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Comics 101
The latest art tips and techniques, reviews and interviews from my studio. Updated here and at World Famous Comics!

Comics 101 Archives

Comics 101 for 12/04/2003
This past summer I was interviewed by Andrew Liptak for The Unofficial Clone Wars Site about my work in the current, ongoing Star Wars multimedia 'Clone Wars' event. I had a fun time answering his questions and talking about my Star Wars art and upcoming projects so be sure to visit this excellent Star Wars site!

TUCWS: When were you approached to do the artwork for Star Wars Gamer, HoloNet News and Star Wars Insider? What types of art do you do for the magazines?

JC: I actually pursued Wizards of the Coast to give me a shot at illustrating for Star Wars once I heard about the company obtaining the license for a new RPG. This was a few months before it was announced to the general public back in 2000. Because I found out a little early it gave me a few months to prepare my portfolio and make contacts within the company. I think what also helped me obtain Star Wars work from Wizards was that I had previously illustrated for West End Games on their Star Wars RPG for two years.

Once I got my portfolio approved I received my first assignment for Star Wars Gamer magazine. It was an article I illustrated spotlighting popular alien characters from the original Marvel Comics Star Wars run, the Zeltrons, Stenax, Nagai, Skyr'ti, Iskalonians and the Nomads. Then I was fortunate enough to receive an assignment illustrating for almost every issue after that. Two of my favorite articles I illustrated for Gamer were 'The Emperor's Hands" and the pilots of "Wraith Squadron".

After illustrating for Wizards on Star Wars Gamer and also on their RPG for a few years, Lucasfilm contacted me to illustrate HoloNetNews.com. It was a promotional 'news' website for Episode II that took place in-universe, kind of like the 'CNN' of the Star Wars galaxy. It tied in the backstory of the film into the Expanded Universe and updated weekly for a few a months leading directly into the opening scene and events of the movie.

When Attack of the Clones came out in theatres and my work for the website was done I was then able to land work with Star Wars Insider. My first assignment for them was the 'Grand Admirals of the Empire' article collaborating with Star Wars authors Dan Wallace and Abel Pena. Then I re-teamed with Pablo Hidalgo from starwars.com and HoloNetNews.com for the HoloNet News feature in Insider.

Most of my artwork on Star Wars for the past few years has been in my pen and ink technique that I digitally color. I've been staying with my more graphic, comic book style technique in my Star Wars art since comic books are my first love and a big influence on my artistic sensibilities. Plus, I'm trying to keep my style focused and consistent since it's easier for me to shift gears from Star Wars projects when I go to work on my actual comic book projects in between.

TUCWS: I think that my favorite bit of art was the one concerning the military buildup on Jabiim for HoloNet News in Insider. That art has clone troopers, three types of walkers and gunships in it. The AT-AT walker don't look like the ones that we saw on Hoth, so is this an earlier model or did you base it on the concept drawings for the film? What types of things do you refer to before drawing? Any manuals or books?

JC: I'm glad you really liked that piece. That's one of my recent favorites too actually. I really enjoy drawing clone troopers too. The military buildup for Jabiim artwork was meant to echo the final shot of Episode 2 where we see the clones and all of their military hardware gearing up on Coruscant for war. I specifically wanted to create a piece that bridged the gap visually from the films to the Clone War story being told in the EU.

The 'proto' AT-AT was fun to draw and design. I tried to make the red striping consistent to what's been previously seen on the gunships and the AT-TE's. LFL requested I should model my design closely to the old [Joe] Johnston/[Ralph] McQuarrie AT-AT concept artwork work from The Empire Strikes Back. After I had drawn the walker, they eventually sent me some very rough pencils from Dark Horse for additional reference. Penciler Brian Ching had designed his look for the walkers using the same concept reference in the Jabiim storyline that they were doing. I just had to go in and tweak mine a little after that to make it consistent with Dark Horse's version. I was really happy with that piece and how it turned out in the end.

Besides referring to unused concept work from Star Wars art books or Lucasfilm for inspiration, I also study Ralph McQuarrie's concept paintings for the Classic Trilogy or artwork for the Prequel Trilogy for ideas, characters, costumes or scenery. Not so much for style or their technique but more for flavor, feel or overall color sensibilities at times. I still try to be unique in my work with my own style, but I take bits and pieces from these other artists who establish the look of the films to make my artwork feel consistent to Star Wars as we know it on the screen. I also strive to establish a certain level of quality as to what fans have come to expect with the property too.

Also, I refer to the literally thousands of reference pictures I have on disc for the films. Some of the images I have collected and cataloged on discs are from books and the internet over the years. And I have a lot of requested reference from Lucasfilm I collected too, especially for Episode II when I was working on HoloNetNews.com.

One of my favorite parts of starting a new Star Wars project is spending a few hours before hand searching through all of my images for the right reference shots or for inspiration. Most artists usually can't tolerate the research process before starting a new assignment and it usually shows in their work, but I enjoy the process especially when it's for Star Wars.

TUCWS: Do you always use photo references when drawing characters for Star Wars, HoloNet News, or Star Wars Gamer?

JC: Not always, but with a universe so rich in detail like Star Wars I find it often helps if I rely on photo reference to capture the spirit or essence of the films that I prefer to see not just in my art, but other Star Wars artist's work as well. When I do have the chance to draw something from the films like a main character, an alien, droid or a ship I enjoy the opportunity to interpret it in my graphic and full color techniques. The trick though is to not rely on photo reference too heavily and still allow for my imagination to influence the work and hopefully bring something original to the piece. Whether it's by compositional design or coming up with a brand new character or environment. I try to use photo reference or other Star Wars art reference as a guide and not necessarily let it dictate the final outcome of my work. It's also fun, and sometimes a fun challenge, tying my work into the larger tapestry of what other artists and the Star Wars films have established for the visual look of the story.

TUCWS: It seems like there is a definite timeline of events that have been planned out for the HoloNet News, like what articles to write. Who tells you what to draw? Do you have ideas of your own that you put forth?

JC: Actually, I don't think there's a complete timeline intricately planned out for every single HoloNet News story or how it fits into the larger, expanding Clone Wars saga. With HoloNet, Pablo usually tackles one issue's worth of stories at a time though he keeps track of what Clone Wars stories are coming up from other publishers. Since he's at the Ranch and in touch with Lucasfilm Licensing on a daily basis, he plans his stories and ideas to fit accordingly with what is coming out by other writers for Lucasfilm.

He really does a great job making sure continuity is always a priority as well as just writing entertaining Star Wars pieces for the EU too. We've also collaborated on story ideas for possible future installments so I know that to a certain extent the HoloNet stories of the Clone Wars are more less being made up as we go along staying a month or so ahead of schedule.

TUCWS: You've done a lot of work with Star Wars Insider and the now discontinued Star Wars Gamer magazines. You've done work for characters in every era, such as the New Jedi Order, New Republic, the Prequel Era and now the Clone Wars. How do the characters change between these time periods, and how does the feel of the each era change?

JC: I actually haven't touched the New Jedi Order too much. That's one of the few eras I haven't had the opportunity to do much for yet, unfortunately. The New Republic, Classic and Prequel Trilogy eras have kept me busy though. Just like any good Star Wars artist probably, I take my visual cues from the films for inspiration on how to tailor my artwork for whatever era of the saga I happen to be working in. With the Prequel Trilogy, specifically Episode I, there's a definite, intentional art noveau feel for overall look of the film. From the decorative set pieces, the streamlined vehicles and flowing drapery of the costumes, there's a lot to play with visually from a design standpoint when illustrating for this era. It's probably one of the best and intricately designed films of the Star Wars saga. With Episode II, it's a little of both the Episode I art noveau, decorative, 'new' and streamlined design feel combined with the more angular and 'used' feel of the Classic Trilogy.

Illustrating for the Classic Trilogy lends itself well to my comic book style actually I think since I design with heavy graphic blacks and lots of shadow and enjoy being 'moody' as possible in my art. After all, this is the era that Obi-Wan refers to in A New Hope as the 'dark times' so I like playing and designing with blacks and dark colors for my artwork when I can.

I'm actually trying to balance that in my current Clone Wars artwork by occasionally keeping some of the brighter or saturated colors of Episode I at times and designing other illustrations with a definite darker edge or palate reminiscent of Episode II.

TUCWS: You're one of the first people to get in and explore the Clone Wars through your art work. Was it difficult to be one of the trail guides?

JC: Illustrating in the Clone Wars has probably been my favorite time period as a Star Wars illustrator so far since it's new, unexplored territory and it's edging towards the dark period and look of the Empire from the classic films that I really like. Getting to establish the look of certain aspects and situations of the Clone Wars like characters, vehicles, planets, aliens etc. is a real treat for me since I've always been a huge Star Wars fan. I love coming up with new characters and situations too as much as I love illustrating in my style ones that have been previously established. It's not necessarily a difficult task for me at all since I enjoy this work too much to even stress about it.

Drawing Star Wars comes natural for me, I guess, since I've studied the material so much and have been drawing it since I was a kid years before I even started thinking about drawing it officially for Lucasfilm. All the aspects of the saga have literally been part of my psyche probably since childhood most likely. You could say I've been enjoying Star Wars probably way too much over the years. I suppose I find if I think about what I'm actually doing it can be a little intimidating, not necessarily difficult, but daunting because then I think, how'd get so lucky getting paid to draw and design Star Wars? That's when I realize it's not good to question my fortune and just keep running with it. I try to stay focused and just have as much fun with it as possible.

TUCWS: Much of the articles in the HoloNet News refer to events that are just coming out. Do you get to refer to comics that have yet to be released?

JC: Pablo is the one who is on top of things coming out in the schedule from other Lucasfilm Licensing. He gets to refer to storylines like those from the comic books or novels before they are published and makes sure his stories fit with what is being fleshed out by other writers as well. From a marketing standpoint, Holonet works really well since it draws it's inspiration from all of the Lucas licensed resources like the comics, novels, and video games and promotes these current story projects and products at the same time. With Pablo writing Holonet, it really ties everything together nicely, even when those other creators on other projects unintentially cause continuity or timeline guffaws. Pablo definitely doesn't get enough credit for all the work he does for Lucasfilm and keeping this entire saga in check.

TUCWS: Will the HoloNet News ever be published as a volume? And do you sell the Clone Wars art that you draw?

JC: I sell all of my original Star Wars art at my website,JoeCorroney.com. Occasionally, I'll also have some of my original Star Wars art on eBay, so you can see whatever I happen to be selling through the eBay button on my homepage.

Actually, I'd really hope to someday see all of the stories and artwork for HoloNet News from the website and Insider magazine be collected into one volume. Personally, it would be really cool to open a cover and start flipping through pages of Star Wars stories with my artwork on each page. That would be so awesome. I've done so much Star Wars artwork all over the place for various publications over the years that it would be really, really cool just to see some of it under one cover. Maybe someday I suppose if the demand is there and Lucasfilm thinks it's a good idea but it feels like I'm just getting started too, you know?

I think right when Episode III is released or immediately right after, a published collection on Holonet might make for an excellent idea since it would be a good way to let fans just coming into the Prequels have all of this backstory in one edition. I think something like that would go over really well with fans of the Expanded Universe too, the die-hard Star Wars fans that are everywhere out there. Maybe if Lucasfilm gets enough positive feedback with HoloNet News and thinks there's an audience to market a collected edition for it could happen.

TUCWS: Is there anything that you can tell us about the future of HoloNet News or Insider? Or the Clone Wars in general? We'll probably be seeing you in future issues of Insider. How long will the HoloNet News run? It's probably the best newspaper I get!

JC: That's great! From what I understand, you should expect HoloNet News to continue in Insider at least up until the release of Episode III. That could be tentative though since a lot can happen in publishing in two years and I'm not sure if there are any plans yet to bring it back online yet. If Lucasfilm and the team at Starwars.com decide to do so, you can count me in again for sure.

I'm hoping to do more Star Wars art for Insider along with my regular work for HoloNet News actually. I'd love to do some more Who's Who articles and possibly illustrate some short fiction or other projects for them again too. There's some possibilities I'm currently discussing with my art director there, so I hope some of them pan out.

I really don't have any specific information on the Clone Wars to give out or anything that I'm authorized to say about it or Episode III. I can say the events in the Clone Wars are obviously going to get a lot worse before it gets better. But my favorite way to sum it up though is 'no one gets out alive.' Though that's not entirely true since we know Obi-Wan, Yoda, the droids and I suppose 'some' of Anakin make it to the Classic Trilogy.

TUCWS: What steps do you take to illustrate one of the drawings that we see in the HNN? How long does it take you, and what mediums do you use?

JC: Everything starts out as a rough sketch in my sketchbook after I get my story assignments. This process usually takes anywhere to a few minutes to an hour to get the right composition once I have all of my photo reference I may need on hand. I'll do a larger, tighter drawing based off of my thumbnail composition or rough sketch. In this stage, I make sure I include all of the details like costumes, props and weapons and really try to nail the likeness of the characters. I find that the tighter, the stronger the drawing, the easier the full color final is to accomplish and the better it turns out. I'll usually send my rough sketches or tighter pencil drawings into my art director at this point to get Lucasfilm's approval. Sometimes there might be minor changes but I have a pretty good track record so far and usually am right on target with my work.

Once the final pencil is approved I'll ink the illustration with my crowqill dip pens and India ink. Then I scan the artwork into my Macintosh computer and begin blocking in all of the flat color in Photoshop and then opening the artwork to render in the Painter program. Usually I take it back into Photoshop after that to apply some more rendering and effects for a final technique.

On my website, JoeCorroney.com, and also at WorldFamousComics.com I have a tutorial section called Comics 101 that often showcases my step by step techniques when illustrating my Star Wars art. If there are any aspiring Star Wars artists out there, they can check it out and let me know what they think. It has an archive section as well for past articles where I discuss other Star Wars or comic book art tutorials and I'll also occasionally offer reviews and interviews there as well.

TUCWS: How did you become interested in becoming an artist? Any tips for people who are aspiring to become artists someday?

JC: I knew I wanted to be an artist when I was really young. I probably didn't make a conscious decision though until I was in elementary school, like fourth or fifth grade. It was a combination of being a comic book reader, a big Star Wars fan and just having an over-active imagination as a kid. Star Wars was the first movie I remember seeing in the the theatre when I was four years old and for my birthday that summer the Marvel Comics adaptation was the first comic book I remember my mom buying me. I started drawing the characters from the comic book and before I knew it I was buying Batman, Spider-Man and Hulk comics and drawing all of them too.

Being an artist isn't always a glamorous lifestyle, but it's fun and I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. In fact, I don't know how to do anything else so I'll probably be fortunate enough to do this the rest of my life. Besides recommending aspiring artists to check out Comics 101 at my site or WorldFamousComics.com for advice or tutorials, to be a successful artist it takes lots of practice, discipline and confidence. Be receptive to what guidance you can get from other professional artists. Learn to take criticism with a positive attitude and always strive for improvement. Stay focused, inspired, work really hard and most of all be patient. Because if you do the first three things, then you'll definitely reap the benefits and your patience will pay off if you stay sharp and aware and don't let opportunities slip by.

TUCWS: Have you ever done full length comics?

JC: I started out as penciler for independent comics just before my work on Star Wars with West End Games took off. I've done some projects here and there in comics since then too like layouts for other pencilers and pin-ups and such. I'm currently illustrating a new series written by John Jackson Miller of Iron Man fame for Marvel Comics called Crimson Dynamo. This is really a fun project for me since I've always wanted to illustrate for Marvel (My first issue, Crimson Dynamo #3 was released last month and #4 has shipped and is on shelves this week. -J).

TUCWS: Are you interested in doing full length Star Wars comics? Have you been approached by Dark Horse Comics or have you approached them?

JC: I'm so very much interested in doing full length Star Wars comics. For the past few years I've been trying to get Dark Horse's attention with my sample pages and let them know. It's been a goal of mine for quite awhile actually. But I admit it's only been until the past year or so recently that I have felt even more confident with my comic book work. That's due in large part to Jan Duursema's guidance who illustrates Star Wars for Dark Horse and happens to be a good friend of mine. She's been really supportive and a positive influence in my comic book work and of course a big influence in my Star Wars art.

I'll have some new work to show them now from my Marvel series so I'll be planning to make another strong impression in hopes that Randy Stradley gives me a shot at doing some Star Wars work for him. I'm confident with my sequential storytelling and positive I could really knock their socks if I could just get my foot in the door with them. Plus I know the Star Wars EU really well so I know I could tell some really confident and exciting stories visually.

TUCWS: What types of art do you do other than your work for Star Wars?

JC: The past few years it's been primarily just Star Wars for me, which is actually fine by me since I truly love it so much and have a blast working with story and characters. I could probably do Star Wars for a very long time before I ever got burned out on it. But I enjoy comic book storytelling too much to not keep wanting to work on different projects in that medium, whether it's Star Wars or not. So that's why I'm currently working on a few different comic book projects now, one for Marvel Comics and a creator owned project I'd like to eventually see published soon.

TUCWS: Who's your favorite Star Wars character? Your favorite Star Wars movie?

JC: Luke used to be my favorite character growing up. I could identify with his sense of wanting something better than what he had and wanting to be somebody or do something important.

But as I got older I identified with Han's character more since his outlook and worldly view wasn't so black and white as Luke's. He was a little more cautious, pessimistic and definitely more roguish, which is always cool and impresses the ladies. So Han was my favorite character for awhile since he existed more in the grey area. And that's why Qui-Gon might be one of my other favorite characters.

Besides the fact that for years before the Prequels were released we only imagined how cool and tough the Jedi used to be from what we heard, read or speculated. We only really had Obi-Wan, who was very cool, but way past his prime in the Classic Trilogy and then we only had Luke as a 'beginner' Jedi in the third movie. But Qui-Gon came onto the screen inThe Phantom Menace and epitomized everything a Jedi should have been. And he followed his own path, just like Han, to boot. Which I think made him more interesting as a character than some of the other Jedi who seem to follow the Jedi code more intently.

I really liked Obi-Wan in Attack of the Clones though, he came across with more attitude and personality than he did as a Padawan in Episode I so I have a feeling he might be my new favorite character once Episode III is released. Then we'll get to see his complete character's journey and story arc when looking at the Classic Trilogy and I think that will be really interesting.

It really depends on my mood, but my favorite Star Wars movie is probably A New Hope, it's the most balanced of all the Star Wars films so far in terms of pacing and storytelling and stands on it's own merits as an enjoyable film. Though Empire is the best looking film. It has the best acting, the best writing, the best art direction, sets, costumes and lighting. It has so much texture visually and is really takes a brave, bold, dark direction in the series. It had a lot of edge. It's actually more interesting from a deeper psychological standpoint, than A New Hope. But the first Star Wars film still has a new, magical quality to it that's hard to capture in any sequel, but I think Empire actually achieves that too.

TUCWS: Will you get to read the Episode III script? Are you excited about the final Star Wars movie?

JC: I most likely won't get the privilege to read the script unless a really big project, something like HoloNetNews.com, comes up for me again. Even then, I didn't get to read the Episode II script, but through working with the starwars.com crew and working from the all of the reference photos they sent me for the project, you could say I had pretty good idea of the story and specifics for Episode II. I'm definitely excited for Episode III. There's no question and I really don't have any doubts that this one will be the best of the Prequels. It's the final Star Wars movie ever so you know they are going to pull out all of the stops and go out with a big bang. It'll be great.

Thanks for reading the interview and I hope everyone enjoyed it. My latest issue from my Marvel Comics series, Crimson Dynamo #4, is currently on shelves right now so be sure to pick up a copy from your local comic book shop or from my Stuff to Buy section and drop me a line and let me know what you think.
See ya next week for a new Comics 101 feature!
-Joe

<< 11/27/2003 | 12/04/2003 | 12/11/2003 >>

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