T Nation

Patricia: Freehand vs. Other Styles?

Patricia. Forgive me if I’m using the wrong terminology (e.g.“freehand”), but I am a HUGE fan of fantasy/S.F. art, and that appears to be a large part of your profession and passion. I probably purchase every “Spectrum” Series book and books by the artist (e.g. Vallejo) that comes out!!!

I’d like you (and others) comments on two “styles” I’ve noticed. Vallejo will often begin with a live model, poses him or her, then makes tracing sketches over the posed pictures of the models. He then paints the portrait. (Interestingly enough, Norman Rockwell did the same!).

Other of the artist will be completely “freehand”; in other words, they have an idea…they sketch if out…then paint it…now…THERE IS NO QUESTION that Vallejo (and Rockwell) could “freehand” with the best…I just wanted you guys thoughts on the two different approaches.


I’m late for work and before I shutdown the computer, I think “oh, let’s check out T-Mag…” and I see this. Damn, Mufasa. I HAVE to answer this - no, wait, I’m COMPELLED to answer this.

You know I know a few creative pros in the field of comic book and sci fi/fantasy illustration, right? Well, let's just say that Vallejo hasn't created anything via "freehand" in years (and years). He very much relies solely on photo references. Let's just say that I've never, ever liked Vallejo. His works, IMO, have no soul. Nothing. Now, when we talk about Frank Frazetta....totally different story. Oh, and apologies to nkeago - who I know LOVES Vallejo's work. Back to Frazetta: I saw my first Frazetta piece when I was six. That was thirty years ago. I've been a fan through all these years. Something Frazetta said sticks to my brain: he would use photo references only for gestures (all artists did in those days) - BUT, he warned never, ever to rely on the photos, camera for your work. And you can see this difference with a Frazetta piece and a Vallejo piece. Hell, I think Jeffrey Jones, Michael Kaluta, William Stout, Charles Vess, Adam Hughes, Brian Stelfreeze, Brian Bolland, Dave Johnson, Dan Brereton and a few others are better artists than Vallejo.

I also read Spectrum. Waiting for Number 9 to come out....Anyways, dude someday you need to go down to San Diego for the Comic Con. You'll meet most of the artists featured in Spectrum. It's truly awesome.

Anyways, while Rockwell was very creative - and a master painter (cuz, no matter what, painting is just plain hard) - his paintings still had a certain "life" to them that Vallejo's works are missing. Oh, I could go on - and I do have more to add. But I must go to work now!

Patricia, do you work in the industry? People have hinted at this before. Seems interesting.

Anyway, I haven’t bought comics in a while, because it became a very expensive hobby because I kept increasing what I read. My favorites were: McFarlane (does he even draw anymore?); Frank Miller’s Sin City stuff (simple yet appealing, I also like the Batman TPB he did, too). The rest of the names I forget, but I will do my best to tell you who: Jose Ostrada or something like that…he worked with a lot of different companies and just started his own comic when I quit buying - it had something to do with a superhero that was a fireman. The WILDCATS guy - he was Asian and did X-Men before WILDCATS (I think I saw that he was back at X-Men)…something Lee. The guy who did PITT - he did Hulk before PITT. Don’t shoot me, but I enjoyed some of Leifeld’s stuff, too (is he even in the industry?). Oh, and I liked the Savage Dragon stuff. The height of my buying was at the height of the “independant uprising” (Image, Malibu, Valiant, etc.). I guess a lot of these companies have gone under. Interesting stuff…brings back some memories!

THANKS, Patricia…!

OH…Frazetta is DEFINITELY a part of my collection!!!

Also…I should have made something clear about Rockwell (and you brought it up)…he used photos for reference ONLY (no painting from the tracing of the photo…)

Pat…I tell you something ELSE that’s “coming into it’s own” (but in my estimation, has a ways to go…)…totally computer generated personages…

Is there a Website for the people who sponser the yearly Comic Con?

Also, who is the “new and upcoming “star” in Fantasy Art World?” A lot of people we’ve mentioned are not young people!!! (But their work will live on forever!) Pretty cool!

HITer Scott: Some of the names you mentioned should be: Joe Quesada. He is now the Editor in Chief of Marvel (has been for at least the last two years). He’s done a damn good job, too.

Jim Lee - creator of Wildcats and he went on to start "Homage" comics as well. Image Comics is now part of the DC family (and so is Homage). The guy who created "PITT" is Dale Keown and I believe he's back with either Marvel or DC. As for Liefeld? Couldn't stand his work. Even though he's responsible for bringing in some briliant new talent- I ain't got no respect for him. Valient and Malibu are GONE. But, we have a stronger Dark Horse and some other strong, new, brimming with talent publishers: Oni and Crossgen.

Mufasa: Ask Ko: My studio bookshelf is brimming with Frazetta books, calenders and card collections. My credo: Frazetta is the God of All Artists. Frazetta taught me NOT to emulate other artists, or even he, but to become stronger in my OWN style or talent.

As for computer generated art? ANY of the top guys in this field who use such applications as Photoshop, Bryce, etc. will tell you that you have to have strong skills in anatomy, perspective, and other techniques (shadowing, for instance) before you will become strong with computer generated art. I know firsthand that Adam Hughes, for instance, uses Photoshop - but he's so good at rendering in pencil and also in pen (which he does first than scans into Photoshop). So is Brian Stelfreeze. Brian Bolland inks his work via Photoshop, but he became a pro BEFORE turning to the computer. Get what I'm saying? Ya gotta have skills FIRST with the basics (pencil, pen, charcoal, etc)!

Oh, and most of these guys - they're my age!!! And that ain't too old! But in the Spectrum books, you see alot of up and coming artists, too. And check out the Wizards of the Coast (people who publish the Dungeons and Dragons stuff) - they use alot of the top talent in the field of Fantasy art.

Joe Quesada (man, I butchered that…LOL)!! That is it! He is Ed in Chief at Marvel??? I really enjoyed his work (he did have the trademark gritting teeth thing…you could always tell it was his work by that (along with the way he did the eyes)). Most if not all of the Image guys are back with the big 2 ??? So much for their revolt!! I guess they may have made things better at Marvel and DC. It is funny to hear though. Also, who was the guy who started Valiant and broke away and did Plasm? He focused a lot more on stories as opposed to art. I really enjoyed the Valiant stuff when he was there and I liked the Plasm series even though it did not last. I know most hate Leifeld, but I liked his work. Every issue, he always had a frame or two that really impressed me. I think most disliked him for other reasons. Funny how things have changed, hearing all this stuff makes me feel like I have been in a coma for 8 years and just woke up to find how things have changed! It is kinda weird.

HITer Scott- The Valiant/Plasm guy you’re talking about must be Jim Shooter. I’m a little confused when you say he focused a lot more on the stories as opposed to the art. Do you mean that he was the writer? Did he do art work there too? I’ve seen him edit, write, and color comics but never draw. I know a little about his career. Read his run on the Avengers (Both of them).

I agree with Patricia to a certain extent in that I think that almost all of Boris Vallejo’s more recent work has been derivative, sex-addled cookie-cutter stuff. Sad, really, because his earlier work was so much better. The covers for the Gor series of books, a few of his religiously influenced pieces (INRI comes to mind), the Conan covers and the Tarzan series - in particular, Tarzan the Magnificent - all rock.

But with the advent of the more mainstream (and his own) awareness of bodybuilding, his work has certainly gone downhill. Now all of his models look like bodybuilders, which is not what you want with a fantasy painting (since those guys built their muscle swinging axes and shit). But back in the mid-70s? Gold, baby!

(I do agree that Frazetta is the more important artist, no question about that at all!)

Vallejo hasn’t done his own work in years,… all done by his assistants. And while I was impressed during my High school years, I now see the stiffness of his figures, not to mention the same ‘glossy’ look to just about everything. ‘Cookie cutter’ is an excellent description. I studied with a french artist years ago on the west coast, and while I did pick up some techniques, many of my colleagues would descirbe his approach as being ‘good at drawing manequins’. Sadly, a lot of teachers end up creating watered-down student-clones of themselves. I try not to let my own students actually see my own work until they’re pretty far along on their own.

I used to really dig Boris Valejo as a kid. But, I pretty much agree with Stu and Patricia. Maybe my taste in art just matured as I did, or maybe his work got a lot worse, but either way, when you look at his paintings you notice two things… One, his figures are “static”, no energy or soul to them at all. Two, his environments are not believable… they look like studio sets.

On the other hand, while Rockwell used a lot of the same techniques, his paintings obviously rock. His characters have so much life to them. I think this is really what seperates the good and the great illustrators.

As far as comic book artists go, I'm a big Art Adams fan. I think of him as the Jim Lee before Jim Lee was around. I loved his X-Men stuff.

I hope some of you can help me with this. I teach art and one of my students is amazing at drawing “marvel style superheroes”,(he is a special ed student). Woould any of you know a good school (post high school) that would be good for a very talented young man. Thanks.

Yeah, there is a school that specifically teaches all things related to comic art. The Joe Kubert School in New Jersey. There is a website - I wish I had the link right on hand, but I don’t. You can do a search using Joe Kubert as your search word. It’s a good school, too. There are also correspondence courses available. I say do check it out:

Thanks Patricia, I’ll check it out. I’ve heard of the school before but didn’t know if it’s any good.

Very kewl. And I forgot to mention another thing. If the school is not a viable alternative right now - this kid can always go to a local comic book convention. Many times, there are comic book pros present and they are all too happy to take a gander at your work and provide you with critiques.

I have found that to be much more rewarding than any school! Go to a local comic book shop - they'll know what convention is coming up in your area!

“viable alternative” - I meant “viable OPTION”. Sorry.


Thanks for the great ideas