Art book featuring Dan Brereton's creation, the Nocturnals. 176 pages, full color hard cover, with a four page fold out. Nine by twelve inches.
What do you use? Is that gouache, acrylic, watercolor?
How long does it take you to do a page?
Do you use photo-reference?
These are just a few questions I get asked many many times at comic conventions about how I work and what tools and medium I use ... let me give you a run-down.
Strathmore 2-ply bristol, 500 series, plate or regular finish. I love this paper: it's the right weight, has an excellent surface that takes a beating, and I use it for pages, covers and most pin-ups.
Usually synthetic sable. The real deal doesn't stand up to the beating I give brushes. I go through them pretty fast. The sizes range from a size 1 on up to the wide, flat watercolor brushes. I prefer Windsor-Newton brushes, but if something works, I'm not picky.
Watercolor, Windsor-Newton or Cotman. I buy the big expensive watercolor tubes and favorite colors include Brown Madder, Cadmium Orange, Payne's Gray, Gold green, Gold Ochre, Purple Lake, VanDyke Brown, Olive Green. I also use Dr. Martin's (not to be confused with the work boots) watercolor dyes. They provide great hues, and I can mix them with the Windsor-Newton pigments. They are said to be easy-fading, but I have never had that problem with them, but then again, I don't put my art in direct sunlight for any reason. Favorite colors include Scarlet Lake, Olive Green, Turquoise Blue, Emerald Green Light, Red Sienna ...
It's a white-paint medium used with acrylic paints, and it makes a great white pigment and can mix well with watercolors or can be used to cover a surface when you SCREW UP! I use it a lot to punch-up highlights or to do smoother textures or diffuse watercolor washes and soften them up.
Berol prismacolor usually, and I try to use them sparingly. I used to noodle too much with pencil over the paintings, but these days I use them more sparingly for accents or small details. (I always sign my paintings with colored pencil.)
A mechanical drafting lead holder, with 2H leads is the pencil of choice for me. I try not to over work pencils, instead using them to block out shapes or define tight details. There are no full-value renderings going on under the paint: that's all done in the painting process.
START TO FINISH
A page or a cover begins with a rough or a thumbnail sketch, very loose, that serves to give the idea for composition and design; lighting, etc. ... there are rarely detailed pencil drawings, and many times are done in a pilot pen. My layouts are a scribbly mess and I'm constantly surprised when my editors (claim to) decipher them.
From the rough stage, I will shoot reference using a friend or family member as a model, working from my roughs. I light them, pose them and try to inspire them to give me something I can work with: many times, things I haven't yet worked out in a rough sketch will make themselves clear in the photo-ref stage.
After I shoot the ref and get it developed, I'll do a tight blueprint-like pencil drawing, tight and spare on the board I'm going to paint on. From that point on, the board gets taped down to my drawing board (titled at a 25% angle or thereabouts) using a combination of white paper tape, plastic packing tape (the packing tape is strong: you use it over the paper tape, not directly on the board surface -- that way lies madness and tearing) and sometimes masking tape. I use a 1/4 inch wide white paper tape for the panel borders, when needed.
In the painting stages I begin with a simple and transparent wash of a bright color, usually either blue or orange. I let this dry. The wash of color will help pull the colors together I'll add later to give a quality of temperature to the light sources (cool light, warm light, what ever is needed).
After the board is dry and tight on the table, I start the real painting. Beginning with the medium-dark values, I block in the shadow areas first, rather than starting light-to-dark. The painting comes into focus much more rapidly this way, and I can work out from the darks to the lights. If I screw something up , I can lift what I can using a watered-down brush, and what I can't remove or pick off, I'll cover with gesso or a watercolor-gesso mix.
An interior page can take anywhere from 4 to 16 hours, depending on what's going on on the page. The average page takes 6-8 hours. Cover paintings can take me anywhere from 8 to 20 hours, but I can usually get either a page or cover done in a night if I don't screw-off, and I buckle down and work.
Watercolor tends to be a fast medium, and that's one of the reasons I like it. I also like that I can use the same paints on a palette over and over because wetting the paint gets it ready to go again, whereas using acrylics means laying down a new palette of fresh paint every night. Oils? Forget it. I never had the time or the money in art school to experiment with them, which is regrettable, but I'd never use them to paint comic book pages, regardless, because the idea seems totally ridiculous to me ... it's silly enough that I use watercolor to paint comic books, as it is ...
I don't know if I consider all this "technique", to be honest, its more just the way I've taught myself to work over the last 12 years that doesn't end up in disaster! It's more a survival plan than a perfected way of working ...
Many people ask about style. Style is something that differentiates one artist's work from another, but can you plan or craft it? I'm sure some artists think they can, but I believe you can't craft style anymore than you can change your personality. Style is opinion, it's character. It's your signature, the thing that defines you regardless of how hard you might try to disguise it. Everyone has style, but it tends to come out when you're most comfortable with your art. To have a distinctive style, I don't believe one needs to be skilled, just passionate.