Monday, May 7, 2018

Advertising and Product Illustration

A hypothetical poster done for a class project.

One of the perks of being an SVA instructor is that, schedule permitting, I'm able to take the occasional free course. Last semester when my figure class, sadly, didn't enroll, and my Wednesdays were suddenly open, I seized the occasion to study Advertising and Product Illustration with Hyesu Lee, a fantastic instructor who helped me immensely.

Our big final project turned out to be the one above, a poster for a book festival. I employed that trick I like to do of making the pictures out of the words. I'm always down for that.

But the first thing she showed us was an analog method of making simple patterns by slicing your illustration, rearranging the corners, and adding to the new center, which had started as the margins. Cutting right through my artwork turned out to be surprisingly cathartic for me. I must have anger toward my work that I've repressed or something. I ended up making a few of these:

  • monsters in watercolor and ink,

  • plants in ink and gouache on color paper,

  • & ink line art colored digitally.

Then she directed us to upload our images to a print on demand product service. You can now get my patterns and other images on leggings, wallpaper, and much besides. I'll blog in more detail about this soon, but check out my shop:

Next was a series of soap sleeves. I enjoyed playing with illustration elements in the context of graphic design, something I need practice with. Hyesu and the other students coached me through this pretty effectively. There were a number of trained designers in the room.

And we decorated Starbucks cups for Pumpkin Spice Latte. I was able to use the fact of that big honkin' logo as an organizing principle for an image concept.

What else? Oh right, we designed t-shirts. Everyone encouraged me to loosen up on this one and leave it a bit more punk than I tend to do.

This course was a very satisfying experience. I have a better understanding of the advertising market now, which has always been a mystery to me. And I was able to work on a number of sidebar problems: engaging with materials, breaking the tyranny of outlines, loosening up, and warming up. Hyesu taught me to take the warm-ups seriously as a basic part of the job. I often find it hard to permit myself the time needed to warm up effectively. It can feel like self indulgence or procrastination. One danger for me is that sometimes I warm up so much and get so deeply into it, I overheat, and nothing else gets done. But if I try to do finishes from a cold start, they come out cramped and ultimately take longer.
warmup doodles from Hyesu's prompts
I privately decided that a stumbling block for me is one of tone. So much of my work is dark, pessimistic, horrifying. It can repel viewers. It may be that the essential difference between editorial illustration and advertising illustration is as simple as drawing people frowning vs. drawing them smiling.  Now I have to decide if it's against my ethics to draw people smiling.

As delightful as this was, I don't want any free evenings this summer. Please spread the word about my classes: Inking Comics at SVA Tuesdays beginning June 5, and, also at SVA, Figure Drawing for Cartoonists Wednesdays beginning June 6 & Cartooning Basics Thursdays beginning June 7. Come see me at the SVA  info session May 17. Thank you!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Uses of Life Drawing

In my Figure Drawing for Cartoonists and Inking Comics courses at SVA, we employ live models for a number of purposes beyond the study of anatomy. Some examples:
  • one day, we have the model recline at oblique angles to study foreshortening
  • another, she'll pose with fabric so we can study folds in relation to the body
  • sometimes we turn out all the lights but one to study dramatic light
  • on another occasion, we practice composing camera shots, coordinating figure and background

  • often we take turns requesting poses for our comics in progress, using the occasion to practice...
  • ... ink wash...
  • ...or to practice building images from non-photo blue through to finished inks, permitting imaginative transformations of a pose:
  • and I've shown several examples of models performing stories.
  • of course, we keep skeletons in the closet to study what's under it all. 

SVA has the best models. Come see for yourself. The info session is May 17 at 6:30 pm. Classes start the first week in June.

Monday, March 5, 2018

From the Archive: Hector Goes to Medical School

Here's a comic I published in 2001 in Pablo's Comics Extravaganza, a little anthology we put out in conjunction with a comic art show at a Denver cafe. It features the characters shared by members of the Hector cooperative, Hector and Wilhelmina, plus other incidental characters culled from our various strips.

I still use these characters on occasion, when it feels like the right kind of joke. Here's one that ran recently in The American Bystander #6.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Demonstration Drawings

Drawing while talking can be a challenge. Often I make an ass of myself, but sometimes my demonstrations turn out okay.


These big head/little body drawings are what I tend to favor for demonstrating figure basics and marker inking on day 1 of Cartooning Basics.

When I demonstrate inking with nibs, brushes, and wash in the Figure Drawing for Cartoonists and Inking Comics courses, I tend to try for a pretty girl, mostly to see if I can pull it off. 

(Sometimes yes, sometimes no.)

For ink wash, I often just apply black watercolor to a doodle.

When I demonstrate to kids, I try to keep it light and simple.

Spring classes start next week. Will my demos succeed or will I look foolish, yet again? Come find out. Tell your friends, too. Thx!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

More Comic Jams

In my continuing ed Cartooning Basics and undergraduate Short Form Comics courses at SVA, we make time to pass around rule-based comic jam pages. 

I have each student start a jam and note its rule. The pages pile up, circulate, and slowly get done, often over the course of several years.

An idea I've tried recently is to invite students to invent a rule that hasn't been tried before, like this omnilingual jam below:

Comic jams are a great way to interact with other artists, try out styles and ideas, & test your wits. This is just one example of the cartooning challenges that come up in my courses. Come learn more at the information session this Thursday, 1/11/18.