Tuesday, May 31, 2016

How I Lost My Way

Back in January of 2010, I lost my job and it was a giant kick in the nuts. I had only been married for less than two years and now had to inform my wife a second time, that I had been laid off. It was scary facing the unknown without a plan -- quickly doing what came naturally to solve my problem...emailing my resume. That faceless approach to solving my unemployment issues didn't bear any fruit for months, so I reevaluated and took wisdom from a billionaire duck's advice -- work smarter, not harder. 

It soon became apparent, that trying to find a design job when so many others we're doing the same, was pointless. Instead, I decided to go into business for myself; something I always dreamed of doing but never had to nerve to do. Need is the mother of invention after all.

I decided that I wasn't going to sell my design skills as much as I had done in the past and instead focus more on illustration. By coupling that with my logo design background, I could stand out and make a small name for myself. I also got out from behind my computer and attended all kinds of mixers, creative and non-creative. I learned that spending $2000 to advertise in a creative directory was stupid, instead I reached out to podcasts I enjoyed and made them something nice as a thank you for their free entertainment. It always led to the hosts reaching out to me and mentioning my name and services on their show. I even got to be on a few podcasts as a guest and worked out a deal where I would get free spots in return for some design work. 

When I wasn't working on paid work I was blogging weekly about my work experiences and working on personal projects. It earned the attention I was searching for and led to some great gigs. In 2012, I did the unthinkable and did my first DesignerCon, which also led to some great paid work and regular gallery work (which was strictly for fun). This isn't to say that there weren't any hard times. There absolutely was. I remember one instance where I was leaning against my bed and slumped down to the floor in defeat and asking God "why can't things just work out?". My wife was close by to hear me.

Being the oldest son of latino immigrant parents, it was incredibly hard to depend so much on my wife and not contribute as much as I would have liked to, but she was there for me through that time and I'm incredibly thankful to her for believing in me. After almost 4 years, my career was in a great place. I no longer needed to go hunting for work, the work came to me and I was being invited to do more gallery shows and gained a growing fan base through social media that allowed me to sell prints of my work.

So why was I feeling so shitty?

In a nutshell, I stopped taking my own advice. I lost my way. I wasn't working smarter anymore, I was simply working. A lot. And although the work was great and paid very well, I wasn't getting the personal satisfaction I once did. The fun, personal work became part of my schedule and took huge chunks of my time. Updating my social media outlets became work as well. It had become a beast that constantly needed feeding. I was essentially doing a creative version of keeping up with the Joneses. And I'm sorry to say, as a Father of a 21-month old son and husband, I was giving more importance to the superficial side of being a creative professional in today's world, than playing with my family. 

Well, fuck that.

I took 5 days off in San Diego with my family where I did nothing but rest and play. I did absolutely no creative work whatsoever. Instead I enjoyed watching my son experience Legoland for the first time, had late night dessert when we felt like it and did some swimming -- at one point having to jump out of the hot tub because Sebastian felt he was ready to dive into the deep end of the pool. 

This time off allowed me to see how unhappy I was making myself checking and updating my social media all the time and taking on every project that came my way. I don't have to work on personal projects that feel like work and I don't need to take on every gallery show that gets offered to me. I have little time with my son before he realize how totally uncool I am. I need to take advantage of this time before it's too late. It's the best work I'll ever do and I'm glad that I finally got it through my thick head and decided to make some changes. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the things that binded me, I just realized it wasn't fun anymore. And if something isn't fun then why the hell do it? It's time to rethink and revise.

"You are who you choose to be..." Right?

I choose to be a better Father. And although I'm sure some people may come across this post and have some thoughts on it, the real reason I wrote it was to make it real and declare it in black and white. Some tough days are ahead of me as I make strides to change my habits, but it'll be worth it for a better quality of life. 

I make art, the art doesn't make me. 

Thanks for reading.


My boy, Sebastian.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Value What You Do Or No One Else Will

Over on Instagram I started the topic of value -- specifically that the value of your work is not given by others, but by you first. I opened up the comments section to anyone who had any questions about being a working artist. I thought it would be best to answer the questions here for everyone to see, because a lot of artists have the same questions and concerns. I'm answering in the order in which they were received. If anyone has any further questions, please leave a comment and I'll answer you personally. Let's get started.

Could you describe/show your work space and supplies? Any tips on getting more awareness for your art?

Everyone wants their work noticed and with the ease and power of the internet, lots of people have the chance to see your work. If your goal is to get a following, Instagram is a great place to start. I would recommend Facebook, but if you weren't grandfathered in before they started charging for post boosts, you don't really stand to get your work out there. Still it doesn't hurt. But I think you have more to gain from finding a local Artwalk night that you can participate in or register for one of the tons of conventions around the country. It's the best way to meet people, because it's absolutely true that it's about "who you know". It'll take some investing in yourself ($$$) but if you're serious about having your work seen, it's what you gotta do wonders for you. But do some research and you'll find venues that are looking for artists. As for my work space. I have a studio crawling with toys, statues, CDs and lots of prints and posters of artists I admire. I have a drawing table and a desk where my computer sits. The most important thing is that you surround yourself with stuff that you love and inspires you. As for drawing supplies, I recommend the Pentel Pocket brush, Faber Castell pens and pencils and Prismacolor markers and Verithin color pencils. All of this stuff can be found on Amazon.

As a freelance illustrator/artist how are the best ways to go to work.

You can go with headhunters like Artisan Creative who look for freelance and full-time artists. A lot of these places get part of your pay, so they may say the project or position pays $35/hour but the reality is they're charging the company $40/hour and you're getting the lions share. Lots of times these places will keep you from getting hired on full-time so you'll have to quit their services and take a chance on your own. The key is to find an agency that will get paid a fee from an employer to find the right person for the job, so it doesn't come out of your pay. There's also resources like the Directory of Illustration, and or talent representation like the Bright Group. They find work for you for a percentage of your fee, but they're well connected and have tons of resources. Of course, none of this is free, so you gotta be willing to invest in yourself. And then there's the option of going to networking meetings and mixers. This will force you to get out of your comfort zone, which I highly recommend, and get you in front of people. Again, you'll have to do some research online to find places where people gather to share their services. A lot of times they're free, but you'll have to have some nice business card printed up (I recommend Moo.com) in order to be prepared.

Any tips for artists struggling with drawing figures. I can't get the grasp of drawing people (cartoonish or real life) I want to break into digital comics but I can't seem to pass my limitations on awkward body figures in my art.

Figure drawing classes. That's it. And draw from life when you're out and about. The worst thing you can do is learn from looking in comic books, because every artist has a different approach. Some styles are realistic and some are stylized, but when you draw from real life, there is no mistake there. Draw what you see. Look online for Figure Drawing classes. Sometimes meetup.com has groups that get together to draw in groups. And remember, they say every artist has 10,000 bad drawings in them, so just get them all out asap. 

How do I go about selling prints of my artwork? Also any tips on drawing females?

Big Cartel, etsy, Society 6 are just a few online services that help you get your artwork up and ready to sell. You can make prints yourself on high quality Epson printers that will cost you a pretty penny (do some research) or you can find local or online printers who offer high quality art prints. But with a site like Society 6, they do everything for you, but of course they get the lions share of the sale for printing, packing and shipping the product. I advise to do it yourself. As for drawing females, see my previous answer.

Any suggestions on getting people interested in purchasing artwork. Also are there any figure drawing books/sites/references that would be great for practicing? Last question, what is a great resource for art prints (ie type of paper, company, printers, best diy options). 

A lot of these question I've answered above. I really recommend finding a figure drawing class. You'll have to find something online, meetup.com is a good place to start to find groups where there's experienced and non-experienced artists alike. But two books I still enjoy are Anatomy for the Artist and The Figure in Motion. Find them on Amazon. As for prints, look for printers in your area so that way you can get a feel for paper. I like 130lb uncoated because of the thickness and it's a good alternative to the more expensive giclee archival printing, plus it absorbs color right on top instead of it saturating into the paper --makes for more vibrant colors. You can print all of this digitally. It's the industry standard now. Or look at Epson printers that handle high quality paper. Do the work and get to digging. 

I've been trying to be a freelancer and wish to improve. I work part time at an art store and balance between spiritual studies, work and arts. My question...are you a full-time artist? Do you do commissions? Did you ever draw outside your comfort zone?

I am currently a full-time artist but continue to do work for my clients from when I was self-employed. I was self-employed for four years and had finally reached having a great clientele, but my wife and I were looking to start a family, so when I was offered a full-time position (with full benefits) I decided to take a risk. Two years later I'm still full-time and still servicing my clients and doing work for galleries and other personal projects. I don't do many commissions mostly because I don't have the time, but if the commission sounds fun I tend to take it on. As an artist that doesn't necessarily have a style, I get hired because of my versatility. That doesn't work for everybody, but it does for me, so I get presented with challenges form time to time, but that's just the nature of the business. If you're not taking risks you're not going anywhere. My advice for you is to make up your mind what you want to do with your life and pursue that. The more your stretch yourself thin, the less you'll master anything. 

Been trying to push my 'brand' of cartoon creatures and want to create a better more involved following with people who are invested in what I do. Any tips to help cultivate this?

You gotta ask yourself is if you're doing this for you or for the audience that you're looking for. If you love what you're doing then just do it, you may garner a following but they may not be as interested in what you're doing as you are. If you're doing this for the following then you should create for them and that may not be what you're currently working on. I always say do what you love to do and don't worry about anybody else. The right people will find you and enjoy what you do. This is probably not the answer you wanted, but it's the reality. Put it out there through social media platforms and see which one resonates the most and just keep doing what you love to do. Best of luck.

Aaron Laurich - email
I saw your post on instagram. That is a great idea. I have a couple questions for you if you don't mind. 
First off is about promotion. I have been finding it hard to promote my work. I have a website and a Facebook page and Google+ page. But I'm still finding it hard to get my self out there. 
Next is about prints right now I'm using Nuvango.com to sell my work but the pieces I sell they take a large chunk of the money. Thank you for your time. I enjoy always seeing your work. Your style is really great. Keep creating and thanks for looking out for us just getting into the game. 

Aaron, I'm pretty sure I've answered the first part of your question above. Social media is great and Instagram has been especially great for me, but meeting people in person is the way to go. It gets you out of your comfort zone. Find an Artwalk or a local convention where you can sell prints, books, sketchbooks, whatever... directly to an audience. It's scary but worth it. Also, I don't know where you live but if you have any galleries near you, reach out to them. It's pretty competitive, but if you're nice and not pushy, you can almost always get an honest answer from someone. 

I had been approached by Nuvango a while back, but I already set up my shop through Big Cartel, which has worked for me for over three years. They have all kinds of plans, one which is totally free. Thanks for the kind words and thanks to everyone for participating in this last minute experiment. Let me know if there are any other questions you could use some help with.

Happy Creating,

Dennis (aka tanoshiboy)

Friday, April 4, 2014

World's Finest 75 at Ltd Art Gallery

This is my second year working with the Ltd Art Gallery in Seattle WA and it's already been a blast. The gallery teamed up with Emerald City Comic Con to put on this annual show themed around comic books, which is right up my alley!

Who doesn't like comics? Or better yet...who doesn't like superheroes? They're ingrained in the public consciousness. Captain America 2 just opened and is set to make $90 Million or more. So I was especially excited to participate in this show and I could think of no one better to tribute than the big two in comics: Superman and Batman. Superman turned 75 last year and this year it's Batman's turn, so naturally I thought of partnering them up together.

World's Finest 75 was the result and I'm pretty proud of it. From concept to completion, it was one of those ideas that flowed nicely from my noggin to my sketchbook and then to my computer screen. For this piece I had to put Superman in the foreground because Batman works great in this composition as a looming shadow for Superman to contrast off of.  I hope that DC Comics fans will enjoy it.

If you're in the Seattle area, head down to Ltd which is running the show till April 26th. This one and only Giclee print measures 16x20 and is available HERE.
11x14 Prints will be available HERE.

Friday, March 28, 2014

An Open Letter to Young Artists

Hey you,

I bet that since you were a kid you felt an overwhelming need to draw, to create. Pencils, crayons, color pencils, pens, watercolors, Sharpies, you name it. These were your tools and you loved it.

The internet allowed you to see other people's work, many of them professionals sharing their work on Tumblr or Instagram. You imagined your creative gift as being a way to make a living -- to be a professional artist. Your decision to pursue this goal might have been met with encouragement or with criticism, but you pushed forward regardless because you knew that no matter what this is what you wanted to do.

I bet you follow many of your favorite artists and collected a ton of their work onto a pinterest board for inspiration. But at some point, you started to compare yourself to those artists. You studied their style and technique and followed their instructions. "This is how you become a professional artist" you thought to yourself.

But you felt stuck at one point because maybe you can't afford a new Cintiq. Or your latest work didn't get more likes on Facebook. You looked at your work and it doesn't look anything like those professional artists. And you began to feel bad about yourself. In your heart you felt you're not good enough.

Well, I call bullshit.

Don't idolize and compare yourself to someone else. It's contradictory to your basic nature as an artist. You have a story to tell that is unique. You have a style that is unique. You were put on this planet to explore your own voice and to express it. Want to know another thing? The best part about being an artist is you don't have to be a professional to be one. All you have to do is choose to be one and do the work -- do it because you love it. And if you choose to be a professional artist, there's nothing wrong with that. But keep in mind that a job at a major studio is still a job. Ask a pro. At the end of the day many working artists get laid off. Talent doesn't exclude you from the mundane trials of human life.

Many of the best artists are the ones you've never heard of. They're not on Instagram. They have a unique style, original characters and they work on their own projects. They also know that software doesn't make them better artists, passion and determination does.

So why am I telling you this? Because I feel I was put on this planet to tell you that your story matters. To encourage you to draw your ass off. Create your own characters and tell your stories and collaborate with others. Work hard and be nice to people and I promise that you will go far -- as far as you're willing to go. So don't worry about not having all the fancy tools, just pick up your pencil and get started.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

3NES Show - Battle-Ravaged Nintendo

Last week, the Bottleneck Gallery debuted their new 3NES show. A tribute to Nintendo's most popular and enduring titles -- Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda and Metroid. I was fortunate to be able to participate and I wanted to share my process.

First, I started with some doodles. It's the way I warm up and explore the possibilities. As you can see, pretty early on I decided I liked the idea of seeing these video game characters up close and personal. Nobody ever shows the toll their work takes on them, so that was going to be my focus.

Now here's where the real fun begins...

Doodles A'hoy!
To emphasize the gritty and beat-up feel I wanted, I thought it'd be best to ink the finished drawings and let the ink bleed along the lines a little. And I did that with this pen, which I highly recommend.

Pentel's Pocket Brush
Here they are inked and grimy looking. I really wanted to get some nice thick-to-thin line weights.

Link is ready to go!

Samus Aran is looking cute despite being pissed

Mario's gonna need a new outfit 
From this point, I scanned my images into Photoshop where I digitally painted each character using a pretty dull color palette. I made a few changes here and there, but for the most part it stayed close to the original inked drawings. About 90 to 120 minutes was spent on each of these characters.

Oh, one little detail you may not have noticed is that I chose the background color of each piece based on the game packaging of my favorite title of the corresponding characters game. (whew!)

See what I mean?

The show runs till September 22nd so if you're in the area go and see some art! I won't be able to make it out to Brooklyn, NY, but I'm happy to see pictures of the event (and my work) on instagram and facebook. I hope you enjoyed this quick look at my process.

Happy designing!

Dennis (aka tanoshiboy)

*** If you'd like to add these limited edition prints to your collection, click here and each image will have a link to the Bottleneck Gallery's online store. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Daredevil -- Project: Rooftop

Good to be back and blogging again. I thought I'd share what I did for Project Rooftop's Fan Art Fridays.

They were asking for redesigns of the man without fear and I couldn't pass it up.  Let me preface this by saying that DD has one of the best costume designs in all of comics, but when I was posed with the question of how I would reimagine Daredevil, I had to go for it. My goal was to streamline the current costume and add some practicality.  So here's a breakdown...

  • DD's Billyclub is now located on his back for easier access
  •  Chest and shoulders are slightly armored for those pesky shuriken and other projectiles
  • DD's gloves now have a a couple of fingers and his thumb exposed for easier use of heightened touch
  • His mask now covers his entire face for a blind-justice motif
  • His big boots are gone and replaced by some sleek parkour shoes 
  • Larger and redesigned DD logo
I had a lot of fun with this and would love to hear what you think. And if you'd like to check out the other work that was submitted click here.

Happy drawing,

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

Friday, July 26, 2013

The 25 - Spider-man 2099

Back in 1992, Marvel came out with a slew of books that took place in an alternate future called 2099. In this future, Miguel O'hara was the new genetically altered Spider-man and he went to war against the evil corporation Alchemax. Peter David wove a tale so good, I still remember it fondly till this day. Go out and pick up some of the collections of these stories and see how Peter David and Rick Leonardi can take a goofy concept like making future versions of Marvel heroes and make it awesome.

I chose Spidey 2099 as the final of The 25 because he's set to come back in September to the current continuity and I'm really excited about it. To see the current Spider-man (Doc Ock in Peter Parker's body) go up against a hot-tempered Spidey of the future is nothing short of amazing. The last time they met was under happier circumstances, but this time Miguel will be dealing with Doc Ock and I don't think it's going to go well. Anyway, Spidey 2099 has a bad ass suit. It's fast, sharp, dark and edgy, but still has the "spider" feel to it. I'll be doing more drawings of this guy soon, but for now here's my take and it's up in my store if you'd like to take Spidey home with you.

Thanks for joining me on this experiment that took a couple of months to complete. It was really fun to draw these 25 awesome characters and present them so publicly on the web. Most of these original drawings have found homes and some haven't (yet), but I truly appreciate the support from everyone who took the time to read and those of you who purchased these originals and have them in your homes now. Truly I do. Subscribe to the blog and keep an eye open for some fun stuff from me, including interviews with some of the most talented indie artists out there. And please, comment below and tell me what you thought about this project. Did you like it? Do you want to see it again? Would you like to participate in another 25 made up of multiple artists? Sound off, kids!

Happy drawing!

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The 25 - Daredevil

It feels like Daredevil and I have been in each other's lives lately. I read his monthly comic (which is excellent), I illustrated a poster of him for The Roost, and I'm even working on a little something for a special little blog out there (more on that soon) and now he's part of The 25.

I've already gone into a bit of detail of why I love Daredevil in my post from last week, so I won't go into it again. I'll make this short and sweet. Imagine not having any obvious powers like wall crawling or enhanced strength or invulnerability, but still you go out there and fight crime nonetheless. Now imagine doing all of that and being blind. Yeah. Crazy right?

That is why he is the man without fear. If you want to give yourself a treat, go out and read Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli and see how a man can be torn down and how that man can build himself back up again. You'll thank me later. And if you like, Matty is waiting to go home with you (he's up in my store), and you won't even have to hold his arm.

Thanks for reading.

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

Monday, July 22, 2013

The 25 - Chewbacca

I watch the original Star Wars trilogy at least once a year and every time I see it, it reminds me of why this trilogy still works so many years later. I think it's the sense of fun and adventure that carries throughout each movie. A big part of that fun is Han and Chewbacca's relationship. They bicker, they poke fun at one another, but you can tell they care and that there's a deep friendship there; even though you can only understand one of them. One thing I didn't like, and till this day bugs me, is that at the end of a New Hope, Chewy doesn't get a medal for his bravery. Even as a kid I was outraged. You think Han just changed his mind all of a sudden and went to help the Rebels? No way! Chewy had to have said something to him. They must have argued and Chewy must have made his point and that's when they turned the Millennium Falcon around.

So I decided to do a tribute to the lovable fuzz ball. Yes, the Wookie SHOULD win. You can pick up this one of a kind piece up in my store. And may the Force be with you!

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

Friday, July 19, 2013

The 25 - Boba Fett

I'm not going into detail on why I chose Boba Fett for The 25, because it's pretty obvious. He's a badass. He was in the Star Wars trilogy for about 11 minutes total and he's one of the most beloved characters in George Lucas' universe. It just goes to show that a well designed costume can do wonders.

I'm down with the Fett! Have a nice weekend and for those of you at comic-con, may the force be with you. Always.

It's up for grabs in the store.

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

*** 3 More to go.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Making of Daredevil: Radar Love

I was really excited when the The Roost approached me to be in their SUPER poster art show at The Curve Gallery. I was more than excited especially since they're in Australia and I'm here in California. It's very humbling when people in other parts of the world find your work and appreciate it, so even with my crazy schedule there was no way I was going to pass.

The idea behind the show was for each artist to take on a superhero of their choice in a poster design. No two posters would have the same hero and it had to be colorful. I knew that Batman, Superman and Spider-man would be up for grabs, so I didn't bother to lock down any of the super popular heroes for myself. I went in another direction and picked Daredevil. I love Daredevil. I love him so much I call him "Matty" instead of "Matt". I think he's an underestimated character and is sometimes looked on as the poor man's Spider-man, but he's an amazing character and I knew I needed to give the devil his due (zing). I started with some simple post-it note doodles...

Thumbnail sketches to get the noodle going

All of these had something I liked. I almost went with something dramatic like the sketch in the top right hand corner -- Matt (brooding) on the edge of a building with Daredevil's head in the background. But as the sketches kept coming, I realized I didn't want to go with something grim and gritty. That Daredevil is out there and there's plenty of illustrations to support that version of him. As a long time reader of his book, I decided to reflect the current art direction on the book, which is less gritty and more colorful and accessible. So I dropped the idea of rendering this with some photoshop brushes and going clean and colorful. That made sense to me. 

The last thumbnail sketch I did (top left hand corner) was the layout I chose. It had a feeling of Daredevil coming at you with a devilish grin and breaking the fourth wall. Here is the sketch...

The rendered sketch
This is where I started to think about the color palette. DD is all red so I wanted to pick some contrasting tones to really make his costume as bright and colorful as possible without making him look too silly. I was originally going to do a yellow background with white radar lines, which Ben, at the Roost, really liked. But it just didn't work (Sorry, Ben!) and I made the call to go with a negative space effect and turn the blacks into purple. In the end, it was the right way to go and I'm really happy with the end result. I like that the concept of Daredevil coming out of the shadows and breaking through into the light worked.

I want to thank the guys at The Roost for the opportunity to collaborate with them and for putting up with my last minute changes (wink). I'd definitely love to work with them again and if you're in Newcastle, Australia tomorrow (or today) stop by and see all the amazing work at the opening. Here's their facebook invite. And check out their snazzy promo video below.

Thanks for reading!

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

P.S. Go out and read Mark Waid's current run on Daredevil. It's a truly amazing and fun book.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The 25 - Darkseid

When it comes to villains, there are few who are as awesome as the lord of Apokolips; Darkseid. Not only is he Superman's most dangerous foe, but a foe to the entire DC universe. I've loved this guy for a long time and became an even bigger fan when he was introduced into the Superman animated series back in the late 90's. His appearances continued into the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series as well. Meanwhile in the comics he was even better at being evil and was still searching for the anti-life equation which he finally gets his hands on in Final Crisis. He enslaves the human race and most of the hero population. Evil wins. And that's just the beginning of the story.

Anyway, the reason I added him to The 25 is because I've never drawn him before and wanted the challenge. Darkseid's and evil god and I wanted to show him smiling at his handiwork and charging up his omega beams. I really wanted to get the rock texture of his face right and splash some inks here and there to make his face pop. I'm pretty happy with the results.

If you're a fan of the series Young Justice, you probably felt the way I did when the big villain revealed of the second season is Darkseid himself. What a sigh of regret when you realize that there wasn't going to be a third season. He's definitely the kind of villain worth waiting for and you can pick up the master of evil in my store. Only 4 more to go. Thanks for reading!

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Swamp Thing - The 25

I'm going to try really hard to keep this post short because I've really love Swamp Thing. I'm not going to go into his history cause it's a bit long, but I will say that when Alan Moore took over the book he gave the character a richness he didn't have before. He took the story of a man who turned into a plant, to a plant that thought he was a man, which is devastating to the character. But it's that big difference that makes the character who he is today. Scott Snyder's run on the character made me love him even more because they made him go to war and use his powers to make himself more fierce looking and battle-ready. The horns the wood lining along his jaw and brow, just awesome.

I wanted to capture that aspect of him, but also the sadness associated with the character.  And as good as Alec Holland/Swamp Thing is, his life is so full of tragedy. Being the avatar of the Green and it's champion, is not a walk in the park. Some would say it's not easy being green. Heyo! *rimshot*

Seriously though, I love this character and you should go out and pick up Alan Moore's run on the book. It's over 30 years old and still holds up. Snyder's (and artist Yanick Paquette) run was fantastic as well and reignited my love for Swamp Thing. Even though they wrapped up their run on the book, the job that Charles Soule and Kano are doing now is continuing with fine work. I can't recommend these stories enough. I love this green monster with a heart of gold and you can find my rendition of him up in my store. If no one buys it, I'll be happy because this is by far my favorite piece from The 25, bar none.

Thanks for reading!

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

You Are Who You Choose To Be (The Making of an Iron Giant Tribute)

When I was preparing to start work on my Iron Giant piece, the only criteria I had was the theme of the show the Bottleneck Gallery had selected -- "Where is my mind?" Movies, TV shows or music that messed with your head. I immediately thought of the Iron Giant. It's not like Inception or the end of Se7en, but it did have a long lasting effect on me and I knew there was something there I could use to convey an emotional message.

So I looked at it from the point of view of the Iron Giant and went to the ending of the movie when (Spoliers) he blasts off into space to stop the missile and sacrifices himself to save the town of Rockwell, and most importantly, his friend Hogarth. As you can see by these sketches I had a wide range of ideas.

At one point, I wanted to tell the ending in a sequential layout (comic strip). I felt pretty strongly about that idea and then I doodled some ideas on some post it notes and the very last one in the right hand corner felt right. It brought up an experience I had a couple of years ago when I went tubing with my friends up in the Kern River here in California. Things went severely out of control when I lost my tube and was plunged into class 4 rapids. I went through rocks and some huge falls, but the thing that almost did me in was the whirlpool I got caught in. I tried like hell to avoid it, but the current was just too strong. I screamed for help, but my friends could do nothing. They watched in horror as my body bobbed up and down in the white water. I could barely hear them screaming over the deafening sound of the water. It's in that moment that the fear of dying became reality.

I was going to die.

Most people would say that this is the part where their life flashes before their eyes; that regret sets in and all kinds of memories race through their mind before the end. I have to say, none of that happened to me. In that moment, I was sad. I was sad to never grow old with my wife. I was sad to never have experienced fatherhood and I was sad that I would never see my sister again and I was sad at the pain I would put my mother through.

And then a calmness came over me. I accepted my fate and the struggling stopped.

All I thought of was my family and all I saw was their faces. This memory came to me when I was doing that last post-it note sketch. I remembered the feeling like it had just happened and it was a bit overwhelming. But I knew I wanted to visualize that sort of feeling into this piece, because when the moment came for me, I took the people I loved with me and thought of nothing else. I imagined that in that moment, the Iron Giant did the same right before the end.

I'm very proud of this piece, but more so because it's made a connection with people. I've been getting messages and comments from people telling me how much this movie means to them and how much this movie still effects them till this day when they see it. It's a testament to great storytelling by Brad Bird and his team and I'm happy to have connected to people through something I created (click below for a full view). It feels good.

Thanks for reading!

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

You Are Who You Choose To Be - Available Here

And by the way, you're probably wondering how I made it out of the whirlpool. Well, like the stubborn bastard I am I started fighting to get loose again and that's when I got sucked under the water and shot out the other side and into calmer waters. I was able to get out of the river with the help of my friends and had the best meal of my life afterwards. It was a surreal one, but I'm thankful I can share the story with you.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The 25 - Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner)

Back when Hal Jordan went nuts and destroyed the green Lantern, a new lone GL was chosen. His name was Kyle Rayner (aka The Torchbearer) and he was every bit the artist he was portrayed to be. He had self-doubt and wondered if he was worthy of being a Green Lantern... the only Green Lantern. He served with the Justice League, alongside Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman -- the big guns of the DC universe. And he made his mark.

I fell in love with the Kyle Rayner. I loved his attitude, his humanity, and of course, the fact that his constructs (the things he shaped from his ring) we're things an artist would create. Big robots, mech suits even boxing kangaroos. He was incredibly relatable. In time, he got the taste of ultimate power and gave it up to reignite OA (GL HQ) and bring back the Guardians. Soon, the Green Lantern Corp was once more a peace keeping force in the universe. And after a long period of time away, Hal Jordan returned as a hero. Kyle Rayner had a big hand in his safe return and Hal Jordan became the front-and-center Green lantern. Kyle continued to ring-sling, but the focus was on Hal again. 

Still, he's my favorite GL. Not because of the obvious reasons, but because before he came onto the scene, GLs were chosen because they were fearless. Kyle changed everything because he was able to overcome great fear. And since then, all GLs must have that quality. It's one thing to be fearless, but a whole other thing to know great fear and rise above it and overcome it. That's why he's awesome and that's why he had to be a part of The 25. If someone's picks up Kyle from the store, I'll be a little sad to see him go. I felt like this was one of The 25 I wouldn't mind keeping because of what it means to me. 

Thanks for reading!

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The 25 - Red Son Superman

For those who never read the story Superman: Red Son, here's a quick tease. Imagine a world where Superman's ship didn't land in Smallville, Kansas, but instead landed in Soviet Russia? It was written by Mark Millar and obviously had a skewed take on the Superman mythos. Kal El was still raised a farmer, but growing up in a communist country he was quickly noticed by the Soviets and brought in to serve his country's best interests. What's great about this story is that Superman still learns that his powers are meant for humanity as a whole, but when Stalin mysteriously dies he struggles with the decision of becoming the new leader. When he sees that his people desperately need him, the hero gives way to the leader and his power slowly gives way to control. The U.S. is intimidated by all this and they seek Lex Luthor's help to kill this super man. What follows is some of the bestt storytelling I've ever read.

Other DC heroes are given the Red Son treatment and serve as protagonists and antagonists, but it's the cold war between Luthor and Superman that really make this an awesome read. I definitely had to add this Superman to The 25 and he's in the store ready to go home with you.

Thanks for reading!

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

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Monday, July 8, 2013

The 25 - Spawn

Back in the early 90s, a bunch of Marvel artists left the company simultaneously to start Image Comics. Superstar Todd Macfarlane, who was best known for Spider-man, came out with Spawn #1 and it was a huge hit. Over time the popularity of the character has dwindled, but it showed the world that from one massive risk and an original character, one man can create his own empire. And Todd did.

Spawn (Al Simmons) was never supposed to be a Superhero. He was a guy, like many of us (although a very flawed one), who died and made a deal with the devil to come back to his wife, but the devil had plans for him. He was brought back, but he was now a Hellspawn, a soldier in the devil's army. Plus, time had passed and his wife was now married to his best friend and they had a little girl. For years he fought to gain control over his life and struggled with the forces of evil who wanted to control him and use him for the incoming battle with heaven. It was a really exciting book and it even spawned (pun intended) a decent HBO animated series and a drab feature film. Still, it led to Spawn action figures which then led to Macfarlane toys, which were highly detailed and articulated and changed the industry entirely. All from a character that was created by a Canadian kid in high school years ago.

I hope you enjoy my rendition of Spawn and if you like, you can pick it up in my store along with all the other pieces that are still available.

Thanks for reading!

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The 25 - Wolverine (AoA)

Back in the 90s comics took huge risks in getting more readers. The first one I can remember was the Death of Superman. Later on Marvel had a storyline in which Charles Xavier (the founder and leader of the X-men) was killed before forming the school and team. The X-men were formed but by Magneto, in honor of his friend. Apocalypse (a major baddie) took over the world and ushered in a dystopian world named "The Age of Apocaylpse". The regular X-titles were all discontinued and new titles were put in their place showing you how things are under Apocalypse's rule and Magneto as the leader of the X-men.

That brings us to Wolverine (known as Weapon X) who never joined the X-men but was in a relationship with Jean Grey. They both fought against the forces of Apocalypse and in one occasion squared off against a bad version of Cyclops (Who was raised by Mr. Sinister). It led to Wolverine losing his left hand and Cyclops losing one eye (ironyyyyyyy). In one of the better reveals, Weapon X fights against this dude who thinks he's got Logan against the corner and claims his victory. This is when Logan says something like "I lost my hand, bub....not the claws!" and that's when he runs him through. It was an awesome moment and although I like the regular Wolverine (even though he's been prettied up in the comics because of the movies), I decided to draw the AoA version. He's more of the savage, short dude with the long and crazy hair. Weapon X is up in the store if you want to claim it.
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Thanks for reading and happy 4th of July!

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

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Monday, July 1, 2013

The 25 - Snake Eyes

When  I was a kid there were three major shows that all kids were watching; He-Man, Ninja turtles and G.I. Joe. I remember kids coming to school with their backpacks full of figures. We'd bust them out at recess and play until we we're called back in. Occasionally, I brought some of my He-man figures to change things up, but I was met with "they don't belong in the same world!" and my answer was always "But what if they did?. But that's a topic for another day.

Regardless, my favorite G.I. Joe was Snake Eyes. He was the guy decked out in black and a visor and mask that covered his entire face. And he didn't speak! Ironically, the Joe's fought Cobra, and one of their own is named Snake Eyes. Kind of weird, but he was always cool. He spoke with his fists and swords. When the awful movies came out all I was interested in was seeing Snake Eyes and for the most part they kept him true to his animated origins. This original piece is up in the store for anyone who loves the guy.

Thanks for reading!

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

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Friday, June 28, 2013

The 25 - Catwoman

Let's keep the ball rolling with the strong ladies.

If you grew up watching the Adam West Batman TV series, you're familiar with Catwoman. They had three different ladies playing the role, but Julie Newmar was my favorite and even though I was a little kid I knew there was something special about her.

Batman never hit her, nor Robin, but she seemed to always cause trouble for Batman again and again. And I remember thinking how weird that was that Batman took it so easy on a criminal. That's when I realized she was using her sexuality as a weapon. That's not the words I said to myself, but there was an understanding. Since then, Selina Kyle has continued to cause trouble for the Batman, sometimes being on the side of the angels and most times just being on her own side. She's sexy, smart and knows how to get in and out of trouble.

She definitely had to make The 25, and here she is. I really wanted to capture her sexuality without making it gratuitous. My goal was to capture a "I didn't mean to" look on her face and I think I did pretty well. This bad girl is up in the store and is ready to go.

Thanks for reading!

Dennis (tanoshiboy)

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