Sunday, July 19, 2009

Diary of Abandoned Pictures

As I back up images off my hard drive, I’m pausing to look back at pictures that never saw the light of day (aka the internet).

These images, sometimes scraps, sometimes nearly complete, litter the art directory on my hard drive. I never know what to do with these things. Occasionally I'll pop into a directory and browse the artwork. Very, very occasionally, I'll make a half-hearted attempt at finishing one of these remnants. I never get anywhere with these pictures though. There's always more important, more modern, or more relevant work that needs the time.

Incomplete projects can really weigh you down, and over the last several years, I've accumulated quite a few. I abandon these pictures for any of several possible reasons. In some cases, the images ran up against long term projects and had to be abandoned. In other cases, I was unhappy with the creative direction. Some pictures are contest entries that I didn't feel confident enough to submit. Finally, some pictures I completed to the point required to fulfill a task, and then left otherwise incomplete.

Whatever the case, it's time to make a record of these projects, wipe them off the hard drive, and move on. Life is full of endless possibilities. There's no point living in the past, or getting hung up on pictures that were never meant to be.

Fantasy-ish Girl Caught Changing.
An example of what happens when I try and make a "quickie" image. I wasn't happy with the direction the picture was going and realized it would take more time an attention than I was willing to give it. Therefore, it was abandoned.

Mage Fighter
Mage fighter was an image I desperately wanted to complete. The character art was in the cel coloring portion of Digital Manga Workshop. I intended to have the picture set is a London alleyway, but because of the time constraints on the book, I only managed to finish a small portion of the background before I had to move on. Note the woman's cockroach familiar.

Gymnastics Postcard Concept
During the 2008 Summer Olympics, Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson -members of the USA Gymnastics team - took gold and silver in the women's individual all-around. For 48-hours or so, all of America was excited about their victory. Then Michael Phelps won his 35th gold medal and all eyes shifted to him.
I considered doing a patriotic promotional postcard featuring these girls arching through the air hand-in-hand. Never got around to doing the picture, but I had blast sketching gymnasts in all sorts of body contorting poses.

Uhm... Yeah. Next.

The Zodiac
Set the way-back-machine to 2004. Sometime before working on Peach Fuzz volume 1, I started on the project of anthropomorphizing figures of the western zodiac into female characters. The series was taking longer than expected, and after completing 3 or 4 designs I ran smack dab into an 8 month long comic project. I put the Zodiac characters aside and never touched them again over the next 5 years. People really like these characters. I still receive emails about this project from time to time. I'm sorry, but the Zodiac project is officially over.

Cancer was nearly done and Aquarius was inked.

If it's any consolation, Lindsay later finished the designs as a series of chibis.
They're so freakin cute.

New York Anime Festival Mascot
The picture I planned to submit for their mascot contest. Somehow this picture became my ultimate nightmare. I ended up with 3 different versions of the character, and several differently styled color approaches. Unhappy with the results, and running up against the deadline, I left the picture unfinished.

Maybe it is finished... You decide.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Over the years, Lindsay Cibos and I have kept careful sales records, charting what pictures and products were successful with audiences at anime conventions. I started writing this document as a personal meditation on what works and what doesn’t at conventions, so that I’d have a better idea where to apply myself when it comes to creating images. What I found through writing this is that I was not only creating a list of factors that contributed to whether an image sells at conventions, but also a list of traits that helped explain why some artistic endeavors appeal on a broad scale. I thought my findings might be of interest to other artists, so I’ve taken the time to compile them. I hope that through sharing this info, other artists might also be inspired to share their own knowledge on the subject of creating successful art.

Conventions: Passing attraction. Picture yourself walking through a typical anime/comic convention dealer’s room. If the convention is worthwhile, then the floor is an overwhelming sensory experience. A vast diversity of people pack themselves into living channels that run down the length of cramped aisles. Strange and horrible smells arise from the crowd, assaulting your olfactory nerves. Ambient noise rings a deafening crescendo in your ears, forcing any conversations to take the form of highly focused yells. Your eyes dart from one visual highlight to another. You’re barely able to focus on navigation or destination. Everything around competes for your attention. You find yourself drifting along with everyone else.

Within the crowd, there are other distractions. Some attendees dress in elaborate costumes celebrating characters from popular shows, video games, comics, and anime. Other attendees wear bizarre fringe fashion and fetish-wear designed to display the maximum legal amount of skin.

Every aisle in the hall is lined with venders doing everything they can to attract people to their table. They erect huge displays featuring hard to find merchandise, they shout out enticing bargains, they stand on their tables and clash enormous replica swords together, and they play J-Pop music videos on large monitors at the maximum volume.


Now imagine yourself as an artist attending the convention. You decided to take the plunge, and put down $50 for a table in artist alley. Somewhere in this chaotic carnival of freaks and fandom, you reside. You set down an 8.5x11 inch art portfolio, and wait for a tide of people to crash into your table.

Will you succeed in generating interest in your art? Will you lose your time and investment, earn back your convention costs, or make a killing at the con? Like a general following Sun Tzu’s Art of War, it all depends on what preparations you made before the event and how you handle yourself at the event.

To be a successful artist, it helps to understand your product and the marketplace. What grabs attention and makes people want to buy? To help, I’ve broken down the factors I consider important to artistic success in a tiered hierarchy. From the standpoint of a convention attendee – AKA your potential customer – they move up the hierarchy making small, often subconscious assessments on whether the piece of art is appealing. If the art passes the test, it becomes more interesting to the viewer, and then they assess the work according to the next tier. Art that registers strongly on any tier is often successful. The more tiers a piece registers on, the more success it has.

Hierarchy of Traits Affecting Artistic Success

  • Venue
    • Quality
    • Size
  • Familiarity
    • Famous Characters
    • Popular Themes
    • Popular Subject Matter
  • Appeal
    • Cute
    • Cool
    • Sexiness
  • Controversy
  • Quality
  • Price
  • Personality

Over the next several blog posts, I’ll elaborate on this hierarchy. You’ll learn what makes an impact at conventions, and why. As you look over this list, you'll find these factors don't just apply to art at conventions either. The principles work just as well in the online marketplace, and can also be used to analyze the appeal of other artistic works, including fashion, writing, or even music.

In the next installment we’ll focus on the venue, the first and most important factor on whether your art will have an impact with an audience. See you next time!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Viral - Finished

Viruses are fascinating little cellular machines. Since viruses are inert and virtually lifeless, they require other forces to spread them around. When a virus, like influenza, stumbles into a specific type of cell, like epithelial tissue, the virus activates. It breaks through the cell's defensive barrier by providing a forged protein passkey. Once inside, the virus assumes control of the host's biological machinery, and uses it to replicate itself. The cell makes so many copies of the virus that the pressure eventually ruptures the cell and new viruses spill out, infecting the surrounding cells.

That's some scary stuff!

Here's hoping we never see another influenza epidemic like this one.

So make sure you get vaccinated. Don't let the viruses win without a fight.


Sketched on 11”x14” Strathmore Bristol, finalized and painted in Photoshop CS 3. This one took somewhere from 2 weeks to forever to put together. The four point curved perspective made the picture maddening, but I persevered.