two pages of an unwritten book
by Rosaire Appel

Teaching with Abstract Comics

Good morning, students. 

Here are a couple examples I've found (thanks to Google Alerts) of Abstract Comics being used in classrooms:

#1: This was posted by Jonita Griffith, an art teacher in Astoria, New York, who had her class make abstract comics:

Here's one sample:

#2: Some pieces from the book, along with questions about those pieces, are being used for an Art Appreciation class taught by Ruth Meredith at Lewis University, Chicago: 

Link to the pdf:

#3: In case you missed this when it was posted back in February 2010, here is an article about high school students in Moscow, Russia who were inspired by the anthology to make their own abstract comics:

See more photos and download the pdf here:

P.S. If you are a teacher who is working with abstract comics in your class, please feel free to contact me at: getsiv(at)ipinc(dot)net and let me know if you want your example posted here. 

Ode to an Aging Rock Critic

Not so long ago, I wrote a number of freelance concert reviews for a local music blog. It was a pretty sweet gig: see a show for free, take a few blurry photos, and scribble notes during the set like a true music expert. After returning home from the bar/club/hipster lair, I would transcribe my scribblings into an overly-detailed account of the performance. 

The review was due at 8 AM the morning after the concert. Sometimes I wouldn't finish writing until after 4 AM. Then I'd lay awake in bed, physically exhausted, my mind still lit up with journalistic prose. This was the closest I came in school to pulling an all-nighter. Weeks later, a small paycheck would arrive in the mail. I have no idea if anyone besides my editor ever read the reviews. I did get to see some great bands for free, though. And some terrible bands. 

Sails again

But on a light box. See the original comic here. I've actually posted the original here as well a while back.

How to Get Ideas

This is a problem that any self-proclaimed creative person without a daily regimen of psychotropic drugs has experienced. The search for a great idea can be incredibly frustrating, like trying to force two unlike species to breed. 
Further reading:
Elizabeth Gilbert on the concept of "genius." (Yes, that Elizabeth Gilbert.)
Richard Thompson on where he gets his sublime ideas.
The visual inspiration for the third panel.



Demon Ass Kicker Final Image!

Final image of Demon Ass Kicker Character contest over on the CG-Hub site.

Demon Ass Kicker Process..

So to keep things going until I start my painting my class in July, I have been participating in a number of different sketch challenges over on the CG-Hub site. The challenge this week was to do a character of a Demon Hunter. I decided to go full Painter on this one as a means to continue to compare the two programs (Painter vs. Photoshop). Below is the process post to the final image.

1. Start with a sketch as usual. I came up with a back story for this character to help to define the character more. (See below)

2. Drawing clean up (I did this in Photoshop) (See below):
3. Added tones (I found a new basic ink brush in Painter that gave clean basic tones):

4. Added basic colors to the image (See below):

5. Final Color adjustments and lighting effects:

A sequence

Edit: I now posted the original art to this here:

Suburban Anarchy


shapes by Jason Overby
shapes, a photo by Jason Overby on Flickr.

blue print gold

 digital prints. Rosaire Appel. 2011.

My book is finished!

'Narrative in abstract drawing'

Here you can see a preview:
And you can order the 100 pages book.

The Road Taken

Email if you'd like to order an 11"x17" poster of this comic (for $15 plus shipping).

Love & Fonts

In combining the best elements of romance novels and typographic criticism, I could have made this comic much, much racier: "She felt the oblique, sinuous curves of his letterform. Their passion was legible. But could it ever be justified?"  At least I didn't stoop to making fun of Comic Sans.

LochNess Monster Tutorial

I have been working on learning both Photoshop and Painter, bit by bit.
 A while back I got a Painter tuorial book that I have been making my way through. I put it down when the Photoshop classes started, but now that the Photoshop class is over with, I have picked the tutorial book back up again. This chapter focused on a Loch Ness Monster image (the image was not something that I drew). I just followed the steps and did the walk through as the book instructed. I liked this image a lot, so I thought that I would post it. Enjoy!

Final ACTION PHILOSOPHERS LIVE dates announced!

And that's them. The show will be at the BRICK THEATRE in Williamsburg Brooklyn as part of the Comic Book Theatre Festival. You can get directions and tickets here.

Design and Drawing: Simple vs. Complex

I was looking at a news story about this Frank Miller drawing from "The Dark Knight". It just sold for a record amount of money.

If you click on this thumbnail you can see a giant version of the panel.

The first thing that struck me when I glanced at it was the area of Robin's cape. It's so simply drawn - just an empty and interesting shape. There's no interior lines defining the fabric of her cape, which at first glance, might seem strange - especially when you look at all the lines on the inside of Batman's cape.

I know when I first started drawing, I learned how to draw things and then always drew them the same way each time...I struggled so much with learning anatomy and the overwhelming task of learning how to draw everything that if I found a way to draw something that worked, I stuck with it whenever I could.

When I first started drawing I read everything I could about how things were built and put together (especially the human body). When I went to life drawing I worked hard to draw everything so it was "put together right".

These are great things to work on and very important for making a good drawing. But there are other things that go into making a good drawing, and using design principles as you draw is very important. Once you start down the path of doing anything visual - anything at all - design comes into play, whether the person creating the visual is aware of it or not. So the best artists keep design elements in mind and use them to their advantage at all times.

Life drawing by Glen Keane. A good example that a knowledge of anatomy plus use of design elements to create a beautiful drawing, instead of just a record of what's in front of you.

So when I looked at the Dark Knight illustration, the blank cape seemed like a really good example of (what I like to think of as) simple vs. complex.

I'm sure there's a better name for it, but that's how I think of it.

So, logically, you might think Frank Miller would fill in lines in the cape so that it looked just like Batman's cape. Logically, isn't it strange that two capes within the same drawing - presumably even made of the same material - would look pretty much the same and have the same line treatment? (These are the type of things I used to wonder all the time when I first started drawing). But it makes a lot of sense if you look at it with design in mind - you always want to lay simple areas next to complex ones.

In other words, put areas with a lot more detail next to areas with a lot less detail.

In the Frank Miller drawing, he uses lots of detail on Batman and Robin's forms to describe them. Therefore, since the cape overlaps Batman, it looks far better to have it create a clean swath of blank area laid over his areas of detail. It works really well to create the illusion that it's really overlapping his forms and that there's a three-dimensional, solid figure lying behind that cape.

Also, detail tends to draw our eye to it so Miller kept the detail isolated to the more important and interesting areas...the places he wanted your eyes to be attracted and to linger.

And then, since Batman's cape overlaps an empty night sky, it would have made no sense to keep his cape blank and free of interior lines. So Miller laid in some lines there to describe the form (and keep from having an empty space overlapping an empty space....that wouldn't be interesting and creates no sense of depth).

There's another good example of this in the background. Where the background skyscraper overlaps the skyscraper behind it in the distance, he left little blank "cushions" of white like a halo around the foreground skyscraper, so he wouldn't be creating a complicated area of detail right next to another. The little blank areas create a little breathing room between the two areas of detail.

Like most aspects of design, this concept is absurdly obvious. It wouldn't make any sense to put two complicated areas next to each other - that would be a confusing mess. It would be hard to tell where one area ended and the other began. For example, compare the two versions of the same sketch below:

You can see how the drawing with detail on every inch of the drawing is a mess and creates a ton of visual confusion.

Likewise, putting two blank areas next to each other is pretty meaningless. Neither space has more emphasis or weight and there's no statement being made. A page from a coloring book is a good example of why this looks pretty uninteresting.

Some more examples of simple vs. complex used well. Rembrandt:

Bill Watterson uses alternating areas of detail and empty space to suggest depth in the bottom panel:

Mignola (using a similar background treatment):

Jordi Bernet:

Blank doesn't always meant this Bernet drawing, he uses both white and black shapes for his empty spaces. Throwing things into silhouette is a great way to minimize excessive detail and simplify your composition (the Mignola drawing above does this well too).

And here's a look at the final color version of the Frank Miller drawing. There's a subtle color variation within Robin's yellow cape, to keep it from becoming a flat lifeless shape, but not enough contrast to kill Miller's original concept of it as an empty space within the composition.

"Beautiful Designs" by Sam Spina

Sam Spina does the webcomic Spinadoodles. This was yesterday's installment:

Sam's comment: "Based on actual tissues."

Thanks to Matt Graupman for pointing this out to me!

CG Hub Mermaid Challenge Process

Ok, so I have been a little bit busy as of late. I have been taking a digital coloring class, for coloring line art using Photoshop, which was fun, and I definitely learned a lot. Since I couldn't color line art before, I have a little bit more in the skills department now that the class is over with. My next goal is to focus on learning how to digitally paint. Some of the principles on how to paint digitally and color line art are the same. So I decided to just try and go for broke and see if I could digitally paint an image based on the basic principles of value and color. So I decided to enter the CGHub Drawing Jam (which is a bi-weekl y contest where you have to submit an image based on a theme). The theme this time around was "Mermaids"...and below is my entry.

1. I first did a number of sketches, to try to come up with something that was both an interesting image and that told a litle bit of a story. I decided on the image below that tells a "mermaid in a jar" type story.

2. Then I added values to the image and tried to settle on the lighting and direction. (below)
3. When done I duplicated the "value layer" and prepared to start painting "between the two layers. (below)
4. I then start to add basic flat color, using the established values as a guide (see below)
5. I then flatten the image and begin to work on adding color and texture "on top" of the flattened image focusing on lighting and setting the mood for the piece. (see below)

6.  Once I like where the drawing is going I work to finish up the drawing and to then also focus on the little details like rear lighting, and bubbles (see below)
7. I then add rear lighting behind the professor, and work to complete all of the details in the image by using a really small brush. (see below)

8. As an uber last step, I add in a reflection in the image finish up the image and use the hue/saturation settings to finish up the image and voila my entry is done. (see below)

The Memoir

Drawing Teeth

Teeth are fun to draw. They are shaped like tiny aliens, tentacled underwater creatures, or controversial modern sculpture. Using Kilgore dental study models as reference, I designed a number of t-shirts for my class over four years of dental school. To celebrate graduation and our shiny new DDS degrees, here all the designs in one extensive blog post.

This would be a great game for an arcade or dental office waiting room. I just have to clear up a few copyright issues:

Though it looks like your typical set of wind-up teeth, this is actually a functional complete denture:

The little guy in the background is jumping on a rheostat pedal, which is used to control the RPMs of the high-speed handpiece ("the drill," for those not up on proper dental terminology):

I had the cover of "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" by the Flaming Lips in mind when I drew this: 

Unfortunately, this last design was never printed on a shirt. Apparently the rapper Lil' John has limited commercial appeal: