Some silhouette exercises, numbered for your (and my) convenience. I like doing these because they're quick and helpful, letting you make easy decisions about posture and shape without putting in all the little details. I took a class with Brian Ralph in school and he really hammered home the value of silhouette drawing.
I think 3, 6, and 8 are my favorites so far, but let me know your thoughts. Also compare these to regular goblin silhouettes (here).
The facial structure of the Great Goblin is making more sense to me the further I go into the design. I'm pretty confident that I've hit on something I can live with, but there's a certain joy to drawing further once you've happy with a design. You never know what you're going to stumble upon, and even if it leads nowhere, well, you can always backtrack.
I didn't draw any caps or helms on these guys because I want to focus more on their physical shapes. Those things will be added in later in the design process.
I suppose I'll be heading into silhouettes and armament for this guy soon, if not right away. I'm beginning to think a little further down the line to the next design I have to tackle, and that can be a little dangerous. I don't want to get complacent or over eager to move on without giving this guy the attention he deserves.
I've been reading a lot of the articles over on Temple of the Seven Golden Camels, which has been helping me keep my mind in order while I draw. Now that I'm on my own and no longer in school, there's no one to really kick me if my drawings start to get flat or if I start to get lazy in one way or another. The series of posts called "A Kick in the Head" (beginning with this one) has been especially useful. I forgot to draw the little arrows letting you know the order in which I drew those Goblins (top left, middle left, bottom left, top right, etc.), but I think you can tell that I started thinking a little bit more from the third drawing on. When the drawing is sound the design is easier to come by.
Also I am reading Making Comics by Scott McCloud. Take from that what you will.
Designing the Great Goblin, the chief, king, warlord, of the goblins in The Hobbit has been an interesting thought process for me. In some ways it's just taking elements from the previous goblin design and expanding on them, making things larger and meaner and all that. In other ways, it's developing the concepts of goblin physiology and implementing those upon the original design.
There in the shadows on a large flat stone sat a tremendous goblin with a huge head, and armed goblins were standing round him carrying the axes and the bent swords that they use.
-Over Hill and Under Hill, The Hobbit
That's the extent of the book given to describing the Great Goblin.
I've been thinking of the goblins as having some sort of physical development that kicks in once they hit adulthood. Because they are so warlike and so violent, very few actually reach full maturity and become these larger and more powerful creatures, which would naturally obtain some sort of leadership or even deification within the tribe. These are the Great Goblins, who rule their colonies, lead in their wars, breed with the gross goblin women, and pass on their superior genes. They also have the darkest, reddest caps.
I am still playing around with how I signify these changes in the design, and specifically how I add them onto the base goblin design. I like tusks and horns, since those are developments that exist in natural animals and signify maturity. I'm also expanding on the pig/bat/mole-like nose that the smaller guys have. The second page up there contains a few solid jumping-off points.
I also have to direct you to this post on Kali's blog, which talks about the amazing sketchbooks sent to us by Mel Chao and Mark Grambau of To Boldly Fold. It is truly an amazing piece of work, and for someone whose artistic talent stops at two dimensions, seeing the care and craftsmanship that goes into these books is truly humbling. I will talk more about the book once I start to work in it.
I tried out some weirdo bird/turtle Goblins, which were pretty funny. I couldn't picture them singing, though, so that wouldn't work. The final design is the checked face on the last page, though a few of the other ones will work with a few tweaks. This was a strange process. I threw together a lot of animal parts I wanted to use and blended until I couldn't really see them anymore. Add a little raccoon tail and a bandit mask and we're good to go. Moving along, then...
I had some fun drawing more Goblin weapons on that last page. A few of them work and a few of the last batch work. I really like the cleavers with the big teeth and the fatter blades, as well as some of the little daggers.
Here are some terrible Goblin drawings to make your Friday more hilarious: I took several steps back to reevaluate the Goblins, and maybe now I'm approaching something even remotely correct. The lower left drawing on the last page is where I'm at now, which is alright. I spent a couple pages up there knocking off King Mignola (who has a lovely new website), which got me somewhere, I think. Maybe not. Hmm. At least their caps are fitting better.
There is also a frustration-cthulhu up there, which is a great thing to draw when things aren't going right and you need to blow off some visual steam.
There's a part of my that wants to give the goblins a weird tapir snout, so we'll see where that goes. So far all of these design explorations have stopped at about 5 installments, but I'm going to be passing that with this one. Man. I still have to do exercises for the Great Goblin before the next piece, also. Pfffff.
Here I am now, one quarter of the way through this project. Things are coming together pretty nicely, though I'm about to pass the point to which I have concept drawings. Goblins are next on the docket, and I am still designing them, so....things should be getting interesting!
I spent a lot of time thumbnailing this piece. I very consciously spent more time than usual at the thumbnailing stage in an attempt to make things easier on myself this time. It certainly made some things easier, or at least not as stressful when drawing didn't go well. It's easier to settle down after doing a lot of bad thumbnails than after doing a lot of bad full-scale drawings. LESSON LEARNED.
I actually ended up putting the drawing down for awhile at this point, which was great, although it pinched the deadline a little. I was struggling through the thumbnailing process and wasn't getting anywhere, so I needed something to kickstart my brain.
I took some time to really put things together in my head a lot more than I usually do and drew this almost immediately upon returning to work after my short breather. I really like to draw my environment by hand and then place figures in digitally, since I can move and resize them easily. I also don't risk irreparably mucking up the drawing. Alright, at this point I'm drawing on drafting vellum (more on that later) at 8.5x11" to get things more finalized. Trees are great to draw since you can place branches basically anywhere you need them to shore up your composition. On the other hand, it's also shockingly difficult to draw a convincing tree that doesn't specifically look like you calculated exactly where you needed to place branches. It's a tight balance. I had sycamores on the mind when I drew this, but the trees are described as being either Beech or Oak, so I tried to hit it somewhere in the middle. Once again, I'm combining my drawing with Photoshop to decide where things need to go. I ended up eliminating the male elf on the left almost entirely, since he threw off the balance. Photoshop also made it really easy to block in where I wanted the leaves to be so I could draw them more spontaneously when it came to the final. I'm drawing on rag marker paper at full size here, one step before the final drawing. I spent most of the time here further blocking in the leaf clusters and decided what the main elf's face would be like. I have a book of Klimt's drawings on my desk that nine times out of ten I reach to whenever I'm having trouble drawing women. Here is the final drawing before it's scanned. This was my first time using pencil on duralar, which I mentioned in the previous blog entry. I'll touch on my paper preferences later on in the post. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to add more tone into the drawing and work in less layers than I usually do. It was a little disorganized but ended up giving me a real sense of satisfaction when everything was in its place. I ended up redrawing a bit of the girl's hair digitally, since the movement was off. My flats on the left and the colors I worked with on the right. I try to keep the flats on my own work pretty wacky colors so I don't subconsciously start to think about my final colors while I'm doing them. It's really to make sure that my selections are clean and simple. This is the first blue sky I've drawn in recent memory. I've mentioned in previous process posts how I texture my shapes, represented here on the left. This is the main point at which depth and richness get pushed into the colors. The middle image is a new step for me, which I'll incorporate into future pieces. I took scans of a few different pieces of ratty old paper and combined them into one texture. I erased parts of it out where I wanted the texture to be cleaner and then set the layer to Soft Light over my rendered layer. The change is subtle, but it ends up adding a lot of fun little irregularities. I'm coloring my lines less and less in these illustrations, and leaving a lot of the original black in the finals. I mentioned in the first process post how I isolate my lines to color them, so I won't reiterate that here. The image on the left shows my lines and the one on the right shows how they look over the drawing at this point. This is another texture layer I applied, made with powdered graphite and a wide brush (and my fingers). I erased about 50% of the texture from the main tree trunk, since I liked how things looked already. The rest of it was colored based on what it sits on and the opacity was turned down to about 25%. This just breaks up some of the obviously "digital-looking" paint strokes and unifies the colors a bit. Here I've added a layer of light, desaturated purple set to multiply to add some simple shadows.
This is a separate drawing of some leaves that went over everything. I did it separately so it could be colored simply and quickly.
And here is the final image after a few adjustment layers. I also added a small design to the wind chimes.
On paper types:
Here are the four paper types I typically use, laid out to show their different opacities. I also sometimes use vellum bristol, which you already know is totally opaque.
-The copy paper is super cheap and crummy. I use it for sketching outside of my notebook.
-The rag marker paper comes from Borden and Riley and I buy it in pads of 11x14 and 14x17". My local art store doesn't carry it anymore, so I have to buy it online and so use it less than I used to. It's tough and semi-translucent with a medium tooth. It's a bit light and tends to crinkle a little more than I care for, but it's solid and takes pencil very well. It scans fairly well, but I typically add a piece of opaque paper behind it when I put it on the scan bed.
-The drafting vellum (sometimes called design vellum) I buy is the closest paper I could find to the Borden and Riley rag marker paper. It's slightly more translucent and a little less liable to crinkle, though the tooth is slightly different and it doesn't erase quite as well. I buy it in pads of 9x12" and go through it quickly. It's great for comping images together and I sometimes use it for finals.
-Duralar is the newest addition to the bunch for me, and so far I like it a lot. It's tougher and heavier than the other papers and more translucent, though there is almost no tooth to it and it tends to smudge easily (which also means that it erases very easily). I buy it in large sheets and cut it down. It tends to smooth out pencil lines, which I like, and registers faint lines very well. I'd compare its surface to the surface of a Wacom tablet (to the point where I got deja vu while flatting my image). It scans very well.
I can't say how these surfaces react to other media, since I really only draw in pencil outside of my sketchbook.
"Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a good bit of telling anyway. They stayed long in that good house, fourteen days at least, and they found it hard to leave. Bilbo would gladly have stopped there for ever and ever --even supposing a wish would have taken him right back to his hobbit-hole without trouble. Yet there is little to tell about their stay."
The Hobbit, chapter three: A Short Rest
Apologies for lateness, but things are done when they are done.
This chapter was both a pleasure to illustrate and a bear to deal with. The chapter centers around one event (the finding of moon letters on Thorin's map) and a whole lot of nothing. It seems like a given to illustrate Elrond holding the map before the moon and discovering those runes telling of the key to the secret passage into the Lonely Mountain. However...there are precious few rests to The Hobbit, and this is one of them, and that in itself is worth visiting.
When it comes to illustrating a passage where the central point is that nothing is happening to our protagonist, a new set of problems arises. How do you make a narrative image with no conflict without it becoming boring or trite or cliched? I guess it's all about activating the senses. I wanted to evoke that sense that Bilbo is feeling, where you wouldn't want to leave this place ever again. I don't know if I'm there, but that was the goal.
An aside: Did you know there are no women in this book? I can't think of even one being mentioned. This scene with the elves was one of the only parts where I could sneak a lady in without much hassle, and I had to take it.
When Bilbo and the dwarves arrive in Rivendell, the elves are singing to them from the trees. Not singing anything important, but just singing to them. I liked the idea of the trees just emanating sound, which is where those wind-chimes come in.
On the technical side:
I decided that I needed to vary my technique up some, since I have been feeling that my regular methods were stagnating a bit. The work was looking fine, but the process left me looking for something else and seeing very little room for improvement aside from the betterment of the drawings themselves. I asked for a bit of help and was pointed in a couple of excellent directions by my friends Chuck and Niv.
Chuck turned me on to a different method of coloring, and while I didn't use it exactly, I did take away one fundamental change: begin with more texture in the original drawing rather than layer it on afterwards. This lead to a more cohesive image overall, since my textures and lines were drawn together rather than separate. Niv suggested drawing on matte duralar, switching over from my regular translucent drafting vellum. This doesn't sound like a big change (one translucent paper to another), but the duralar has a much different tooth and has a natural haze to it which smooths out the pencil lines. It's something I'll be using in the future for sure.
Look out for a process post on this in the next couple of days. I promise it will be shorter than the last one.
In other news, you'll be seeing this guy in Spectrum 17 this fall.
A few months ago Michael Meier and the nice folks over at Rotopol Press in Germany (for whom I previously did this piece) asked me to do the cover for their upcoming mini-comic anthology Dolor. Being a fan of what they do and working for nice people, I obviously agreed and produced this thing. For some reason I was really thinking about Hands of Glory and figured now was the time. I wanted to challenge myself to do the title type as well, since text is something I with which I am very unaccomplished. I think it turned out fine.
My original plan was to remove the thumb and have the four fingers signify that this was the fourth volume of Dolor, but then this would've just been the Left 4 Dead cover, wouldn't it?
Here it is with text, which they nailed:
ADDITIONALLY: Thank you for the emails regarding spare postcards. I have addressed one to everyone who messaged me and I'm on the way to the post right now. MICA Illustration students, I still haven't put these in the office, but I'll put something on twitter when they're there. Get off my case.