Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Champions of Hara is Live on Kickstarter!

The Champions of Hara Kickstarter is Live!!! As I've said in earlier posts, this is a project I’ve been part of for about a year and I’m so excited to see it getting some attention! Everyone has given their all to make this the best it can be and I couldn't be prouder of the project and the amazing team I've been so lucky to be a part of. Please give it a look and if you like what you see share it around and donate if you can. This is just the beginning of what we have planned and I would love to see it far exceed it's $15,000 goal. 

Game Summary:
Become a Champion and explore the shifting planes of Hara in an epic blend of narrative adventure and arena style combat. 

For more info check out the Champions of Hara Website, and follow them onTwitter, Facebook, and of course the Kickstarter

You can see more artwork from the game on my website. As well as the websites of my fellow Champions of Hara Artists Hannah Kennedy and Eric Priestley. Both of whom have done and continue to do outstanding work for this so please show them support too!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Earthworm Jim and why I switched to an All Digital Workflow

Hey everyone, I finally had some time to do a Sketch_Dailies‬ prompt again and I wanted to share it! It's  ‪Earthworm Jim‬! As a 90's kid this was too good a prompt to pass up! If you're an artist and you have twitter but you’ve never done a Sketch_Dailies prompt, or even if you don’t have twitter and just want to try it, they’re a lot of fun and I highly recommend giving it a shot! They're great for a quick dose of inspiration. This one was done entirely in Manga Studio EX5 with tools from Ray Frenden and Paolo Limoncelli. Time was roughly 4-5 hours! 

I also wanted to take some time to share a bit of the process behind this piece and my current process in general. In the last year or two, the way I've been creating images has changed and evolved a lot. Really ever since I graduated college I've been trying different techniques and workflows in order to find the one(s) that feels the best to me and produces the work with which I'm happiest. After years of trying a traditional (pencil, ink, paper) workflow with digital color, then moving to a hybrid workflow (a mix of traditional penciling and digital ink and color), and most recently an all digital workflow, I've discovered that for a variety of reasons, I most enjoy the process and results of an all digital workflow. 
Digital Pencils done in Manga Studio EX 5 with Ray Frenden's pencil tools.
Probably the biggest one of those reasons is the ease with which I can make edits to an image when a client requests them and the speed that I'm afforded by working all digitally. I no longer have to thumbnail an image, scan it, print it full size, tighten the drawing, scan that, print it back out for inking, scan it again, and finally touch up the image before coloring it. Don't get me wrong, I still love drawing traditionally but as an illustrator, anywhere I can cut down time spent on a job is beneficial to both me and my client. As long as it's not going to lessen the quality of my final product. 
Digital Pencils converted to Blue Lines for inking. This is so I can easily
see the difference between my pencil and ink lines whir inking.
That's why it took me a while to make the switch to digital. Part of my hesitation was that I never felt like I had the control drawing with a tablet that I had drawing with pencils and paper. Something about it felt off to me and that made me feel like the quality of my work wasn't where it should be. I also always liked the idea of having original artwork to sell, although after a while all those pages do start to take up quite a lot of space. 

But after trying to digitally ink a few of my traditionally penciled pieces in Photoshop, I discovered that I really loved the results I was getting. So I decided to push my way through the process until I got more comfortable. After all, digital is just a tool, so it made sense that I needed some practice before it felt natural.

Digital Inks done in Manga Studio EX5 with inking tools by
Ray Frenden and Paolo Limoncelli.
Long story short, it worked! But there was one thing that really convinced me to make the switch to digital and it was Manga Studio EX5. I won't go into a whole sales pitch for it but I will say that between Photoshop and Manga Studio EX5, Manga Studio's brush engine is far superior in my opinion. It was the first time that I felt the same control with a Wacom tablet that I'd felt drawing traditionally. All the digital tools, pencils, pens, brushes, etc. felt, to me, like their real world analogues! And as you can probably see from the images above they also look very similar to their real world equivalents. Basically it helped me feel like I was working traditionally but gave me the benefits of a digital workflow. That was a real turning point and it was the push I needed to make the switch full on. 

Final Image colored in Manga Studio EX5 with tools by
Ray Frenden and Paolo Limoncelli.
It's been a long road to get to this point but I've never felt more at ease creating images than I do now. I still have a lot to learn as an artist, but when I work on a piece I no longer feel that I'm struggling to say what I'm trying to say. I'm not fighting with my medium and that's the first step in the right direction. I would say that working digitally has actually benefitted my work as a whole and made me a better artist overall. Ironically I think it's even made my traditional work better as well, due to the fact that digital has eliminated my fear of making mistakes, thereby making any experimentation less scary, and helping me to know what I want from an image. It's also helped me learn to draw with a lighter hand when starting a piece and thanks to the zoom tool, allowed me step back and see the whole image so that I don't get lost in one area of a piece for too long. 
I know that there is sometimes a bit of a stigma around digital art. I've heard people say that it's cheating, as if the computer does the work for you. But digital is just one of the newest tools in a long line of mediums used by artists and a tool is only as good as it's user. Bad drawing is bad drawing. No amount of filters or fancy digital brushes will make a bad drawing look good. So if you're an artist, no matter what tools you use practice the basics and learn how to see what you're drawing. Draw from life, draw from your head, draw with different mediums. But don't think that any material on it's own is going to make your work good. There may be a medium that you connect to more than others that helps you craft your best work but at the end of the day that's still because you are making that tool work for you.
I tried to keep this to the point so as to not bore you guys. I have a tendency to be a bit long winded.  But if you have any questions that I haven't answered here about why I made the switch to digital, or why I switched from Photoshop to Manga Studio let me know in the comments and I'll give it an answer if I can. I'd also be interested to know if any of you have recently made the switch from traditional to digital or maybe altered or struggled with your process in some way.  
And if there are any subjects you'd like to see a post about in the future let me know! 
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Everything Champions of Hara!

Hey everyone! I’m psyched to finally share these illustrations for Leaf Pile Media’s, Champions of Hara board game. These Hero Displays feature the 6 playable characters from the game and will be part of the game itself. I had a lot of fun with them and used Manga Studio 5 EX to create them! 
You may remember that I did a prologue comic for Champions of Hara as well which, if you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to check it out on the brand new Champions of Hara website! While you’re there take a look at the premise of the game and the bios for each of the characters below.
Thomas Evening
Kaoru & Kuma




If this is the first you've heard about Champions of Hara here's a brief synopsis of the game and the narrative:
"The world of Hara has descended into chaos. As the Conflux begins, Hara’s primal sources of energy rage out of control, threatening to tear the world apart. In a last-ditch effort to save it, Hara’s stewards send a call throughout the universe, drawing on Champions— individuals capable of containing this energy— and offering the promise of untold glory. However, only one Champion can bring the world of Hara back into balance and earn its power for him or herself.
In Champions of Hara, you’ll take control of one such individual. Journey across the shifting planes of Hara; forging fragile alliances, battling epic monsters, and facing off against friends and foes alike. As you do, you’ll unlock new powers and abilities to help you on your journey. But beware… as the Conflux grows more intense, the monsters you face will get tougher, the world will get harsher, and the planes that make up Hara itself will shift. Do you have what it takes to stand up to the challenge?"

This is a project that I’m really excited about and there will be a Kickstarter for it launching soon! So stay tuned! One of the coolest things about this is that the game and the comic work in tandem with each other to flesh out the world and the whole experience of playing and/or reading it! Other artists involved in this project include Hannah Kennedy and Eric PriestleyBoth of whom have done incredible work on this and are amazingly talented. Hannah also did a stunning cover for the comic so please go look at their work and follow them on tumblr if you have one (Hannah’s Tumblr, Eric’s Tumblr.) 

For more updates follow Champions of Hara on their Facebook and twitter! There's more to come soon so spread the word and please share this around!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I'm Not Dead!

Hey everyone! Man, I've really let this blog fall to the wayside haven't I? It's been almost a full 2 years since my last post...yeeesh! If I have anyone that is still reading or has been waiting for any news this is just a quick post to let you guys know that I'm not dead. In fact I'm quite busy and I've got a lot of things in the works! Some of which I still can't share but others which I can. The first really exciting news is that I recently got to do a variant cover for Archie Comics Mega Man series. It's issue 49 and it will be out on May 20, 2015! There was no specific prompt for this cover so I just kinda played around until I hit this idea. Since I'd wanted to do a Vitruvian Man homage for a while anyway I thought that this would be a good fit and my editor, Paul Kaminski, liked it as well. This was a really fun cover to work on and I'm really happy with the results! Thanks to Paul for giving me and this cover a shot! This was my first time working for Archie, or any of the big publishers for that matter, and I really enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to seeing this on the shelves!

Additionally Crystal Ben and I tabled at Locust Moon Comics Festival this past October and along with some prints and C.O.P.O.U.T issues we printed a new mini comic, The Cool-Box #1. It features a Comic Haiku from her and another Spaceman & Bloater story from me. As the #1 in the title suggests we're hoping to make this a more regular thing but given our schedules it may take a while for us to get into a consistent schedule. 

I've also been working with Leaf Pile Media on their Champions of Hara property. Doing art duties on both the comic as well as some other things that I can't talk about yet. Leaf Pile is a great gaming, comics, and media start up. Please show them support by liking their Facebook page! I'm really excited to be a part of their team. Working on this property has been some of the most rewarding work I've done thus far in my career! I can't show everything I've been doing for them but here's what's been revealed thus far! The intro comic:

And one of the character displays of a character named leaf!

Those are the main projects I've been working on. There are also some newer pieces which I didn't post here that are posted on my portfolio site, You can always keep up with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr as well for more frequent updates on what I'm up to. I'm really going to try and update this blog more often but check those places to see some more regular updates. Thanks for reading and please leave any thoughts, questions, or musings, in the comments as well as any topics that you'd like to see me cover here. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Is Art School Worth it?

Spider-Man: Senior year of high school   Spider-Man: Junior year of college
A little while ago I came across an article by Noah Bradley in which he says "Don't go to art school". I highly recommend reading his article because he really does have some very good points that are important to consider while trying to decide if you should attend art school. At the end of his article he also suggests a much cheaper ($10,000.00 instead of $245,000.00) alternative to a 4 year art school. An alternative that I think could actually really work for certain people. His article however, although it motivated me, is not the only reason I'm making this post. It's more that I've been seeing this topic crop up a lot lately and every time it shows its head I cringe a little and wonder if I made the right choice by going to art school. Yet at the same time I feel a need to defend art school. So here are my thoughts on the matter.

As someone who graduated just over a year ago I have to say that it's very easy to look at the amount of debt that I now have and let it sour my opinion of art school. We all know debt sucks. No one wants it and since you'll probably be getting a good amount of debt upon graduating it's easy to say "Art school (or any college really) equals debt so it's not worth it or necessary". I mean who wants to have upwards of $25,000 dollars of debt? I definitely didn't, I still don't, and I'm probably going to have a party when I finally pay it off. That being said I think art school was the right place for me to become the artist/illustrator/comic artist I wanted to be. This is obviously only coming from my experience and sure you can argue that I'm justifying my attendance because I have no way of going back on that decision but hear me out.

What I Got From Art School
(in addition to learning how to create a good illustration)
While at art school I made a LOT of valuable connections and made some great friends. Some of those valuable connections have become good friends as well. These are people that I wouldn't have met had I not gone to school. One could make the argument that I could just email and schmooze to get these connections but I don't know if it would be the same. I truly bonded with many of these people. We have a shared experience. My teachers/mentors are still available for me to email or call about potential jobs, critiques, uncertainties, or anything else that I may need in terms of professional advice. This is a relationship that although not impossible is not one that I feel would be easy to form without college. 

It broadened my horizons and shrank my ego
Along with getting connections I became a lot less close minded. Before college I really only liked comic book art and wanted to be a penciler. I never really cared about color or other types/styles of art and somehow I thought that I knew almost everything about it. Art school exposed me to a lot of styles, techniques, mediums, etc. that I never even knew existed. That coupled with daily critiques on my work both from my peers and my teachers shrank my ego and allowed me to see and appreciate art I never thought I would. It made me want to incorporate and try new things in my own work. Things that have helped me change, grow, and evolve as an artist.

Two pieces from senior year that I almost definitely would never have done without art school.
I learned to manage deadlines
Going to school taught me to handle and manage deadlines. Most of the time for not one but usually at least 3 projects at a time plus my other classwork. This is one of the most important skills you need as an illustrator and I know that when I get multiple projects I can handle it because I've already done it for 4 years. Sometimes without much sleep if any. 

I learned about the business side of art
This one is very important and often overlooked by a lot of schools so I'm glad that my teachers took some time to educate me and my classmates. They taught us about contracts, our rights as creators, the distinction between trademark and copyright, the difference between contract and work for hire projects, etc. This is information that is readily available online but if you don't know what you're looking for it it can be hard to find. It's also a topic that, if ignorant about, can really screw you. 

I could go on but you get the point. It worked for me and I learned more than how to create a good illustration. Are there successful artists that didn't go to school? Absolutely. Just as there are those that did who also have good careers. If you're seriously considering going to art school this is the question I'll ask you. Are you self motivated enough as a person to achieve all the skills and knowledge you need in order to have a successful career as an artist? Think about it. Think about it again and be honest with yourself. If the answer is yes then you can probably get by without going to school. Everything that you need to know is definitely somewhere on the internet or in a book and everything else comes down to practice since at the end of the day what matters most is your portfolio. I have friends that either dropped out or didn't attend school and are doing pretty well. But that's because they are very driven and if they want to learn something or do something they will not stop until they find the answer. Nothing gets in their way. They absorb all the information they can, don't make excuses, and they don't get chronically lazy. 

If the answer is no, then if you can afford it art school would probably help you. Keep in mind I'm not saying that art school is going to hold your hand (it isn't high school) you need to at least be driven enough to get your projects done, be creative, and try really hard to improve on your own. But it will provide you with life long teachers, friends, and resources that are there to guide you and lend a helping hand. Yes it's expensive but as long as you are careful to pick the right school for you it will be worth it and help you grow as an artist. I wouldn't trade my time in college for anything even if it meant that I would be debt free.

If you read this far here's the bottom line. Becoming a professional artist/illustrator takes a lot of hard work and dedication. There will be struggles regardless of if you have debt or not so, although it is an important one, don't allow money to be you're only deciding factor.

What's your opinion on this whole topic? Leave it in the comments.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

First Time Offended

I've been sitting on this for a while but now I can finally announce and show my work. A few months ago I did a 3 page story for Grayhaven Comics which is featured in The Gathering: Crime Issue. I admit it's not the biggest news in the world but this one was special for a few reasons. 1) I finally collaborated with writer and I had a blast! We had a great working dynamic and I think we made a pretty awesome short story. We'll also be collaborating on a bigger project in the future but that's all I'll say for now. 2) Although it's small press Grayhaven is still a publisher. Which means this was the first time I've released a comic and had it not be self published. Nothing against self publishing, I love it but it's a nice change of pace. 3) I rediscovered inking and realized how much I missed it. Making this comic gave me a great opportunity to experiment with techniques that I've been meaning to try for a while. All in all it was a great experience and I'm pretty proud of the comic that came out of it.

Here's the comic. First Time Offended: Written by Nicholas Chervanek  with art by me. Have a great day guys!