I get requests for commissioned art from time to time. It’s a fun break from the normal comic book grind, and I usually get a chance to do something I likely never would do otherwise.
I recently completed a piece for someone and although I normally never do licensed characters, I just couldn’t turn down doing a Superman painting for a boy about to turn three years old.
I thought about what to do for a while and I thought it’d be fun to do a painting that looked like it was from a comic book. Before I started on this, I thought it’d be fun to take pictures and chronicle the process.
Since I was doing a comic book page, I figured I may as well use comic book paper. Most professionals use 11 x 17 (or so) bristol board. I normally use bristol board so the paper itself was something I was used to but the dimensions were not as familiar.
Next up were the tools I’d use: Micron pens, brush, and of course White Out. I really should switch to white tempra paint since it’s difficult to paint or ink over stuff that was whited-out.
I did a few thumbnails and settled on a three panel page. I wanted to show the transformation of Clark Kent into Superman and see if I could boil the essence of Superman into three simple frames. This is the second panel where Clark rips open his shirt to reveal the iconic “S”.
Then I started to ink the second panel. I tend to jump around a lot on a page. Sometimes I start with inking the hardest part (that way I do not have to waste a lot of time if I screw up and have to start over, but sometimes I also start with the most fun part. This time was the former. It’s hard getting that pose right.
At this point I was pretty sure I hated the drawing so far, but I kept moving forward to see if I could turn it around. I was pretty sure this would end up in the trash, mostly because his head looks way too tiny, and just not heroic enough. Despite my hatred of the the panel, I moved onto other parts of the drawing and inked the word balloon and exclamation mark in the top panel…
And then I got to penciling the third panel. I love how this turned out and started to think about how I could save the page despite the horrible second panel. Re-energized by the third panel, I got to inking the first panel again. But doubt started to creep in again, Clark seemed too different in the first and second panels….
I wrapped up inking the top panel and although it looked okay…I realized that the crosshatching probably wouldn’t look good when I would paint it. I guess I’m too used to working in only black and white.
By now the differences in the top two panels really started to bug me especially the tiny head on Clark Kent in the second panel. I thought I’d black in the background behind him and try to reduce his body to make his head a little more proportioned.
I was disappointed to start over since I liked the third panel so much so I decided to start with penciling and inking the third panel first, and make Superman/Clark Kent a little more stylized and cartoony. I think I nailed it.
Yeah! I loved how this was turning out now. I got working on the second panel as it was probably going to be tricky. Superman’s “S” is actually really hard to get right but I chose to go with the Golden Age version because it looks so cool.
It’s tricky for me to draw people with glasses, which is why Uptown Girl and everyone she knows has either 20/20 vision, wears contacts or has had Lasik. But this time around I left Clark’s glasses free of pupils. His left arm looks kind of awkward here but I thought there needed to be something to balance the panel out a bit so I threw a copy of “The Daily Plane” in there.
All right, I was finally finished with the drawing, I just had the painting left.
But before I’d start the painting, a side by side comparison to make sure that I still hated the first version compared to the second. Yep, still hate it.
I actually use colored ink to color most of my projects that aren’t in black and white. I like using ink since it dries quickly and you get a lot of variance with watering it down and mixing it.
I’m not Alex Ross, so I can’t afford to hire a model to pose for me so I can make sure I can the details right, so I have a Superman action figure to make sure I get everything perfect.
Then I moved onto yellow since I like working with bright colors and was excited to see how it would look with the red. Looks pretty good, I think.
Then my daughter Sophie came to see what I was doing.
I was loving the painting and I thought it was as close to the painting in my mind as I was going to get. I needed to thicken some of the black lines and re-ink the lines that got a little washed out in the coloring process. For the word balloons and lettering I used a thick Sharpie marker. A little crude but it worked.
And the last panel.
So that’s the process. From first version to final, this took about three hours. It was a nice break from comics and I had a lot of working on it.