October 11, 2013

Post Con Post

Another con in the bag! Had a good time at Edmonton Expo, with only a few hiccups. Sadly those hiccups were fairly costly, and I've finally hit the point where I made less money at this con than at the ones before it. Until now it's been a steady increase of both traffic and interest in my work, and that's proven very valuable. But! Lessons were learned, and I still did well enough to make it worth my while. Even better, the 2 pieces that I had assumed would be best sellers, turned out to actually be best sellers (I've been pretty off the mark in past years). And since those 2 pieces were brand new, it feels like these last few months of hard work have been well worth it.

As for the failures, I was sleep deprived more than the norm this con, and was without my invaluable manager (my wife). As such I was unable to remember how exactly to set up the display on my table, and ended up without either of my vertical stands. That was Saturday, a day that didn't see a single sale of my new Wolverine print. Saturday night I checked in with the boss, and she mentioned that we had re arranged my table set up to accommodate 2 large size portfolio's, one for prints and one for original work. And so with her fantastic advice, and close to a full 8 hours of sleep, I set up Sunday with both stands, one displaying Wolverine, and one displaying some of my black background pieces. In one day Wolverine almost took my record for best selling print of a con, which did a lot to alleviate the concerns I had regarding my attempts at digital painting.

The other major hurdle I had to contend with, was a booth neighbour who's table set up was specifically designed to degrade the experience of those to their right or left. Instead of leaving their table open, they put together a stand that cut off any chance of a con goer seeing the work on my table unless they approached from the other direction, or walked past this giant abomination and then stopped to see what was hidden behind it. Given that line of sight is the predominant way in which artists attract customers, losing it from half of the available approachesto my table caused some problems. Again, lesson learned, and I think it's finally time to build a stand of my own. I'm thinking something that sits behind me, and has smaller wings off the sides to catch peoples eye from an angle. Of course this might cut off the view to other artists sitting around me, but what it won't do, is cut off the view to their work, cuz I don't wanna be that guy.

Anyways, here's a few of the sketches that I put together during the con, as well as the finished versions of the new prints that I brought. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get Wonder Woman finished in time to print, but technical issues with my printer ensured that I just didn't have the time. Soon though. I'm onto a new approach for the piece, and I think that when it's done it's going to look pretty damn cool. Just a matter of fitting it in amongst all the other projects that are vying for my time right now. That's not a complaint btw. Having a lot of things that I want to dedicate myself to is awesome.

September 24, 2013

Pre Con Post?

Hard at work trying to get as many prints done for the Edmonton Expo as I can. As such this is likely to be my last post until at least next week... But I've got a tone of art to share, so hopefully you won't mind too much :)

September 13, 2013

Pencils are Amazing!

I picked up a light table recently, and have found that it's really changed my workflow. Now, instead of scribbling down some rough marks, scanning them, and then trying to decipher (read redraw it basically from scratch) the scribble digitally I'm adding in a step or two with the light table to ensure that I can get some clean pencils before I move to inking or painting. This also means that I can doodle away on cheap copy paper, and if I come up with something cool I just transfer it over to a piece of bristol so that I can ink it and color it up with my copics without having to worry about the paper falling apart on me. All in all a super handy purchase. 

I'm finally working up a proper TMNT print, and these are some of the sketches I went through as I was working out the characters and poses. I'll post again later when this piece is further along.

Then there's Thor. This turned out a little too like an old sketch I did quite a while ago, so I'm currently debating the value in finishing it. Might go back in and make some changes to see if I can give it a different feel.

And the rest are for the super secret, super amazing project that Dan Markin and I are currently working on. Unfortunately it's taking a lot longer than originally expected to get it to a point where I'm comfortable making any kind of announcement, but I'm happy to share some development sketches.

September 11, 2013

Where Have You Been?

Man oh man has it ever been a long time!

Gonna dive in with some art updates, and then we'll see where we go from there.

Coulson and Fury were commissions that I picked up at the Calgary Expo. They were a ton of fun to do, and I'm really happy that someone wanted them enough to get me to do them. When I first developed my run of Avengers pics back in 2012 I had intended to create something like this as part of the set. Then time got away from me and I had to prioritize, it seemed like the capital "H" heroes should come first and once the con was over it didn't really seem worthwhile to spend the time. Soon after I moved into a more painterly style (the Black Background series) and have been pretty focused on pushing that forward as best I can. So I'd just like to take a moment to say thank you to Daz for commissioning me to complete the set. It was a bit of a struggle to return to the old ways, but I'm really happy to have them sitting in my portfolio along side the rest of the team.

I guess it's not surprising, but I get a fair amount of requests for Deadpool, so I thought I'd take a bit of time this month to see if I could work up a composition that was worth bringing to my table at Edmonton. I'm quite happy with the idea here (though there's still work to be done) and I'm hoping you guys will like it once I'm done with it. As for Black Cat, my 2011 print of her is still my best selling piece, so I thought I'd see if I can recapture that magic with something a little more challenging. It's in a really rough state right now, but again, pretty happy with the base. Then there's Nightcrawler. I have a folder full of ideas for Black Background paintings, and this has been sitting in there for close to a year now. I was really happy with the rough sketch, but when I tried to add some color it fell apart on me, so I left it alone for a few months. Now, I'm a little more experienced, and I think I understand where it was going wrong. I've still got some experimenting to go, but it's got a cool vibe, and doesn't look like every other BB that I've done (which is something that's becoming a problem... that skinny frame really restricts composition options).

Last, but not least, Wolverine. Or Weapon X as he is here. This is actually my most recent WIP, and the one I've put the most time into. I'm really pleased with the progress that I've made so far, and am looking forward to the reactions at Ed Expo. Gonna be a few more nights until it's done, but I've been making solid progress on it every day for a while now, and I have yet to hit a wall (knock on wood). Assuming I can keep that up I should have it wrapped by the end of the week.

Next up, sketches!

June 30, 2013

Street Fighter: Elite

Finished this just in time to head away on vacation earlier this month, and now that I'm back I thought I'd share. Had a bit of a tough time with this one, resulting in a 24 hour day spent trying to meet my deadline, but it worked out and everyone's happy. Think I might be coming back to these characters soon, so keep an eye out. And for those who are interested, I'll be posting the sketches that I did for this piece to my Comic Art Fans page sometime this week. Feel free to stop by and peruse.

Below I've collected a few of the steps I took to get to the finished piece.

Red Son

Wrapped this up a couple weeks ago. I'm in the midst of writing a HUGE bitch fest about the Man of Steel, and was considering saving this image to go along with it. But beyond the fact that it's Superman, there's really no relation to what I'm going to be discussing, and I see no reason to hold off on posting any longer than I already have. So here you go!

June 3, 2013

Good Days

So I'm a little all over the place at the moment, and you'll have to excuse the infrequent blog updates. I've just wrapped up the Dr. Steel commission (see it at the top there) that I started earlier this year, and I'm also trying to juggle all of the projects that I picked up at, and after, the expo. I'm doing my best to make sure that no one feels forgotten or left out, but it can be difficult and sometimes things get missed.

I had a pretty cool experience a couple weeks ago that I'd like to quickly mention. The night of my previous blog post (I know, it was a while ago, I'm sorry) I took some time to update a few of the accounts I've got across the web. The next morning I was met with an email inquiring as to the price of the new Savage Dragon sketch. Even better than drumming up interest so quickly was the requests origin. Turns out the fellow interested in my work is located in Germany. We sent a few messages back and forth to sort out details and off went the sketch just a few days later. Honestly, I'm not really sure why I think this is so cool (it's not like I made more money off the sketch than I would have at a con) but it was definitely the highlight of the week for me.

Speaking of highlights, I had a pretty fantastic day last week as well (not that the rest of the week wasn't great, but this particular day was pretty cool). Since the con ended I've been working on several different projects, trying to get them all rolling along. Primarily this required me to put together a few different compositions, roughs, or style tests and then send them out for feedback. I managed to knock most of them out in the same weekend, expecting replies to trickle in over the course of the following week. Then out of the blue I get this wonderful note from a woman who I had sent a sketch to a couple of weeks ago saying that "it is absolutely stunning! I can't express how much I love it.Thank you!". Which was a fantastic way to start the day. After that I was deluged with kind words from all of the different clients that I had been working with, all very happy with what I had sent them. All in all I'm having a great time, and I'm really happy to be working on the projects that I've got. 

In other news, I've joined the Oatley Academy's Magic Box program, and so far have been really impressed. I'll write up a post that delves into specifics in the future, but for now I just wanted to let anyone who might be interested know.

That's it for tonight, thanks for stopping by!


May 10, 2013

Post Con Post pt 2, The Future is Now!

Just the one new image today as I've spent the last week getting used to my new CINTIQ. Yup, finally jumped in with both feet and it feels good. I picked up the new 24 inch HD touch a couple days after the con and have spent my time since then trying to get used to the new workflow. I've gotta say the first few days were tough... this thing is freakin huge and just a tad intimidating. Add to that the fact that I must now put to the test the idea that this tech will enhance my final product in some way, and it made for a nerve wracking couple of days. Was I going to put stylus to monitor and make magic, or did I just waste four grand? Of course neither happened. I put stylus to monitor and then spent 2 days trying to make stylus and monitor do what I used to be able to do with my tablet. Driver issues... ugh. It's all up and running smooth now though, and I'm getting used to the experience of being able to look where I'm drawing again.

I've also been looking at around my studio practice with a bit of a critical eye, trying to find ways to improve on what I'm already doing. First up I'm going to try to rededicate myself to traditional art. I had a blast inking a bunch of sketches before the con and I'd like to keep that going in a slightly more structured manner. I'll put together one piece a week from now until Edmonton, whereupon I will review this system and opt to continue or cancel it. First up is Erik Larson's Savage Dragon, then Sleepwalker, and after that I have no idea. I've got a long list of great characters, but I'm also open to suggestions (drop 'em in the comments section here or in any future post) if you've got 'em.

As for digital work, I'm going to be returning to Wonder Woman soon so that I can make sure she's ready for the Edmonton Expo. I mentioned before that I was disappointed to leave a third of DC's Trinity behind for the Calgary Expo so I'll be looking to wrap her up in the next month or so. I've also got that Green Arrow that I might polish up. Then it's back into some X-Men, with a Black Background Nightcrawler that I've got prepped but haven't had a chance to spend any real time on. From there I'm going to be trying to put together a Wolverine print, and possibly a Deadpool as well. Then there's the DD/Elektra piece that I was tinkering with a while back. And the Storm that I was working up for Shelley. Whew... lot's to do, but my print portfolio has quite a few empty pages so I guess I need to keep on it.

Alongside the littany of prints on my to do list are the Commissions that I've received. I'm still working on Dr. Steel, though it's very close to completion. Then there's a Red Son print that I was asked to develop based off of the Superman in my Trinity print. It's just in the initial stages now, but it's coming along nicely. I was also lucky enough to be visited by the couple who commissioned Mockingbird last year. Turns out they've got a wall dedicated to Marvel awesomeness and they'd like me to put together a Nick Fury Jr and a Coulson print for them. How could I say no? As if that wasn't enough I've also got a wicked cool Street Fighter piece that I'm doing up for an Edmontonian Martial Arts Club. I've never had to juggle to many projects at once, but I'm super excited to get down to business on each one and see where it all takes me.

While I'm working on all of these single image projects I've also got a few others running along in the background. I'm still working on the super secret blasty blast with the fantastic Dan Markin. It's something I've never done and so I can't say when it'll be ready to show to the world, but I'm hoping I'll be able to start sharing details by the end of summer. Working on the blasty blast has also inspired me to start a similar project that's all my own, but I haven't even had time to sit down and create a space to collect notes for that yet, so who knows where that will go. AND while all this other amazing stuff is going on I've also got a writer looking for some spec work that may or may not end up with my producing a batch of illustrations for a series of children's books. I feel like that one's going to take some time to really dig into, but if all goes well I think it will also be very rewarding.


Throughout all of this I'm hoping to increase the attention that I pay to my online presence. Some of that will turn into extra posts and other such stuff here on the blog, and the rest will go to twitter and Behance and CG Hub and Deviant Art and who knows what else. I'm finally rounding that corner, feeling a lot more comfortable with the quality of the work I'm producing and willing to let the world have a look for themselves.

Oh, and I still want to get back to those 1/3 size landscape prints, and famous comic cover recreations, and, and, and...

2013's been hella good to me so far, and with a baby on the way, a ridiculously supportive wife (she's currently pushing me to sign up for the Winnipeg con a month after her due date), amazing friends, and a ton of really interesting projects ahead of me I'm pretty sure it's only going to get better.

Ever have those days where you just love your life? I'm having those a lot more often now :)

Thank you

May 2, 2013

The Post Con Post

The Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo has come and gone for another year and I just wanted to take some time to reflect on my experiences. I think I might turn these post con posts into a personal ritual for myself, as they form significant checkpoints for my artistic development, giving me a chance to both reflect on the results of last few months of work and map out a plan for the next half of the year. While I do that, I'll drop a few of the original pieces that I brought to the con so you can take a look at anything you may have missed.

First off I wanted to say that I had a ton of fun at this years Calgary Expo. I met a lot of amazing people, and had some great conversation. What I really enjoy though is getting to spend some time with the folks who have come by my table in years past. It seems crazy to think that you can get to know someone in five minute increments over the course of years but I've gotta say I really look forward to those few minutes each year and I'm finding they're quickly becoming the highlights of my convention time.

On a personal note, I had a rough time leading up to the con. 2 funerals, a cancer diagnosis in the family, extra shifts because a co-worker lost her husband unexpectedly, taxes, and a rather depressing realization that my new monitor was displaying images that my printer was incapable of reproducing. Pretty much April sucked. I had been working 12-16 hour days for the previous couple of months and so with all this bad news swirling around me I quickly hit a point where I needed to step away for a while. As such I didn't get the Wonder Woman piece done for the con and I'm a bit disappointed in myself because of it. That said I did learn some new tricks in terms of color control and the like and managed to get the prints that I had done into a functioning state. I picked up a Spyder and started into the world of color correcting and during my week of down time I caught up a bit on some of the great games that dropped last year and put some time into a project I've been picking away at in the background. It was a rough month, but I made it to the end and had a fantastic time at the con and so I have to put a big thanks out to my always supportive wife and the great people of the Calgary Expo.

On the business side, I pushed the changes that I made to my table for the Edmonton Expo a little farther, pulling my portfolio book off the table, and instead replacing it with a book full of original art pieces. This was amazingly successful for me, and contributed a great deal to my still being able to say that every con I do is more successful than the last. Another change we made at the table was a redesign of our print organization system. This had a less obvious impact on the experience, but it was nice to be able to help every customer that walked up without having to spend time rifling through 2 different boxes with a bunch of prints stacked on top of each other. It eased a bit of the stress of the experience and for those out there who exhibit in artist alley, or are thinking of doing so next year I've gotta say it's worth the time and money to put together a proper, easy to use system for this kind of thing. My wonderful wife also took some time to put together a fancy spreadsheet to use for tracking sales during the con. We could both access it from our phones, so it was quick and easy to use, but even better was that it's pretty damn comprehensive, so I can look at it now and see exactly what was working and what wasn't. On the list of things that went well is the black background paintings that I've done up over the past year. These accounted for about two thirds of the prints that I sold so I was quite happy with such a positive reaction. The book of original works (as opposed to prints) was also hugely successful, bringing in almost half of my total revenue for the weekend. Ideally I'll put together enough work between now and Edmonton to properly fill the book, but even at 2/3 full it proved itself.

Of course no con comes without teaching some lessons and this one was no different. Right off the bat I found that the amount of time that I put into the new prints of this year didn't at all translate into sales. In fact, the best sellers (by far) were the pieces that I would have considered the most raw, and were certainly the ones that took the least time to complete. the takeaway there for me is to focus on  speeding up so I'm not relying on just a few new pieces for each expo. On a different note, I also picked up a little trick from the booth next to me (Jamie Tyndall). When Jamie and his wife were setting up I noticed that they were taping down their portfolios to the table. This allowed them to be pretty specific with their table layout as there was no worry that the books would be sliding around. From that point on I did my best to keep an eye on what they were up to in case there were other great ideas to... borrow.

Next post I'll go over some of the plans I have for the coming year, but I've created a big enough wall of text for today.