This month, Byron Wilkins, owner of TR-1 Studios, creator of web comic 1977 The Comic and Manga Studio artist, shares his experiences in the comic industry. In his video interview, Byron provides insight into current industry trends, influential artists and career successes and challenges.
We recently had the chance to interview Adrastus comic artist and Smith Micro Software user, Liz Staley. Check out some of her favorite artists, biggest moments, challenges and personal tips for beginning artists below.
Tell us about you: I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA and currently live in Southwestern Pennsylvania. I studied Media Arts and Animation at the Art Institute of Washington and have a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Before starting my comic, Adrastus, I wrote and illustrated a novel that I self-published. Though I said throughout college and high school that I wasn’t going to do comics, my favorite classes in college were scripting and story-boarding, so I should have really figured out that the comic bug would hit me sooner or later.
Adrastus started posting to the web in April of 2010, though the story idea was around for a lot longer. I have a lot of fun working on my comic and it’s helping me improve my art and my story-telling skills.
I currently live with my supportive husband. When not drawing and writing, I can be found enjoying tabletop role-playing games, reading, painting, and taking care of my horse.
Q: How did you get into illustration / animation / graphic arts?
A: Like most artists, I’ve been drawing since I was little. I got serious about it around middle and high school. In high school I started to write and get into animation, and decided that I wanted to study animation. I went to college for Media Arts and Animation, and loved my Scripting and Storyboarding classes the best. From there it was a short leap to get into drawing comics!
Q: What industry trends are you a fan of and why?
A: I love web comics! It’s great to see what people can create, and how many different comics there are, when people can create and publish their own. There’s so much creativity in the web-comic community.
Q: Who are some of your biggest art / illustration influences and / or mentors?
A: There are so many people who have influenced or mentored me over the years. Some of the ones that spring to mind right off the bat who I look up to the most are Phil and Kaja Foglio (Girl Genius), Paul Taylor (Wapsi Square), Julie Devin Blake (Monster Soup), Robin Childs (Leylines), Kambrea and Thom Pratt (Shadowbinders).
Q: In your eyes, who is the most underrated artist / animator of all time?
A: I’ve always been a big fan of Ralph Bakshi’s animation. I remember watching his film Wizards when I was younger and being captivated by the special effects of the monsters. Because he did a combination of traditional animation for the main characters, and rotoscope for monsters and special effects, it made the monsters truly creepy- and it stuck with me! Plus he moved his desk by himself without permission to get a better job at one of the animation studios he worked for. Guy had some serious guts to do that!
Q: What has been your biggest challenge as an artist / animator?
A: One of the hardest things about being an independent creator is learning how to do everything you need to do to be successful. I can’t just sit back and write and do my art. I have to be a marketing guru, an advertiser, an accountant, a copywriter, a PR director, an office manager, a salesperson and so much more!
Q: What has been your biggest success?
A: When I think back, I have had so many different types of successes. Even just getting two books of my comic printed and out there is success to me. One of the most awesome projects that I’ve ever worked on though was definitely the Mastering Manga Studio 5 book that I wrote, which was published by Packt Publishing in September of 2013. There is still so much I want to do with my art and my writing!
Q: Where do you see the comic / animation industry in 10 years?
A: We’re already seeing this a lot, with things like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, but I think that creator owned, independent titles are going to be on the rise. More artists are going to be able to self-employ and own their work, and make a career on their own because of the resources that the internet gives us. And that’s exciting!
Q: How would you describe your job as an artist / illustrator?
A: I’d like to say that all I have to do is sit around and write a script, then draw the comic that goes with it, publish it to my site, print books every once in awhile, and that’s it. But it’s not! I’m a writer, a character designer, a layout artist, graphic designer, storyboard artist, background artist, marketer, photographer, and salesperson. I do it all in my job right now. Including the math stuff- which is my second most hated job of all!
The part of my job that I really focus on though is the drawing. I love to sit and work on my comic pages. Inking is my favorite part of the process!
Q: What advice would you give to young / up-and-coming graphic artists?
A: I’ve said this a lot whenever I get this question, but the best thing I can tell for young artists is to get started, and don’t stop. I didn’t start actually making my comic until 2010, despite getting the idea in 2007, because I was too scared to start. I told myself: “I need to learn how to draw robots. I need to learn how to draw motorcycles. I need to get better at drawing backgrounds.”
But then, since I wasn’t working on my comic, I wasn’t working on those things. The idea continued to plague me, not leaving me alone, until finally I had a revelation: Without starting the project, I would never improve on those areas that I wanted to work on.
Whatever it is, a comic, an animation, a series of illustrations, a tarot deck, JUST START IT. Even if you’re scared. I meet so many artists at conventions who tell me that they have an idea, but they need to get better at art. But if you aren’t working on that project, you will probably never get better. So just do it! The improvement, and getting past the fear, will come with action.
Q: What Smith Micro tools do you use, how do you use them and how have they affected your workflow?
A: My main Smith Micro product is Manga Studio. I got started using it on EX4, and now I use EX5. Manga Studio is my favorite art software ever, in my years of doing digital art. I use Manga Studio for both my regular illustrations and my comic projects. I just can’t stop drawing in it!
Manga Studio has improved my workflow immensely. It’s so much faster and easier for me to complete my projects now. My favorite tools are the rulers- they make special effects, and doing backgrounds so much faster now. I draw everything digital, so having rulers right in my program is a big help. Plus, I’m left-handed, so being able to customize my program layout is invaluable. I can get palettes out of my way, put things where I need them the most so it’s easy to reach them, and see what I’m working on.
Those are just two of the things that I love so much about Manga Studio! I really can’t praise the program enough.
Follow Liz Staley on Twitter @adrastuscomic
As digital media rises in the world of art, we see many artists engaging in mixed media. The line between traditional and interactive storytelling is beginning to blur as artists continue to incorporate 3D, 2D, audio, and animatic elements into their art. This movement has been adopted by novice and professional artists, alike. Although Anomaly and RWBY use 3D animation in Poser, they look as if they have been styled in 2D. Both Anomaly and RWBY use 3D modeling and paint over with a drawing program to get a mixed-media effect. Many artists whom use Poser to create amazing 3D figures later touch them up for a more photorealistic look. Peugeot Hybrid4’s The Hybrid Graphic Novel is a fantastic example of how a car company has taken the speed of their car and interpreted it into a motion comic with 3D elements. Car companies realize the significance of mixed digital media and its emergence into pop culture. Visuals draw viewers in and has become a prominent means of reaching audiences because of how engaging it is.
LOC.NES – The Quiet in the Chaos EP (MotionArtist & Ableton Live 9)
A plethora of examples also stem from MotionArtist. The program is versatile enough that users can import visual and audio files to give their motion comics a more interactive feel. Glenn Bledsoe, creator of Crazy Fly Comics, creates the visuals for his motion comics in Manga Studio and then imports audio and text to create amazing videos. To read more about Glenn’s experience with MotionArtist and Manga Studio, click here.
Banjo A Ghost Story Crazy Fly Comics
“MotionArtist opens the door for the uninhibited expression of artists’ imaginations. In every step of developing MotionArtist, we have evoked powerful animation capabilities that professionals need to push the boundaries of the media, while at the same time streamlining the steps that make media production time-consuming for grassroots artists,” says Jordan Bentley, Product Manager for MotionArtist. “MotionArtist users hold the key to evolving this media, because the only restriction to their vision is what they can imagine. This will become the driving doctrine in the coming evolution of MotionArtist and the communities it cultivates.”
Charlie’s Abduction by from Filippo onez Vanzo
Charlie’s Abduction from Filippo onez Vanzo on Vimeo. In this video you can see how Filippo uses some drawings he has created of Charlie, a background of space, and a variety of music and voice recordings to bring the animation to life.
In the Echo Callaway, the artists have given their viewers the option of speed. There is a “Beginning,” “Previous,” and “Next” options at the bottom of the screen and you click as you go. Some of the strips are in color while some are black and white.
ANOMALY uses a pipeline of 3D modeling, digital painting over, augmented reality, and game-like animation. Anomaly’s creator, Brian Haberlin, a long time staple in the comic industry and avid proponent of evolving mixed-media, had this to say in this Comic Book Resources blog.
“I’m setting up my characters, costumes, environment. I’m thinking of 3D as my rough pencils. I’ll strip out all the color, I’ll keep some of the shading information, I’ll really do super high contrast, almost making them inks, then I’ll draw over them. The problem people have with straight 3D in print is, it’s hard to make it look alive. 3D is great when it moves, but when it’s a still, you have to step on it with the human hand as much as possible.”
Have you created any digital mixed media lately? Share them with us on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Check out our Pinterest page and feel free to send any pins of your art our way. In the meantime, check out these 4 Amazingly Impressive HTML5 Web Comics from MakeUseOf.com
Daniel Warren Johnson
Daniel Warren Johnson is a freelance illustrator and comic artist based in Chicago. He strives to create meaningful and fun illustrations that fit within his clients’ goals and surpass their expectations. Daniel believes in keeping an organic and natural feel to every project, while enjoying the tangible nature of creative collaboration and expression. When not working on client work, Daniel works on his self published comic, Space-Mullet, and hangs out with his awesome wife. He also loves craft beer. (taken from DanielWarrenArt.com)
We asked Daniel Warren Johnson to share a little about Space-Mullet, his sci-fi web comic, and his experience with Manga Studio.
“I had just finished playing Mass Effect 3, and I was so inspired by the story, the design, the artistic direction, that I wanted to do a sci-fi story of my own, but make it a little more intimate, and on a bit of a smaller scale. I didn’t want to have a strapping, scar over eye hero, like many sci-fi protagonists do. I wanted somebody who was a loser, dresses out of style, and is a terrible shot. So I came up with Jonah, my main character for Space-Mullet, and off I went! It’s been a real blast to create him and the galaxy he lives in. I hope other people enjoy reading it as well.”
Daniel draws and writes everything for Space-Mullet himself and has a great time creating and drawing it. He’s been to a few conventions local to Chicago, including Wizard World Chicago 2012 and 2013. Daniel was also at C2E2, Chicago’s Pop Culture event, in April where he gained some awesome new Space-Mullet fans. He’s also working on an unannounced children’s book project. He has exhibited at Wizard World Chicago and at the Chicago Cultural Center with their Right Now Exhibit in 2012. Out of all of Daniel’s awesome clients, a highlight was when he created zombie portraits for patrons at Chicago’s Navy Pier.
“I found out about Manga Studio by following Cameron Stewart on Instagram and by reading Saga by Fiona Staples. I love their work, so I of course had to try the programs they were using. I’ve only been using it about 6 months, but I love it. The inking tools are a huge highlight for me, as well as the perspective rulers, the regular ruler tools, and the ability to create an entire paged out story within the program. It makes creation go so much faster!”
Until Manga Studio EX 5 came out, Daniel had been using the EX 4 version. “I’ve been loving the refined perspective tools, and the increased quality in brush control!” Daniel said about version EX 5. Manga Studio is a huge part of Daniel’s creative process for Space-Mullet. All of his concept art happens in Manga Studio, which allows him to create quick line drawings of multiple characters and vehicles. Daniel also creates all of his layouts and pre-production page planning in Manga Studio before he begins to ink traditionally.
“There have also been multiple times when I’ve had to create a page quickly (and with the same quality as a page I would have done traditionally), to fit a deadline, and Manga Studio fits the bill fantastically. I can literally make my pages look JUST like they were done on paper. I used to use Photoshop for line art, but got frustrated with it because it’s so clunky with smooth lines. So when I tried Manga Studio, I was blown away by the precision and control it gave me. I know I sound like a company rep, but I love this program so much, I can’t help it.”
Daniel has multiple corporate clients who need quality storyboards with a quick turnaround time. He recently created drawings for Trunk Club, a Chicago-based “men’s clothing service where personal stylists handpick high-end clothes”, which used his illustrations for their blog How to Survive a Heat Wave in Style. Trunk Club wanted to highlight how comfortable their business clothes could be in a hot, crowded bus or at a summer wedding. “All of these illustrations were done in Manga Studio and have brought me more work! The perspective rulers were a HUGE help here. I’m really happy with how it came out and so were they! They loved the pieces which I was able to create super quickly. All of my corporate storyboard work is now done in Manga Studio. Manga Studio has helped me score some great clients.”
“So many of my friends complain about inking in Photoshop, for the same reasons I used to. I think I’ve referred Manga Studio to at least ten different local Chicago artists, and the ones that have tried it since LOVE it. It also helps that the price tag for Manga Studio doesn’t break the bank. It’s a huge plus.”
Daniel is self-published as of now but is very excited about his 5 page mini comic coming out in an Image Comics title. The cyborg piece, shown below, is part of the concept art for the mini comic. He used Ray Frenden’s Manga Studio EX 4 brushes to create it. “Thanks, Frenden! He has some awesome tools that work great with MS.”
If you’d like to create illustrations and comics like Daniel’s, Manga Studio 4 EX, 5, and 5 EX are all on sale until September 30, 2013. If you’d like to purchase Manga Studio 5 (40% off) or 5 EX (30% off), check out this link. If you’d like to buy 4 EX (only $29.99), check out this link. Don’t forget to follow Manga Studio on Facebook and Twitter.
Until September 30, 2013 you can have your cake and eat it too. With savings this big there’s no reason why you can’t finally get your hands on the best creation software around. Cheaper than a tank of gas, you can buy the digital versions of Manga Studio EX 4, Anime Studio 8 or Poser 9 for just $29.99 each. STILL cheaper than a tank of gas is our super savings, unbelievable, O-M-G we must be crazy, over 90% off bundle. Get your hands on all three software for just $49.99! For more information on our awesome deal, check out this link. Didn’t get this e-mail in your inbox? Be the first to receive news and promotions by signing up for our e-mail list.
Smith Micro’s booth this year is 4437. Make sure to stop by and check out all of the cool things we’ve got going on. Grab a MotionArtist mask! Take pictures in your mask and hashtag #TheRISEofMA on Twitter and Facebook. Check out demos of the newly released Manga Studio EX 5 and grab a special edition Axe Cop poster if you purchase EX 5 at our booth. The following successful individuals have used our products and we’re very proud to share a little bit about them and where you can find them during Comic-Con.
Victor Paredes, an award winning animator from Chile, will be demonstrating products and taking questions at the Smith Micro booth (4437) during San Diego Comic-Con. Having used Anime Studio for over 9 years now, we consider Victor an Anime Studio celebrity. I don’t think we’re the only ones, either. The News-Gazette featured Victor in their paper when he held a seminar on how animation works. The News-Gazette called Victor, “the premiere tutor for Anime Studio.”
A lot of Victor’s animations are featured in our Anime Studio Gallery. To view more of Victor’s animations, check out his YouTube Channel. His animation, Regálense Unas Vacaciones was featured in our blog on how Anime Studio inspires international education. We also blogged about Victor when Smith Micro won a Telly Award for Happy Earth Day, an animation created by Victor and his team. After receiving the award, Victor stated, “Smith Micro’s Anime Studio software has been a great tool for cutting down production time, as well as adding precision and detail to animation projects. My team and I are delighted to share this Telly Award with Smith Micro.”
Will you be visiting Victor at Comic-Con? Keep up with Anime Studio’s Facebook and Twitter pages for news during Comic-Con. To read more about Victor and his experience with Anime Studio, check out his User Story.
Ethan Nicolle, creator of Axe Cop and Bearmageddon, will be at booth 1603 during Comic-Con. Ethan has been a user of Manga Studio for over 6 years now. You can read more of his User Story on our website. Don’t forget to tune into Axe Cop on July 21 at 9:30pm/8:30pm Central and July 27 at 11pm/10pm Central on FOX. Follow Ethan Nicolle on Facebook and Twitter, as well as Axe Cop.
Lar deSouza and Ryan Sohmer
Lar and Ryan will be joined by artists Ari, Will, Joel and Randy at Blind Ferret Entertainment‘s booth, 1231. Lar and Sohmer are cartoonists for Looking for Group and Least I Could Do. Sohmer is also writer of The Gutters and The Bear. Lar said Manga Studio “simplifies the grunt work of comicing so I can get to the fun stuff faster. Inking is a joy in this program!” and that “Flatting in Manga Studio is stupid easy.” Check out Least I Could Do and make sure to stop by their booth to say hey!
Follow Lar and Sohmer on Twitter.
Rooster Teeth Productions
Stop by Rooster Teeth Productions at booth 1437! Monty Oum, director of animation at Rooster Teeth Productions and senior animator for Red vs. Blue said, “When I’m working on Red vs. Blue, Poser is like an extension of my body. I have no time for inefficiency or unnecessary steps and I need a workflow that I can move around easily. Poser is user friendly enough that kids could use it to animate, but at the same time its powerful and flexible enough that nearly all of our rendering and character animation for the series happens using Poser.” Read Smith Micro’s Press Release for more on Red vs. Blue. Be sure to watch RWBY’s “Red” Trailer, featured below. RWBY was also created in Poser.
Marcus Rene Hill is a guest at the Man of Action Studios, booth 2007. Marc has used Manga Studio to create all of his artwork, including the graphics in The Machine Stop. Preview his book while you’re at Comic-Con. He’s giving free copies of The Machine Shops to the first 100 people! Check out his website to see more of his comics.
Follow Marc on Facebook and Twitter.
If you head over to Forcewerks at Q-14, you’ll meet Kirk Kushin. Kirk is an award-winning writer, producer, and director. He’s the author of several graphic novels including OZopolis and Super Teen*Topia. OZopolis was written by Kirk and illustrated by Gonzalo Martinez. OZopolis was completely done in Manga Studio, from rough pencils to tones and lettering. Check out OZopolis on Facebook, as well as Kirk Kushin’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Show Gonzalo Martinez some love on Facebook and Twitter, too! All of the work done on Gonzalo’s website was created in Manga Studio.
Do you remember where your first dose of creativity came from? Was it from a song? Was it from a movie or cartoon?
One thing I recall from growing up is that movies were my source of inspiration. It was film that taught me how to draw and tinker with film making.
This dialogue is especially timely since Jurassic Park is back in theaters but this time in 3D (I feel old). Just seconds after the movie started, I got chills from the dark opening score by John Williams and I found myself smirking throughout the rest of the film. Not only did I see Jurassic Park approximately 20 times in the theater as kid in Arizona but I believe my older brother brought me every little piece of Jurassic Park merchandise.
But to this day, I remember one thing and that was Topps’ Jurassic Park trading cards. These cards sparked my love for drawing. It was here, my love of not only drawing, story boarding and truly understanding the power of pre-visualization started.
I wanted to learn how to draw like Mark “Crash” McCreery. To this day, I can’t listen to the Jurassic Park soundtrack without being transported back to the simple days of drawing baby Velociraptors as well as everyone’s favorite, the T-Rex. Thanks for the memories, inspiration, and art lessons Mark “Crash” McCreery.
Adobe Photoshop is used in many industries, but it can be expensive and it’s primarily designed as a photo editing tool. Photoshop doesn’t have the tools and features that are ideal for comic illustration, but Manga Studio 5 does.
10 Advantages Manga Studio 5 has over Photoshop:
1. Preset pen sizes that behave like real Japanese manga pens. (In Photoshop you have to set the sizes yourself and they are not specifically designed for inking and coloring.)
3. Huge variety of screen tone patterns from basic dot tones to fancy backgrounds and effects. (In Photoshop, you’d have to make/draw tones yourself.)
4. A panel tool designed specifically for comic creation. You can also make a panel extend past the bleed point as well as set the panel border thickness for emphasis to certain scenes.
5. Perspective rulers – you don’t have to draw your own perspective lines like in Photoshop.
6. Premade word balloons in all kinds of styles and fully customizable.
7. Tons of included content that will speed up your comic creation process.
8. Import a variety of 3D formats. Manga Studio 5 also includes 3D characters that can be manipulated for the ideal pose.
9. Supports both raster and vector layers, and includes specific vector tools giving you amazing control.
10. Manga Studio’s tools are based on real world comic and illustration tools such as inking pens, and rulers. There are many different pen tip types to choose from, unlike Photoshop whose primary design is for painting and digital editing.
For more information and a video tour of Manga Studio, visit: http://manga.smithmicro.com/manga-studio.html
Over years, my art (primarily photography) has matured over the years due to one thing: A good story.
It sounds simple right? Just find or write a story.
I remember making little digital video shorts with my buddies in high school. I absolutely loved the creative process from start to finish but there was always something missing…
You guessed it, a good story.
My camera movements were smooth, my edits where clean, and my lighting was ok but after I made my final rendering export, I still really had nothing.
This is when I started doing some simple research about what it takes to make a good story. Since I was a huge Star Wars fan, I have always heard about the influence writer Joseph Campbell had on George Lucas’ work (especially episodes IV-VI). I soon discovered the path of the hero and the overarching storyline that has transcended various cultures and religions for hundreds and hundreds of years.
The story is simple; a hero sets off on an adventure. Along the adventure, the hero encounters many friends, mentors, and villains that test our protagonist. Through the adventure, a key revelation and transformation happens to our hero. This revelation forever changes our main character. The adventure soon ends and leaves the hero forever changed from by their experience.
In a nutshell, this is the path of the hero. When examining Star Wars, Lucas simply added new characters to the traditional hero storyline and set them forth on the path of the hero to fight the evil empire. However, this time, there were Wookies, Jawas, Lightsabers and sadly, Ewoks.
So before you start on your next piece of artwork, do some research. Delve deep within the history of your project, art piece, or animation and uncover hidden truths, conspiracies, and untold stories.
Joseph Campbell’s book The Power of Myth assisted me in my quest to find a simple yet effective storyline. Perhaps you too will gain some powerful insight into your next adventure! Check out YouTube for segments of the brilliant 1988 PBS interview with Bill Moyers.
Brace yourself for some good clean fun and get ready to showcase your creativity!
Start sketching, rendering and animating – This month Smith Micro is looking for you to create your best image or video inspired by the theme of RAGE.
Give us your finest visual interpretation of rage. Just think of the last time your neighbor left you a nasty note on your car, demanding you quit parking in their “private” spot, even though you share parking on a public street. Think back to your body’s reaction: blood boiling, body tingling with RAGE, your fist clamping down like a Rottweiler’s jaw on the note your neighbor wrote you. Don’t let the the rage virus from 28 Days Later come over you… Just step away from the computer and come back to it.
All image and video submissions must be submitted here: http://my.smithmicro.com/gallery/ Deadline to submit is April 30, 2013.
Selected artwork will be featured in an upcoming blog post in May!
Chose your program wisely and get ready… get set… GO!