Friday, May 31, 2013

Framed paintings

                                                                   By Petar Meseldzija

During my studies at the art academy I once heard the teacher saying that a painting is considered finished only after it is framed. In the past, many artists used to frame their paintings before they applied the final layer in order to make a perfect match between the two. Beside it’s aesthetic purpose, frame’s primary function is to separate two different realities, the reality of the art work, and the reality of the surrounding space.  
I must admit that I do not frame my paintings before they are finished; on a few occasions I even repainted the frame so that it worked better with the painting. But I never forgot my teacher’s lesson about the importance of a frame. However, choosing an appropriate frame for my pictures has always been a challenge and I must say I am not very good in that.

For the past few years I did many commissioned paintings. Most of these paintings were delivered unframed.  And because I am always interested in how the “finished” painting looks like, I often ask the client to send me a photo of the framed painting. I also like to see where and how my “babies” hang for I know I will never see most of them again. This makes me a little sad sometimes.


In front of a small portion of their huge collection, Gregg and Yvette Spatz, with Shadow Comes behind

The Rescuer preliminary drawing hanging next to an original Tarzan page by Burne Hogarth

Jean and Morgan Bantly in front of a part of their collection, with Gandalf behind

Thursday, May 30, 2013


-By Mike Butkus

This is one of my sketchbooks that I carry with me everywhere along with my travel-size Windsor Newton watercolor kit. With a cheap black Bic pen to start off my sketch, and with the help of the wonderful mid-value paper, I was able to create some creatures that are still some of my favorites till this day. A little trick for making your sketchbook illustrations more vibrant is to later use Gesso for the highlights and then once dried, apply a thin layer over it using Acrylic dyes increasing the vibrancy ten fold.

This next one is a character design sketch, using black prismacolor pencil, watercolor and gesso on a bristle paper. I also use a 9 h pencil for the designs on the vest and a little airbrush to enhance the overall form and shape of our little guy. Gesso works great for the highlights and with a little water.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Helmets Set 2

Greg Manchess

Here's the second set of helmets I revealed at Spectrum LIVE 2.

I was excited that so many people wanted to own one. Most of these sold in about 2 hours. Apparently, I'll be doing another set soon. (wink) But after that, I'll likely be shifting the theme.

Thanks for everyone's support and enthusiasm for helmets, astronauts, divers, spacemen, warriors, and whatnot. Planning on producing a poster of all of them.


Planet of Storms

Deep Diver 4


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Some Sketches for You

By Justin Gerard

The new sketchbooks are shipping out right now! This past weekend (after some time to recover from a phenomenal time at Spectrum Live in Kansas City) I took some time and did some drawings in the first 30 orders.

The topics for these sketches ranged from men in strange hats...

 to ancient dragons...

to orcs with limited table manners...

To crocodiles who mean well...

And even into reliquaries of great power...

And finally, (as always) to princesses.  

Thank you guys for the support and the renewed interest in these. I love working on them and I'm looking forward to getting started on the 2013 one soon. We will be doing something a little different and a little bigger for 2013.  Stay Tuned...


To see sketches from the previous years sketchbook releases check out:

2011 Sketchbook Sketches Post

2012 Sketchbook Sketches Post

To order one check them out at:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bridge to Somewhere

Finished pages from my issue of Young Allies

As with any pursuit that spans several years, organizing projects, new and old, can grow to be a daunting task. I use Bridge, Adobe's asset management application, to keep a decade's worth of professional work in some semblance of order. Why use this instead of the Finder on my iMac? Because it does much more than just keep things organized.

First of all, the previews are big and beautiful. Because Bridge is the same place where you can set (and unify) the color profiles for all of your Adobe Creative Suite programs, what you see is what you get. You can view a file at full screen by pressing the space bar, and full resolution by clicking on it. It does it instantaneously, so you don't have to wait for large files to open in order to see all the details. While the Finder has gotten better over the years, it still gives me strange colors, especially for CMYK files (and will do even stranger things to layered files with channel masks). As with the Finder, you can label files with colors so they're easier to spot. Hitting return opens a file, and you can also designate which programs open which types of files.

"Collections" are another simple but effective tool for keeping things organized. They allow you to group files together without moving the original from it's home folder. That means I can put all my Spider-Man artwork in one collection, while still keeping the stories organized by story arc and year. This is also where I keep frequently used photo reference. I've got collections of athletes, NYPD, Rooftops, and suits — all subjects that I draw fairly often.

My various Sculptris maquettes

"Favorites" is a familiar concept, but since this is separate from the Finder's "Favorites," I can keep things strictly professional. Any files or folders that I use often get a link here (you can drag and drop things here, or select "Add to Favorites" from the right-click menu). This includes my templates (pages, covers, and perspective), Sculptris maquettes, my blog folder, and watermark. It's a simple concept, but it makes things very easy to keep track of.

Metadata is available in its own panel window, but can also be shown beneath each and every file according to your specifications. I like seeing the file name, date, pixel dimensions, ppi, file size, and color mode (RGB/CMYK) at a glance. As for naming your files, your client may have their own conventions, so always ask at the beginning of a project. I also have my own 3-letter codes that I append to every name. While not necessary, these work well for me. The important thing is to keep consistent to your own system.

lyt: these are layouts and preliminary sketches, often numbered when many iterations are required.
cmp: digital composites, where I finalize things like perspective grids or type.
pcl: pencils
cyn: the cyan print that I send to my inker (my Dad)
ink: his inked files
flt: the "flats" that my assistant sends me (basically a rough color pass)
col: the final, colored file that I send to the client

But all those benefits aside, the real key is automated tasks. I most often use it to create jpeg previews of uniform size that can be easily sent to editors for review (or uploaded to my blog). You can do this to entire groups of files thanks to batch processing. I've even used it to organize lectures, collecting all the images I want to show, moving them into order, and renaming them numerically to open in another program like Preview (and in my last lecture, I did the whole thing right from Bridge). All of these tricks can be found under the "Tools" menu.

100 Marvel Covers. 2002-2013. Various mediums and sizes.

I'll leave my favorite feature for last, which is especially important for illustrators who work in series. When you click the "Output" button at the top (also accessible under Window: Workspaces) the entire format changes. You're then free to select any number of files to create a pdf or web gallery. Both are fully-customizable with parameters like columns, rows, spacing, pagination, background, and format. I used the pdf feature to organize my first 100 Marvel covers, shown above. As for the web gallery, there are many styles to choose from, and if you have your own web site, you can even upload it directly from within Bridge. Here's a link to all 20 page layouts from my Daredevil #1 issue.

Daredevil #1, Page 3. 2011. 1: Layout, Digital Composite, and Pencils

While this post may have been on the more technical side, it happens to be the digital tool I use most since it's the primary way I interact with myriad files. If you have Creative Suite and have always wondered what in the world Bridge is used for, I hope this will give you some ideas. (Adobe has recently revamped its business model into a monthly service called Creative Cloud, but I'm still using CS5 at the moment.)

P.S. I hope you don't mind my plugging an auction for a good cause. My painted sketch cover to The Walking Dead #100 is now open for bidding. All proceeds go to the Hero Initiative. Have a great Memorial Day!

The Walking Dead #100 Project. 2012.
Acryla Gouache on sketch cover, 14 × 10.5″.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Arkham Origins

In case you missed it last week (because you were at Spectrum Live like me, or otherwise), the new trailer for the video game 'Batman: Arkham Origins' was released... and it truly is a stunning piece of animation. In fact, at nearly 5 minutes long, it's hard to really call it a trailer at all.

Blur Studios is responsible for the short film, which showcases some redesigns of several well-known characters. Illustrator and Concept Artist, Wesley Burt (who we showcased here just the other day), was responsible for some of these designs, including the new Deathstroke (seen below).

Friday, May 24, 2013

My College Portfolio

-By Dan dos Santos

I've really been enjoying Donato's 'Portfolio' posts recently. I hold his work in very high esteem, and somehow seeing his own humble beginnings makes my own personal endeavors seem that much more achievable.

I've thought about doing a similar post before, but cringed at the idea of some of these works seeing the light of day again. Though, in the spirit of sharing, I thought I too would showcase some of my earliest paintings.

I graduated from the School of Visual Arts, NYC, just over 13 years ago. Upon leaving those doors, my portfolio consisted of just 5 mediocre oil paintings. Nonetheless, I began shopping them around, looking for freelance work. These are those 5 pieces.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Portfolio - Year One 1993

by Donato

In my last post, I shared with you the portfolio assembled to tackle the freelance artist market as it was in 1992.  I was fresh from graduating college and ready to become a practicing professional artist.  The only problem was just how to do that, and to do it quickly for I did not want to end up in my old career of landscaping and selling retail electronics.

Syracuse University has a wonderful program which displays the portfolios of students (now come pro) for the browsing pleasure of editors, art directors and other artists.  This review offers a chance for  students to gain a foothold in the marketplace through an initial contact with alumni or other professionals who may either hire the artist directly or redirect them as a referral.

Raunok   1992   Oil on panel    Sample I
I was lucky to have an artist representative, Sal Barracca, find interest in my work at the portfolio review.   I set up an appointment with him immediately, driving to New York City a few days after the portfolio reviews.  Not knowing much of anything about Sal (there was no internet to provide research possibilities) I was heading to New York not knowing where this may lead, but willing to pursue any opportunity at this early a stage in my career.  Luckily Sal proved to be a wonderful person.  He was working with a dozen or so artists in the book cover marketplace and was looking to expand his range of artists in the area of fantasy and science fiction.  Sal recognized my developing painting skills, but could not represent me without a few samples appropriate for the genre.  Eager to enter the marketplace as an artist, I returned to Vermont and began working on the first samples for him within days.

354 West 110th Street    Studio in NYC   1992
My relationship with Sal began to grow; driving down to see him every month with a new painting finished for his critiques and sketches laid out for ideas on the next sample.  I eventually moved to New York City in the Fall of 1992 to immerse myself in the varied and intense world of the arts and to better foster the business relationship with Sal.

Like clock work I arrived at his offices each month with new paintings to take a brow beating of critiques and return home with changes and improvements. I was working on my sixth sample when a phone call in late December change everything.  Sal requested that I come into his office the next day...he had lined up my first professional commissions!  Once in the office Sal handed me a list of 30 titles of classical novels which needed jacket illustrations, destined for the shelves of a mass media publisher.  He asked me how many I could do in two months time.  'ALL OF THEM!'  I wanted to scream, but good business sense won the day.  I was already creating one image a month, if pushed hard I knew I could produce three covers in that two months time.  I left the office with three unforgettable commissions, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain,  The Time Machine by HG Wells and Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne.  What a trio to illustrate for my first covers and the beginning of my career in the arts.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court  1993   Oil on Panel    First book cover illustration

Over the course of the next months I added more covers, samples and clients to my portfolio, replacing nearly every single piece from my graduating portfolio with that from the genre of book illustration.  What a change one year can bring.  In twelve months I had over 12 new paintings to start a career with and was on the path to creating the style of art you likely now know from me.

Below are a few other highlights from that first year of change...and thank you Sal for taking a chance and finding the time to nurture young, untested talent.

Best of luck to all those artists beginning their careers this year!

Sword and the Pen    1992   Sample III

Gwindor at Angband     1992   Sample IV

Two-Edged Sword   1993   First Berkley Books Cover

Voyage   1993   First Tor Hard Cover Illustration

Alien      1992     Sample  V

Still Life with Money   1993   Sample cover for Mystery Novels