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06 July 2010

It's Supersnipe!

My favorite comic shop, Strange Adventures, recently opened a new shop in Dartmouth.  Not only did I visit their grand opening to grab some nifty signed and sketched books by the likes of Faith Erin Hicks and Mark Oakley, but I also took the opportunity to enter their coloring contest for a bit of fun and the chance to win a big ol' gift certificate with which to stock my library.  Line art for the coloring contest was created by Dave Howlett, who's designed some really rocking work for the shop over the years.

I'm happy to say that I was one of the winners at the professional level of that contest, meaning I'll shortly be acquiring all kinds of cool goodies to fill my reading list for the summer.  Somehow I found the time to create two entries for the contest.  The first was bit of traditional digital coloring, like so:

The inspiration and palette for this rendition was inspired by the covers of the classic Marvel giant monster comic "Where Monsters Dwell", #25.

However, as I was rendering the piece, it put me more and more in mind of a piece I had seen by Alex Ross, created for the series "Marvels":

Ross's work fascinates me, so I thought this might be a good opportunity to see if I could do anything in his style.  I took the piece I had rendered earlier and went at it from a different angle, starting off with a more painterly approach in Artweaver.
As you can see from this, I replaced the background in the original with a more photographic layer with a couple of filters aplied to it, then turned the lineart layer of the original piece into an underpainting by doing a burnt sienna color hold on it.  From there I started painting in new layers over the underpainting.

And it was right about there that Artweaver and I parted ways.  I'm sure there are some people out there who swear by Artweaver.  At first glance, it does look like a fun program to mess around with, and has the potential for a lot of nice artistic effect.  However, on my system, I found it nothing but buggy and troublesome.  To begin with, the interface is not nearly as intuitive as it should be.  I've used a lot of art programs -- Photoshop, Gimp, MS Paint, Project Dogwaffle, and many more -- but almost none of them have been as difficult to decipher as Artweaver.  Simple things like layer opacity, brush size and dynamics seem to be present, but fine tuning them is more complicated than it should be.  I'm prepared to admit that this may be a subjective thing, but then I'm hardly inexperienced with this stuff.
A more serious problem for me was the floating toolbars.  I multitask; it's inevitable for me.  As a result, I find myself using alt-tab switching on Windows quite a bit.  Doing this while using Artweaver caused the floating toolbars to either stay on top of the other windows I had switched to, or disappear completely, forcing me to restart the program to get them back.  Either way, this was an unacceptable behavior from the program, as it greatly interefered with the work in progress.  I might try the program again if this behavior gets fixed, but for now, I'll give it a pass.

So, I took the piece to my old standby, Gimp.   The Gimp has long been one of my favorite art programs; it's interface is much more natural for me, and I like its brush controls and customizable keyboard shortcuts much more than even Photoshop.  In fact, if it were not for the fact that I need to use CMYK for finished work, I would probably never use Photoshop at all.  For example, the digital paintings I recently created for the SkyClub CD were all rendered in The Gimp, and mostly just converted to CMYK for printing in Photoshop. 
The end result was the piece below.  While this was the puppy that won the blue ribbon for me, I can't say I'm entirely happy with it.  It's not bad, but it just didn't go where I wanted it to.  I think part of the problem is that I was not bold enough with the color.  Alex Ross is one of the few painters I've seen who's not afraid to paint with black.  In fact, he uses it quite liberally in his work.  When I studied art, I was told never to paint with true black and have tried to avoid it over the years.  Perhaps it is because his work is almost exclusively comic related that Ross is able to get away with breaking this "rule". 
In any case, I wanted to keep the tone of this piece light, considering the purpose and setting of the piece, so I avoided using any black or truly dark colors.  I think this took away some of the depth of the piece, so that it comes off looking kind of flat.  Also, while I avoided gradient fills wherever possible, I think the brush selection I used still makes the piece look very processed.  Like I said, it's not bad (heck, good enough to snag me a prize), but it's just not what I set out to accomplish.  Still, it was fun to work on and a real learning experience.

There were some other very nice contributions to the contest, at all skill levels.  You can see the other winners here.  It's nice to see such a selection of talent offering different interpretations of the same piece, and great fun to be able to be part of it all.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Congrats!! =)
You deserve it!