Paint by Numbers

First-pass color on page 1. Click to enlarge. More after the image.

Even more than with the original line art, it's taking me a long time to figure out whether something works or not. Right now, I'm mostly shooting from the hip. I know I don't want muddy color, and I'm avoiding using black for shadows. I'm trying to use new blend modes to modulate the color of the linework, itself (see leaves in background of panel 1). I'm also trying to keep all the panels on one page in the same color key (though I'm not sure I've pulled that off here).

That connects to a bigger lesson I've been learning over the past month: a comic page isn't a collection of smaller drawings -- it is one big drawing, and the panel borders and speech bubbles are all part of the composition. One thing that makes me wince a little bit when I look at the old Stareater stuff is how much of an afterthought the speech bubbles are. They're these perfect ovals (just running a stroke using the circular selection tool), and they don't relate to the surrounding art at all. Now that I'm actually drawing them, I see that ovals waste a lot of space. And the bubbles need to have their own visual rhythm, just like everything else on the page.

Looking at it now, it seems obvious.

Working with these color files is rough -- the .psd file for page 1 is brobdignagian. It takes me four or five minutes to save, and up to 30 seconds just to zoom. I think I need to figure out a way to do color without using 70 layers. I do quite a bit of slider-magic on every layer, though -- right up to the end. Maybe I just need a beefier computer? Donations are welcome.

Alrighty. Back to coloring page 2!


  1. I'm lovin' the foliage in panel 1. Wonderful color choices.

  2. Thanks! I'm still a little scared of the color pink, but I'll come around eventually. When are you going to put out YOUR comic, by the way?

  3. wow this is stunning! your stuff kind of reminds me of if geoff darrow and josh middleton had a crazy art baby, and i mean that in the best way possible

  4. i discovered your site through a link posted by warren ellis showcasing your art.

    it is mouth droppingly gorgeous. i am reminded of charles vess, michael kaluta, bill stout and al williamson.

    i shall be back as i have bookmarked your site for daily reading. awesome!

  5. Who are you? This is beautiful art. It's a bit like Star Wars meets Lord of the Rings.


  6. Like, oh, most of the internet, I discovered your work thanks to Warren Ellis, praise his cotton socks.
    This stuff is absolutely brilliant on every level. It floored me instantly.
    I hereby pledge to buy any book you work on, and would like it very much if someone smart would hire you to do something about the size of a Marvel Treasury Edition.

  7. Also here from Warren, dear god you can draw. Even the stories in my head don't look that pretty. See if I could find an artist like you before they become known I'd make a killing. Good luck mate, I'll be looking out for your work when it's published.

  8. I'm here through Warren Ellis too, and while sometimes he links to things I wish I'd never seen, haha, this is happily not in that category.

    You're AMAZING.

  9. Also here via Warren Ellis (I raise a glass of fine single malt in his decrepit vicinity).

    Good Lord, man. You're work is staggeringly beautiful.

  10. Found you from Warren Ellis. You work is utterly astounding. I've had to share it with everyone I know.

    Your journal entries recounting the creative process and what you've been going through were inspiring (hope that doesn't sound lame). Wish you a bright and fulfilling future. I will be checking here often.

  11. Wow. I turned on my computer this morning and the internet threw me a surprise party! When I saw that Warren Ellis had mentioned me on his blog, my mouth went kinda dry and I got that talent-show-stage-with-no-pants feeling. I mean, if I'd known you all were visiting, I'd have tidied up a bit.

    Thanks for all the nice comments. My wife may actually be on board with this whole no day job thing now.

    Thanks also for the artist comparisons. I've spent the day looking up all the artists you guys have mentioned (Kaluta, Vess, Williamson, Ryp). All very inspiring stuff!

    I'll post some new stuff tomorrow. Nice to meet you all!

    P.S. Mr. Six: What is this "Star War" you mentioned? I googled it but nothing came up. Sounds interesting!

  12. Congratulations/Commiserations

    You are now internet famous. Best of luck.

    Your work is absolutely stunning. You make it look so easy, but your blog posts reveal how much you agonise over each page. Which is good, I think I'd have to despise you otherwise.

    On the subject of artists and similar art styles, I must recommend you seek out Carl Critchlow, who you share many traits with.

    Can't wait to see how things progress. Keep up the good work and all the best things will happen.


  13. Fantastic stuff man. What gets me more than even the art itself is your storytelling. It's not rushed, you let the thing breathe....unlike many American comics.

    So lemme kiss your feet & stuff!

  14. This all looks beautiful. Incredible, really. I just discovered your blog, can't wait to see more of your work.

  15. This is brilliant--from pencils to coloring--simply brilliant. You can see that you have a real appreciation and love for fantasy. Looking forward to seeing more.

  16. Absolutely beautiful.

    If you would like advice on any of the steps in the comic-making process, Dave McCaig, Laura Martin and many other comic pros hang out at

    You can avoid clicking that link and the potential security problems associated with clicking strange links by Googling Dave McCaig's blog. He links to GZ there.

    It's intended as a place where pros can offer advice to anyone who has questions. And for general artistic industry types to schmooze.

  17. Great work. It reminds me a lot of European comics, particularly the work of Philippe Buchet. Keep it up!

  18. twistedinc - Carl Critchlow is a great find. He combines the control and detail of Seth Fisher with the butt-shaking dynamism of Frank Miller. Thanks for the lead!

    Templesmith and Fabio Moon - I'm supposed to be all nonchalant and act like two comics legends didn't just say nice things on my blog. Must... keep... cool. Okay, I think I've suppressed my outburst. You guys are the best. I... I love you. I hope this doesn't make things awkward. I won't insist that we hold hands in public or anything. Unless you want to.

    kelvingreen - Philippe Buchet! How can I not know about this guy? So good! Thanks!

  19. Okay, I feel weird saying something so hyperbolic, but that first page is the best thing I have ever seen in a comic. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. I can't stop looking it. For the love of god do not stop drawing this project! :-)

  20. I'll see your hyperbole and raise: That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about my stuff! Thanks, dude.

  21. Phenomenal. Amazing detail, killer perspectives, and incredible draftsmanship. Very worthy of a Drawn! post. I look forward to purchasing this. Keep killin' it.

  22. The first Forest Panel is crazy looking! I see something cool and different everytime I look at it, from the fungus to the light peeking through the dense foliage. Amazing.

  23. chaosmassive - Sometimes not knowing what you're doing produces good results. You can sort of stumble your way into some weird but interesting artistic predicaments. Thanks for the compliment!

    If you want to see awesome forest scenes with toadstools, check out William Stout's dinosaur paintings. I'm basically just regurgitating stuff I looked at when I was a kid, Stout first and foremost.


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