Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Of Pomegranates and Unicorns

Digital artwork of an elasmotheirum depicted as being unicorn-like in a field of interlocking flowers. The 'unicorn' has clearly stomped its way into a small fenced paddock, leaving ruin in its wake. The pomegranate tree from which the unicorn snacked is falling over. Regardless, the unicorn wears a beautiful blue collar studded with gems as well as a gold chain twining around the tree. It's a pastiche of the classical medieval tapestry 'The Unicorn in Captivity.'

Is this Paleoart with some Folklore, or Folklore with some Paleoart?
I explored the intertwining concepts of misinformation and natural history in this piece. The story in my head recalled not only mythological hearsay, but also the idea of cryptids. What is Big Foot but a leftover Gigantopithecus from the age where we were less alone, as primates? Weren’t we all charmed by the idea of one last plesiosaur hanging on in Loch Ness for hundreds of years? With that in mind, I wanted to go deeper than the simple unicorn = monoceros = rhinocerous concept. This unicorn isn’t a misplaced African animal. It’s a European animal that went hiding in the woods during the ice age and is only now, for mysterious reasons, showing itself: The elasmotherium.

Photograph of a 14th-century tapestry depicting a unicorn lying on a field of complex floral designs. The unicorn is contained by a small fence that it could easily jump over, but it chooses to chill with the pomegranate tree instead. The unicorn wears a very fancy lapis and gold collar.

Here is the original 14th century tapestry from which I drew inspiration. The original meaning of the tapestry itself has also been lost to time, although it possibly had something to do with marital loyalty and bliss and may have been a royal gift.

Comics Tip

Masters Studies
Say there is an artist you really admire, living or dead, and you want your work to look like theirs. Depending on your rendering skill level, you may want to do one of the following things to learn more about a pre-existing work:

  1. Trace it.
    While many artists (especially younger ones) exhibit rude behavior when they ‘catch’ someone tracing, this is a legitimate learning exercise when done privately. Whether you print out a copy of the artwork and tape tracing paper on top, or if you trace over it in a digital drawing program, tracing allows you to get the ‘feel’ of drawing something. If your motor skills haven’t sharpened up enough to eyeball it yet, tracing is a good way to warm up to that.
  2.  Eyeball it.
    Just like drawing from life, eyeballing works of art you enjoy is one of the best ways to guess at techniques, for lack of a teacher. This can be done at home from a computer or a book, and it can be done in front of art at museums and in public spaces. If you think an artist used shading in a particular area, or mixed particular colors together — give it a try, see if you uncover their technique!
  3. Eyedropper Colors.
    If you’ve got the image open on your computer, steal the colors! In photoshop, the Eyedropper tool is used to sample colors and see what they actually are…as opposed to how the human eyes perceive those colors.

Or if you just wanna chill out and color…I’m here for you! This coloring page is licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0. Have fun!

Care to read more?

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 5/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 5/6

Character Redesigns and Styleguide RevampsAs I've been thumbnailing the script of Warlock'd as my self-assigned work during Sequential Artist Workshop's Graphic Novel Intensive, I've also had to sit and revisit my comic's styleguide. There has been some character...

Marginalia Studies

Marginalia Studies

Skull BishopHours of Saint-Omer, France ca. 1320 BL, Add 36684, fol. 84v Illustration Style ShiftPrior to 2021, I used a more painterly style for my illustrations. I was frustrated by the amount of time it took to drag painterly illustrations out of the Uncanny...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 4/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 4/6

A Little Lettering over LunchRecently I had the very awesome and fun honor of guest speaking at a Kids Comics Unite Lunch n' Learn session on comics lettering. I was invited by Janna Morishima to do a presentation for those who don't know where to get started on this...

Want to chat about this?

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 1/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 1/6

I signed up for a 6-month graphic novel course via Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW). It’s very heavily focused on individual study and progression. As for the graphic, I got sorted into the ‘orange’ group, although it seems like I’m just sort of interacting with whomever. I’m doing a lot of sketchy thumbnail work for the course and…making friends! But mostly working, starting with an exercise to help me visualize my entire graphic novel before going in to the nuts and bolts.

Setting Up Benchmark Scenes
Even though I’d been working on Warlock’d for years prior to this SAW class, I picked up a fun exercise that I will be doing for future projects. The idea is to quickly explore the whole book before writing a single line of dialogue. In my case, I’d already written the script, but every time I tried to fix it, it just spiraled into new ideas. So, to stop it from expanding further, this exercise really helped.

 


Warlock’d in Four Panels

Here I quickly jotted down the spine of the story. They turned into jokes because this much truncation lends itself better to humor than drama. These scenes need to happen for the story to work.

 


Warlock’d in Eight Panels

Here I misunderstood an eight page assignment but I still found this helpful to do anyway. It was sort of like mini-thumbnails for fleshing out the four panels above, giving them more context and thumbnails for the actual pages.

 

 


Warlock’d in Eight
Pages
From the four, then eight, panels, I was able to derive a lot of pages that I’m either excited about reaching, or…excited about changing altogether. Hey, not everything’s a masterpiece. At least I know many months in advance that it needs editing, rather than after I’ve fully drawn the page.

 

Takeaways
This doesn’t have to be done digitally. It could be drawn on napkins with ballpoint pens. The point is to quickly jot ideas down and become more familiar with them, even set up a few to look forward to polishing. Spending too much time and polish on explorations is just like vacuuming my cat…Sure, maybe it looks nice at the end, but did I really have to do that?

Comics Tip

Make Friends, and Support Them
Making comics may seem like a lone effort, but without a community, a comic goes nowhere (and possibly never gets finished). Part of paying into the comics community means supporting other comics creators.

Buy and read the work of your peers. Get to know their interests outside of comics. Beta read scripts for each other. Toss money into a comics Kickstarter or two. Go to some conventions and strike up some conversations with exhibitors in Artist Alley. Show up to a weekly local drawing group. Trade tips and resources. While it’s not a one-for-one trade in most situations, being successful at comics means being part of a larger group of people.

With that in mind, here are three comics friends of mine who kindly volunteered for shout-outs, as well as a link to the Sequential Artists Workshop. Check out their stuff!

Digital lineart of an orange with orange blossoms and orange leaves. It is uncolored so that readers can download it and color it for themselves.
But if you’re not feeling extroverted, help yourself to this CC BY-NC 3.0 licensed free coloring page!

Care to read more?

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 5/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 5/6

Character Redesigns and Styleguide RevampsAs I've been thumbnailing the script of Warlock'd as my self-assigned work during Sequential Artist Workshop's Graphic Novel Intensive, I've also had to sit and revisit my comic's styleguide. There has been some character...

Marginalia Studies

Marginalia Studies

Skull BishopHours of Saint-Omer, France ca. 1320 BL, Add 36684, fol. 84v Illustration Style ShiftPrior to 2021, I used a more painterly style for my illustrations. I was frustrated by the amount of time it took to drag painterly illustrations out of the Uncanny...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 4/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 4/6

A Little Lettering over LunchRecently I had the very awesome and fun honor of guest speaking at a Kids Comics Unite Lunch n' Learn session on comics lettering. I was invited by Janna Morishima to do a presentation for those who don't know where to get started on this...

Want to chat about this?

Bear Berries: A COVID Comic

Bear Berries: A COVID Comic

Way back in March of 2020, we were just still getting used to wearing masks in public spaces. My partner Devin and I wore matching cat masks made by his mother to the local supermarket by the lake. The cashier offered us a silly conversation so I decided to immortalize it in comic form. Sometimes a person is very cute and funny for no other reason than to be human…or was he a bear, like, for real?!

I imagine most stories from the lost year of 2020 will not be very amusing. It was a year of quiet, sweeping change. My focus on levity here is to give the reader a quick respite before they must go about their day.

Art software: Photoshop
Lettering software: InDesign
Typeface: Cloudsplitter by Blambot; hand-lettering by me

Comics Tip

Have you ever had this situation? Lots of fussy objects in the same composition, each requiring its own specific color, but it doesn’t really matter which color? Manually picking different colors annoys me, so I messed with the brush settings in Adobe Photoshop.

Color Dynamics
There’s this Brush Setting in Adobe Photoshop called ‘Color Dynamics’ and if configured as seen above, the brush will choose different colors based on my current foreground color per every press of the stylus. For my own use, I keep the amount of brightness and saturation jitters pretty low, and turn hue jitter completely off. This means every time I lift the brush, and tap it back on the screen, I get a slightly different color — pretty much within the range of what I want, but I exercised zero brain power to get it. And if I don’t like the color, all I have to do is lift the stylus and press it back down for a different one. That’s how I blow through hundreds of not-very-important objects that still need their own color identities. Thanks, computer!

 

“What’s a Foreground Color?”
I’m glad you asked. It’s the color represented by the box in front, and the color that reliably comes out of your brush when Color Dynamics aren’t active. If you check ‘Foreground/Background’ jitter in the Color Dynamics menu, your brush will randomly select colors in between the two colors defined here.

 


If you’d like to try Color Dynamics for yourself on the same panel I did, or create your own strategies for dealing with situations like this, feel free to grab this Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) coloring panel and pop it into the coloring program of your choice. I’d love to see what you do!

 

Bonus chaos
Try ticking ‘Apply Per Tip’…I dare you…

Care to read more?

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 5/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 5/6

Character Redesigns and Styleguide RevampsAs I've been thumbnailing the script of Warlock'd as my self-assigned work during Sequential Artist Workshop's Graphic Novel Intensive, I've also had to sit and revisit my comic's styleguide. There has been some character...

Marginalia Studies

Marginalia Studies

Skull BishopHours of Saint-Omer, France ca. 1320 BL, Add 36684, fol. 84v Illustration Style ShiftPrior to 2021, I used a more painterly style for my illustrations. I was frustrated by the amount of time it took to drag painterly illustrations out of the Uncanny...

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 4/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 4/6

A Little Lettering over LunchRecently I had the very awesome and fun honor of guest speaking at a Kids Comics Unite Lunch n' Learn session on comics lettering. I was invited by Janna Morishima to do a presentation for those who don't know where to get started on this...

Want to chat about this?