Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Thanks for a fun semester, you guys.
WIth apologies for the prepended advertising, here's that film!

Best viewed in full screen mode!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ink on the original pencils?

art by Jack Kirby, © DC

Brittany emailed me asking me to clarify what I had said about inking on the originals. Here's my reply:

Hi, Brittany,

You can ink on your originals. It's just very important that you get good xeroxes of them first.

If you don't want to ink the originals, so that you can show both original pencils and inks side by side, then you need to get a scan of your pencils and use Photoshop to make it so that the black lines are blue. You need to have the info palette visible, with CMYK selected in the Info Palette Options. Then in the pulldown menus, select Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation. Put Hue slider to the middle of the scale (not critical to hit an exact number), Saturation to 100, and Lightness to whatever level will make very darkest area is no more that 60% cyan (C). This lays down a pretty heavy blue, one that doesn't quite pick up as black on MY scanner when I scan the inks in bitmap mode (which is how inks are best scanned). You would want to go a lot lighter to get the look, for example, of the inking-exercise boards with the waves, trees and so on that Mick Gray does for his kids. The original will look cleaner if you go for that lighter blue too. But you do want it dark enough to see the details! And be sure to ink with your xerox of the pencils nearby.

You'll need to get it printed out on an 11x17 printer. Most can handle 2-ply bristol just fine. There is even a thick paper setting on some printers, either in the Print dialog box or on the machine itself. Such a printer is a great thing to have, and they are about a tenth the price they were several years ago.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Demo of reflections set up

Oooops-- I meant to post this to my Drawing from the Imagination blog. Comics students may ignore this. 

Note that, as always with 2-point, you must have one or both VPs well outside the borders of the final composition, and neither should be more than a little bit inside the picture, ever.
The oval mirror idea I suggest in the video is not a good idea for this assignment because you have to show three objects in addition to the queen. "Dean of Perspective" Joko suggested to me once that if you draw the reflected objects in the mirror first and then use the methods in the module to place and scale the actual objects in the real world, you can eliminate any trial and error.
Sorry for the video quality. It looks much better playing on my Mac than through the Blogger interface for some reason. I think you can still follow it though.

Here's an impressive version of this assignment by a past student. Sure, it's kinda lame that the room isn't reflected in the mirror (I told you that was a common failing), but she had drawn everything else (except for the head) so beautifully that I let it pass.

This, btw, is the sort of super-competence, like Chad Weatherford's Civil War drawing last week, that entitles you to a certain amount of rule-breaking. If you're not making fairly steady A's, just do the assignment as written, please...


Thursday, November 04, 2010

What to watch for in clothing folds

Here are a couple new videos to help put you touch with the mechanics and aesthetics of drawing clothing folds. Then, a magnificent new illustration by the immensely talented and personable Andy Kuhn. It shows how, once you have some feel for the mechanics of folds and know how to make them follow the form, you can beautifully describe clothes just with outlines, buttons and the shadows under the rolls. Notice how nicely, in this minimalist style, the square ends of the lines serve as those "turnarounds" when a roll doubles back going into a "Y"and the shadow under it stops. Wow!


Monday, November 01, 2010

Rad How-To Blog

This drawing blog, done by a guy named Rad, has got me thinking: Do I teach too much by picking on people's common misperceptions about how body parts are formed? Does that approach favor surface result too much over process and understanding? And if so, am I short-changing you guys by teaching in a more superficial way than I ought to?

Or, on the other hand, would a deeper approach prove too analytical and intensive for today's students? Too much like the year of drawing plaster casts that used to feature as a prominent and fundamental part of classical art education? (Considering that almost all drawing errors are some combination of misreading the evidence of senses and failure to deal with the implications of 3D-ness, I think more and more that art schools were on the right track a hundred years ago. My biggest knock on current students is that they want to be shown a recipe, a video tutorial, even for things that aren't cut and dried enough to work that way.)

Either way, please check out Rad's blog, which is a sublime combination of sharp-eyed analysis and a heightened feeling for not only figure drawing, but shape design and storytelling. As such, it is very useful to both illustrators and concept artists. And animators really need this stuff as they spend years moving beyond a superficial, shape-driven apprehension of the world.

You know a guy's got a lot on the ball when he's willing to show you his class notes.... Go now, go now!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Costume Carnival! and Other Reminders.

Costume Carnival is this weekend, Saturday 30 Oct, 10-4 in Bradley Hall, 540 Powell. Great chance to brush up your clothed figure skills in a fun, fanciful, student-directed way.

The Comic Book Workshop is now weekly at 3 on Thursdays in 540, 1st floor, I think.

Ever wanted to be an intern at Marvel? This is your chance to find out if editors return the calls of people who work for them. For free.

Escape from Illustration Island has been going for a year now. It's a great source for tutorials and career tips for illustrators.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Everything I Know

The key to drawing a thing well is having a strong feeling for its form. And the key to that is getting a workable simplification of it into your blue-pencil underdrawing. Over time you can develop and hold a simple 3D head shape, for example, in your mind, that you can draw from any angle.

The alternative is to have a conventionalized way of drawing a head for each of several angles. That may not sound bad. It worked for years for John Byrne. But it meant that his characters looked quite different when seen from the angles that Byrne didn’t draw as well, and that any two characters, seen from the same angle, looked like cousins, if not siblings.

The little un-glimpsed errors that cling to our work consist almost entirely of shapes and juxtapositions from one view being misapplied to another. All learning artists are accidental Cubists. They unknowingly draw a thing from multiple directions at once.

By the way, these distortions I’m making fun of are come by honestly. These are the mistakes everybody makes in the effort to do something honorable: take what you know and adapt it to a wide variety of poses and angles. The trouble comes from trying to build your general “model” of a body part from the specific surface bits of it or one view of it rather than its actual, overall, 3D shape. What makes accomplished illustration better than amateur is the understanding is that everything in a drawing has to be defined and essentially contained by its capital-f Form.

For example, take this credible-looking drawing of a foot seen directly from the side. Then, a respectable drawing of a shoe proceeds reasonably from the first drawing’s premises. We can see the correctly observed fact that the sole of the shoe rocks up, off the floor, in front.

The trouble comes when one tries to take this flat understanding of the foot into a different view. Let’s go to, say, a more frontal view, from a higher angle--more typical of the way we usually see shoes. The need to foreshorten the foot for this view seems to call us to increase the curviness of that slight S-curve on the top edge of the original shoe. A curious innate human urge to represent the front ends of shoes as puff pastry has given the shoe a distinct echo of Mickey Mouse’s bulbous brogans. Moreover the very slight curving-upward of the sole has morphed into the entire front end of the foot’s hooking mysteriously, painfully, outward. Compared with a photo or better drawing, this is clearly disastrous, yet it is typical of what that we all do before we learn to deal with capital-F Form.

The solution what I’m calling SRSs: Simplified Rotatable Solids.


The artist’s need to draw attractive, dimensional human heads from varying angles makes it essential to start with a simplified rotatable solid. Consider for a second the fact that few appealing, believable drawings have ever begun with a charmless, sloppy, skewed or ugly underdrawing. The need for those simple solids, starting with a headshape, should be pretty clear by now.

You can base your default starting headshape on an egg, or a simplified skull, or a sphere with jaw area added and the sides lopped off. These are all workable starts, each championed in different great how-to-draw books. I use something a little different, as you see here. There is a partial flattening of the front and side planes, as is visible by the faint squarishness of the horizontal centerline. The ears are already in place, just a little behind the vertical centerline for the side planes of the face. I can draw this from almost any angle, and still keep its proportions.

When your faces get weird-looking, when you keep having to redraw the features over and over, it’s usually because you’ve lost your artistic connection to that solid, or didn’t make it very well in the first place. Without realizing, you are likely presenting an impossible hybrid view: the different facial features are drawn as if seen from a variety of directions.  When attempting to draw difficult angles on faces, do you sometimes get the Quasimodo effect?

To fix it: Erase back to that underdrawing stage, grab your blue pencil and make that headshape work, in its simplest, cleanest form, with centerlines that really hug and define that solid. (Centerlines done in a hasty, perfunctory way are worth less than nothing). When you return to drawing the features, locate them very, very softly and vaguely at first with the blue pencil before you refine them. Remember that the eyes are pushed back a little in relation to the eyebrows, forehead and the bridge of the nose. I recommend trying drawing the nose after the eyes, so you can make sure you have the eyes placed, aligned and spaced properly. If it’s still not working, get out some photo reference of a similar view.

When we forget that the bridge of a nose can block our view of the inner corner of the far eye, or when we fear to draw an eyebrow that wraps around to the unseen far side of the head, or forget that eyebrows are mostly ahead of the eyes, we can easily create little, dead, flat zones in our drawings. And we can be slow to recognize them in our own work. One solution is dutiful, analytical attention to the visible part of the far half of the face in 3/4 view, in photos and life.

When we see a face in 3/4 view, especially in closeup, the far eye is just a little more foreshortened, a little closer to a side view. Thus it looks a tiny bit shorter, less wide across. A little of this is due to the fact that our sightline to the far eye necessarily runs a little more across the eye and a little less at it than the near eye.  A little is due to its just being farther away. These differences are greater when the viewer or camera is close up, and when the bridge of the nose is strong enough to cover a little of the far eye. Intriguingly, this is something that some of the very simplest anime and manga styles exaggerate. This gives animators the ability, even in styles of Pokemon simplicity, to draw in a way that heightens the feeling of Form, conquering 2D’s limitations. Ironically, this is something that most anime imitators totally miss, at least at first.

Try this for spacing and placing the eyes in 3/4 views:
1) In your blue-pencil underdrawing, you place that far eye first. Keep it a little shorter on its horizontal axis than you think is right. Use your judgment as to whether the eyeball breaks the contour of the face or if there is a little face showing on the far side of the eye (as with broader faces, slightly more frontal views, anime-derived styles).  Forget the nose for now. Loop in a space-keeper “third eye” right next to the far eye. Because it’s a little closer to us and a facing a little tiny bit more toward us, you make the imaginary third eye a little longer, or longer still if you want wider-set eyes or small eyes. Finally add the near eye at a size that looks natural.

2) The far corner of the far eye should be very blunted by the foreshortening of the eye opening and the sphericalness of the eyeball. In fact in some views that approach profile, that little place where the outer ends of the upper and lower lids meet may be “‘round the corner,” hidden from our sight by the eye itself. But the near corner of the near eye will be extended, displayed to our eye at nearly its full length and pointiness.  Look critically at the interrelation of the eyes and the face, make any revisions, then draw in the bridge of the nose.

3) Hold on! Don’t draw it as a line--it’s an SRS too, Picasso. Sketch it as a wedge with a flat base. “Glue” that base between the eyes, centered right on the third eye. The bridge of the nose itself will tell you whether it’s deep enough to cover some of the far eye. No need to guess. Working this way saves you from this scenario: You draw the near half of the face with confidence, but lose your way trying to cram the eye onto the bit of the face that exists on the far side of the nose.

4) Now make sure that the forehead and thus the eyebrows are a little ahead of the eyes.  The centerline of the eyebrows must be shifted toward the outside, moved out into a “wider orbit” than the plane the eyes are in. Often, very little of the far eyebrow will show and the bit that does will be foreshortened--retreating around the forehead.  (This far eyebrow is the area where people most often fall “flat,” failing to reckon with the roundness of the head. For instance, often when a character is drawn with arched eyebrows, their inner ends will be shown curving down to the nose-bridge with two identical, symmetrical curves. This is never found in nature, because of the spheroid shape of the forehead. Check any 3/4 view photo of any person ever.) Refine the nose to a natural shape.

Look for this unequal eye length in photos of 3/4-view faces. You will always see it, even when the bridge of the nose is too shallow to cover any of the far eye.

When the face is shown in extreme up-shot--as when the jaw takes on a W shape --the eyes appear to “sag” slightly at their outer ends.

Upshot or down, it is imperative to visualize eyeballs as spherical. Even though only a fraction of the eyeball is visible, the lids are shaped by it. When you do a downshot, think of the lower lids as semicircular balconies hugging that sphere of eyeball, for example.  The lines of the eye opening will only appear straight-ish where they come between your viewpoint and the core of the eye’s sphere. As they bend away from you toward the “horizon” of the eyeball, they will curve more and more, due to the progressive foreshortening imposed by the eye’s sphericity. So if you always draw the eye opening as a leaf shape, slot or oval regardless of one’s angle of view, you need to bring some direction to your approach. Check photos of faces taken from high and low angles, especially ones where the eyes are not wide open, and you will gain that necessary sense of the eyeball as a sphere.

These little site-specific heightenings of Form-awareness, by the way, are not airy-fairy extra enhancements of the existing charm of your work. Rather, they are surface telltales of a deeper insight that separates learning artists from good ones and increases charm and convincingness: an ability to draw from 3D Form. My belief is that  paying attention to the specifics, especially with checking against reality and photos, can lead gradually to a heightened awareness of the primacy of Form in general. Some jag-off fine-arts styles may trade on primitive drawing to falsely imply an authenticity of expression. But beyond that insular world, there are very few styles, including those of Power Puff Girls geometric simplicity, that are in anyway diminished by this ability.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The resource I mentioned in class as being especially valuable for perspective has many other valuable insights into drawing in general. Allow several minutes for download.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Ellipses: The "Implied Cylinder"

You guys, here's a set of very short videos I made just recently to explain how to orient ellipses properly, over on the blog for my graduate Drawing from the Imagination sections.
If you haven't already, please read the announcement following this post.

Comics Workshop is in flux

Stay tuned for news re time and location of Dan Cooney's Comics Workshop. Up in the air at the moment.


P.S.: I am tracking down the Comics Club. Please leave a comment if you know anything.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

After the First Meeting

Hi, Y'all,
Here's the first, verbal part of the handout, as well as the instructions for the head exercise, now no longer worded as notes to myself!


Comics 2 - ILL 292
John Heebink
Credits: Take the Book off the Shelf, Doll and Creature (Image), Vampirella Quarterly (Harris), Killer Stunts (Alias), Elvira (Claypool), Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Hamilton), Nick Fury, Quasar (Marvel), Action Planet Comics

PHONE 415 887-
BLOG ill193.blogspot.com
EMAIL penciler@

Category Weights:

Participation (Helpful crits, adding to discussions, readiness to draw)    20%
Homework                                                                                                 35
In-class Assignments, Quizzes                                                                  20
Final Project (pitch pack)                                                                          25

Attendance is required.
Two unexcused lates will count as an unexcused absence.
Arriving five minutes or more after class begins or leaving fifteen minutes or more before class ends will be considered a late.
Three unexcused absences will lower final grade one full letter (B to C, etc.)
Three consecutive unexcused absences will result in a final grade of F.
Four unexcused absences will result in an F.
Excuses for absences and tardinesses must be written and verifiable by phone.

Late work is given an “0” without a written excuse with contact info so I can verify (see Student Handbook for what constitutes a valid excuse--it’s limited). However you may re-do up to four on-time assignments. So your incentive is to turn in work, good or bad, on time, and later re-do the ones you’re unhappy with. Work must be turned in (or emailed to me if you can’t make class) 20 min before the end of the class session in which it is due. Re-dos are due in the 14th week of class.

FOOD IS NOT PERMITTED. Seriously. We have a student lunchroom. Drinks are okay.

DIFFICULTIES. Please see syllabus for available services for when you are in difficulty or have special needs. ARC in particular is helpful: They have motivated, helpful counselors, content tutors and language tutors, and they put on subject-specific workshops. They have a special office for accommodating the needs of students with disabilities (Classroom Services).

Everybody goes through rough patches, periods of adjustment. Please see ARC early if a problem arises that interferes with your work. If your grades drop to D or F, I am required to talk to you about it and  urge you to see ARC. Working with friendly, eager ARC counselors earlier may prevent things getting to that point.

INDUSTRY PRACTICE. This class is modeled on industry practice. Though comic-book deadlines are often somewhat elastic, the career risks of lateness make my no-late-work policy a good practice. Real cartoonists often have coffee and soda in their work area, so it's allowed in this class, etc.

ALL ABOUT THE WORK Most of our aims in this class will be in service of producing a high-quality final product.  Please ask questions.

GENERAL-TO-SPECIFIC. The best way to produce professional work is to move, in our work,  from  big issues to small, from soft to hard, general to specific, taking no more time at any stage than is necessary. Working with blue pencils is key to this, as is breaking out of comfortable bad habits.

THE GOAL of this class is to produce a professional quality comics pitch: Cover, character sketches and 6 pages of inked story art. (Some students may want to design logos and write the verbal component of the pitch, but these are not required and will not affect grade). Lettering directly on the boards is strongly discouraged.

I stand ready to assist you with any problem areas in your work. You can call me at the number above. I highly encourage you to scan and email me your work in progress, so I may give helpful feedback that can save you time and heartache. There may be comics and perspective workshops that can be helpful and fun. I believe they start after the third week of the semester.

Teaching Methods:
Lectures (limited), demos, handouts, homework, class critiques, quizzes, in-class assignments, one-on-one advice from teacher.

Updated Supply list
Pencils, of your preferred hardnesses
Sanford Col-erase Blue or Light blue Pencils . ALWAYS bring to class.
Strathmore 400 or 500 Series bristol board, smooth finish. (Trim down to 11" x 17")
Kneaded and Pink Pearl or synthetic erasers (e.g., Staedtler-Mars White)
30/60/90 triangle--the bigger the better. Look for one with a raised straightedge for inking
Raphael 8404 Series Kolinsky sable brush, size #2 or #3 or #4 , (or the less expensive Escoda 1212 series, size #2 or #3 or #4) available at Pearl Paint and Jerry's Artarama. OR,  alternatively, an excellent brush pen: Brush pens can be found at the Kinokuniya Stationery Store , 1581 Webster, Japantown, on the 38 Geary bus line.
Pen nibs and holders (I'd suggest Hunt 102 and an assortment of others. I really like the Deleter nibs and holders from Japan. They are sometimes available at the Kinokuniya  BOOKSTORE in Japantown, but  it's difficult to find out because a lot of their clerks don't know they carry them. Deleter makes it own holder that fits both styles of Deleter nibs.)
Pelikan Waterproof  or Speedball Super Black India Ink (Higgins Black Magic is a passable second choice.)
Pentel Presto or Pro White or Dr. Martin's Bleedproof White or Pilot Correction pen or other correction pen
Micron Pigma black pigment liners, sizes 03, 05 and 08, two of each
Drafting  tape or dots
Optional but recommended: drawing board with parallel rule or T-square; stick-style or pencil-style eraser; architecture-style lead holder, leads and special sharpener; sanding paddle for making chisel points on pencils; electric eraser (for erasing ink); French curve, flexible curves, ellipse templates; compass; 2H or 3H pencil (or lead and lead holder) for doing side-of-the-pencil shading and fills of black areas; a 6" metal ruler for ruling backgrounds; light box, tone screens.

Carrying a sketchbook is a good idea.

Always bring blue pencil, black pencil, erasers, paper and a ruler to class!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Welcome to Comics 2, Fall '10!

Hi, everybody.
We've got a nicely sized section this semester.
This class is about helping you make the best-possible package of pages by the end of the semester. So the amount of work required is not excessive--it's a time-tested number of pages. It won't force you to compromise on quality--if you use your time well.
Another aspect of this class is maximizing what it is that you already do. That makes our smallish class size a true plus, so that you can get enough individual attention to help you deal with whichever aspect of your work is occupying your attention these days.
I'll give you a couple others to worry about as well, naturally!
Good luck, you all. Speak up, both in class and out. From the first day of class you will have my email and cell phone number. Don't be shy--let me know if you are not getting from the class what you want.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Another Challenge: Expression

THE "25 Essential Expressions Challenge"
You may have seen examples of this one on deviantart. Someone named Nancy Lorenz designed the sheet for it. Not sure why she put a copyright on something she wanted people to copy, but OK, so not everybody gets the concept of copyright.

It's a great exercise, even if some of the expressions are kinda redundant. There are three different flavors of fury, for example.

It's not only an exercise in expression, but a workout for people like me who have trouble drawing a character consistently. I've been sketching out specimens for a vampire pitch I'm working on. I will post them here at some point.


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Page 100 Project

Artist Jason Turner has started a new challenge for comics artists with a simple premise: You pick a favorite book (prose or, I suppose, poetry) and adapt page 100 into comics form. Turner's effort is shown here. It's from Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union. My fave of those I've seen is the one in color, based on one of the few books on this list that I've heard of and one of only two I've read, The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. This one is adapted by Mark Oftedal.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Revised Photoshop Primer

Vampirella Quarterly 2008 Halloween, pencils and colors JH, inks M. Manley

 Hi, you guys. I'll see if I can schedule that Photoshop lab day. I've just newly condensed and updated a Photoshop primer for you. Here also is a link to a Photoshop file that shows my preferred file setup and represents a file that is ready to have the modeling done. The advantages of this file setup are detailed in the Primer.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Those Wee Facial Offsets

These jpegs are presented to help you to a finer handling of the ins and outs of facial structure. I did these a couple years back to help a grad student. He was a good page designer and storyteller, but admitted he'd been forgetting to use all he knew about facial structure. (The school couldn't let him go out with samples that showed such amateurishness, and so he was graduated conditioned upon his making some few revisions to his thesis project based upon these notes.) Click on them to enlarge.

Hope these are helpful for you guys. In the second illo, I'm showing how starting with simple, attractively proportioned structure can allow his own line work to be repositioned into something dimensional and nice-looking. Handling that far half of the face is really tricky, largely because all its surfaces are rounding away from the viewer's eye, and because we unknowingly treat it as flat in places.

These are Copyright 2010 Academy of Art.