Easel Update: December 2015

Astro Boy
I’d be that excited too, if I had rockets for feet

So I had a bit of an epiphany recently – I realised that I often mention the sketches I’m working on as I continue to experiment with my digital tablet (not to mention work at becoming more consistent as an artist overall!), but I never actually share them!

Sure, they go up on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram, but it’d be nice to feature these little training exercises here on the site.

After all, I did promise to share my creative development with you guys way back in the first ever Studio post, and besides, by uploading my artwork here, it gives me the chance to waffle on and on about it under the guise of “commentary”.

So without further ado, let’s take a look back at some of my most recent sketches from the last few months!

I’m not sure how much this actually looks like Mark Hamill…

This one holds a soft spot in my heart.

Not only was this sketch of Luke Skywalker the first drawing I did using the tablet (and Manga Studio 5) that I was happy with overall, but it also snagged a “Like” on Twitter from Luke himself, Mark Hamill (granted, he was probably just being nice and responding to my initial shout out, but still).

This piece also represents the first time I ever got my basic working process down pat, which is:

  • Basic breakdowns (rough pencils/layouts) laid down first in light blue on the bottom most layer (turned off in the interim sketch below)
  • Tight pencils added over the top in red on another layer
  • Final inks in black completed last, on the top most layer

The use of multiple layers (which you can visualise as digital sheets of transparent paper) is commonplace in the comic book industry, as it allows each different stage in the process to be carried out independently of the others.

So for instance, if I wanted to erase a red pencil mark, the blue roughs underneath would be left untouched, which is handy for obvious reasons.

As in real life, lightsabers don’t look too impressive until the effects are added!

After that, I moved onto the colours, and as with all the sketches shown in this post, the results don’t fully represent where I am currently in this department.

Still, for completeness sake, what I did here was to lay down the flat areas of colour on a layer underneath the inks, and then add in some (crude) shadows and highlights on yet another layer.

Lastly, I added a layer beneath everything else, filled it in with a block colour wash, and then flicked off the unnecessary pencil layers to arrive at the finished product.

(Oh, and for the record, Luke was coloured with “oil paints”, the background with “watercolours” and the lightsaber was created with a g-pen and “india ink”).

It turns out foreshortening is my Kryptonite…

To be honest, I debated over whether or not to include this one.

After my earlier success with the Luke Skywalker sketch, this attempt at drawing the Man of Steel was a bit of a flop.

Poor Superman’s left arm and hand are pretty badly rendered, the shadows are a bit hit and miss, and the colours used are much too flat.

The lesson here? Get your breakdowns right up front, or it’ll all end in tears later on

Worse, I totally botched the perspective/foreshortening by…well, not really including any, so not only does the anatomy look a bit off, but the pose is a lot less dynamic than it could be.

Still, it’s a pleasant enough bit of business (hooray for a smiling superhero!), and frankly, I’m proud of it, if only because getting it finished required me to grit my teeth and not give up!



You might be asking yourself, “Who’s Civilized Man?”

The short answer is that he’s the result of a longstanding in-joke between my sister and me, and this sketch was done as a little birthday surprise for her.

As is so often the case with this type of random subject matter, this bit of silliness actually ended up being one of my best drawings to date.

Not only am I quite happy with the quality of the draftsmanship overall, but I think I did a pretty decent job of the inking as well, which is full of smooth lines that vary in width (some of which even have a nice bit of bounce to them!).

Civilized Man also marks my first time trying out the ruler tools (rather than relying on the straight line tool), and using one of the special rulers to create the burst line effect in the background was more fun than I care to admit.

Inking – it really is a lot, lot more than just tracing

Completing the picture was the speech balloon I added, and this was yet another new function that I successfully got to grips with.

Before I sound too happy with myself, I should add that I do have a few quibbles with the finished piece.

There’s a slightly odd issue with our hero’s neck (I think I inked it incorrectly), his ears are different sizes and his eyes are misaligned.

I also can’t stand the thin lines I used to indicate the lapels on his jacket, there’s a weird clipping issue with the letter ‘C’ in the speech balloon, and a few gradients on the colouring side of things would have been nice (although the vintage, “Silver-Age” style I’ve used does kinda fit the feel of the image).

Where can I get that hairstyle?

I’m not quite sure why I decided to draw Astro Boy, but I think it was because of an article I read about his creator, Osamu Tezuka, earlier that week.

Either way, having a crack at a different style to my own presented a good challenge, and the clean lines and simple forms of manga artwork made for a rather Zen-like creative experience.

Not much changed from breakdowns to final inks – always a good sign!

I think I did a reasonably solid job with this one; there’s a joy and warmth to the piece that makes it pleasing on the eye, and the “marker pen” colours and gradient background work well.

That said, it is a little bit off model (thanks to my unfamiliarity with the character), and it looks like I’ve once again flattened out the perspective of the pose, which is something I need to work on.

Furthermore, the sketch could have benefited from a few gradient highlights to make the two-dimensional shadows and highlights pop, and the “airbrushed” rocket blast effect is a bit rubbish, in hindsight.

Streamlined styles like this really allow you to focus on the fundamentals of figure drawing

After falling in love with clean lines working on Astro Boy, it only made sense for me to take things a step further and take a stab at the ligne claire style of Tintin creator Hergé.

The result is one I’m pleased with; Tintin’s figure has a good amount of weight to it on the right leg (which should be the case, given his stance), the proportions and alignments are all about right, and the colours and shadows look good and are appropriate for the piece.

It’s easy to see what a difference inks and colours make to a finished piece

The only real downside to this one is that it’s not overly ambitious (a straight on shot without any real background imagery).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little look at the recent output from my (digital) easel.

Expect to see a lot more focus on perspective and backgrounds/landscapes in the next batch of sketches I share!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s