Archive for Art!

Holiday Gift Bag: Jay Stephens art books

I’ve got some more gift recommendations for you. Not quite a comics recommendation this time — you may remember a few weeks back when I pointed out Ed Emberley’s drawing books for younger artists-to-be? Well, think of this as some art books for slightly older kids — Jay Stephens’ drawing books.

Stephens put these out a few years back — titled Heroes!, Monsters!, and Robots! Each one is exactly what it sounds like — instructions and inspirations for drawing superheroes, monsters, and robots in Jay Stephens’ signature style.

So who’s Jay Stephens anyway? If y’all are at all familiar with Cartoon Network, you may have seen a show he did there called “The Secret Saturdays,” with a strong retro-heroic feel to it and a very obvious influence from the classic “Jonny Quest” cartoons. The art here has a lot of that same style to it. It’s not especially realistic art, but it’s a lot of fun to look at.

There are a few step-by-step guides to drawing some specific characters, but the most of these books are devoted to showing young artists how to draw the elements of their characters — a page focusing on how to draw a head, then how to draw different kinds of eyes, noses, mouths, ears, how to draw legs and arms, etc.

And throughout all this, Stephens keeps asking his young readers “What kind of nose will your hero have?”  “How will your robot get around?”  “Will your monster have fingers or claws or tentacles or something else?” In other words, he gets kids to use their imaginations, and to try to think of ways to create their own characters, not just copy the ones in the books.

When it comes down to specifics, Stephens demonstrates how he draws individual characters, always describing what he’s doing with simple shapes — a fist made of rectangles, hair made of zigzags, chainmail armor made of dozens of tiny circles. It’s a nice method to encourage budding artists — it shows them that drawing may look complicated, but it can be boiled down to making simple shapes that fit together in interesting ways.

Having said that, it may not be a good book for complete beginners — Stephens draws with the expectation that the kids reading along have at least a basic understanding of things like perspective, shading, coloring, and general anatomy. That can be pretty difficult for amateurs and even some intermediate artists, but this book does give them many of the tools they may need — as long as they’ve got some other art books to flesh out those concepts and techniques.

Got a kid on your shopping list who enjoys art, superheroes, monsters, and robots? I know, I know, what kid doesn’t, right? Well, get these books for them — it’ll give ’em a few drawing tips and give ’em a lot of exercise of their imaginations. Robots! is only available in hardcover and runs about $12 or less. Heroes! and Monsters! are both in softcover, and they’ve got a price tag of only six bucks.

Heroes!, Monsters!, and Robots! by Jay Stephens. Go pick ’em up.

EDIT: Wanna see more of Stephens’ work? Check out “Oh, Brother!“, the comic he does with Bob Weber, Jr. It’s full of more great examples of Stephens’ art in a traditional gag comic strip. Great stuff…

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The Book of Ed

This isn’t exactly about comics, but it is about art. I was thinking a while back about when I was a kid. In school, they’d make us work on art projects, and I just wasn’t that good at it. I wasn’t a bad artist for my age, but it was pretty clear I was never going to be anything more than a simple cartoonist or doodler, at best.

But what I remember was several times when the school brought in an art teacher to show us drawing techniques, and she showed us how to draw a cup. That’s all — just a cup. And I could draw a very nice cup — in charcoal, no less — and did the shading the way I was supposed to. And in fact, I can still draw a pretty good cup. But she never showed us how to draw anything but that cup.

We didn’t have anything cool in town to help us learn art techniques, like the Lubbock Sketch Club. Instead, my parents got me and my sister and brother these drawing books by a guy named Ed Emberley. They’re pretty simple books — not “Here’s how to paint like Rembrandt” but “Here’s how to draw a man running.” But they are designed for kids, and when it comes to art, it’s better to learn how to draw a man running before you learn how to paint “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.”

Most of his books focus on drawing with colored pens, and all of them use simple diagrams with easy-to-draw shapes. There are a lot of stick figures in these books — which makes perfect sense, really. You learn how to draw a competent stick figure, and you’re on the road to being able to draw more advanced figures. You learn how to draw a simple giraffe, and you can start learning how to draw a real one. Learn how to draw a race car made of triangles and circles, and you’re learning the tools you need to draw a more realistic car.

Emberley does several different kinds of books, and we had a decent collection of them. He has some books about how to draw faces — which I enjoyed because I always liked drawing good facial expressions. He also has one about thumbprint drawings — using a thumbprint as your base image for drawing a picture. We didn’t use that one as much because we would’ve gotten ink-stained fingerprints all over the house.

Probably the most impressive book is his “Make a World” book, which packs instructions on how to draw a vast amount of people, animals, and items into a fairly thin book. It’s got everything from people of all kinds, to dogs and cats, lions and alligators, knights and dragons, cruise ships and jet planes, trains and skeletons and fire trucks and windmills and dinosaurs and igloos and skunks and on and on and on and on.

Emberley’s books are great for kids both artistic and non-artistic. It’ll give kids who are good at drawing an extra boost in learning how to draw things, and it’ll give the less arty kids some fun exercises to improve the artistic skills they need to expand.

Go pick ’em up.

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Glass Houses

Okay, it’s Friday, and the Lubbock Arts Festival officially started last night over at the Lubbock Civic Center, so I’m gonna take another short break from comics blogging to plug my sister’s glass artwork. Here’s another sample of some of the stuff she’ll be showing at the Arts Festival.




I finally got to go out to the Civic Center last night after work to see Alice’s booth, and it looked pretty good. Just about everything I saw out there looked pretty good — they’ve got tons of artists who’ve set up booths, and it really looks like a must-see event for us Lubbockites. What else you gonna be able to do in Lubbock this weekend for just a dollar? Okay, fine, you can turn George Washington’s head into a mushroom. Whatcha gonna do for fun with a dollar?

Anyway, y’all come on out and say hi! It’s gonna be a long weekend, especially for Alice, who’ll be at the Civic Center almost the whole time. She’d love to get to talk to ya and to trade some of her artwork for your hard-earned dolla bills. 🙂

And hey, for you out-of-towners or anyone else who wasn’t able to make it to the arts festival, you can check out more of her stuff at her Etsy store.

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Heart of Glass

Lemme tells ya, this is gonna be a world-class busy week. Work won’t be much busier than normal, from the looks of things, but everything after 5 o’clock is gonna be pretty hectic. I have an actual fer-realz social activity to attend Tuesday night. And I desperately need to get busy on hacking together my 20-minute presentation for the great Lubbock Comic Book Expo (coming up May 3 at the Science Spectrum, don’t forget).

And the whole family’s coming to town this week to get ready for the annual Lubbock Arts Festival. My sister Alice is gonna be displaying and selling some art glass this year. For the most part, she works with fused glass and other kinds of kiln-fired glasswork — a little jewelry, some decorative items, a number of plates. Not exactly plates you wanna run through your dishwasher, but stuff that works great as serving dishes, sushi plates, etc.

Anyway, I wanna promote her stuff a little, so any of you Lubbockites will show up and buy her stuff, so we’re taking a short break from comics so we can look at some of her pretty glassware. I can’t guarantee that all of this stuff will be at the arts festival, but it’s pretty representative of her work.






That last one is actually two different pieces — the dragonfly is a separate paperweight that she photographed with the plate.

Anyway, the Arts Festival kicks off this Friday at the Civic Center, and I expect to spend a lot of this weekend helping out with her booth. Come out and say hi!

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