Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New Portrait Demos

Victor Frankenstein, from Penny Dreadful

--Greg Manchess

During my SmArtSchool classes I try to work in at least one or two demos during the fifteen weeks we work together. And I’m beginning to understand that watching someone paint multiple times can be the push needed to bring one’s work up to another level of understanding.

It’s usually difficult to squeeze many in because I feel that the student should get as much attention about the piece they are working on at the moment; to get them at a time when their insights are at keen levels of listening strength. But sometimes, showing is better than telling in this regard.

Notes about painting these:

After the initial sketch, start with a mid-tone value, even on a face; be bold and sweep the tone all around.

Next, a mixture of any darks can be applied to the bolder areas of the face, i.e., hair, eyebrows, eye socket shadows, nostrils, lip line, under bottom lip, ears, under nose, under chin.

Then, work your way up through the value range, darker skin values first, laying lighter and lighter skin values on top of them.

Ta-daaaa! Simple and direct.

Remember: value first, then shape, then color. Value is color, shape is form, color is description. In other words, once we know the value, we need the shape to tell what it is, and the color becomes the final information. Worry least about color, but get value down immediately.

Last bit of info: consider that the difference between painting a man’s face full of brushstrokes and a woman’s the same way is how much the value shifts between strokes. A man’s face can take a broader jump between values and still look manly. A woman’s face should have more shallow shifts between the values, a tighter range, so that the impression is one of a smooth transition, and therefore smoother texture on the skin. Just study the pictures here for a bit.

Jyn Erso, from Rogue One

So I plan on adding more demo time to my classes. If you’ve been thinking about taking one of my classes, sign-up for the Fall semester is coming up. I keep the atmosphere in the class a comfortable setting where all questions are welcome because they usually lead to even better questions.

I consider the class like a dojo for training. ‘Cry in the dojo; laugh on the battlefield’ is an old saying that helps us understand what we are really trying to achieve in an educational setting.

I want you to eventually laugh on the illustration battle field.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

3 Photoshop Speed-Paintings and Some New Brushes

-By Justin Gerard

Recently, I released 3 new Photoshop brush sets containing nearly 100 of the digital tools that I use for my personal and client jobs.  For today's post I am sharing a few videos which show these brushes in action, as well as the method I use when I work digitally. 

Demo from the Pencil Set

Samples from the Pencil Set

Why bother making your own brushes? 
The reason I started making my own brushes was that my first true love was traditional media. When I discovered digital painting, I fell in love with so much of what it could do, but I found that most of the digital brushes looked too, well... “digital.”  They look flat, plastic and they lack character.

To make matters worse, my favorite use for digital painting was to apply it over top of a traditional underpainting. But I found that most digital brushes looked unnatural over traditional material, and the final painting would feel unfinished and soulless.

To solve this problem, I sample scans of MY OWN BLOOD.  (just kidding)  I sample scans of actual brush strokes, paint splatters, pencil marks and paper textures, made with various traditional tools and surfaces. (And some spilled coffee)
I then arrange all of the 10 billion sliders and knobs in Photoshop to arrive at a specific mathematical formula. This transmits my subconscious into the computer, you know, like that guy from Tron. And once inside, there is a whole universe in there, filled with millions of people, all of whom hate me and want to kill me with laser frisbees and motorcycles.  BUT I KILL THEM INSTEAD. And I use their ground up bones to make my digital brushes. 

*ahem* Anyway, once I have imported these "real" marks and input all the correct settings into Photoshop, I am left with better brushes that look natural alongside traditional media and leaves you with something that feels traditional, yet unique. Sort of like the robots that will soon be among us; they aren't quite human, but close enough that you won't be that bothered by them serving you fries at McDonalds.

(Coffee. Not human blood!) 

I'll be releasing 6 more sets this year. Next week I will be releasing a set made up of coffee spills! 

Colorizing a drawing with the Texture Set

Colorizing a traditional drawing using the Watercolor Vol. I Set

To learn more, check them out here on our store!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Pretty Pictures Failing

-By Jesper Ejsing

These days I am hired frequently as a concept artist. I am not a concept artist, but see myself as an illustrator, but I have always been very fascinated by concept art and the mere fact that I could do illustrations without having to fine render it all to perfection made me jump into this business happily and without hesitation.

I have been thinking lately about my concept art - "Don´t do that, Jesper. Don´t think, just draw". The voice in my head starts arguing again. But this time he is wrong. I have been thinking lately about what I am doing wrong and I thing it is NOT thinking enough!

When I am asked to do a concept art push for a new world being it a game or a new setting for Magic teh Gathering or something similar, it is my job to come up with a visual homogeneous vision of a race or a tribe or a landscape and so on. At first "Yeah! I can do whatever I want. But the more I draw the more I feel like it is all just a mess of elements I have stolen from real life references or historical costumes. It lacks the visual shape language that makes it unique. As an example think of Tim Burtons universes. They all have his tell tale spiral. Or Moebius Starwatcher series. As soon as you see the tall hats and the bright pastel colors, you recognize it right away. They all have a unique form and shape that is incorporated in the whole world they create.

Searching for that visual cue, is the most important thing in concept art. I see that now. I did not before. What I did was trying to make pretty pictures. Like I do when I am asked to paint illustrations.

In these examples from 3 years ago I was doing a small selection of Gypsy Characters for Dungeons and Dragons. The assignment was really simple. Draw a bunch of different professions of gypsies.

Looking back I wish I had focused more on the visual cue that would tie them together. Instead I concentrated on portraying characters - like I was going to play these guys as a role playing character. That is also fine. I know, But from a concept art point of view they are just pretty pictures and not adding to a homogeneous world. They are separate figure drawings. Nothing ties them together. Do not get me wrong. I like the illustrations. I just wanna be more Moebius and less "Men at Arms"

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Portrait in Pencil : Download Available Now!

This month's Patreon video 'A Portrait in Pencil, with Greg Ruth' is now available for download.

In this 2.5 hour demo, Greg Ruth walks us though his process of creating a fantasy portrait in graphite. Using one of his Dune-themed pieces as an example, Greg discusses not only how he creates convincing form, but how he imbues his portraits with a sense of character and backstory. Additionally, Greg takes the time to demonstrate how he creates the unusual textures he is so well known for, such as smoke and stars.

This video is available to all of our Patrons who donate $10 or more. If you are not a donor, but are interested in acquiring this video, please consider making a donation here:

Model at Rest

Anita Meseldžija Das (1952 - 2017). Paintings by Petar Meseldžija

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Gesture Drawing Is A Part of My Life

-By Ron Lemen

I do a lot of sketching before any job, and I do a lot of sketching beyond the job.  I sketch to stay in shape.  My weekly calisthenics include drawing from life, in my opinion, the most important sketching to do as often as possible.  It is the major and minor scales of our visual language. The tones we see are as sensitive as the tones a musician hears, and as a skilled musician will play scales along with their music on a daily basis, if we want to stay on top of our game we need to continue plugging away at the basics.

Here area few different drawings from various evenings this last semester in the gesture drawing class I teach at LAAFA.  I have a brief explanation for the motivation behind the drawings.  I put little ashcan books together each Comic-Con with a collection of these along with lessons to learn about quick sketching.  It is fun to look back at each drawing, and it is really great to have all the memories surrounding each drawing from that day still fresh in my head when I look through the various pages.  The following drawings are 3 - 5 minutes each using charcoal in most of the drawings and design marker in several.

This first sketch is using design abstraction to link the various anatomical landmarks together through the center line of the figure.  I had two goals here, the first is abstracting the musculature and connecting the muscles together in a design aesthetic similar to how Dean Cornwell would construct and connect his anatomical designs.  The second goal was to achieve volume within each physical region of the body through varying the edges.

Here is another figure using design and direction as a means of sculpting the form and building movement in the action.  Here I am using parallel line structure to generate form and movement through thick and thin, soft and sharp, or the combination of line types.

This set of drawings is a page of form drawings, using value and edge to tell the story of the form design of the figure.  I am using a cleaner tonality and softer gradation technique here to achieve a very solid form design, where the bottom right figure is using parallel lines to describe the form, more like the way Leyendecker would build out various tones and gradients in his figures.

Here are a few more figures where the goal was to build out dimension and form using both line strokes and tones/gradients to explain the light and shadow.  You can see these drawings built out on my Instagram feed.  It should be one of the most recent posts.  I am posting more of these drawings done live on Instagram at the time that I am creating them on most Tuesday afternoons during my class.

These drawings are also developing form but using the anatomical rhythms between and across muscle groups and edges of bones.  So much can be seen with very few simplified and deliberate marks.

These are both form driven sketches done with the Touch Design Markers, both are roughly 20" tall on 24" paper.  On this tracing paper the markers can be manipulated like paint, achieving wet into wet effects, pick out, and blending are all very easy accomplish.

These two pages are very quick sketches working on using line to solve the movement and the weight of the pose.  Heavy handedness is encouraged in this exercise, and simplicity is an absolute must.  I think these could still be even simpler.

This last page is using calligraphic shapes, a shape language of sorts, to first build out the design of the pose, then using edge and if time warrants, also using value to build out the dimensions within the abstractions.  

I draw every day.  I practice most of that time knowing that without the practice the craft I do will atrophy or stagnate.  I love what I do too much to allow that to happen.  These gesture sketches definitely hone the skills and keep the eyes sharp, and just knowing that will keep me coming back for more.  I absolutely recommend sketching from life frequently, if not often if you are pushing yourself, trying to level up, or just trying to maintain a fresh hand in all the heavy loads of work that have to be accomplished.  

Stay fresh in the skills, sketch from life and enjoy the process.

Friday, May 19, 2017


-By Greg Ruth

So I was recently asked to take on a last minute rush job for Criterion for a forthcoming DVD/Blu Ray release of the Michael Curtiz film, BREAKING POINT. Last minute rush pants-on-fire gigs are pretty common in my orbit. True for most of us I suspect. Typically Eric Skillman will get in touch about taking on a film, (I've done a few to date). The usual rub is I'll get a dvd of the pre-attended-to film if it hasn't already been made beautiful through the Criterionomatron (Their film restoration process is not called this but it should be, just saying), and I'll sit down and watch it with a sketchpad at the ready to mark time notes for particular scenes or imagery through which to find a cover and or interior illustrations that might be needed. I work up some proposed thumbnail ideas, we pick and choose and hone down things, execute the drawing and go through another round of approvals, go to finish and repeat and repeat until we're done.

This time however, I had a mere 2 or so working days to take this on, given the other obligations already on the table for the week- insane by any account, but also this time, much of the deciding had been decided upon already. (I got the call to deal with this issue on a Tuesday and it was due the following Monday). But I don't say no to a challenege if I think I can meet it, and try never to say no to Eric because, well, I love the work so much it's always a pleasure to tackle, even when it's nutburger like this. To be fair to him and everyone at Criterion, this is highly unusual. They almost always allow for a proper amount of time to take on a piece, and even when it's a rush job as A Touch of Zen and Dragon Inn were, they have never been THIS rushed. But I kind of got my start doing a rush fill in gig back for the Matrix Comics and have been relied upon to do this same dance for others ever since. There's far worse reputations to have in this business than being Johnny-On-The-Spot when needed. The trick of garnering and maintaining this rep is not only to say yes when someone comes with their head aflame, it's delivering what they need at a quality that they would ideally like to see if they had more time to give you. Whatever rush fee gets tacked on to your commission for taking this on, and there always should be one, the real dividend here is the relationship. I've worked for Criterion for a while now, I consider Eric a friend and I adore the work they do for the history of film. S0 this was a no-brainer.

Alright. Essentially they had chosen a cover image from a screen capture of the film, worked up the title treatment etc, gotten it approved and then when coming in the next day to show to others, some confusion took hold and threw the entire process into question.The issue after thinking they were ready to go, turns out to be both the obscurity of what's going on in our captain's hands and his partner-in-crime's hard to rerad gun and arm. Many thought he was pushing a broom, or didn't know what it was. At that point it really doesn't matter. One of the most important and primary rules in cover work is: if you're explaining it, you've already lost them, and the work is a fail. Covers should be immediate and direct. This is not to say they all need be bright simple and bold, but they need and MUST be clear as to what they are doing. If the issuance of the story and through the cover is a question, that then can be made to work and the rule is suspended. (ALL rules have exceptions. We live in a complex universe of variables and simply put... shit happens). So in an understandable panic Eric rang me with the crazy idea of fixing this by drawing it.

Now for those of you, like me who have a particular thing in doing cover work where the publisher often chooses a much cheaper stock footage photo comp for their cover instead of hiring an artist to execute one themselves, this came as a particularly sweet moment of vindication. While I get that sometimes the budget for a book or film lacks the funds to pay an artist a going rate, this use of photo comps is often just used for simplicity and saving bucks on their end. There are times when this makes perfect sense, and in the case of Criterion in general, it does given what magicks they display by using screen grabs of the films they cover. However, for one plagues by this occasionally in other areas, this was a mighty opportunity to put on display exactly why having an artist on hand is a superior and worthwhile choice.He showed me the cover they had, pointed out what they were bothered by and requested i essentially duplicate it in graphite and use that opportunity to compose and draw the thing to make it clearer and more effective as a cover for the dvd/blu ray release. The not so cool was that at this stage, having only a handful of days before the announcement, and having already gone through the approvals... this cover was locked as an image. There would be none of the usual seeking the image in the film, or composing/inventing I particularly like to do for these. It was a straight shot, copy job and left only the technical needs as a place of invention. Cool because an interesting puzzle to solve for me personally, AND getting the opportunity to use my "depth of field" drawing technique in the field by blur-drawing the foreground info.

So. Eric sent over a few stills from the film by request, and the original hi def screen grab of the scene they wanted. My job was to take that image, and duplicate it while fixing it. The foreground fellow had to be redrawn entirely, blurry but not so much it wasn't clear he was holding a rifle downward. The cap'n needed to have obvious money in his hands a counting and I thought some extra cash on the table would help as well as clarifying the windshield of the boat so it didn't look like a wall.

Because detail was so important here, I went ahead with a large 13" x 19" scale drawing of the image. (Sorry I didn't have a chance to stop and take progress pics- that would have been ideal, but this deadline was simply too insane for that business). But as you can see by the photo here, I've taken to reversing the trigger hand so we get a defined sense of the gun and man's grip. Left much of the bottom as balck as I could since happily I had a finished title treatment I could respond to, and tackled the rest of the necessities in the drawing. The blurring thing is always wacky on the eyes and usually I come and go with a piece to save myself from the headache and trippy eye-kimbo that happens, but again... terrible unforgiving deadline said no. But this section of the drawing is where all the action is, so it needed to be perfect: look as close to the original screen grab so as not to require further approvals, and change what needed changing without also triggering said new approvals. Even so... you can see the arm is a bit goofy with relation to his body- essentially requiring him to have his should be just above his butt. I also needed to add some clouds or indication of beyond the windshield... tricky because too much would make it bust- so seagulls and the moon say, were out. Time again was the enemy so I had to commit to the rest of the drawing and look to fixing that arm/shoulder thing in photoshop. Some lighting changes, depth of field enhancements and dragged in spot drawinsg to make it work came into the play and in the end we had what we needed to go:

The weird thing is, if I did my job right, no one would notice what we did or needed to do. Sure I made little errors and obvious drawing areas so that if you looked you could see it was not a photo but a drawing. Otherwise my job was to do what no photo cap could accomplish and so having done so I graciously step aside and let them go forward. I'm glad I had time to take this on, and again a personal moment of victory over photo covers was the perfect medicine right now. In the roiling sea of freelance pitching between feast and famine, it's hard to make and maintain room for these unexpected assignments, but it truly is something to keep in mind. I have an easy out in my ongoing 52 Weeks Project drawing series where I always now front load a piece or two to act as buffer should something like this occur, or I break my arm or the police finally find all the bodies I have been burying in my backyard. You never know what life will throw at you but it can be essential to your future self to make your present self available to them. They'll never take the shape you expect but they always seem to yield enormous lessons.

In any case, this is a really fun noir crime yarn to take on and as always I am thrilled for the opportunity. If you'd like to preorder the film directly from Criterion, please steer your crime-boat to this placid port, HERE.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

LIVE ProjectCast with Dan Dos Santos

Click here to get a free reminder email:

This monday 5/22/17 at 1pm EST, Drawn + Drafted will be hosting a live conversation with our fearless leader, Dan Dos Santos! It's free, and you can pre-register now at Crowdcast, where you can post questions in advance, or vote up questions already posted.

So what's a "ProjectCast" you might ask? Well, there's lots of fantastic art podcasts out there, but at Drawn + Drafted we're focused on business and getting projects off the ground. We love passion projects and want to know how people (all kinds of creatives, not just illustrators) take a passion and turn it into a side hustle, and even into a full time business. So each Project Podcast will be centered around not only the creative's work, but specifically drilling into projects they've created and made real in the world. We get into the details people tend to gloss over, like mental health, finances, networking, marketing, and proposals.

We're recording them live on Crowdcast so the audience can interact and ask questions, and you can go back and watch the previous Projectcasts there. We're going to be editing them down into a traditional podcast format, but for now check them out on Crowdcast:

Kyle Webster of Kyle Brush

Tomorrow 5/19/17 at 4pm EST: Jon Schindehette of ThinkGeek and Art Order

Follow Drawn + Drafted on Crowdcast, or Like our Facebook page, or Sign up for our newsletter to be informed whenever we schedule a new Projectcast.

The Amazing Screw-On Head

Mike Mignola is best known as the creator of the immensely popular comic and film franchise, 'Hellboy'. But in 2002, Mike created a short story called 'The Amazing Screw-On Head' which has since gone on to become many of his fans favorite works of his.

Published by Dark Horse Comics in 2002, starring the character of the same name, The Amazing Screw-On Head is a quirky story about a robot whose head can be attached to different bodies, each with different tactical abilities. The Amazing Screw-On Head functions as an agent of the U.S. Government, and is tasked with keeping President Abraham Lincoln safe from Occult threats.

The comic was met with great success, and was optioned as an animated series. The Sci-Fi Channel even went as far as producing a pilot episode. Sadly, the show wasn't picked up, but we can still enjoy the 22 minute pilot, which does a fantastic job of emulating Mignola's style and stars actors like Paul Giamatti and David Hyde Pierce.

You can watch the full episode below:

In addition to the original publication, you can also find a special Artist's Edition of 'The Amazing Screw-On Head', published by IDW. This enormous book (12x17 inches) reproduces all the original art at it's original size, without it's digital colorization. However, the black and white pages are actually reproduced in color regardless, which gives an amazing representation of what the original pages look like without and digital level adjustments. You can variations in the type of ink he uses, and even the pencil work behind the inks. It's a true feast for artists.

You can purchase your own Artist's Edition here:

Or grab a more reasonable priced version of the original comic here:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Post-College Career

-By Donato

Raunok Fishing   Donato Giancola   1992  Oil on Panel   book cover sample

I had a long, lengthy essay for all you college grads coming out of school this May, but then it was erased by an errant autosave.  I take this as a sign, and I am thankful I am not a digital artist!

Basically, productivity was the key to my early success 25 years ago when I graduated from Syracuse University.  Within a week after graduation my entire portfolio was nearly worthless as a marketing tool.  The entire portfolio.  Seriously.  I had to rebuild it all.

(Here is a MuddyColors post which has many samples from that college portfolio : )

A meeting in mid-May with an artist representative, Sal Barracca, opened the door for my first professional venture as an artist.  But in order to begin this new venture, I had to create samples for the opportunity to work as a book cover artist.  I needed to display specific problem solving abilities as well as produce a very tight grouping of quality and style for Sal in order to secure commissions. I began rebuilding in late May.

Month after month found me at Sal's office, turning in a new painting, and sharing sketches for the next concept.

Alien World   preliminary drawing   Donato Giancola   1992  graphite on paper, book cover sample
June, July, August, October, November, December.  You could set the calendar by by my timely arrivals into Sal's office.
(September was missed for I had a paint ball shot into my right eye, permanently destroying the macular region that allows you to see detail, and I was moving to New York City as well! But that is another story.)

By the time late December rolled around, I had six new samples to show.  That was enough for Sal to land my first commissions.  My professional career had begun.

Words of advice for all you new graduates.  Do not rest.  Do not 'take some time off' to recharge.  Your career begins now, today, and every day.  Think about the artist you would like to be, and begin making and implementing decisions that will get you closer to that dream.  Feed the tired passion of your desires, for if you cannot find a way to rejuvenate the fire now, you will likely not be able to keep it going five years from now when you are deep into commissions which are not exactly what you wanted, but are a part of building a career as a professional.

Those who will have a successful career in the arts are those artists who create art, drink art, and dream about art.  Art is difficult and trying, but also heartfelt and deeply gratifying.  Begin your journey today.

Below are a few of the drawings and cover samples created over the summer months and into that Fall 25 years ago when I needed to fuel the fire...

Alien World   Donato Giancola   1992  Oil on Panel   book cover sample

Cityscape   Donato Giancola   1992  Oil on Panel   book cover sample
Gwindor at Angband  preliminary drawing   Donato Giancola   1992  graphite on paper, book cover sample
Gwindor at Angband   Donato Giancola   1992  Oil on Panel   book cover sample

Omega Corps   preliminary drawing   Donato Giancola   1992  graphite on paper, book cover sample
Omega Corps   Donato Giancola   1992  Oil on Panel   book cover sample

Pen and the Sword   Donato Giancola   1992  Oil on Panel   book cover sample