MY NEW FAVORITE ART BOOK
Pascal Campion is a freelance artist who does some Visual Development work in Hollywood animation studios, as well as commercial work for a range of clients. He's even drawn a couple of Marvel covers, for "Wolverine" and "Rocket Raccoon."
He posts an image to his blog every day. He's done so for the last seven or eight years. He calls them "sketches," but I think they're something beyond that. He's being far too humble there.
He recently Kickstarted a book collecting many of those images. The result is "3000 Moments," an oversized hardcover book weighing in with 272 pages of art that's my new favorite art book.
Each of Campion's illustrations are little stories captured in one image, drawn in a style that might seem "loose," but is more likely the product of years working in a style to hone it down to its basic and most important parts. Campion mentions this in the book once or twice, that he's always looking for ways to simplify things and not get bogged down in details. When he's busy drawing an entire cityscape complete with a long line of cars stuck at a red light while rain falls, fog grows, and reflections show up in puddles, I can understand why he'd want to do that.
Campion's simplicity is more in his gestural style. Most of his art features people, whether young lovers or his own wife and kids. They're made of blocks of colors, sketched in with loose brush strokes that are often left behind. There's no time to clean up every bit of scratchiness, and the art would lose that imperfection that makes it so memorable and natural looking if he did. Campion's art relies on his ability to suggest things, not always spell them out. He doesn't need to draw every button on a shirt, when the block of color he's chosen gives you enough.
The first thing that drew me to Campion's work, though, is the way he controls the light. As a photographic hobbyist, I learned to look for the light. It's the most important part of the image. Often, the difference between a good picture and a bad one is just in the way it's lit. The angle, color and strength of the light all do different things. You want to take that into account before pushing the shutter and snapping an image. Light is super important.
Campion's images champion lighting schemes. Strong light breaking through windows is important. Light creeping around skyscrapers makes an interesting cityscape into something memorable. Blown out backgrounds not only show how bright the light might be at the beach that day, but also add a hazy glow of memory to the image. You know those memories you have where you remember what's happening, but can't picture the background? There's maybe a white blur in the background? That's what Campion can do with his art. He can get you to look at a piece and feel like you're remembering the scene you're looking at. The lighting isn't neat and clean. It spills out over the page, it oversaturates an area, and it separates foregrounds from backgrounds in a strong way.
We don't see every little detail around us, so why do we insist it all get drawn on the page? That's how Campion works.
It prints out a bit darker in the book, but check out this piece, for example, titled "The Invisible Girl."
There's actually not that much detail in it. There's a crowd of people surrounding the girl, but they're all small circles and minimal brush strokes to suggest bodies. The background is washed out in the light of a setting sun, which also obscures the detail in the buildings in the background. The cars in the street are barely beige boxes. A reflection works its way through the middle of the page, but your eyes are naturally drawn to the point of greatest contrast, which is the little girl holding out a bright red flower. But there's nobody immediately around her. Everyone is walking around.
The light tells the story by guiding your eye. The composition stages it nicely. The devil isn't in the details. Those are obscured. Campion's gift is in suggesting a moment or maybe remembering one, then bringing you into it.
There's a lot of texture in these pieces to go along with the broad strokes. It's a great case of knowing your tools. Campion uses Adobe Flash and Photoshop. He knows which brushes to use to what effect. Things that should be simple flat colors get interesting textures and patterns on them. Nature's details are blocked out with repeated patterns and a variety of colors and strengths. Reflections are everywhere, from rain-slicked roads to polished hardwood floors to more traditional lakes and tree lines.
In short, Campion's art is abstracted from reality, while feeling very real. You won't say "cool" to an image because he drew a dramatic character posing from the right angle and with pinpoint detail. You'll utter that "cool" for an image that draws you into a world through its dimensions, its lighting, and its suggestiveness. It suggests the world you want to see and you provide the extra details. I find that process fascinating.
As a pure art book, "3000 Moments" is beautiful. It sizes up at 9.25 x 12 inches, sporting a hardcover with writing that's etched in. It's printed on heavy glossy paper. The book weighs a ton, particularly at 270+ pages in length. Images are presented very large, mostly one to a page, or a double page spread. The title of each sketch and the month of its creation are noted in the corner of each one. Some have a sentence or two descriptions. The images looks very bright and clean, though the original images on the website are often a bit brighter.
Images are presented in groups by theme if you pay enough attention. Cities, beaches, lakes, kids, ducks, jazz clubs, funny animals, etc. It's not specifically called out, but you'll sense the themes as they shift. There are no specific chapters or anything to mark each section. The order of images is not chronological. None of that bothers me.
It's a book I want to go back to again and again. Maybe it's the sheer volume of images, but I feel like I could randomly open the book up to any page in this book six months from now, enjoy what I see, and not be bored by it or "used to" it. I can't think of any better recommendation for an art book.
The book does have its own quirks. There are a few proofreading errors I caught in the text. The superhero section in the back is labeled "Marvel," which made me cringe on the Batgirl page. There's a Guest Artists section in the back that should be marked more obviously than the little blue flag at the top of the pages. I'd love to have more behind the scenes stuff in the book, but there are two How To pieces near the end. Those are laid out in odd and different ways. For as much the rest of the book gets right, it's just weird that there's a stumble or two like that near the end like that.
But don't let those minor nit-picks deter you from picking up this book. It's a beauty with art that's refreshing and exciting. The current cover price is $50, but for only $10 more you can get one with a sketch on the inside from cover from Campion. That's the option I took, and the end result is a beauty, as simple and well laid out as the art in the rest of the book.
THIS WEEK ON THE CONVENTION CIRCUIT...
First, the fine folks at Emerald City Comicon sold out to ReedPOP. Or they "partnered." Or they "took stable jobs with a bigger company while still running their own show and now several others in places like Paris and India."
Because there's nothing safer and more stable right now than a comic show in Paris, right?
On paper, it seems like a win/win. The ECCC had grown large. Starting as a one day show in a small venue, it's expanded to a full four days at a much larger center with a huge guest list. In a way, I don't blame them for selling to ReedPOP, an already large organization that might help take some of the burden off them in the years ahead.
And, perhaps -- just perhaps -- the folks at ECCC will be able to bring their comics-centric focus to more conventions.
More than likely, in three years, we'll see ECCC with a larger nerdlebrity contingent clogging up the aisles. I hate to say it, but I think that's the safer bet. That's where the money is, particularly when you've grown this large.
To hear ECCC's Jim Demonakos and ReedPOP's Lance Fensterman describe the deal, listen to the latest episode of "Surviving Creativity." It will probably help set your mind at ease, even if they never directly ask the question, "Just how many more 'Star Trek', 'Walking Dead', and 'Doctor Who' actors will appear at ECCC next year, you think?"
Second, Wizard World bought up the Pittsburgh Comicon. I went to that show twice (2001 report, 2002 reports, Part 1 and Part 2), and remember it as a fun small comics-centric show. It's moved a couple times since then, and reports of its quality have varied.
There's no hiding what this purchase means, though. Show owner Renee George says it right there in the press release: "The Pittsburgh fans have been asking for bigger and better media guests and Wizard World will be able to provide that for them."
She might be right. What do I know? There are only so many comics fans. There are 30-times that who watch "The Walking Dead." If you missed Normal Reedus at the other two dozen conventions this year, here's your chance, west Pennsylvania and Ohio!
Give them what they want.
In the meantime, be on the lookout for any signs of further conventions falling. Heroes Con and Baltimore, we're looking carefully at you this year for any signs!
REALLY DIFFERENT AVENGERS
When the teaser image of "All-New, All-Different Avengers" hit the web last Friday night, I suggested on Twitter that Marvel should go the Giffen/DeMatteis route. That would be new and different for modern Marvel, right? Being woefully behind on my modern Marvel continuity, though, I knew I was the wrong person to write it.
Like that ever stopped me before.
With a little help from Andrew Turnbull, we devised a book with a line-up including Beast, Wonder Man, Starfox, Sersi, Vision and (of course) Wolverine. There's some nice personality conflicts in there to play against.
Wolverine gets to be the grumpy veteran.
Vision plays the ultimate straight man who most likely could get the biggest laughs.
Sersi can be the snotty socialite who thinks she's better than many of the others.
I'd use the Wonder Man who's thrilled and happy just to have a physical body again and not be made of pure energy, complete with costume from the Jeff Johnson-drawn era of his own title. (I read that one.)
Throw in Beast to be his buddy, just like the old days.
Starfox can be there for all the double entendre humor -- sort of the John Laroquette of "Night Court" or Rue McClanahan of "The Golden Girls."
Because every group of this size needs a mystic character, Doctor Druid gets the call. I know nothing about him, but he's bald and carries a glowing orb in one of the images I found in a Google search. That could be fun, right?
She-Hulk should be a recurring guest, if only to wind up Starfox, but also because she's had a lot of contact with the kinds of villains this type of team needs to be fighting.
I would also like to add in Boom Boom (Boomer, or whatever she's called now) from Nextwave. If she's not available, I'd go with Monica Rambeau. I'm casting for powers and attitude/personality here. Both have that in spades and, having starred in Nextwave, we know they can be handled for laughs.
It was a fun exercise and a cute idea and I know it'll never happen for plenty of good reasons.
That didn't stop me from picking up my pencil, though.
This drawing started out in the style of all those Kevin Maguire cartoons where everyone is crammed together on the cover looking up at the reader. That fell apart quickly and I had to improvise. By the time I got to Beast, my hand was tired and I planned on fixing everything in inks. I never bothered inking it. But, hey, look at those burst lines around the page! Cool, eh?
Looking up Sersi reference on Google Images, I was reminded of her early 90s look, with the omnipresent leather jacket of the day. I drew something more classically superheroine-esque and went for a punchline. The lettering, by the way, is in the Marian Churchland font from Comicraft.
Drawings were all scanned in from pencils, inked and colored in Manga Studio 5 EX and lettered in Adobe Illustrator, because that's always how lettering should be done.
I've been working with Manga Studio for the last month for a future column. It's a fun program, and ridiculously powerful. More on that sometime soon...
CAN'T GET ENOUGH SOCIAL MEDIA
I discovered this week that I do, indeed, have a DeviantArt account.
I got it three years ago and never did anything with it. In an on-going effort to see how social media works in the comic art world, I'm posting my stuff up on there now, too. You can find me at augiedb.deviantart.com and, I guess, follow me. Is that what you do there? I'm still trying to figure it out.
Of all the social media sites I've experimented with, I have to admit that DeviantArt is the one that befuddles me the most. It feels too chaotic. But let's give it a go and see what happens.
I post the same thing on all the image-based social media sites. Nothing will be "DeviantArt-exclusive." You don't need to move networks to see everything.
I'll report back on this in a week or two, as well.
Next week: Two books I love, but have qualities I hate so much I obsess over them. I guess that just makes me a comics fan, eh?