Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I Go Ron Artest...

Sorry for the long delay between posts, folks. Fall is usually a busy season for me, so I haven't had as much time to update this blog. I've got a some new illustrations that I'll be posting in the next few weeks, but in the meantime here's something hot off my drawing table -- a portrait sketch of NBA basketball player Ron Artest.

Now don't get me mistaken, I actually hate the Los Angeles Lakers (Ron's team), but I'm working on some new paintings for a Ron Artest themed art show here in Toronto later this month. I thought it'd be fun to do a loose and drybrush ink sketch, so I drew this with a nice fat #10 brush. And, like the Ray Allen piece below, the image was referenced from an old photo.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ray Allen

The NBA season officially tips off tomorrow, so I thought I'd post a quick painting of my favourite player -- Ray Allen aka Jesus Shuttlesworth. Like a gazillion other people around the world, I can't wait to see the opening game of the Boston Celtics vs. the Miami Heat. What a great way to start the season.

This one was painted a while ago, in drybrush gouache and ink on board, and obviously referenced from an old photo of Ray.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


In the past, I've never really enjoyed drawing Batman. Prior to this year, I can count the amount of Batman doodles I've drawn in my life on one hand. Even at conventions, when I get a request for Batman, I try to ask them to pick something else. Lately however, I've started to enjoy trying to do my take on the guy. So here's a quick Batman painting I completed about a week ago. Like all of my recent work, it was painted in gouache and ink on a 12" x 17" piece of board.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Uncanny X-men

This one is a large painting in gouache and ink I did a little while ago. I've actually painted the original X-men team once before, but not in an action shot or in costume. While I grew up in the 80's and read the Claremont/Byrne comics of the team as a kid, the original lineup of mutants is my favourite. You can check out my various roughs that lead to the final art below:

Originally, I drew up this rough composition, but I hated it since it had so much dead space between figures:

So after some failed tinkering, I sat down and drew up a newer thumbnail which I liked much better. It's hard to read, I know, but it was enough to point me in the right direction:

That thumbnail lead to this new rough, which I used as the basis of the painting:

While the final art is done traditionally in goauche and ink, the roughs and the pencils were done digitally in Alias Sketchbook Pro -- a fun little drawing program I sometimes use for the novelty of drawing on my computer.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Son of Fan Expo Superheroes!

Two more paintings from the recent batch I've been working on for Fan Expo. The bottom one is of Lara Croft (of Tomb Raider videogaming fame), while the top one is of everyone's favourite fin-headed spaceman, Adam Strange.

This is actually only the 2nd time I've ever drawn Lara Croft, even though I was a fan of the games back in the original playstation days. Of course, back then I actually had time to play epic, 40 hour adventure games -- something I no longer have. Looking at it now, I prefer my pencil sketch to the final painting, something that happens from time to time. You can check out the sketch for it here on my twitter feed.

As for Adam Strange, he's always been a personal favourite of mine. I even have a few Adam Strange stories that I've plotted, sitting in a folder somewhere. I think his appeal is that he's less of an action hero than a romantic lead -- all the classic stories of him feature Adam at the end, staring up at the stars, longing for his girlfriend Alanna who is billions of miles away. When I sat down come up with a composition for this piece, that's the image that came to mind most vividly.

As always, these were painted in gouache and ink, and are fairly large; about 12"x17" approximately. I'll be bringing these to Fan Expo, so if you're at the show, you can check out the original art there.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fan Expo Superheroes

These are two more paintings I completed recently to take to Fan Expo. They were done large, in gouache and ink on 12" x 17" paper. Mister Miracle is a character I draw rarely, but have always wanted to paint at one point or another, while the Flash is a super-hero I seem to draw only as quick con-sketches. I enjoyed the opportunity to do a finished, polished painting this time around.

I'll be working on a few more super-hero paintings in the next week or so to bring to Fan Expo.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Captain America vs. Hydra!

In between editorial illustration assignments, I like to take a break and draw some superheroes. I find it's a great way to loosen up and work out aggression. I painted this one of Captain America in action against those nasty baddies from Hydra (google them if you don't know who they are) the other night for fun. I always seem to enjoy drawing Cap. This is also one of several new paintings I'll be taking with me to sell at the Fan Expo comic-con in Toronto in about a month.

This one was painted fairly large, about 11" x 16", in gouache and ink on watercolour paper. Since it was done in gouache, it needed no pshop cleanup. If you're interested, you can check out my pencil sketch for it below:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Adventures of Superboy

This is a cover image I painted for a hard-cover collection of 1940's Superboy stories published by DC, which should be out on comic shop shelves very soon. It was a fun assignment, and gave me the opportunity to draw a light-hearted super hero image. I even got to put in a puppy.

The final painting was done in gouache and ink on water-colour paper. You can check out the original thumbnail drawing for it below, as well as a sheet of warm-up doodles I did while getting accustomed to the character.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Clash

I spent a few days during the last week painting up some quick portraits of the members of the Clash. I got the idea to do these after watching Don Letts' excellent documentary, The Clash: Westway to the World and these drawings were all referenced from the interviews he conducted with the group around 2000. I loved seeing how the guys had aged, and comparing them to the photos and footage of them as young punks.

These painted sketches were all done fairly quickly, and I was just aiming to experiment with new approaches and techniques. The first two, of Paul Simonon and Mick Jones, were painted in gouache on paper. The ones of Joe Strummer and Topper Headon were done as ink drawings, mostly in drybrush, with tones added digitally.

The Clash were my favourite group as a kid, and I still think of them fondly. I can't think of any other rock group that can evoke in me the same feeling of hope and possibility like they do. For a little while, it really felt like they could change the world. I still miss Joe Strummer and listen to their early records often.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

PEN Canada: Dawit Isaak

PEN Canada recently asked me to draw a portrait of imprisoned writer Dawit Isaak, and I was happy to accept. For those unfamiliar with PEN, it's an organization which assists and publicizes the case of writers in many countries who are "persecuted for the peaceful expression of their ideas". I urge you to read more about Dawit Isaak online.

If you'd like to read a little bit more about the process, then you can continue below for a short process post.

I was grateful to art director Gary Beelik for giving me free reign with what I drew, pending approval of course. So to start with, I just researched everything I could about Dawit Issak and his case. There was a lot to read, and some of it was mis-information, which made this part very interesting.

Near the start, I asked my friend Tim Davin, one of the favourite art directors, for his help in throwing ideas back and forth. I always appreciate Tim's input, especially on the more challenging assignments. He was gracious with his time and we had a great couple of meetings at local cafes while we drew quick thumbnails on a coaster and discussed issues surrounding Dawit Issak's case.

Among the things we weened out during those meetings were initial ideas like this one:

Sometimes, you just gotta put your big first idea on paper to see that it's not gonna work. It's something I've had to do often in my career.

After some discussion, we agreed that I should just do a straight-up portrait, with little overt editorial. I also thought it should be something with a graphic approach, but still contemplative.

Next I drew up a portrait of Dawit Isaak in pencil (below left), and followed that up with a gouache painting at about 50% final size (below right). It was painted with two colours, mostly in drybrush:

From that painting, I cropped and tweaked an image in photoshop which made the final cut as the rough I submitted. It had something of the quality I was looking for:

After that rough was approved, I set about panting the final. Again, it was painted in gouache and ink on paper, using mostly dry brush. The main differences were a tighter under-drawing and a much larger size - 120% of final size:

Neither painting required much photoshop colour cleanup because they were painted in gouache. Both the rough and the final were painted in a graphic palette suited for posters. The final is a closer likeness, but the strokes are more subdued.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Toronto Streets

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a walk in the west end of downtown when I saw this street. I was struck by way it looked, so I came back a couple times to take notes and shoot pictures. Then I finished this painting back at my studio, working in gouache and ink on watercolour paper.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Editorial all day long

Just to show you that my time isn't spent doodling super-heroes all day long, here's a batch of editorial illustrations I've done recently.

The first is for Maisonneuve Magazine, illustrating an article on interesting villains in literature. I chose to go with an illo of my personal pick for most interesting villain: Satan, from Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost:

Next, and in keeping with the biblical theme, is a small spot for the New York Times Book Review, accompanying a write-up on the book "Jesus Boy":

Finally, shifting the focus from religion to money, here's a spot for Briefings Magazine, accompanying an article about Chinese market manipulation of american currency:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Night at the Opera Pt. 2

These are the other seven illustrations I did for "Les Adventures de Madame Merveille", a comic-themed opera performed earlier this month in Montreal. There were ten illustrations in all, and you can check a previous post of mine for the other three paintings, as well as more details on the production.

The colour choices for these drawings were a bit more saturated than I would normally use, but that was because the drawings were to be projected and I knew they might lose some intensity along the way.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Marvel Superhero Hour Pt. 2

As I was mentioning in a previous entry (see 2 posts down), I took some time recently to do some new super-hero paintings to take to TCAF, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Here' the rest of the batch, for your viewing pleasure. Most of them sold pretty quickly, so I think I might do the same thing for the Fan Expo show later this year, and bring some new artwork created specifically for the show. And yes, that's another Iron Man drawing -- I actually ended up drawing 3 of them for the show.

I'd like to thank all the people who came to TCAF and visited my table. It's been 2 days and I'm still not fully recovered from the show, but I was very happy to meet and chat with the people that came by. I hope you all had a great time at the show.

And here's another painting I did recently, this time of Superboy. It was my contribution to the Doug Wright Awards fundraiser auction -- if you're quick, you can still bid on the art on ebay!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Best American Comics 2010

This was a fun assignment, and a real honour. I was asked by Houghton Mifflin and series editors Matt Madden and Jessica Abel to design and illustrate the cover for the 2010 edition of their annual Best American Comics anthology. They gave me free reign to draw what I wanted, so over the course of a couple of weeks early in January, I sat down and worked out this image. Like most of my favourite cover assignments, the concept for this one came together pretty intuitively and I had an idea of what kind of response the image should provoke. This deluxe hardcover collection of excellent comic stories ships in the fall.

This year's guest editor, Neil Gaiman, also chose to include my 14 page story "Trinity" (a non-fiction comic about the creation of the atomic bomb) as part of the collection. Again, a real honour.

Monday, April 26, 2010

the Marvel Superhero Hour

Lately, during the week, I've been trying to take a couple hours at the end of the night to paint up some small super-hero sketches. Some are done as commissions while others are done for fun. Here's a few from that batch, all of which were painted in gouache and ink on board. I've been doing most of my work in gouache lately, instead of using markers, and really enjoying having a painted final product that needs little pshop cleanup.

Please note, I'm not taking any new commission requests right now. Sorry if this looks like a tease -- I'm just too busy with other projects at the moment.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Village Voice

This is a cover for the Village Voice Spring Arts Guide I drew a few weeks ago. Obviously, its a tie in to the new Kick Ass movie that's coming out soon. I also drew a small spot featuring the same character for the interior article. I don't really know much about the movie, but it was fun to draw an action scene for a magazine cover.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Cartoon City

This is a new painting I completed earlier this week for an exhibition called Cartoon City, which opens at Harbourfront Center on April 9th. The show features a great line-up of Toronto area comic artists, each contributing a piece about their neighbourhoods. In my case, I did my best to capture a section of College Street, a few blocks from my studio. If you're in the Toronto area during April to June, feel free to check out the exhibition. And if you're in on April 9th, come by and attend the opening which will be from 6pm to 10pm.

This is probably one of the biggest and most complicated paintings I've attempted in years. It's about 30" x 10" in size, and was painted in gouache and ink. Usually, I complete most works in one or two sittings, but this one took about four nights to finish. As detailed as it seems, I painted it fairly loosely because of its size and I really enjoyed the opportunity to use larger brushes. Everything on this was hit with a #5 brush and up. While working on it, I also discovered I enjoyed utilizing a few techniques I rarely use: 1) scraping out white lines with an x-acto blade and 2) using low-tack painter's tape to lift off ink and create texture.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Night at the Opera

Here are three illustrations from a fun project I completed last month. They're for a new modern opera, "Les Adventures de Madame Merveille" which will be opening this summer in Montreal. Commissioned by ECM+, the libretto is written by award winning comic writer Cecil Castellucci, and features 4 different comic-themed sequences, each illustrated by a different artist. The other artists involved in the project are Scott Hepburn, Cameron Stewart and Pascal Girard -- excellent illustrators all.

My segment is the romance part of the story, and the drawings above are three of ten illustrations that will be projected onstage during the performance. All the illustrations were painted in ink and goauche, and were a lot of fun to work on. I've been having great luck lately in the variety of different assignments to try my hand in and I have to thank Cecil for bringing me aboard for this project.