Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: The Napoleon of Crime

This is the last one in the series, but don't fret... I'll have news about the paper figure collection this upcoming week!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: Colonel Moran

The 2nd most dangerous man in London!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wizarding Wednesdays: Is that a FANG, Professor?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: Mycroft Holmes

If one pays attention to little details, one finds all sorts of amazing connections. I'm terrible about this in real-life, but decent enough when it comes to books. Case in point: back when I was planning on becoming an Episcopal priest, I sought out a number of works by noted Anglicans pertaining to the church's view on aspects of the supernatural, and found one book of particular interest: The Book of Were-Wolves by the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould. Shortly before this, I'd played the role of Major-General Stanley in probably my very favorite operetta, Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance" (no surprise as a favorite, I expect). This is a role I'd like to reprise someday, because I played it the same way everyone does, and I'd like to approach it with more of a blustery C. Aubrey Smith type of delivery the next go 'round. ANYWAY, in Mississippi I attended a church where the music was not all that spectacular, and as a result we ended up singing that famous martial hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers." Reading the credits(?) at the bottom, I found that the hymn was a collaboration of the Werewolf scholar Baring-Gould and composer Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan)! Some time later, while becoming a more enthusiastic Sherlockian, I found that many of the best essays and annotations were by a William S. Baring-Gould. Upon examination, I found that this was Sabine's grandson! The world of letters is a small one indeed. This series of connections is probably EXTREMELY boring to all but myself. I include this little whatchadoo here because Mycroft Holmes, pictured here in all his ambitionless brilliance (likely on route to the Diogenes club), is most probably NOT Sherlock Holmes' only brother, though he is the only one expressly mentioned in the canonical Arthur Conan Doyle stories. This deduction was arrived at by William S. Baring Gould based on a line in "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches," in which Holmes says that his ancestors were country squires. As the oldest son of a squire would most certainly have stayed home to take charge of the estates, Mycroft could not have filled this role AND his government duties in tandem. And, as younger sons of the gentry often went into government in the Victorian era, it is logical to assume that Mycroft is, in fact, the MIDDLE brother, and Sherlock the youngest. This assumption has since come to be more or less agreed upon amongst Holmes fans, and the name of the oldest brother is bandied about as Sherrinford, which was the original name given to Sherlock by Conan Doyle before the publication of A Study in Scarlet. Learning!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: Lestrade

Lestrade gets a lot of grief. He brings it on himself, but even so, this "sallow, rat-faced man" has the good sense to outsource.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: Wiggins

It's a Christmas miracle! Well, not really, but I am posting twice today! Presenting the fourth in the Sherlock Holmes character series: Wiggins!

 Wiggins is the head of Holmes' urchin intelligence squad, and I picked him for today because he's so adorably Dickensian. Also, it looks like I've found a way to print these and make them available as a "Paper Figures" set by mid-January! MERRY CHRISTMAS! And God bless us, every one.

Sherlock Holmes: Mrs. Hudson

Often described as "long-suffering," Mrs. Hudson is Holmes' landlady and housekeeper, and puts up with her tenant shooting patterns into her walls as he sits idle and bored. My landlord when I was in college, a psychiatrist whose name I can't recall, put up with similar antics from me with far less fluster than did the great detective's. I had a habit of sitting on my couch on the opposite end of a very wide room and shooting from the hip with a Red Ryder bb gun at a full paper towel roll that sat on my entertainment center whenever I was watching tv. As a general rule, I was a decent shot, and would usually hit the roll, send it spinning (its weight was such that it would usually remain upright after), and try and hit it again before it stopped its tilt. I wasn't infallible, though, and the wall behind it was peppered with small holes. The wallpaper was so thick, having been covered and recovered for decades, that it would have a slight give if you leaned on it, and the bbs would embed themselves deep. I'm pretty sure that the landlord had written off the place as a lost cause long before I'd moved in, so the leeway I was afforded was likely not a reflection of any personal magnetism.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: Dr. Watson

The second in the set of Sherlock Holmes characters, today's Baker Streetian is Dr. Watson. Back whenever I gave up doing theater out of a distaste for the amount of rehearsal time most organizations take (when I was growing up, we learned our lines and showed up for blocking - the whole months plus thing is not my bag), I still held a hope for four roles that, should the opportunity present itself in my future for me to play any of them, I'd do my best to make it happen. One of these was Dr. Watson, mostly because I thought he hadn't be played right, and I was of a mind to rectify it. Then, in the past few years, Watson has undergone a serious p.r. overhaul. Is this due to Kate Beaton's comic showcasing the discrepancies between book Watson and movie Watson? I like to think so. Whatever the cause, the two most high-profile Holmes stuff in recent years - the Robert Downey Jr movie and the BBC show - have given Watson his due. Granted, the movies don't get the dynamic right (Watson should be in awe of Holmes), but even so. It's truly Watson's decade. And, so, I can scratch Watson off my list of roles I want to do someday, as it's been done proper. Also, I ain't got time for acting!

Sherlock Holmes: The World's Only Consulting Detective

For years, I've been meaning to do an indefinite series of small paper stand-up figures, akin to a collection featuring circus illustrations that was in a local museum that I visited often as a kid in Kentucky. I always liked the idea of a shelf-full of literary characters, and after doing the True Grit drawings figured that I'd lighted on a drawing style suitable for the undertaking. I'm not sure at all how best to go about producing these - attempting to print them myself eats through ink, and I'm wary of using most commercial printers, as one rarely has the capacity to oversee color correction and paper handling - and so it won't be until I figure out how to print a batch on matte card stock that I'll make these available (in the Holmes series, there are eight). Once I do, though, I hope it's something that I keep with for a very long time. As I said, having an army of these paper figures has been a fancy since I was a kid. So here's the start! One of my favorite series, which I never tire of rereading (after going through True Grit four times in a month, I definitely needed a change, so now I'm hopping back and forth between Holmes, a book about T. Roosevelt's days as Police Commissioner of New York, and a collection of Kipling stories), Holmes has a wealth of characters from which to draw, and I picked out a few of the more shining stars of the canon (and warning in advance - Irene Adler ain't in there, so no hate mail when they're all done, please).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wizarding Wednesdays: The Boy Who Lived

This time is the eponymous hero himself, Harry Potter. Yeah, he's whiny, but he's a teenager. Teenagers are whiny. Plus his parents got murdered. Cut him some slack, why don't you?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

TRUE GRIT #7: There were more men in the country at that time who looked like Cleveland than did not

The last o' the bunch! Perhaps I ought to have included Colonel Stonehill, or the Original Greaser Bob, but there's only so much time in the day. And so, I conclude with everybody's favorite character, the one-eyed fat man himself, Rooster Cogburn

TRUE GRIT #6: A methodist and a son of a b****

Well, this wasn't the one I'd planned to post today, seeing as tomorrow is another WIZARDING WEDNESDAY, but I had a few minutes while running copies of the new Crogan Adventure Society newsletter and whipped these fellas up in the sketchbook. It was not until I was finished that I reckoned they looked near enough to Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant that I think I'd make to cast them in the roles. Can you see it?

Monday, December 19, 2011

True Grit Drawing #5: A saucy manner does not go down with me

Liz and I watched the new Coen Brothers version last night. I got it for my birthday, and hadn't seen it since its opening weekend at the theater. Though I had the actors present in mind while reading the book, I was not prepared for how strikingly different the film version of the characters would be from my interpretation of them, at least in delivery and mannerisms.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

TRUE GRIT #4: It is a waste of time and none of my business

Boots didn't make it into the new movie - and it's been so long since I've seen the old one that I can't remember if he made it into that one, either - but he was a fun little aside in the book, and I thought him worth including in this set of pics.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

TRUE GRIT #3: I intend to kill Tom Chaney with it if the law fails to do so

Friday, December 16, 2011

TRUE GRIT #2: "Lucky" Ned Pepper

Thursday, December 15, 2011

TRUE GRIT #1: Everything is Against Me

This week: TRUE GRIT! Also, probably, Sherlock Holmes. I did a bunch of Sherlock Holmes drawings, and as I'll be seeing the new movie tonight with a batch of comic folk I may be in a Sherlocky mood. But I've just read Charles Portis' TRUE GRIT, then reread it as an audiobook (wonderfully narrated by Donna Tart), and am on road to reading it again, between rereading my Annotated Sherlock Holmes. TRUE GRIT is a darn fine book, and I'm not ashamed to say that it was the Coen Brothers' excellent adaptation that finally got me around to reading it. It's becoming a favorite, and my first pick as a gift for any preteen girl relatives who like reading (I just gave up one copy, and ordered a couple more in reserve).

 Anyway, I did a batch of pictures of some of the characters, based as close as I could to the descriptions offered in the prose, and figured on posting them up.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wizarding Wednesdays: Hagrid (a 20-Minute Color Sketch)

As part of my (kind of) new 20-minute color sketch challenge, I'm gonna be posting a Harry Potter character every wednesday for the forseeable future. So why am I posting it on Monday? Because I'm visiting family and haven't taken the time to do anything BUT Harry Potter characters, and I didn't want to leave the blog undone. I'm gonna post this'n, and maybe something else Wednesday, and then by Thursday or Friday I'll be back on a regular schedule. Also, I went to a great charter school in North Carolina this morning and had a lot of fun talking to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

Friday, December 9, 2011

20-Minute Color Sketches: Teen Boxer T.R.

Today's sketch is one of my very favorite historical figures! 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

20-Minute Color Sketches: Sherlock

If you're not watching the new(ish) BBC series Sherlock, you should be. I wouldn't have expected a modern Sherlock Holmes series to be true to the subject matter (of which I've been a huge fan since reading an abridged version of Hound of the Baskervilles in first grade), but the series is, along with the first season of the Jeremy Brett Granada TV series, the most faithful to the Doyle stories, and easily the most fun. It's on Netflix Instant, so there's no reason NOT to watch it. You folks who enjoy TV Mysteries or procedurals, I GUARANTEE you'll like this one. Promise me you'll watch it if you haven't already.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

20-Minute Color Sketches: Santa

Ho Ho Ho!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

20-Minute Color Sketch: Jenkins 352

While finishing up the art for Crogan's Loyalty, I listened to quite a few audiobooks, and as an upcoming Crogan story takes place during the Zulu Wars I thought it appropriate to try and find some books set during that conflict.  My favorite of these was the first book in John Wilcox's Simon Fonthill series.  I've listened to the first two (I had the first in print, but hadn't gotten around to reading it manually) and am now moving through the third.

As is probably clear from the genre in which I generally work, I'm a sucker for good historical adventure.  My favorite character in the Fonthill series (and I'm sure I'm not particularly original in this regard) is Fonthill's batman and brother-in-arms Jenkins 352 (referred to by the last three digits of his serial number because his unit had fifteen fellas named Jenkins), and it's clear that Wilcox loves writing him as much as I love reading him. It's all but impossible for me to not draw prose characters when in the thralls of good fiction, so it was natural for me to light on Jenkins for today's 20-Minute Color Sketch. Also, some folks in the comments section asked a few days back about the release date for Crogan's Loyalty... it's June 6th.  I'll be doing a small book tour that week, I think, including Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and possibly Ohio.  I'll be sure to post details as I have them.

Monday, December 5, 2011

20-Minute Color Sketches: Mudman

Today's 20-minute color sketch took 23 minutes. Sorry. I gotta get back on the ball, and quit being so ambitious with the compositions.

Today's sketch is of MUDMAN, Paul Grist's new comic series. It's fun so far, and I have high hopes for the series. Grist has two other projects with which I'm familiar - Jack Staff and the oh-so-very-very-good police drama Kane - and they're both top notch, leading me to always want to check out what he's working on. He also did a great story in that Anniversary issue of Captain America last year.

Click image for a slightly bigger version

Anyway, I don't know if Mudman has the power to thrust his arm into the mud and make a giant mud hand come out and grab people, but I sure hope so. Also, as some folks asked for it, here's a group shot of the ewoks from last week.
Click it for a high-res version. Don't sell it or anything, but otherwise do whatever you want with it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ewok Week: LOGRAY

The Ewok medicine man!

That's it for the Ewoks! Happy Ewok Week!

Friday, December 2, 2011


Though I've always turned up my nose at the TV sales ads where people are going CRAZY slashing prices, that's exactly how I felt when I was doing the prices for this sale. CRAZY! Laughing with glee and incredulity at my own prices!  Have I gone Crazy?  MAYBE!


For the next 9 days, all of the original art for sale on my website is marked WAY, WAY DOWN! This is the first time I've ever done this (I'm usually not a fan of this sort of thing, because I feel like it's kinda rotten to the folks who payed full price for stuff, AND I don't want people to think "well, I should wait until he has a sale." But the people who paid full price got one-of-a-kind items that they hopefully really wanted that likely wouldn't still be available to them now, and as for another sale? This isn't gonna be a regular Christmas thing or anything. As far as my plans go, barring any horrific unforeseen financial disaster that requires shortsighted penny-counting, this is the one and only sale like this I'll have for the next few years. We certainly could stand to fill our family holiday coffers, and also I want to make sure that I have plenty of room for the original art for Crogan's Loyalty when it comes out.

The prices are CRAZY!  The original drawings and pinups are marked down anywhere from like 80 percent of the original price to something around like 30 or 40 percent (I'm bad at math!  I don't know!  Like I said, these prices are CRAZY)!

Original Crogan Adventure pages are a staggering FIFTY PERCENT OFF!  That's right.  Instead of $100, they're only $50!  If I knew how to make flashing 90s' internet text, this is where I'd do it.  THESE PRICES ARE CRAZY!  If I had the time, I'd make a commercial.

If you have ever wanted to start collecting original comic art, or if you know someone who likes the Crogan Adventures and want to give them THE VERY BEST GIFT EVER, Now's the time!

The sale goes from now until 11:59PM, Eastern Standard Time, On Sunday, December 11th.  I'll mail all packages out on December 12th!  Have 'em by Christmas!

Here's where you get the original Crogan Adventures Pages

Here's where you get original drawings and pinups

Just a reminder - these are ONE-OF-A-KIND items.  That means that someone may beat you to the piece that you want.  Whoever's payment comes through first gets it, and anyone else will get a refund.  If you want things personalized, please leave me a note or shoot me an e-mail!

Ewok Week: WICKET

Today's Ewok is the lil'est one of all - Wicket! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Ewok Week: PAPLOO

Ewok Week #3: PAPLOO!

He's the one who steals the speeder bike and grabs the vine, if you recall.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Today's Ewok:


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ewok Week: TEEBO

I was going to do some EWOKS for theis week's 20-minute color sketches... But they ended up taking like twenty-thirty minutes apiece to color. So I can't classify them as being 20 minuters, but I can show 'em anyway! None of those weird tv ewoks, this stuff is straight up ROTJ, yo.

First up: Teebo!

Crogan's Loyalty is ALL DONE

Well, my most recent book, Crogan’s Loyalty, is all finished and uploaded to my publisher’s ftp. Woo! Here’s a panel from it. It’ll be out this summer. I know the release date but I ain’t sure if it’s been announced, so I don’t wanna jump the gun until I know for sure.

Click image for the full-sized version While you’re waiting for the new ones, consider buying the old ones, Crogan’s Vengeance and Crogan’s March.

Starting tomorrow I’ll get back to posting my 20-minute color sketches. I’m thinkin’ EWOKS.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Too Many Trees

Ungh. Pages like this are why I'm having trouble meeting my six-a-day quota. Leaves, ungh. I shoulda set it in the desert.

20-Minute Color Sketches: Robocop

This will probably be the last 20-minute sketch for the next week or so... I'm doing 13-16 hours a day of inking, which doesn't leave the half-hour (which includes doing updates like this) required for 'em. On the plus side - I'm still on schedule to be done at the end of November! 34 pages to go!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

20-Minute Color Sketches: Some Old Cowboy

Another 20-minute sketch, this one an old cowboy. I threw a color hold over the line art because I like the way that looks when Dan Hipp does it, and I figured ‘d give it a whirl.

Speaking of old cowboys, I watched the second episode of AMC’s “Hell on Wheels.” The first episode was truly awful, but the second one was not too bad. I’ll give it four episodes, I think - if it continues to improve, I’ll likely keep watching. I’m a sucker for Westerns.

Friday, November 18, 2011

20-Minute Color Sketches: Watchmen

Another 20-minute color sketch: Watchmen! Or as many of them as I could do in 20 minutes without reference. Alan Moore's basic thesis when writing Watchmen was that if superheroes existed in a "real world" they'd all have to either be delusional or sociopaths, and it would be impossible to escape the adult themes that, once introduced, would tear the narrative's world apart. Everybody reads it and thinks "hey, let's write superheroes as if they existed in the 'real world' and introduce adult themes!" It's like when Upton Sinclair wrote that book to get people to concern themselves with the horrible working conditions for children in the meat-packing industry, and everybody was like "ew, look what's in a hotdog," only worse.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

20-Minute Color Sketches: He-Man

Today's sketch: The Master of the Universe...

Today's the last day of school for the year. I love teaching and I love working with my students, but I also love uninterrupted studio time and wearing shorts, so these breaks are always welcome.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

20-Minute Color Sketches: Wolverine vs Sabretooth

When I was a kid, I had Marvel trading cards and some of 'em depicted "famous battles." This is like that, only quicker. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

20-Minute Color Sketches: Abe Sapien

Here's another of those quick sketches. Drawing and coloring both, I'm putting a cap at twenty minutes max for these. That'll ensure that I can produce at least one a day without infringing on my CROGAN ADVENTURES work. So know that you can check in every morning (barring the ones where I'm out of town at cons and the like) and there will be a new drawing up, like this one, ABE SAPIEN:

Abe is, of course, from Hellboy and B.P.R.D., hands-down my favorite serialized comic.

Monday, November 14, 2011

MAD, MAD, SCAD Weekend

I went to Savannah, Georgia for our National Cartoonist Society meeting this month. It was quite the big to-do, as it served as a big reunion for pretty much all of the original MAD MAGAZINE guys - Al Jaffee, Jack Davis, Paul Coker, Nick Meglin, and Sam Viviano - plus current MAD caricature guy and NCS president Tom Richmond, in addition to all the great Southeast chapter folk and the ones who flew in for the shindig. It was great seeing some of these old dogs again, and even greater meeting the folks who I hadn't yet had occasion to.

I did a couple of sketches during a workshop that Sergio did, and figured I'd post 'em up. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gambit and Rogue

Another colored sketchbook sketch - Gambit and Rogue, from the X-Men. Given Rogue's hair, Alabama upbringing, and general all-around 80sness I thought she should look like she stepped in Spandex out of Steel Magnolias, so she's halfway between Julia Roberts and Dolly Parton. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Justice League, HO!

While most of my comic work is done with a brush (and most of the stuff I post up here, for that matter), I generally sketch with fixed-line pens. I even do my "pencils" with them. It's much more intuitive and quick for me to work that way, but I've always been hesitant to try it with actual pages. But you know what? The brushy stuff automatically gives my stuff a cartoonier look, atop already cartoony designs. I love it for the Crogan books, and will continue to use it there, but I'm thinking about trying to use this for other stuff, which I feel might be a little more "mainstream friendly." I don't know, maybe I'm crazy. So I figured I'd color one of my classroom sketches from today, these justice league guys:

Either way, it takes me like ten minutes to color something like this, which took five minutes to draw. That's a BIG difference from working with a brush, and I kind of like how it turned out. Since I sketch a ton each day, I may color 'em and post more regularly. What do you guys think? Like it? Hate it? Also, Liz Enright brought bacon brownies in to school today and THEY WERE SOOOOOOO YUMMY

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween's a MENACE!

I know it's late, but HAPPY HALLOWEEN! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Schweizer Guide to Spotting Tangents

Comic art is, as a general rule, a line-based medium.  I know, I know, there are plenty of artists whose work is painted, or who depict their subject in ink using solely light and shadow.   But these folks are unquestioningly in the minority, as the history of printing technology originally dictated the use of line to depict form in the early days of comics.  This became a stylistic expectation, and it’s an expectation that I enthusiastically embrace, as have many others.  But using line to draw the world invites chances for that cardinal sin of composition: the tangent.  A tangent is when two or more lines interact in a way that insinuates a relationship between them that the artist did not intend.  It can create confusion on the part of the audience as to what it is that they’re looking at.  It can cause the spatial depth that one attempts to cultivate through the use of planes to become flattened.  Most of all, it creates a decidedly unwelcome aesthetic response: tangents are just plain ugly. There are a lot of different types of tangents, as least according to the way I define them.  In order to make it easier on my students when giving critiques, I’ve categorized them and named them.  This may have been done before, but I’ve not encountered it.  My hope is that, by making this “spot-the-enemy” guide, fewer artists will fall into the tangent trap by knowing what to look for.   

1. The Long Line
The long line is when a line from one object runs directly into the line of another. This is the tangent that everybody knows. The one that’s easiest to spot, easiest to avoid.  For a lot of folks, this is the only thing meant when one refers to a “tangent.” Even in the work of the very best comic artists, a vigilant eye can find the occasional tangent.  Even when a cartoonist is constantly on the lookout, a tangent can slip through.  But, as each of strive to better ourselves and the quality of our work and our medium, 

2. The Parallel
The parallel tangent is when the containing lines of two objects run alongside each other.  This causes one of two negative outcomes.  Either one object becomes “lost,” as the other overpowers it (figure 1), or one object feels strangely contained by another (figure 2). This can be avoided by ensuring that any object that COULD run alongside another is angled at least 45 degrees from the first. The next two are REALLY tough to spot, and most artists have fallen victim to them before.   

3. The Corner
The corner tangent is when two lines in an object meet in a way intended by the artist, but another (accidental) line runs directly into the place where they meet.   

4. The Bump-Up
A bump-up tangent is when the containing line of one object “bumps up” against the containing line of another object.   When these two lines touch, it creates a bump-up tangent (and even when they don’t technically touch, if it’s close enough to raise eyebrows, they might as well).  The bump-up gives the impression of containment.  In figure 1, it seems as though her ponytail is physically unable to enter the space occupied by the pole.  In figure 2, it feels as though her elbow is unable to LEAVE that space.
Also, be careful not to let elements of the drawing bump up against your panel borders!  Either give them room to breathe or decisively crop them.   

5. The Directional
A directional tangent is basically just a long-line tangent that’s been broken by empty space.  Now, this one isn’t always bad – it can, on occasion, be used to draw the reader’s eye through the image on a specifically determined path.

6. The Panel-to-Panel
This one is exactly the same thing as the directional (in fact, I shouldn’t even classify it as its own thing), save that instead of empty space dividing a long-line it’s a panel gutter. My gutters are crazy wide, but with normal-sized gutters this can be a real problem.   One more thing… This ain’t a tangent, but it is a compositional no-no. 
Fake Panels
Comics generally have panel borders, so readers are used to having images contained by straight lines.  Some artists don’t allow gutters between their borders.  Though I believe that, as a rule, this can make it harder for new comics readers to follow the story (and new readers are always important), it’s done with enough regularity that we must expect the audience to feel comfortable with gutterless pages.  What does this mean?  It means that we can’t draw a straight line in any panel, either vertical or horizontal, without having some object overlap it.  If we do, readers may think that it is a panel border, incorrectly breaking one moment into two.
See how the overlap of the elbow causes there to be no question? That's it for Lesson #1.  Lesson #2 will come around in the next few days. Feel free to use any terminology that I've laid down in this one, or feel free to abandon it in favor of better, more accurate terminology.