17 February 2018

The Perpetual Chase

A few things have happened recently that really cemented my resolve in the direction I should be following; my one true path, so to speak.

I had left my day job a couple of months ago- the original intent was to hone my illustration skills. As it were, I was given an opportunity to work with a friend; while it's a great opportunity for anyone that wants to move into that industry, it simply wasn't the right fit. Aside from that, it clearly demonstrated to me that I had detoured from my original intent of becoming an illustrator.

I know I have a way to go. I tell myself "Gee, if only I had been working on my draftsmanship I'd be pro by now." That's true, but I forget that I have also been working on my storytelling ability through filmmaking. I like to write, but I also love visuals. I have been told BY AN INDUSTRY PRO that I have a firm grasp of storytelling sequentials on par with those working as pros.

So, all this work has not been in vain, and it's an unfair assessment that I don't have any qualifying skills. It's a matter of doing what I was meant to do. In the end, I just need to work on my execution and polishing skills. I'll get there. It's a matter of practice, which I do daily.

Here's an example from a webcomic I had attempted a few years ago, aptly named Tales from the Lost Skies:

I am going to resurrect TFTLS as a personal imprint. I have a number of short stories that would work, including my work with Brian K. Morris and a few other personal projects I had worked on.

SO- I'm writing it here- it's a personal challenge to get going on these and I want some accountability. You can expect these stories as short oneshots (some with cliffhangers):

Queen of Spades
Sirens of Proxima
Ceres Gambit, read my original story
Masked Pilot, written by Brian K. Morris
Unnamed monster hunter story

I am moving forward with becoming a comic book artist. I have printed out the mantra and hung hung this on my wall: I can plan all I want, but without a body of work, I am nothing. GREATNESS CANNOT BE ACHIEVED WITHOUT OBSESSION.

Bleak and bold, but it motivates me.

Here we go!

08 October 2017

Finding creative conviction

I’ve been thinking about what got me into graphic design and illustration in the first place. Although I’ve always liked to draw and write, the friends that I had and their interests are what cemented my future endeavors.

It started with FASA’s Dr. Who RPG back in mid-1980s Jr. High. It was actually my first taste of role-playing, and we eventually worked up into AD&D 2nd edition. It inspired me- I couldn’t afford all these games. What if I made my own? My friends tried talking me out of it, but I wasn’t deterred. I started designing my first table top- a horrible space fleet tactical game that relied on rulers and hundreds of dice that kept hit point scores. I drew space ships on pieces of cardboard, and despite the lousy game play, I had fun spending hours designing it. It was my first real experience with creative flow.

By the time I hit 10th grade, I met my best friend, Bobby Hancock. He also had a space fleet game- arguably better than mine. We were also trying out roleplaying rules and my first RPG- “Starkillers” was borne. Yes, I had taken the name from Star Wars- but Lucas wasn’t doing much with any of that stuff in 1988- unless you count West End’s Star Wars RPG line (of which I own many books and started the entire Legends expanded universe… but I digress).

“Starkillers RPG” evolved into another game, which is shelved (and has been retitled, btw- for later public release). As I was building that game, I was teaching myself the fundamentals of graphic design and drawing to fill the universe. I had just graduated high school, and had zero prospects. To be honest, I didn’t know I was building the foundation of a future career.

Pushed into going to apply at Salt Lake Community College by my girlfriend (now wife) Charlotte, I was sitting in the Student Center flipping through the pages of the class catalog. Words jumped out at me as I skimmed and I saw the word “Cartooning” jump out at me. I flipped back and saw the Graphic Design degree. “What is this?” I wondered. Sheltered, pre-internet, I had never given any thought to it as a possible career. Suddenly, a light went off in my head- I could DESIGN my games and do it for a living!

My original intent faded as I was introduced to a whole new world of artistic opportunity. Fast forward a few years after school- it was very hard to break into the industry pre-internet. I had toyed around with going to Kubert Cartooning School- but I talked myself out of it. I wish I hadn’t… but in retrospect, I lacked conviction. That is a story for another time, though. I did have an experience at self-publishing a comic book, but that fell apart as my creative partner had too many personal problems. We went our separate ways, but it soured the taste of comic creation… well, I guess even to this day. Again, lack of conviction compounded by sour experiences- I just never followed that path to any satisfaction.

Post college, my first few jobs were horrible- a small print shop which lasted a month, and a family owned phone-book publishing company that was worse.  That one lasted a year and met one of my future best friends there. Those jobs paved the way for my decade-long stint in broadcast television… which led to my current job in multimedia in higher education.

And I’ve tried all sort of exploration into different types of artistic expression: animation, illustration, comic books, narrative writing, filmmaking… but never much into what I originally intended to do: game design. I had played around, and even attempted a card game a couple of years ago with a friend I had met at one of my jobs. It was a simple card game based on a rummy run, the first to create their 10 card run won.

Simple, right?

Well, we had different intents on that game- I wanted a simple quick competitive game and he and his family liked more strategic, cooperative games. While that endeavor fizzled out, it did give me some insight into how much gaming had evolved- I had been out of it for so long.

Back and forth again. Work, family, home, occasional creative experimentation… I even thought about developing my writing talents and becoming an author. Still on the list of possibilities, but being visual, and I do enjoy drawing… and the complex abstraction of figuring out game mechanics.

And so here we are- a meandering full circle. It’s been now nearly 30 years since I started designing games, and a 17 hear hiatus between letting it go and a failed start… now back to full on design again.

I’ve learned many lessons in my most recent attempt, and have played some other games with other friends. I have started a new pulp-adventure table top game that can be both cooperative and competitive, depending on your strategy. I have a playtest version ready to go- I’ve roughly illustrated a deck of cards to emulate the playing experience. It’s helping me brush up on my illustration and graphic design skills- because it needs to look as amazing as it is in my head. I've even went and opened a new Instagram account @lostskies7 to show how that's going.

It’s all coming together- all of my experiences. I always thought I had wandered off my path, but I was really adding to my repertoire of skills and building experiences. It’s a bit of uncharted territory for me, though… but exploring it is what is exciting.

14 August 2017

Just show up.

A few of the things I get asked often is "how did you get so good?" or "Can you teach me to draw like you?". My answer is usually the same- you just need to practice. Everyday. For years. There are no shortcuts in this.

I came across this video- and he had another great bit of advice...

I don't draw everyday, but now I will. I just need to show up.

13 August 2017

Popular Comics #1

inDELLible's first issue. Cover by Steven Butler.
Here's a panel from the story I illustrated: Captain Tornado!

The folks at inDELLible have published the first anthology TPB, calling it Popular Comics, Issue #1. I have a 5 page story inside written by Bill Cain called Captain Tornado. I only pencilled and inked the story, colors were by Jared Prophet and it was lettered by industry veteran Daerick Gross, Sr. Cover is by the legendary Steven Butler! It's available on Amazon.

Daerick also acted as the art director of the project. He has been great in giving advice and critique and I feel like my artwork has been evolving under his guidance.

I originally had a second story, but life intervened... however something will come of it! Stay tuned!

10 August 2017

Bought a brush pen... leaving comfort zone.

I hadn't posted for a while, so this update is more of an attempt to say "yep, I'm alive and busy behind the scenes!"

Here's a head study I executed with a brush pen... mostly to see what kind of tight control I could have with details. The image is about three inches tall, to give you some frame of reference. I've been drawing for years and have played with brushes off and on. This is the first one that turned out halfway decent enough to show off.  

I bought a small round Pigma brush pen from Hobby Lobby (not endorsing the store, but it's nice alternative to Michael's.
I've played around with a sable and Higgins ink before- but really only about 3-4 total work hours messing with a brush in all my time doing it. I'm not a fan of clean up so I've never really hassled with it. This one was after about a half hour of inking different heads.

I need to start posting current images!

26 July 2017

A funny thing happened while at the comic book store...

Example of Colin Wilson's excellent use
of lighting and solid draftsmanship.
There is a comic book shop about two miles from my work which I'll occasionally go do during lunch. I'd go more often but I'd become broke very quickly.

Because I don't go often, I'm not really keen on what's "hot" or up on any current story lines. I'm an artist, and buy only books based on if I like their art.

So I found a few, but one in particular- The Rocketeer Adventures 2 had a story in it where I loved the art. When I got it home I discovered it was by artist Colin Wilson, who've I'd admired for years and years! Of course I liked it! He's done everything from Blueberry, to Judge Dredd, to Rogue Trooper, to Star Wars Invasion (Incidentally, the last time I went I found Invasion and picked it up because I liked the art- and again discovered it was Colin).

One of the best things an artist should learn is to discover not only what catches their eye, but why. I like Colin's use of detail, the realism in his backgrounds, props and vehicles, and his characters... and the use of his camera shots.  The artwork feels alive.


Still getting back into it. I've been drawing when I can, way out of practice. I started going through all my old sketchbooks (I leave notes to myself when I've drawn something that I like since it's so hard to bottle lightning), and old illustrations. I came across this VERY out of character illustration I did as freelance for a women's health food product packaging:

The original illustration.
The front of the packaging, sans dog. He ran away.
It's fun to look back, but now I need to look forward!

A very talented filmmaker and good friend of mine, James Cawley, is going to do a fan film of "The Gunslinger"- from Stephen King's Dark Tower books. James called me out wanting some promotional and conceptual illustrations which I am extremely happy to oblige.

It's been a VERY long time since I've read the books, like 20 years... so I'll have quite a bit of research and rediscovery to do. To be honest, I needed a project to kickstart my brain- I tend to do better and MORE on other's projects- it's easier to answer to someone else then to answer to yourself.

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