Friday, December 19

Scuba Steve

A friend of mine from our elementary school days uses a diver doll as her house's version of Elf on the Shelf. I love the idea, and her online photos of the diver's adventures are fun. I had to draw a tribute.

Also, this is the best foot I've ever drawn.

Thursday, December 11

Bizarro Sketch

I was inspired to draw this after spying Bizarro on a HIVE Soda poster on Teen Titans Go.

I merged the traditional "No. 1" sign around his neck and the reversed Superman symbol as they always seemed like overkill atop each other.

Bitch Planet

Bitch Planet 1 came out this week by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro. It was the first book in my stack, and it's a great first issue. 

Disclaimer: I'm biased. I've been lucky enough to meet and chat with Kelly Sue, and I root for her. I was all in for this series when the premise was announced  -- outer space women's prison -- and the comic lives up to my optimism. I wanted to do a sketch, and I remembered the promotional "Non Compliant" tattoos handed out at conventions this year. I know at least one person using it as a template for a real tattoo, and I wondered how far would someone go with it. And here we are.

This was done on letter-size paper with Microns, Sharpies, and Spectrum Noir markers.

Monday, December 8

Coffee Break

The local pop-culture art gallery ZaPow! recently opened a heroine-themed show (you have to pronounce that very carefully in conversation). As a ZaPow artist for almost a year now, I jumped at the idea and wanted to make a Wonder Woman image. But she was yoinked by a few quicker folks, and I quickly let that notion fade. Dang it.

Instead I decided to make a short original comic as a piece of art, and I remembered a sketch I did in July 2013 of a coffee break between fight scenes.

I thought it would be more accessible if I used the two lead heroines from the year's big comic movies, Captain America: Winter Solider and Guardians of the Galaxy. What if they had a breather between waves of Avengers-level invaders?

I started noodling the idea while waiting at a car dealership and quickly came up with the story skeleton. I had some ideas of specific speech and a general idea of the conversation flow. Nothing was locked in yet.

Then I thumbnailed the script. I didn't know if the story should be three or four pages, and that would be determined by the frame. Submissions for themed shows have to fit certain dimensions, so that required the pages to ultimately be at the size of a printed comic (6.75 x 10.25) instead of the original art size of 11 x 17. The frame also required the comic to be three pages instead of four. This was no big deal to adjust at this point.

When the size was locked in, I penciled on letter-size pages; two such pages combined equal 11 x 17.

I scanned those pages and reduced them to the finished-art size, printed them, and inked over them on bristol board with a lightbox. I also used those scans to start the lettering while I colored the pages with Spectrum Noir warm and cold gray markers.

I then printed the word balloons on sticker paper, cut them out with scissors and much profanity, and adhered them over the color pages. I usually don't work this way, but I wanted to give the comic the appeal of mixed media art. And there it was.

It looks like this in the frame.

Monday, October 6

Redoing The Fly

In October 2011, I did a series of horror drawings for the blog. One of them was a dapper Fly.

It was a goof, but it went over well.

This year, the ZaPow! Gallery announced a Halloween theme show, and I struggled to come up with a new idea. I remembered the Fly and decided to pursue it as a more polished piece.

I started with a reference picture. 

Then I Googled the classic Fly movies to get the head right. Turns out there are a few of them used in the first and second movies. I copied the reference photos freehand on an 11x17 Bristol page and scanned it to play with inks digitally. I intended to ink it on paper, but the digital work let me choose shadow angles and placement.

I then lightboxed the pencils onto another piece of Bristol and inked it in Sharpie. I have nothing against brush and ink, but I can't find inks that are dark enough. Everything hits the page like a gray watercolor.

I added texture and hue to the chair and a thicker border to the figure to pop it forward.

Tuesday, September 30

Turtle Masks

The benefit of making my own DragonCon costume (as detailed earlier on this blog) is that I can be more handy about the house.

The Deputy is all in for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon. I can't blame him. It's genuinely funny. A recent episode recreated Big Trouble in Little China, and I was the only one in the house who:
a) got it; and
b) went nuts for it.

He didn't know the Turtles until his cousins got him a few Turtle toys for Christmas. He was too young at the time to grasp the concept, but he's grown into them, and he found the cartoon at just the right time to obsess over it.

Me, I remember the first TMNT cartoon airing on the local FOX affiliate in the late '80s. GI Joe was still on. He-Man might have been airing too. Voltron, Silverhawks, Transformers. They were all daily cartoons at the time, but I never got into the Turtles cartoon. I barely knew the original comic.

I really hated them after sharing a dorm room with my first college roommate, who was abominable. He was mad for them. Had a Turtles bedspread which, along with the rest of his laundry, was in fact never laundered. He also had posters for the first movie. Maybe the second too. Anything he liked, I grew to despise, and I threw the Turtles out with the roomie bath water.

So I didn't steer my guy toward them. Neither did I discourage him. He was already into teenage alien Jedis from Clone Wars. I figured it was a lateral movement.

As there are now two current Turtle iterations -- the TV cartoon and the summer movie -- there are also two sets of costumes you can buy for your Turtle fan. They are ten bucks for each mask-and-weapon combo. That's $40. I thought I could do better than that.

Spoiler alert: I can't. But I'd rather spend that $40 on something else. Also, he's four. My wife reminded me of that when I started to get too detail-oriented planning homemade masks. She's right. He's gonna treat them as well as a four-year-old can, but that still means they're gonna get wrung out. I can hem and glue and sweat over these. He'll still tear them with enough play. He's four.

I bought four yards of cloth and sewing thread in matching colors and made a template by wrapping tracing paper around his head. My first template didn't take his ears into account. I made a second that angled the wings higher.

I also bought Velcro straps. I figured that was the easiest way he could secure them to his head.

Unlike with the Littlefinger costume, I could use light-colored thread to attach the Velcro. That saved my eyes.  The sewing isn't pretty; I'm still a very new newbie. But it holds. He asked for Leo first (the blue one) and for Raphael (the red one) after that.

So far, so good. He got the first mask Sunday and spent the rest of the day wearing it. He'll get Raphael tonight. He'll probably sleep in it.

Tuesday, September 23

ACE 2014 Is Behind Us

The third year of ACE saw it move to a larger section of the civic center and double in size. There were seventy-five artist tables, a huge increase from last year. I've attended all three years, and this was again well-attended and well-shopped. People brought their folding money, and God love you all. [blows kiss].

I was lucky enough to sit next to Jason Bowers and Kyle Huynh, my talented neighbors from HeroesCon 2013, and near Day of the Doodles and Jeremy Dale. Con neighbors can be anyone, and this gang ensured the day would be enjoyable even if attendance was middling.

But it very wasn't. It was a packed day that flew by. It felt like cleared off  the table an hour after I set it up. Busy busy busy. I again made sketches on the back of my business cards and found success with a larger 8.5 x 5.5 commissions.

The Hulk-Elsa print went over well, and I sold some of my trades. A little of everything, really. Can't ask for more. I had good reactions for the teaser art for next year's Unearthly, and there'll be more of that here as we move forward, and I added two new images to the Gallery of Doom at Cooking With Villainy!

The oddest commission request was for myself as Littlefinger based on my DragonCon costume. But hey, I had reference pictures.

Thanks as always to the Comic Envy staff and the ACE volunteers for throwing such a fun wing-ding. Of course I'll be there again next year.

Monday, September 15

ACE 2014 is this weekend

I'll be at the Asheville Comic Expo this Saturday, Sept. 20, with copies of my trade HEROES OF SINCLAIR, commissions beginning at $3, and exclusive teaser art for next year's graphic novel, UNEARTHLY. 

This is my ad for the convention program. Come by and say hi.

Thursday, September 4

ACE 2014 Commissions

I will be appearing at the Asheville Comic Expo on Sept. 20, and you can sign up for commissions now. If you prepay below, the work will be ready when doors open.

I am offering inked commissions (4-character limit) in three sizes:
11 x 17 - $30 (Color $35)
8.5 X 11 - $20 (Color $25)
8.5 X 5.5- $10 (Color $15)
The examples shown are in varying sizes and are available for purchase (email with any questions).

4 characters max.
+  +  + 

I'll also offer a variety of teaser artwork for next year's graphic novel. It's gonna be a fun story.

Tuesday, September 2

Making A DragonCon Costume: The Big Show

Previous Project Littlefinger Posts:
Sew Very Doomed
Another Adventure
Test Case
Idea Collision
Poncho Paint 
A Needle Pulling Thread
Done and Did 

Before you read this, you can see the photo album.

Back? OK.

I had no idea about a lot of things.

I had no idea how popular Littlefinger is. I was shocked by how many people flocked to the costume. They were eager and polite. They were giddy. It was heady stuff, and I thank them all.

I had no idea how strong the resemblance was. The more I look at the photos, the less I see it. But it got some folks off-guard (two attendees were literally speechless), and many people said they did double and triple takes. Whoever suggested this to me at the 2013 convention were right as rain.

We got to the show Friday night after work. We normally drive into Atlanta and check in to the hotel. We race to the Sheraton to get our badges so we can walk in the next morning's parade. Then we eat, satisfied that the day is done. We crash in the hotel room and start early the next morning. That's our routine every year.

But I wondered about the costume. I wanted a test run with my seams and knots. Whatever fell apart could be fixed before the parade, and I'd rather it fail that night than in front of thousands of people. I tucked The Countess into bed, changed, and slipped out of the room and toward the convention. I figured I'd get deep into the Marriott (cosplay ground zero) before anyone noticed the outfit.

I got one block, and I posed for pictures half a dozen times before I made it to the Hyatt.

I had no idea how popular the show is across demographics. The diversity of people who knew the show and the character genuinely delighted me. I live in a small mountain town. It's homogeneous. Everyone looks like me. Atlanta -- obviously, thankfully -- is a much wider spectrum of humanity. People who had nothing to do with the convention stopped me on the sidewalks and in restaurants. Even the ages of GoT fans were across the board. I was simply unprepared. It swelled my heart as much as all that walking swelled my feet.

The Countess and I walked in the parade Saturday morning with the GoT folks. I love doing the parade. I love high-fiving the kids sitting on the curbs. I love calling out costumed spectators. I love waving to the folks on the balconies. Then I love hitting the air conditioning in the Marriott when it's over. We went back to the hotel to change our layers. I packed about five pairs of black slacks and many more pairs of undershirts and socks and underwear. I needed them all throughout the weekend and a few bottles of baby powder.

We grabbed a light lunch and went back to see the costumes. My convention experience mostly involves a lap of a few hotels. I went to the indoor Game of Thrones photoshoot that afternoon. So many folks showed up that it was moved outside, and it was well-orchestrated madness on the Hilton steps. (Chaos is a staircase.) I left a little early because of the heat. We ate dinner and went back to the hotels to sight-see. I escorted her back to the hotel and walked on my own until around 2 that morning. My feet were destroyed. Next time I have to bring multiple shoes too.

We slept in Sunday before dropping by the comics alley to see writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. I promised her a few months back that I'd swing by in costume. We then hit the vendor area. The line for it was out the door on Saturday, but, Sunday morning, we walked right in. The Countess found some costume items for next year with the help of some friendly and patient costume dealers. I found some toys for our son. We shopped alongside celebrities (Grant Imahara, Sam Witwer, Karl Urban) and let them be; I considered this their off-duty hours. We grabbed a light lunch before walking about then ate supper and walked more. I called it a night around 2 again and made it back to my bed on what was left of my feet. I was snowblind from all the flash photography.

It was heavenly. The attendees and employees and guards and wait staff were patient and kind and encouraging. The atmosphere was perfect this year. The stars aligned.

And the costume, mostly, held up. I had some frayed threads, but nothing dropped off. There are tweaks we can make to the basic design, but nothing to replace. I talked to a much more experienced cosplayer about potentially contributing to a costuming forum, and that is astounding to me to be in that position. Some folks remembered me from the previous year, when I was in a totally different costume. I've had good luck. I've worn three costumes that went over really well in my years at the convention: Shipwreck, Gordon, and Littlefinger. I've had a lot of help with each from The Countess, and I bragged on her costume work whenever I could. I also got a lot of photos of my son's favorite characters. I showed them last night, and he practically levitated. We'll take him soon. Maybe next year.

I wonder what costume I can make for him.

Wednesday, August 27

Making A DragonCon Costume: Done and Did

Previous Project Littlefinger Posts:
Sew Very Doomed
Another Adventure
Test Case
Idea Collision
Poncho Paint 
A Needle Pulling Thread

We're in the home stretch now because the show is less than a week away.

On Saturday, the wife helped me position the tabbard atop the robe so we could attach the Velcro. She marked the underside of the tabbard with chalk lines. We didn't need to do this for the robe because the Velcro was going atop the shoulder seams.

It was left for me to sew the Velcro strips. The success with the collar hooks encouraged me to tackle this with gusto. She warned me to attach the hook strips to the robe, and the fabric to the tabbard, and I did.

But -- and this is a big "butt" -- you have to stab the needled through the Velcro strips like you're Norman Bates. It's thick and plastic. It will not yield. You stab it with your steel knives but you just can't kill the beast. And now I know the value of thimbles, because my fingers are perforated. It took forever -- FOREVER -- to get the Velcro strip stationary and wrangle the robe and sew around the collar without sewing the collar to the Velcro strip.

This was the first strip. The lay of the cloth makes it look like the Velcro is tugging the cloth. It's not. I worked hard to keep the fabric flat when attaching the strip, mostly to avoid any chafing when I wear the robe (even through a t-shirt).

I made the second strip approximately as long as the first and lashed it to the other shoulder. "Lashing" is the word because, keep in mind, I hadn't sewn anything before this summer. To keep the Velcro in place, I cross-stitched the strips in place. Overkill, perhaps. But I want this thing to last for two full days of wear and tear.

And this is the robe with both strips. This took hours on Saturday. I could have been playing video games. I mourn my lost time. I'm old. I need every hour.

Monday night, the wife and I double-checked the tabbard placement on the robe, and I added the soft fabric strips to it. I again cross-stitched the additions and again tortured my eyes with black thread and black fabric.

 The seams are barely noticeable on the exterior of the tabbard, and only the tallest of folks will see it. I may have to redo some gold dots broken up by thread and punctures with the fabric paint pen, but that should take a few minutes, tops.

The hem needed adjusting, and I clipped the tabbard ends to sew together the next day.

On my Tuesday lunch break, I went back to the fabric store to simplify the belt. The filigree clasp I chose opened too easily, and I initially bound it closed with black thread. I rethought that in the weeks since, choosing instead to sew the clasp ends to my tabbard edges. The cord would then wrap around me and under belt loops I would add that night. The belt cord would be more decorative than necessary, and I wouldn't have to worry about it falling apart in all those convention crowds. Tuesday night would be a bear with hemming (and hawing) and belting. I didn't want to sew anything on Wednesday. That was my arbitrary deadline. I would burn out my eyes Tuesday night rather than put needled to thread the next day.

I got home Tuesday night and hemmed the tabbard. I had earlier Googled hemming tutorials. The first one said hemming was simple. Just grab your sewing machine. I had never punched Google before.

I put on the costume and clipped the tabbard ends based on how they lay over the shoes. I measured the ends to even length and pinned the folds in place. I cut the excess and bound them with a mix of whip stitches and cross stitches.

With both those done, the last detail was the belt. Again, I decided to forgo a cord wrapping around me and instead suggest a belt with the filigree clasp. I marked the positions on the tabbard and attached them with lots and lots of thread.

The tabbard is heavy enough to create tension on the clasp, keeping it closed. The tabbard also now veers together, matching the lay of Littlefinger's. Amid a music shuffle of Evita, Beatles, Huey Lewis, and Pink Floyd, I was done. I finally put on the entire costume. There will be no Wednesday sewing.

Now I just have to shave Saturday morning to match the character.We'll iron the tabbard that morning in the hotel room before the parade. I'm packing a small pile of black t-shirts, slacks, and socks for the bottom layers, and I'll definitely have to change all those after the parade.

We made a costume, she and I. I can sew now. Not great. Not cleanly. But I can patch and secure and hem. If this outfit makes it through two days of packed crowds and hot, hot heat, it's a success. And if people know who I'm dressed as. Recognition will be good too.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 18

Illustration and a Beer

I was interviewed by the Illustration and Beer Podcast from Gallery two weekends ago. You can listen to it here.

Zapow sells a number of my prints and comics. Located in downtown Asheville, it's a pop-culture studio. A daily downtown convention.

Making A DragonCon Costume: A Needle Pulling Thread

Previous Project Littlefinger Posts:
Sew Very Doomed
Another Adventure
Test Case
Idea Collision
Poncho Paint 

It's been a while. I was on vacation, and I let the costume pieces sit on the back burner as I considered how best to tackle the last stages.

Before vacation I bedazzled the tabbard pleats. That's easier than it looks. The fabric paint pen allows you to just dab the pen down, and the mark remains. It went by quickly and dried immediately.

I also bought my shoes. I'll wear them around the house from now until DragonCon to break them in. Always break in your shoes before walking around for four days. Learn from our mistakes.

A few days later, I went back to the fabric store to shop for belt pieces.

The original is slim and purely decorative, and I couldn't find anything ready-made to match it. I would have to make it. After hovering at the scrapbooking, jewelry, and decor sections, I found a hinged thing that suggests the floral buckle.

This closure opens very easily, and I tied the hooks together with thread. I may redo it with thread more closely matching the closure color. Maybe not. It's a tiny detail.

I considered a chain for the belt but decided a string would be lighter and easier to maintain. I bought two packs of cords. If the belt breaks during the show, I have enough cords to repair it even if the color varies a little. The cord will slip through the buckle's bookending loops and tie behind it. Once the tabbard is Velcroed to the robe, I'll sew small loops on the robe to hold the belt in place. Or not. I might discover the belt is tight enough to stay in place. But if I need to make belt loops, that can be done quickly.

Bu first, I had to fix the robe's collar. Months ago I started this costume buy buying a Matrix Neo robe for the bottom layer. Two problems were obvious when the shipment arrived:

1) The robe buttons are purely decorative, embedded into the fabric, and can't be removed. OK. I'll live with that. They're black on black fabric. Not so bad.

2) The collar is flimsy. That is bad. Instead of staying up on the neck, it droops, and I wanted to match the way Littlefinger's collar sits. I considered a few ways to fix that before deciding on attaching hooks inside the collar. This would be my first effort of actually sewing on the costume. Yikes.

I dug out some closures from The Countess's sewing kit and experimented with placement in the collar on front and back.

The costume has a string tie in the back, but that will be tucked inside once the hooks are connected. The robe's tags were, for some reason, attached right at the inside back collar, and I cut those out.

Then the sewing commenced. I probably added five pounds to the weight of the robe by overdoing it. But I did it.

Black thread on black fabric to secure black hooks and black loops. My eyes were exhausted quickly. This is the inside of the back of the collar. I intentionally set the hooks to face outward so the flats would be against my neck. This took forever, by the way. I would pay someone to thread the needles for me. I then did the front of the collar (with the back hooks connected to learn the fabric tension points.

With that done, I put on the robe and fastened the collar together at the four points. I need to stress again that I have never tried something like this before, so no matter what the collar looks like, I am delighted it didn't, say, burst into flame once I put it on. It's not just good. it's good enough.

I attached the pin too.

Yeah. We're getting there.