Thursday, September 25, 2014

Middle Aged Mouser; Frazetta + Flamesword

A couple days ago me and Pintersby (alias) were yakkin it up on his sketchbook thread and we talked about how we both used to draw comic book style for many years, but it was before we knew anatomy or were getting serious. I thought back to those years and decided I wanted to draw like that again. I really like the way my Texeira drawing style used to look, and even when I wasn't emulating Tex I had a way of drawing that for some reason I haven't dusted off in recent years. I think it's because I've been trying to learn new ways - all the talk of sketching styles and drawing from the shoulder etc. Well screw it - I went back! I drew the head above in a sketchbook, unfortunately in between a couple of super crap attempts, just messing around trying to do something like the old comic style. So I scanned it and drew the body in Manga Studio.

Refining it. I busted out some ref for the arms, at one point the ref had me drawing them quite differently, more realistic but nowhere near as cool. So I went back to this and just fixed it using the understanding I gained from the ref. It's grizzled middle-aged Mouser. Looking back now at the very first one, it has an amazing look to it - wish I had just used it exactly like that!! Need to get more adventurous soon - hell, it's the freakin' name of my blog!!

Very straightforward - picked a dark, mid and light and scrubbed them in loosely to create basic form. I remembered I had once seen a tutorial on some way to remove background color to get the lines all on a transparent layer. Turns out it's one of the erasers, 2 of them actually. I tried both - pretty excellent.

Doing new stuff on a separate layer, but as soon as it works I paste it down - only 3 layers going on this one - Body, Jerkin and BG (plus my usual BG copy). And in the beginning I had a Lines layer, but it's now been incorporated into the Body layer. So simple and so great of a technique.

As soon as I started putting in the near-black shadow accents it really popped. Looked through the old Fafhrd Art folder filled with clothes, weapons, and ref for different characters. Cobbled together a couple of jerkins for this. I really wanted to use the 4 belt-like straps buckled across the front that were on the black leather jerkin, in fact from the beginning for some reason I pictured several black straps with buckles, probably on an arm. Either to hold a weapon (why 3 straps though?) or to secure sleeves. Then I found the jerkin with straps and buckles as fasteners - perfect!!

But as I was doing the slit down the middle it ended up with tight wrinkles, and both sides wrinkled the same - which wouldn't happen with 4 straps, but would with a lot of closely spaced buttons. So I did buttons. On their own layer though in case I decide to change it.

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Flamesword is an alias (my own) for one of the coolest artists on CA - I don't want to call anybody out by name because pros tend to google their names every so often. And I'm not saying anything bad about him - not at all!! Quite the opposite - but I just don't want to attract a bunch of attention.

I've heard it said that the way to grow as a student is to combine 2 or more artists, so you're not just copying one of them, but you still have guides. It's so much easier to proceed when you have a good solid idea of what you want your work to look like. I once had ambitions to combine Frazetta and Kent Williams - in fact that's been the plan all along really. But to do Williams you need to work from life --- all the time -- and I'd need to do it for many years to get really good at it. But Firesword is one who has admitted that he hasn't done much life drawing, or apparently even much drawing from life (one is people, the other inanimate objects), he uses a sort of comic book inspired style, and makes it look amazing. He's proof that in spite of what I keep hearing, it can be done with little or no life drawing.

Which brings up another point. I've noticed a lot of the more advanced artists on CA keep saying "I didn't do it this way, but you need to" - in other words do as I say not as I do. Many of them didn't actually take much life drawing or do still lifes until much later - they actually learned their stuff the way most of us are trying to, straight from the imagination or from ref. I do understand the importance of pushing life drawing etc - it can only make you better after all, but after you've been there for a while you can start to read between the lines.

Wow, I'm really wordy as hell tonight!! WTF??!! Anyway, to wrap this up - so yeah, I'm combining Frazetta and Flamesword now and it's a much better fit for me than Fraz/Williams. I suspect Flamesword is also a Texeira fan, his work seems quite similar. And I already know I can draw like Tex - so it's a foregone conclusion really. Damn, I need to stop!! Words keep spilling out…

Oh, one more thing - on this one I finally figured out how to Merge Down. Cannot believe I've been using Merge Layers all this time and I always needed to cut.paste the name of the bottom layer, because it uses the name of the top one in the stack. I realized there must be a simple way to combine 2 layer and end up with the name of the bottom one - you're doing the new experimental stuff on the top one, so it just says Layer # (whatever). Looked under Layer drop down and saw Merge Down, tried it and dayum!! Now I'm in business!!


Spent a ridiculous amount of time last night doing this because I thought I should get rid of the wrinkles and develop the rounded form of the torso more. Was planning to detail the surface, and add in a few wrinkles. But I saw a small web version of the earlier one and it looked so much better it was ridiculous!! Unfortunately I hadn't saved a copy at that stage, all I had was the tiny web PNG file. So I tried enlarging it to the right size, and bingo!! It looked surprisingly good. Pasted it on top and erased everything but the jerkin.

.. And today started painting in the straps and buckles that were the vision that inspired the whole piece. Now we're talking!

The way I'm working now is essentially exactly the way I used to draw when I was at my peak. I'd work slowly and deliberately, gradually developing the forms very lightly and then erasing and fixing it where needed, taking as long as it takes. This is the part that I haven't been doing in the last 2 years since I got back into art. I got wrapped up instead in this whole quick sketch thing and also of course I had found the Doc Dave Winniewicz blog where he detailed Frazetta's techniques and conversation. My technique is exactly what Frazetta was contemptuous of - starting with a careful drawing and coloring it in. Screw it - I aint Frazetta and I aint Kent Williams - they have their own thing and I have mine. Of course as I develop experience and skills I may be able to work without a careful drawing going forward. Hell, Frazetta did drawing only for 20 years before he started painting!

But this is also something I remember about learning to draw, the point where I started to get good. It began just like this - all careful and meticulous and detailed, with endless patience. And over 6 years I got better and became able to put much less time into the drawing and make it more powerful - better poses and expressiveness etc. Got faster and better at everything. I think the meticulous stage is essential, it's the beginning.

Oh, and now I see my work looks nothing at all like Frazetta or 'Flamesword', though I started with their ideas and methods. It looks just like my old pencil drawings, but with much better anatomy and form and a lot more work put in.

I'm using almost exclusively the chalk brush (36 px, sized as needed) and the dry oil brush. I realized what they have in common - they're both more like drawing than painting really. They lay down a swath of dots spaced apart that's like pastel going onto paper. I've always been much better at drawing techniques than painting, it's just 2 completely different things - I love the way you can lay down pass over pass of pastel or graphite and it slowly obliterates what's under it but in that dot matrix pattern. Totally different from paint. And it creates a nice random texture that looks like skin or anything soft - it gives a surface like old worn blue jeans. This does away with that airbrushy slick look I dislike so much.

Ugh… stubby arms much? Lol!!

Once again I went back to an earlier version - this time I was smart enough to spawn off a copy before I worked on it more, and I Frankensteined it all together - both hands and part of the forearm come from the earlier one. Forearms still seem shorter than upper arms, but I'm calling it foreshortening and moving on. Time to enter the final leg on this one (I hope). Tomorrow..

(Still same night)

Screw that ramrod-straight shit! Added some 'Tude and some gloves..


Yes, even using the chalk brush you can get carried away and end up looking airbrushed. But I found a nice fix, and this creates a good painterly look (almost more of a drawing-y look really). Scribbled over it a bit with a hard-edged brush (my trusty Heavy Flow, Dry Edges oil brush) and then set the layer to Soft Light and faded it until the marks were just visible. Results below.

Oh CRAP!!! I hate to even admit this, but I had never flipped the image until now. Derp!! It looked all crazy!! Ok wait, let me grab that..

So I worked on it in frantic desperation for w while - here's the result flipped to compare with the above:

.. And the right way round.

Still kinda funky. Dammit, I gotta flip this shit much much earlier!!


9-29: Determined to make an abstract background. After screwing around for hours with a semi-cool but ultimately crappy castle window design (that I wish I had kept a version of) I did a triply space background. When the images are dark like this you need to make adjustments to contrast and saturation and lightness, that's why I made several versions and posted them all, then deleted the bad ones. 

9-30: F'in crazy-ass star background WTF??!!#%&?! Lol, if it was a sci fi piece that would be great - looks like a Frank Kelly Freas cover for Fantastic Science Fiction in the 50's (which is actually a damn cool thing). So I merged it with a stock leather photo from

Still pretty freakin' weird though. I need to paint up a quick and dirty chiaroscuro BG. Screw this half-character floating over a generic background thing. I don't seem to do it very well yet, or this image isn't well suited to it (I'm for option 1 actually).

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… And finally, after another all-day all-night marathon session, it is finished!! Ladies and gentlemen, I present - The Grey Mouser! 


10-2 - Dammit, I thought it was FINISHED!!! 

Looks like the forearm still needs detailing yet. The one I re-painted today when I was just going to put the finishing touches on him. And it led to the rest of the arm, the face, parts of the clothing and sword etc. I also see I've lost the green zone around the mouth and jawline. 


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