Never mind the details. Don't waste your time with elaborate props. Get your characters on the page and have them interact. Actions do speak louder than words in visual media. And actions and reactions were divinely primed for use specifically in comics.

My friend Casey McBride and I tried all sorts of variations on Fill-in-the-blanks collaborations. Comic creators call this Comic Jamming. Late nights helped keep the process interesting. Casey is a trained animator and I am a trained as an illustrator. This activity always kept us entertained.You can see what he does by following this link: McBrideCasey.com.

Try this at home when you are stumped for an idea. Take 2 characters and put them side by side in 4 panels. Put different expressions on their faces and then go back and try to put words in the bubbles that make sense with the random expressions you chose. Then try it with another friend and pass it off to them to try. After that add as many people as you can. You will be surprised at the variety of original ideas you come up with.

Let me know what you come up with and I may link it to my blog.


The High Knight

As the storyteller you have a great capacity to invent. Given a protagonist and a conflict a great deal of interesting topics can arise between the beginning and the end.

What fire sparks your imagination? What sort of peril would this knight save a fair damsel from? Would he fight dragons or does he just tell the narrator stories as he sits on the mantel on cold rainy nights?

Take a couple of minutes and view the full piece on my fine art site: "The High Knight". Fill your imagination with what if's. Let me know what you came up with.


Special Vanishing Point

Stiff lines, bare angles, and semi-technical math are my new friends. I have desperately wanted to achieve the technical perfection of the most skilled comic artists and draftsmen. A little bit of perspective will always do wonders for your piece. So I sat down for hours on end and studied the manuals I had on hand to figure how to best solve my creative problems. 

So, earlier this year that I had to get more serious about perspective drawing, if I was going to continue to be serious about creating comics. It has been a blessing. It has allowed me to see my art in a new way.

Alas, perspective drawing is not for the faint of heart. I am truly in awe of architects, technical illustrators, and engineers. To be accomplished in rendering for three dimensional production is a skill that takes time and patience. Translating from line to form or form to line is a broader way of thinking.

For the illustrator, cartoonist, or painter it is truly secondary. Some times perspective gets in the way of the image. Hours spent hashing out measurements are usually better spent on color or caricature or just creatively inventing.

In this preliminary drawing I first discovered the benefits of a special vanishing point and it did wonders for the finished drawing. I am not yet ready to share the finished page, but you can see here in my Sketches page that if a drawing requires proportional sides the task can be tedious. 


In The Studio

I have found that it is very important for an artist to take care in choosing his environment for creating art. In recent years it has fascinated me to see how other artists set up their space for creating their work. One book that has inspired me above anything else to keep my imagination alive by my surroundings is a book called The Artist Within by Greg Preston.
Photo copyright Alex Ferree 2011

This book shows the visual artists such as Jack Kirby (created most of the Marvel Universe), Chuck Jones (Warner Bros),  Frank Miller (Sin City), Todd McFarlane (Spawn), Mort Walker (Hagar the Horrible), and 97 other cartoonists, animators, comic book artists, and editorial cartoonists in their studios. The exciting thing for me is that I get to see what keeps them inspired, what size their space is, and a little bit about how they work.

My goal as a creative person is to keep working out the creative problems that I confront day-to-day. So I set myself up for success. Some peculiar things that I do that probably not everyone else does or feels the need to do are working on a wooden bench (not for the faint of heart), almost daily set up a still life to practice, work out of my living room, and keep files of my artistic failures AND successes.

After I graduated from college in 2003 I had almost none of the things here. I wondered how I could do art without a proper space or materials. Since then I have discovered that creating art is not intrinsic on location or circumstances, but never-the-less the kind of art I want to do does have some requirements by way of tools. Before I went to be a camp counselor in 2005, a friend of mine's grandfather passed away. I had actually met him once. He was a professional illustrator in the Toledo area. He was a very sweet man. He had showed me some of his art and gave me advice on seeking a career. I was blessed just to know him. A few months before I went to camp, my friend offered me some remaining articles from his studio. Namely the art desk you see here, art supplies, and art books. What  a blessing from God, the provider.

I could go on with other stories about other ways the Lord God affirmed and reaffirmed my artistic calling after college, but I will reserve those stories for another post.


V Is For Verone: Part 2

Instead of giving up he strived one more time to make eye contact with someone, anyone. There huddled in the inner ring was the prettiest little girl he had ever seen. She looked up and in the darkness her eyes sparkled. A spot of passion reflected from the meager fire. Her eyes read him from toe to head.

“There is a place for you by the fire.” She murmured, and then she opened up a her blanket to reveal a vest.

Then the circle broke for him to come through. As the boy reached the far end where a path formed, he went to sit next to her.

“Who are you?” She asked.

“I-I am Verone, a Romani like you.”

“Well then, this vest was meant for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You see the 'V' stitched into the two portions in the front of the vest and the 'V's' making the Romani wheel on the back.”


“I stitched this for my father last summer.”

“Why are you giving it to me? Where is he?”

“He died tragically a year ago, about this time.”Verone was dumbfounded. She smiled gingerly and gently handed it to him.

“His name was Viktor. And I am finished with my mourning just today at breakfast. I was told that I must find another man to fill his vest.”

“I am not a man. This vest is for a big man. Maybe better suited for a bear...I don't know.”
She giggled and then responded,“Do not worry Verone, you will one day grow into this.”

The fire died by early morning and the chill returned. Verone saw that the clan had already moved on and he was the only one left in the cave. The extra large vest was still around him. He was huddled into it. Today, the young thief had to reach his clan. He hastily jumped up with the vest still around him. He looked about the cave for anyone or any sign of the little girl, then Verone climbed back up through the crevice. He ran down the pass.

What would his future be, he thought? Then, he passed a small camp site. The hikers had their bag on mounted on a tree. Verone walked slowly up to the bag and grabbed some food out of it. The boy ate some of the bread and fruit and cold meat as he hurried to tell his family about his wonderful blessing.