Saturday, May 20, 2017

Odd and Ends

Darkhawk figure is in the house! I still haven't seen the Guardians 2 yet, but I hear this figure is hot right now. Still no word from Marvel about and so I had to buy my own copy.

Its been a bit since I updated here and I have been super busy with the strips and the end of the school year. But let's face it, when am I not busy?  The two strips have me at max capacity so I have hired an assistant Mimi and pulled in the help of my buddy Scott Cohn to help on backgrounds to gain some time.

                          Mimi sorting the piles of comics and then there are all the paintings

Mimi starts the full time crunch this summer and has already been working for me a few months, mainly putting my art in order, but she has pitched in a bit on the strips too time/school allowing.

Then Mimi challenged me to try my hand at drawing a manga style drawing, so I did. Not sure how manga-ish it is but it was fun to just wing it.

I also had my final class of the year for the After School Program at PAFA, it was a fun yer full of great kids. Budding artists all! The student show is hung this weekend.

One of the cool things I came across on a recent Ebay hunt was a year (1957) of Judge Parker strips by the original artist Dan Heilman to did the strip into the mid 60's when Harold LeDoux took over full time. I heard that he was helping Heilman along from the 50's doing backgrounds etc. Hellman had a journeyman_Caniff based style which was very common up until the 60's when that style faded away more and more with few exceptions like Frank Robbins. Its interesting to see what the strip was like before Sam Driver entered the scene and to see Randy, the son of the original Judge as a kid, along with his sister who was evidently written out of the strip decades ago. Randy is now the judge as the original Judge Parker retired about 10 years ago during Eduardo Baretto's run. the strip was much more serious and the storyline I have is about bullying and juvenile delinquents which was very much a topic back in those days like the 1955 movie Blackboard Jungle. The Strip has steered far away from any topical or social cometary based storylines that I can see for decades and is much more a typical soap these days.

 I have also been warming up some mornings by doing a few Phantom Sketches which I will ink up and sell via Ebay, so stay tuned for the links. I have a few more and might do up to a dozen and then post them all.

Then on a quick break I went  to the great Howard Pyle show hosted by Drexel University where Pyle taught illustration classes for two years before he opened his own school in Wilmington DE, where he taught the likes of NC Wyeth. 
its a must see show if you can make it
April 3-June 18
Paul Peck Alumni Center
3142 Market Street
Open Monday-Friday, 9-4 p.m.
Free and open to the public

A great show featuring Pyle, NC Wyeth, Rockwell, Lyendecker, Parrish and more.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Back On The Horse

Its been of a break for me here on the blog for a little while now, but life or my artistic life certainly has never slowed down. Doing the two strips, Judge Parker and The Phantom keeps me busy with the boiler at full steam six sometimes seven days a week, as well as teaching my illustration class at PAFA in the After School Program.

 I enjoy working with these budding, young, talented and motivated artists! It also gives me a window into the young growing minds in the world of today, their tastes and knowledge and how they see the world of comics and art-life. Suffice to say they see the world in some ways fundamentally different than I did at their age.

Some hard working students taking their thumbnails to the first rough stage. More changes will be made from here and another round will happen before the final comp and color comp. I believe in working on tracing paper and avoiding the digital for the developing student in the beginning to work/see the piece as a whole. Working digital often means detail over unity for the developing artist

                       Some recent Phantom work, pencils and some Judge Parker strips as well

A lot of it has to do with tech, but also what they are exposed to in the run of everyday life. But one thing is the same for many--the dream of becoming an artist! This is where I come in and try to shine the light on the paths to take to get to the dream if they are willing to seriously work for it. Watching some students grow over the years is the best thing I think you can experience as a teacher.

I have also recently hired an assistant who's right now organizing my comic art and will move on through my paintings, files and eventually my comics as I organize and thin the heard here. I'm certainly if anything mid-career as they say and I just have too much stuff, it happens to every artist I know. So at a certain point it either is an asset or a burden. I saw that when I was in Al Williamson's studio--he had an amazing collection to be sure, not only of his work but the work of others, the greats and strips clipped, stats, man, you name it. But at some point it went over the top and it was at point very unorganized and a burden that he both loved but worried about. So I figure time to make this art pile organized so its an asset, especially for teaching and my own enjoyment. This also means lots of old tech is getting tossed too--old computers, scanners, printers---ugh!

I am close to setting up my painting studio at home which will be separate from my drawing or comics studio. I'm taking the bedroom that has the best light, both north and west and will make that a separate place than my drawing studio where I do comics. I will be able to control the light better and even have models in.

I have also been thinking about changing direction in what I paint and of doing a book of my pen and ink drawings. I'm thinking about doing paintings more along the line of the Inktober pieces and not pushing the landscapes as much. I sort of feel the Plien Air" thing is a bit crowded and what I want to do --the urban thing isn't so appreciated around here. Its also the allocation of time vs return. I have stacks of landscape paintings and love doing them, but maybe less of that and more of the other paintings is where I will go for a while. I entered a lot of PA shows last year and was declined by most so that money might be better spent on fixing the studio and doing new work. I am also not big on competitions and want to paint what I find interesting.

I'm maybe more conscious of time now with the strips eating up the bulk of my time in the work week as well as the changing gallery situation here in Philly. I am also planning a limited enrollment on-line class for sometime this year. Maybe 10 students or less to start, and I am not looking to teach beginners or those with a lot of basic drawing problems, that would be a separate type of class,  so I will require a portfolio submission. This way I get students strong enough to take the info and build on it. One thing I am very set on now is that advancement  in art really must be based on ability. If the students struggles with basic drawings issues, those must be tackled and proficiency achieved in order to advance. The way most schools tend to run is that unless the student really flub a class, they go to the next year. But I believe now more than ever that advancement should only come with displayed ability--otherwise the student moves toward graduation without the skills they must have to get work.

I'm begging my third story arc on The Phantom and I'm three weeks in. Its been great working with the writer Tony De Paul in the past year. The stories are not only well written and fun to draw but he's the best writer I have ever worked with as far as helping with reference. That's a big deal on an 80 year old strip--believe me! The next story is about a vision Old Man Mozz has about the Phantom--and one that isn't good. I won't say any more but it will maybe be the best story I've worked on so far and will have many long time Phantom fans on the edge of their seat.

We are also wrapping up the Sophie/Band/Kidnapping story up in Judge Parker.  The story went in a way I did not plan when I sent the original plot to the last writer Woody Wilson before he retired mid way through, and its twisted and turned a lot with the new writer Francesco Marciuliano.

In recent weeks I'm contributing more now to the active plotting than before and I am now the one with the most knowledge and history of the strip, as I enter what is now my 7th year on the strip. The weight of these continuity strips his a heavy one. For instance in this story there is a visit to the grave site of Needy's and Sophies Grandfather, Ezra, who passed in 2003 JP time. I don't even have access myself to all the strips history but can have the syndicate send me weeks of something if I need it.

Now we have never been very accurate time wise on the strips for obvious reason. All continuity strips play fast and loose with time. If Sophie was 9-10 years old in 2003 now she'd be 24 or so and Neddy 3-4 years older wold be 30. Sam and Abbey would be on SSI. But nobody ages in strips, even the Phantom would be 100 years old now if we kept time. But in order to accurately draw the strip continuity wise I can't leave off the date on Ezra's grave as it was drawn on there by Harold Ledoux. That was established and is "cannon" as they say. Thus the conundrum!

So since I figure maybe it's 2011-maybe 12 or so in the strip, Sophie can s till be 16-going on 17. This is where the strips must break with reality as stories advance time in only one way--strip time not real time. Under Wilson there was never a Christmas strip with the characters, which we have introduced now, nor a change of seasons which I have introduced as well. The strips inch along year wise and many readers who are used to the way TV and movies work want time in the strips to run just as fast---but they never have or just about all the continuity strips would either have to take place in the nursing home or the principle characters would even be dead! Peter Parker would at least be in his 70's-wallop'n Web Snappers indeed!

I think the plan on the next JP storyline is to wrap up the missing and pregnant April Bower as well as her father and that will finally rest the long outstanding plot issues from Wilson's run.

OK, back to the Skull Cave!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Blog Award!

My blog has been awarded as one of the top 25 Drawing blogs!!

Sunday, November 06, 2016


October has come and gone and that means that the Inktober event has come and gone till next year, however my ink drawings or Wind Downs will continue.  I was only able to get 14 Inktobers done this year due to drawing both strips, but quality over quantity--right? My fave was this one above of the Swamp Thing and a bunch of mermaids. I'm such a big fans of Bernie Wrightson ans well and Franklin Booth and Nestor Redondo, so I got to blend my love for those artists into this piece.

 One of my last commissions on the list so my commissions list will be opening back up in a week or so.
 One of the Inktobers that jumped into my head while I was working on another one. Funny how doing one drawing can suddenly generate another image that bubbles up from the depths and seems to just erupt forth and demand to be drawn.  I'd actually like to do a painting of this idea.
 And while all of the Inktobers were going on I finished my first Phantom Story and have started the next The Phantom Stamp. This is the first one where the writer Tony was writing for me instead of the late Paul Ryan. I'm still on my learning curve with the strip as I'm not only drawing new characters but old previously established ones as well. The Phantom is a very intense strip research wise. luckily I have help from Tony, Terry Beatty, KFS and even some fans.
 I gathered up a pile of some of the sketchbooks I have kicking around in the studio. Some almost full, some with dregs, some really decades old. They are much more important to me now than when I was younger. they are really me, raw and unchecked and so much essential to my process now as an artist. I've always had them though back in the late 80's and 90's I didn't sketch as much nor in the vital way I do now and i sometimes regret that. I was working so hard back then and not taking as much time for personal development. Something that serious started when I went back to art school.
 My biggest regret is that this fall I haven't painted like I wanted. But then making $$$$$ is very important when roofs have to be fixed, furnaces need work and taxes need to be paid. I did sneak out with my buddy the other day to do a quick rush little plien air about an hour before the sun set. It felt so good!!

                                              Darby Creek 9 x 12 Oil on Arches Oil Paper
                            Meanwhile my cat Cornwell judges a week of the Judge in progress

And this Sunday we jump months ahead on the Judge Parker strip as Francesco really starts his tenure going forward after sort of wrapping up or bundling things from Woody Wilson's long, long, long story of Neddy's factory. I gave Ces some ideas of what I'd like to do tone wise with the strip. I'm for a little more adventure, a little more like the old old Judge where Sam was more like Jim Rockford.
 Some others are being writtenn out or even perhaps dying off. Like real soap operas you have to keep the churn. I hope to never seen some characters again, or for a long time like Rocky and Godiva and the biggest change is in being able to draw seasons, like this Sunday's strip.

This is something both Terry Beatty and I really desired when Wilson was writing both strips but never got to do. But Terry has been doing that on Rex Morgan and I'm getting to finally do it on the Judge. I'm sure judging by the Snarkers they will hate this as much as the last writer's stuff as they just have to hate with their small lives and babymen-Trump-like hands---but oh well. The 10 million viewers and readers on the Comics Kingdom portal seem to like what we are doing and I've been getting some positive feedback. But you can never ever write to or for fans, thats a noose around the neck. You have to write for yourself first, entertain yourself first to do a good job. Soon Sofie's fate will be revealed, but we can torture our readers in a good way a little longer. I don't go often to the CK board, but its funny to see just how wrong the trolls are about plots, and motivations and their ideas are a bit amusing when not rotten. Readers are too impatient still and this strip will move faster now that it has, but it will still never be a Marvel Comic or a movie. I'm sure if we ramped up the strip like that the longer time readers would not like that pace either.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Inktober 2016

I am participating in the annual Inktober daily drawing challenge that was started by Jake Parker. I did some  drawings last year as well, but hope to be able to do a lot more this year as I do them anyway as you can see by my previous post. Here are the first two drawings for this year and my third drawing is done and my fourth one doodled out.

For me playing around in ink is great fun and very relaxing as ink was my first serious medium as a teen wanting to be a cartoonist.

People always ask where ideas come from and they just roll out of my head. I can think of a zillion things to draw all the time. My brain is an image machine, its always on. So taking a pencil I just swoosh around on a page till I get something I like. Its total freedom, art without any demands from a client or a deadline---the best kind of drawing!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Wind Downs

In the evenings after toiling a long day at the drawing board on the comic strips I will ease up or wind down sometimes by--more drawing. I know, for some relaxing might be taking a long walk (which I also do) but I find doing these "Wind Down" drawings like un-clenching a fist, letting my imagination run free unshackled by any continuity demands. I never know what I will draw as I doodle away, sometimes I keep what I put down, sometimes I don't. If I like it, I ink it up. I post these on my Facebook and Instagram and people really seem to love them. I do to and plan on publishing a book of these drawing in 2017. I love the great pen and ink artists of the past century, Booth, Gibson, Joseph Clement Coll, Kley and Stoops to name just a few.

Why Mermaids and Astronauts? Why not!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Death In The Family

ArtistaCon This Weekend

I'll be participating at the Artistacon this weekend in the Lyceum in Burlington NJ along with many, many other top pros. Artistacon will be held Saturday, September 17 (10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and Sunday, September 18 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) I'll be there both days and doing a demo with the Phantom as well as doing portfolio reviews and critiques. 

Drawing & Inking The Phantom Demonstration
Mike Manley

  • Saturday, September 17, 2016
  • 1:30pm-3:00pm
  • Location: Seminar Room
You can see the full guest list here.