Uh, one night my dog leaned against a wall because his back legs decided that they were done. And those kinds of stories never end well and this one wasn’t going to be different. We put him down the next day.
I’m a writer and that is the first and easiest trick we all have. Uh, it’s true, so it’s not cheap. It happened. Lying is kind of the cheapest trick of all, but still to come out here and lead off with my dog died is uhm, about as courageous as taking a stand against child abuse. But I did it because I want you on my side and I only have 4 minutes.
His name was Captain Applejack because he spent for year in the dog navy and would not be called mister. And anytime a dog owner says, “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?” The answer is always Captain Applejack.
I was actually on a deadline so I did what writers do and I compartmentalized. I stuffed it into a box and put it next to the other boxes marked, like, dad issues, and high school crushes and then I got on with my day. Uhm. I write comic books and my career was ending so I wanted to meet my deadlines. My worm had turned in the way that the worm turns for people in popular entertainment. There’s no retirement plan where I come from. There’s just one day people stop calling and the work stops coming. You don’t get hired anymore.
I was launching a book called Hawkeye and if you saw the Avengers movie he was the guy… he was the first archer in the history of cinema to run out of arrows. Which is a very kind of true moment for him. He’s the regular dude in the avengers. And as a kid I always liked him because he was the regular guy. He came from Iowa. I lived in Iowa for God’s sake! It just seemed to make so much sense. He was a bad guy who made good. And he would like, drop his g’s when he spoke and he’d get so wrapped up in his thinking he’d get lost in like their super mansion and stuff. He was very human and he got to be an Avenger and that’s what I liked about him and now it was my chance to write him. This is before the avengers movie come out and they were looking for opportunities to make that cast of heroes a little more visible.
When you work for someone like Marvel it’s a shared universe where everyone is playing with the same toys in this strange imaginative game all at once. And because of the movie and because of a couple of other things, Hawkeye was everywhere as I was supposed to launch my book. And I could sense that there were people that wanted him here and wanted him there: “Well I’ve got him on the moon on Tuesday, and you’ve got him underwater on Wednesday, what is he doing on Thursday?” And that I decided would be my take. My book is what he does on Thursdays when he’s not an Avenger. It’s where he goes… my book was going to be about where he goes to change his pants. It was going to be very slice of life, small ball kind of stories.
It was supposed to last 6 issues and it’d be done. And nobody thought it would do better than that because it has never as a character ever done better than that. It was… and then I’m putting him, you know, in pants in an apartment building it was commercial suicide. But as my career was ending I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by writing books that I would want to read.
But my dog was dead and my first issue wasn’t happening and I wanted to cry and be alone and be sad and grieve and mourn but I had this stupid comic book that I had to write. And I had the ‘what happens’ but I didn’t have what it’s about. I knew in this Hawkeye story we were going to meet him on Thursday afternoon when he’s not an avenger and there’s a neighbor in his building who’s getting kicked out and what Hawkeye is going to do is he’s going to buy the building so she doesn’t get kicked out. Cause he had a bunch of… yeah I know, right? Dynamite, dynamite stuff!
And I came up with these kind of tricks, if I’m going to do this small ball stuff, like, there’s an issue where he just wants to buy tape. There’s an issue where he just wants to hook up his DVR and people keep bugging him. And he’s… so… Like, small things and I came up these different things I was going to do, we’ll tell the stories all out of order, and we’ll do this and that and in a way to kinda keep it compelling… and try to keep it compelling and keep it interesting a little more than just: “This issue Hawkeye buys tape.”
The honest truth was I didn’t care about the building or Hawkeye or the neighbor getting kicked out ‘cause of my dog. And then I pulled out my first trick. And I gave him a dog.
Yeah. So when Captain Applejack was a puppy I found him under a car. And he was so sick and so little and uh… so mangy I didn’t know if he was very young and very sick or very old and about to die. He was wrinkly. So I gave him to Hawkeye. I gave him this beat up mutt who was neglected and ignored. And as I started to kind of write and give him this kind of emotional thing he was connected to, like, the character’s anima appeared. That was it, it wasn’t a hawk it was a dog. And then I got the book. I understood what the book was. I knew what happens. I knew what it was about. And if I couldn’t save Captain Applejack, Hawkeye could save Lucky.
Spoilers, the dog lives.
So I wrote it in a single day. I wrote it… it was a very bad, very sad day, but I wrote it in a day. And it comes out, and the response is impossible to ignore. And I do my very, very best to ignore response at all, at all costs. But a fandom roared, or barked as the case may be, and like we started to immediately get fan art and crafts. While Hawkeye might not have the best sales in the world I’ve met literally everyone reading the book and they were dressed. Uh, but it’s he’s just wearing pants so it’s super easy, it’s pants and bandages. My editor said “People love the dog” so it’s the dog. And this entire corner in my career was turned.
If I said ‘miraculous’ it would actually insult real miracles but I don’t know what else to say. I was on my way out the door but it turned out the door was revolving and I was right back in and my entire life turned around. And everything in my career exploded off of this book. I tried to save my dog, and he saved me.
I think that the withdrawal of the grant and the implication of student loans necessarily limits people that want vocational careers and produces a generation of people who feel that only the purpose of education is to earn money. And you already see it happening, right? It’s changed the vibe of campus and it changes the kind of people that want to go to college and I think it was done deliberately.
I think it was done deliberately to rid us of all these troublesome thinkers and artists, and of conscientious people. And I think that if Thatcher could have done it she would have done, because I remember a really famous bit of television—well I don’t think it was famous, but it was famous to me:
It was in about 1988 and she was being shown around a women’s college in Oxford, and she said to this girl, ‘What are you studying?’ And it was just broadcast as just a bit of like, filler footage. Thatcher went, ‘What are you studying?’ and the girl said, ‘Ancient Norse literature.’ And Mrs. Thatcher went: ‘Ooh, what a luxury.’
And this wasn’t pointed up as meaning anything, but it does mean something. What it means is that the Prime Minister attached no intrinsic value to knowledge of another culture, or of the past, or of its language. And its a cliché to say, but you understand the modern world through its echoes in the past.
And obviously, there’s not a huge financial future in studying ancient Norse literature, but we do need people that know about these things, and the ‘trickle-down’ effect of their knowledge enriches a culture and the people in it. And to say that, what she said—’What a luxury’—indicates that if she didn’t believe there was a direct financial value to it, that it was of no value and the pursuit of that information should not be subsidised by the state, and that’s wrong and I think it was done deliberately.
In the end, [Lord of the Rings, a film trilogy that wouldn’t exist without Tolkien who studied English literature at Oxford on scholarship funds,] that made a lot of money, didn’t it? But you know what, the problem with that is then you’re being drawn into fighting the war on their terms:
When Battersea Arts Centre was threatened with closure because of its withdrawal of funding from Wandsworth Council and when the Bush Theatre was threatened with closure because of the withdrawal of its grant from the Arts Council, the bigwigs from both those places engaged with their detractors by saying, ‘But look, we developed Jerry Springer: The Opera and that went on to the West End and made loads of money for businesses,’ and the Bush went, ‘We developed this play about whatsit, and so-and-so’s in it,’ and whatever.
But actually, what they should have said was: ‘Look, we put on, for a week, a bloke blowing into a balloon and dragging it around on the floor and making funny sounds. And that didn’t transfer to the West End because it has no commercial future, but it is inherently worthwhile.’ That’s what they should have said: ‘And that’s why it needs funding.’
But instead they engage on their [detractors’] terms and they’ve already lost because they talk to these people as if the only point of the art were to make money for shops in the West End because people on the way to the theatre were buying crisps. It’s like you’ve already lost because instead of going, ‘Well we feel this has an inherent value in and of itself,’ you’ve gone: ‘Yes, but look, it made loads of money!’ So it’s a problem.
British writer and comedian Stewart Lee, creator of Jerry Springer: The Opera, discusses current levels of student debt and how it is affecting the careers of potential comedians and other writers/artists/performers. He also discusses the importance of arts funding and grants and the need to defend art for art’s sake.
Lee studied English at St. Edmund Hall in Oxford on a full grant between 1986 and 1989. The Lord of the Rings mention comes from the fact that Tolkien himself studied English at Oxford under a scholarship.
Heyyyyyyy this is extra important re: the huge student and arts funding cuts that Abbott’s budget imposes
Q:You're an extremely talented artist that could represent anything. Why do you choose to depict celebrities and iconic figures? I believe your artwork could have so much more merit and can contribute much more to society then just entertainment. You even have your symbol as the golden spiral, which I find rather smug for an artist who creates "fan art". I don't intend to offend, it just greatly bothers me to see such a talented artist create advertisement and I would like to know why.
"Smug" is arbitrarily thinking that one entire genre of art is less than another.
"Smug" is anonymous back-handed compliments that insult an entire group of artists while trying to police what I choose to make.
"Smug" is thinking that you bestow merit to art and decide its value or contribution to society — or that it needs to do that to begin with.
"Smug" is believing that advertisements are something that automatically lessens art when some of the best painters and works throughout art history, from Leonardo to Caravaggio to Rockwell and Leyendecker have worked in advertising for clients (churches included).
"Smug" is looking at my portfolio of hundreds of paintings over 3 years that cover dozens of genres, styles, subject matters, clients, and sits everywhere from the internet, to billboards, album covers, magazine covers, galleries, newspapers, movie posters, bus-sides, books, homes of friends, strangers, and celebrities, and still choosing to think that I am one thing — a thing that is just as valuable to me as everything I’m paid for professionally.
"Smug" is being a smug dicklet and throwing in “I don’t tend to offend” to cushion the smug dickletishness of it all.
"Smug" is not seeing a simplistic connection between realism in painting and the golden rule that is genre-irrelevant, but again insulting an entire group of artists while commenting on something you haven’t bothered to understand.
But most of all, “Smug” is thinking that I, or any artist, owes you anything. We can make whatever we want, however we want to. I will keep making advertisements, I will keep making album covers, I will keep making posters for games and movies, I will keep making all that I’m hired to do and choose to take on, but I will also keep making fan art because despite the merit or value that you’ve decided it has — I want to — and that’s all the reason I need.
Take your soggy waffle compliments and fuck the fuck off. Viva la fan art.
Watercolors, photoshop, B&W brush and ink, pens, digital artwork on manga studio. The technique doesn’t matter. Just tell good stories— Gabriel Bá (@Gabriel_Ba) March 16, 2014
Q:I am super Interested in trying out Digital Painting ,mind if I ask you where can one start on an entry level using Oil Paints and Air Brushing . digitally ? ^_^
Okay so the short and boring answer would be: paint from life / photographs. Study real life. Do it intently, with focus, and that’ll teach you all you need to know.
Maybe that’s not what you wanted to hear though, so I’ll try my best to shed some insight into how that journey began on my end. But it’s a very general question, so yeah caution, WALL OF TEXT:
I’m not a very experienced traditional painter, so take this with a grain of salt. But as far as I am concerned, the over-all approach to painting is the same, regardless of whether you do it traditionally, or digitally.
I remember struggling to paint on a computer, despite my (then not very extensive) experience with the medium. I used to blame it on not having a graphics tablet, but even once I got my first Wacom, I had no idea where to start. I was used to doing selection-based coloring and I was still stuck in polygonal lasso land.
Then one day our highschool art teacher forced us to paint a random still life, using watercolors. And it just sort of clicked, that I could do the same thing digitally. Sure, I didn’t have digital watercolors, but I had a brush, and I had every color the human eye can perceive, at my disposal.
And at it’s most basic, painting (traditional or digital) is just picking a brush, picking a color, and making a stroke.
That might sound offensively obvious, so forgive me if you have come to that realization already.
You might be wondering why your digital paintings don’t look like your traditional ones, even if you’re following the same rules. Right off the bat, traditional paints blend and create colors on their own and in a way that digital ones do not (yet), and I understand that can be frustrating when all you’re trying to do is replicate that specific look.
Personally, I have found there are two key ingredients that make up this “traditional look”. Primarily the colors themselves, secondarily the brushes (by extension: the texture).
I can’t speak for other artists and how they achieve a more traditional-seeming variation in colors, but as for me, I do it manually. That means if I feel that a certain area is too clean, too “perfect”, as computers tend to do, I just go in there and manually add some slight variations of that same color. I usually do this around the edges, where different colors meet.
Shout out to the color gray.
It’s very easy to achieve highly saturated colors on the computer. So saturated in fact, that they don’t exist in any other spectrum and you can’t print them. I like adding some gray inbetween here and there, it can have some surprising effects (less surprising if you know your color theory).
There are a whole host of brushes on the internet that attempt to mimic the effects of traditional ones. Photoshop itself made another jump forward in that direction with version CS 5, in which you now have 3D brushes, with variable bristle-length, -count, -thickness, etc.
I made some brushes myself (PS CS 5 and above only, sorry), which you can grab here:
However I can’t caution enough just how purley cosmetic this part is. Some people like to think all they need is a certain brush and they’re already half-way there. But the brush, of course, is just another tool. It’s not going to improve your skills in any way.
It’s great fun to experiment with brushes/textures and see where they take you, but it’s also pretty easy to get lost in that world.
Side note: try googling textures, and for different ways on how to apply them. The web is full of this stuff and there are some neat tricks to be learned. (Personally, these days I tend to manually paint most of my textures, since it looks less digital that way, but that’s all about personal preference)
All that being said, I feel it’s important not to neglect the fact that we are talking about two different mediums here. More importantly, these mediums are not at odds with each other. It’s never been digital vs. traditional, but rather digital WITH traditonal.
Especially if you are trying to replicate the traditional look in a digital medium, it makes sense to combine the two somehow.
As an example, the texture I have imbedded in most of my brushes is one that I made traditionally, on paper, with oil colors (which was stupid cause I consistently forget how long those things take to dry, but the point still stands).
Similarly, one could go ahead and paint everything on just one layer, since usually that’s all you have in the traditonal medium. In my experience that works towards achieving a more painterly effect. That would however, at least partially, take away some of the advantages that you have in the digital realm. And what I said about the two mediums being different, goes both ways. Aka there’s no real reason to limit yourself digitally, unless it is what you want.
Ultimately, it’s all about what you want. You decide which direction you take your art in. You set yourself goals, you decide what risks to take and yes, you make the mistakes. This is your journey, everyone’s got their own.
You figure out the reason why you want to emulate the traditional medium in the first place (and, as an example, “because it looks pretty” is absolutely a valid reason). Then just keep trucking.
Hope that helped somewhat!
Sorry for the novel, I’m terrible at being concise. If you’re still looking for a way to jump in, I would suggest finding some line-art online that you like, and coloring it / painting over it. That way you can jump directly to the colors and textures, and not have to worry about sketching out a decent motif first. But really, whatever works for you!
Also, thanks Kris. <3
And this is why I just refer people to Fabian.
1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.
As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write. Having anybody watching that or attempting to share it with me would be grisly.
For all the artists out there. xoxo
I agree with Natasha! Make stuff even if it HURTS! <3
Things I should remember
Relevant to my interests.
I think even with my issues and not liking it all the time, my daily sketchbook will become a good thing. it’s the only thing I’m actively drawing, but I’ve just been so lazy, and right now hungry.
Q:ugh you're so good you make me want to stop trying
this is gonna sound blunt buuuUT:
1. no artist ever wants to hear this
2. if seeing better art makes you sad/want to quit instead of inspired maybe it is time to stop trying :^)
I see good work and want to try that much harder, or acknowledge that my strengths aren’t the same as the people I idolize.