Yeah, just watch this… ‘Kay, thanks, bye!
Yeah, just watch this… ‘Kay, thanks, bye!
What is an illustration? In the simplest sense, it’s usually a 2d representation of some sort of 3d form. To be even more reductive, it’s typically a series of marks on some form of canvas. The types of marks you make at the beginning and the marks you leave at the end can dramatically shift the sort of ‘representation’ you end up with. From a production standpoint, it can dramatically effect how long it takes to make your illustration in the first place.
William L. Maughan, in his book The Artist’s Complete Guide to Drawing the Head, states ‘Line is an artistic invention. It does not exist in nature.’ He goes on to expound the value of learning to draw using value, or blocks of tone, and letting go of the childhood fallacy of ‘the line’. I don’t think many people would argue against Maughan’s observation. Even when you see a ‘line’ in real life, what you are seeing is an abrupt and pronounced contrast in two adjacent values. Plenty of classical artwork was created with such considerations, and many digital artists today seek to continue in such a vein.
However, most people who’ve ever picked up a pencil have, no doubt, constructed their imagery from lines. And for good reason. It’s faster, and easier to alter in the (inevitable) likelihood you make some mistakes that need alteration. You can put down very few lines and get a sense of the overall composition of your image, without worrying about accuracy per se. You can use values (even just one) to get a sense of a composition too but when one has limited tools to work with, you can construct values just from using a cheap biro pen.
That’s a bit of general knowledge, now let’s talk about my personal experience working with and without lines. Let me preface this my acknowledging outright that I’m a ‘line guy’. Some of my favourite illustrators are ‘line guys’. And that’s why they’re my favourite illustrators. I’ve spent most of my life constructing images from lines and I like it. However, my recent foray into airbrushing digitally has shown me how cool it can be when the illustrative construction lines are hidden sometimes.
I find it difficult to build an image without at least an under drawing. I’ve attempted several times to use blocks of colour or value in lieu of an under drawing and I’ve had some marginal success, but not really. This is more a reflection on my lack of expertise in the area more than an indictment on the process itself. Usually, I create structures from line use, apply value or colour in ‘flats'(base colours/values representative of local colour/brightness), then apply shadows and highlights afterwards. Very similar to how comic book art is constructed, since that’s where I’m trying to get. The line work allows me to get away with very poor lighting or colour work, since forms of the objects/people/places are independently defined by said line work. Ultimately, lines are my crutch that allow me to operate with incomplete knowledge of my subject material and still produce something modestly acceptable to the eye.
Something to really make note of is the eye’s remarkable ability to simply ‘know’ if something in an image is incongruous with the rest. We’ve all seen artwork where the proportions are off or there’s something wrong with the shape of the hand or the feet are too small, or whatever. This is directly proportionate to how ‘realistic’ the image is supposed to be. This means that, when I airbrush, I’m being held to a standard I can’t typically reach in terms of accuracy and competence. Well, not yet, anyway.
This is a subject one could go one about forever, but let’s just summarise and call time here. For me, I’m better with lines, but I like the potential results of not using them. The better I become at using reference materials and my tools/techniques, the more I suspect I will come to value working without lines. That said, constructing images from lines is very fast, and I like fast. ‘Gotta go fast’, like the hedgehog says. Realism isn’t always the desired outcome. I just read From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, which was illustrated entirely with ink. It’s very appropriate for the Victorian setting. So, basically, whether one chooses to use lines or not is a choice made in relation to available tools, desired outcome and personal preference. I’ll be continuing my experiments across the board.
When I talk about myself as an illustrator, I always say that, skill-wise, I’m a cartoonist on the way to becoming a comic book artist. Despite my quick wit and love of good (and bad) humour, it never occurred to me that I should take being a cartoonist seriously and see what happens. When I was a kid, I read something about how statistically unlikely it is that you’ll be the next Jon Davis (Garfield), Charlie Schulz (Peanuts) or Aaron McGruder(The Boondocks). I even met a guy last year who used to draw the Beano once upon a time. Good luck trying to get that job in this decade. It wasn’t until I stumbled across Jim Benton on Tumblr recently that I felt like I’d seen a clear indicator of a path forward for me.
Benton is American born and based. He used traditional media like inks and watercolour, but also works digitally. I (really) don’t know if you could call him famous, but cartooning is definitely his day job and he’s paying the bills with it. He has such an endearing art style, which is usually combined with subversive messages. When I look at his work, I typically laugh out loud and then go find some more. This can last for hours. This need to binge on his particular type of direct, silly and insightful humour is something I’ve always wanted to elicit from others with the Smile-e Show, for example.
He reminds me of a good stand-up comedian: one part risqué, One part charming, one part discerning, but all parts funny. You know you’re on to a winner when you laugh before you have time to realise you probably shouldn’t. Jimmy Carr taught me that one.
Benton makes it look so easy to make art and jokes at the same time. And good jokes. And good art! I had a go at trying to follow in his footsteps without just stealing his schtick outright. It’s harder than it looks to come up with something cute and barbed at the same time and then not screw up the delivery. Illustrating cartoons is far easier than making comic books from scratch in the same way that building a car is easier than building a skyscraper; you still have to make sure every thing you do is appropriate and adds to your overall quality instead of detracting. And you’d really better make sure you know how to use all your tools properly. It takes far longer to find mistakes in a comic or building than it does in the far smaller cartoon or car.
I don’t really expect I’ll ever make money from art, and being popular on Instagram for it’s own sake seems pretty puerile to me, but, if I was to go deep into my mind to pull out the best jokes and then deliver them with a commitment to quality, that sounds like something to be very proud of. We’ll see.
After creating my Instagram account and deciding it wasn’t really for me, I made a Tumblr account a couple of hours later. I’d had previous experience using Tumblr since the Cass blog I was updating for the 2017 Summer Show was created on the platform in question. I had no prior knowledge of it, but was able to quickly and easily upload my articles with pictures.
When I created my own Tumblr account, I quickly found that I was integrating myself into a vast network of bloggers with wildly varying levels of respect for intellectual property. You have people posting al their favourite fan art of the Ninja Turtles next to professional illustrators. You have people starting webcomics and people uploading Marvel and DC Comics pages. There are fan blogs for anything and everything and Tumblr has a Not Safe For Work (NSFW) filter available to help you figure out if you’ve gone too far down the rabbit hole.
I tagged a few things I had an interest in when creating my account, so now my ‘feed’ is full of gorgeous illustrations of cityscapes, architecture, silly cartoons and comic book fan art, among other things. One guy keeps putting dogs in hats. And that’s why Tumblr feels like a good fit. I mostly sketch fan art these days while I try to figure out my preferred tools and techniques. No one’s going to look twice at me posting pictures of the Ninja Turtles, and in fact, there will people who might reblog my stuff.
Even when I was working on the university’s blog I was seeing fan art for Sonic the Hedgehog that had me thinking ‘this place feels almost like home…’ Since getting on Tumblr, I can’t count how many times I’ve got lost just scrolling down my feed and seeing the stuff that’s suggested. Sometimes, yes, things get weird, but that’s what happens when so many people with so much passion post about their interests. Some of those interests get oddly… specific… and specialist… yeah, let’s use those words.
Tumblr organically introduced me to the work of Jim Benton, who I’ll talk about in a separate post.
Ironically, as I sing praises of Tumblr, I still have the same criticism of it to make that I made of Instagram: it doesn’t feel like a good fit for uploading comic book pages. I can stick a few lo-res images in the same post to maintain the reading order, but when the quality goes up, the quantity has to go down. Not a viable long term solution. Still, for the time being, all my stuff goes through Tumblr now. This blog, the You Tube stuff, Instagram posts are just Tumblr posts.
So if you want to see the majority of my online content, look no further than ColtCougar.Tumblr.com. Next time we will discuss Jim Benton. he’s a real funny cartoonist who is doing quite well for himself. See you there.
Earlier in the year, I finally decided to bite the bullet and get myself active across social media. I’ve had a Facebook profile for a long time and a Flickr portfolio created solely to show Kingston University, but I didn’t have a platform that felt right for uploading comic book pages regularly. Or stand alone pieces. Instagram came up a lot in conversations with friends, both artistically minded and not, so I created an Instagram account.
I installed the Instagram app on my PC and spent about an hour messing around and talking to friends trying to figure out why I couldn’t upload images from my PC into Instagram. It seems Instagram was designed to be used on phones primarily, and simply would not allow for desktop computers to upload to it. Strike number 1.
After accepting the reality of the situation, I resolved to send stuff to my phone, from my PC, and upload from there. This is when I found out that Instagram crops uploads to be square. I exclusively work with rectangular canvases, since that’s the shape of comic book pages or the ratio of a screen. The idea that I would fundamentally alter my work flow to upload to Instagram was/is just too great of a leap. Strike number 2.
I followed friends and was followed back, I had a look at some cool stuff and even made the occasional upload. I found plenty of cool accounts, but, in observing my behaviour, I started wondering if Instagram is even beneficial for exposure. Typically, I would look at some stuff, ‘like’ some stuff, then stop using the app. I was barely any wiser to the creators in question and certainly not inclined to pursue some sort of financial transaction with anyone. Strike 2.5
I spoke to an old friend of mine, someone who’d been using Instagram for a long time. As soon as I mentioned it, they regaled me with stories of how the app had been updated in such a way that it had become difficult to conveniently follow the upload progression of those you had taken an interest in. So here I was, underwhelmed by what I’d experienced, being told by someone who knew better, that Instagram had, in fact, seen better days. Strike number 3 aand yuuur out!
I don’t really think Instagram is what I was looking for in a promotional platform. In fact, about three hours after creating my Instagram account, I jumped ship to Tumblr and had (and continue to have) a far more enriching experience as a creator and consumer.
I know this all sounds quite negative and I guess it is, but it’s not like I blame Instagram for not meeting my needs. I came to it blind and it just wasn’t the right fit. Just last week an old friend contacted my through Instagram and we’ve since started a collaborative project together. I’ll keep using Instagram and try to keep a regular uploading schedule, but I’ll simply be putting the same stuff that’s on Tumblr up on Instagram. Usually on the same day. Today, actually. Monday is my blog, Instagram and Tumblr upload day.
Just search for Coltcougar (no spaces) on Instagram and you’ll find my meagre offerings. Next time, we’ll talk about Tumblr and see why it’s more my speed.
When I came back to this blog this month after my year long hiatus, I decided that now was the time to spiffy it up a bit. I messed around with a few things in the theme settings, but honestly I’m not that bothered about font or background colour or anything. It would be nice if everything was darker, but on the other hand, I like eschewing style in favour of letting my words do the talking. One thing I did decide to add, however, was the banner you see at the top of the page right now.
The artwork is a rare example of me explicitly tailoring a piece of work to an unusual ratio, or canvas size, as photoshop would put it. I occasionally put images on Instagram which only supports images that are square in size, not rectangular, like every other app or webpage you’ve ever used, but I make no effort to tailor the content to Instagram (which has led to such humorous situations as me uploading jokes where the joke was cropped out of the image).
I made the banner on the same day as my first new post, as well as the Colt Cougar illustration at the top. I used my brand new Wacom Cintiq and Clip Paint Studio (which I still call Manga studio). I rather foolishly adjusted my brush settings as I was working, so the line work on Onikage (pale guy third from the right) is tighter than it is on anyone else. I might have started using the G-Pen but switched to the turnip pen mid way through, but I don’t remember. ‘What’s the difference between the G-Pen and the Turnip Pen?’ you ask, well, the G-Pen is an accurate digital version of the type of pen professional manga artists use to illustrate their work, whereas the turnip pen offers less flexibility in applying varying line weight, but is easier to use and get consistent results. It’s a great choice for illustrating cartoons. I’m explaining this now since learning to be a dab hand with the G-Pen is a significant milestone for me and it will, no doubt, come up again.
I think of the banner as a placeholder of sorts, where the characters will have their thumbnails replaced with newer, better versions as I improve. This might prove to be a fallacy, of course, since I felt that way about my Colt Cougar You Tube banner, which is still there a year and a half later.
It would be great if you could click on the people and get taken to the relevant comics or something. It might be possible to arrange something like that, but not without pages to link to, so, I guess it’s back to the Bat-cave for me then…
Something I’ve struggled with (to this day) is whether I should represent myself online under my real name or using some form of alias. This blog was created as part of my BA Illustration course’s marking system and so was my Wix online portfolio. Anonymity was never an option. However, I had already been online publicly as Colt Cougar for several years prior to starting my course. That was the name of my PlayStation Network account with which I played games online.
When I started a you tube channel a few years ago, that was my first real opportunity to take a stance on the issue. Most you tubers use pseudonyms when they name their channels. Even Pewdiepie, the biggest of them all, uses an alias. The exception is usually when the person actually has brand value in their name, so when Jim Lee, Alex Ross or Todd McFarlane start a you tube channel, they cash in on their industry status to generate large followings overnight.
If I would put myself in the same light as professional comic book artists, then naturally, I too would use my real name. So why didn’t I? Well, let’s look at what it is I intend to do with my life. Ignoring all my speculation about things like commission based work and sole trading on eBay, what’s the plan? The plan is to consistently produce the Smile-e Show weekly, an irreverent talk show parody predominantly using characters I have no ownership over (under fair use parody law). Then I finally set to work on my 7 Demons manga and then do my western superhero parody The Awesomeness. And eventually do some form of Three Kingdoms comic, but that’s a complicated end goal.
The idea here is to become known through my body of work, not by my name per se. Lots of people enjoy One Punch Man without knowing the name of the creator, for example.
There are some security issues to this as well. Ultimately, as my online footprint grows, it would be nice to separate me professionally from me socially. Since I’m shooting blind, with every venture I take, using a false name means that if I tank my credibility as Colt Cougar, I still reserve the option to start again and do it right this time. Also, you tube comments tend to be rather vulgar. I’d rather they were addressed to a cowboy mountain lion than me personally.
I’m pretty sure I’m the only Colt Cougar in the world as well, so if you google me, you find me. I am not the only Andrew Sosnowski though. For what it’s worth, I’ve always held the opinion that fame is an unavoidable penalty attached to being successful in life. I’d rather be rich and anonymous like a shady oil baron than poor and famous like anyone who ever won a reality TV show. So in that sense, Colt Cougar is a disguise I can take off when I need to just be some guy.
Colt Cougar is also a branding tool. I’ll be drawing Colt a lot in the future and having a good time doing it too.
That said, it would be far easier to present myself as a credible illustrator to clients and agencies under my real name, but since that also comes with the caveat of needing to be a professional artist with an exceptional portfolio, that won’t be an issue for me any time soon.
Of course, I reserve the right to introduce myself to any parties using both, either or neither identities. Maybe it’s time for a fresh start… Hmm… I think I’ll be the Wizard Lizard now! YES!!!
It’s been a year almost to the day that I left this blog to die when my university coursework was finished and handed in. I wondered what to do with what was effectively a production diary for uni work. I like writing, but never typically know what to write about. I spend my days drawing still, but don’t know how I want to turn it into a career.
I even moved over to Tumblr and thought about starting a new blog there. (I suppose I will when I run out of room for my pictures here…) .Much like my you tube channel that I tell every one about, but never tell them what it’s called, I shall now use this blog to stay in the habit of writing until I get my DOOT together. I’ll talk through my art, the programs and tools I use, maybe I’ll do spotlight articles on past and present artists and writers I admire.
So what have I been up to? I bought manga studio 5, still post on you tube weekly ,but it’s still not content per se. I’m on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter. I’m not very active. They’re not the right place to host comics. More research is necessary. I’m considering a Deviant Art account, setting up a Patreon and finally getting serious about producing the Smile-e Show. I still occasionally collaborate with other illustrators. So basically, lots of stuff, but not really.
One post a week seems reasonable. Let me think about what I’m liable to talk about.
That’s probably enough for now. Hold on, I should definitely talk about my
Okay that’ll do pig, that’ll do. If the next post isn’t until this time next year, we’ll make it a tradition! We can all get very very drunk and remember the good times. Whenever it is, you can look forward to me trying to reason out the pros and cons for working as an artist in 2018 either using your real name or a sobriquet. Until then.
In this video I talk about the process I used to make my lino cut/digital prints.
I talk about the processes used throughout my FMP above. The next video is specifically about the prototype paper table and chair I made.