Jenn Manley Lee


Posts tagged art reference
What was old is new again

I broke my week long Dicebox fast yesterday by doing some exploratory sketches of what Griffen will be wearing at the beginning of the next book. And her wardrobe through out Book 2 in general, which will be a cut above the bargain bin ensembles of Book 1. More extreme for me will be the actual styled haircut she'll be sporting.

(click this and all images for a larger view in new window)

I haven't come up with what I want just yet, but the colored sketch above is getting there. However the real reason I'm sharing it is that, before I had even finished this sketch, I realized that I had sketched Griffen wearing a similar get-up a few years back.

Once upon a time, I had planned to do a short story featuring a younger Griffen in a stream of conscious tale called "Journal" which was structured around Griffen, well, writing in her journal right after she had gotten back from visiting her father's grave. This sketch below, freakishly like the one I had just done down to the cigarette, also served as a color test for the limited palette I was planning to use.

Though I hadn't actually written or drawn said comic, I had done a good deal of prep work which included, beyond designing a look and outfit for 30 year-old Griffen, creating a decorative map of her home world as well as her old home office. There was also back story generated along with some contemplation of the culture and structure of her home country, most of which will be used to inform certain parts of Book 2.

I'm actually glad that I was suddenly inspired to sift through this old abandoned work, rediscovering certain things, some remembered, some not quite. Disappointingly, the fully colored and refined Photoshop art files for the map and Griffen's office had become corrupt, but I rescanned the pencils, quickly spot colored the office drawing, as both will be useful reference for Book 2.

And whereas I have no real desire or need now to do the short comic "Journal," I do regret not being able to use the nifty title graphic I came up for it.

Favorite Photoshop Watercolor brushes

I've been exploring and experimenting with new Photoshop brushes recently and I found some nifty ones, but I gotta say, the winners and still champions are the sets made by Dave Nagel. Gotta love the fact he included a "salt" brush. This is a note to myself that could be useful to others type post, though relevant as I continue/resume concept art for the next book of Dicebox, which'll be more watercolor than gouache in finish.

Photo reference part 2: Environments

Photo reference part 2: environments I don't really reference actual buildings or interiors in Dicebox. I'm inspired by some in books and real life, but I tend to alter or adapt what I find, though occasionally a conceptual building from a book does make it into the odd back ground.

I do take lots of random reference photos of buildings and cityscapes that appeal to me, but I collect these more to use as reference for a particular sense of environment then for any particular architecture style.

Here is the photo reference I used to create the industrial district that open Chapter 7 : Scene 5:

The photo is of Portland's SE industrial area as seen from the Hawthorne Bridge. This is probably the closest I've cribbed a cityscape photo within Dicebox. Beyond being able to quickly create a believable neighborhood, I was able to get my perspective from the building in the photo and build on it. This how I often use my building reference, for a perspective map, something I learned in David Chelsea's excellent reference book, Perspective! For Comic Book Artists.

For the factory interior, I first hunted around the internet for shots of factory floors that had the feel I was after--old school factory, floor space used efficiently but awkwardly:

Using the reference above, I was able to create the look I wanted for the Tidsanden factory:

Now, I had collected some lovely and innovative factory interiors, but this factory was to be neither. Also, I purposefully do keep certain things in a visually anachronistic vein whenever I feel justified doing so. I want people to respond to the imagery on an empathic level, almost as if I was using icons to convey a recognizable experience more than simply a place. And also to serve as a contrast for those things I intend as strange and unfamiliar.

Yes, I use photo reference

Hello and welcome to the first installment of Jenn's penance present for missing updating Dicebox this week! I'll be updating this process journal three times on Wednesday, May 9th and then once a day for the next week with sketches, thoughts, and, well, my process notes for how I go about creating Dicebox. I'll also be updating the Dicebox Explication Page a similar amount. And I'm taking requests, either via email or in the comments below, for explication points, story notes or even which concept I should sketch next off of my Sketch Table. Anyway, like I said, here's my first offering, and as you might have guessed, it's about how I employ photo reference.

Above you see a pretty straightforward use of photo reference featuring my latest lovely model, Dylan Meconis. The main reason I asked her to strike this pose was so I could check that I had the shoulder action correct ( I did, actually.) But I got an extra bonus in how Dylan's left arm ended up underneath her and the lazy elegance her left hand over the edge of the bed. This is a detail I wouldn't have necessarily thought of on my own, and it kind of makes the panel for me.

I can go pages without having a strong desire or need for photo reference; the time I desperately want it is usually is during a conversation heavy scene. I want to make the figure drawing as interesting as possible with all those odd off hand details that occur in real life, those touches that give real life and personality to a pose.

Another big reason reasons I want photo reference is to illustrate for me how a person actually, say, rinses a cup out in the sink.

As you might have noticed, I ended up drawing a totally different view than the one I got of Dylan at the sink. And yet, this photo still gave me all the information I needed to execute the drawing. Which is good, as I often try to plan in advance what I think I'll need for photo reference as to not overly impose on my gracious models' time. Then, as often as not, by the time I layout then draw the page or scene in question, I've rewritten and re-staged the scne or page in question.

Case in point, I actually took reference shots for Chapter 7, Scene 3 more than a year in advance with Dylan and Erika Moen. Yeah, well, beyond actually moving this scene from Chapter 6 to Chapter 7, things got rewritten by the time I actually drew them, as is my wont. Still, these photos were incredibly useful despite not following precise layouts.

As you can see, I shifted who struck what pose and created my own. Still, having two people interacting was invaluable. My biggest complaint about pose books, even my favorites, is the lack of person/person interaction, that's some of the most time-consuming stuff to figurre out.

I've really been fortunate with having such willing, co-operative and talented models. Rebecca Woods is an amazing and dynamic model for the comicker--heck, she was willing to pose on a step ladder so that I could actually get the pose and angle I wanted for a scene.

And last, but not at all least, there's my constant in-a-pinch-model and in-house editor who does the absolute best Griffen hands:

The well dressed comic

Alas, poor Dicebox Process Journal. How I've neglected you, much to my regret and against my will. And this is just a prelude to a hope to return to it on a more regular basis. As folks have been loving the t-shirts of the latest scene of Dicebox, I thought I'd show the designs at a larger size and show their inspiration and source.

First, the Holy Artichoke on Mare's shirt:

I'm not sure exactly what inspired this idea, I imagine it's partly due to Artichoke Music which I past every day on my way to work. And it was another store on Hawthorne that inspired the final color palette for the design and shirt, Powell's Books for Home and Garden:

And then there's the art on Molly's shirt

Which I didn't draw but merely colored. The source of the illustration is my new favorite Dover Book, Medieval Life Illustrations. I found this book while browsing Powell's Books on Burnside, killing time with Kip before meeting some folks for dinner. It was actually this illustration—

—that provoked me to buy the book as a source of random t-shirt art to use in Dicebox. And I will use the above illustration somewhere at some point, because how can I resist a portrayal of a medical cure that requires you to put toads on your face.