Daily Read: Prophet Remission 1

So, my wife has decreed (and I agreed) we should sit down with the kids and read for half an hour a day*, from 7:00pm to 7:30pm. Not too much, right? Oddly it’s just about enough time to get through a graphic novel, so I figure since my tsundoku has gotten redonculous, I can start there.

(* It remains to be seen whether we’ll do this beyond one day, but my youngest loved the idea, and my eldest moaned about it wasting computer time – so it’s win/win)

Ok, first book up in the unread pile is Prophet Remission 1.

This collects the Image Prophet series issues #21-26. Though really, it’s more of an entire rethought reboot that bares very little relation (barring name and probably some visual ideas) from the previous Rob Leifeld created generic Captain America/Super Solider idea.

THIS series, launches us 10,000 years into the future when a disorientated Jon Prophet wakes up from suspended animation on an unrecognisable Earth with a mission he must fulfil.

It’s pretty great. I mean, it ticks all my future-war-fetish boxes, right down to list of equipment, bizarre future tech and weird alien customs. Great artwork throughout, and while the initial story sort of opens up the premise of a kind of Story of the week format (which would’ve itself been great) the final episode in this book adds a new dimension that could see things run entirely differently.

I loved it. I think it’s pretty much right up your street if you’re a 2000AD fan, mixing the future war of Rogue Trooper, with Bellardenelli style weirdness.

You can buy it here  and I can’t recommend it enough.

 

L’Ecorché (artists reference)

Way back, before the iPad was available to buy (but just immediately after its announcement) I got very excited about the possibilities of it as a reference tool. Mounted at my drawing desk, the entire resources of the world were there for me to pick away at.

Of course, the reality is, it is also something of a dangerous distraction from work – finding JUST the right reference photo is a killer.

L’Ecorché is an iPad / iPhone app that ticks one of the essential boxes for artists – an anotomy reference that goes way beyond what an ebook is capable of.

(It’s a bloody awful name though, yes, it means something in art – it’s a proper word-according to my imac dictionary:

a painting or sculpture of a human figure with the skin removed to display the musculature.

But it’s utterly hostile to human/computer searches. As an example, even to find that dictionary definition I had to angilfy the word – making it ecorche just so the computers search would find it.

Good look googling the app! (or better, here’s a direct link to the iTunes download)

The app itself is pretty simple, it presents a single (male) human figure in a grey colour, as an anatomical study. The pose is a classic one (by this man – Jean-Antoine Houdon).

The beauty of the app is that you can move the camera around this model, up and down, zooming in and out, allowing you the ability to see how the muscles connect to each other.

The app also contains two other versions of the same model:

“Eaton” which is an updated version of the Houdon model with a more modern and accurate anatomical structure (but the same pose) this model allows you to overlay colour with letters detailing each muscle (the colour code may be useful, but I found the letters – because they’re not hyperlinked – to be a little bit useless).

The third model is “Bammes” a simplified version of the figure, rather than concerning itself with exact anatomy, it’s all about big shapes – perfect for quick sketches, or working out what a muscle group might look like in the bigger picture. (I found it especially useful that the models can be broken down into head/torso/arm or leg, allowing a great way to get those akward back of the head angles that I seem to draw a lot even if I always find difficult).

(The photos here are from the iPhone app, but the iPad app is a lot roomier – and much more responsive – or, at least, it is on the new iPad )

There is one final thing, which is a skeleton which sits BELOW the model – the model becomes transparent and the model is shown. Cleverly it’s colour coded to show where the skeleton would hit the surface of the body, making it a great way to check the anatomy on your art.

It’s always feel a bit odd about a review of a relatively cheap bit of software, it’s $4.99 – enough that, even if you download and find useless it’s not like you’re out a lot of money. I don’t think you will. I think if you’re an artist with an ipad, you’re going to find it indispensable.

DOWNLOAD THE APP HERE. (non ipad users: apparently they intend to release an android / desktop version of the app too, and it will be similarly priced)

(interestingly, the app was kickstarted – I didn’t find out about it until AFTER the fact, otherwise I’d’ve chipped in!)

Tools of the Trade: The Scanner

Being a comic artist involves, as one might expect, quiet a lot of drawing. But, a good proportion of your time isn’t spent on drawing, it’s spent on various admin things. Back in the old days (you know, a couple of years ago or so) lots of that time would be spent dealing with post (packaging art, heading to the post office, waiting in queues, getting annoyed and, generally, NOT drawing). Now, the job a lot of artists dread is scanning.

Every page needs to be scanned and, often, touched up to clear up various things. And, if you’ve only access to an A4 scanner there’s lots and lots of patching things together moving them about and joining them up.

The first scanner I ever owned was a four inch wide hand held scanner (actually, I never owned it, I worked in a shop selling computer equipment – so equipment like that passed through my hands before it ended up with customers). Course, those scanners were useless (though, comparatively cheap), but, to be fair, the computers weren’t really potent enough to do anything with big scanned images.

The next scanner I saw was a monsterous A4 monochrome scanner, costing around a couple of grand (it used a SCSI interface and was lightening fast – in the old days when light travelled really slowly).

Once A4 scanners became cheap, I bought one and have, over time, come to both rely on and really detest the whole scanning process.

I managed, over time, to procure an A3 scanner – a Mustek, horrible it was, slow, grinding, incompatible with mac os x (and, despite new models coming out, one of the most read pages on my old blog was a page explaining how to make it work with a mac) BUT it scanned A3 art – one pass scans were within grasp but it was so shoddy in quality, that, ultimately it sat, dead on the my shelf.

I bought better and better A4 scanners and finally, ended up with a Canon LiDe50. Great scanner, but it had a horrible lip over the border of the entire scanning area making scanning an A3 page in two passes a nightmare (not something I found out until I bought it and unpacked it). Turns out almost all modern A4 scanners had some sort of lip – so I ripped a portion of it off, taped the glass on that side into place and, voila, an A4 scanner that would allow me to scan in two chunks. And, the lip that I left gave me a neat guide to shunt the page into to keep the paper steady making it easier to match up both sides.

And while this was a lot better than the A3 scanner in terms of quality, it was still a pain to have to ensure the pages are lined up perfectly, scan in two passes and then merge together in your graphic tool of choice – sometimes lining the pages up was such a pain, you’d end up scanning in multiple passes – grabbing a panel with each pass.

So, finally, I broke – it was time to spring for an A3 scanner – and THIS time, the market had entirely changed. When I bought the Mustek (£99) the next cheapest scanner was around five grand – my new A3 scanner/printer cost £270. Lots of cash, but worth every penny, and it’s fairly changed how I work.

The process, before, was:

Thumbnail > pencil page > ink page > scan page (avoiding scanning pencils unless I really have to)

NOW:

large thumbnail > scan > print in blue > ink > scan (oddly more scanning, but less effort required to do it)

Tried the new process on a few pages so we’ll see if it sticks, but it’s great. The other thing it’s letting me do, is stop worrying about drawing panels – I now do all my panel borders in the computer on top of the blueline pencils. Print that out and I have a pre ruled page with borders completed, all I’ve gotta do is attack with some ink. Normally, I measure all panel borders out – to try and keep them totally straight, this is a fairly time consuming and laborious process that I’m pretty glad I’ve found a workaround.

Added to that, I can also add photo reference directly to the page, turn it into a blueline guide, print that out (with all the other pencils on a single page) and ink it, thereby totally integrating photos with the art in a way that makes it pretty much impossible to tell photo reference was used.

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The large thumbnails are drawn in a moleskin book and, oddly, the proportions of the moleskin end up being almost exactly right for American comics.

Anyhue, if you’re thinking about A3 scanner/printer combo: The Brother DCP-6690CW is brilliant and worth every penny.

Here’s the key info, if you’re dealing with comics:

Pros

  • Doesn’t take up too much foot space.
  • Prints to the edge of the page
  • Seems happy to take my Canson Bristol Board (220gsm) pages (though does leave an impression/dirty mark on the BACK from the roller when they’re printed and, to be fair, they’re heavier than the manufacturer recommends).
  • Cost £270 from Amazon, ink seems cheap (found unbranded ink for £8 for two sets of all colours+black) – have yet to replace a cart (uses individual cartridges for each of the colours). So I imagine I’ll be replacing the cyan and black a lot, but not the rest 🙂

Cons

  • Weirdly, doesn’t quiet scan to the edge of A3 – you can lose about 2/3 mm from the edge of whatever you’re scanning. Not a problem for 99.9% of things, but a little a mysterious, none the less. This may be a software issue – I’m not sure.

UPDATE

I’ve had the scanner long enough now to form a decent long term opinion, which is: I wish I’d bought one years ago. Scanning A3 pencils, converting to blueline, printing and re-scanning really helped me get Happy Valley in easily within deadline (including a 12 page Megazine story at the same time). Deffo worth the cash.

iMovie ’08

Is an amazing bit of software – both more powerful and less powerful than iMovie ’06 – it really does put non-linear video editing into the hands of anyone who can cut and paste. I was able to spend 5 minutes putting together a 3 minute video – using clips that I’d assembled over the past couple of years in iPhoto. Then dropped a song onto it. The disadvantage is, well, that’s it – I can’t do much more than that, the video effects that were a feature of iMovie ’06 are gone – not degraded, not lessened just gone. They disappeared. The transition’s are limited to the out of the box lot and even they don’t seem to have options – so doesn’t seem to be an easy way to increase the time span for transitions. There’s no fine-grained control over editing, there’s no easy to edit volume control over the timeline – well, there is no timeline.

In all, though, for all that it’s lost – I know I wouldn’t have created the video I created using iMovie ’06 – all those options? they take too long. When all you want to do is make a quickie video based on clips on your digital camera iMovie ’08 is perfect. Also? it’s faster than iMovie ’06 – at pretty much everything it does.

I haven’t mentioned my mac love in a while, have I? Well, new iMacs, new iLife and new iWork – I want them all.