Outside of the other galleries are works I post here because they sit apart from the archival works or other illustrative pieces seen in that directory. Where possible, I will include information about the media and size of each piece. I hope you enjoy them.
I hadn’t done much with nature scenes in the past, but helping so many students with their drawings of animals gave me a sense of wanting to try it. So here it is, an original design cobbled together from different images showing these birds on perches of different kinds. The wood and doorway is, like the bird, a new creation. I started it in the winter of 2013, left it when I was working on other projects, revisited it before Christmas of 2014 and left it again until recently when I just sat down and finished it.
ENGLISH ROBIN. 8.5×10″, pen and ink, watercolour and gouache on vellum. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015
WESTERN FRONT FANTASIES
In 2013, before I gave a lecture and presentation on war art in Canada from the past to the present, I examined the idea of creating new images of conflict based on researching primary source material like photos and accounts and then working from there to draw or paint imagined scenes of action or devastation. The Western Front as a landscape subject itself inspired many artists at the time and was a formative influence on members of the Group of Seven who served overseas during the First World War. If you look at some of the landscapes produced in the 1920s by some of them, the stripped trees of the Ontario north could just as easily be Belgium or ‘some field in France’.
We know the Group of Seven created oil sketches on site during their painting trips into Algonquin and other places, using them to develop finished paintings later in their studios. I wondered what I could do to create imaginary scenes from the photos in books about the war. The works below are the result. They were created with no rough drafts straight onto the final support as spontaneously as posssible, as if done ‘on the spot’ in the field. The first piece used charcoal, conte and Wolff pencils, carefully building the composition from background to foreground. The second one was done on some new black paper from Australia, recently arrived in Curry’s art supply store. I was the first customer to purchase the paper and try it out. The surface is very grainy, like a kind of sandpaper, which made it great for blending the colours and creating light effects like the rolling smoke in the distance and the shaft of light coming through the shattered window of the ruined church.
When they were first displayed at the lecture in 2013, they created a stir next to the more recognizable aviation works I had done, which are shown if you scroll down the screen. We discussed the fact that video games, graphic novels and films already undertake this kind of historic re-creation in their media. Using traditional media to create images like those realised by official war artists years ago was not something any of us present at the show had recalled seeing before.
The other thing that struck viewers of the work as intriguing was how oddly peaceful the first image was. “The war is definitely over. Look at the hope in that sky,” commented one person. I would be interested in hearing how viewers would react to it now, since the release of the Oscar winning film 1917.
WESTERN FRONT FANTASY No.1. 14×11″ Wolff pencils, charcoal and conte on vellum. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
WESTERN FRONT FANTASY No.2. 11×14″ conte on black paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
The next piece was a little Christmas project, imagined the same way as the war pieces above. It was a piece to practice pushing backgrounds into the background, softening them up to not fight with the foreground elements.
I needed a demo piece for teaching pen and ink to some of my senior students. As professional development, I used the last few days after shutting down the classroom studio for the summer to create this work, using ink and wash- the first I had done since the works in Cartooning 2 at George Brown and the first ever in colour. I gave the place a crooked roof and cobbled it together from bits and pieces of various places I’d photographed during my last trip to England. So, if you, like others I’ve shown this to, want to visit the place, you will need to travel through the landscape of my imagination to reach it. (It sounds so Rod Serling, don’t you think?) Here is a sequence of photos showing the piece as it was completed. I hope you find them useful.
A COTTAGE IN THE COUNTRY. 10×8″ ink and wash on watercolour board. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2017.
STUDY IN OWLS
Here was a little study I did of a stuffed owl at a conservation center in Northumberland Region. It was found dead and brought to the center, where it was set up and prepared for display. I enjoyed working on it in coloured pastel pencils, so I thought I’d throw it in.
OWL STUDY.9×12″ pastel pencil and charcoal mixed media on art paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman 2018.
In January of 2013, I took a course at George Brown College in Toronto on illustration for Children’s Books. This was the first formal studio courses I’d attended for marks since 1983. It was a great experience and I learned a lot in terms of composition and technique as a result. My work for this course led to a series of works related to Paul Gallico’s novella, THE SNOW GOOSE, first published in 1940 after the evacuation from Dunkirk. Subtitled “A Tale of Dunkirk,” it was a story about Philip Rhyadher, a reclusive artist, who while tending a lighthouse on the Essex coast in the last years before the outbreak of the Second World War, was approached by a girl of the marshlands who had found an injured snow goose that had been blown across the Atlantic from Canada. Rhyadher heals the bird and allows the girl, Fritha, into his life. A closeness between them develops as the years pass, with the snow goose being at the centre of their platonically loving relationship. Fritha becomes a woman who grows to love Philip, only to have the events of 1940 come between them.
No spoilers beyond that…
This story won awards when released in the U.S. in 1941 and helped Gallico establish himself as an author of note, creating later books like THOMASINA, and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. THE SNOW GOOSE itself was adapted into an award winning film for the Hallmark Hall of Fame in 1973 with Richard Harris and Jenny Agutter and while it does not appear to be available beyond the world of YouTube, audio books are more accessible to modern audiences.
I chose this book as the core work for my study in the class, developing several works around it and spending a lot of time researching the time, the location and extrapolating on ideas I was developing for the costumes. I even created a music mix to listen to while working on it, using music from JOYEUX NOEL by Philippe Rombi in a rearranged form intermixed with radio passages from Churchill and Chamberlain to add more weight to the work. Ironically, the music did so well in my mix, it was hard to remember it coming from that wonderful and so tragic film. It is available from Virgin Classics (0946 338279 2) and helped greatly in the creation of the final pieces below. I would also recommend you seek out the progressive rock group Camel’s album from 1975, THE SNOW GOOSE, inspired by the book. (Label: Decca – Universal Special Imports. ASIN: B00005V1B2)
I think the idea for doing this came from driving into Toronto one day for the class an seeing in the distance black oily smoke rising from a fire on the docks in Oshawa. It reminded me vividly of one of Peter Scott’s illustrations for the original edition of the book in 1941 and one thought jumped to another and the images below were the end result. I think my work on it in turn helped bring about the creation of MANNA later on.
SKETCH OF PROPOSED SETTING FOR STORY. 10×8″ graphite on acid free cardstock. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
THE LOST PRINCESS. 11X14 in., graphite on acid free paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
I had never drawn a goose in my life. I used the same techniques I employed creating a piece I never put in the aviation art show of a Bristol Monoplane. The clouds were blended graphite with a white eraser being used to bring up the details.
RHYADHER’S BOAT. 9×12 in. graphite pencil on acid free cardstock. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.
This was a study of Philip’s boat, which figures prominently throughout the book. I made the sails a little transparent, as I had noticed in some of the photos of small sailing craft I studied, you could see the shadow of one of the sheets through another when the light was right.
FRITHA AND THE LOST PRINCESS- four different versions. 12w x 16h in. graphite pencil on vellum (60lb.) stock. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2013.Other versions in watercolour, coloured pencil and mixed media and pen and ink on illustration board.
Here, after creating various thumbnails showing other compositional possibilities, was the first run at the final piece, sized the same as the hand-in work but done as a graphite tonal study. It remains one of my favourites. Fritha is as scruffy as Gallico describes her, with a dirty face. Mind you, if you saw the marshlands on the Essex coast, it would not be hard to imagine her this way. They look really wet. The overalls and top are all frayed and worn. Gallico never went into detail on her clothes, but I imagined one described as wild-looking as Fritha could look like this when she showed up on Rhyadher’s doorstep with this little bundle in her arms.
I joined Big Art Buzz, an artist’s collective for people across Ontario, in 2015. Besides having my work posted on the core website and its social media affiliates, I also enjoy the opportunity to display pieces in person at various events and to conduct demos. Here are some pictures from events that took place in recent years. The first images include pictures of the art work. The last two have me at my table with Keith Moreau, creator and organizer of Big Art Buzz, speaking with visitors. (I can say there’s somewhat less of me now than when those pictures were taken.) You can visit the site at www.bigartbuzz.com. Visit also the Big Art Buzz channel on YouTube. There is also the work of Keith Moreau on YouTube, which if you click on his name in this article you can see.
This is the big one. This is the biggest project I have ever worked on, let alone the biggest project since SARGASSO. It will be years before it is completed and it is years since it was started. However, I take comfort that Art Spiegelman took 12 years to create his landmark graphic novel MAUS, and other writers and artists have laboured over many years to complete their most famous pieces. If anything it to be learned from this, it is that it’s better to do something like this ‘right and slow’ than it is to do it ‘quick and dirty’. The latter results in a product that cannot come close to respecting its subject and one who cannot respect topics like the Second World War, the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust, fighting in the war or struggling to survive in an occupied country during the war shouldn’t ever cross my radar, let alone my path.
You can tell I feel strongly about this. You would understand why if you sifted through the thousands of pages of reading I have undertaken since I began to research the book. I defy you to do so and not be moved as I have been throughout this process. It has been a powerful force in my life since I came up with the idea on Christmas Day, back in 2014, and has only grown more so as I meet people who were there and listen to their stories.
FLASHBACK TO THE ORIGINS OF ‘MANNA’
With the completion of the Cartooning certificate program at George Brown College, work in cartooning and illustration did not end. A new program, focusing on the graphic novel, was created at the college and now all work was to be dedicated to ongoing efforts in that area.
The primary assignment we were given was to create a six to eight page story to show we could set up a plot, establish characters, apply skills we had learned in previous courses and somehow put it all together in a short narrative in the media of our choice. Because of some fun I enjoyed working on a recreation of a panel of artwork by Milt Caniff for another course, I wanted to continue with a period theme in my story and relate something to the reader about the Second World War. On Christmas Day, while relaxing after a huge lunch by sitting and reading Edward Jablonski’s massive work, THE AIR WAR, I came across the story of the relief missions flown by bomber crews in the R.A.F., R.C.A.F., R.A.A.F. and U.S.A.A.F., among others, to deliver food to millions of Dutch civilians still living under enemy occupation at the end of the war.
The text and images below illustrate some of what has been accomplished already. Like SARGASSO, this is a substantial undertaking, more in the fact that unlike the former piece, where the illustrations supported the text, the illustrations here dominate the text.
‘MANNA’ CHARACTER DESIGNS
MANNA is a coming of age story set in the Netherlands mostly during the Second World War. It features two central characters- Pauli, a riches to rags girl who befriends Hilde, from an artistically and financially richer background and almost two years her junior, in the last few years before the outbreak of war in 1939. Together, as they mature, they endure the Nazi invasion and occupation and struggle to survive in a world that becomes darker and more hostile with each passing day. It is a macro to micro kind of story, with the events in the lives of our protagonists set against the massive events reshaping the world around them. For anyone who had relatives who lived in Holland during the Second World War or anyone who has read or known the story of Anne Frank, it is not hard to imagine the kinds of things that will be dealt with in this narrative. Originally designed as a short, (six to eight), page story, it has grown- through the encouragement of several people who have seen the plan of the thing- into a massive undertaking that will easily breach 100 plus pages. Like SARGASSO, it has required a lot of research, filling my shelves with many new books on all aspects of issues related to it or the war in general.
Below is the character sheet for the two leads. Pauli is in yellow ochre, and her palette will be consistently made of warm, sometimes bright colours. Hilde will be wearing greens, blues and cooler or pastel related colours. Her red hair is a factor in this. They are presented here as they appear at the beginning of the story, which is in late August, 1938, before the events of Munich and Chamberlain’s ‘peace in our time.’
SELECTED IMAGES AND PROCESS WORK ON THE MAIN CHARACTERS & SETTINGS
MANNA- EARLY TITLE PAGE SPREAD
A full colour title page spread was planned for the book, according to the script I wrote in the winter/spring of 2015. It was not going to be completed at the time, as I was planning to concentrate on the pages afterwards for the course work. When I was asked to participate in Big Art Buzz’s presentation at the Canadian Pavilion in July, 2015 as a guest artist, that changed. I was to do a demo and said, with everything else going on, I wasn’t interested in creating something just for the exhibition. I went to the instructor of the course and said I was going to include the spread now as a part of the final project and as the demo piece for the show.
The individual pages were to be 10″ wide and 15″ high, which when reduced would be compatible with traditional graphic novel formats. Thus, a two page spread would be 20″ wide by 15″ high, or twice the width. Based on the research done on clothes, bikes and aircraft, the final composition was designed first in Poser, and then drawn onto sketch paper at full scale. I only applied shading to the girls in the original drawing, and thus, that is the only part I’ve shown below.
Here are shots of the girls in progress, showing watercolour washes and layers of coloured pencil applied on top. You may notice Pauli’s legs were very skinny in the pencil drawing. They were beefed up a little in the final, but not too much, though, because she would have been thin anyway. At that point in the story, the average food intake for the Dutch was equal to 250 calories a day. We average over 2,000.
SOME NOTABLE DETAILS
In case you are wondering about the bike, it is a construct based on a Hungarian design, modified with wooden wedges shoved into the metal rims of the wheels to replace the rubber tires which would have been likely confiscated by the Germans during the war. Packages of food from a ‘hunger trek’ into the country fill the basket and rear pannier. Neither Hilde or Pauli are wearing socks, but Pauli is wearing some cut down boots, likely from a Dutch worker. How Pauli got them is a matter for speculation. Hilde’s shoes are improvised sandals cut from worn out saddle shoes popular at the end of the 1930s. Both coats are period accurate. Hilde’s hair is short, typical of her style anyway, but also practical in the later months of the war, when water, soap and shampoo were all in short supply because of the occupation forces’ closing of the borders around the Netherlands not liberated in Operation Market Garden, (September, 1944). In this image, Pauli’s hair is long. However, in more recent art, I have made it shorter as well for the reasons stated above.
As you can see the composition was designed to have nothing of importance to the right, as that would have been where the gutter between the pages would be. I still had to make it interesting enough not to make this design choice obvious, however. The final piece had to hang together and hang apart.
The sky was finished with coloured pencil. A tip: Prismacolour’s Light Cerulean Blue is a perfect match for Winsor & Newton’s Cerulean Blue! Blending was achieved with colourless blenders by Prismacolour and Derwent, the latter being better for covering the illustration board, which was Canson watercolour paper based on an acid free board support. The problem when working with this material is that little white spots where the paint or coloured pencil don’t reach really stand out when the work is scanned. The Lancaster bomber below, dark in colour, was problematic in this area, looking sparkly when scanned later. A solvent like Turpentine applied with a brush ‘solved’ the problem, filling the gaps nicely. Another tip: get the orange scented solvent. It’s a lot easier to work with in the studio.
Other problem areas included the tree line at the edge of the field. More grey and even pink went into that area than green. A little green goes a long way. Green is very difficult to work with in art, often being far too intense when applied out of the tube. In the distance, make it as blue grey as possible, and if warmth is needed, a soft pink from Derwent will tone down the problem spots. The amount of paint on the board caused mild warping, which is slowly levelling out after months of touring about in flat-pack portfolios. Applying primer to the back did not help straighten the board. I will have to deal with this again as at least three more pieces are planned in this format for each section in the book.
In historic details, this whole scene was a bit of a construct fantasy. A cordon would likely have been put around the field. Guards would be standing by organized piles of food. The danger of overshoots and missed drops was very real during Operation Manna/Chowhound in 1945. Looting was also a concern at the time, although incidents of it seem to have been very few. For the sake of providing a way of setting up the title in an homage to Will Eisner, who used creative ways to introduce his graphic stories to readers, I did what I did to make it work. The characters just happen to be excited speactators like their real-life counterparts from the war, enthusiastically waving at the aircraft with their last bit of energy. The more recent version includes more historically accurate details.
The decorated sacks- assuming the armed guards I mentioned earlier are off-screen (^_^)- sit on the ground after having been organized by workers on site, who had to dash out onto the field and grab what they could between drops. Piles of uncollected sacks lie in the distance. You can see I have started building layers of colour here, combining washes with coloured pencil to fill in areas of detail. Note the grey of the buildings in the background. The intense green you see here was virtually gone by the time the piece was done.
The Lancaster itself is a real aircraft, but the squadron markings are not. 642 Squadron never existed. TZ was never used. I have not seen tails painted in bold orange and blue patterns. (Can you guess the symbolism?) I created them all after doing research and deciding with the instructor of the course it was better to create a fictitious unit for equally fictitious characters than use a set real squadron numbers and unknowingly make an OTU into a Bomber Command Squadron and have someone from a society in the UK point it out nicely or otherwise. I have explained to some who feel such research and detail is overdoing it in art, that those interested in this kind of material take such things very seriously. In short, if you are not interested in trying to make it real enough, don’t try historic themes in your graphic novels.
The Lancaster was painted black underside. Canadian-built Lancasters had shiner finishes than British-built machines. Whatever the finish, the effect of reflected light from the ground would have meant anyone creating this subject in art would be using little black in the colour. Greys, blues and earth tones dominate. Even white, in places. Solvent was used to blend the colours. Grey is used for the sacks falling from the bomb bay. Most of the food was dropped in cases or bags that once contained cement mix, chosen to withstand the impact of being dropped from 150-1,000 feet in the air.
THE FINAL PIECE
A FORMAT REVISION AND NEW ART
In 2017, I was confronted with the reality that the illustration boards I’d been using for pages in the book were no longer being produced. I switched over to Canson’s comic art paper and found the format was different enough from the sizing used in the boards to make redoing the early pages necessary. I took the opportunity to re-imagine some of the stylizing of the book at the same time and explore media that would allow me to create soft painterly effects without actually painting on the Canson paper, which would buckle if washes were applied to the surface. Eventually, I found powdered pastels did the job well and even blended with the Copic markers, conte and charcoal.
As before, using the models of the characters created in Poser, I made sets and ‘shot’ scenes based on sketches done on mock layout pages. Poser gives me the opportunity to move the camera and search for better angles before committing scenes to paper. From there, I drew out the page in full size and transferred it to the board for inking. What follows are some revised pieces and drawings for pages not yet completed. Click on them for enlargements.
All materials related to MANNA are copyright C.A. Seaman, 2015-2020.Nothing of what you see here may be reproduced in any manner without written permission from the author/artist.
LIKE MANNA FROM HEAVEN, MORE TO COME…
A final note here. Please check the rest of the website for further articles related to MANNA. In the section on HOBBIES/MODEL BUILDING there are articles on building some of the cars, ships and armour used in the book. This will grow on both the website and social media as both become available. Also, in the section on WRITINGS there will be articles about the extensive research that went into the book to do what is possible to fact check and keep errors to a minimum- as it will be impossible to eliminate them entirely. Finally, in PHOTOGRAPHY there will be entries related to the photo research I’ve done in museums and exhibitions. Credit to related institutions will be given with each entry. If you find links or information of your own, please contact me through the Comments section and I will happily follow up with you.
In the last year before Oshawa Central Collegiate Institute closed its doors after over 60 years in operation, I found myself involved in two projects related to the event.
First, I suggested that two staff members involved with the Accommodation Revue Committee, (ARC), organized by the Durham District School Board to examine options for the school in addition to closing it, (I will not dwell on the process here), be recognized for the hard work they put in fighting for the school against what many felt was a rubber stamping process to legitimize a decision that had already been made. Whatever was the truth behind it, we may never really know, but what was agreed on was that these persons needed recognition. So, I created an art piece that parodied the Indiana Jones posters from the first three films and what is shown below was the final product.
The second project was the cover of the last yearbook put out by the school. This is usually a job done by students, so jumping in at the last minute to help the staff member running the Yearbook group put together something after student efforts came to naught was an interesting experience. Here I was, packing up my classroom, what of the Visual Arts program I was allowed to take to my new school, (I had exciting prospects awaiting me at Pickering High School), and ending 17 years at OCCI, then going home and putting together the final cover at night on the same machine I am using to write this post four years later.
What follows are parts of a place that no longer exists, except as archival pieces in a warehouse somewhere in Whitby. How like the ending of an Indiana Jones it all was…
In my courses at George Brown, a valuable part of the instructive process involved reproducing panels from existing cartoons, comic strips and graphic novels. It was a great way to learn the techniques of others, test one’s observation skills, and through the use of comparable media, broaden one’s range in terms of drawing and painting. In one case, reproducing a comic strip had us taking the last panel- which had been blanked out- and creating our own ending for it. Cheating by looking up the original strip was not encouraged. Tracing wasn’t an option either. These exercises were meant to give us something like an atelier experience, where students can spend years copying from plasters and the works of the old masters before venturing out to create their own pieces from scratch. It worked for us. I remember one of the most unusual things I had to sort out was a foot belonging to Dennis the Menace. Hank Ketchum’s rendering of it was stylized, to say the least. In among the other elements, it was unremarkable. Once you looked at it on its own, it became something otherworldly and very strange.
Zephyr Crow is a teenager living with her sister Bunty and her grandfather, Howard Elbee- a retired special effects movie magician from before the days of computers. Zephyr and Bunty’s divorced parents work separately overseas and have left the kids with the one relative they can trust. Howard, a widower, enjoys the company of his grand-daughters, and on the surface all seems relatively normal as they carry on from day to day.
Except for the fact that in Zephyr, Howard, and Bunty’s world normal is defined very differently from what one what imagine. Think Addams Family meets films about Hollywood…
That’s all I am going to tell you because this project is slated for further development, but has been on hold for a while. It was originally developed for the second of the cartooning courses I took at George Brown College and, modified to fit the needs of this particular Cartooning course, took on some interesting dimensions. (To read about the first Cartooning course, refer to the post on Andi, the beach princess with a difference.) What follows is development work, character sketches and completed projects like a sample one panel image, two comic strips and a projected cover design for an imagined anthology. These were all assessed projects and were all hugely useful in developing skills for me in sequential art.
ZEPHYR, BUNTY & HOWARD
If Bunty is Zephyr’s foil in this story, other characters are actively supporting her in her adventures. I have not considered villains here as they are more likely to emerge with the stories. What appears are some of the peculiar neighbours Zephyr has, like Monsieur Aggot, a single parent and former horror film star. Monsieur Aggot is a family man as loves his children equally. He is also a real gentleman with fine manners.
THE PROJECTS: 1 A single panel comic
The single panel comic was given to us as a way of exploring the characters in a given scenario. It was completed in pen and ink, with no use of wash or mixed media. There was guidance in terms of the subject, directing it had to be humourous. I think the dialogue was also given to us and we had to fit the subject to the line. Also, there had to be a visible demonstration of grid use and one point perspective in the piece. A good challenge, especially as Zephyr was developing as a much more serious project at that time.
Below are some process frames and the final project. You can enlarge a several images by clicking on them.
THE PROJECTS: 2 A Second single panel piece, using wash and two point perspective in the design
Now we are rolling along with the characters, we step up the work with a new scenario involving real estate, new personalities like Monsieur Aggot and his maggot children, the pet dog and the above mentioned technical requirements. The first image was a two point perspective exercise I did to work out the dimensions in the piece and set the characters in their correct proportions. Yes, Monsieur Aggot is one big bug. He also has a really interesting back story, but I don’t want to share it here.
THE PROJECTS: 3 Four panel comic strip
Next, we took the characters, introduced more into the piece and had to develop a four panel work on them. I was having trouble with my drawing hand at the time and created all the panels full page size first, then scanned and reduced them into the final piece to put less stress of cramping my hand with small details. It also helped me see what was worth keeping after the overload of the first piece. I had a lot more fun with this and pared down the texture a lot, giving the strip a cleaner look. If you wonder why there is so much open space at the top, remember it has to be kept clear to fit the dialogue.
The original panels are included separately and together. Click on them, etc., etc. to get bigger images.
THE PROJECTS: 4 Full colour weekend paper comic strip
The four panel strip was a great way to develop the characters and I was stronger in my sense of what to do with them. This was a fun work to do, pulling in mixed media and full colour. I can’t recall too much else about requirements of the assignment, but getting into the rhythm, I drew the original panels large, but in scale to the finals and reduced them. It may seem like a lot of work, but I know of other professional artists- their names escape me- who do the same thing for the same reasons, often going into completing the panels and then assembling them later in the computer. I can see that in my future for graphic novel projects.
The story is, incidentally, based on something that actually happened to me once when I took a class outside to draw trees and nature and had one preferring to sit in the sun and download her images from Google.
You can’t make this stuff up. Click on the images….
THE PROJECTS: 5 ANTHOLOGY COVER
The final project with Zephyr and Bunty was an anthology cover. We studied covers from various works like CALVIN & HOBBES, among others, and considered what time of year it would likely be released. Christmas was coming, so why not? As you can see, there were many parts to the project. Two point perspective, which for me had vanishing points 12 feet, (almost four meters), apart and leading to the parts of the planning being done in the computer using a cg grid. The final piece had to have several versions, as you can see here.
I would like to revisit this someday. It has light and dark elements to it that should appeal to a wide audience. Perhaps a collaboration of sorts might be in order to get it moving. Perhaps I should just make clones of myself instead…
This project was not just a lot of fun, it was a really interesting exercise in taking some beloved characters, a story that read like a cracking good yarn and putting them together using mixed media- in this case, Copic markers and coloured pencil. Having read the story and being asked to create a wrap-around cover, I had to design a composition that set up the narrative in the Darth Vader series, which begins immediately after the destruction of the first Death Star and our villain’s rather uncomfortable meeting with Emperor Palpatine to explain ‘his failure’. If you’ve read the series, try to figure out why I set it up the way I did.
This piece is in a private collection and may not be reproduced without permission.
PART TWO: FIGURATIVE PIECES, STUDIES, LIFE DRAWINGS AND EXPERIMENTS
I have always said to my students if you can learn how to draw the human figure and water, you can do just about anything in flat art. Water is one challenge because it has so much movement, simple and complex shapes that constantly change, colour and transparency and so much more. The human figure is the other challenge because its structure has proportions that change over time, a shape that varies from person to person, lines, shapes, forms, textures and values, and so much more. The subject of the human face or figure is as old as art itself. Anyone wishing to create comics, animation, games and such must gain some understanding of how the figure is put together if there is to be any success in the workplace later.
To quote Andrew Loomis:
“The nude human figure must serve as the basis for all figure study. It is impossible to draw the clothed or draped figure without a knowledge of the structure and form of the figure underneath. The artist who cannot put the figure together properly does not have one chance in a thousand of success…. If you are offended by the body…give up all thought of a career in art.“
I agree with this and have yet to see anyone who can’t or won’t master the human form make a success of their work with the figure beyond being simple copyists of photos using grids or other ‘tricks’. The human figure, clothed or otherwise, is something that requires constant practice in mastering. Drawing from life is best, but I have found students have managed to achieve success from working with near life sized projections of computer generated models. The latter is not the ideal, but when circumstances dictate it, it’s better than downloading photos and copying them, allowing grids and such to dictate the creative process rather than freehand drawing, which can be more expressive and natural. With practice, the freehand approach becomes more polished and if precision is what is desired, it becomes achievable with greater ease.
It’s the same with painting. Look up close at one of John Singer Sargent’s portraits. A single, well placed dab of paint accomplishes so much. A single trained, expressive line in a drawing can do the same, acting like a signature for the artist and cutting to the core of the pose, which is why quick gesture drawings are so important as warm-ups.
We’ll explore this topic more in other posts. For now, from the archives, are some life drawing samples. The previous website featured clothed ones and portraits, and that is what you will see here. Click on the images in the galleries for hopefully larger versions. Many of these old pieces go back a few years. The day job and lack of life drawing classes in my area have made providing more updated images harder to acquire.
Here are some images drawn from photos for practice as much as anything else. Click on them, etc….
This next batch represents a sampling of paintings and mixed media pieces completed years ago. The first two pieces were modified significantly from photos, using new backgrounds, changed clothing and such. For the bubble blowing image, I can’t recall how I set that one up, but I suspect I probably used a computer generated model in Poser to pose the piece and work from there. In the case of the girls chasing the model airplanes across a field, I used wooden mannequins to pose the models. That piece earned me a place at the National Aviation Museum in their annual show of art from across the country and I still like the concept, but boy, would I ever do that one differently if I re-imagined it. NO MANNEQUINS would be the first rule. Those models you see these days from Japan are much more flexible than the wooden ones available years ago.
Another gallery from the archives, showcasing works completed over a number of years in different media. Where possible, I will try to include information on titles, dates of completion, size, media and so on. Enjoy!
All images here are copyrighted C.A. Seaman and may not be reproduced without permission.
The story of CORRUPTED began just as work on SARGASSO, my self-published series of books, was winding down. ‘People who knew people’ stuff happened and I was offered the chance to meet Paul and Jeff, who were developing this game for the X-Box Indie platform. We got along well and before long, I was brought in to work on character designs for the project.
Here are some things you might want to know about me at the time I began work on CORRUPTED.
I had never played a video game on either X-Box, Playstation, or Nintendo beyond Wii. I had flown a bit on Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, (and got vertigo on the screen?!), played some games on a desktop computer that had me using directional keys to steer cars onto sidewalks and fun stuff like that. But that was it.
I had no formal training in character design.
Any character design I had done was based on looking at model sheets I saw in books and copying the format of figure rotations and gestures. “If that’s how Disney does it, I can too.”
I had no concept about the architecture of what these games looked like, what sprites were, what characters and stories were popular in gaming culture or anything like that beyond FINAL FANTASY, because of the anime connections it had.
Basically, I was clueless. And being clueless made me perfect for the job apparently because although I had what was then self-taught art smarts, some skills and experience publishing a few books, my mind was a blank slate untouched by the influences of video games. Consequently, I wouldn’t inadvertently slip in some materials that buried themselves in my subconscious from previous game play experiences, leaving potential players saying things like “Hey! That’s just like the Blade of Pohtus used by Dojt Sryvat from MAGA 4: WASTELANDS OF THE REPUBLIC!”
Fans can be annoyingly observant about things like that…
Anyway, here we were, embarking on this amazing journey, and I must say I have only fond memories of my experiences with Paul, Jeff and the creative process that went into CORRUPTED. It was, in the end, what brought me to taking courses at George Brown and finally learning what all that stuff I’d been doing was actually called.
There are three parts to this story. Scroll down to read them and see the accompanying process work.
Paul saw my work from SARGASSO and while he was impressed with the illustrations, he wasn’t sure I had what he and Jeff needed for the game until I started pulling out books on manga character design and he identified with the super-deformed characters called ‘chibi’. Chibi is a super-cute form of manga character design where the figure is about three to four heads tall and the eyes are huge. The body proportions are all distorted so even crazy looking weapons look ‘cute’ to an outsider. Knowing I had resources and watching me explain them, Paul agreed to meet me again once I came up with some concepts. For that, I needed information on the characters- who they were and what they were like. I took the information and began with some further research into video game character designs, receiving much help from students in the form of screengrabs of sprites from ZELDA. One even tried to create sprites of his own to show me how it was done. From there, I sat down one day while the classes were working and I had nothing else to do and came up with two ‘chibi’ styled characters.
You can see the guidelines on the knight as I blocked out the character. The other one was something I did for fun, turning out to be a big hit with the students. They loved the antenna and the Jawas look to it, but really went mad over the fact the skulls on the belt were supposed to talk, hurling abuse at passersby. Originally, I was going to keep that one for myself, but with the work on SARGASSO taking up so much time, I decided to gift him to Paul and Jeff, who made him into the merchant for CORRUPTED.
Two elements carried on from this sketch of the knight to the final version, ie. the breastplate and aggressive posture. Everything else, as the character evolved, changed. As uniformity was going to be key, I did more reading, purchasing a great book called SUPER CUTE! KODOMO MANGA, written and illustrated by Kamikaze Factory from Spain and published by Collins Design (ISBN 978-0-06-192755-3). From that research, I created my own original base body template, based on a ninja pose on page 206 that caught the eye of the guys when they first saw the book. Thus, in a scrum around the dining room table in my house, we could now bash out ideas for the characters and just draw on the sheets until the pile was exhausted. The interesting thing was, though, given the information I had from Paul and Jeff, when we sat down to do this and I showed them the first revised concept, they went for it with only minor changes.
Anybody need some template sheets? I’ve got lots left over!
These were the base templates. The image below was the first- and main development sketch for what would become the evil knight in CORRUPTED.
A helmet design would emerge in much the same way and, unchanged, I will show it in the next section. I wanted the knight to be shown in action as befitted the nature of the game. So, the template was created to work with this as the premise from the beginning. We also worked on swords, bows and arrows and created a list of characters to be created at that point. Then, as you will see in the next section, I would create the unifed character reference sheets for an animator to use in creating the sprites. Click on “Final Character Designs” to see how they came out.
I knew the animator would need to have characters that worked from all angles, with armour and clothes lining up in multiple poses. Having read many books on the making of movies and series, I decided to create for the main characters- the evil knight, the good knight and the princess- templates with front, side, back and top views done to scale on a grid background. For the others, top and front views would do. Paul and Jeff wanted the characters to be see from the top in the game, so it was agreed to put some emphasis on heads where possible.
To unify the designs, I fired up Poser on the computer and opened Sadie a computer model who was the foundation of the original Poppy in SARGASSO. (Refer to the article on the art of SARGASSO to see some imagery to put this into context.) Enlarging her head and making her body as gender neutral as possible, I created the above mentioned views by rendering her from those angles with Poser’s cameras. By not moving the cameras once they were loaded, I was able to guarantee consistency in proportions and scale in the renderings, making it easier to line them up on the grid I would later create in Corel Photopaint.
This is Sadie, in case you haven’t seen her before.
This is how I modified her for the body template. Note how the camera names are on the images I composited. I also enlarged the feet, as requested by Paul and Jeff.
Below is how I drew on the costume for the evil knight over the photocopied template. I followed the same process for all the characters, thus keeping them fairly consistent.
From there, I took the images to Staples, photocopied the sets and shaded on the back of each copy with a soft pencil. I then carbon-traced out the drawings to clean paper. As the grid was only useful for the initial layout to keep everything lined up, I did not need it for the final inking, which was done afterwards. I use carbon-tracing often when working on large projects to preserve all reference materials in case of a foul-up and this has proven to be a smart practise over the years on those occasions when I have had to modifiy a piece or redo the final work. I also keep the reference materials after the job is done for years in many cases, just so I can recall the creative processes used when I need to do so.
THE EVIL KNIGHT- FINAL INKS
The top of the head was an important part of the design as this was what players would see most when playing the game. With the chibi design, it meant the head would overwhelm everything else around and beneath it. Thus, the evil creature possessing the knight was created as a focal point. I think that was my idea, but I could be mistaken. Looks nasty, though.
THE GOOD KNIGHT
The armour on the evil knight was meant to be spiky and concave, glowing green between the plates. By contrast, I suggested the good knight should have softer forms and curves, with the armour looking more like the material I saw in reference books I consulted from the local library’s childrens’ section. Good call on the part of the librarian who helped me. The best books really were there- not in the adult section upstairs.
There is a reason why she is barefoot. I suggested she might have been grabbed from her chambers while engaging in her daily ablutions. There was something innocent in this presentation as well, I thought, and I transferred it to the final cover art.
I moved the skulls to the front for more impact and gave ‘him’ nasty looking nails and a little more detail on the cloak to make him look a little less like a Jawa.
THE RANGER AND VILLAGER
What can I say about the Ranger? Everything I’ve ever seen of them in fantasy art seems fairly consistent. Paul, Jeff and I agreed to keep it within those common concepts. As for the villager, he looks like he could be happy in a field, at the forge, or behind the counter of the local tavern.
To see how the cover and the animated evil knight came together, click on the link “The Cover Art and Logo.”
COVER, LOGO AND ANIMATION
Once the characters were done and signed off, it was a race to get the cover completed. Time was flying and I needed to start prep work for the main gig- school. Paul, Jeff and I worked through some ideas and I developed some concepts using Poser and Corel Photopaint which I thought might work. Neither Paul nor Jeff felt the love, though, and these early efforts simply became stepping stones to the final work. The meeting when we hashed out the cover concept, though, was some of the best fun I had in the whole project. It was like being in the big studios working through a creative session on a movie where everything went on the table and was bounced around until it stuck or fell apart.
Poser was fantastic as a pre-visualization tool at this stage. I used the Sadie base I developed for the templates and posed versions of her with prop weapons and sets to give the guys a feeling for the final piece. They made suggestions and eventually, we agreed on this composition after I tweaked three versions and they cast ballots by phone and email.
I blew up the images and carbon traced these basic forms onto larger art sheets- one each for the good and evil knight. With those templates, I then drew the armour, weapons and costumes based on the original designs. The new drawings became the foundation for the final work.
Without the CG base reference for proportions, I don’t think I could have finished the piece in time. I prefer going freehand whenever possible, but that armour and the princess’s dress was very hard to do. So having the bathing suit Sadie template as a guideline made getting to the freehand stage a lot faster. As you can see below, the guidlines are still in place, although the bodies have disappeared under the clothes and armour. Only the face of the princess remained relatively un-altered at this stage. The background is clear in both images.
I added all the buildings and background elements directly to the final piece later, hoping all the time they would work with the characters and not overwhelm them.
Please note in the gallery below, double-click on each image to bring up a larger version in a separate gallery.
Back to Staples to create photocopies of these drawings. They would be transferred afterwards onto the 100lb paper I bought for the final art. What follows are snapshots I took as the work progressed. They are not very good, but did give Paul and Jeff tantalizing glimpses of what was to come. Paul and Jeff wanted the final work in coloured pencil- something I had not used on this scale since 2007. It was great getting back to it, though. There’s so much computer work out there that people forget that wonderful results can be obtained from these simple tools.
Did you see it? Just before I finished this part of the image, I reversed the sword in the hand of the evil knight. Check the transfer drawing again if you missed it. I was not happy with the piece as I working on it, but could not put my finger on it, being too close to the work. The moment I concentrated on the sword, I knew that was the problem. Once flipped, I felt hugely better about the piece and it was done in no time.
This is actually a mixed media work. The sky and stones are done with graphite pencils. Only the buildings and characters are completed with coloured pencils. The cover design at the top of the page has the colours tweaked a little from what you see here, which is closer to the original. However, I think the cover with the composited title looks wonderful. I don’t know who did it as I signed off after the cover was done. I definitely like it, though.
This was the second design. Green was the order of the day. I used red in the earlier version with original text I created that looked like a graffiti tag. As you can see, if you compare this one with the logo on the cover art at top, the texture on the letters has been redone. We agreed on what you see here, but I like the other on the final cover better. It looks like scales! Oh, the nasty looking thing underneath is a view of the sword in regular graphite pencil.
A WONDERFUL SURPRISE!
This arrived in an email one day- the evil knight as rendered by an animator in Sweden. If you read Paul and Jeff’s blog at the time, you could follow links to the creator’s own site. I think the drawings translated really well into the final model. The sword was simplified in the blade, but the handle remained pretty much as imagined. And you should have seen this guy move in the demo animation!
And that was it. At the time of writing, the game was still available on the X-Box Indie platform. People I’ve talked to who played it had a lot of fun. I did get an X-Box later and played a few games on it, but never became a huge fan because of the time involved and all the other projects I wanted to work on. I will not say ‘no’ to another stint of character design, though. CORRUPTED was just too much fun.
I first became interested in aviation and naval art in high school, and still have some of the pieces I did then in my old portfolio. What is shown here is a collection of pieces done since 1990. Many are in private collections now and are not shown in public any more.
Let’s start with the Bristol Monoplane…
This piece was supposed to appear in an art show in 2012, but being the only black and white work, stood out as such an oddity that I left it home when it was time to hang the exhibition. Featuring the graceful and little known Bristol Monoplane of the Great War, it is a tribute to an aircraft that was ahead of its time and unfairly maligned by the powers in charge of the RFC during the war. Serving largely in the Middle East, it performed well and examples of it survived years after the fighting stopped in 1918.
BRISTOL MONOPLANE. Graphite on paper, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012
“REMEMBERING THE WAR IN THE AIR”- an exhibition in 2012
2012 was the year when aviation art returned in force to the studio. An invitation in early July to participate in a book talk at the Brampton Public Library on CANADA AT WAR, by Paul Keery, was based on the assumption that I would simply put old pieces lying around the house on display. However, the organizer of the book talk became concerned when I told her many of those pieces went into private collections and in some cases, were unaccountable in their whereabouts because the owners had moved, passed on the work or died. I proposed instead of hunting them down to create new works more reflective of my current style, rather than that of the 1990s when most of the original pieces were created. What follows is a catalogue of new works done in four months on a variety of British and Canadian subjects. For BOMBS GONE OVER BRUNSWICK, where the original is now in England and the process of its completion is documented below, I included a print of the image produced from photos I took of it before it left for its new home.
What also follows after that is an assortment of other pieces completed in a variety of media over the years leading up to the 2011-12 show. Where possible, I will include further information about those pieces, their composition and completion dates.
DEATH AT DUSK. Coloured pencil and watercolour media16x12in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
COUNTERMEASURES- Electronic Warfare B-17 in Action. Coloured pencil and watercolour media, 16x12in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
CANADIAN OVER COLOMBO. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
CHARGING MUSTANGS- 442 SQUADRON LIBERATES THE CHANNEL ISLANDS. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
TIP AND RUN- BOUNCING A BUZZ BOMB. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media, 16x12in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
CLOSING THE GAP- TYPHOONS OVER FALAISE IN 1944. Coloured pencil and watercolour on paper, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
REAPING WHIRLWINDS- HUNTING E-BOATS IN THE CHANNEL. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media on paper, 14x11in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2012.
BOMBS GONE OVER BRUNSWICK- process to completion
In late 2010, I was invited to create an image of a Lancaster bomber for my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary. The way in which the aircraft was created was left up to me. Not having completed a large scale aircraft piece in six years, I elected to use coloured pencil for my medium on 140lb. watercolour paper stock. Research took place early in March, after I had already decided on a composition. Admittedly, this was an odd way to compose the piece, but once I sorted out the aircraft, using Touchwood’s Lancaster computer generated model in Poser and my own photo reference material for the background, I hunted through books and the internet until I read of an account of a Lancaster in trouble while on a raid over Brunswick sometime in 1944. Satisfied the account matched the composition, I transferred the squadron codes to the aircraft- already drawn out on the board- to create the first stage of the work shown below, as completed on a Friday. Next, I washed in a kind of underpainting using watered down acrylics to establish a tone range for the background. Yes, it was messy and the paper wrinkled badly at this stage. I was not bothered, however. The coloured pencils- Prismacolour, to be precise- were to be used next, and the sheer pressure of the waxy ‘lead’ on the paper would be enough to flatten the image and shatter more than a few pencils in the process. Detailed images follow the process as the picture progressed.
The final piece, completed the following Thursday after some 22 hours in total, looked like this…
BOMBS GONE OVER BRUNSWICK. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media on paper. 20x14in.Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2011.(In private collection)
Some detail studies…
…and other aircraft, too!
LATE MODEL SPITFIRE. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media on paper. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 1999.(In private collection)
DeHAVILLAND DH 106 COMET AIRLINER. Coloured pencil and graphite on paper. 30x22in. Copyright C.A. Seaman, 2004.
HANDLEY-PAGE HALIFAX OF NO.87 SQUADRON, R.A.F. Aircraft flown by Len Broadhurst, who I had the pleasure of meeting many years ago, and who received the original of this work. Coloured pencil and watercolour mixed media on paper. Dimensions unknown. Copyright C.A. Seaman, originally 1998. (Posted 1999).
NOTE: Mr. Broadhurst passed away a few years ago. If anyone knows what happened to this piece, please contact me through this website.