Black Snow Comics contributor and Back Office/Bata Neart creator Mark Egan sent me a challenge on Facebook last week. Create and share 3 pieces of art each day for 5 days while nominating someone else to do the same each day. Pretty simple, right? Maybe not.
While 3 drawings a day doesn’t sound like all that much in some respects, it really is a lot if you are trying to produce something that is complete (not just a rough sketch) and good enough to share with the world. Plus it’s not like I had some vacation from my regular job and family duties, so I didn’t just have a bunch of open time to work on these. Oh, and I can be a notoriously slow drawer who has not really been producing much so far this year beyond working on the first scene of Another Round and drawing a cat picture for my wife’s Valentine’s Day gift.
So while this may not have been too hard for a more prolific artist, it was indeed a challenge for me. But I did finish it, and let’s take a look at the results.
I’m not the most nostalgic guy in the world, but I thought I’d spend the first day drawing some of the video game characters that inspired to draw as a child. First we have the villainous purple tentacle from Day of the Tentacle, the sequel to Maniac Mansion. While I by in large grew up on Nintendo and Sega games (and Playstation when that came around), I did have a fair amount of computer games as well. Point and click was my favorite genre to play on the computer and Day of the Tentacle was my favorite game of the bunch. The hilarious dialogue, insane time traveling situations, and Looney Tunes like aesthetics really won me over. And I liked to draw the characters from it, though usually the human characters, not the tentacles. So this was a lot of fun to draw, and came to me pretty easily.
Next up is Earthworm Jim. While the game itself (and the sequel) was kind of punishing (especially those underwater levels!) it was also absurdly funny and bizarre. I used to draw this guy quite a bit, and I even remember drawing this exact pose. So that was fun to revisit and draw on a digital medium for the first time.
Last we’ve got Yoshi and Baby Mario from the original Yoshi’s Island. I remember reading about this game for months in Nintendo Power magazine before it came out, and just falling in love with the art style. The hand drawn story book style blew my little mind, plus the promotional drawings that accompanied the stories. In particular I remember seeing some character production sketches and feeling like I had peaked behind some sacred curtain. Plus the game ended up being amazing, and one I continue to go back and replay to this day. So this was fun to draw too.
I could have gone on drawing my childhood influences for all 15 of these drawings, but I thought that would get pretty redundant and it wouldn’t really push me as an artist. Instead I wanted to try and come up with something new each day. So for day 2 I focused on my other interests.
I’ve kept pet lizards since about the age of seven. There’s rarely been a time where I haven’t had at least one, but usually more like four or five. And I’ve kept a ton of different types. Geckos are my main species that I enjoy. But currently I have two Bearded Dragons, and a Veiled Chameleon. The Chameleon was actually an adoption because his previous owners did not take proper care of him and he developed a severe case of Metabolic Bone Disease. The little guy was on the verge of death, but I’m very happy to say with the help of my son we’ve been able to nurse him back health these days. But I decided to draw a Bearded Dragon. They are a very recognizable and popular lizard, so I thought it would be a fun choice. Really I could have drawn more types, but again I wanted to have a good variety of subjects. Though I’m still considering drawing more for some prints.
Here’s a fun fact, I once toyed with the idea of starting a comic strip about reptiles (and amphibians, to a lesser extent). I was going to call it Scales and it would be a single panel gag strip that would include a fact about the species being featured under the cartoon. I thought it could be a regular feature in Reptile Magazine, and get some attention in the herp community. But like many of my comic ideas (I get a lot) I never followed through on this.
Next up is a Day of the Dead style portrait of a man in make up. This is probably my favorite thing I produced in the challenge. I’ve long been a fan of this art style, and have a small collection of it. I like to pick up ceramic tiles with this art style on it, amongst other things. Similarly I have ambitions of starting a comic with this style some day, but the idea has not been as fleshed out as that lizard one. What exactly is it that I enjoy about this art? I’m not sure. The striking macabre visuals usually presented in cheerful situations is just something that attracts me.
Last up is a Tiki version of Black Snow. I’ve loved Tikis since I was a little kid. I started collecting them on my first trip to Hawaii, and have quite a few now. I’ve read a lot of the lore about the gods they represent. As a teenager I got really into all things Hawaii (and earned my Hawaiian Mike nickname), especially the shirts! I also started listening to surf music, and discovered more about the Tiki style of art as it’s depicted in drawings and paintings. As an adult I’m still into it, and seek out Tiki bars, read books on the subject, and listen to old Tiki music. But I haven’t drawn a lot of it. So this really fun to dip into that whole world just a little bit, and something I’d like to do more of. Somehow I always wanted to work it into Black Snow, which doesn’t make a ton of sense given it’s snowy Detroit setting. So I thought it would be fun to draw him as a Tiki.
I decided day three would focus on the macabre, and the original idea was going to be killers throughout history. The dark and paranormal fascinated me as a kid, and still holds some interest today, so it was fun to indulge it here. First up is Jack the Ripper. I’ve always been fascinated by this guy, and have in fact sketched him (in doodles) several times in the past. There is something very striking about the whole case and what we visually think of him. And I really like the way this one turned out. The shadowing looks cool and goes a long way towards creating that foggy London feel. Setting has never been my strong suit, but if you are going to draw Jack the Ripper he should probably be on the streets of London!
Another fun fact, originally we talked about incorporating a time travel aspect into the Black Snow comic books, and I really wanted to get Jack the Ripper involved in there as a character at some point.
Next up is an old western style outlaw forcing you to stare down the barrels of a shot gun. The old west is really interesting, both the actually history and the mythical one we’ve created. Another comic idea I haven’t acted on (and Alex was actually interested in doing) is a paranormal investigator in the old west, though that has kind o morphed into the ongoing bedtime stories I tell my son. There aren’t a ton of comics set in the old west, so I like to pick them up whenever I see a new one. I like the way this drawing turned out too. I think it has a visceral quality that draws you in. I have no memory of how the character came about, but I really enjoyed drawing Six Shot in the Black Snow comics books, and would like to see him return in the graphic novels.
Last up is this voodoo doll. Originally I was thinking of drawing a voodoo priest, but it was just not clicking for me at the time. Voodoo is one of those weird things that I find interesting, but don’t know a lot about. I know what I’ve seen in documentaries and the way it’s been depicted in movies, but it still feels pretty mysterious. And the voodoo doll is a great visual icon. This drawing seemed like it got more attention than any other in the challenge, as people really were drawn to it for some reason. It was the clear cut favorite. And it was probably the easiest to draw! In truth I was buzzed on whine when I drew it. Maybe it’s the bright colors and whimsical cartoon style of it all.
We did feature some voodoo in the Black Snow comic books courtesy of villain Kannibal Karl. Like Six Shot, he was a lot of fun to both write and draw. But he probably should not appear in the graphic novels.
For day 4 I was running low on time and inspiration. Someone on the Facebook page suggested I draw the handicap symbol with lasers coming out of its cyclops eyes or something to that effect, and while I didn’t want to do that exactly I did like the idea of playing with the handicap signal. So I added a jetpack to the wheelchair. It made me laugh. And I’ve always found the word handicapable to be ridiculous. This idea of changing the stereotype of the handicap is admirable, though I find the execution to be incredibly clunky and ineffective. To me it kind of epitomizes the 90’s tendency to go overboard with political correctness.
Then we have a sad, drunken Black Snow drawn in black and white. I’m surprised it took me until day 4 to revert to my go to drawing. I have drawn variations of this image more times than anything else in my life. I’ve sketched it countless times, drew it very regularly in the comic books, worked it into multiple comic strips, and of course it is a big part of the graphic novel. Why do I keep drawing this depressed boozehound of a super hero? I don’t know. I guess it is his most obvious defining trait. And one that evokes sympathy, if not empathy, for the character. I find it a fascinating image, though over the years I’ve come to believe it doesn’t elicit the same interest in most people. Good thing I built multiple comics around it. Doh!
As far as my sad drunk super hero drawings go, this one is pretty good. I like the simplicity of the black and white, and how dark it is overall. It’s sort of a minimalist approach, and I think it works.
Last up, I decided since everyone liked the voodoo doll so much I’d follow it up with something similar that I found evocative, shrunken heads. This was fun to draw, and I like the use of colors. Surprisingly I don’t remember drawing shrunken heads before (or voodoo dolls, for that matter) though it seems right up my alley as a kid. This, the Tiki and the voodoo doll all feature a similar brightly colored, askew background that doesn’t fit the whole image in it. I love that type of background and have tried to work it into my comics, with limited success. It partially inspired the Black Snow logo, with its crooked boxes and letters. I also tried a variation of it with the abstract backgrounds at the beginning of I’m Famous! and did it in black and white on some of the Black Snow comic books. I can’t tell you exactly what it is I like about it, and I associate it with the Tiki art style, but I just like it.
For the last day I thought I’d simultaneously throw myself a softball and celebrate my favorite creation, the Lone Wolf. So I drew all three versions of him. That is to say his original form from the comic books and his comic strip, his re-imagined manga form created by Mark Egan for the mini strip, and his redesign for the graphic novel. And it felt weird to do.
I’ve drawn the Lone Wolf a lot, but for whatever reason I’ve never felt fully comfortable doing it. Maybe because he is my favorite character I feel some pressure to do it right. Maybe it’s because he is such a weirdo that I always want to try and work in his arrogance, vapidness and eccentricities with an underlying tone of something more clever and sinister. I don’t know. But he is hard to draw.
It was strange to go back and draw his I’m Famous! like appearance after not doing it for so long. I felt almost like I was imitating myself! And man, what a pain it was to draw… All that white space I had to leave for his muscle definition. Ugh. It also let me look at the character design with somewhat fresh eyes. What a bizarre looking guy. I don’t know how I ever came up with such a strange thing. No wonder Larry Marder liked it. I think he is meant to be both an impressive physical specimen and the epitome of wackiness. Not mutually exclusive, but not the easiest thing to pull off. I think I was largely inspired by the Tick.
Next up I drew Mark Egan’s version of the Lone Wolf. A lot skinnier, large gloves and boots, and a vary angular style to it all. It was fun. Manga is not my thing, but it is fun to imitate at times. I drew one of my favorite moments from I’m Famous in Japan!, a petulant Lone Wolf sitting down and blocking the people mover at the airport upon his arrival in the country. The iconic image of the strip, if you ask me. Plus it was something very different than what I’d be drawing with the other versions.
Last up was the suave new look Lone Wolf sports in the graphic novels. When we relaunched Black Snow it gave me an opportunity to rethink my favorite character and his design. You can read more about it on this old post. But basically the character had evolved a bit from his original intent, which I recall was something of a Captain Amazing inspired character, into something else. I feel like this new look fits him a lot better. He’s good looking and knows it. He uses it. He accentuates his showmanship with an outfit more appropriate for a magician than a super hero. He exudes confidence, while retaining some of the dandy aspects that the character displayed in the comic books. All while hinting at something else under the surface. So I’m very happy with it.
Of course this day didn’t get the attention of the other days, since it was all original characters. You have know idea how disappointing it is to continually experience that people don’t usually want anything new, they’d much rather have something familiar. At the very least they want something derivative. So until your original characters somehow become something they are familiar with they are always going to be more interested in your drawings of other peoples’ creations.
The sad thing is I enjoyed drawing the other things more than my own characters for this challenge. Maybe just because it’s something different than what I normally do. I don’t know. But it has given me some food for thought. More on that later.
Overall the challenge was a lot of fun, and I’d recommend it to any artist out there. I hope you enjoyed it.
Oh, and all the drawings are for sale as art prints on DevianArt at http://blacksnowcomics.deviantart.com/prints/