Monday, October 31, 2011

Anatomical Construction for More Cartoony Figures- NSFW Artistic Nudes

 At the request of a couple friends, I've decided to expand on my initial simplified anatomy post.  I do anatomy studies at least weekly, main because I get a lot of pleasure practicing the human figure, but also to improve the dynamism of my figures in comics.  If only I felt this way about perspective grids, I'd be a fantastic artist, eh?
Stock image via mjranum stock at Deviantart.

For this demonstration, I did my figure drawing in Photoshop.  I apologize because the legs are too large, but I just wanted to get a sketch down to show my process.

I learned how to construct a basic gesture skeleton from Andrew Loomis' Figure Drawing for All It's Worth. 

Step 1. Determine Line of Action.  For cartoony drawings, this also functions as the spine.  With the line of action, you're trying to capture the gesture, and it's best to exaggerate it, since the gesture can get lost as you build the figure.  I find that a great way to keep this from happening is to draw some distortion in the bones.

My next course of action changes depending on the pose from this point on.  For sitting poses, where the majority of the weight is on the butt, I'll draw the torso first, since it supports the weight.  For standing poses, I'll often quickly rough in the torso and then draw in the legs.  These are all drawn very simply at this point.
Next I place the directional crosshairs, which'll help me place the breasts later in the drawing.

This next part is pretty unique to how I set up figures, and I really just do it to keep me honest.  Now that I have the basic of the torso down, I go ahead and rough in a rectangle to strengthen the pose.
Next I start solidifying the structures inside the larger rectangle, beginning with the ribcage.
And I redrawn the line of action, including a divot line beneath the ribcage.
Next I solidify the pelvis.  There are different methods for doing this, but I prefer to draw a 3D trapezoid.

Unfortunately, I got ahead of myself and skipped a couple steps.  The first thing I do is draw in the neck hole, which isn't straight across the top of the rib cage, but rather, placed in front.  Then I draw the shoulder's line of action straight across the top of the rectangle, and draw in the 'bone' of the arm.  I really rely on the whole spheres, cones, and cylinders most kids are taught to construct figures with way back in highschool, and I recommend it.
Next come the breasts.  Depending on what I'm doing, I render them more fully or I just leave them as placeholders to remind me to contour the clothing on top.
Now I sketch in a very rough version of the pelvic bone to help in the placement of leg bones.
Next come the leg bones.  Make sure you draw in the curve, not just a straight line, because the femurs do have some curve to them.
Draw in the lower leg bones, and then start adding some meat to the femure using ye old cylinder method.
I fail at digital drawing, I neglected to leave enough room for the feet.

Anyway, I use the same method to construct figures of my own as I use to draw from reference.

 When I'm doing pose studies, I'll just keep drawing it until I feel like I have the pose down.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cultivating a Web Presence

Take a second and think about your favorite webcomic, blog, or internet personality.  Got one in mind?  Good.  How did this person first attract your attention?  Did you know them personally, or has this relationship developed online?  I'm betting that for the majority of you, you first noticed this person online, and follow their work due to a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their ability to develop and entertain a web audience.

A lot of artists far underestimate the importance of a web presence.  They say their audience will find them, and then are disappointed when their work goes unnoticed.  For your work to sell, you have to sell it, and one of the ways to sell your work is to sell yourself.  Customers enjoy buying commissions and comics from artists they like, and you can make yourself more likable by becoming more accessible.  You can attend conventions yes, but without much web presence, you probably won't make your money back.

The internet offers plenty of free opportunities to build an audience for your work.  I'm sure you are all familiar with services like Twitter and Tumblr, but don't underestimate the value of a regularly updated blog.  You're trying to develop audience loyalty, give them a reason to check back often, so try to update at least once a week, more if you can.  Share everything you can, even the ugly, and don't worry about being good enough.  That will come with time.  Cross post as much as you can- when you update your blog, link to your Twitter and your Facebook.  Different social services attract different people, and you want as much exposure as you can get.  Try to interact with as many people as possible, and encourage interaction as well.

An interent presence is something you have to work at, cultivate.  You need to give people a reason to care about your work, especially if you don't draw a lot of fanart or if your style isn't the most polished.  A personality to go along with the sketches and comic pages.  Think of it as building brand loyalty, if the idea of being an interesting, likeable person is odious to you.

Though I encourage you to share some of your personality, try to keep things professional.  Your blog is not a venting wall, that's what friendslocked livejournals are for.  Keep your drama out of your internet life as much as possible, lest you end up on Encyclopedia Dramatica.  Don't bitch about your creepy fans on your Twitter, you might scare off the real, non creepy ones, and don't complain about your publisher ANYWHERE.  Word of mouth is just as important in this day and age, so do your best not to step on toes.  If you enjoy steady commission work, then practice being pleasant.

One way to majorly boost your audience stats is to befriend other artists.  When I say befriend, I don't mean suck up to more popular artists until they've added you to their herd of syncophants.  I mean strike up a legitimate friendship that involves actual discourse about artistic choices.  Attend their livesteams, comment on their blogs, reply to their tweets.  Don't get discouraged if they don't reply, just move on. 

Conventions are an important opportunity to meet other artists and drum up a little exposure.  Make sure you have business cards printed up with your name and web address on it, and  try to get away from your artist alley table once in awhile to mingle with other artists.  If there's a Creator Meetup offered at the con, you should strongly consider attending, even if you're not that interested in working with other artists.    If you're fortunate enough to attend an art school, start seriously networking with fellow artists.

Take away tips:
Be active on Twitter.  Talk to other artists, post your art, talk about things you enjoy.
Update your blog with art at least once a week.
Comment on other artist's work
Cross post as much as possible

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How do you go about eating an elephant?

Often I'm faced with a daunting task that I don't look forward to.  Maybe it's because it intimidates me in its complexity, or perhaps its  a task I've  never done before and there's a high risk of failure, or maybe it's jflat out boring.  I'm the sort of person who will procrastinate until the last minute, and then work in a blind panic, and let's face it, the sort of work that produces is subpar at best.

So how does one go about accomplishing an overwhelming assignment?  Well, if you've got a lot of willpower, you can just power on through it in one shot.  But if you're like the rest of the world, you might need a few tricks to make it easier.

1. Start early.  If you start early, you can work on it in managable increaments, alloting yourself plenty of time to rework portions that are't so hot.  You won't be burnt out by the time you finish, and you can really devote yourself to your project.
2. Surround yourself with people who have the work ethic you admire.  It's hard to work if your friends are all playing Pokemon and calling you over to check out Youtube videos of kittens.  Water seeks its own level, and if you associate with hard working people, eventually some of their good influence will rub off on you.  Just don't be a jerk and try to distract them.
3. Plan ahead.  The more work you do before starting, the more you can experiment and play around without worrying about ruining what you're working on.
4. Try to add elements that you enjoy drawing.  This will give you something to look forward to doing.
5. Just get started.  Break your task up into smaller, more managable parts, and pick the easiest.  It's much worse to procrastinate than to get the easy work done.
6. Reward yourself for work well done, don't just jump straight to the next task.  Go get an ice cream cone.  Stop for coffee.  Watch an episode of your favorite tv show, or just do a task you enjoy (like markering, for me).  You deserve a treat.
7. Work hard while you have momentum.  If you've gotten into 'the zone', there's no reason why you should force yourself out of that.  When I'm writing, I work best alone at home, where I can tune out distractions with no social ramifications.  Try to set up a workspace that works with your working habits.
8. Take breaks often.  Give yourself an opportunity to step away from your work, because you'll often figure out problems while you're doing something else.  One of my best problem solving times is after a good night's rest, while I lay in bed, and another is while I'm in the kitchen, cooking or doing the dishes.  Stepping away and doing something else gives my brain a chance to reset and see things at a different angle.
9. Don't psyche yourself out.  It's not as bad as it seems, and it doesnt have to be perfect.  Your goal is to please yourself and to learn something new, and as long as you're meeting those goals, it will be alright.

So the answer is: One bite at a time.

What's a task that you guys find daunting or that requires a little extra willpower to get done?

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I hate the ads as much as you guys probably do.  My skin crawls and I just want to look away, but I cannot, because this is for an excellent cause.  These ads contribute pennies per day to send one girl to her adopted motherland, these ads are helping one Heidi Black earn money to attend SCAD SEQA's Tokyo Seminar.

Every time you click on an ad on my blog, it earns me a tiny percentage of a penny.  But those perCENTages add up, and it costs you nothing but your dignity and a mere moment of your time.  You can feel like you've done your good deed for the day without even breaking a sweat or spending a dollar.  When Heidi reaches her goal of $2,000, the ads go away until I need money for art supplies or something.

You can make them go away faster, however.  All you need to do is commission Heidi to draw the commission of your dreams.  That's right, by throwing your money at her, you can convince me to take down these awful ads, and Keep On Truckin' Nattosoup can go right back to being all about the tutorials, art dumps, and bad motivational speeches.  And we all know that's why you click the links I spam my Facebook and Twitter with.

Usually, I'd be shilling for my own commissions, and me shilling for her doesn't mean I'm not accepting them.  But at this time, Heidi needs your dollar bills far more than I do.

I would not tout my friend's abilities if I did not believe in her as much as I do.  Right now, she is sewing a Dr. Horrible labcoat for a young gentleman I know, and working on a commission for me.  So you see, she is getting my dollar dollar bills as well.

So there are two ways to help this young lady- one that will cost you about forty bucks but will get you beautiful art to enjoy for your entire life, and one that costs nothing but a few clicks of your mouse.

NOW THERE'S THREE!  You can also commission Pickles of Distillum to draw for you too, and every red cent of that goes toward sending Heidi to Tokyo.

ALSO, even if you can't afford to commission her, you can donate to her cause and throw a few bucks her way!  She's got a donate button up as well as a Tokyometer, so we can watch her monetary progress like creepy hawks.      Creepy Creepy Hawks.

8 Page Micro Mini Comic- Chat

This thing is so tiny, and it really only works in this format, so I'm not putting up scans, just weak cellphone pictures.  It was done almost entirely in Illustrator (Inking and coloring), and printed on linen resume paper to push the watercolor effect.  I wanted it to be a silent comic, but word balloons and sound fx were mandatory.

This thing is teeny tiny at 1"x2" and was folded from one sheet of paper.  Copies will be available at MoCCA for a buck each.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sound Effect Practice

Inked with Copic Multiliner SP's and a Pentel Petit 3.

Same as above.
Same as above.

Inked with the Kuretake brush pen.

I have a love hate relationship with sound effects.  I really do love them, the cartoonier the better, but I have a really hard time integrating them into my work without them becoming distracting.  I think my best bet may be to use them in place of the actual object/ or taking the shape of the object it represents, like the Fwoosh (fire blowing), and the splish (water droplets), or to make the sound effect a panel of its own.  Comicing is a juggling act between style, readability, and story.

On a different note, I've signed up for Google Analytics to raise a little money for a friend in need.  She needs 2000, so if you wouldn't mind clicking on an ad each time you visit, I would really appreciate it.  I plan to remove the ads once we've raised the funds, so the faster you click, the sooner the ads are gone.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why So Many Comics Tend to be Rushed

An illustrator is expected to come up with several thumbnails, a few roughs, and one finished illustration per page. A comic artist is expected to come up with exponentially more thumbnails, more roughs, and several images per page. Each panel should stand alone as an illustration, be strong compositionally, and make sense as a coherant whole. A good comic artist can pencil a page in a day and ink a page in a day, with a day being 8 hours or more.

Many comic artists are intimately involved with every aspect of their comic- concept, character designs, script, preplanning, research, thumbnails, pencils, inks, letters, self publication. While an illustrator can afford to slave over a single image, a comic artist is often expected to work miracles for little pay. Depending on who you work for, you may be expected to pencil two 15 page issues a month, and even if you're self employed, one comic page a week on top of working an 8 hour day job is difficult to juggle.

This topic was generated from a google search result on my stats page, so if I knew what sort of comics the person in question was talking about, I could give a more in depth answer. Short answers:

Web Comics may seem rushed because the artist works a day job that wears them out, and has little free time to spend on art. They may not recieve any real compensation for their artwork, and may be trying to suppliment their income by also attending conventions.
Manga is very often rushed because many manga release an issue (15 pages ish) a week. A WEEK. Even with assistants, that's a crazy pace.
Mainstream comics, while not quite as hectic, have a super busy pace as well.
Indie comics don't really pay well, and often the artist is holding down a day job while penning their comic. Indie artists are also often jacks of all trades, in charge of every aspect of their comic.

In summation: While there is no real excuse for bad art, cut comic artists some slack. They are an underappreciated breed.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Art Dump

Figure studies
Playing around with inflection/emotive lettering.  

More of the same.

And even more.

Sailor Remi's legs look weeiiirrddd.

Add caption

Sad Remis in snow.

Planning stuff out for handlettering (I do this more than I realized)

Penny from Ahoy as an adult.

Shoujo Remi

Remi and Nia (Gurren Lagann)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Exploring Thumbnails

 Thumbnails are a necessary part of the comic creation process for many comic artists.  They give the artist a chance to experiment with layout and composition with few risks.  A thumbnail is usually drawn much, much smaller than the original, and provides a visual blueprint for the artist to work from.

Many artists will thumbnail out an entire chapter or arc before starting a single page.  This allows them to see how the chapter works as a whole with little commitment.  The artist can work loosely, sketching in the merest of stick figures, or tight, figuring out the perspective in miniature before committing to a large page.

My first thumbnails were really rough things, jotted down in haste.  Now I actually do two sets of thumbnails- the first is on the script itself to help me figure out layout, there are really rough and maybe an inch by two inches.  After I've got the basic layout figured out, I do larger thumbnails at around 2.5x4 inches.  If I work really tight, I don't even have to do 6x9" roughs, I can go straight to pencils, but that is a rarity.

My old process:
(I've lost the thumbnails to this, but the roughs are SO ROUGH and SO BAD, that they might as well be loose thumbnails)

 The tighter you work early on, the more useful critique you can get before you commit to ink.  These roughs didnt supply enough information to really get much comment.

 These days, I consider pencils this rough to be just roughs.  Now I would print out the bluelines, tighten them up just a bit with graphite, and ink over that.

 Even these inks aren't final.  I ended up making a lot of changes before Editor's Day to get the art presentable.  Lesson:  SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS EARLY ON.

With Foiled, I changed my working methods a lot.  I created tight thumbnails and tight roughs, and printed my roughs out as bluelines, tightening up faces and acting in graphite, and then inked over that.  It saved me a step (pencils), and allowed me to be more dynamic, since I wasn't redrawing the same thing over and over.

 Because my thumbs were tight, I was able to get a lot of helpful criticism and could make necessary changes early on.

 I worked out all of my perspective problems at this size, and I find it much easier, faster, and less frustrating than working perspective out at actual size.

For my latest project, I did tight thumbnails, blew those up to 11x15" and inked over those.  I wouldn't do this if the project had any challenging perspective, but since this was an outdoor scene and involved only animals (and I was extremely short on time and resources, knowing I'd be in New York the entire weekend), it wasn't really an issue.  I only recommend this method if you feel confident in your work.