How to have fun, get cool stuff, and support charity!

Tutorial / 29 October 2020

Hey guys check this out, I thought I'd share a highlight from my recent Twitch stream. If you haven't heard of Humble Bundle and you like comics, games, RPG, etc. you should check it out! (They do not pay me to say that and I am not associated with Humble Bundle, I just love the stuff they have and charities that they support)


3 Simple Rules on Writing and Drawing Female Characters

Tutorial / 26 October 2020

In the debatably classic comedy "As Good As It Gets", Jack Nicholson plays a writer who, when asked how he writes women so well says: "I think of a man, then I remove all reason and accountability."

A hilarious moment, but definitely not an approach I would use in my own work. 

See, you can find something funny (or offensive) and not adopt it into your core identity (or storm the internet convincing everyone else to hate it because you do), but that is a subject for another day.

In the meantime you're here to find out my approach to creating female characters, so let's get on with it.


RULE 1: No damsels in distress. 

I'm sorry, but at this point in history, the damsel in distress is clichéd to eye rolling levels every time I see someone still using it. The weaker sex is a myth. And could you imagine being in a relationship with one of these characters? I don't care how hot Lois Lane or Mary-Jane are, after a few months of constantly rescuing someone from situations that could only be arrived at with poor judgement, that lady is getting cut out of my life. 

Now, some of this is personal preference and it will resonate with some and not others. That's fine, my opinion is not the end-all be-all of the creative process.

Helpless damsels don't do anything for me. Maybe they are the epitome of desirability and alluringness to you or someone else, the idea of saving the helpless woman and having her fawn all over her hero. Not for me, as said above.

I love the female form and I've looked on women as real living, walking works of art for most of my life. I love the female form, but I don't need to draw some weak, twiggy screaming waif being menaced by some beast for an excuse to draw the female form or put them in alluring, skimpy or shredded clothing. 

In real life I like strong, independent women. I don't expect anyone to wait on me hand and foot, have dinner waiting for me when I get home or helplessly run to me over every minor issue or dilemma. I like a boss bitch. A strong woman who knows how to handle herself, her business, earn her own money and have her own independence and individuality. Sure, we can cuddle in and have some fun after work, but there needs to be a mutual strength of character and mutual respect. 

I treat my female characters the same way. That's why in my work and the majority of my art, you won't see the stereotypical helpless girl. If I'm going to create a character of any gender, they need to be strong and strong-willed, otherwise, what's the point? Weak characters don't interest me. I make a conscious effort not to depict helpless women just cowering in fear of any menacing man or other threat. That's just me. I hate cliché'.


Rule 2: Depict realistic body type

In classic renaissance art women are full figured, voluptuous and generally beautiful while still looking like a regular human. I really don't know how this twiggy thin waif-like body style became the default body style for female characters in modern art and pop culture, such as comics. 

If a woman can lift 100 tons, she better have some muscle tone and an imposing body size. If she's not a physical fitness instructor and she works in an office., etc. there's no reason for her to look like a stick thin supermodel. 

I actually wish that some of my pieces had fuller figured women. I make an effort to use realistic and varied body styles and there are a few concepts and story ideas I have that center around full-figured and larger women, that my scheduled just hasn't allowed me to develop yet...but you will see them as soon as I have the opportunity. 

That's not saying that in real life I think that all women should be one way or the other, or that they should look a way that reflects their personality, or I only like big ladies. That would be crazy. I'm talking about art, which when boiled down is the skill of using visual communication to present an idea. If there are no words, you need to tell as much as you can about the character visually. 


Rule 3: Not everyone is white. 

I've been preaching about this in comics for about 20 years.

It's a good idea for any character, male, female or otherwise. 

Look around folks. Not everyone is white. Get some diversity in there once in a while, if you want me to believe the story you are trying to tell. 


Honestly, it's 3 simple rules that, if like-minded, you can follow and with practice I think you'll find that your render will become more interesting and compelling over time. 

That's all for today!

Thanks for reading,

Mike

Things you always wanted to know about composition, but were too afraid to ask!

Tutorial / 19 October 2020

In the interest of helping out anyone who might be new to art or struggling, I thought I'd throw together some examples of the challenges that my own students face online and in-class. If you're not even sure what composition is, this little lesson could make a world of difference in the quality of your art.

I've provided some of my own art samples below with explanations that can help you better visualize your art for any purpose.

1: The "regular" look:


In the days (or perspective) of the "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way", this would have been considered a "regular comics" composition or as Stan Lee would have said at the time, "how the OTHER guys do it.”.

Now there isn't necessarily anything that is glaringly wrong. We get both figures (Marvel's The Puma and Werewolf by Night) in full body. Each one is equally respected with page space and representation. Puma's wardrobe contrasts well against the background. 

Werewolf however is struggling to be seen and fighting with too many similar blues and dark colors from the plants in the background. The posing, though interesting and somewhat dynamic, loses some punch and goes a little flat because of the camera position, giving the image too much of a standard profile look and not fully pulling off the illusion of three dimensions at some points. 

Though there is technically nothing "wrong" with the image it could just be more visually appealing and dynamic. This is what was described as the type of art that would be totally passable for the average comic or magazine. 

2: Visual balance/discomfort


In the second version the entire palette has a purple tint instead of the previous blue tint. Posing has been changed to give a better view of the front of the characters, with Puma getting just a little more prominent real estate. Shifting the trees in the background gives a better feel for the environment and lends more to the feel of a man-made tree line as opposed to a dense jungle. The shift in positioning also allows the dark colored character, werewolf, to stand out and contrast against the lighter background while Puma’s red and white colors contrast nicely with darker outcropping in the background.

Sounds good right?

What doesn’t work: though the angle of the shot is more interesting and complex overall, but the character shift doesn’t work. Both characters are too close to the center and each other, all those key details are jammed into the center of the frame with lots of open unused space on the sides. The forced perspective is slightly confusing. How far away is the werewolf? How far is he jumping? He also seems  a little too low in the frame. Aside from that, Puma can be seen with a blur effect attempting to mimic photographic visuals. This can be a very useful and powerful trick in the artist’s tool box, but in  this case, I think we are on the wrong track and it leaves me wishing for sharper visual detail on Puma. That coupled with the awkward shadow under the werewolf and the overlapping palm trees on the right, it’s distracting enough that I consider it a miss, but also a step in the right direction.

3. Dynamic action and posing


They say “third time’s the charm”.

In this version I feel I’ve merged the best parts of the first and second image while leaving the weaknesses behind.

The characters are given roughly the same amount of space on the page, but on opposite sides of the page, similar to the first version. Now we have the focal length to understand the danger AND the distance. 

Werewolf is now high up on the page, with stark contrast against the lighter background and a nice 3/4 angle that isn’t too much profile or too much head on. The 3/4 at the angle is very important to preserve the perspective of the piece.

Puma is a little more in-focus than in the second example and his wardrobe contrasts well against the foliage in the background. The tribal necklace is given more attention too, lending to the native/Spanish history of the character.

The posing is expressive and dynamic, so the figures emote and the viewer understands how each character feels.

For a little extra dynamic pop, I also tilted the camera, just to give that slightly uncomfortable “off-kilter” feeling.

I like to think that Stan would have thought of it as “The Marvel Way"

Composition is all about placement of characters, backgrounds and any other elements in the most visually appealing way. Don't be afraid to try different camera angles, character poses or background placements. Should your character be in the shadowy corners of the room or backlit by the light of the full moon coming in through the window? Try both and see for yourself. 

The important thing to remember about composition is that it is okay to try several variations to see what looks best. Make sure your perspective makes sense. Create visual balance with character placement and remember to focus on action and suspense. Now, by no means do I mean to hold up my art as a perfect example, trust me, I can pick any of my pieces apart, but if you keep a few of these pointers in mind and practice by focusing on experimenting and generating new art, I believe that you will be happy with the results. 

Thanks for reading,

Mike

Thinking Ahead to Make a Better Christmas

Tutorial / 13 October 2020

Of course, I know my favorite Halloween, hasn't come yet, but I'm already thinking ahead.

I'll explain why. 

We all know 2020 has been an absolute shit of a year. Worse than any I can remember in my lifetime. Genuinely for the first time, I'm not certain about the future of society.

It's been very hard, emotionally and financially, for a lot of people. 

And it made me realize this the other day; A lot of kids are going to have a very shitty Christmas. 

So, I think I'll start planning ahead now. Buying. Saving. To make a decent sized toy donation to a kids toy charity in my area.

In fact, if I thought that trick or treating was actually going to happen this year, I'd buy a pile of toys and hand them out instead of Candy. 

So, there's got to be a way to make this happen on some scale. 

If you're out there reading this and want to join in, make it bigger, have ideas, know of a good children's toy charity, anything like that, feel free to drop me a line and let me know. 

Of course, it doesn't have to be a big event, especially if you live in a different region or country than me. Just find a charity in your area and do what you can, even if it's just spreading the word.

In the meantime I made some art:


Thanks for reading,

Mike

Don’t get sucked in by media, you probably already have everything you need to be happy

Tutorial / 28 September 2020

It’s easy to get lost in a world of music videos, polyamorous discussion threads and youtube videos that are as much advertisements as the commercials that interrupt them.

It makes you sit back and wish you had the money and attention of the rich and famous. Oh, the things that you could do if you had the money and fame of a celebrity.

Well, let me tell you, from the perspective of someone who has tasted just a small part of that success and creative circle in my life:

It’s empty. It’s vapid.

Fame fades. The same people who praised my work, 10-15-20 years ago, don’t know my name today.

Money dwindles. Once you start being seen in a lot of places, TV interviews, radio, online etc. on a regular basis, friends of their convenience come out of the wood work. People you went to high school with need loans. Less accomplished colleagues and acquaintances need help creating a project with little to no budget and benefitting no one but themselves, people in and on the periphery of the entertainment industry suddenly want to be your best friend and take prt in a fantasy lifestyle of parties, events, schmoozing and hookups. All on your dime, of course.

It occurs to me that I, and most people, probably have everything I need to be happy:

I have my art - a creative outlet that allows me to express my ideas and, if luck holds out, earn a living in this crazy world.

I have a roof over my head, food on my table and a circle of friends and family who live and support me.

That’s all I need. I can be happy with that, especially after having experienced the “high life”.

Accolades and applause fade. The mob is fickle. Don’t get sucked into believing that you should be working and struggling and striving to get noticed or attention from the world at large, in the hopes that fame and recognition will solve your problems. They won’t. And don’t believe the hype and extravagance. It’s fake. Smoke and mirrors. 

Most famous people are as miserable and broke as you are, and the ones who aren’t broke are still miserable.

Be thankful for your loved ones and supporters. Keep them close and don’t let the fake world you see on a screen suck you into belueving it’s real. You probably have everything you need to be happy with your life, it’s just a matter of perspective.

Here's some art!:


Thanks for reading,

Mike

It’s good to have an outlet

Tutorial / 24 September 2020

I gotta say, if you’re out there, reading this, during these cray cray covid times, it’s good to have an outlet.

Mine are art and writing. The majority of the writing that I’m doing now is for this very blog. Even if no one ever reads it, for me it is very helpful and therapeutic. 

With my anxiety, it’s like all my insecurity and overthinking create some type of psychological cyst that grows and festers until the tiniest bit of pressure causes it to errupt and squirt out all the anger and rage and disappointment that had been building up and festering.

So, when that happens, you may see more frequent, more negative posts, but now that I’m aware of it I’ll try not to let it get that bad again. I can’tpromise not to rant, but I can promise not to hold back my thoughts as often or for as ling.

In all honesty, just writing my thoughts like this improves my mood and outlook and frees up my mind so much, it doesn’t matter if this is read by a million people or none at all. It’s helping me copewith the insanity and in this moment, that is enough.

Also, here’s some art I did:


Thanks for reading,

Mike Gagnon


I hope the next Michaelangelo has an Instagram budget

Tutorial / 01 September 2020

Really though, when you think about it, I really do hope that the next epic history changing artist does have a budget for social media ads, otherwise, they may never get discovered.

Contrary to popular belief, historical artists whose names are still recognized today, did not die broke, insane and unknown. This fallacy also seems to help perpetuate another myth, that an artists work isn’t valuable until they are dead.

I won’t go into an encyclopedic 20 pages review of history here, but with a little time and research, you can verify that many historical artists did experience a lot of fame and financial reward for their work. In fact, most of the classical artists had multiple apprentices that they would train to paint and sell small replicas of their most famous works to sell and split the revenue. Apprentices would even paint backgrounds and small details for some of the most famous and recognized pieces of art in history. (Some artists also trained their lovers to paint and be apprentices, but I don’thave time to get into that right now.)

The point is, to spite what you may have heard. Most famous historical artists were successful in life, that’s why we still remember them today. Often, when one of these artists did come to an unfortunate end, it had as much to do with the artists own vices and demons as it does to their finances.

When you compare the output of those artists and their apprentices, some artists have thousands of pieces to their name and I would submit, objectively, that if compared the volume of work of a modern commercial artist without apprentices to that of their historical counterparts, the volume of the modern artists portfolio will dwarf that of their classical counterpart.

Thanks to modern advancements in traditional and digital art, artists are able to produce large volumes of professional quality work in much less time. Thanks to the integrated world wide web and slave-like contract standards, they are also required to.

Subjectivity of art quality aside, most modern artists have never and will never experience the living success of their classical predecessors. Even those who do achieve success in their own niches such as comics and video games.

The average comic book contains approx. 120 illustrations. That’s more than the number of famous pieces that some historical artists had in thier entire careers, and a full time comic artist does this every month. Video game artists have to produce even more than this.

So how is it, that today’s artists seem to work twice as hard for half the money and none of the recognition?

Work for hire. Once it became known that a famous piece of art would increase over time, business people have been trying to get a piece of that action. With the advent of the modern marketing and advertising industry, big business realized the power and influence that art could have in influencing the opinions and purchases of consumers. 

Big business can’t risk having an unhappy artist walk away with the rights to thier branding, so of course, they need to create agreements that state that they fully own the rights to any art produced.

Thus the hungry maw of modern business demands of the modern artist that they produce more and more work, faster than ever, for less money and no statement of ownership and little to no recognition.

Raphael, Leonardo, Michaelangelo and Donatello (the men, not the turtles) did not die poor, starving and unknown, but if modern business continues to degrade modern art for commercial purposes today’s artists will.

Your other option is to produce great work and spend tons of money online to get it seen.

Personally, i think both are stupid and too time consuming and I don’t plan to involve myself in either situation.

Btw, here’s some art I made!


Thanks for reading,

Mike

An Artist’s Statement

Tutorial / 21 September 2019



Like the title says, above all, I’m an artist.

Sometimes that means I tell stories with words, sometimes pictures, sometimes both together.

It also means, if I’m lucky, I attract critics and haters.

I say “if I’m lucky”, because these people are my only barometer to know if the message I’m trying to give is landing with the public. Casual supporters, even fans, are way less likely and motivated to share their thoughts on my work, but those who are offended or view my work with derision, those are the ones that are helpful.

I can take those negative responses and compare them against all the analytics of my posts, sales, etc. And make a rough estimate about the percentage of readers and general population that just don’t get it. Not that I do that often. I find that sort of thing mastebatory and tedious, but once in awhile it gives me some important feedback, telling me if I need to be more or less subtle with my work.

Of course I am saying this all a little bit facetiously.

However sometimes, in that rare instance, there is some truly helpful and constructive criticism. 

Rest assured, if you’ve made legitimate point with impartial constructive criticism, I’ve read, considered and applied to my work as necessary.

You’ll have to also trust me that if something about my work looks stupid, ridiculous or shocking, it’s supposed to.

Sometimes my art comes in the form of comics, art, video games, books, and many other things.

Like any other artist, I want my work to make you think. Every piece of my work is meant to make you think about areal world issue and examine your own feelings about the state of the world.

You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to agree. You don’t even have to understand what I’m tryin' to say.

I just want to make you think. Even if you hate it and tell the world how awful it is, it’s a win for me. I got what I wanted. I made you think, and I made you share that with your audience, which also made them think about it too.

It’s a win for me because I am no longer making the mistake of striving for fame and money. That path is empty. Been there done that.

An artist makes art and the goal is that it makes you think. Simple as that.

That’s one of the things I’d like to draw attention to. I hate that I live in a world where I feel like I need to write this. I hate talking about myself. I hate prevention (and predictive type that changes the word pretension to prevention) and self-absorption. I hate repeating myself and explaining myself. I want my work to do the talking for me. 

I don’t even expect people to read this.

I hate what our society has become. Hordes of zombified, self-obsessed people, competing publicly via social media for the envy of people you went to grade school with. Anyone creative is pushed into the slavery of constant self-promotion.

I’m a person. I’m just like you. I have the same fears and shames as you. I’m a human being. 

If you don’t like my work or understand it, that’s fine, it doesn't make one of us wrong or right, it just makes us different people with different opinions, and that’s okay. We can still treat each other with respect, even get along. At the very least we can treat each other as human beings with an equal right to exist and be respected. 

Go ahead. Hate my work. It’s fine, I just don’t have time to worry about it.

My job is to be an artist. To make you think. And I have more ideas to make and share than I’ll be able to while I’m alive. I just don’t have the time to dwell on how they are perceived, if I do that’s one more idea that won’t be born before I die. Some of my ideas will be bad, some will be good. Some you might like, some you might not, but rest assured, I accept you as you are in spite of our differences or what you think of my art.

I am sick. Boo! Hiss!

Tutorial / 10 July 2019

Hey guys.

I am sick. 

It sucks.

I want to burn down a kingdom if it will make the stuffiness in my head go away. 

This does, however, present and opportunity to make a teachable lesson for others. 

That lesson is; If you work from home or as a freelancer, whether an artist or accountant or anything else, take care of yourself. 

I would love to write you a dramatic blog about my struggle through the adversity of illness and overcoming those challenges to fight through my day so that I can deliver more creative content to you, but I'd be lying.

I'm moving at a slower pace today. I'm foggy. My head is not clear and therefore not making the best creative or business decisions. Even as I type this, my fingers and arms are chilled and i'm pretty sure it's not because the room is cold. 

If you are a freelance creator, you've got to take care of yourself. 

It may sound trivial, but it's taken me over 20 years to learn this as a creative professional. 

We have this romantic notion of the artist being tortured and struggling through their own illness, whether physical or mental, to create brilliant works and bring it the waiting world of adoring fans. 

Do you know what happens to artists who ignore their illness and never stop working in real life? 

They die. 

That's what every artist that has ever been known for ignoring their own health to suffer for their art have in common. 

You can't tell people about your art or explain the meaning behind it if you are dead. 

You can't make more art for more people to enjoy in the future if you're dead. 

As a freelance worker of any type, you need to take care of yourself and maintain the best personal health possible. 

No one else will do it for you.

Personally, I'm at the happiest point ever in my career. I want to be here to enjoy it as long as it lasts. 

That means I'm working at a slower pace than usual. I'm probably going to take much longer breaks than usual and I intend to stop working earlier than usual and get more rest. 

I fully realize and accept that this means I will get less work done than I would on a normal day.

It's one day. It will be okay. If I want to enjoy all the days after my illness has passed, it's more important for me to rest and recover faster, so that when I am feeling 100% again I can put out my best creative output sooner. 

I love what I'm doing and would spend 20 hours a day doing this if I could, but I know and accept that as a human being I must have other parts of my life. Love, friends, family, social life, sleep, and many more things factor in and must be given the time that they deserve every day too. 

When your life is consumed with work, even work that you love, love can turn to obsession and obsession has a way of turning into the same health problems that we want to avoid, and ultimately, more time away sick than if you had taken care of yourself in the first place. 

I have a lot of big important career announcements developing, some of which I can discuss and announce, some I need to send out info about to the media. Although I know that Wednesday is typically a major day for comics and entertainment news, I know I probably won't get all the media work done today. 

I'm fine with that and accept it, because there is always tomorrow. 

Also, let's face it, though deadlines are important, most work related things are not a matter of life or death. 

Take care of yourself kids.

Sincerely,

Mike


A shot from my current project: Trumpocalypse Now