“Today, in our field, there is so much talent and recognition that we are reaching a saturation point. An artist should no longer strive only for breathtaking craftsmanship; he should, instead, try to help us live better, either by dressing the wounds that are constantly being opened by society, or by offering solutions to get us out of the mess we’re in…But it’s going to be difficult and we have a lot of work to do.” - Jean 'Moebius' Giraud

Thursday, January 31, 2008

[JUMP]_90 minutes

This rhyme makes me smile sometimes. Like right now, for example. Oh...and you know I'm talking right at *you*. Hater. Heh.

Points Of Authority / 99 Problems / One Step Closer (Collision Course Album - Disc 01)

If you're having girl problems I feel bad for you son/ I got 99 problems but a b*tch ain't one/ Hit me

He's got the rap patrol on the gat patrol/ Foes that wanna make sure his casket's closed/ Rap critics that say he's "Money Cash Hoes"/ He's from the hood stupid, what type of facts are those?/ If you grew up with holes in your Zapitos/ You'd celebrate the minute you was having dough/ SO F*CK CRITICS, YOU CAN KISS OUR WHOLE A**HOLE/ If you don't like my lyrics you can press fast forward/ Got beef with radio if we don't play their show/ They don't play out hits, well we don't give a shit...so/ All these mags try and use our ass/ So advertisers can give 'em more cash for ads... f*ckers/ I don't know what you take us as/ Or understand the intelligence that Jay-Z has/ I'm from rags to riches, we ain't dumb/ I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one/ Hit me

Monday, January 28, 2008

IRON MAN: ETM #6, Page 4_process

I'm going to walk through a typical day for me at the 'office' by showing how I go about a page from start to finish. Why? Because I'm going to use this as a primer to promote an event I'm going to be participating in late February. Bear with me.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Step 1 is always, ALWAYS the script. If the foundation of the thing I'm about to draw is brilliant, then my job is *so* much easier. It'll be a cake walk. If it's a piece of turd...well, I can only put so much candy sprinkles on it, but in the end it's just turd. In this case, since it's Joe Casey helming the story, it goes without mentioning that the story was going to be whole lot of walking of the cake.

So, Step 1. Here's a sample page of Joe's script. And it's obvious I'm an idiot because rather than making this an easier demo to understand (and thusly making it easy on myself) by choosing a script page that had ALL of the panel descriptions on it (like, Page 3 for example), where you can read what Joe wrote versus how I translated that into pictures, I instead went and chose Page 4 - which cuts off at Panel 2 and continues onto the next page. But I swear, I stayed really faithful to what Joe wrote and tried my best to draw the shot that will achieve maximum effect. You're going have to trust me on this one. I am, after all, an artist.

I've circled in red the super-rough thumbnails that I did for Page 4 and if you notice, I did two versions of Panel 5 because I decided the original rough would be better suited for the first panel on Page 5: IM dive-bombing out of the sky towards ol' Mandarin.
Onto Step 2. I should have scanned and uploaded an even rougher stage of this page layout...you know, when the pencils were a lot rougher so you can actually see the construction lines and the early stages of my thought process. But in all honesty, I didn't think about doing this little tutorial until I was halfway inking the second panel. We're all just going to have to get over that. Oh, and there goes them pesky thick panel borders again. "Why so thick?" you ask. Because to me, it's my way of 'containing' the shot. I know it's probably just as effective in the traditional sense with the standard border line width. But in my mind, it feels like a shot from a movie. It makes it feel more solid; the shot starts here and it ends here. That may not make any sense to anyone else, but that's my reasoning behind that.

My job is to try to immerse the reader into the story that Joe has crafted and that I'm trying to illustrate and I think on a subliminal level, I'm trying to guide the audience by defining the parameters of the scene that they're looking at. So in my head it goes something like this:

Here's a shot of IM blowing out the roof of Mandarin's palace. [STOP] Here's Mandarin in his throne room as he looks up at IM flying off screen, debris falling and smoke all around him. [STOP] Now Mandarin fires his rings upward at IM. [STOP]

And so on. The easier I make it for an audience to understand and read what I'm trying to say, the more immersive, the more convincing the experience. If they stop and think, "What the hell is happening from here to here? I don't know what that character is doing from this panel to this panel?" then I've lost them, I did a terrible job of telling the writer's story and I should go back slinging BBQ ribs.

I try to maintain a simple and clear approach to my panel to panel work - something I've carried over from my storyboarding for animation experience, where simple and clear storytelling is paramount (big thanks to all the directors I've ever had the chance to work for, who beat me up over this point) - and it's also one of the main reasons why I don't break panels. Well, at least not for this IM story. I think they're distracting and it can sometimes get in the way of clarity. But that's just me and I believe there are greater storytellers out there who can pull it off just fine. I ain't one of 'em. Now that I mention it, a recent, overly-hyped comic book just came out that was the penultimate example of muddy, Wilco Tango Foxtrot storytelling - and it reminded me once again that fancy layouts and breaking panels doesn't help if you don't know what you're doing and you're not helping advance the story. But I digress.

Anyhoo, Step 3. Once I've thought all of that out, tightened up the pencils to the point where I'm satisfied and I feel like there's little second guessing involved, I start to ink: the best part of my job. And the part where I think the whole thing comes together. I ink the most difficult part first (at least in my mind, anyway) and that usually means anything that has a technical line to it. Buildings, structures, interiors and exteriors, cars, boats, planes, effects, smoke, and so on. I leave the 'juicy' stuff for later because...well...it's the juicy stuff. Duh. I try to stay as systematic with the order in which I ink the panels because from time to time, when I do them *out* of order, I find out later that I've included a detail in the 4th panel (which I inked first) that I didn't put in the 1st panel (which I inked last). I think I'd catch those little slip-ups if I go about it in chronological order. That's all theory, of course - things always manage to slip through the cracks. In this issue for example, IM doesn't have seams in his helmet as I've drawn them only one issue previous. I'll have to remedy that in subsequent pages, but if Marvel were still giving out No-Prizes you'd be anxiously waiting for yours. Kudos.

Step 4: Inkers don't trace. You've heard that whole rigmarole, yeah? So I'm not going to get into that right now, but honestly - they don't. I, however, *DO* trace, so I'm no inker. I trace my pencils as faithfully as I can (because why did I bother to put them there in the first place if I didn't believe in them) and I do my best to not make a complete ass of myself to the guys who actually know what they're looking at. It's all a sham because real, professional inkers also don't use water soluble brush pens. But as I've already confessed, I'm no inker.

The point I'm trying to make is that I don't do my pencils very tight. I know enough of my own shorthand that going into too much precise detail is just going to slow me down. I put just enough information in pencil to cue myself up for whatever I'm supposed to do in ink later. That may be different from project to project, but I've been blessed to have the opportunity to ink my own junk. Most of the time to the image's detriment, but c'est la vie.

I do try to pay attention to light sources and how they will affect my rendering. That's important to me because I believe it gives my images weight and grounds them in the scene that I'm drawing. So for example, if the explosion happens behind IM and I light him like the light source is in front of him, I've completely defeated the point/effect of that explosion and that doesn't help by way of convincing the audience that his surroundings are affecting him. It doesn't 'ground' him in that shot. Make sense? No? Tough.

I also don't fill in all my black areas with a solid black because I believe that it kills the energy of my work. I steal a lot from Benoit Springer (who?) and Claire Wendling's (duh!) work and I've found that is one aspect of their styles/work that I gravitate to most - their ability to translate into pen what they had put down with pencil - and I try to emulate that with what little skill I have at my disposal.

The rest of this stuff is just more of the same - me inking the panels as I go. In this case, I'm sure I didn't have to do them in order, but I've gotten into the habit of doing so and much like Pavlov's dogs, I do it again and again when I hear a bell ring. Heh.

Seriously folks, that's just *my* process and by no means am I preaching it as the way to go. But for me, when I draw, everything comes down to discipline and proficiency. I need to have a life that doesn't jockey a drafting table for 24 hours and if this is the way to do it where I'm spending an hour less a day doing so, then I stick to it. Which is ultimately misleading because I don't have much of a life outside the drafting table. When I'm not drawing IM, I'm drawing for the new Ben10 and when I'm not doing that, I'm drawing those 90 minute bastards. It's sad. I know. I'm going to meetings.



This last step is me taking out all the color from the image (I don't typically scan the image in color when I send it to Marvel, but for the purposes of this demo, I thought it would be necessary to do so). BTW, have I mentioned how much I despise my rough pencil work and to exhibit them in this fashion makes my skin crawl like the first time a saw garbage can full of squirming maggots? Yeah - like that.

So when I scan the page to upload to the FTP, I do so in grayscale (or for the UK audience, 'greyscale' - har!) into Photoshop, adjusted using the 'Brightness/Contrast' feature in order to get all the sketch lines out, and cleaned up here and there, ready for Dave Stewart's color magic.



Obviously (or maybe not so) there are so many more things that go into the process - shot selection, storytelling beats that I consider, when and when *NOT* to break the 180 degree line of action, environment and prop design and other things like that.

All of that leads me to the point that I wanted to get to earlier before this tutorial/primer. And here is that point:

On February 21-23, in an Illustration and Art Forum that will be held at the SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN (Atlanta), I will be in a panel and doing workshops with the likes of ANDREW ROBINSON, JAMES JEAN, and YUKO SHIMIZU (god, I hope I spelled that name right). First of all, I'm excited as hell to be invited and a great many thanks goes out to SHAWN CRYSTAL (cartoonist and art professor at said college) for extending such an invitation to me. I am honored. Second, I'm completely baffled as to why I'm there associating myself with the prestigious artists that I've mentioned. I mean, if you want to talk about illustrators in the truest sense of the word, those are they - and I don't know exactly what I'm doing there. I mean, I'm like Christian Leattner in the '92 Men's Olympic Basketball Dream Team. "Hey, there's Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and Larry Bird! Awesome! And...um...there's a guy who got a gold medal by association! Cool!"

I'm not sure if the SCAD people put it up on their calendar yet, but I'm hoping they will soon and as soon as Shawn gives me the heads-up I'll be sure to announce it in further detail on this here blog.

If you can, please drop by... I'd really appreciate it. I don't know exactly what the technicalities are in order to attend the event (this is my first time doing this - Christian Laettner, remember?), but I'm praying there's enough of you who actually know me from that school and area that are interested in what I have to say so that I won't make a complete goober of myself when I start to talk shop with guys and gals who obviously know more about visual storytelling than I ever will (you want proof?...look at the blog I just wrote). And hopefully I won't choke up when it's my turn to talk next to the ROCKSTARS that I mentioned above.

Oh wait! Hey...see?! I'm doing stuff! I'm getting away from the office and drafting table and doing stuff! Haha! I'm not such a sack of sad after all! Suck on that, fate!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"SERIOUSLY..."_90 minutes



"...you're *really* gonna draw 'em like that, huh?"

Heh.

Thanks to all who have replied. I am overwhelmed and humbled by all of the support. It's all just laughable comedy to me, but it's nice to hear (read) that people were all laughing at almost everything I was cracking up at. Those who have left comments are tops in my book. I'd respond to each of you guys and gals individually, but that could (would?) take all day. Which I wouldn't mind, but if you thought that other fella's English and sentence structure was woeful, mine is doubly so. Instead, please accept this as my heartfelt "Thank You!" to all of you who have left comedic, eloquent, sensitive, etc. comments. I am now, as ever, very VERY grateful.

Oh, and for extra laughs, look at all the trouble one MR. TOM FEISTER went through:

JJ's Talented Art

Man, that's almost funnier than the now-infamous letter. Almost.

[*EDIT: Just for clarification - the images from link above is NOT "The JJ's" actual art. It's just a parody that Mr. Feister put together, as he was inspired by the letter of critique. I mean, it would almost be disappointing if his art (JJ's) were actually that rudimentary, wouldn't it?]

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

X-BLOCK_90 minutes


So I got this e-mail a week or so ago. It put a smile on my face when I read it the first time (and an even bigger smile each consecutive time I've re-read it) and I thought I'd share it with you kind people. Oh, and please remember, he's an artist too...and thusly adds legitimacy to his critique. Remember that. And if you *don't * remember it, don't worry. He'll be sure to remind you (us) every so often. I've left the e-mail address off for obvious reasons, but that doesn't make it any less entertaining. It's rather lengthy, but it's because the fella is passionate about the point he's trying to make. And no one can blame him for that.

At least he calls me 'Sir'. Respect.

And this image is inspired by the memory of an old school John Romita Jr. cover where the X-Men were posing looking like bad asses. My version looks less like that and more like they're coming to take your money. Enjoy!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

-----Original Message-----
From: [xxxxxxxx] <[xxxxxx]@yahoo.com>
To: Eric Canete <[xxxxxx]@aol.com>
Sent: Tue, 15 Jan 2008 11:34 am
Subject: A critique about your art and Iron Man.




Dear Sir,

Before I get to the point of this letter, I'd like to give a little background about myself so you know where I'm not coming from nowhere when I criticize your work.

I'm an artist of 10 years studying in anatomy and the human figure. I've also got a strong background and graphic storytelling and I know my way around several 3D modeling programs. So basically, I know what I'm talking about when I talk about art and I definitely know what it's like to with harsh criticism.

But more importantly I'm a fan of comicbooks, especially Marvel Comics and specifically "Iron Man".

And it's because of that I feel entitled to question the powers-that-be who gave you the shot of drawing such a classic character when you're obviously artistically unqualified to draw the Golden Avenger. There are so many things about your work that aren't professional that I'm left to wonder how many people passed on this project before your name came up on their list. I'm sad to say that they made a poor choice. And here are only some of the reasons why:

First, your anatomy is beyond terrible. Again, trust me when I say I know what I'm talking about when it comes to this topic. I'm an artist myself and when I look at you figures I literally cringe. Not only do you blatantly break all anatomical rules, but you do it so terribly that I believe you didn't even know that rules in the first place! I mean, panel to panel your figures fall apart even under the mildest of scrutiny. Your shoulders don't work, your biceps are not realistic, your legs and feet are poorly drawn. I understand artistic and stylistic license but you have to have a good foundation BEFORE you should start experimenting with a "style". It's pretty typical for people who are just starting out, but in your case I think you try to cover up your shortcomings as an artist by putting a so-called style on top of weak drawings. And yes...they are WEAK drawings. Trust me.

Second, your panel-to-panel work are in dire need of serious help. I know that there are many, many books out there that act as a beginner's guide on how to tell a good, well paced story. I suggest you invest some money into any or all of them. I think you can start with "How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way". That's only fitting considering you actually work for them.

My main problem with your storytelling is that fact that you don't bring anything dynamic to the table. Your job as the artist of a book to draw the reader in by giving them something cool to look at. Something they've never seen before. I don't think you're capable of this because 4 issues have come out so far and there's no evidence saying otherwise! Your panels are plain and uninteresting and completely unworthy of the book that is "Iron Man". I know that this is just a mini-series and I thank god. If this was the monthly I know that wouldn't be the only person I know of that would drop this title instantly. Like your anatomy, your storytelling needs help. Or is it BECAUSE of your anatomy that your storytelling needs help? I just thought of that. Hmmm.... Anyways, I suggest that you start looking into establishing a good foundation before you try any of the shots that you've "drawn" so far. Try watching good action cinematic movies like "The Matrix" or "Lord of the Rings". Also, I don't understand why you put those obnoxious thick panel borders? They're not very good comics, man. It's never been done that way for years and there's a reason why. They don't work! They're distracting as hell and you've got enough working against you in your work that you don't want another thing that makes you even weaker. Loose the thick panel borders.

I could go on because there are so many other things you can improve on before you could even considered "professional grade", but I think I've made my point loud and clear. I'm writing this to you because I'm as an artist I know that criticism will hopefully help you out. I'm going to end this critique on a positive note by saying that I think you've got something in your work that could be spectacular but it isn't there yet. Don't loose confidence though because I think you have some serious potential. I have to make myself believe that because someone actually let you draw a mainstream comicbook. But more than anything I hope that by reading this you'll be forced to evaluate your own work and it will make you better in the long run. And as artists that's all we can hope for is is to get better at our craft, right? Good luck and have fun!

Peace,

J.J.

Monday, January 21, 2008

TWO-FER_90 minutes


Two images today because tomorrow might not be as forgiving. Thanks for looking. I love all ten of you who still visit this blog.

And whenever I see images of Valkyries, I always think of that classic Warner Bros. cartoon where Elmer Fudd dresses like a viking and sings, "Kill da' wabbit, kill da' wabbit, kill da' waaaaaa-bit...." in the tune of "The Valkerie" by Richard Wagner. Funny to me. Not so much so to you, maybe.

C'mon...Elmer Fudd and a cross-dressing Bugs Bunny are hilarious.

"WHOSOEVER..."_90 minutes


"...holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor."

Friday, January 18, 2008

BIRD & CROW_90 minutes


"How far does the horizon go beyond the jungle canopy, Old Crow?"

"How far do you think it goes, Pretty Bird?"


"I don't know...it looks pretty far. As far as my imagination will take me, I guess?"
says the bird, flapping its wings to stay aloft.

"Guess what?"
caws the crow.

"What?" chirps the bird.

"It goes even farther than that..."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

GIRL & LION_90 minutes


"What is it, Bana? "

"It's called 'rain'," answered the lion.

"Oh..." she pauses a moment, looking out at the lush jungle as it comes alive in symphony with the sudden downpour.

"Does it hurt?"


The girl looks back with a startled smile, as the lion's laugh barrels through his chest.

"Haha! Not all new things have to hurt, Sahra."

Friday, January 04, 2008

AWAY_update

There have been a few of you who I owe a commission to and have inquired about the status of the image. They're obviously done and it's just a matter of getting my holiday-lagged butt into the post office and sending it out. Apologies to all for the delay, but the cloud of dust, tinsel and confetti is finally starting to settle and I'm finally back on schedule again. Each of you who has a commission coming will be receiving and e-mail from me with the relative information.

I'd like to personally apologize for the delay and would like to thank you for your kind patience and patronage. I appreciate you guys holding your breaths this long.

Anyway, no new art as my week (as well as my weekend) will be jam-packed with activity. I'll be back on Sunday night with new stuff. Thanks again for waiting folks; both spectators and commissioners. I'll be back in two shakes. Until then - here's old stuff. I have no idea what they're for, but they'll make for a decent stop-gap until I return. At least I hope so. Enjoy!





Tuesday, January 01, 2008

CLOSE, BUT...


...BUT NO EFFIN' CIGAR!
Haha!

So Eric's away (yes...again!) for the beginning of the New Year and while I wasn't worried about winning our bet, my heart did skip a beat when an e-mail came at the 13th hour from the reclusive bastard which had these attachments to it! Then, because I can count at least up to 21 (which was the final image deficit after the ten he's put up since the inception of our wager) , I realized that the man came up four...count 'em...FOUR images short! Whoo-hoo! Whew! Er...I mean, I knew he couldn't do it! Guess who's $40.00 richer and a future "ROCKSTAR"?! You got it:

ME!

All kidding aside, with Enter The Mandarin , the holidays and...um...another bit of planning he's doing, I'm surprised and amazed he came this close. But unless we're playing horseshoes, close doesn't count for much and I'm still the big winner!

Anyway, here's what the loser had to say:


"Hey, man. Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know. So I'm short a couple of images. But I mean, can you really blame me? What would *you* rather do: go fishing or draw? You see my conundrum. Haha! Put these up on the blog for me and ask people to please not be too disappointed for not giving them thirty one images total. I know I let 'em down. Dammit. Oh, also...post a 'Happy New Year' too. I swear I'll make it up when I get home on Tuesday? And I guess we can go shopping for your damn video game then too - you lucky bastard! Hope your New Year's eve is going well and that you don't have too many questionable women in my house. I'll see you soon.

Oh, yeah. Hey, you...yeah, YOU. You are so cool."


No, Eric...not *too* many questionable women. Just the right amount. Heh.

Like the man said folks, here's hoping the best to you and yours in the upcoming year. Thanks for reading along and hopefully I can bamboozle him into another bet like this one. Oh, and enjoy the images!

Now, what to do with $40.00? Hmm....