Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Big 5 Publishers

The "Big Five" is an industry nickname for the 5 large companies that own just about every publishing imprint in the United States. It used to be "The Big Six", but Random House and Penguin recently merged creating 'Penguin Random House'. So, even though as an illustrator you may aspire to someday work for Tor Books, you are technically working for MacMillan Publishing.

Not coincidentally, every one of the Big Five book publishers are based in New York City.

Recently, writer and data scientist, Ali Almossawi, compiled a chart of all the Publishers, and every one of their subsidiaries.

This chart is a wonderful opportunity for artists wanting to promote their work in the book market. Just think, nearly every one of these imprints has an Art Director with a need to hire a professional artist.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dragons and Other Incidents of Travel

by Cory Godbey

From cliffside encounters to subterranean concerts to magic tricks on sunny hills, Dragons and Other Incidents of Travel, follows a young wizard and his familiar as they traverse a wide and perilous land of dragons.  
Benevolent, dreadful, cunning, or just big and sleepy, I love to draw dragons and I hope you will enjoy the result. 
Dragons and Other Incidents of Travel is my 9th annual sketchbook.

I've put together an annual sketchbook for the last nine years. The first few weren't on any particular theme and, by and large, were just collections of whatever I had drawn in the year that wasn't for any client's project.
Year by year, the sketchbooks became more ambitious and gradually I struck upon the idea of creating a theme for each collection. Nowadays it's usually around the end of the year or the beginning of the New Year, I settle on a theme and then begin planning a new collection on that theme.
What I've found by working this way is that a framework not only helps to focus my ideas, it serves to generate new ones. It felt like a revelation: by working through a series of related images, turning the ideas around in my mind, scribbling them out, actually presented me with new ideas and helped to broaden the depth of the work by letting me see it in a context.

The apparent theme for my 2016 sketchbook is dragons, yes, but in fact, I actually think the theme is travel. 
I've been a reluctant traveler. I mean, I wrote a whole post (concerning Iceland) about that last year. While I felt myself change at the time, I don't believe I realized just how much Iceland changed my mentality regarding travel. In fact, at this very moment I'm writing this post from an airport (coming back from Iceland... again!)

This new sketchbook is, on some level, me working through thoughts on travel (in the context of dragons? I guess so, I can't begin to explain myself). 

I approached the project with the goal of creating ten new pieces. While I ultimately whittled down the collection to the eight strongest ideas, they all began the same way, quick thumbnail scribbled and a digital rough. 

I've talked about the digital rough before but the benefit that I find is that it allows me to think ahead to values and be sure the piece is working in that respect. Also, I enjoy planning my shapes and figures. It's one of my favorite stages in the process. I leave a lot of the elements up to the actual moment of drawing but I want a strong framework on which to build.

Do I still prefer to be at home in the quiet of my studio, fireplace crackling, and ever removing cats from my desk chairs? I sure do. 

But, I've found that much like a certain Bilbo Baggins, I've also got a Tookish streak.

If you find yourself with a copy of Dragons and Other Incidents of Travel I hope that you'll enjoy it!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Surprise: Depicting Harley Quinn

-By Dan dos Santos

I was recently commissioned by a collector to create a small portrait of Harley Quinn for him. The collector, who owns several of my paintings, is already very familiar with my work, so he gave me a price range to work within, and then granted me complete creative control over the piece. I didn't even have to submit a sketch for approval. He said to simply surprise him. This is fairly unusual for most commissions, but one of the great benefits of having repeat clients is that they often show real faith in your abilities.

I didn't want to copy a pre-existing version of the character, whether it was the original cartoon/comic book look, or the now ultra-popular movie version of the character as seen in Suicide Squad. This collector has already commissioned numerous artists to create Harley Quinn portraits, each artist putting their own personal spin on her look, and I wanted to do the same. So I tried to depict Harley Quinn the way I personally see her in my head, if she were a real, living, breathing person.

Because of time and budget considerations, I knew this portrait would probably have to be a head and shoulders shot, similar in size to the miniature X-Men portraits I've recently been doing. So I began sketching simple compositions with that in mind.

Preliminary thumbnails for Harley concept

To me, one of the most intriguing aspects of the character is her toxic relationship with the Joker. I tried to describe this extreme dynamic through the slave collar she is wearing. The marred 'Masterlock' logo is a reference to 'Mister J', Harley's pet-name for her Master.

I also wanted to accentuate this theme of 'submissiveness' by painting her face more like a mime who is always silent, instead of the usual rambunctious harlequin look. The blood splatters and smears on her face are supposed to elude to a painted clown face when viewed at a distance. A transformation, of sorts.

'Surprise', by Dan dos Santos ©2016, 11x12 inches, Oils on Board.

Harley is typically armed with a comically large Mallet as a weapon. But I thought it would feel much more real, and much creepier, to have her use a regular sized hammer instead.

I haven't decided yet if the blood on her face is supposed to be that of Joker's, or not. Perhaps a Lover's spat? Or maybe it's the blood of a unnamed victim, killed at the request of her Master? I think I kind of like it being undetermined, and left up to the viewer to decide the rest of the narrative on their own.