Friday, December 28, 2007

THE DARK KNIGHT

I hope you all had a Merry Xmas. Apart from my sister's absence and too much nagging and many pep talks from my parents, I had a great, (sort of) relaxing Xmas. The highlight of which, I finally got to do some writing. I've been working on a proposal for Roger, and my good friend, Alex (who is a professional editor, my longest friend and all-round sorta good guy) had a look of it. Taking all his feedback on board I finally got around to re-working the proposal. I also wrote the script for the first issue, and I'm incredibly excited by how well it turned out. It dialed the whole idea up to eleven. I'm waiting with baited breath for Alex's final thoughts before I send it onto Roger.

In the meantime, here's a Xmas present I worked on for one of the trainers I used to work with called Beau. I accidentally bumped into Beau's girlfriend, Lucy at a train station and she mentioned she was looking for a Batman print for Beau. Given I wouldn't have time to work on one, could I recommend where to buy one? I mentioned that not only would I have time to work on it, I would love to work on it. The best thing was that Beau would never know what was going on as our meeting had been a total chance encounter. What a great surprise!

So thus began torrent of emails back and forward.

THE FINAL SKETCH:

I sent her a bunch of layout sketches, and after some deliberation we agreed on this which was actually the amalgam of three other layouts. We liked the idea of the rain, the three quarter menacing pose and the old Gotham rooftop. Lucy really liked the idea of the Bat-symbol and stressed emphasizing the muscles as "Beau loves the muscles!"

THE FOREGROUND LINEWORK

The next stage was the foreground line art. I had a bunch of goals as I drew this. I had done all my cowl studies when I drew the portrait of the Dark Knight for Ororo, so it was figuring out how the costume works. First up, he has to look REAL. While I applaud the stylistic choices in BATMAN BEGINS, my Batman has to look like a guy in tights. It's classic and it's what I like. Clark Bantram and Sandy Collora proved that it works in BATMAN: DEAD END (please check this out if you haven't seen it). As you can see, my line work is simplistic and merely indicative of form and shape. I had great fun doing some research finding obscure, fun and convincing things to put on the top of the roof. I moved the cape back over his shoulder so we could see the muscles on his arm more. It made him more powerful and less elusive.

BACKGROUND LINEWORK:


Next up I added the city elements. Lucy really wanted to see Gotham city. I found a bunch of skylines as reference and used them as the basis of what I wanted to create. I was looking for an epic, dark urban jungle sprawling into the distance. It may be a silhouette, but all those damn windows are drawn by hand. The trick was to make sure that Batman was the tallest most dominating element in the composition.

TONED FIGUREHere's where I have the most fun. This for me is where the magic happens. As I mentioned, the line work is merely indicative of what I want. It's shadow, form and lighting that breathe life into a piece for me. I researched billowing sheets, capes and cloaks for ages. I have a tendency to fall back to the Todd McFarlane "Spawn" style cape when I'm not concentrating. I love that look, but it's stylistic, not realistic. As I mentioned, I wanted this to be as realistic as possible. Finally I was able to cobble about three different photos into a good reference base for me. I was one step away from going outside with a sheet and hoping for a windy day. My favourite part is the cloak billowing between his legs. It has such a convincing reality to me.

CLOSEUP COWL
I really enjoyed exploring the different textures on the costume. The gloves, shorts, boots and cowl are all meant to be a shiny almost armoured, pvc-like material. The cape is a slightly more matte texture, as you don't want something shiny trying to hide you in shadows. I've included a closeup of the cowl and chest so you can see the detail. The symbol is raised and embossed with a shiny black texture. The cowl has large eye holes (so he has full vision). Screw the tiny eye-slits. I used to have a Batman mask (don't ask) and you can't see jack in it.

FOREGROUND TONE

I then moved onto the more mundane task of toning the background. I was aware that previous pieces had been a little too airbrush happy as I hadn't figured out my lighting beforehand. Keeping that in mind I was very careful to render the lighting and textures as accurately as I could so that only minimal airbrushing would be needed.

BACKGROUND PHOTO TEXTURE INSERTS

To finish off the toning of the background I scanned in some textures. Here's some very manipulated clouds which gave me some colour. Studying some night city skylines I worked up a reddish glow down the bottom to help merge it with my idea for the city's lights reflecting off the clouds. You can see here that the ground is a fun manipulated wet texture. The grating is something I found and just adjusted the perspective. I knew I was going to add steam over the top of these so I figured a scanned in texture would do the trick. I needed to have something there, so as I pulled steam away we could still see something lurking beneath rather than just flat black emptiness.

CITY RENDERING
Lucy wanted Batman to be as noir and desaturated as possible. I mean, let's face it, he's black and grey with some yellow on him. But in order to merge him into the background, I thought I should do the background colour elements first. The city itself is a combination of hand painting every damn window, painting in a whole bunch of manipulated city textures, and light airbrushing to create the glow from the streets at night.

FOREGROUND COLOUR:
I added a very subtle red glow to Batman's left side to merge him into the city. It also helped make him more three dimensional. I added very subtle colour elements to the foreground roof elements. As Batman is pretty much colourless, I didn't want any bright colour elements distracting us from him. As such, the palette is muted. I added some subtle red reflections on the rear elements to tie them into the city in the background. I created the Batsymbol separately and it is a combination of layer effects and subtle perspective distortion to overlay it onto the clouds above Gotham.

STEAM EFFECT
Right from the sketch I knew I wanted Batman standing on top of a steam vent. For all his seriousness, Batman is extraordinarily theatrical. Despite his no-nonsense attitude, he knows the value of showmanship to create as much fear as possible. Covering his feet lends an ethereal, non-real feeling to this powerful, aggressive figure. I knew I didn't want to do this with the airbrush. It would look fake and forced, so I created a steam texture and painted it in with the clone stamp tool. I then went in with a gentle eraser airbrush and allowed elements like the grating and more of the fold of the cape between his legs to show through.

AIRBRUSHING
As I mentioned before, I had been going overboard with the airbrush because I wasn't making effective decisions at the earlier toning stage. Having done that on this piece, I was able to keep my airbrushing to a minimum just highlighting the left side of his body and certain choice elements.

RAIN
Lucy loved the idea of the rain, and I'm glad she insisted. Her insistence made a good piece, great. I was watching Batman: Dead End and noticed that when you shoot rain at night, it fades to invisibility in the shadows and pops on the brighter elements, especially light sources. I created a rain texture and painted it over Batman on three separate layers. In the past I had used a subtle colour layer effect to unify my pictures. I found that the rain did this for me. It unified all the elements into one single piece.

CLOSEUP

Just to give you an idea of how much I think about this, here's a closeup of his utility belt. I did a bunch of research to see what everyone else was doing, but I was generally unsatisfied with previous ideas. They were usually too noisy or too simple. The locking mechanism is on the top and bottom of the buckle and both elements need to be pressed firmly to release. It is essential that it can be done with one hand. On either side of the buckle are his different gas pellets. There are five on each side. Enough for an arsenal, and few enough that you can count each by touch to figure out which one you want to use. Next to the gas pellets are his shuriken in the shape of a bat-symbol. The idea is that there should be about 5 in each clip. There is an indentation in the middle of the shuriken so Batman can flick them out with his thumb for easy access and hip throwing. The pouches are off to the side so they don't inhibit running or front kicks. They are also flexible so they don't inhibit side kicks. I figure his grappling gun is on his other hip.

The narrative behind this is it's a first person view of a criminal who has run out onto a rooftop to get away from the cops below. He's just burst onto the rooftop looking for an escape. He turns to his right and sees the Batman. Knowing that fear is his greatest weapon, the Batman has chosen where to stand for maximum dramatic effect. He's ready and poised for the coming confrontation.

I would argue that this is the best piece I've ever drawn. I love the hell out of it. It just ticks all my boxes and has turned out exactly how I wanted it to. Lucy and Beau were appreciatively impressed, and that made it even more worthwhile. Merry Xmas, Beau!

GOING AWAY PARTY: So I'm off to live in LA via London for three months. Here are the details for my going away party. Everyone's invited, even if I haven't met them! So bring em down.

FUTURE BLOGGING: I'm back on track and out the other side of the holiday woods. Expect regular posting.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: World War Z by Max Brooks. God, I loved this book. I haven't had this much fun in ages. While the son of Mel Brooks doesn't leave you gut laughing, he lacks none of his dad's wit and intelligence. It is the most brutal, realistic depiction of a zombie apocalypse I've ever seen. It knocked my socks off.

COMMISSIONS & SKETCHBOOKS: Still taking new orders. Delivery dates are moving into mid Jan. Sketchbooks (there's a photo on some post) are $10 + $2 postage in Australia and $5 overseas.

Hope you all had a great xmas!

18 comments:

Lilithia {Stef} said...

HOLY CRAP THAT PICTURE IS AMAZING.

Leshia Doucet said...

Bad. Ass. The detail in the belt (a thumb indent on the Batarangs? COME ON) kinda floored me. Awesome, awesome work.

- Leshia

CurlyMarie said...

One thing I love is how much thought you put into a character before you draw. ("Batman is theatrical. He chooses the most dramatic way to present himself in order in inspire fear and awe." or "The shape of the belt and material it's made of are designed specifically so they don't inhibit his kicking movements in a fight.") You're really interested in using your visuals to help reveal the character, and I love that.

Kelly J. Compeau said...

I agree, Jas, this is the best picture you've ever drawn. Absolutely breathtaking. Here's another one saved to my hard drive for you to sign later.

Happy New Year, love.

KJC

Ron said...

jas: strong, powerful, breathtaking..draws you in..the details are amazingly done ..the rain and steam and bat signal ... the whole thing just comes together in a way that makes it hard to take your eyes off it...btw: your invite ..cowboy on horse..Superman cape ...cool!
Happy New Year and all the best!!
Sheindie
AND: your SArmy art piece is breaking records! :) THANKS!!!!

Ororo_Munroe said...

My God man! You've really captured him! Batman has always been one of my favorite characters, because underneath that cowl is a man without super powers. Granted he has higher than norm intelligence, really cool toys and his body is a weapon.

You put this kind of passion and detail into someone else's character I can't wait to see what you do with your own.

World War Z by Max Brooks - I will take that recommendation. Have you read, The Zombie Survival Guide? WWZ is actually the second book.

pngaou said...

The detail in that piece of work is FANTASTIC! Wow.

Good luck on your new endeavors Jason! I hope everything goes your way.

begemot said...

Jason, thank you so much for everything you're doing for the SArmy out of the goodness of your heart such as giving us the script for "The Death of Hana" to auction off for the GLF. Lee just told us about it, and I wanted to extend a personal thank you.

We cannot truly express how grateful we are that you have been so incredibly supportive of us over the months with how busy your life must be with your art and now moving.

Thank you so much for being such an incredible, thoughtful, and benevolent young man. Not only does your reputation precede you, but your undying generosity does so as well.

Sincerely,

Sarah (aka Begemot Geroi & chudovishche)

SuperChris said...

hey Jason, Ororo just told me the news, i think it's amazing what you're doing! keep up the great work, the picture looks awesome!

begemot said...

Wow, Jason! You're giving us even more stuff to auction off! You really don't have to do this, but we're all so proud and happy that you are.

Everything will definitely be going to an awesome cause (www.give-life.org) and we truly appreciate it! Thank you so much for cleaning your house and helping give others a leg up when it comes to blood and organ donations. Your contributions will truly save lives.

-- Sarah

Ororo_Munroe said...

Thank you really isn't enough. Your generosity is... unbelievable. The things you are donating aren't only going to raise money. Seriously, auctioning these off will help raise awareness as well. So, as weak as it may sound... Thank you. =)

Anonymous said...

Hey Jason!

It's Lauryn from the Sarmy! I just want to thank you for giving us all this stuff to auction off! It's really going to make a difference for us!

Your generosity over the past months have been unbelievable! I thank you for that!

I hope you continue on with your much deserved success! and continue to produce awesome art!

Thanks again for donating all this stuff! You are awesome!

-Lauryn

jasonb said...

Stef: ahahaha! thank you!

leshia: Bad Ass. Ha. That was probably my nicest nickname in high school. I *love* the little details.

curly: you have to be true to the character, and when you are you make them more real.

KJC: Heya! I look forward to meeting you and signing this baby!

Ron: I'm so proud of it. I'm glad the SARMY piece is doing well. I should really post a link!

Ororo: My own character is coming up. And I think you've hit the nail on the head as to what's going to drive me. ZSGuide is next on my list! The work you guys are doing is inspirational and I'm honoured to be able to contribute.

Peter: Thanks man! Happy new year too!

Sarah: It's been a LONG time since someone called me a "young" man. But thank you. I'm grateful to have found something where I can contribute so effectively.

Superchris: Thank you! Much appreciated!

Lauryn: It's my pleasure. Every little bit helps, right? And the incredible efforts you guys put in really inspires me. But you SARMY kids have to keep hassling me for the last three designs...

Mabes said...

Jason,

Mabes here from the Sarmy!

Just wanted to stop by and tell you THANK YOU so much for everything you've done for us!!! People like you make what we are doing fun and worth while because you are so quick to help. Lee has told us what you are donating, and we cannot thank you enough!!!!

If there's anything the Sarmy can ever do for you, don't hesitate.

:)

Sincerely,
Mabes

Ron said...

hey jas... add the link lol

http://www.sylarsarmy.com/

thanks, man! ..appreciated :)
'sheindie'

Romina said...

Jason!

Thank you sooooooooooo much for donating the scripts for the Sarmy!!! they look amazing and hopefully they will help us raise more money for charity.


Thank you for your generosity and for taking the time to help us up!

Kaoz22 from Argentina :)

Elizabeth said...

I just saw Ororo's announcement about your donation of the scripts! I thought it was pretty amazing when you donated a shirt design to us [I'm wearing one of those right now, actually! :)], but this is just ground-breaking. I wish there was some better phrase than "thank you," but that's all I can come up with.

The details in your drawing blow me away. I have a few friends who consider themselves artists, but don't bother trying to learn more about a character before drawing them and their artwork comes off as rather ... fake-looking. The thought and detail you have put into this (although the cityline is actually my favorite part) are breathtaking. I might just have to save that so I can stare at it more later. :) I also really enjoyed reading your explanations behind each stage of the art as I know very little about art; I feel more informed now!

Best wishes to you this new year!

- Elizabeth

baldbobbo said...

Very very very good. Love it.