Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Rise and Fall of John Carter and the Monkeys from Mars

San Diego Comic-Con puts out a souvenir book every year and they ask both fans and pros alike to contribute artwork to commemorate an anniversary to some comic book character or creator.  My original plan was to send THREE pieces of art. One for the 100th anniversary of Tarzan, one for the 50th anniversary of some classic Marvel heroes, and one for the 30th anniversary of Love and Rockets.  Due to constraints put upon me by work, I found myself with barely enough time to do even one. I started on a Tarzan piece but it wasn't working for me. I started doodling on John Carter, and surprisingly found it much easier. I was familiar with this character mainly from the recent movie and the old Marvel comics adaption ( I also worked briefly on ILM's bid for a John McTiernan directed John Carter many, many moons ago).

My original plan was to do a digital painting, but I just didn't have the time. Having had so much fun and artistic success with the recent Rocketeer poster, I decided to go back to good old pen, brush and india ink. And at least this way I'd have a piece of original art to sell at Comic-con.

My original vision was to do John Carter fighting off some 4-armed apes in profile on a tower, lit in near silhouette with some rim light and a bit of fill.  But things changed.  I started with some thumbnails.

 As I continued on with the roughs, a picture started to come a bit more into focus.  I started to play a bit more with the details.

                                               I decided to bring the camera down a bit to have a greater feeling of.
 height as a danger element.  It also brought Carter and the apes closer together in the composition.  As I started in with the inking I was having a lot of fun.  I got more into the rendering of the forms and playing around with the feathering ( especially on the main ape ). It kind of brought me back to my youth when my art was a bit more about that ( that is, rendering the volume of muscles and folds ) than about an overall scheme when it came to the lighting.  I do admit it was fun getting lost in noodling and doodling.

After I finished, I started to look at the piece a bit more objectively.  The simplicity and directness that I had learned from Toth wasn't there.  There was no "opinion" as my old art school teacher Barbara Bradley would say. What was I doing with the lighting and how did it contribute to the composition? Was the camera angle I eventually chose really the best one to do the job?  I'd have to say "no" on both counts. The piece was fun to render but was not as successful as the Rocketeer piece I did last month.  Don't get me wrong, I like this piece, but It wasn't nearly as
good as it could have been. Perhaps I'll try it again, but it better to keep in mind in the future that it'll take more than a lot of pretty rendering to make a picture work.