Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cass Cain Batgirl ink wash sketch...

I did this yesterday.  It's Cass as Batgirl, surrounded by a bunch of faces.  Who are the people in the faces?  Some are characters from my imagination, some are characters created by others.  This isn't the best drawing I've ever done, which is obvious.  I can't even say it's a particularly good drawing by any standard.  Cass is kind of anatomically disproportioned and I put about three different light sources on her face because I was playing around.  But I like this drawing because I learned something valuable from it.  Something exciting!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cass gets her obligatory DC comic convention panel shout-out

DC's top Bat-creators convened at Wonder Con last Friday (April 18, 2014) and asked once again if fans want to see Cass back in the funny books:

Next fan up to the microphone asked since Stephanie Brown is back in "Batman Eternal," is Cassandra Cain next?  [DC talent relations director Larry] Ganem asked the crowd if they wanted to see Cass back, and received a fairly healthy applause.  "Duly noted," Ganem responded.  --Hit Fix

What this means probably has a lot to do with how you interpret the phrase "fairly healthy applause."  The adverb suggests an audience response less than thunderous, but the adjective tells us it was more than feeble.  Which part of that did Ganem "duly note?"  I feel confident Cass will show up again in some capacity, at some point.  Maybe a wildly enthusiastic response complete with a twenty minute chant of "We want Cass!  We want Cass!" would have moved up the schedule for her reappearance, but one of these days, maybe even this year, DC people will start dropping hints and building anticipation.

The day that book hits the stands is when I next buy a new DC monthly.  Not a moment before.
Next fan up to the microphone asked since Stephanie Brown is back in "Batman Eternal," is Cassandra Cain next? Ganem asked the crowd if they wanted to see Cass back, and received fairly healthy applause. "Duly noted," Ganem responded.
Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/news/dc-talks-the-future-for-batman-and-the-rest-of-the-bat-family#ttOc4TTMzGgRewoH.99
Next fan up to the microphone asked since Stephanie Brown is back in "Batman Eternal," is Cassandra Cain next? Ganem asked the crowd if they wanted to see Cass back, and received fairly healthy applause. "Duly noted," Ganem responded.
Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/news/dc-talks-the-future-for-batman-and-the-rest-of-the-bat-family#ttOc4TTMzGgRewoH.99
Next fan up to the microphone asked since Stephanie Brown is back in "Batman Eternal," is Cassandra Cain next? Ganem asked the crowd if they wanted to see Cass back, and received fairly healthy applause. "Duly noted," Ganem responded.
Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/news/dc-talks-the-future-for-batman-and-the-rest-of-the-bat-family#ttOc4TTMzGgRewoH.99

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rape threats have no context in which they're even remotely acceptable--

I don't care who you are or what you think you're trying to prove, but there is no possible justification for making a rape threat against anyone.  There never has been and there never will be.  And for what it's worth, that is all I have to say on that matter.

On critiques...

Okay, I'm not a professional artist.  I'm a hobbyist.  I started out to become a pro illustrator, made the mistake of going through a graphic design program focused on typography and magazine page layout, worked in graphic design, did little art jobs locally here and there (art for newspaper ads, covers for some tabloid-sized inserts, spot illustrations for a regional magazine, a couple of t-shirt designs for a band, fringe stuff like that) before packing it in and moving to Japan to teach English for a lot more money than I ever made doing any of that stuff.  These days I chase art for my own purposes and to entertain people online.  I'm always trying to improve because I believe education in any subject is a lifelong pursuit.  I'm too shy and self-aware to push myself on working artists, but I have gotten some advice from time to time from some professionals.

Critiques.  As opposed to criticism, which is another discipline.  Criticism is what Roger Ebert used to do to films.  A critique is what artists do to other artists.  Go to art school and you'll receive critiques.  I did.  Some critiques come from the teachers.  Some come from other students.  Either way, they're meant to be a learning experience.  While it's nice to receive a lot of positive comments in a critique-- which is what happens usually if you've done everything correctly-- on occasion, you're going to get negative comments.  Some people will point out your mistakes and tell you how to fix them.  We call this "constructive criticism."  Sometimes constructive criticism comes soft and sweet.

But not always.

Allow me to give you a sampling of some of the comments I've received during critiques.  And keep in mind, these were almost all in front of my peers, as opposed to one-on-one or privately.  Other people watched and listened while teachers told me these things.  Some of these will be word-for-word, but all of them happened years ago, so I'm going to paraphrase the specifics on the ones I can't remember verbatim.  Even so, I'm going to give you a feel for the tone.

"You faked this.  You thought you could get away with it.  Look at these marks on this rug.  These marks are totally meaningless.  You got lazy, violated the rules of the assignment and you're not fooling anyone."

"You know what your favorite color is?  It's gray."

"Look at these two side-by-side.  This one you rushed is a lot better than the one you spent so much time on.  That's why you didn't finish these assignments.  Poor time management and getting all finicky.  And the results aren't worth it."

"This is a mess.  I don't want you turning in things like this."

"You should have just stopped here.  If you had, then you could say, 'I'm finished,' and be done with it."

"Your imagination has outstripped your drawing ability."

(In a very disapproving tone):  "Hmm."

Those are the ones that stuck with me, even if I can't remember every word exactly.  There were plenty of others, too, that have fallen back into a jumbled mass.

The point is, there is no rule that says critiques have to be polite, or positive.  Or even encouraging.  Sometimes the point is to discourage you from doing shitty work.  Especially if you fuck something up.  Read that first one again.  I did fake that assignment.  It was homework for an advanced studio drawing class and our professor was a working fine arts painter who had been a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War.  Super cool guy.  He had us doing memory drawings, where we were supposed to look at a room for a specified amount of time, then rush to our drawing board and draw gesturally (the teacher was big on gesture drawing and what he called "moves") for another specified amount of time.  I found it tedious and decided to cheat.  The next day we put our assignments on the wall for a group critique and the teacher zeroed right in on mine, no doubt using the same sharp vision he had used while flying under combat conditions during wartime.  He called me out in front of all my classmates and shredded my work.

Shredded my WORK.  Not me.  Although I suppose there was a little of that in there, too, because he was pissed I'd cheated and he knew it and knew I needed some correction.

I could have shriveled from that, but I didn't.  I was left awe-struck.  This guy knew what he was talking about.  It wasn't bullshit.  The light clicked on and from then on, I excelled in his class.  I learned more about drawing from a semester with that guy than I had in the whole of my life up to that point.  The one about gray was right on target, too.  No, gray isn't my favorite color, but I sure used a ton of it in that class for some stupid reason.

Are these critiques, and others like them, the reason I never turned pro?  Not at all.  I may or may not be skilled enough to do professional work, but I made a lot of choices and didn't push myself or sell myself enough because I was too busy expending my energy in epic booze binges.  I was lazy.  I lacked follow-through.  I'm working on my own thing and it's taking forever.  Because I'm some sort of freakish art monk and I do art for the sake of the thing itself and the spiritual benefit of pursuing perfection even though it's an impossible goal.  Japan called and I answered.  There are a lot of reasons and none of them are, "Some teachers tried to help me by pointing out what I was doing wrong and weren't nicey-nice about it."

Shoot, while I prefer everyone love me and gratify me with praise and self-esteem building compliments, and sugar-coat their constructive criticism, I WANT people to kick me in the ass when I need a good ass-kicking.  Sometimes I need harsh words or I won't learn.  Now you can say nice things in a critique, and you can offer constructive criticism and advice in a polite, soft, Nerf-covered way, and that's all well and good.  But as far as there being some set of rules that say you must do it that way?


And if you're so insecure you think a critique has to be some re-affirmation of just how awesome you are, then maybe you're too fragile to be doing art for public consumption in the first place.  Maybe you just don't want to learn and grow as an artist.  Or maybe you do and you're just a little thin-skinned.  That's fine.  You're missing out on a lot of learning opportunities, though.

Whatever it is, just don't tell me there are these definite rules for soft-soaping a critique.  A critique can be as easy or as harsh as it needs to be.  And sometimes, like the ones I'm recalling here, a critique has to be a sharp slap in the face to wake you up when you're sleepwalking through art.

Now go read that infamous Alex Toth take-down of no less than Steve Rude and tell me again just how harsh or unfair Janelle Asselin was about that Teen Titans cover.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Batgirl versus Stubing progress!

This is all I managed to accomplish last night.  There's my photo reference for the hallway tacked up to the left.  The guys know someone's inside that room, rummaging around the ship's files, but they don't know it's Batgirl!  Gopher, Doc and Isaac run away, but Stubing stands his ground as a captain should, and gets kicked for his troubles.  But don't worry-- Cass didn't hurt him.  She held back most of her kicking power.  She's demonstrating visually why no one should interfere with her.  That's why she chose such a spectacular move in a confined space rather than just choking out Stubing, which wouldn't have the same psychological impact.

I still need to add the doors along the walls and some of the paneling.  Then I'll start fixing the figures, adjusting their proportions here and there and adding details, plus working on the Stubing likeness a bit more.  I haven't decided how I'm going to resolve this-- simple and a little cartoony the way it appears now, or hyper-detailed and realistic.  I'm not a big fan of photo realism, but once I start adding lines I tend to work in that direction.  Digital inking also lends itself to that style.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cass Cain Batgirl versus Captain Stubing!*

Here's my next fiasco.  First, the rough pencils.  Very rough.  It doesn't really matter how rough since I'm inking this myself and I'll be doing most of the actual drawing in that phase.  Mistakes become apparent with a quick glance, but that's to be expected.  Lots of anatomy to fix on the figures and to figure out on Stubing's uniform.  I'll be fixing the ceiling and the doors, too.  Notice how the doors don't line up correctly on opposite sides!  I'm thinking about doing a diamond pattern on the hallway carpet, but I'll need to check some Love Boat photo reference to see if that's appropriate.  It would be very nice if the Pacific Princess sports simple single-color carpet!

Here's the first stage of inking, blocking in the figures and background.  I do this digitally in Adobe Illustrator because I've never been happy with my skills (lack of, actually) at traditional inking.  Simply put, I suck at inking.  Also, being a lefty, I tend to drag the side of my hand through wet ink no matter how many precautions I take or how many times I tell myself to slow down and pay attention!  Using Illustrator means I can make changes to anything, at any point in the drawing process, without resorting to whiting things out or-- horrors!-- starting over at the beginning.  After this, the actual drawing begins.

Some will say, "Why Captain Stubing?"  To them, I say, "Why not Captain Stubing?"  Others will say, "Of course Captain Stubing."  To them, I say, "Let's party!"

*I like Gavin MacLeod.  He was in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Andy Griffith Show, McHale's Navy, The Sand Pebbles, Kelly's Heroes as well as The Love Boat, after all!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Having a Tumblr is pretty nice,but you can learn a lot just from hanging out in the right places!

For one thing, there are all kinds of Cassandra Cain-related discussions going on at any given time.  And some amazing art.  My Tumblr feed or page or whatever it's called has attracted a couple of followers, too.  The strange thing-- and also very flattering and gratifying-- is the popularity of my "Batgirl versus the Joker" drawing.  It's strange in that the one shared is the one I put on Deviant Art, rather than the slightly corrected version found on my Tumblr.  Well, whichever one, that someone, anyone, finds something I drew pleasing enough to show others is humbling and leaves me feeling very appreciative.  After all, the whole point of posting stuff is for people to see it and enjoy it.

So far my Tumblr is very Cass-heavy itself.  I tend to doodle or sketch her when I have no inspiration but feel the need to make marks on paper anyway.  Which happens every single day.  That's a lot of Cass!

And now for the other.  One of the coolest things about the Internet beyond the way it gives you a platform for showing off and garnering likes and shares is it gives you the opportunity to interact with working artists or to be a fly on the wall when they discuss their craft.

I've learned (or re-learned) a lot from reading some expert-level discussions on some John Buscema and Jack Kirby fan feeds on Facebook.  Another artist whose work I admire posts structure drawings on his Facebook just about every day and you can learn a lot just from looking at those.  Another educates her followers with some hair-raising personal experiences inside the business.  The other day, a pro whose work I'm a huge fan of (he co-created my favorite non-Cass comic book character) saw something I'm working on and took it upon himself to gift me with some direct-on-target advice.  It's proven to be incredibly helpful.  That certainly recharged my drawing battery, which was running a little low on power after a long weekend of putting down lines!  Last night, using his tips, I started revising the piece and I think it's going to be a stronger work.
Remember, these are busy people.  Don't be pushy, demanding, annoying or rude of their time and expertise.  That's what paying for classes is for, and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of perfectly useful "how-to" books available.  You can also find a lot of helpful tutorials all over the place online.  YouTube is a great resource, for example.  I'm way too shy to ever ask for free advice, so I tend to stick to reading and observing and trying to remain unobtrusive.  But if you find yourself in a position to receive some words of advice from a professional or any very experienced artist with teaching ability, or you find yourself reading shop talk where people who do this stuff in earnest every day discuss figure drawing, perspective, page layouts, composition and storytelling, take it to heart and learn as much as you can.

Whether you want to be a professional artist or you just draw for likes on Tumblr, you owe it to yourself to improve.  And if nothing else, learning something new is fun, especially when you can take it and use it to make cool art.  Open your mind to learning experiences wherever you find them--  then go and practice, practice, practice it on your own.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I started a Tumblr...

That's where all the cool kids are hanging out these days, right?  It's not a Cass Cain Tumblr.  It's for my art.  Which means there will be a lot of Cass Cain drawings on it, but I'll be posting those here as well.

One thing I've learned about Tumblr this week is there are many, many Cass fans there.  Searches for "cassandra cain" and "cass cain" bring up a huge wall of Cass and Cass-relate imagery.  It ranges from fairly crude fan art to pages from actual comics. If you're a Cass Cain fan, it's a visual feast.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A new Cass Cain Batgirl drawing I'm working on...

Still a lot of work to do on this one.  I need to fix the contour lines, finish rendering her hair, cape, belt, costume, the foreground bricks and the background buildings.  What a weird pose!  I may go back in and re-work her face, but for now I'm considering that part completed.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Batgirl Incorporated

Apparently over on Tumblr there's been this "Batgirl Incorporated" fan comic going on since June 2012 and I'm only just now becoming aware of it.  What is this thing?  It looks to be someone's homebrewed effort to use all the Batgirls in a single comic.  Sure!  That's a great idea!  I want to read it, but I can't figure out this Tumblr thing and so far all I'm seeing there is a lot of art, some of various Bat-characters, some for something called "Shutter," all of which looks fantastic, by the way.

As a Cass-fan, I'm going to support this even though I've yet to read it.  And maybe one day I'll understand Tumblr enough to do so.  Anyway, I've added a link to it on my blog list there on the right for easy access.

Speaking of "fan canon," years ago when Batgirl went evil, I came up with my own version of the Teen Titans centered around Supergirl, Cass Batgirl, Donna Troy Wonder Girl, Tim Drake Robin and Cyborg.  I still think it's a pretty cool idea.

Batgirl versus the Joker is finished!

It took longer than I expected, but there it is.  I'm going to color it this week or maybe next weekend.  Obviously Cass pulled her punch or the Joker would be flat on his back.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Batgirl versus the Joker almost complete!

Still have to finish the Joker's left arm and leg and shoes, then refine the wrinkles and highlights.  After that, I'll color it.  I'm probably going to change the text, too.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Batgirl versus Joker progress update

Still working on this.  I think I'll have it finished by tomorrow night.  It's Cass knocking the Joker sillier.

Thursday, April 3, 2014