Posted on April 26, 2016
I’ve always had an innate drive to continuously improve myself, perhaps it’s just dissatisfaction over my abilities. I’ve always enjoyed learning and I strive to better myself in art, kung fu and fencing. One of the best compliments I received in recent years was at a comic book convention when a fellow artist informed me that he and his friends have been following my artwork over the years and were impressed over the constant progression of my art skills. I’ve been in the comics scene since the 1990’s, (yes, I’m old), and I hate to say that some of my peers have been creating art the same way since I’ve known them when I first met them. Now being critical of others is not fair, so I tried to take a harsh, objective look at my own comic book art. I can see the improvement in my painting, but I have to admit, my new comic book work resembles my first comic book series, Achilles Storm, with little change. And sad to say, it’s missing the passion and vitality of the young, struggling artist! Being a comic book artist involves many skills: figure drawing, story telling, perspective, understanding of layout, and the ability to draw just about anything from landscape to buildings to animals, etc. Through the years, my perspective might have gotten slightly better (and I definitely need more work in that department), but the contrast work in black and white is worse! I also need to improve my layouts, they are quite mundane and the narrative should move in innovative ways. So being unsatisfied with my new pages, I decided to study some of the old masters of comic book art.
One of the great artists for layouts and spotting blacks is Wally Wood. I found this interesting cheat sheet by him on laying out two people conversations, which would get boring if you have pages of just dialogue. I have no rights to this, but I think it would be helpful if you want to download it.
The virtuosos for black and white composition are Alex Toth and Marcos Mateu-Mestre. Mateu-Mestre has a book called Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytelling that explains the best techniques for the visual communication. I highly recommend this book for comic book artists and story boarders. A more contemporary genius of composition is John Paul Leon. I came across his artwork by accident when I was on Ebay looking for épee fencing equipment by Leon Paul. I was amazed by the realistic portrayal of people and scenes in his black and white comics. An inker that worked with John Paul Leon for a number of years and an awesome comic book artist in his own right is Shawn Martinbrough. He has this incredibly useful book, How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Techniques of Visual Storytelling. Martinbrough has a more stylized approach to his art and he breaks down the theory of drawing black and white comics very clearly. I own both books and I use them as reference. I compiled the following cheat sheet of faces and lighting. I’m going to share this with you, so feel free to use it. I don’t own any rights to the photos contained in it, so I hope I don’t get into trouble for using them. They are for reference and personal use only.
I still have to spend more time studying the books by Mateau-Mestre and Martinbrough, but I’m going to share with you the results of adding blacks to my pages in issue 4 (still in the process of creating) of Gothic Geisha. I should have named this article the Beauty of Black, lol. I had already completed these pages, so I didn’t design them with contrast in mind. It’s always harder to fix things after the fact, so remember to layout your pages as thumbnails with contrast from the beginning. I’ll try to heed my own advice for issue 5. I use Manga Studio Pro 5 to create my comic pages. You can see in some of my original pages, I used texture (chicken scratches) to add interest in the background. I eschewed this for cleaner blacks and I think the contrast creates a more striking page. It’s hard to cover up detailed line work and lovely drawings, but I think the result has definitely more impact. Designing your blacks from thumbnails makes the overall process of creating comics faster, you don’t have to draw everything, you can strategically spot your blacks and deliberately leave out line work. The viewer’s imagination can fill in the missing lines which makes for a more captivating piece of art. It is better to design your page so the detail is where you want the focus to be on your page. Drawing everything precisely on the page pulls attention away from the area of focus. Concept painters for Environment Design only light the areas in their art to grab your attention, the rest is left in shadow or is painted with sketchy brushstrokes with a minimum of detail.
Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you enjoyed sharing my journey of improving my comic book noir skills. Please follow my Gothic Geisha Comic Facebook Page and visit my new Sandra Chang-Adair website, Steampunk Fantasy Art.
Posted on March 18, 2016
So in my continual search to improve the light and color in my paintings, I came across the term subsurface scattering. 3D artists are probably more aware of subsurface scattering since they need to understand it for rendering different materials such as marble, skin, milk, leaves, wax, etc. more realistically. I’m interested in it specifically on how it effects skin. When light penetrates the surface of a translucent object, light particles interact with the material, light bounces around inside the material; some light becomes absorbed and some light becomes reflected. A good example is when a person with short hair is standing in front of a bright light or sunlight, his/her ears will appear red as the rest of his face is silhouetted against the light. Another example is holding your hand in front of a bright sun, the edges of your fingers will appear red. Here are some examples and I do not lay claim to any of these images. I found them on the web and I hope I don’t violate any copyrights. Thanks lyraina for the wonderful hand examples.
There are some amazing artists that I’ve found on the web that are masters of subsurface scattering. Ruan Jia Jia and HGJ art. Definitely, look at their work and see how each artist treat this special lighting effect. Their figures seem to glow with an inner light. After studying their work, I decided to try to tackle some techniques on representing subsurface scattering. I have to admit that my attempts at this are severely pale in comparison. But hey, learning is an ongoing process, so I will continue to practice. An artist should never be satisfied with himself, but should always be in a flux of improving his skills. This is probably why I don’t have any of my paintings up on the walls of my house (that, and my husband is not the best handyman…lol).
So as I painted my subsurface scattering exercises, I kept the following ideas in mind. These rules were made up after studying the work of Ruan Jia Jia. You can try it if you are interested.
1.) Choose an overall cool color scheme.
2.) Keep colors limited. Choose colors that are adjacent on the color wheel.
3.) Place warm colors (warm light) in areas where the skin is thin: around the eye socket, nostrils, upper lip, ears, fingers and chin.
4.) If there is reflected light, use a complimentary color.
5.) Make the background dark, so the figure stands out in comparison.
Here are the results of my endeavor. I definitely will need to do some more exercises on subsurface scattering. My paintings are rather ghostly, probably because I chose such an eerie color scheme.
Posted on March 18, 2016
The worst thing imaginable for an artist that depends on visibility on the web has happened to me. Google dropped my ranking! The website I’ve had since 1996, www.sandrachang.net, was virtually invisible to search engines. I checked online to see if it was blacklisted, but it’s not. Since you cannot contact anyone on Google about the reasons why, I can only venture to guess. It is possible that I had erotic art on my site and that made it invisible to people that had the safe censorship settings on their browser. I had a links page and lot of websites linked back to me. Perhaps they thought my website was spammy, I do not know for sure. I corrected some of the issues on my website and Google appears to list me again. I still can’t find my site when I do Bing and Yahoo searches.
So I created a new website with a new url, www.steampunkfantasyart.com. It’s been about four months since I created it and it appears that the Google bots are crawling it. I checked my original site on Google Analytics and for a period of 1 month, I’ve had an abysmal 3 visitors. This is sad since in 2013, I’ve had upwards of 2,000+ unique visitors in 1 day. Believe me, I’ve lost plenty of sleep over this dilemma, as well as Etsy and Ebay sales. Since I’m not an expert on search engine optimization, and trying to determine a solution to boost my site’s visibility, I decided to resurrect my old WordPress blog. WordPress is known to have great search optimization tools built in, so I’m hoping that will make my art easier to find on the web. I’ve been pretty lax these last few years maintaining my blog. Mostly because I’m not very comfortable with writing, and the interface on WordPress is fairly confusing. Well, they have a new gui and it’s a little easier to navigate. It’s still confusing, the tech over at WordPress told me that there is an adjustment period and that is so true! So I paid the $99 to get a premium blog and paid for a premium theme as well. What is convenient is during the week, you have access to chatting with techs! This is much better than posting on the forum and hoping someone will answer your questions. You can get immediate help with the chat window and I’m glad I shelved out the extra money. Plus with a premium blog, you can point your own url at it or get a free domain name. I’m still learning my way around WordPress, so please bear with me. We’ll see in a couple of months if this WordPress site gets better ranking on the search engines.
I’m sorry that this article is boring. So I will leave you with a black and white underpainting of Aidan Turner. I’m trying to improve my sense of color and light. Being an artist is the never ending process of learning and bettering your skills. I’ll post a color version of Aidan when I get around to it.
Posted on February 5, 2013
The Gothic Geisha story has been lingering in the back of my mind since 1996. Its original conception was as a comic book I created called Akemi. It was both released in color (published through Brainstorm Comics) and in black and white (Sypher Publications). I followed issue 2 with a homemade ashcan unveiled at the San Diego Comic-con. Later on, Akemi was reprinted in Yolk Magazine, a publication that showcased Asian talent in media. I tried to continue the story in Yolk, but the magazine was eventually cancelled. To my dismay, I found no distribution for Akemi and I couldn’t afford to publish it myself, so I never finished it.
Since then, Akemi would be a shadow in my consciousness, evolving and changing, depending on life experiences and the movies I was exposed to. One movie that profoundly affected Akemi was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It was an intriguing idea to have your mind brainwashed and then relive the same mistakes. Other influences were the Bene Gesserit in Frank Herbert’s Dune and the Mord’Sith in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth Books. I loved the idea of a sect of female warriors not just as soldiers, but as a religious, political entity. Hence the new embodiment of Akemi was formed. Last June 2012, I began recording the story down on paper; reworking the plot, scenario and introducing new characters. I wrote it in a novel format and it grew to be 88 pages. I created some new concept art; rough background environment drawings and character sketches. I am now ready to embark on this new venture and christen it, Gothic Geisha.
Akemi is still the main character. She lives in a future dystopia called the Unopolis, governed by an Authoritarian Government ruled by a dictator named Augustine Caine and his Calcedonian Council. She and her brother, Kenji, join a group of rebels who plan on overthrowing the dictatorship. This is the short version, of course, it gets much more complicated.
I am working on the very first page now, (it’s sitting on my drawing table). I’m planning to release the comic several pages a week online for free on a WordPress page. Hopefully, if all goes well, I will release it this month. I created a facebook page to showcase my progress. I would appreciate it if you could like it.
In the meantime, I will leave you with some conceptual work to get you interested. But first, here is artwork from the original Akemi Comic Book, so you can get a basic idea of the story.
New Concept Art.
Environment Design Background.
These are initial concept design images, the final designs will probably change.
Hopefully my next post will be the actual working online comic url. Please like my facebook page for further information! Thanks!
Posted on December 12, 2012
Again, I apologize for my aversion to writing blogs. It’s almost the end of the year and the doomsday on the Mayan Calendar (Dec 21) is rapidly approaching. I don’t have any emergency supplies stocked up nor did I book passage on those high tech arks in China (from the movie 2012). We’ll just see what happens. At least it falls on a Friday and I’ll be in Kung Fu class…I won’t take this lying down!!!
I worked on another tutorial, a four-page How to Paint a Steampunk Character for Advanced Photoshop Magazine, Issue 98. It was a major undertaking, almost like writing a term paper in college. The difficulty was cramming all the techniques into a mere four pages. In the last tutorial I did for Digital Artist Magazine, I had two pages to explain how to depict hair, here, I had 90 words. For this endeavor, I delved into traditional fairy tales and chose Little Red Riding Hood. I tried to break things down to basics and textures. I began with creating a color comp to laying in the background, creating stone textures with splatter brushes. I simplified the background using smoke and silhouettes, again custom brushes in Photoshop like the smoke/cloud brush came in handy. I went over how to paint skin, the handy tool here is the mixer brush, it creates lovely blends effortlessly (as long as you use the eyedropper to sample local areas of color). The rest were techniques to paint silk, leather, hair, diaphanous material, metal and glass. I guess if you are interested in more details, you can hunt down the issue. What is helpful is that I included the pencil drawing, the layered Photoshop file and some customized brushes on the cd. Here are some screen captures step by step (some of these were not published in the magazine):
I also have a ProTip coming up in the next issue of Advanced Photoshop. I think it’s issue 104. It’s a short 150 word tip on how to paint a woman’s portrait. For this, they are printing an old painting of mine, the Geisha Faerie.
Some new paintings I worked on during this time is my Steampunk Veronika painting, based on Veronika Kotlajic, the Perfect Muse and former Playboy Lingerie model. Here I looked up reference for a World War 1 tank. Honestly, I didn’t know they existed all the way back then. They are small one-man contraptions…very claustrophobic I would imagine! I love sunsets, so I used the soft oranges and purples for the color palette. I think Veronika was very pleased with the painting.
This past June 25th marked the third year anniversary of the passing of my music idol, Michael Jackson. I can’t describe how heartbroken I was upon learning the news three years ago. Like a true fan, I am in denial, I dream sometimes that he’s not dead, he faked his death and is hiding away from the world, somewhere in the Middle East. Then I wake up despondent, realizing the truth. To commemorate the spirit of the King of Pop, I painted this eulogy. I do believe that his marriage with Lisa Marie Presley was real and that he did love her at one time. Here he lies in the lily pond, reminiscent of John Everett Millais’s Ophelia painting. In an homage to John William Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Mermaids, I painted Lisa Marie as a mermaid curled about him. Water symbolizes rebirth and I thought this was fitting, since Michael can be cleansed of the prejudices of the World. He gave so much love and was vilified. I wanted originally to paint a serene expression on his face, with his eyes closed so he would be at peace, but I couldn’t bring myself to paint him in that deathly repose. Instead, I painted him bursting with joy. My friend, Alicia, commented that he looks so happy. But that is how I want to remember him, smiling with the vigor of youth.
Step by step screen captures of both Steampunk Veronika and Michael Jackson Ophelia are on my Facebook page. Go to photos, galleries. They are in the Miscellaneous Gallery.
Of course, if you are interested in prints, here is a shameless plugging of my Etsy store.
I also have a new Society 6 store. It’s a print-on-demand online store that sells cool merchandise with my artwork. It has iPhone and iPod cases, Laptop and iPad skins, pillows, stationary cards, prints and canvases. Eventually, I want to open an Ebay store to sell large size prints and original oils (not to mention unwanted Mord’sith costumes). I haven’t done that yet. Mainly, I just have to reserve some time to read over the regulations.
Last but not least, I was commissioned by the students at my Shaolin Kung Fu School in Las Vegas, Shaolin Kung Fu Chan, to paint a portrait of the master, Shifu Xing Wei, a 32nd Generation Shaolin Monk. The occasion was to commemorate the 7 year anniversary of the current location of the school. I originally wanted to do a massive oil painting, but we had just moved to a new house and it was Thanksgiving weekend. To facilitate things, I painted it in Photoshop and had it output at Staples on canvas 3ft x 4ft. This would have been expensive, but when I went to pick it up, they had printed it 2ft x 3ft, so they had to redo it. They gave it to me for free because it’s store policy if there is an error. I had a mat cut and Luann Nguyen, one of the senior students had everyone in the school sign it. Another student, Tom Shahan, built the frame and we presented it at the celebration. My nerves were on edge that day since I had to also perform in front of everyone with 4 other girls. It’s been six years since I had competed or performed in front of an audience and I had trouble sleeping the night before. Nightmares of playing as a child at piano recitals are still fresh in our memory. Luckily, the demonstration went without a hitch. All I can say was I was relieved when it was over.
Posted on May 10, 2012
Yes I have been delinquent again. Lots of time elapsed between posts. It’s hard to force myself to write a blog when it’s more interesting working on new paintings. I finally finished my Steampunk Cinderella piece. I posted it 0n several online galleries around the web, one of them being the Advanced Photoshop website. The editor contacted me and now it will be featured in the gallery of the Advanced Photoshop Magazine in June. Hooray! On top of that, Digital Artist did a nice write up about the painting when it was nominated as “Art of the Week.” Here is the article by April Madden, the editor. The art is a little squished. So I will display the completed painting here.
I also have a 2-page hair tutorial I wrote for the June issue of Digital Artist Magazine. Writing a tutorial is like doing a term paper, not only do you have to analyze and break-down art techniques you do naturally, but you have to explain it in an easy-to-understand manner. I actually combed the web to see how other artists explain their processes. To facilitate the tutorial, I made some custom hair brushes in Photoshop to be included in the tutorial CD. Here is the artwork I designed for the tutorial.
I also made a new Alice in Wonderland Gothic Lolita Steampunk painting. Although I admit it doesn’t have the charm of my original Steampunk Alice, it is a different take.
If anyone is interested in my step-by-step screen captures of my work in progress or wondering what I am currently painting, you can look at my Photo Albums on my facebook page. You have to click the Album entitled Miscellaneous Stuff. Oh…and while you’re there, please “Like” my Facebook page. I usually post my most current work in this gallery. I currently have three unfinished paintings in my computer, a Steampunk Alice in Wonderland Tea Party, a Steampunk Female Warrior on a Tank (based on the Art Muse, Veronika) and a new Michael Jackson painting.
I have a lot of my paintings for sale as signed prints at my Etsy Store. Check it out!
I also have a pin-up coming out in the August issue of Hustler Magazine. Here is a small preview. Sorry I can’t show the whole piece (since it is x-rated).
It’s always cool when someone else mentions you on their blog. Two years ago, I took a seminar called “Artist as Brand” by Greg Spalenka. Greg is an incredibly inspiring artist and he teaches an intensive workshop for artists to build their art empires, find their inner voice, learn to market themselves and develop a 5 year business plan. Any artist will find this workshop truly worthwhile and if they have an opportunity to take it (Greg travels around the US), I would highly recommend it. Here is The Artist as Brand website. Here is my little mention on Greg’s blog.
Well, I have to go eat dinner, but not before I plug my Banzai Chicks Cartoon Art for Girls Website and the Banzai Chicks Etsy Store. Talk to you later…hopefully I will be a little more consistent in my blogging! : )