Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ode to American Gothic

Another crazy anime related idea I couldn't suppress. This was probably sparked from an article Lindsay showed me about Taichi Takashita, and his online campaign to establish a law permitting marriage to fictional characters.

Regardless of my feelings on this very important matter, it got me thinking about a picture combining a 2d cel-style character with a realistically painted character.

"It might create an interesting juxtaposition." I thought.

Initial image concept: “The image is composed like American Gothic, except with two people outside of a modern Japanese house or apartment community. The male character is a realistic looking guy, drawn in a photorealistic style. I'm not sure if I want him to look flattering, ugly, or average. I suppose he should be the type of guy who would marry an anime character. The female character is drawn in a generic anime style, and painted like an animation cel. She has a baby in her arms, drawn in a semi-manga style and colored with soft shading. The background art looks like a colorized manga panel, that is to say, it looks like a rotoscoped photo with screen tone. Add a color wash overtop to finish, but don't paint the bg.”

To get the background shot, I ended up having to do extensive photo research. I walked the streets of Tokyo on Google Earth for several hours collecting reference shots of buildings. Since I didn't own any of these photos and none of them where from the proper angle, I ended up drawing the background from scratch. It took the better part of a night, but it integrated into the picture far better than a manga-style photo trace would have.

I tried to echo contextual and textural elements from American Gothic throughout the image, like the patterning on the schoolgirl uniform. See if you can find everything. :)


Characters sketched on 11”x14” Strathmore Series 400 Drawing paper. Background sketched on a 9x12 Strathmore Series 400 Sketch paper. Image finalized and painted in Photoshop CS 2. 2d character line art inked in Paint Tool SAI. About a week from concept to completion.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Absolved Complete

Success or failure.

I'm unsure.

Next picture starts tomorrow.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Horary! The Shojo Beat Girl is finished. Glittery little tears fall from my eyes and flitter through the air like Dandelion seeds. It's so magical.

Last time I mentioned this picture, I discussed waking in the middle of the night, fixed on a costume design. What I didn't mention was my idea for the skirt. I wanted each pleat on the girl's skirt to depict a panel from a manga running in Shojo Beat-- thus representing the character’s interest in manga.

I was concerned that using manga panels might look too loud or tacky, but from the first pleat, it looked perfect-- color, pattern, and texture, all in one package. Even the magenta ink used for the printed pages, was exactly right color for my image palette. After the success with the skirt, I used another manga page for the patterning in the obi. It was on message with the picture's theme, and looked as good as any pattern I could create or source from elsewhere.

For the background painting, I was inspired by the artwork of Ein Lee. You can find her DeviantArt page (featuring brilliantly ethereal anime paintings) here:

Ein likes to use a program called Paint Tool Sai for painterly watercolor effects. Sai is a limited, low overhead, Painter knock-off, but to its credit, it manages to steals some of the best aspects of Painter. Also, the app is only like 2MB. You can download it here:

Before long, I was futzing around with the watercolor tool. Originally, I thought I'd color the character art in Sai, but after using Photoshop to paint for the last two years, the watercolor tool seemed frustratingly uncontrollable. I fooled around in the background, washing colors around, and making little designs. Eventually I tried making a little Sumi-e painting; it would tie in with the Japan-ai theme expressed in the character art. A tree appeared and a stray line became the silhouette of an ibis. Somehow, this seemed like just the backdrop I was looking for.

What proceeded was a day of painting in Sai and Photoshop. The picture took time, but I’m pleased with the result, so I can't complain.


Sketched and finalized on Strathmore 400 Series sketch paper, and then painted in Sai and Photoshop CS2. It took about two days from concept to completion.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Absolved - Sketch Complete

As of 11AM, the sketch is done. My old friend, the snake tool (a flexible curve), came in handy. Half way to a completed picture. Certainly is different for me.

Absolved - In a dark space, a man is huddled in a drunken stupor, grasping a huge bottle of alcohol. Images signifying the man's desires erupt out of the open container. In this ethereal world, life's a party. Glitter, confetti, and pixie dust intermingle with money, cars, and women. Bright lights and magic reside inside the bottle, outside, there’s nothing but grim dark reality. Dreams don’t come true.
Toilet=disillusionment, or possibly the next destination.

Well, that was emo.

...Next picture, smiling girls and panties... maybe ;)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Absolved - Work in Progress

That different thing I was talking about...

Any thoughts? Let me know.

Sugoi! to Absolved

On Saturday morning, Microsoft takes Japan was mostly finished. The only thing left to paint was the character. Nevertheless, for some reason I felt the picture was looking too clean, too dull. Looking at the city, things looked peaceful. I realized that I wanted a higher degree of chaos. Wasn't there supposed to be a battle taking place?

Looking back at my concept sketches, there were originally smoke clouds rising from Tokyo. I thought adding about adding a cutout graphite sketch of smoke clouds into the painting. Mixed media dude! Like high school! Then I thought about a different, but equally mixed media approach.

Over the last three years, I've dropped screen tone into page after black-and-white page of Peach Fuzz. For some time now, I've wanted to use screen tone in my paintings, but it never felt appropriate. Graphically, screen tone, with its small sharp dots, is one of those trademark aspects of manga that just doesn't seem to have a place in paintings. Would it clash? Would it look to garish? It wanted to know.

At first, the toned clouds did look awful. The dots were too small and too loud. I reapplied the tone and as the dots became bigger, the image started to work. I ran a Gaussian blur to reduce the harsh edge on the dots, and -WAMMO- I was getting somewhere. Then I applied the sketch clouds over top of the dot tones to supplement them. After a wash of green-yellow and red, I was satisfied.

I think I'll be using tone like this more often.

On the character, I tried cel art for the face and hair. Like I imagined, the juxtaposition was striking, but it went too far. The flat art face became a jarring focal point. It was hard to see the rest of the picture past the cel art head. After several reworks, I decided to lightly paint the face, and draw lines around the contours of the hair. I think it still makes the point, she looks intentionally cartoony without overpowering the rest of the picture.

So now what? Image spamfest to all the CG galleries online. I hope that it gets a good reception.

And now, for something completely different.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How Microsoft took Japan - WIP Colors 1

Eat Desert Last. That's the doctrine I stick with when working on these large-scale images. The character is the capstone. It takes the most effort, and is usually the most pleasing portion of the picture to look at. When you're done with it, you want to be on your way out of the painting. Maybe you'll still need to clean up a snag here, or alter the coloring there, but the last thing you want to think about is rendering the other 2/3s of the picture. That, more than any technical reason is why I start with background elements and work up.

--and there's also technical reasons, like overlap and such.

I got off to a late start tonight, picking up the painting after dinner. The preliminary painting and texturing for the X-Box flag and Tokyo skyline are done.

I'm working on the city now. God I hate the working on the city. I'm half-tempted to catch a flight to Tokyo, snap some photos, and drop them directly into the image. That's what a real manga artist would do. Or they’d buy a stock photo. Nevertheless, I suppose that's why I'm a quasi-manga artist. I make life 10 times harder on myself. Hopefully I’m learning something.

Work on the city continues tomorrow. Hope to have this done in the next two days.

Artist Life - Shojo Beat Girl - WIP

Lindsay subscribes to Shojo Beat magazine. They're back to running another "Draw our Beat Girl" contest. While I wasn't planning to enter, (I have a portfolio I'm trying to put together. Random anime girl wasn't something I needed more of.) the more I thought about designing an iconic character for Shojo Beat, the more amped-up I became. I figured I'd treat it like any other art job. Lindsay showed me their list of criteria:
-Must contain SB logo
-Full body
-Faces reader
-Rockin' a cool outfit
-Accessories are a +++
     -Video games
     -Japanese pop culture
-May contain the other SB chibi characters

Anyway, it gave me some solid boundaries to work within, and took me back to the days when I was doing personal character commissions for pplz on teh web.

After finishing up the sketch for the MS takes Japan picture, but before hitting the sack at around 12AM, I made a couple of squiggly character sketches for my Beat Girl design. It was nothing special, but my brain was turning over the idea. I called it a night.

I woke up at 4:45 AM and miraculously had a pose and outfit design fixed in my brain. Aside from fighting the flu, my brain must have been stewing on it all night. I wish it always did this. I can't remember dreams, but somehow during maintenance mode, a character design got lodged in my skull. I immediately got out of bed and started doing rough figure sketches.

At 8:30AM the rough design was done. All before the first cup of coffee...


8:35AM Now I've had my coffee. :)

It's 5PM. The pencil sketch is done. Who knows why it took so long. I dropped some simple color on it to make it more screen friendly. Anything need fixing? Let me know. :)

How Microsoft took Japan - Sketch

After several days at a convention, and another day immobilized from the flu, I'm back at the drawing board. I'm not feeling well, but I was able to get out of bed and get some work done.

With Lindsay's help (that coffee was amazing!), I returned to my Microsoft takes Japan picture sometime before noon. I had a complete rough sketch with a nice palette of colors spotted in. I considered moving straight to painting. However, after staring at the picture for several minutes, I felt nothing but dread. There was too much uncertainty in the line work.

Some artists can deal with loose lines. I cling to structure. If I'm unsure what a line indicates, or find an error somewhere, I'll go nuts trying to rectify the problem. I don't want to think about structural problems in a picture when I'm concentrating on the paint job. Ultimately, I decided to print out the rough sketch do another pass on paper.

8 hours later, the pencils are finished.

If you have any thoughts on the piece, let me know. Coloring starts tomorrow.

One final note. Thank you NeoLucky for your advice on the image composition. I listened and thought about what you had to say, but ultimately went with the third concept. I felt that the position of the helmet placed greater emphasis on the unmasking of the character than the other two drafts. Still, I appreciate your feedback.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sketchbook014 - Megacon 2009

Portrait quick sketch commissions and random face sketches from Megacon 2009. All sketches done with a .09mm mechanical pencil in blue graphite. The large shots on top are the portraits. The customer keeps the originals, so I archive the art with photos. Too bad the shadows from the overhead lights make a mess of things.

Further down the page are doodles of people I observed. Since the show is constantly moving, many of the heads are a mix hair and facial features from various people who walked by my table. I’ve numbered the more complete faces. Tell me if you see yourself.

Sketchbook014 - Megacon 2009 by ~Quasimanga on deviantART

In other news, I now have the flu. Thank you Megacon. Here's hoping I recover quickly.