything that has been going on, when I get a chance to draw I've been looking for fun little pieces to work on. The illustrations below certainly fit that bill!

Drawing kids is a great deal of fun. Very challenging, but fun! Why challenging? Drawing adults allows for more "wiggle-room." In other words, there's more flexibility in how one chooses to render adults. Or rather, I find that there's more flexibility. That's partially based on style, probably mixed in with a bit of my own sensibility when it comes to figure drawing. If you over-render children, they immediately look "wrong." Generally my goal is to try and keep everything as simple as possible while (at least in these cases) still maintaining my own visual style. It might sound easy, but it's really not in practice. In the cases of all these girls, I didn't want to get too cartoony or abstract, so that also influenced how I approached each piece.

In the case of the middle illustration, I also decided to play a bit with colour holds (where I change my black linework to a colour). Why do it? Again, for fun! It's neat to play and see how the art (and, more importantly, the feeling of the art) changes with different visual approaches. I've done it before, something you can see in this little celebration of Mary Marvel.

One of the things I love about art is that there's no "right" way to do it. There are multiple ways and multiple approaches. How one feels about that is a reflection of them, at least in that particular moment. And, of course, opinions change about art, too. Even how I approach colour has changed over time (see this, for example).

I don't know about you, but I find that pretty exciting.

Illustration of young girls balancing books on their heads by Von Allan
Illustration of two 'tween girls chit-chatting and goofing around by Von Allan
Illustration of three girls raiding a bubble gum box and blowing bubbles by Von Allan

Ajamu Baraka illustration and Ottawa visit

Ajamu Baraka will be in Ottawa, Ontario on November 14th to discuss "Defeating the US/EU/NATO Axis of Domination. A Global De-Colonial Imperative." The event will be held at the McNabb Community Centre (180 Percy Street) sponsored by the Canadian Peace Congress (note that their website is currently being revamped, but their Twitter account is at https://twitter.com/CdnPeace). I was asked to do an illustration of Mr. Baraka for the poster promoting the event. The illustrations below are the pencils, inks, and final colour version I did.

Pencil portrait of Ajamu Baraka by Von Allan

Inked portrait of Ajamu Baraka by Von Allan

Colour portrait of Ajamu Baraka by Von Allan
As I write this, I'm not quite sure what the final poster design will be. Unlike the posters I designed for the Ottawa Transit Riders, in this case I'm not wearing a designer hat. Which is a little scary, but it did allow me to focus on the portrait and not worry about anything else!

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Professor Richard D. Wolff takes on Jordan Peterson

I've enjoyed Professor Richard Wolff's arguments and lectures for quite some time and this one, short at less than 5 minutes, is no exception.

If you've never listened to Wolff, he's well-worth your time. His lectures on Karl Marx are fantastic.

Which reminds me! I did a pen and ink illustration of Professor Wolff based off of a very lovely photograph by Don Usner. Probably about 2 and half years ago. It's been sitting in the ol' archive but the video above finally galvanized me to get it online. It's below:

Pen and ink illustration of marxist economist Richard Wolff by Von Allan

Pencils for a pivotal scene in Wolf's Head

Busy working away so here are some loose rough pencils from a pivotal scene in WOLF'S HEAD. One of the things I like about working this way is that I can tweak things a bit once I scan the pencils in. In this illo of Lauren, I made her left hand a bit too big so I digitally shrunk it down. I made some other tweaks, too, but I've already started to lose track of what I did! Ack!

Wolf's Head pencils of Lauren by Von Allan

Christmas Card Design

For the first time in a long time, I decided (with some gentle nudging from my wife!) a Christmas card. This features the wizards Bill and Butch along with their press agent (!) from the short story The Cowardly Clerics of Rigel V. Pencils, at least when I am inking and colouring my own work, are pretty loose and sketchy. In some ways these are a little tighter than I normally do, but I still leave quite a bit of room for working these out at the inking stage. That has a lot to do with time, but also keeps the inks and even the final colouring a bit more fresh and fun than it might otherwise be. As always, it's an "inside-my-head" kind of thing that hopefully makes sense to you, dear reader. You can see the inked staged and final colour version right after the pencils below.

Rough pencil sketch for a Bill and Butch Wizards Christmas Card by Von Allan

The final inked version features snow as well as a song!
Final inks for a Bill and Butch Wizards Christmas Card by Von Allan

And here is the final version in full colour! YES! Can you tell that I'm having fun with these guys?
Final colour version for a Bill and Butch Wizards Christmas Card by Von Allan

As always, you can read their adventures for free by following the links that are at https://www.vonallan.com/p/comics.html. Even better, you can read them for free on your tablet, monitor, or even on your phone for free by visiting my ol' Pirate Von site at https://www.vonallan.com/p/pirate-von.html.

Gesture Sketches

I often do gesture studies as a quick way to warm up. I like using ballpoint pens (good ol' blue ink) to roughly lay in the figure. Ballpoint has the advantage that it doesn't allow you to get fussy, a good thing to avoid in quick gestures. In fact, my general approach to thumbnails and layouts are not that different then how I approach gestures. The main difference between the two is that, for thumbnails, I don't usually add black ink to them. For gestures, adding a bit of black ink really brings 'em alive. In the ones below, I was using a Pilot brush pen. Quick and clean.

Each gesture took about five minutes, including inking with the brush pen. They're all small, just done on letter-sized paper. These aren't technically life-drawings; I was working from photos or from my imagination rather than a real human being. But they're fun and a nice way to loosen up!

Five minute gesture sketches in ballpoint and brush ink by Von Allan

Five minute gesture sketches in ballpoint and brush ink by Von Allan

Five minute gesture sketches in ballpoint and brush ink by Von Allan

Wolf's Head first issue pencil roughs for page one

I'm currently working away on my new comic, WOLF'S HEAD, that's going to be launching soon. While I can't say too much about it yet*, I do want to start sharing some things. So, rough pencils! Yes! Sometimes I pencil fairly loosely and sometimes I'm somewhat tighter. This is an example of the latter. Since I ink so much of my own work, I generally pencil just enough for me to ink it. It's mainly a time issue; drawing can be slow and perfect pencils are that much slower. I rarely pencil in the way "pure" comic book pencillers do, but then...it's art. Whatever gets you to the end is just fine.

* By the by, I'm not being secretive deliberately. It's mainly because a few things are still up in the air right now that need to be worked out. Rest assured, when I know more I'll be posting it!

Rough pencil sketch for Wolf's Head Issue 1 by Von Allan

I AM STILL YOUR CHILD Upset Girl Poster Process

As noted yesterday, I was commissioned to create a series of posters for the documentary film "I AM STILL YOUR CHILD." Today I'm looking at the development of another poster for the film and the support website. This one is a good example of how the process develops from rough concept to final version.

My initial thinking was that I wanted contrast between a very upset girl in the foreground and an adult, possibly in trouble, who isn't even paying attention. Initially I thought she'd be starring at the girl, but not really seeing her. Later, I changed my mind and had the adult sitting with her back turned. As the process continued and I received feedback from St├ęphanie Couillard, my main contact for the poster series for Catbird Productions, the poster evolved. You can see that in the following sketches and I think the piece is much stronger based on St├ęphanie's comment. 

Again, here is the Final Press Version with that great logo designed by Sara Morley of Design Postimage:

Final poster version of Upset Girl for the documentary I AM STILL YOUR CHILD

Initial Rough Layout sketch (as always, this is done very small, approximately 2 inches in height):
Initial rough layout sketch for Upset Girl poster from I AM STILL YOUR CHILD by Von Allan

Slightly tighter but still very loose figures. And again, illustrated pretty small. You can also see that the foreground character is slightly off-balance here. It happens, but it's the kind of thing I correct as I go:
Second rough layout sketch for Upset Girl poster from I AM STILL YOUR CHILD by Von Allan

Tighter pencils:
Somewhat tighter pencils for Upset Girl poster from I AM STILL YOUR CHILD by Von Allan

Tighter pencils with that original concept of a "neutral" adult in the background:
Still tighter pencils for Upset Girl poster from I AM STILL YOUR CHILD by Von Allan

This is where a number of things changed. A very different adult figure appears. She was roughed out and tightened separately and then digitally added into the piece. And the background finally shows up, too. Little bit of cheating here, but you can't tell. I hope!

Final pencils for Upset Girl poster from I AM STILL YOUR CHILD by Von Allan

And the final inked version:Inked final illustration for Upset Girl poster from I AM STILL YOUR CHILD by Von Allan

You can see the entire poster series at the film's official website. And the entire film can be streamed online at the CBC's website at http://watch.cbc.ca/absolutely-canadian/-/i-am-still-your-child/38e815a-00cec9fd824

I AM STILL YOUR CHILD Poster Process for Girl In School

I was commissioned to create a series of posters for the documentary film project (titled “I AM STILL YOUR CHILD”) that I've been involved in. The goal was to create a series of stand-alone pieces that feature characters dealing with parental mental illness. Unlike traditional comics, these wouldn't have a narrative save for that unifying theme. And they would also need to be very bold and graphic to catch the eye and presented in black and white to ease desktop printing. I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out. The full poster series can be found at the documentary's official website.

Beginning today, I'm going to go through the creation of a few of these posters. I was given a great deal of creative room by the production crew; they encouraged me to draw on my own thoughts and feelings, especially relevant given my own background with my mom's schizophrenia (developed more full in my graphic novel “the road to god knows...”). Some of these images were inspired directly from my own experiences while others were “pushed.” In other words, still drawn from my own life but dramatized to some extent.

The one below is a good example; I was very shy at school, especially at this age, but showing emotion was something I tried very hard not to do (though how successful I was in a different question). This girl, on the other hand, is very upset. That was something I tried very hard not to show at school.

What follows, then, is a pretty good breakdown of how this poster came together.

First, this is the Final Press Version with a terrific logo designed by Sara Morley of Design Postimage:

Final poster version of Girl in School for the documentary I AM STILL YOUR CHILD

Initial Rough Layout sketch (very small, approximately 2 inches in height):
Initial rough layout sketch for poster from I AM STILL YOUR CHILD by Von Allan

Tighter pencils (figures only; this is slightly deceptive since I drew each character separately and then digitally composed the image to finalize their positions):
Initial rough layout sketch for Girl In School poster from I AM STILL YOUR CHILD by Von Allan

Tighter pencils with loose backgrounds and perspective grid:
Tighter pencils with loose backgroundsfor Girl In School poster from I AM STILL YOUR CHILD by Von Allan

Final inked version with completed background:
Inked final illustration for Girl In School poster from I AM STILL YOUR CHILD by Von Allan
I should add here that sometimes I do pretty tight background renderings and other times, like here, I keep it pretty loose and finalize in ink (albeit digital ink since I use Manga Studio EX 4 for inking). Manga Studio also allows for some really nice shortcuts for tones, hatching, "zipatones," and splatters. I've done them manually (the ol' toothbrush and ink immediately comes to mind for splatters) but I much prefer doing them digitally now.

And that's that. Again, you can see the entire poster series at the film's official website. And don't forget that the entire film can be streamed online at the CBC's website at http://watch.cbc.ca/absolutely-canadian/-/i-am-still-your-child/38e815a-00cec9fd824

Bill the Wizard head sketches

Head Sketches of Bill the Wizard by Von Allan

I believe these were the first sketches I ever did of Bill the Wizard from my Bill and Butch stories. He's not "on model" here, but that's mainly because I was playing around with ideas. I had the general concept down, but I wasn't completely sure about his final facial appearance. So you can see me trying to find him in these inked sketches.

The image below, on the other hand, is an example of a head turnaround of Bill with his design finalized. I usually don't ink concept work like this, but I love Bill and he's fun to ink!
Head Turnarounds of Bill the Wizard by Von Allan

Character sketches in pencil

Pencil sketches of Lauren, Patty, and their boy by Von Allan
Head turnarounds in pencil of Lauren from WOLF'S HEAD by Von Allan

These are pretty loose pencils, but I since I ink my own work I generally find loose pencils are a much better and quicker way for me to approach my art. My pencils kind of evolve as I ink anyway; it's not unusual for me to ink for a bit, then switch back to pencils to tighten or correct something, then move right back into inking. I can also do a bit of a weird fusion; while I tend to pencil "traditionally" (i.e.: with an actual pencil on actual paper), I usually do some digital pencilling, too. Partially that's because I often "flip" my pencils so that I can see them in reverse, which is easy enough to when working digitally as I do. And partially because corrections are much faster with digital pencils, at least in my experience.

Whatever gets you to the final image, eh?

Bill the Wizard

Preliminary sketch of Bill the Wizard from WIZARDS FOR HIRE - CHEAP! illustrated by Von Allan

A rough preliminary sketch of Bill the Wizard. The finished colour version serves as the back cover of my short collection WIZARDS FOR HIRE - CHEAP! (available in print at comic shops and online at places like Amazon). And, of course, you can read his adventures (along with his canine wizard companion Butch) for free online starting right here.

Wolf's Head by Von Allan

Link to Von Allan's Wolf's Head comic book series

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I Am Still Your Child Trailer

Documentary Film Excerpt