Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Sketchbooks - 1989 Part 1

For the next batch I'll delving into 1989. This was quite a year for me and one filled with many opportunities for sketches and additions to my collection of loose art. I hit just about every convention of note in the US that year including the Atlanta Fantasy Fair, Heroes Convention, Chicago Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con.

Sketchbook 1, Page 3: Brian Bolland
Brian is one of my favorite artists - for this sketch I had to give up my sketchbook to Bob while he attended a UK comic convention as a guest. Bob returned with this sketch and a rough from the Killing Joke for me (he also got Alan Moore to sign the rough - did I mention that Bob's a great guy?). This sketch always has a profound affect on people when then get to it in SB1 as it's right in the front.

Sketchbook 1, Page 9: Karl Story
Sometime during 1988 Gaijin studios started to gain some steam and I would visit them from time to time (I knew most of the guys from days past). Karl is better known as an inker these days, but back then he would do some pencils as well. He's actually quite talented, as this sketch demonstrates - something about scantily clad women with a huge gun is quite appealing.

Sketchbook 1, Page 10: Dave Johnson
Dave Johnson and I go a long way back - when I first met him he was going to Portfolio Center and working as a DJ at a local 50's club called Studebakers. I also had a friend that worked at another location as a bartender and we would sometimes get together. I've ended up with quite a bit of Dave's art over the years - in the early days he was looking for an airbrush rig and I had one - we swapped and I ended up with some inked drawings and a great airbrush of Cyclops from the X-men. This sketch is from his character "Bertha the Ball Busting Bimbo" - I have another done in a different style in SB2.

Sketchbook 1, Page 14: Mark Bode
I've always admired Cheech Wizard done by Mark's dad Vaughn - but didn't realize Mark also drew in a similar style. During one convention I happened on Mark's slideshow (which you should attend if you ever get the chance as it's quite wonderful) and ended up hanging out with Mark afterwards for dinner - Mark's a great, very funny guy and a joy to know. This illustration was done entirely in marker.

Sketchbook 1, Page 15: Scott Hampton
I've been following Scott since back in the days of the 80's independents (try Silverheels) and have always been a huge fan of his work - at the time he was about the only artist doing fully painted panels. I got to actually meet and got to know Scott at the Heroes Convention in Charlotte a few years earlier - I was talking to someone I met about his work and we walked into the bathroom - I said something about how great is work was, etc when this voice comes from a stall "Thank you very much!" and out walks Scott. Unfortunately Scott was always so busy doing illos that it was virtually impossible to get him to do anything for me personally - 1989 was the year for that - if you look at the sketch it says "At Fucking Last" which is in reference to how this was finally much drawing, which he had been trying to find time to do for me over the course of many years.

Sketchbook 2, Page 9: Guy Davis
I didn't know what to expect at the Chicago Comic Con, however there was one guest I was anxious to meet - Guy Davis, who was working on this Baker Street indie book that I greatly admired. He ended up being the first person I asked for a sketch and this is what he did for me - I think it's terrific!

Sketchbook 2, Page 10: Phil Foglio
The second person I ran into at Chicago Con was Phil Foglio, who had just published Xenophile and was happy to do this rendering for me from his book.

Sketchbook 2, Page 11: Bill Willingham
I had been following Bill from the old indy comic days and came across him at the con - he actually had a large group of fans around him so I was fortunate to get this sketch from him. He was thumbing his nose at DC (I don't remember why exactly) and this sketch was very appropriate.

Sketchbook 2, Page 12: Mark Badger
I was quite lucky to come across Mark during my tour of the indy books area of Chicago Comic Con and he liked the direction of my sketchbooks (remember they were Bimbo books) and did this quick watercolor for me - it's one of my favorites in the book.

Sketchbook 2, Page 16: Chris Gianarro?
It's really embarassing, but I can't for the life of me remember Chris' last name and even more difficult the book he worked on. This sketch is a rendering of one of the characters - sort of an S&M styled book. If anyone recognizes him or the book, please drop me a line.

To wrap up part 1 of 1989 - the first half was highlighted by the Chicago Comic Con - I believe the remnants eventually got mutated into Wizard World (not sure). Back then the convention was this gigantic gathering of talent from the mid-west that you wouldn't typically see at other conventions. In those days guests weren't paid - in fact if you wanted to set up in Artist's Alley you had to pay a fee for the table - otherwise if you work in the business you could at least attend the convention for free. Because of this, Chicago always attracted many of the old underground artists that were still around - I met Robert Willams, Robert Crumb, Rick Griffin, Gilbert Shelton and many others at this show through the years - you don't really see any of them now - back then they would just fall out of a van, very underground comic book like and the party would begin. It seems to me that Wizard killed all that, but it may have already been happening even before then. Rick Griffin was supposed to do a sketch for me when he had his tragic accident so I was never able to get that one - something that makes be quite sad in retrospect, as does the loss of that yearly gathering of greats.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Sketchbooks - an Introduction

Realizing I've been entirely remiss in publishing to this blog, I've spent some time while off for the Holidays scanning my sketchbooks - I've actually got 4 with one almost completed, one in "stasis" due to mature content, and two in working development. You might ask yourself why anyone would want or need more than one? I'll answer that question as my narrative progresses. I'm labeling my sketchbooks as follows:

  • Sketchbook 1 (SB1) - this was the first I started gray cardboard cover 8.5" x 11"
  • Sketchbook 2 (SB2) - identical in physical appearance to SB1 also 8.5" x 11" and gray
  • Oversized Sketchbook - larger format 14" x 11" black pebbled "leather"
  • Elric Sketchbook - black cover 8.5" x 11" black pebbled "leather"

How I got started in all of this:
I've been a visitor to various comic book conventions since I was a kid - the first I ever attended while still in High School. I remember it vividly and wish I had more of an interest in art back then - at the time I was more interested in completing runs of comics. My heroes were Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, Barry Smith and Mike Kaluta. I also had a great interest in any of the barbarian comics including Savage Sword of Conan and the earlier Savage Tales (I still own my original collection of these, even after selling my comics on more than one occasion, then rebuilding the collection). I didn't really think at the time about collecting art - though I did score a few pages that ended up being quite valuable (including a BWS Avengers page, an unused Adams X-Men cover and a Chaykin page - all for paltry sums by today's standards).

It wasn't until much later that the idea of a sketchbook became appealing. I had been befriended by comic creator Bob Burden (before I worked for Bob we became great friends) and it was his sketchbook that that initially inspired my to have my own. As I started doing backgrounds and fills on the Flaming Carrot comic, I traveled to various conventions - conveniently the first I attended was at the Atlanta Fantasy Fair where I reside. The way it works out is that the various artist and industry insiders often get together after the show and do a cocktail or two, where sketchbooks get swapped. Most of my sketches were from my then limited number of acquaintances, but this soon expanded as I kept seeing the same people from show to show and would occasionally share meals and drink with them as a group.

My sketchbooks are a little non-sequential as occasionally a page would be skipped (sometimes intentionally) and someone would then later back-fill the blank page. Because of this I'll going to skip around a bit and try to intersperse the sketches as they were done chronologically between all the books - I think I'll provide better context overall. I'll provide commentary on each piece as there's often a little story behind them. Sorry about the watermark but I'd rather not have these images end up somewhere and be questioned about the origin and who owns the rights. I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. The first book started in 1988:

Sketchbook 1, Page 4: Brian Stelfreeze
The first sketch in my book is by Brian Stelfreeze. I remember first meeting Brian as he was trying to get into comics - previously he had some mundane job (doing architectural renderings or something similar) and really wanted to start over in a career that better suited his talents - he did this three page short Captain America story that was very good - it was very cinematographic and landing him a job with a local comic publisher doing Cycops. It was also during this time he started doing some painted subject matter. So this sketch was from right around this time. I later ended up trading Brian some stereo equipment for some other examples of his work - I actually own the painted wrap-around cover for the cycops hardcover and I've also got this X-Men Colossus painting (with Colossus wearing a Gold's Gym tank) that Brian later told me got him his first painted cover assignments. All this was before forming Gaijin Studios.

Sketchbook 1, Page 5: Mike Grell
Mike Grell happened to be attending the same AFF convention and I got to speak with him extensively. Still rather fanboy-ish I fondly remembered the Warlord strip Mike drew for DC. I'll have to say his pencil sketch for me far exceeded my expectations - I think this rendering is better than most fully-inked images I've seen Mike do.

Sketchbook 1, Page 6: Larry Dixon
I met Larry at this convention and as you can see he's quite talented - never heard of him? This is one of those really sad tales of how someone very talented can be so turned off by an industry that he abandons it. Larry was always a big Marvel fan and finally got his big break by pencilling a Longshot story for Marvel Presents (or some similar rag) - the pencils were really outright gorgeous with fine line details throughout and great panel-to-panel storytelling. Unfortunately someone at Marvel decided to have Alfredo Alcala ink his story - now I'm actually a fan of Alcala - what Conan fan wouldn't be? But in essence the heavy inks completely destroyed the fine details of Larry's renderings - in disgust Larry went back to doing advertising art - such a waste.

Sketchbook 1, Page 7: Trina Robbins
Wow - how fortunate I feel to have gotten this sketch. Trina is an old friend of Bob Burden's and he somehow got her to do this sketch for me. I really wasn't that familiar with her work so at the time I only appreciated it from this sketch - at face value, however the fine line quality didn't escape me. Now I marvel at it. Note the word balloon - after the initial few sketches all turned out to be females someone said "Hey it's a bimbo book" and the label stuck. Most of the sketches in this book and later in book two are all of women - many scantily clad or nude (SB2 became known as "Bimbos Too".

Sketchbook 1, Page 10: Bob Burden
Not to be outdone, my pal Bob did a rendering for me while he and Trina had the book - this is Chiquita Robota who first appeared in Robot Comics. As is often the case with Bob, the image is unsigned as he felt it wasn't quite done. I believe this is the only illo of Chiquita Bob has ever done outise of Robot Comics but could be mistaken. My favorite part is the "nipple switch" - great concept!

Sketchbook 2, Page 17: Donald Sympson
I don't quite remember where I first met Don Sympson but we ended up hanging out a bit. That's how I got this sketch (I think it was at an airport where Bob and I were traveling and ran into him). Note that this is from SB2 - I got quite impatient when Bob and Trina had SB1 so decided to start another book while that one was out of commission - Don just opened it up and starting drawing - he has this amazing talent shared by some others (Sergio Aragones comes to mind) that allows him to start drawing just about anything and completing it in a matter of minutes. There's quite a bit more of Don later in my books (some of it unprintable as he was in his "Anton Drek" persona).

Hopefully I haven't lost anyone - that's it for 1988 other than some loose sketches. I'll commence with 1989 in smaller chunks as I got quite a few renderings that year.

-- Best, John

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More Raphael Kayanan and Moorcock

I had included a sketch of Hawkmoon in my first post and wanted to post the other two sketches I had done by Raphael Kayanan - these are of Corum and Michael Morcock's most well-known character, Elric of Melnibone.

Corum (top of post) - note the costume style was from a Woodruff plate from a 70's Moorcock Calendar. I needed some samples to give to Raph as he wasn't sure what the other Eternal Champions looked like and these were his impressions. It's a little cartoony but I still like it quite a bit.

Elric (above) was inspired by my favorite rendition of him - done by Michal Whelan for the cover of Sailor on the Seas of Fate.

-- John