Professional Practice: Why Worry About Style?

Professional Practice: Why Worry About Style?

The question of personal art “style” is one that seems to come up really often for artists. Especially if you are a young artist, still learning your fundamentals of drawing. Teaching at the college level, I get questions and concerns about style all the time from my students.

I looked it up and this was this definition I got –
“A particular, distinctive, or characteristic mode or form of construction or execution in any art or work.”

I get it, there are many artists out there working in a myriad of different ways and everybody is looking for a way to differentiate themselves from the next guy. Some styles speak to us more strongly than others and sometimes, a particular style can scream at us so loudly and become so overpowering that it starts to sneak in and overpower our own, natural way of drawing. It’s a real danger for younger artists and it can derail your progress as an artist considerably if you aren’t careful. It can actually hurt you in several very important ways –

  • If you put style above fundamentals, you can get caught up in finish and neglect the construction of your drawing.
  • If you are basing the look of your artwork upon another artists work, you may be picking up the bad habits of that artist. If they aren’t constructing their drawings correctly, if their proportions, anatomy, or perspective is flawed, yours will likely be too.
  • You could be considered a knock-off of a particular artist or style, which could hamper your ability to get work. Why would somebody hire you when they could get the original artist?

In my opinion, you are better served to just forget about style altogether.

You should focus on learning your fundamentals and drawing from life as much as possible. The more figure drawing you can get, the better. Don’t get caught up in style too fast, spend the time to construct your drawing accurately and then worry about style. Knowing your fundamentals will give you a better foundation for developing a style or working in a variety of styles because you’ll already be able to construct a drawing with correct proportion, anatomy, or perspective.

Personally, when I was learning to draw, I found inspiration in many places and from many artists (and as an artist, you should always be looking at other art), but when I needed reference on how to draw something, I looked for real life reference. If I wanted to draw exaggerated muscles, I looked at body builders. If I wanted to draw a mountain landscape, I looked for photos of mountain landscapes. And from there, my style naturally developed to how I work today.

Don’t put the cart in front of the horse in regards to style – your style will come to you as you put in the work to learn how to draw.

Good luck!

JM

Shogun Knight Dyson V – Issue 01 Preview

Shogun Knight Dyson V – Issue 01 Preview

SHOGUN KNIGHT DYSON V is the next project we’re publishing through OUTLAND.

Anybody who has been following OUTLAND the last year or so will know that we’ve partnered with Mat Nastos on a variety of projects, AEGISTEEL, ELFLORD, and the re-release of The Barry Blair Library. Almost since the beginning of our partnership, Mat has been talking about an idea for a giant robot book. Well, SHOGUN KNIGHT DYSON V is it.

From Mat –

This is one of my favorite pieces of work I’ve ever done, and is based on my love for the giant robot comics and cartoons of the 70s and 80s. If you love Shogun Warriors, Tranzor-Z (or Mazinger Z in other countries), Giant Robo, Big 0, Grendizer, Getter Robo, or any of their cousins, then you will be blown away by SHOGUN KNIGHT DYSON V! Not only is it full color, but it is printed OVERSIZE at 9″x12″!! The book is a beast and simply beautiful.

Written and created by Mat Nastos, with artwork from Nicolás R. Giacondino, Mat Nastos, and Chunlin Zhao and letters from Ed Dukeshire.

Here is the official blurb –

With the corrupt Titan, BLACK ODIN, on a rampage, it is up to Lieutenant Jonathan “Hightower” Harmon and his team to awaken the guardian robot, DYSON-V, to stop him. Full color, Super Robot action in the vein of Shogun Warriors, Mazinger Z, Giant Robo, and Grendizer.

You see a preview of the first six pages below –

It will be premiering at the Amazing Houston Comic Con September 4 directly from Mat Nastos, but will be ready for pre-order from OUTLAND soon!

Blacklands – Issue 01 Preview

Blacklands – Issue 01 Preview

BLACKLANDS is the next in our list of Outland publishing projects coming to print.

This is a book completed almost entirely in-house – roughly based off a dream I had (Jeremy Mohler) some years ago, it’s created by myself and Edward Lavallee (our Director of Design), also written by Ed, penciled and inked by Erick Marquez (who is a LONG time friend and super talented artist), with layouts, designs, and colors by me. Lettered by the super talented Ed Dukeshire (as ever).

It’s pretty exciting to have a project like this come together. As I said, it began life from a dream I had, though the setting was pretty non-specific. But, being a huge fan of westerns, we decided to take it that way. The first attempt at this book was by my wife (Emily Hall) and I. We originally planned it as a submission to the now canceled DC webcomic site, Zuda Comics. Zuda closed it’s doors before we were ready to submit, however. So it got shelved until some years later when I dug it up as a project to pitch to Ed as something to work on together.

We’ll be premiering it out at the Kansas City Comic Con this weekend (August 07-09) in Kansas City. We’ll be at booth 1425. It’ll be an exclusive run of 150 copies with a unique cover you’ll only be able to pick up at KCCC. We’ll also have a few limited run sketch covers as well (only 25 of these).

I’m really excited about this story and the team and I hope you guys like it!

Here’s a bit about the story –

BLACKLANDS is an action/adventure that takes place in the years following the Civil War. Set in the tradition of the classic Sergio Leone westerns, BLACKLANDS has plenty of action, romance, violence, and revenge. Think of it as PALE RIDER meets TREMORS with a splash of TRUE GRIT thrown in for good measure.

When a young girl goes missing from the small town of Bliss, Silas, the town elder calls upon Virgil Kane to bring her home. Silas explains that details of Lorelle’s disappearance are limited, and that discretion in the girls safe return are imperative as to not bring shame upon his family. Virgil accepts the assignment unaware that Lorelle is pregnant and ran away to ensure the safety of her unborn child.

Danger lurks around every corner as Virgil falls neck-deep into the world-altering hellscape known as BEASTFALL – an environmental cataclysm that brings about a second Dark Age where fresh water and edged weapons are the key to survival.

Check out the preview below!

 

Elflord – Issue 01 Preview

Elflord – Issue 01 Preview

Hello folks!

The next Kickstarter project we’re in the middle of running is for the continuation of Barry Blair’s fantasy epic, Elflord. Being closest to Barry and his projects, Mat Nastos is the mastermind behind the writing. Tony Vassallo is handling all the pencils, Sian Mandrake on the colors, and Ed Dukeshire on letters.

This is an outstanding team we’ve got on this book and it’s turning out amazing. So seriously, go check it out and help us fund it!

Here’s the video about the Kickstarter!

You can also check out the first ten lettered pages below!

And please, ask questions and let us know what you think!

Aegisteel – Issue 00 Preview

Aegisteel – Issue 00 Preview

AEGISTEEL is the first wholly original property published by Outland Entertainment, written by Mat Nastos, illustrated by Alan Gallo and myself (Jeremy Mohler), and lettered by Ed Dukeshire.

I can’t begin to express how excited I am to have Outland publishing this beast and to have helped design and bring Mat’s world to life. It’s been a lot of fun having the chance to play in this world and I’m looking forward to sitting down and digging into the actual main series. I’m just now getting started on layouts for the first issue and man, it’s going to be fun!

AEGISTEEL has had something of an interesting course to life. I talk a lot about it over here, actually. I also share a lot of the character designs and concepts that I worked on with the writer, Mat Nastos, so be sure to check out that blog post.

A little bit about the world –

AEGISTEEL is a spellpunk adventure set in the world of the Aegisteel Empire, a society of steel and magic built on the backs of its soldiers and terrible war machines. Think of it as DIRTY DOZEN meets SMOKING ACES set in a war-torn SPELLPUNK world.

When the Theln Empire captures the ancient Aegisteel forges at Nelvynnal, veteran marksman Broderick Longbarrel is released from Blackgate Prison and given one last chance for redemption. Tasked with infiltrating the ancient and impenetrable fortress, Longbarrel ans five former death row inmates must succeed before the Theln can begin production of the giant war-golems that could shift the balance of the war.

Below are the layouts and some additional designs I did for the project –

And below are the first eleven pages, fully colored and lettered!

The book is also now available digitally over here!

You can also purchase the limited edition Amazing Las Vegas Convention cover in print here!

And you can also get a 14″x20″ poster over here!

Hope you like it!

JM

Dark & Day: Soldiers & Knights

Dark & Day: Soldiers & Knights

So last October, I came across an ad looking for an art team for a new comic project called Dark & Day: Soldiers & Knights. Little did I know when I reached out just what a really cool project this was.

Here’s the basic premise –

A distant future Earth is now split into permanent Ends of night and day. The night/Dark is a culture of machines, technology, soldiers and logical science (science fiction style). The Day is a culture of magic, mythical creatures, knights and belief in wonder (fantasy style). Both sides fear the other and want to protect their people and their way of life.

Jake Grey, the creator, and I started talking and he began to share some of the concept art for the project he’d already developed and scope of the world started to come into focus. I was really floored. If I hadn’t been sold on the premise alone, seeing it brought to life and getting a sense of where Jake wanted to take the project really brought it all home. I knew that this had to be an Outland project.

You can read more about the project and see more art samples over on the project page.

Jake is also currently running a Kickstarter to help fund the next book of the project. You should go over and check it out and help fund the project!

Check out the project and help fund it!

JM

Goodman Games: 5th Edition Fantasy

Goodman Games: 5th Edition Fantasy

Mid-year last year, one of my personal long term clients, Goodman Games, approached Outland about doing some work on a new series of adventures they were developing based on the new 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

This was a unique opportunity because we were not only handling the illustration for the book, but we also handled all the cartography, the cover design, and the interior page design. We pretty much handled the whole package with the exception of the cover art and the interior layout.

If you would like to read more about the project and see more samples of the artwork we completed, please head over here or check it out on our portfolio page!

Thanks!

JM

Professional Practice: Not Doing Free Work

Professional Practice: Not Doing Free Work

This is a loaded question in the comics and game community (and while I’m speaking directly to that community, I feel that this applies across the board to ALL creative endeavors).

With the rise of the internet, there is absolutely no shortage of artists looking for work. There is also no shortage of people wanting to have work done for free. And as a young artist, sometimes, it can be difficult to figure out just what the best course of action is as you build your portfolio and reputation. It’s also easier to take chances when you are younger and fall into traps because you just don’t have the experience to know what kind of mess you might be getting into.

There are several situations you may find yourself in –

  • Somebody approaches you to work on the project for a royalty. This is typically called spec work and no matter what the person approaching you might say, there is no guarantee of payout. Please be wary of dropping weeks and months into a project with no guarantee of payout.
  • The other situation you may find yourself in is the case of free samples. Again, this is often considered a test to potentially get a project. I’m here to tell you – any decent art director can take one look at your portfolio and know whether or not you’ll fit the project. Plus, you may sink days or even a week into working on these free samples and still not get the job. Samples are fine, but getting some sort of payment for them is reasonable.
  • Finally, watch out for contests from big companies. Often, a large, well established company will run a contest for a poster, design, or anything, really. Please read the fine print – often-times there is just one reward and the company running the contest will own rights to every contest entry. This is simply an easy way for them to generate new ideas cheaply.

I personally feel that any payment, even a low payment, is better than no payment. There is almost always room for some sort of negotiation. And it’s not good for the industry for artists to take on free work as it devalues the work across the entire industry. More personally, it’s also not good for you, as I’m pretty sure you are still going to have to pay your bills on time, whether or you are paid or not.

Now, there is almost always an exception to the rule, so when you find yourself in this situation, and you will (every professional I know has been in this position), you need to ask yourself several questions –

  • Who am I working with? Is this somebody I know of? Do they have a reputation in the industry?
  • What is the product I’m working on? Is it well known? Does it have a following?
  • If the person approaching you cares so much about this project, why aren’t they willing to put their own money into it?

Sometimes, you may find yourself in a situation where the lines aren’t so clear. It’s easy to turn down a project from a complete stranger. But if it’s a peer or colleague, or even somebody who has some pull in the industry, it may be worth taking a chance. The same can be said for established properties. If it’s an established brand with a large following, it might be worth taking a chance.

To give you several examples –

  • I took on a coloring project for a graphic novel a couple years ago. It was for a well established property with millions of novels sold and a feature film in production (which, incidentally, flopped). I researched it before hand to find all of this out and to educate myself on whether it was a smart business decision or not – from all indications, it seemed like a sure thing! I colored over a hundred pages of artwork over the course of a year and at the last minute, the owner of the property decided to change the terms of the contract, and I’ve never seen a dime. This is a cautionary tale – even with research and a well-established property, taking on spec work is still a gamble.
  • Several years ago I met an industry veteran, Bo Hampton. I’d grown up reading his books and I have always been a fan of his work. We started talking, exchanged some emails, and eventually, he had a really awesome project come together called 3 Devils. It’s a supernatural western with zombies, werewolves, and gypsies and he invited me to work on it with him. For me, since Bo was somebody I’d grown up admiring and reading, I jumped at the chance to work with him. We’ll be publishing the series through IDW later this year. In this case, the royalty didn’t matter as much to me as the opportunity to work with an artist I admired.

You have to judge each project on a per case basis, just keep in mind – nothing is a sure thing.

JM

 

 

Shotguns & Sorcery Kickstarter Launch

Shotguns & Sorcery Kickstarter Launch

Hello folks!

The big day is here!

We’ve been working on this for months and we’re excited to announce the launch of the Kickstarter for the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG!  This is your chance to help us fund the project and publish it, not to mention get your hands on the game itself.

There are a lot of incredible things happening with this – first off, Matt Forbeck, the creator himself, will be handling the majority of the writing chores on this.  And to round out the writing team is amazing game designer Robert Schwalb to help integrate the rules system.  I don’t think we could have possibly found a more amazing team!

We’re also the first third-party publisher to license the Cypher System from Monte Cook Games, which just by itself is pretty amazing.  We’re really excited to be working with MCG and integrating the Cypher System with Matt’s setting.

This is also going to be one of the first books I’m fully illustrating myself!  I can’t wait to dive into the work.

We’re also revealing the full color version of the cover as well – full art by me.  Check it out below –

S&S_Cover_72_Colors_02

Here is some information about the project as well –

Outland Entertainment wants to make it possible for others to explore the fantasy noir stories of author Matt Forbeck’s Dragon City through the Cypher System, the game engine behind the Origins and ENnies Award winning games Numenera and The Strange. Whether you are playing as your favorite character or unraveling their mysteries for the first time, this hardcover, 300-page core book with 20 pages of full color artwork includes all the rules for game play, allowing you to explore Dragon City and its outskirts as never before.

Shotguns & Sorcery will be the first third-party standalone game to use the rules system featured in Numenera, The Strange, and the just announced Cypher System rulebook. You don’t need to purchase any other books to play.

In a way, this is full circle for Matt and Monte. They first worked together back in 1990 on one of Monte’s first assignments as the Hero System editor at Iron Crown Enterprises, editing Matt’s Western Hero sourcebook. We’re extremely excited to have them joining forces—even indirectly—again!

We also have acclaimed game designer Robert Schwalb on board to help integrate the Cypher System seamlessly with our setting! Robert came to us highly recommended by both Monte Cook Games and Matt.  In fact, readers may recognize him as a contributor to the Numenera Character Options and Technology Compendium: Sir Arthour’s Guide to the Numenera. He also has years and years of experience working on Dungeons & Dragons, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and his upcoming Shadow of the Demon Lord.  We’re extremely fortunate to be working with such talent!

Let us know what you think about the project and please, help us fund it!

JM

Press Release: New Shotguns & Sorcery RPG to Feature MCG Cypher System

Press Release: New Shotguns & Sorcery RPG to Feature MCG Cypher System

Press Release: New Shotguns & SorceryTM RPG to Feature MCG Cypher SystemTM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SUMMARY: Matt Forbeck’s upcoming Shotguns & SorceryTM roleplaying game will be the first to license the new Cypher SystemTM from Monte Cook Games. The innovative tabletop game will be funded through Kickstarter beginning Tuesday, November 18th.

TOPEKA, KS, NOVEMBER 15, 2014, —  Monte Cook Games, LLC, is pleased to share in the announcement that the new Shotguns & SorceryTM roleplaying game is the first to license the Cypher SystemTM. The Cypher System is best known as the game engine behind Numenera and The Strange. Monte Cook Games developed the new rulebook to be used with unlimited settings. “We’re really excited to share in this announcement and help unveil the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG to the world,” said Charles Ryan, COO of Monte Cook Games. “The team Outland has put together—particularly Matt, Jeremy, and Rob Schwalb, who’s done excellent work for us on Numenera, is going to result in a creative and wonderfully fleshed-out realization of the S&S world, and we’re really proud to see it powered by the Cypher System!”

The Shotguns & Sorcery roleplaying game is based on the acclaimed fantasy noir series by Matt Forbeck. The award-winning author partnered with Jeremy Mohler of Outland Entertainment to adapt the novels into an RPG setting. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to use the Cypher System for our game,” Mohler said. “MCG is known for the quality of their games, and we’re honored to be one of the first to develop a game using their amazing rules system.

Robert J. Schwalb is the game designer for Shotguns & Sorcery. He is a writer in the roleplaying game industry best known for his work on Dungeons & DragonsA Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Schwalb recently expressed his enthusiasm for the new roleplaying game. “I’m super excited to be working on this project. Not only am I a big fan of Monte Cook’s Cypher System, I also adore the world Matt Forbeck created.”

For more information about the new Shotguns & Sorcery roleplaying game, see the original announcement, check out the Kickstarter preview to launch on Tuesday, November 18th, or visit Forbeck.com and outlandentertainment.com.