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Tutorials, how-tos, step-by-steps and other art related guides.

I was asked in the comments on an earlier entry how I go about putting together the very long pages you see on this comic! Here’s a quick break-down of the process.

1) It starts with “thumbnails”, very sketchy roughs of the finished pages. I compose two at a time, side-by-side, and whilst I’m doing so, I think about how they’ll fit together top-to-bottom.

I’ve just realised that I missed last week’s blog entry! I had a post planned about how I put together tall images whilst making sure that the story still reads as a series of individual pages, but I shall have to save that one for next week… In the meantime, I’ve been working as hard as possible on the next episode – I hope to spend much less time on this one!

This next part focusses on Sen, for which I produced a giant character sheet to speed me up.One other piece of news, I’ve put a mirror of The Firelight Isle up on Smack Jeeves, a webcomic hosting site with some social media extras. So if you like reading webcomics there, or would like to see how the story reads one page at a time, check it out!

Hi all! :) Things are going well, I’m skipping ahead with a batch of linework before I catch up with the colouring at the moment, which means I’m focussed on drawing. Earlier today I realised that I haven’t actually produced a full turnaround for Anlil yet, so I extracted and edited images of her from the pages I’ve done so far, and then filled in the gaps to create the start of a turnaround.

Things have been going smoothly this week! I’m nearly done with all the tricky scenes from the next episode, and looking forward to focussing on some of the simpler ones. This Friday, I’m posting a deeper look at the shading process that I started to talk about last week, using one of the recently finished pages from the next episode. To begin the shading process, I work on top of a dark-grey background. Since there are lots of different light sources in the exterior scenes, I add them one by one, by dropping a textured white gradient onto the page, and masking off the areas where shadows would fall, or the light wouldn’t reach.

Happy Friday, folks! This week I’ve been continuing the battle against busy market scenes, and progress is going well! Since I just finished the flat colours for a page, I thought it’d be a good opportunity to show what a page of The Firelight Isle looks without any lighting or effects. The colour palette is chosen to entirely avoid blue, which is a sacred colour in Azulian society, and only seen on certain buildings and people.

I’ve been meaning to produce a cel-shading tutorial for a while now, and finally got the chance (thanks to some new software I stumbled across) whilst working on an illustration of Anlil. Here’s the tutorial (please enable captions for full instructions), and the finished illustration!

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to respond to my earlier post asking for opinions on my work! Apologies if there’s anyone I haven’t replied to personally yet, I’ve been trying to carefully digest every comment and give it the proper time to address before I reply.
I had hoped that doing this would help me see weaknesses in my work objectively, and it really did, to an extent that I didn’t expect at all! The fact that enough people replied, and that many of the comments echoed each other in some way allowed me to piece together how other people see my work in a way that I’ve never done before, and what ended up being uncovered was not just weaknesses in working method, but a flaw in my entire attitude to artwork.

What it seems to come down to is something that many people touched on, and Paul Fryer perhaps said best… I don’t have enough BEND. My characters aren’t alive enough, my figure drawing isn’t vital enough. In all my striving to be accurate, something along the way had become mechanistic, and I’d forgotten that the essence of storytelling (which is what I do just as much as drawing) is drama, exaggeration, distortion, that little bit extra that creates something more-real-than-real and makes up for the fact that art is only representative.

When it comes to artwork, my mind works overtime. What I like, what I don’t like, what I think other artist’s strengths and shortcomings are, etc etc. Since I think that there’s no such thing as perfection, even the artists I admire most are treated this way in my head at least some of the time. I find it comforting to notice mistakes in even the best artwork, it makes aiming for the quality of those I admire less daunting. I try to use the lessons I learn analysing other people’s work to help my own development, but analysing my work is always the hardest part. It’s nigh on impossible to see it in a truly objective manner, and my jaw always drops a little when it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a piece of my artwork, and I see what it “really” looks like.

So, assuming that other artists think the same way as me, there must be plenty of people with opinions on my artwork, most likely including people I know. Given that no-one ever knows how someone else will react to criticism, I’m guessing that there may be opinions about my work that have been held back in case I’m sensitive or just out of politeness. But, I really don’t mind. I’m thick skinned when it comes to criticism as long as it’s constructive, and I’d seriously welcome it as a way to improve.

So, I hereby open up the floodgates in my direction! What do you think of my artwork… I mean, really – warts and all?

Is there a niggling something you wish I’d address, a particular trait my style has that you find aesthetically displeasing, an obvious flaw in my method or something that lets down the finished quality of my work? Your opinions are invaluable to me as an artist seeking to improve.

I’d rather not hear responses like “no, I think your work is just fine”, since I guess it might seem like I’m fishing for compliments in an obscure manner, but right now I’m seriously looking for uncomfortable truths instead of ego boosters…

EDIT: P.S. Since I know some readers might only be familiar with Freakangels, if you’d like images to look at before you write a crit, please check out my gallery, which has a range of different stuff in. I necessarily need to make a number of short-cuts whilst working on Freakangels, so can’t often squeeze my best quality out of it.

I’ve already posted up a colouring guide for a Freakangels interlude a while back, and it’s still up, here. I thought it’d be cool to go over the linework process as well though, since I’ve never really shown that before.

This is a page with both background and figures to show how the two are normally integrated. The first step is to read the script and get a good idea of what sort of camera angles I want to go for. Then I very roughly block in how the rooms/streets etc are going to take up space on the page.

I was asked recently to draw a series of covers for Kieron Gillen‘s new comic with Avatar Press, The Heat.
This is the first of two I’ve done so far, and since it was unveiled at the MCM Expo, it’s time to show it here :)
Just to confirm, I’m not the actual artist on this project, only a cover artist. The interior artist has yet to be confirmed, so there’s a gap on this cover where the name of the artist will go, just under Keiron’s.

Since this one turned out to have an extremely involved creation process, I thought it would be good for a step-by-step feature:

The whole process of creating a cover normally begins with a bunch of thumbnail ideas. These are like the visual equivalent of making a quick note in a notebook, and are normally only intended for my eyes. As soon as the idea for a cover or page forms itself, I make sure to get a thumbnail done in case I loose the image before I begin and this is the one that eventually turned into this finished cover: