From Hell

 

Yeah, just watch this… ‘Kay, thanks, bye!

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Jim Benton

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One of Jim Benton’s many, many sketches. Foreboding much?

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.

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Knowing that I shouldn’t laugh just makes it funnier

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.

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Not all of Benton’s work is explicitly subversive. Or is it? Oh no, I’ve gone too deep! Help!

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.

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So I guess Jim’s heard of Usagi Yojimbo then…

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.

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My attempt at Jim Benton style humour. More vector art than I typically use, but it takes a lot of work to keep stuff simple looking

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.

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Oh whoops. Shouldn’t have laughed at this one for sure. Oh well. Better luck next time.

If you’d like to laugh a lot and wonder what happened to the day, check out Jim Benton of his official website or discover him the same way I did, on his Tumblr.

 

 

First Impressions of Tumblr

 

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‘T’ is for ‘Tumblr’

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.

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Random webcomic that makes me laugh. Check them out at theawkwardyeti.com

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.

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Beomjin Kim’s work as hown on the Tumblr blog: the Art of Animation. It posts tonnes of cool artists for me to be inspired by.

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.

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Meme humour from RooTotalCrazy. This is also my idea of funny.

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.

First Impressions of Instagram

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Instagram by Instagram. For Instagram

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.

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A picture I made in it’s natural size…

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.

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This is how the image appeared on Instagram. No joke at the top or Batman at the bottom. Truly, ‘this is not justice’.

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

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‘Cool stuff’ I find on Instagram. Great for me to use for reference, but not so great for the artists to stand out..

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.

Making my Banner

 

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I don’t want you to strain your eyes having to look all the way to the top of the screen, so here’s the banner again!

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.

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Smile-e Show regulars, Left to right: M. Bison, Ash Crimson, Smile-e and Vegeta

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).

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Main cast of my Seven Demon manga. From left to right: Moto kunai, Zen-Ba, Juli, Kagesami, Onikage, Baal and Om

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.

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Characters from my collaborative series’ with Adam Hayes and James Notoriani. From Left to Right: Montage and Impact from Holy Crapola and Detectives Kitt Karson and Donahue from Booze and Blood

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.

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Left to right: Old Snake and Liquid Ocelot from popular video game series Metal Gear Solid. I don’t even know why they’re here, lol, it must have been the La-Li Lu-Le-Lo

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…

 

Colt Cougar Vs Andrew Sosnowski

 

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A battle for the ages…

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.

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Alex Ross: a traditional painter who works in the unconventional field of mainstream comic books

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.

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Work in progress page of Smile-e Show by yours truly. Hilarity will ensue

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.

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YouTube banner art of the (not)legendary Colt Cougar

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!!!

Hello! Is anyone there?!?

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Finally! Colt Cougar has come back to WordPress!

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.

  • Colt Cougar Vs Andrew Sosnowski
  • Making my banner
  • life on Tumblr
  • First impressions of Instagram
  • Jim Benton
  • Lines vs No lines (in illustrative artwork)
  • So now I have a Cintiq

That’s probably enough for now.  Hold on, I should definitely talk about my

  • Collaborative noir comic
  • Drawing the Head by William L. Maughan

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.

Southampton Project: Final Outcome: Process Book

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My intentionally gaudy cover to my gaudy comic book

Final year students were asked to create an extra outcome for the Southampton project: either a film or publication to show the processes involved throughout the project. I chose to do a full-on comic book, as it seemed the best way to present ultimately not-that-interesting information in an entertaining way. And I came on an illustration course to do comic books.

Having a nice guy (Smile-e) explaining everything in a positive light and a cynical bastard co-host (Vegeta) gave me the room to explore all my opinions on what we’ve done, while allowing the reader to keep their own counsel.

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Sample spread from my book. There’re talking about monoprinting

I had a ready made a team that I just couldn’t get around. I thought about alternatives, but ultimately resolved to do what I had to do. I walk into very murky copyright waters now, as I’m using an existing character from a popular franchise (which shall remain nameless even though you know what it is) as my co-host.

I believe US and now UK law supports fair use of copyrighted material for several purposes, the one which I should theoretically fall under is parody. This is a contentious issue, but ultimately, I suspect I’ll always fly too low under the radar for this to ever be a real problem. On top of that, the university retain the rights to any work created by their students, but I also doubt I’m going to get a strongly worded email from London Met telling me to cease and desist from creating the Smile-e Show ‘cos it’s theirs now.

So what is the Smile-e show? It’s a comedy comic I’ve been making for years and I even mentioned it in my UCAS application when I applied for my course. Here’s a video I did about it, showing some examples and what not.

It goes without saying that I underestimated the amount of work it takes to make what turned out to be a 30+ page comic book all by myself with little to no knowledge of how to do it properly, but really, this is one of the core pillars of what I want to be known for.

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One of the hardest spreads I’ve done. I didn’t have good reference imagery or any great technical skill going into this.

I was inspired by Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, which is a comic book about comic books. I can’t recommend reading it enough. If you think comics=Batman, this book will help you realise comics= Batman+Maus+ Persepolis+ alternative comics, etc,etc. There’s an artform waiting to be discovered. You shouldn’t assume the only vehicles out there are buses and trucks because they’re the biggest and loudest, there are also ice cream vans, super cars and Robin Reliants. It’s the same with comics, but that’s enough about that for now.

I haven’t finished the book. The artwork needs touching up, the lettering isn’t finished, I haven’t written the foreword, the panels need resizing… It’s endless, but for the first time on the course, I can’t be dissuaded by the work required for success, because this is a big deal and whatever happens in the future, I’m only going to end up doing more of these.

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Example of my uni work in the comic

I’m in two minds about the comic being fully coloured. As it stands now, the only colour content is my university art work, which supports its position as the central focus of the book. I think I’ll leave it like that. Colouring is another area of comic book design I’m woefully under-skilled at.

This book is a lot of fun, but very hard work. I look forward to finishing it, but it’s going to be on hold for a while…

 

Southampton Project: Final Outcome: Movie

During the English civil war in the 1600s, royalist poet John Taylor journeyed from London to Southampton on his way to visit the deposed King of England Charles I.  I’ve turned his poem about it into a short movie.

I broke the poem into couplets and storyboarded visual accompaniments to them. I tried to balance good ideas against my complete lack of knowledge when it comes to working with video.

In the two to three days it took to create my one minute, I learned how to source audio, video, combine multiple audio and video layers, add in some animation stuff and all sorts. There were two main reasons why this was possible: the first was a great introduction to Adobe Premiere Pro by Ricardo, one of our tutors and the second was my familiarity with Photoshop. Understanding layers and how they work together with each other as well as knowing what I could import into Premiere Pro from Photoshop and what options I would have with that stuff greatly helped.

It wasn’t necessary to go to such lengths for this piece of moving image. We could have just done a slideshow or a movie using only found content. I know one student took a clip from a movie, mirrored it and turned it, effectively into a piece of fine art. It couldn’t have taken him more than half an hour, but, different strokes for different folks.

I’ve long wanted to get to grips with video editing. It’s rather complicated and time consuming, especially if you’re creating your own assets to use, but it’s a really great thing to be able to do.

I look forward to doing more. I need to work on my ratio of time put in, to work put out. I’ve always avoided animation for the same reason: takes too long to get acceptable results.

Who’s Colt Cougar, you ask? Well… send your answers on a stamped addressed envelop to…