Wolf Down All Your Candy

Take note, waiters and waitresses: If there are colored pencils left behind at my table because children were amongst the previous occupants of said table, I will draw a werewolf on my placemat:

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Basic line-work was all finished at the restaurant, a few months ago. Further color pencil rendering, computer clean-up/effects/type were done this morning. Because I care that much about you, Dear Reader.

Happy Halloween! I’m gonna watch Troll Hunter and have a Newcastle Werewolf ale tonight.


Help The Cheerleader Commissions, Round 13!

Here’s the thirteenth round of commissions that I’ve finished for Help the Cheerleader. To read more about my involvement with this fundraiser, please CLICK HERE.

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From left to right:

UPDATE: Commissions are still closed for now, and the donations on the Help the Cheerleader page are on hold–the Cheerleader won one of her appeals, so the courts are recalculating her fees. As soon as we know what’s going on, you’ll see an update here as well as on the Help the Cheerleader page. But I’m still at work on the commission requests, and I’ll continue posting–stay tuned!

Step by step and day by day (that’s two ABC TGIF references in a row–I promise this won’t become a trend!)

(EDIT, 01/20/2011: for those who are interested, I’ve compiled this step-by-step walkthrough into a single huge image file–you can get it on my DeviantArt account here)

I talk a decent amount about my artistic process on this blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever really given you, Dear Reader, an actual step-by-step glimpse at what my process looks like. So I thought today it would be nice to take a look at how a finished drawing by J.Ho comes together. Let’s get right into it…

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STAGE ZERO: The assignment and the character.

The “assignment” in this case was not a blog post (although it has become, a blog post), but rather a cover illustration for a book. My old crony Charles produces an e-zine of speculative fiction called If-E-Zine (pronounced Iffy Zine). He was planning to compile some of his work into a book, and I offered my services for the cover.

The cover was to feature the e-zine’s mascot and sometimes ‘host,’ Iffy the Ifreet, a horn-mohawked, skull-faced demon, garbed in leather, chains and spikes (very metal). Charles has dressed as Iffy for Halloween a few times (link, link, link), but always with a slightly different appearance, so I was given free reign to come up with a unique character design, as long as I met the basic criteria.

STAGE ONE: Basic concept for character design, and rough thumbnail for pose.

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At this stage I’m just loosely sketching Iffy, figuring out what he’s going to look like. Combining my favorite aspects of Charles’ past Iffy Halloween appearances, I’m able to decide on the proportions of Iffy’s face, and the configuration of his horns. I sketch him with a powerful build, and very quickly I stumble upon what will become Iffy’s pose for the final illustration–Iffy will be a menacing figure, stalking towards us, with a dangerous warhammer hefted over one shoulder, and a hand aglow with mystic fire.

I start working on some of the details of his costume and his weapon’s design, but before I get any further, I send what I have to Charles, to make sure he likes where it’s headed. He gives me the go ahead and I move forward…

STAGE TWO: Working out costume details.

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A character like Iffy should have a costume that isn’t to symmetrical, but on the other hand, you want the elements to feel balanced so that no one area feels too busy or too bare. One of the changes I make here is to change the barbed wire to razor wire for a more streamlined visual read.

STAGE THREE: Rough cover layout.

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Not much to see here–I just take the rough pose that I’ve come up with, and put it in a template matching the dimensions for the cover, so that I can figure out how the type will match up with the illustration.

STAGE FOUR: Color study.

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Now I’m ready to start the actual drawing… but not really. I’m planning on a very particular backlit color scheme, and I feel the need to do a quick color study over the rough cover layout. This piece isn’t crazy-involved, but I want to make sure that what I’ve got in my head (in terms of layout, type placement, and color) will actually work out on paper. Once I’m satisfied with it, I clear it with Charles, and start drawing…

STAGE FIVE: Loose pencils.

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This probably seems like a complex step, but once the costume details and pose are set, fleshing out the drawing is relatively straightforward. If you look carefully, you can see that I’m contemplating a flame pattern emblazoned on Iffy’s coat, but I’m not crazy about how it’s looking. Charles decides the flames on the coat are too busy, so the final version won’t have them.

When I’m inking my own work, it’s usually unnecessary to tighten the pencils further than this, so I leave it as is and move on to the final inks…

STAGE SIX: Type treatment + final line-art in layout.

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When I finish the final inks, I scan them, clean them up in Photoshop, and place them in the rough cover layout. Charles wants a retro-horror-looking title font, so I research some, and hand-draw a treatment for the title. I place that in the rough cover layout as well, and now we’ve really got an idea of how the final piece is going to look.


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I might have mentioned never shut up about what a slow colorist I am, so for me, this step is particularly time consuming. Someday I’ll make a step-by-step post about my coloring process, which is a whole thing unto itself, but for now I’ll just give you the basics.

Usually I just start slopping some colors around to nail down my color choices. Once I’ve got that figured out, I clean everything up. To keep things flexible for revisions, I tend to keep like-colors in separate layers, and give lighting effects (like the green flame and green highlights) their own layer as well. Color-wise, the important thing with this piece is the dramatic lighting created by the backlight and the green flame, so that’s my focus as I bring this illustration to a close.

Charles is happy with what I’ve done, so that means the illustration is finished, and I just need to finalize the cover layout…

STAGE EIGHT (FINAL): The result.

Charles gives me a template for the cover, as well as all the pertinent copy for the front and back covers. I make a blown-up, faded, monochromatic version of Iffy to use as a design element for the back cover, and insert that, along with all the copy. Behold, the final result:

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You would like to buy a copy, yes?

Semi-Related Topics: Johnny Monster and the New York Comic Con

At the peak of my vile plague I was barely blogging and missed out on telling you all that Johnny Monster #2 was solicited. And now Johnny Monster #3 is available for order in the current issue of Previews.

Johnny Monster #3 (of 3)
Story by Joshua Williamson
Art and Cover by J.C. Grande
32 pages FC $3.50 April 15

The peaceful habitat Johnny Monster created for the monsters has been invaded by violent mercenaries causing utter chaos! As a result, the largest monster the world has ever seen has been unleashed on New York City on a quest for revenge! Only Johnny can stop him… but does he want to? Don’t miss the exciting conclusion to this monster-ous mini-series!

Check out the covers to both #2 and #3, drawn by the talented J.C. Grande and colored by yours truly:

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Be sure to ask your local comic shop to order Johnny Monster #3! It’s on page 170 of February’s Previews catalog, and the Diamond order number is FEB09 2437.

Annnnnd, if you happen to be attending the New York Comic Con, be sure to drop by and visit Josh Williamson (writer of Johnny Monster, Dear Dracula, and Necessary Evil) and Vinny Navarrete (Dear Dracula penciller, Necessary Evil inker, and Johnny Monster logo designer). Those young ruffians wil be sitting with Shadowline at the Image Comics booth.

Post Script: Make sure you check out the Shadowline website, which has a cool Johnny Monster animation at the top of the page.

BONUS POST: Johnny Monster Cometh!!!

Well, what have we here… the current issue of Previews… under Image Comics and Shadowline

Johnny Monster #1 (of 3)
Story by Joshua Williamson
Art and Cover by J.C. Grande
32 pages FC $3.50 February 18

Johnny Monster is the world’s foremost super-star monster hunter, but what the world doesn’t know is that he was raised by the same monsters he’s “hunting”! Now, in order to save his adoptive family…he must fight them! Johnny Monster mixes Tom Strong with Godzilla movies by way of Tarzan and the Phantom to create a compelling and different monster mash! From the acclaimed writer of Dear Dracula and Necessary Evil!

Another offering from my crony Josh, with art by a new collaborator, the talented J.C. Grande! Johnny Monster promises to be a really fun comic, but let’s face, what I’m interested in is ME ME ME. Josh asked me to color the covers for Johnny Monster, and it was really the first time I colored someone else’s art. It was an interesting experience, and I’m pretty happy with the results. Here are J.C.’s bare inks, alongside the finished cover, with my colors, and a very slick logo by Vinny:

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Be sure to ask your local comic shop to order Johnny Monster #1! It’s on page 168 of December’s Previews catalog, and the Diamond order number is DEC08 2275.

Mutant Zoo! Gorilla + Octopus!

For the Mutant Zoo jam, held by Dreamwolf and Super-Munkyboy at Deviantart–here’s a hybrid between a Gorilla and an Octopus:

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… despite their fearsome appearance and deafening displays, the Octorilla is a serene, family-oriented creature, inquisitive and gregarious…

This was the combination that originally attracted me to the Mutant Zoo jam, from a few weeks back. I wasn’t in time for the original deadline, but I actually designed this hybrid before I started on the Bat + Deer combination. I finally got a chance to color it up, so here it is.

Be sure to check out Dreamwolf’s Deviantart page for links to other participants!

Mutant Zoo! Lemur + Tarantula!

For this week’s Mutant Zoo jam, held by Dreamwolf and Super-Munkyboy at Deviantart–here’s a hybrid between a Lemur and a Tarantula:

… the tip of the Taramur’s nimble tail actually houses the creature’s spinnerets, allowing it to spin webs in almost any direction. The glowing eyes in the Taramur’s abdomen have excellent vision, and are capable of firing intense psionic blasts…

Be sure to check out Dreamwolf’s Deviantart page for links to other participants!

Mutant Zoo! Ladybug + Rhino!

For this week’s Mutant Zoo jam, held by Dreamwolf and Super-Munkyboy at Deviantart–here’s a hybrid between a Ladybug and a Rhino:

… despite their diminuitive size (roughly 2 inches long, tail not included), these normally docile creatures can pack quite a punch if disturbed while grazing upon spectral aphids, their food of choice…

Get ready for a Mutant Zoo blitz–there were two choices for this week’s jam, plus I drew up one of the older combinations as well, all to be served up momentarily. Stay tuned!

Be sure to check out Dreamwolf’s Deviantart page for links to other participants!

Mutant Zoo! Bat + Deer!

Dreamwolf and Super-Munkyboy are holding a jam over at Deviantart called Mutant Zoo. The basic idea is to draw a hybrid of two animals–this week’s challenge was Deer + Bat:

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… the Ba’eer is known to commonly appear shortly before the birth or after the death of a great hero or hunter. A Ba’eer with a flame above its antlers is carrying the soul of a fallen hero or hunter to the afterworld; an unadorned Ba’eer heralds the birth of such a hunter or hero…

The horns and face markings are based loosely on the muntjac, and the tusks are based on the muntjac, as well as the more exaggerated tusks of a water deer or musk deer. The ears and nose are loosely based on a leaf-nosed bat. I wanted to try a drawing with super-thin lines (pass), and had a certain look in mind for the colors, but it really didn’t quite work out (fail).

Be sure to check out Dreamwolf’s Deviantart page for links to other participants!

Monsters of Breakfast (5 of 5): The Bite Stuff… PLUS WALLPAPER!

The Subject: General Mills cereal monsters.

The Twist: Drawing them in the style of Capcom‘s fighting game franchise, Darkstalkers.

It’s Halloween, and here’s the dude everyone has been waiting for–Count Chocula! Okay, maybe not everyone has been waiting for him, but the handful of people interested in this series of sketches have been waiting. Probably.

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Naturally, my interpretation of Count Chocula is based on his vampiric Darkstalkers counterpart, Demitri. This one was a lot of fun for me. I couldn’t tell you why exactly… it’s possible that I just enjoyed it more because it came together pretty easily. In particular, I’m happy with how the purply-brown color scheme and billowing cape turned out.

The pieces in this series were designed with a group composition in mind, so I’ve whipped up some wallpapers. For your convienience, both fullscreen and widescreen versions are available below. Happy Halloween!

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Monsters of Breakfast (4 of 5): Keep ‘Em In Stitches

The Subject: General Mills cereal monsters.

The Twist: Drawing them in the style of Capcom‘s fighting game franchise, Darkstalkers.

Now we’re finally getting to the heavy hitters–I present to you, Franken Berry! He’s alive… HE’S ALIVE!

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Rather than ramble on about whatever, I’ll let you all go about your business–you probably need to finish the last minute touches on your Halloween costumes. I’m dressing as a weirdo cartoonist who barricades himself in his apartment drawing obscure nerdy characters while watching cartoons and The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. I guess it’s not so much a costume as much as on-going performance art. On-going for the past 31 years.

Monsters of Breakfast (3 of 5): Ghost of a Chance

The Subject: General Mills cereal monsters.

The Twist: Drawing them in the style of Capcom‘s fighting game franchise, Darkstalkers.

In terms of recognizability, today’s subject probably falls on the median–surely many of you must be accquainted with Boo Berry. In terms of back-story, I imagine Boo Berry was a jazz singer (something of a dandy) from New Orleans, who got involved with some criminals and was killed. His ghost can be seen haunting the New Orleans night, singing mournful jazz ballads, and battling supernatural creatures with his powerful super moves and combos. I’m not sure where the blueberries enter into the equation.

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I’m unsatisfied with how Boo Berry’s ghostly aura turned out… it doesn’t really read.

Is anyone sick of my punny non-sequitur titles? I know I am, but I’ve set a precedent, so my hands are tied.

Monsters of Breakfast (2 of 5): Fur Real

The Subject: General Mills cereal monsters.

The Twist: Drawing them in the style of Capcom‘s fighting game franchise, Darkstalkers.

Today, I present the most obscure of the General Mills monster pantheon, Fruit Brute. You will note that I maturely refrain from making any jokes about his name.

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I basically drew Fruit Brute as a palette swap of Jon Talbain wearing overalls. Horrible, multi-colored overalls, as per the source material. So, yeah… werewolves are cool.


Monsters of Breakfast (1 of 5): All Wrapped Up

The Subject: General Mills cereal monsters.

The Twist: Drawing them in the style of Capcom‘s fighting game franchise, Darkstalkers.

The Reason: I love Capcom’s character design style. Capcom’s art direction is amongst the most influential in video games in general, and particularly with 2-D fighting games. I often find myself looking at a random character and wondering what it would look like as a character in a Capcom fighting game. So, fusing that mode of thinking with breakfast cereal and the Halloween season, here we are.

First up, Yummy Mummy:

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I kept Yummy Mummy’s basic colors, but rather than giving him multi-colored bandages, I redistributed those colors to parts of his re-designed costume. The added accoutrements are based loosely on those of Anakaris (the mummy character from Darkstalkers). The ceremonial thingy (i think that’s the technical term) draped over his shoulders looks awkward–I was trying to emulate the geometric, almost blocky quality of Anakaris’s design, but it didn’t quite work out.

Something for the Season…

I’m very excited–Dear Dracula, a 48-page hardcover children’s book, published by Image Comics, and created by my dear friends, Josh and Vinny, will be available for purchase this Wednesday (October 15, 2008)! If you can’t find it at your local comic book shop or book store, you might try Amazon.com.

The book tells the story of a funny kid named Sam, who’s obsessed with Dracula, and decides to write him a letter–honestly folks, a fantastic all-ages book, especially for the Halloween season.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I was inspired to cook up a little Dear Dracula fan art:

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I promised something more substantial today, and I delivered, right? I mean, come on, background, multiple characters, what more could you ask for? A better composition you say? Yeah, okay, this composition is a little weird. Bah, forget my fan art, just go buy the real thing. Seriously.