Monday, September 05, 2011

A Portland Spring: the Buffy Trials, Part C,"On the 8's"

So, where I left off was being in the need for devising (?) a way, a standardized manner, for acquiring a skilled finesse for drawing the principle actors and their characters so I could render them in pen and ink for the Buffy Season 9 series that Dark Horse was about to launch and hopefully when that launch occurred I'd have a nice seat aboard. Yeesh, I hate this layout, but what the fuck ever, we're rolling with the bastard...hang on. Any 'thickie' that took a history class can remember that the grid is very important in translating shit from life to 2d representation; fruits, birds, those funny cantaloupe boobs that Michelangelo put on dudes because he like looking at men and never used a female model so he couldn't draw a babe worth a goddamn, grids are great for breaking down a 3D element in order to convert it onto a flat picture plane.Simple stuff. So first step; make a grid. BOOM. Grid. I chose a 5x5 grid so there would be a full square on the median to place over the focal feature or anchor of each image, this being in all planned aspects, the Nose. Specifically, the tip of the nose. That way, no matter which aspect (lord this is boring shit, but you find this fascinating I'm sure, having not lived it already) ...which aspect the subject presents; full frontal, 3/4 left or right...there's always a box designated to "capture" the entire nose in and ample grids remaining to divide the rest of the features.
The next step was actually watching the show and doing screen grabs of the characters from angles that I thought were important and interesting and that I believed would fare well on the pages of the comics. Here are some of the grabs for Willow. Again, it was important to understand what makes Willow Willow but I also needed information about her in different angles because not every shot will have her looking dead on into camera, right...RIGHT?
These are just a few of the grabs, trust me, there are a shit-ton of them (that is metric, thank you) more.

The next thing that I needed to do was get some feedback from DH on how things were progressing. It was by now the heady, airless heights of the comic book convention season, so everybody was unavailable. So brilliant person that I am, I decided to friend another artist that I heard was rumored to be in the running for a slot on the franchise; Rebekah Isaacs. If this were Public Radio and I was Ira Glass, this is precisely where my underpaid, lackey producer would have you hear the audio of the phone call; the phone ringing several times before being picked up on the other end (EST) and then the inquisitive, breathy and vivid Georgian drawl of a young woman on the other end saying 'Hello?", and then i would say,"Hi! Rebekah Isaacs? I'm Tony Akins!"...
But this blog is certainly not that broadcast is it? Instead, you will read here, not listen to, how I located Rebekah by her Facebook profile and then sending a "friend" request and waited for her answer. She probably doesn't have a breathy Georgian drawl, but it sounds nice, no?
When she responded to my request, we messaged generously and were mutually complimentary as she is a terrific, gifted young talent and I'm Tony Akins. There was the shared excitement of the title in front of us and the commiserating over the solitary nature of our work. The one difference between us was that she had a script in front of her and was moving on her assigned title, "Faith/Angel"..."Fangel", while I was still languishing in 'stand-by for approval' status. Technique for rendering the characters was also discussed and it is a tricky thing, little ones. It was there and then, and here and now that I will explain to you what I explained to Rebekah regarding how I was tackling this issue, and I do apologize to Ms.Isaacs for having this be the venue to reveal what I had hoped to show her in a more exclusive manner. But, big, right? Yes, R...this is that "On the 8's" thing I was yammering on about. God this IS a long post. The "8's" is simple an eight by eight grid which gave me a place to extract and practice the information that I had isolated from the characters on the 5x5 grid. Simply filling row after row, page after page of the individual features of any character; noses, eyes, lips, ears, constantly like a fleshy, cartilagey, toothy mantra until the features could be recalled almost instantly without having to refer to scrap photos (mostly). Here's Willow 'on the 8's'and Xander, the same...

This method seemed thorough, deliberate and very satisfying which you will see in my next entry where I'll show the practical application of this technique; drawing a character that's recognizable without referring to a photo. This entry will also feature my most horrible misstep in the process of trying to wow my ass onto this title. Hilarity Ensues.

Krazy Kat Stop Motion

Stop Motion JQ Titles

Jonny Quest Opening Titles from Roger D. Evans on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

A Portland Spring: the Buffy Trials, Part Two

OK, so it's time to start squirreling away some time on learning how to draw the characters. First thing was to start with some drawings to see how much I sucked...


OK, so let's try a little bit of...

...holy hell.

Well, maybe this time...




So maybe I need to take another approach to this, cause CLEARLY I'm blowing at capturing the likenesses of the principles. One thing I know is that I'm NOT going to trace or build a morgue of character shots built-up from screen grabs. The only thing to do is to learn everybody's face, every feature, every filtrum, every plucked eyebrow and every nosejob until I can draw them in my sleep.

First, I'll need a system...

BTW, I've received comments that these postings are misleading readers into believing I am in the running for, or actually got this job. Well, I didn't. I'm posting this for postings sake and some entertaining content.

Friday, September 02, 2011

A Portland Spring: the Buffy Trials, Part 1

If anything that I do is ever buzz-worthy then the buzz this past Spring/Summer was that I had been tapped to contribute to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BVS) franchise as it was being re-marshalled under the Dark Horse banner. IDW had license to a portion of the property for a period of time and when I heard that this far-flung station for the franchise was being recalled to be solely published by Dark Horse I figured that it would be a boon for the franchise and a great opportunity to get on board. Just so you know, I've worked with Dark Horse in the past and have always enjoyed it, and I'm not unfamiliar with the hoops and hurtles of being on a franchised book as my past contributions have been to Star Wars and Aliens; two mighty pillars in the Dark Horse repertoire.

Wow...this is going to be a long flippin' post...

Work-wise, my run on 'Jack of Fables' (Vertigo) was coming to an end and I needed to get some irons in the fire. What this came down to was me emailing Scott Allie over at Dark Horse out of the blue (only we pros can do that sort of thing so laymen beware). I told Scott that I had a pitch for him, he was receptive and so I softly lobbed 'Dread' his way... just a very watered down version. He was very intrigued, but before I could muster the next level of the pitch he asked me what I thought about contributing to Buffy. I said I felt fine about contributing to Buffy, I liked the show, knew the show and it's got nothing to do with superheroes; three in the plus column.

The first request from Scott was a set of sample pages, nothing from a script, he wanted to see how I handled some basic interaction with the "girls"; Buffy, Dawn and Willow. I wasn't going to do anything with action, that's usually the downfall with most samples submitted; the Main Character kicking the ass of the Nemesis...anybody can do that. What you want to see is the girls just hanging. Three page submission; no script; whatever I wanted. As soon as I knew what the first panel was, everything else fell into place.
What Dark Horse liked about my work is the expressiveness that I bring to the characters, and I took this as a hint that there were changes coming in the Season 9 talent line-up. Years in advertising has giving me the ability to make two people sitting around in a kitchen watching coffee cool look interesting. But, in comics you have to have that 'hook', the thing that the reader sees and wants to find out more about. If the girls are sitting around, let's have them sitting on a creepy sarcophagus, but I still wanted the individuality of the each girl to come across in the initial a clever, subtle way, which I think is communicated well through each of their choices in footwear; Dawn, being a little impractical and inexperienced has slip-ons that she is pulling a pebble from; Buffy, always the bad-ass in boots; and Willow I showed more of her demeanor through her relaxed posture, being at home in a graveyard, cross-legged.

Below is the ORIGINAL panel three for the above page, editorial asked that I refrain from 'nostril' shots.

...basically Buffy is explain to Dawn that the pebble she's just pulled from her shoe is, in fact, the bone of a fingertip.

With only the three pages to build up any suspense I opted to end it with Xander breaking the tension building at the graveside with the sudden delivering of a pizza to the operation and completely spooking the already edgy and distracted girls. Big screams are always funny, right?

Long story short, they loved the pages. Scott was right about what he expected me to deliver as far as scope and setting, and the girls interacted naturally. But I really needed to get my likenesses down in order to get ultimate approval from 20th Century Fox...shit, here we go.