Category Archives: Character Design

Beautiful Scars: Meet the Amazing Amanda Vissell! Plus, new release date!

You have probably seen her work if you’ve ever walked into a Kid Robot, or are into collecting vinyl toys, been to any number of Los Angeles/California galleries, collected Disney merchandise, or are generally a cool person who knows about cool things. Of course, I’m talking about Amanda Visell.

I think the first time I saw her work was at Disneyland. It was the 40th anniversary of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and the gift shop had all kinds of sweet commemorative merch, including a fantastic ringer with an amazing pirate graphic. It instantly reminded me of mid-century Disney art and especially Mary Blair, who as I’ve talked about before, is basically my patron saint. (I realized that now if you google “Mary Blair Alice in Wonderland” this blog comes up on the first page, which makes me super happy.) The more I learned about this mystery artist, the more I loved her.

Amanda has a deep love for the same things I do, like Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle. She and her partner Michelle Valigura, who is also an amazing artist working in ceramics and 3D materials, originally came to LA to pursue a career in stop motion animation. You can see the influence from that time in the materials and techniques that she uses in her work, both painting and sculpting. She works with similar characters and themes throughout her work, like alligators and elephants, but what I really love is the figures are not just cute figures, they tell a story. She’s a natural storyteller and is drawn to things with narrative. In addition to limited edition toys and figures, she also does killer paintings and posters. Her current series of pop icon wood idols is particularly interesting; she’s attempting 100 one of a kind idols (55 are finished so far, and they are awesome). I love someone who can think in 2D and 3D, and have continuity between the two. Her work always looks like her, no matter what she’s attempting.

For her contribution to “Beautiful Scars,” we knew we wanted to give her a scene with Scars. I love how she takes an existing character and Amandafies it, so we knew she’d do something great. Scars is such a blocky character in our design, I really love how he gets a bit rounded in this piece. It’s a great moment between the Woodsman and Scars, showing off their now matching scars on their foreheads. How much do you love that five-o’clock shadow on the Woodsman’s face? He looks like he’s had quite a long day (and he totally has).

Check out Amanda Visell’s site here, and the design partytime jamboree she has with Michelle Valigura, Switcheroo.

In book news, we have a new release date! Oh, the joys of customs and shipping. Now, all of our books are safely at the distributor’s warehouse and we can say with a defnite tone of voice that you can buy Beautiful Scars April 2nd at your local comic book store, and April 8th at your local bookstore! And, April 2 happens to be my birthday, so even better! And of course, you can buy it right here from from the BOOM! website.

Beautiful Scars: Meet the Fantastic John Van Fleet!

John Van Fleet is one of the more impressive guys you’ll meet. And I’m not just talking about his goatee. He’s creative and clever, and will keep you in stitches. He’s also an outstanding artist with a huge amount of creativity. (There’s also a professional poker player under the same name, and I’m not entirely convinced that he’s not ALSO John in some kind of disguise.)

He has a really provocative style that combines 3D models with painting to create some really interesting mixed-media paintings. His clients include D.C. Comics, The Walt Disney Company, Mammoth Records, Sony Pictures, MGM Studios, Marvel Entertainment, Warner Brothers and Electronic Art, and now, little ol’ us!

When we were thinking about the moment to assign to John, our thoughts went right to dragons. Specifically, our dragon. This moment shows where Nightshade the dragon is slain, and plummets to earth (not too much of a spoiler; we won’t tell you how it happens!).  With John’s 3D prowess, we knew he could deal with such a massive form in a really cool way. And we are so, so thrilled with the result. I love the distressed feel of this image, it feels like a cellophane film strip about to burst into flames. His version of Nightshade is truly terrifying – a perfect end to a perfectly evil creature.

Check out more of his amazing work at his site! http://johnvanfleet.com/

Edit: Here’s the obligatory awkward reaction shot, this time from a very sickly Guin! Even with the plague, she’s super excited about this dragon.

guinthumbsup

Thumbs way, way up.

Beautiful Scars Fairy Tale: Meet the Remarkable Robin Carpenter

When we show off the book to anyone, this is the image that people always stop on and squeal a bit. I know I definitely did. This is the work of Robin Carpenter, a super talented young illustrator from Vancouver, BC. After graduating from VanArts in the Game Art and Design program, he came to Emily Carr University, where he is finishing up in the Illustration program. He has already began to make his mark on the illustration and concept design world, and we’re really glad to have his fantastic work in this book!

This scene is where our woodsman meets Karolle, the satyr. We didn’t put him into the graphic novel portion, but he’s a key player in the development of the woodsman’s character. We only had a vague image in our heads of what he would look like, and so we left it up to Robin to give Karolle form. And he did not disappoint! Karolle is is wisest creature in the forest, but I love how his cuddly exterior means you have to look a bit deeper than the surface to see who he really is. Which is really what this book is about!

And if somebody doesn’t make a stuffie of Karolle, I don’t even know why.

See more of Robin’s work here: http://robinoart.daportfolio.com/ or follow him on tumblr!

Beautiful Scars Fairy Tale: Meet the Magnificent Michael Stribling!

Michael Stribling is one of those artists who has such a huge range of style that you’d swear he’s two or three people posing as one. His work can range from painterly realistic to 3D cartoony. And whatever he does, it looks great!

Michael’s worked in illustration, graphic design, mural art, video games and comics, most currently as Art Director of Interactive Content at Leapfrog Games. Personally, my favorite work is what he does for comics. He’s great at capturing the action of a scene or the power of a character. I love what he does with characters like Wonder Woman and Superman, so we knew he would do something awesome with ours. And he did not disappoint!

This is the sequence when the princess gets snatched up by the evil vines and the two heroes must fight them off. I love his take on the vines, the red color makes them look even more vicious and they really pop against the neutrals of the characters. The emotional tone of all of these pieces is different, and I love to see all the different interpretations of each scene. This has a much murkier and dangerous feel to it than what we did in the comics section, and it’s hard to say which direction I like better

(And the woodsman’s hair looks super luxurious, which I appreciate.)

For more of Michael’s great work, check out his website or his DeviantArt page!

Beautiful Scars Fairy Tale: Meet the Dashing Dave Guertin

We’re continuing the series of fabulous artists who contributed to our book with the incredibly talented Dave Guertin, of Creaturebox fame!

In addition to being a generally fabulous human, Dave is an incredibly talented artist and we’re honoured to have him included in this project. He’s the hardest working man in showbusiness, so we say, and it was amazing to have him take time out of his schedule to be a part of this.

We assigned him this particular moment in the story, where the woodsman and the princess are poised to fight these winged creatures. We love his character designs so much, and he did NOT disappoint. That is one of the best things about this part of the project, seeing all the different interpretations of our world. I absolutely adore the princess, especially. Look at the intensity in her face! Dave really captured all the small details that make this moment come alive, like the rings on her dress and the little flower behind her ear.

Dave Guertin is one-half of Creaturebox, along with Greg Baldwin, producing a delightful assortment of robots, monsters, and aliens. He also creates visual magic at Insomniac Games as principal artist, and is responsible for such visuals as Ratchet and Clank. Check out their blog here!

Edit: I have been taking a reaction photo to each piece as it comes in, and posting them alongside the pieces, and this one is a twofer. This is the (probably the worst ever taken of me) photo of my reaction when I saw the piece:

photo 1 copy

Oh yeah, baby, I am ALL GUMS.

I sent it over to Dave and said “This is the face I made when I got your piece!” He replied and said “This is the face I made while I was making it!”

photo 2

Delightful.

Mutual screams of delight. It doesn’t get any better.

Beautiful Scars Fairy Tale: Meet the Wonderful Ola Volo

For those of you who don’t know, our graphic novel Beautiful Scars (coming out April 2014) is divided into two sections. In the first section, we are introduced to a young girl named Maddie Shaw. When she hears the wonderful stories spun by her grandfather Ridley, she imagines the fantasy world of Scars the Troll, Princess Lily and Ridley the Woodsman. Inspired by the story, she grows up to write fairy tales. This first section is done using the conventional comics form: panels, dialogue boxes, gutters, etc. Most of the comics focuses on Maddie as a young girl. When we finished the graphic novel, we thought it would be interesting to read Maddie’s writing as an adult.

So, the second section of the book is a prose work entitled: Scars the Troll Meets the Vengeful Dragon. In lieu of a pinup section, we wrote the fairy tale that Maddie’s grandfather inspired. This allowed us to include details that we couldn’t add in the comics but also allowed us to flesh out the world. We divided the story into sections and asked our art friends (really, art family) to interpret it in their style.

We’ll use this blog to show off these spot illustrations every month or so, and the first image we’re showing is actually the last; here’s the end piece by Ola Volo entitled: “And they all lived happily ever after.”

Ola is a Vancouver-born illustrator currently operating out of Brooklyn. She has a wonderful decorative style that reflects her Kazakh heritage. An up and coming artist, she is about to have an artist’s book produced on her work published by Von Zos. Visit her website and say hello!

http://www.olavola.com/

Durwin’s reaction to the Wonderful Ola Volo? Awwww…

On Silhouettes

To give you some insight to our character design process for Beautiful Scars, I pulled a panel that would work out beautifully as an example (it also happens to be the panel I’m working on). In this panel, the Princess sees her friend the Woodsman. She’s about to give him a big ol’ hug.

To me, the moment is about the action. And after channeling my inner Princess and posing the pose myself, I chose the moment where she would gather herself before the hug. In other words, she’s not walking out like a robot, arms in the air in a hug-like motion.

First step is to go through an old Warner Brothers exercise and create lines of action. ASIFA has a great handout I use in my classes pulled from the great Preston Blair book on animation. In essence, I use the fattest digital brush I have and lay down a core mark thinking about movement running through the character. I’ll cheat and add smaller marks to suggest shape.

The second step is to use this gesture drawing as a base to sketch onto using layers. Making the lines of action a bit more transparent, I draw directly on the base sketch. I’m thinking about construction, silhouette and anatomy, but I’m constantly reminded about movement. To make a stronger character silhouette, I adjusted the rose to point down, but the energy still feels right. David Guertin always preaches clear silhouettes (and now I do too!), and all of the important details are an easy read at this stage even if I deleted all of the internal information.

The last step is to ink. Sometimes, the penciling stage will get tighter if I’m nervous about details. But I feel if you over pencil, then you lose all your energy on the inks stage. Taking a cue from Bruce Timm, I try to push my line as far as I can. Inking almost becomes a game… Can I define an entire arm in one stroke? Inks = Energy!

The process for this book is pretty loose, but I think the effects are worth it. Since I’m known for working in a tight style, it’s nice to relax and enjoy the act of drawing again. Guin is constantly pushing me to be looser and looser and I hope it shows in Beautiful Scars.