Character Sketch. Playing with my Cintiq 16HD

dwarf concept sketch

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I’m a clumsy digital artist. I have a lot to learn, but I’m certainly enjoying the process. I doodled this character in pencil yesterday and snapped a photo of the sketch that I subsequently opened in Photoshop and colored using my Cintiq 16HD display tablet. There’s a lot I’d like to improve, but the process is fun.

Sketchbook Sketch.

Learning the shortcut keys in photoshop so you can manipulate your tools without taking your eyes and attention of your drawing is key. Without the shortcut keys you find yourself breaking your concentration and making entries to change tools constantly. My most used shortcuts are:

  • B for the brush tool
  • I for the eye dropper tool
  • R to rotate the canvas
  • Z to zoom in and out by dragging the pen left and right
  • L for the lasso tool
  • E for the eraser tool
  • the space bar for the move tool

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Movie Poster

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I went to see How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World last weekend. This movie, the third (and final?) film in the series, wraps up Hiccup and Toothless’s adventures fighting dragon hunters and blending viking and dragon lives. I’ll say right up front that I loved the movie.

The first film remains my favorite. There was a loose energy to the film that the subsequent films don’t have. It probably has something to do with the first film being done very quickly with a comparatively low budget. The second film was visually pretty great, but the story was choppy and not spectacular. Fortunately, the third film brings everything together nicely. As you might expect with advances in CGI and animation techniques, this most recent film is visually spectacular. Without spoilers, lets just say the dragon breath, slobber, and other visuals are outstanding. Oh, and go see it in Real D 3D on a big screen. It’s worth it.

The movie picks up where the second left off. Hiccup and his clan are still living peacefully with dragons, but as Hiccup and his crew work to rescue more dragons from hunters, Berk is near bursting with dragon overcrowding. Things get complicated quickly when a new villain shows up on the scene intent on catching and killing Toothless. That’s all I’ll say about the story because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but if you’re not sure about it, just watch this trailer:

Of course, animated films usually come with an assortment of toys and other products that capitalize on a film’s popularity. I don’t usually care about any of those things, but this particular film series does have an “Art of” book dedicated to each film. The insights in these books are fascinating to me.

I enjoy getting a glimpse at the concept work that went into these movies. I particularly like the dragon designs and animation. Toothless for example acts a bit like a dog, a bit like a cat, and who knows what other mannerisms blended into the character. I also like that the dragons come in many shapes and sizes. Some are comical, some are big and hulking, some are relatively tiny, but all of them are original. I’ve kicked around drawing many of the dragon concepts in a more ‘serious’ or ‘menacing’ style. It’s a project on the to do list. You can check out the art books for yourself here:

Frank Frazetta Book Review – Rough Work

Frank Frazetta Book Review Lead Image - Rough Work Interior Art

Frank Frazetta Book Review – Rough Work: Concept Art, Doodles, and Sketchbook Drawings

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It’s been a while since I published a book review and I thought I’d do another Frank Frazetta book review. This time, I pulled Rough Work: concept Art, Doodles, and Sketchbook Drawings by Frank Frazetta off my shelf. I have a bunch of Frazetta art books, but this one ranks high among my favorites. It’s a great look into Frazetta’s process. Most artists, myself included, enjoy looking at other artists’ sketches and doodles. This book is our chance to do that to Frank Frazetta’s sketchbooks.


Frank Frazetta Book Review - Rough Work Interior Title Page
Rough Work Interior Title Page

The book is about 128 pages and a smaller format than some other Frazetta booksat 6 x 9 inches. It has a padded soft-touch cover that features one of the more famous paintings of Kane, a legendary character from Author Karl Edward Wagner. (If you haven’t read the Kane stories, check out this eBook collection or click here if you want used paper books. Sadly, much of the Karl Edward Wagner stuff is long out of print. )

Frank Frazetta Book Review Lead Image - Rough Work Intro Pages
Rough Work Intro Pages

Almost the entire book is just pictures. The introduction consists of about 8 pages of text. After that, it’s all artwork. Most pages are a combination of full page illustrations or roughs, to random sketchbook pages and doodles, to more finished drawings.

The Good Stuff

Frank Frazetta Book Review Lead Image - Rough Work Intro Pages
Rough Work Intro Pages

I really like Frazetta’s ink drawings. Here’s an example of a great, dynamic male with a typical, voluptuous Frazetta style female.

Frank Frazetta Book Review Lead Image - Rough Work Intro Pages
Rough Work Interior Pages
Rough Work Interior Pages
Rough Work Interior Pages

These color roughs are fun to look at. For Frazetta these amount to basic sketches, but for many of us they’re complicated examples of light and shadows and palette choices.

Rough Work Interior Pages
Rough Work Interior Pages
Rough Work Interior Pages
More Interior Pages–I particularly like the pen and ink drawing on the right

Thanks for reading this Frank Frazetta book review. Rough Work is a fantastic addition to any Frazetta fan’s collection. I’ll review Icon: A Retrospective by the Grand Master of Fantastic Art next time. If you liked this review, check out my other book reviews.

New Toy: Sprung for a Wacom Cintiq 16HD

Wacom Cintiq 16

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Some years ago, I owned a Wacom Cintiq 13HD. I liked having a pen display quite a bit. Not having the hand-eye coordination issues of drawing on a tablet like my Wacom Intuos Pro and having to look at a separate screen was great. However, I didn’t feel like I had enough room on the 13″ display.

A few weeks ago, I visited the Wacom Discovery Center in Portland and got to play around with all of Wacom’s current products. I really liked the massive Wacom Cintiq Pro 32″ and 24″ but they’re a little overkill for me right now. So, instead, I bought the 16″ Cintiq that Wacom released recently. It lacks touch controls and doesn’t come with the Express Key Remote (although they are compatible), but it’s entry level price is pretty great by comparison to the larger tablets. Wacom’s new Pro Pen 2 with over 8000 pressure levels is included, however. The display connects with a 3-in-1 cable, so you need an HDMI port and a USB port to connect it to your computer. I use a late 2013 MacBook Pro, so I have these conveniently located on the right side.

Barbarian Character for an old D&D Game. Affectionately named Groo after Sergio Aragone’s Comic Series.

I’ll post a more comprehensive review in the near future. For now, enjoy this little clumsy doodle that I drew on my old 13″ Cintiq.

My First Warmachine & Hordes Game In Years

Trollblood vs. Cygnar

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I played my first table top war-game in years yesterday. I used to be a decent Trollbloods player in Warmachine and Hordes (2nd Edition), but dropped gaming about five years ago. Since I stopped playing the folks at Privateer Press released a third edition of the game and made some decent improvements.

Luckily, I found a local player with damn near every miniature in the game, and he kindly let me use his models for a quick refresher game. I chose my old favorite army, built a quick 75 point list (without any real tactical consideration), and went to war.

Of course, Josh’s Cygnar force made short work of my force, but I did do some damage. The game lasted about three hours, which is long for a Warmachine/Hordes game, but I was rusty and Josh explained new rules and old ones that I’d forgotten, so it took extra time.

I had a blast (getting blasted to smithereens) and will play again soon. I’ve already started scheming a few themed force lists for the blue-skinned brawlers. Of course, I’m way more interested in the ‘fluff’ and imagery than actual tournament-style supremacy. So, I’ll build my army (armies?) around looks and style.

Trollblood Warlock: Gunnbjorn (Privateer Press Product Photo)
Dozer and Smigg. Trollblood Character Warbeast. Privateer Press Product Photo.

That said, I think I’ll start with Gunnbjorn and Dozer and Smigg, because face it, they look awesome. The starter box for Trollbloods is a decent deal and the warcaster model is pretty cool, so that’s on the shopping list too. If I go completely nuts, I might buy the Northkin army. Here goes that slippery slope.

Figure Drawing Friday, 22 Feb 19

Figure Drawing

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For this week’s figure Friday, I’m reaching way back into the archives. This drawing is about ten years old. It was one of those days where I surprised myself with this particular drawing. The likeness of the model is actually pretty good, although I made him look a bit younger than he actually was. I’m also pleased with the gesture of the pose and the weight of the models slight forward lean. This is a simple drawing done in a hardcover Strathmore sketchbook with pencil.

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel

I went to see Alita: Battle Angel over the weekend and it’s fantastic. Go see the IMAX 3D version. Robert Rodriguez did a fantastic job adapting Yukito Kishiro’s manga series into a live action feature film. In case you haven’t heard of it, watch the trailer below:

I’ve been an fan of the series in comic/manga for since the 90s. Kishiro is a highly regarded illustrator that rose to prominence at the age of 17 when he released his first manga series. The Alita series is his best known work and if you want all of it in one sweet box, you can buy the collected deluxe edition here.

Great Find: Tales From The SpacePort Bar


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I stumbled into my local used bookstore yesterday and found this little gem of a book: Tales From the SpacePort Bar, by George H Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer.  is a collection of short stories. Each short story involves bar patrons spinning tales. The entire collection has a science fiction theme, as you’d expect based on the title.

The author list is a veritable who’s who of science fiction authors and includes: Larry Niven, Henry Kuttner, Isaac Asimov, Darrell Schweizer, Roger Zelazny, Spider Robinson, Janet O. Jeppson, and others. There are 22 stories in the book. You can pick up a used copy here. Unfortunately, it is not available as an e-book.

I ordered the sequel, Another Round at the Spaceport Bar, this morning–also used and unavailable as an ebook. If you like classic science fiction, I’d recommend picking up both while you can.

Amazon Links: Tales From The Spaceport Bar, Another Round at the Spaceport Bar

Figure Drawing Friday, February 8th 2019

5 Minute Drawing

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Here we are again on Figure Drawing Friday. This is a 5 minute short pose drawing. I’m pleased with the overall gesture and the lighting, particularly the shadow of the staff (broomstick) across the model’s shoulders. I’m less than pleased with the claw that is her left hand. When I draw short poses like this, I usually focus on the large parts of the body and generally just use a squiggle or two to imply the hands or fine details.

The finer details like hands and facial features take time to get right, A quick sketch representation of details like this works well in a short pose. However, once the drawing is done, or the time is up, you only have a squiggle where a key part of the drawing should be. Hands are as important in communicating as the face is.

This drawing is on smooth newsprint. I used 6B 5.6mm graphite in my favorite 5.6mm lead holder.