Ok. So it’s no news to anyone that the comic book world was something of a novelty for me when I arrived at Outland Entertainment. Yes, I was a comic book fan all along and I didn’t know, but being conscious and actively looking for out of the ordinary titles and cult classics to read was a long way coming.
Right now, I’ve finally started reading one that was on the top of my list: Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.
Here’s the thing: I’m already a Gaiman fan. His collection of short stories Fragile Things grabbed my attention with its lyrically beautiful stories and completely wacky tales. It clearly shows the range of tone and narrative style this author has to offer.
I was enthralled by the radio version of Neverwhere. Yes, it had to do with the talented performances and the whole production value of the piece. However, the metaphorical London I was introduced to, the one where the streets I know and love get a whole new and mysterious meaning was mesmerizing.
But I digress.
With Gaiman, we have an author that writes novels, graphic novels and non-fiction essays. Let’s stick to the fiction so we can try and establish some comparisons.
You can point out how the tone is similar. How Gaiman intertwines complex and bizarre characters and intricately woven narratives the same way, be it in novel or graphic novels.
You get the same satirical incisive critic over the human pettiness. The whole impact is there.
Nonetheless, it’s impossible to deny that the format dominates, I won’t go as far as to say the outcome of the story, but definitely the way it progresses and the freedom you have to imagine those worlds.
Let’s get Sandman’s example back on the table. You can’t avoid the way each character is seared into your brain with each stroke of the artwork that has breathed life into them. The illustrations, the way the panels are laid out on each single page… it all boils down to a specific experience—not too different from, say, watching a movie. You have a visual presence that guides you and influences the way you perceive the story. For better or worse, it has the power to limit your imagination.
When reading a novel, you are forced to construct that unique world on your mind. You devour the descriptions, the actions, the little details about each character or setting and build your own vision of what the narrative is. For even the more detailed and thoroughly descriptive author cannot control the mind of every single reader. The result:
intrinsically unique versions of each narrative.
Graphic novels give you visual inspiration, while novels give you more freedom to reinvent that world written in front of you.
Does that make one better than the other? You decide. For me, they are different experiences. Pure and simple, they’re alternative ways to consume a story.
Maybe there are stories that benefit more or are more adequate to one specific format than others. Even though I think that the potential in both formats is pretty much interchangeable.
Going back to my personal experience of reading Neil Gaiman’s tales, I like to be able to fabricate the look of the characters, the overall settings—maybe even add my personal details into the mix. However, it’s an enriching experience to devour the illustrations with all their colours and characteristic design traits of each artist. Yes, it’s the artist’s vision, not mine. But isn’t it remarkable how you can be deeply moved by the sheer beauty of a simple panel? Having said that, this can also happen with a plain sentence in the midst of a sea of letters.
So as you can see, I have yet to be converted to only one type of format. Better yet, I don’t want to! I do not want to be confined to one way of consuming stories. Give me freedom to create my own visions, yes, but also share your beautifully crafted ones.
We’re talking about sharing, about experiences, about taking the most out of a story. Milk a novel till it’s dry. Create all you can in your head. But don’t forget the pleaser it is to be guided panel after panel by streaks of colour, insightful lettering and overall awe worth layouts.
There. Novels vs. Graphic novels: you can compare them, you can have a favorite format, but you shouldn’t confine yourself to only one.
P.S.: Check out the previous posts of this series: I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and Didn’t Know, How OE changed my perception of Comic Books, Diversity of Graphic Novel Genres: From Biographies to Philosophical Essays and Couture & High Fashion in Comics.
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.
As I told you on the first article of this new segment, I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and I Didn’t Know it for quite a while.
Things sort of slowly became clearer during my college days, but it wasn’t until starting to work in the biz that I truly began to dip my toes back in the dynamic comic book waters.
I still remember the moment of opening the folder with all the projects in the pipeline and flying through them all. One of the stories that was more developed at the time was Ithaca. I read it all in one go and was hungry for more.
At Outland Entertainment, I was presented a huge array of creatives each one with a very unique voice, be it as a writer or an illustrator. Mars 2577, Nightfell, Blacklands, Aegisteel, these are all projects that showed me the different facets of comic book creation.
It wasn’t just sci-fi or violence: no, there was room for a multiplicity of genres and visual styles of every kind.
When some of our IPs started coming out as webcomics on a weekly basis, I had to do some market research of what was going on in this field. That led me to multiple webpages like HiveWorks. And there I was baffled by the choice! So many artists, so many genres and styles of writing and artwork.
It was a big turning point: no longer did I had to rely solely on my friends reviews, but I had first-hand overview of so many projects! I got to interview all the creators from O.E., here for the blog. I have always loved the backstage! How someone became who he is professionally? Where did the idea of the story come from? And I was lucky enough to ask all these questions. In return I dare to say that my knowledge of the comic book universe increased exponentially!
And where has that lead me? To a huge appetite for reading more and more comics, of course! It wasn’t instantaneously, but I found myself perusing the comics section of the bookstores not only “out of professional interest” but because I found them inspiring.
This must be obvious for most of you , but before starting at Outland Entertainment, I didn’t know how similar the cinematographic language was to the one used in comics. They remind me of a really fancy and detailed storyboard. I know, I know! They’re much more than that! They’re an artistic medium of their own. But through the eyes of someone who came from an audiovisual production background they really hit home.
I suppose that being a transmedia creative producer also feeds this need. I’m now itching to work up a universe where a comic book will help explore things even further. And if you ever attended a book fair, you’ll see that all of these artistic forms are connected nowadays. Take the London Book Fair, for example. They run the London Book and Screen Week simultaneously. You have professionals from game studios at the actual fair and lots of extra events that join this two worlds, once so further apart, of pages and screens. Comics are finally being increasingly recognized for the dynamic and expressive format they are.
But I’ll talk about these changes further along the line!
Now, take a moment and check out the interviews I mentioned! There are a lot of creatives: authors, illustrators, designers…whose stories will inspire you.
And if you haven’t read the first post of this series give it a go and learn how I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and Didn’t Know .
Press Release: First set of collected images from ongoing Outland Entertainment, LLC Stock Art Collections to be released by Thanksgiving
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SUMMARY: Outland Entertainment, LLC to make available for general purchase their first set of collected images from their ongoing stock art releases.
TOPEKA, KS, NOVEMBER 24, 2014 — Outland Entertainment, LLC. a digital publisher, producer an purveyor of fine artwork and fiction, is pleased to announce the first collection from their initial line of Fantasy Stock Art. Featuring illustrations from Jeremy Mohler‘s 2003 Portfolio of Creatures, this collection of six images includes five previously released inked illustrations:
Available starting this Thanksgiving, the collection also includes an exclusive illustration that will not be available for individual purchase.
Each entry in Outland Entertainment’s collected releases will provide artwork from a single artist, to assist publishers in creating products that using quality artwork, benefit from a coherent visual presence.
Outland Entertainment’s Stock Art is available for personal or commercial projects and can be purchased at DrivethruRPG. For more information visit outlandentertainment.com.
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 –
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!
So, things have been quiet the last few weeks in regard to Shotguns & Sorcery. However, that’s not because we haven’t been working!
I’ve spent the last three or four weeks working on the drawing for the cover of the RPG. It’s a big image, planned as a wrap-around cover, and measuring around 23″x18.5″. So, it’s a large, involved image. I’m currently working on the colors and I expect to have those wrapped up sometime toward the end of this week or over the weekend.
I had a lot of fun with this and I think it shows! I also hope this shows how much fun I’m going to have illustrating the whole book. I can’t wait to really dig in!
We’re getting really close to the Kickstarter. In fact, I expect we’ll be launching sometime mid-week next week – we’ve just been working out some final details and I’m excited about some things happening behind the scenes, which I’ll talk more about closer to the launch of the Kickstarter.
In the meantime, I hope you guys dig the cover! I’ll be premiering the colors when we launch the Kickstarter!
The next character in the series is Moira, the halfling.
Moira, like all the characters Matt writes, has a lot of personality. And I had a lot of fun with this character – in particular, I felt that the way her hair is tied up turned out really well. I sort of stumbled on that, which is part of the fun of art in general – the happy mistakes. The various pouches and belts are always a lot of fun as well.
Below are two versions – the initial sketch and then the final. As you can see, there wasn’t a great deal of edits. I believe in the final version, we wanted to make her seem a little more worn out and tired from the drug use she goes through in the series.
More art to come in the next weeks!
So the next in the line of art generated for the Shotguns & Sorcery project is one of the assassin’s of the Black Hand. I had fun designing this fellow.
These guys are supposed to be some of the most deadly and dangerous groups in the series. I loved designing the ninja gear and the slightly different weapon designs – I picture everything a dark grey or black, including the weapons and gloves. The tattoo on his arm was also fun to create – I wanted to try to generate a sort of refined roughness to them. That sense of implied danger. I’m not entirely sure I managed to pull it off, but I tried!
You’ll see that we went through several revisions. My initial impulse was to make it clear that these were orcs. Hard to do that when you cover the face. But, leaving the face uncovered sort of went counter to the essence of these characters and ultimately, Matt suggested that we cover there faces. He was right – I think he seems more dangerous with the cover over his face. Of course, I liked the orc face I drew! It was hard to erase it!
When I get to the colors, I think I’ll make the orcs have yellow eyes – the yellow against the black could look pretty good, I think.
Hope you like it! There will be more characters and artwork forthcoming!
When we were initially putting the Shotguns & Sorcery project together as an enhanced ebook through Noble Beast (and before I broke my hand), I worked closely with Matt Forbeck to put together a variety of the major players in the novels. These were a lot of fun! There is a lot of character in the different…characters. And being able to blend some interesting noir elements with fantasy elements made things interesting.
First up is the main character, Max –
These went through several revisions, as you can see above. My initial design didn’t have a fedora, which I think adds a lot to the design. He also had a tattoo on one arm, which we ultimately dropped. I also think one of my favorite elements is the holster for his wand! Fun details.
Next is Belle –
Belle went through a more drastic change. We decided that the first design didn’t quite have the right look or attitude. She wasn’t elegant or confident enough, which I definitely think I managed to work out in the subsequent character drawings.
I’m definitely looking forward to drawing these characters more!
More characters next week!
2013 saw a lot of work for Th3rd World Studios, from the Orange Man + Orange Woman material, to The Mortal Instruments, and the Aegisteel project. Another project I did for them was an alternate cover for their book, Finding Gossamyr.
I love doing covers, but traditionally, I get asked to do work that is pretty involved with landscapes and complicated backgrounds. And don’t get me wrong, I really love doing that kind of work, but I rarely get a chance to just do an action piece. So, when Mike Devito approached me about doing an alternate cover for one of their books, I thought this would be a great opportunity to do something a little different!
Below you can see the process – the initial layout, the finished pencils, and the final color work.
Not only did I have a lot of fun with the action in this piece, but I also enjoyed drawing the creatures. I don’t believe I’d ever actually drawn a rhinoceros before, so researching those and trying to convert them into these rock-like creatures was a blast. I absolutely fell in love with how craggy and wrinkled a rhino is.
Anyway, it was a fun project to be involved in! The book is a lot of fun too, so be sure to check it out!