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Tag Archive for ‘process’ at Phil McAndrew Illustrations & Comics
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Tag Archive for 'process'


I’m currently working on three different book projects at the same time and I love it.

The first project is of course my book, which I’ve been working on for a little over a year now. I’m getting closer and closer to finishing it and am really happy and excited about all the new comics that are going into it. I’ve been posting little teasers (like the image up above) now and then over on twitter and tumblr. Last night I even posted an entire comic from the book. Sharing the whole thing just felt right. It’s about UNSPEAKABLE HORRORS and I felt like now was a good time to show this one to the world. Here’s the first panel (below), which you can click on to read the rest of the comic…

Here are a few in progress shots of pages from the book…

I’m currently on track to finish my book up in November.

The second book project I’m currently working on is for a large publisher. It’s not a project of my own creation, I’m just providing illustrations. It’s been a lot of fun so far and I’m working on it at a break-neck speed - I’m doing 45 illustrations from start to finish in just two months. I’ll be done with it at the end of October.

The third book project I’ve got on my plate is TOP SECRET! I don’t want to reveal anything about it yet. It’s really exciting though. Extremely exciting, even! I think all the details about this one will be revealed closer to the end of the year. I’ll be wrapping this up in mid-November.

Oh! Hey! SketchCamp San Diego is TOMORROW! I’ll be there, giving a little talk in the afternoon. Tickets to the event are sold out, but if you’re already registered to be there: See you tomorrow!

Pancakes and Chowder

Hello friends! I’ve been extremely busy! I spent all last week up in Los Angeles! I was up there for work, mainly to do some stuff at Cartoon Network. Before heading back down to San Diego I did get to spend a day painting a picture and hanging out with the film crew at Soul Pancake headquarters (picture above yoinked from Soul Pancake’s Twitter). There will be a video of my painting process online soon! Here’s a tiny peek at what I painted… I’ll post the full image when the video goes up online…

Oh! Also! I just realized that the Adventure Time comic book cover I drew a while back will hit stores this month as a variant cover for issue #8. I have it on good authority that it will be out the week of the 24th. I’m super excited about that.

I recently did another cover illustration for a different comic book. Here’s a tiny little peek at that… I’ll show off the full image as soon as the publisher reveals it…

Another recent thing: I wrote a silly little story, just for fun.

The Clam Chowder Incident is about a person with a dangerously attractive butt (seriously). You can read the whole thing here. I hope you like it!

Hmm, what else have I been up to? I drew some little things for a zine that my friends Becky, Frank, Tyler, and Zach put together. It’s called SPEEDHOG The Hedgehog and it’ll be available at SPX this weekend (sorry, I won’t be there). I’m working on a few awesome freelance projects right now. I’m also trying to finish up work on my own book, hoping to have it finished and printed in time for it to be available at some events in the spring. Here’s part of a scary page in progress…

Okay! Back to drawing I go! I love you guys!

Ramen Music cover illustration (and how it was made!)

Hey, you guys! I recently had the pleasure of creating a cover illustration for an upcoming issue of Ramen Music. I must say, Ramen Music was truly one of the most pleasant clients I’ve ever worked with. A freelancers dream! The entire job was basically non-stop delight.

What’s that? You want to know how I made this amazing illustration? Really? Well… well okay! I’ll tell you!

FIRST: I made a snack. The snack stage is extremely important. Never skip it.

OKAY NEXT: I drew a ton of thumbnail drawings. These are basically just little scribbles. It’s okay if they don’t look like much. This is where the ideas are born, where they go from being weird foggy ghost things floating around inside your cavernous head to being tangible things scribbled on a piece of paper. And the more thumbnails you do the better! Try to get as many ideas down on paper as you can. Give yourself lots of options, explore every little glimmer of an idea. I don’t end up using 95% of the thumbnails I draw but I think of this stage as an opportunity to just hand the steering wheel over to my imagination and get both the good and the bad ideas out of my system.

As a freelance illustrator/cartoonist I’m forced to spend most of my time cooped up in my apartment by myself, splattering ink and paint all over the dang place. But to work on thumbnails all you really need is some scraps of paper, a pencil, and a brain. No mess, no hard to transport tools needed. I like to use the thumbnailing stage as an excuse to get out of the house and work at a coffee shop whenever I’m able to.

AND THEN: Once I settle on which idea I want to develop I’ll scan the thumbnail in and flesh it out a bit more in photoshop using my drawing tablet. So we go from this…

…to this!

I like to do this step in Photoshop because when working digitally I have the power to move things around, re-size them, or redraw them as many times as I want without having to use a new sheet of paper or an eraser. I can really get in there and turn my vague little scribble of an idea into a sturdy skeleton for my illustration. Often the drawing will still be pretty vague and sloppy after this step, but that’s okay. The important thing here is really the composition. In this particular case I knew I wanted some pretty crazy details (THE CHANDELIER) so I went ahead and created a fairly detailed skeleton. I like to call this step “digital pencils.”

AFTER THAT: I print out my “digital pencils” at the size I want to final drawing to be. Sometimes that means printing the image across two separate sheets of paper and taping them together (I like to work BIG). I’ll then get to work on my final line drawing using ink and a light box.

With the light box I’m able to stick the print out of my rough digital drawing under my sheet of cold press water color paper and use the rough drawing as a guide for my ink drawing. I do most of the ink drawing with a crappy little nib pen that gets dipped in india ink. Once I’ve got all my lines down I’ll often go back and augment certain spots using a beat up old brush. Lots of ink and a few episodes of Radiolab later and we’ve got our inked drawing all ready for the next step.

You don’t need to follow your rough drawing exactly when you’re inking. As I said before, the “digital pencils” are really just to figure out the composition. Small details will often change as I’m inking and if I’m doing a less intricate illustration I like to save a lot of the actual drawing for the inking stage. This time around I just happened to be working from a fairly detailed rough.

AND NOW: It’s time to add some color to this baby! But I’m not going to dive right in and start dumping watercolors on just yet. That would be NUTS. With more elaborate illustrations like this I almost always jump back on the computer and throw together a quick and sloppy color map for myself, again using Photoshop and my tablet.

Sometimes I’ll scan in the finished inks and do the rough digital colors with the actual finished drawing, sometimes I’ll just open the sloppy digital pencils up again and color those. Either usually works - the lines aren’t super important at this point. All we’re focusing on here is colors. And even the colors don’t have to be perfect! They’re likely going to change a little as you get into the painting anyways. But having at least a rough idea of how I’m going to paint the thing makes the process go a heck of a lot smoother and faster.

OKAY AND NOW FINALLY: Let’s start painting!

I know a LOT of artists, even some really amazing artists, who are either terrified of painting with watercolors or who’ve tried them once and decided that they just “suck at watercolors.” Thing is, like almost everything in life, you’ve gotta practice! It takes time to get comfortable with how watercolors work, or with any tool you use. The only way to learn how to manipulate them and make them do what you want is to play with them a lot.

When I was in school as an illustration student I found myself becoming increasingly drawn to the work of several illustrators and cartoonists who mostly use watercolors. I decided that *I* wanted to be able to apply that sort of a look to my own work. So I spent my entire final year of college playing with watercolors, hoping I could eventually make them work for me too. If you want to learn how to paint with watercolors the best advice I can give you is to simply start painting and don’t stop. Additional advice would be to always keep a roll of paper towels within arm’s reach.

AND SO FINALLY: After lots of paint and water and a few episodes of My Brother, My Brother and Me we arrive at the end. A finished painting! Sometimes watercolors don’t scan very well so you might have to do a little color adjusting in Photoshop still. But basically that’s it! Time for another snack!

Good job, everyone! That was fun! I’ve actually already agreed to do another cover for Ramen Music. So we’ll have to do this again soon!

Are You Man Enough: Director’s Commentary!

The awesome folks over at Kickstarter asked me to do a little “director’s commentary” sort of thing for one of my comics to be featured on the official Kickstarter blog. Naturally, I chose Are You Man Enough.

“The whole idea for this comic started when one of my cousins got married. My brother Tyler and I were hanging out at the wedding, drinking and joking around. We started talking about how boring weddings can be (for the record, the wedding we were at was actually a lot of fun) and how there’s got to be a more exciting way to display your love for someone… like you should have to perform some sort of amazing feat if you want to get married. An amazing feat to show the girl “I love you this much.” I want to attend that wedding ceremony. Defeat fifty guys in armed combat or jump over a swimming pool on a skateboard or… perform a really cool drum solo.”

Read the rest over on the Kickstarter blog!

Oh! And speaking of Kickstarter, you’ve still got a couple weeks to help fund the creation of my first book while getting awesome stuff in return like original art, soon to be out of print mini comics, fancy prints, copies of my upcoming book, and loads of other neat stuff.

Prints, Doodles, and Secret Projects

Sometimes with comics or illustrations that require a lot of fine details, I like to scan my thumbnails in and pencil things digitally. I’ll then print the digital pencils out and do the final inks on a light box. Just a glimpse at one of several projects that are keeping me busy right now.

Despite being really busy, I’m trying to make time for doodling. Doodling is super important, perhaps one of the most important things an illustrator or cartoonist can do. I find my doodling increases when I’m working on new comics (which I am!).

I’ve been adding new prints to my store almost every day! I just added prints of the image up above, a panel from Are You Man Enough! I’m so pleased to finally be able to offer prints! Check them out!

Start to Finish

I was poking through my hard drive and found some old thumbnails I did for an job in 2008. I was hired to create five illustrations for an article in King Magazine. Here’s a peek at the very first thumbnail for one of the illustrations and then the finished product.

Picture Book Report Update!

At Last She Found A Bed That She Considered Perfectly Wonderful

I made an epic post over on Picture Book Report this morning! I had two months worth of material to share, having missed my April posting date because of computer problems. It’s okay now though! I bought myself a new computer and holy smokes, it is wonderful. However! I’m now very, very poor. I mean I was pretty poor before, but the amount of money in my bank account is now frighteningly low. So before we continue on to the fun stuff in this post, I present you with a humble plea!

If you’re an art director, editor, publisher, or person who has the ability to hire illustrators: Consider hiring me to draw something for your project or publication? I’d really, really appreciate it!

Okay! Fun stuff! My Picture Book Report illustration for the month of April (up above) was a lot of fun to work on, though I definitely owe an enormous THANK YOU to my pal Vicki Nerino for her constant advice and input throughout the process. It wouldn’t have turned out as neat as it did without her help.

Something I don’t think I’ve mentioned anywhere is that I actually went down to New York in January to visit some friends. While I was down there I spent a day exploring the Met (where most of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is set). I took a few hundreds pictures with my phone, planning to use them for reference later. It was great! I knew I’d want to do an illustration dealing with the bed they sleep in at some point but I wasn’t sure which bed it was that was actually described in the story. So I just took pictures of every bed I could find in the museum.

More recently I found this little article that E. L. Konigsburg actually wrote for the museum. The article reveals that the bed she describes in the book isn’t actually on display anymore! So I ended up basing the drawing more off of my own mental image of what she describes in the book and a few  additional photos I found online of beds from the same time period.

Here are a few in-progress shots!

Here’s what the finished line work looked like before I painted it…

The one part I really struggled with (and where Vicki really helped me) was in deciding what direction I wanted to go in with the colors. I made a bunch of really awful digital color roughs but after getting some input from Vicki I did one more, using only blue.

After that it was just a matter of sitting down and painting!

For the month of May I decided to try something a little different. I knew right from that start that at some point I wanted to do a bunch of little spot illustrations rather than one big one. I was a little bit short on time this month and the next big illustration I have planned depicts a crucial moment in the story. I didn’t want to give that scene a rush treatment so I decided to do those spot illustrations this month.

The New York Times

Newspapers and I have a long history together. My dad has been a newspaper reporter as long as I’ve been alive. I was first exposed to comics thanks to newspapers. I interned in a newspaper art department for two consecutive summers when I was in college. I’ve just got an intense love for this form of media that is now, sadly, really struggling to stay alive. Anyways, this little drawing might not look like it was the most exciting thing to draw, but I enjoyed every moment of it. The headlines, which are intentionally obscured by the size of the image, are a mix of well researched and accurate to the year the book was written (1967) and completely made up and silly. I borrowed names from some of my pals for the bylines. Ryan Pequin, Meg Hunt, Britt Wilson: you’ve all written articles for the front page of this fictional incarnation of The New York Times. I used my dad, Mike McAndrew, for one of the articles too.

Check out the other two spots over at Picture Book Report!

Before I end this epic blog post, I want to remind everyone that I’m giving away the last few copies of my FERAL PIZZA mini comic! You’ve got until the end of the day tomorrow (Friday) to put your name in for a chance at winning!

I should also mention that I am in fact still working on commissions that people ordered a while back. I’ve understandably had a few people email me, wondering when they’ll get their drawing in the mail. I fell way behind on them as I was busy preparing for MoCCA and SPX over the last few months but I’m going to try very hard to work my way through the pile now that convention insanity is over with for me until the fall.

Thanks for reading!

A Big Process Peek + MoCCA This Weekend!

Story Time

A new illustration! The plan is to use it as a new self-promo postcard. Hopefully it’ll bring in a few new clients! I’ve been going through an epic freelance drought. I posted fairly regular process updates to my twitter account as I was working on this illustration. A few people expressed interest, so I figured I’d collect all the process stuff here for you guys.

Before I get into the process stuff, I’ve got a quick announcement: I will be exhibiting at the MoCCA Festival this weekend (April 10 & 11) in NYC! Come find me at table E21 along with my pals Jess Fink, Eric Feurstein, L. Nichols, and Jorge Diaz. I’ll have mini comics, screen-printed shirts, original art and high fives.

On to the illustration process stuff!

My sketchbooks, for the most part, are filled with notes and scribbles much like this one. I don’t seem to sit and draw in my sketchbooks much these days. They’ve mostly just become a place for collecting and developing ideas. I scribble little thumbnails like what you see up above. Most of them never make it past the thumbnail stage but a few lucky ones (like this one) grow up to be big inky drawings.

Next we flesh the idea out a little bit. The characters transform from vague, ugly blobs to detailed ugly blobs. I really enjoy this phase simply because I really enjoy drawing. It’s just so much fun! I do this stage of the drawing on crappy printer paper because there’s no reason to do it on anything fancy.

I wasn’t super sure what I wanted to do with the background at first. In fact, I was really struggling with it for a few days. I decided to scan in the characters and print out a sheet of four thumbnails so that I could just doodle and figure the background out.

I’ve always focused more on characters and expressions in my work. Recently I’ve been making a conscious effort to really improve my background/scenery skills. I’m forcing myself to draw backgrounds as much as possible. You’ll see this in my upcoming Picture Book Report illustrations.

Once I settled on a background, I jumped into inking. I use a lightbox when inking. I’m not super picky about my inks or my pens. I use whatever ink I’ve got laying around and just use a cheap nib pen. I do the inking on Strathmore 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper.

The finished ink drawing! I like to augment some of my lines with a beat up old brush. If you look at the old guy’s sweater lines, they’ve got that fuzzy beat up old brush quality to them. I love that.

Before I get into painting, I often like to scan the inks in and play around with colors in Photoshop. I find it really helpful to digitally come up with a rough idea of what you want to do with the colors before attempting to paint. The final product won’t look exactly like your color rough, because that would just be nuts, but it’s really nice having something to shoot for.

I’ve started painting! I’ve just got some basic wash layers down at this point. haven’t touched that crazy carpet at all, haven’t done any shadows or anything. Just keep it nice and simple for a while!

This is a crummy phone picture I took while painting. At this point I’ve got most of that carpet done. Still haven’t gotten much into shadows or anything, but soon! We’ve hit the home stretch.

Story Time
And eventually, we get here, to the finished illustration. Scan it in, fiddle with the levels a little (watercolors never scan well), and bang! Finished!

I hope you find this whole process peek at least a little bit interesting! I look forward to seeing everyone at the MoCCA Festival this weekend!

tools and techniques

I’ve seen a few illustrators and cartoonists filling this little survey out on their blogs recently. I’ve had a couple of people email me, asking about my tools and techniques recently as well, so I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon.

Phil McAndrew
Comics: The Secret Thoughts of Harold Lawrence Windcrampe, This & That, contributions to You Ain’t No Dancer, other assorted web and mini comics.
Making comics since year of: the beginning of time
Art education/schools attended: BFA in Illustration from Daemen College, advanced art classes throughout high school

Pencils: More often than not, I don’t use pencils. I’ll usually go straight to ink with my rough drawings. Sometimes I’ll “pencil” digitally, doing my roughs in photoshop and then printing them out. When I do use an actual pencil, I usually just use a mechanical pencil, no particular brand, just whatever I have laying around.

Inks: I use Winsor & Newton black Indian ink. It has a neat drawing of a spider guy wearing a top hat on the bottle.

Brushes: I used to be very picky when it came to brushes, but these days I just use any old thing. I kind of like having brushes that are old and beat up. I get more interesting lines out of them. I have an old size 2 Raphael brand brush that a friend gave me. I use it more than any of my other brushes.

Pens: I have a cheap little set of nibs that I bought a really long time ago, I’m not even certain what company made them. I’ve been using those to ink everything lately. I really abuse them too, often trying to snag them against the grain of the paper on purpose and stuff.

Paper: It depends on what I’m working on and how large I want to draw it, I guess. For most illustrations, I work on smooth 100 lb. bristol. Sometimes I’ll use 140 lb. cold press (particularly if I plan on watercoloring). Sometimes I just use ordinary 8.5″ x 11″ printer paper.

Lettering: Lately I’ve been lettering everything by hand using my wacom tablet. It’s just easier, I think. When I try to letter by hand with ink I usually just end up making a big mess, and lettering (usually) is the one thing that I don’t want to make a mess of.

Color: Most of the time I just color digitally in photoshop with my tablet, especially with comics. Sometimes with illustrations I’ll watercolor them, scan the watercolors in, and then mess around with them in photoshop.

Layout/ Composition: For comics I always just sit and thumbnail everything out really loosely in a sketchbook, mostly focusing on getting the idea onto paper. Then I spend some time breaking it up into pages and panels on scarp paper, really concentrating on getting the flow and pacing perfect. after that I jump into pencils (or more often digital pencils, as I mention above). I feel like the biggest tool I use in this stage is instinct.

Convention Sketches (when different from illustrations done in the studio): My convention sketches are usually just drawn with fine tipped pen of some sort. I think I’ve been using a pilot V5 rolling ball lately, or something.

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes: Back in high school I decided I wanted to get serious about comics and so I started inking with a nib pen. I wasn’t really getting the lines I wanted though and right around the time I started college i switched over to inking with a brush. I started out with a realllyyy tiny brush and somehow still drew lots of things with big, ugly, boring lines. Eventually I got better with brushes and moved up to a size 2 and I stuck with that through most of college. Since finisheing college, I’ve mostly been using a combination of both nibs and brushes, doing most of the inking with a nib and then sometimes augmenting the lines with a brush.

What tools you’d never use, and why: Sharpies. for a little while I drew with them as a teenager. Now when I see people drawing with them, I cringe! I don’t think I will ever even consider using adobe illustrator to make comics or illustrations either, it just seems to boring and lifeless to me. I prefer to make a mess, for my drawings to be filled with happy accidents and adventure.