Painting Vs. Line and Color

October 31st, 2006 | Posted in General

Here’s a section of the final art of the “Kim Jong” piece, which I sent off to MAD yesterday to be included in their “20 Dumbest Things of the Year” feature in MAD #473:


As I mentioned before, this job entailed a different approach as MAD’s editors wanted a fully painted look to the art, as opposed to “line and color”. In the last 6 months or so, I have been tapped by MAD a few times to do painted pieces for special features, giving me a chance to get away from my usual style. The first of these was a piece about “Rejected Characters from the Movie “Cars”“, where the intention was to try and approximate the look of the animated cars from the Disney film. I didn’t really even come close, but just tried to get some of that feel. The last was the “Religious Video Games” article in this month’s MAD #471. Here I needed to try and approximate the look of the video games graphics for each spoofed game. This one needed to be painted for a similar reason.

I like to get the chance to do something different every once and awhile. Getting out of one’s comfort zone is the best way for an artist to broaden their skills and grow… but it’s a little stressful when deadlines are involved. It’s called a “comfort” zone for a reason. I have a tendency to get wrapped up in rendering things and and suddenly I have spend 3 hours on some inconsequential part of an image when time is short. This job was nice in that it was a single image that was not too large or complicated.

I have a great respect for painters. I’ve done some painting in my time, but I just don’t draw or think like a painter. I see things in line and draw by defining shapes with line. Painters think in tones and values. Even when I do a painting, I am still trying to contain everything within some kind of boundary as opposed to blocking in values and building things in three dimensions. I find the integrity of my drawings tend to get warped when I try and paint something. Parallel edges will go awry or the perspective of one object within an area will change and become “off” as I paint. That’s me thinking in line again.

When I color within a line drawing, I allow the lines to contain and define the forms, and use the color to add depth and values. The nature of the dark lines means that I can be very loose and blocky with the color. Those bold lines will cause the eyes to not see the contrast in values of the color, but will cause them to blend visually. Without the lines, it’s a totally different story.

Here’s a close up of a “line and color” piece in final form:


Here’s the same piece without the line work:


Take away the lines and what you have left looks terrible… like a sloppy half-painted mess. Those lines need to be there to define the forms and cause the eye to blend that color. The values of my color job have barely any impact. Painters need to define the forms they are painting with the values of their color.

I had fun with this Kim Jong piece… one nice thing about painting something as opposed to ink and color is that I go right from the pencil to the color. No inking. In this case I did a little tighter pencil than usual, scanned it in and just started slapping the paint around in PhotoShop. That isn’t much of a timesaver, though. At least not for me. By the time I got this image completely painted (there is a lot of background not shown here), I probably could have inked and colored it the usual way in about the same amount of time or possibly less.


  1. Matt. says:

    Wow, very nice job. You didn’t paint that backgroud too, did you? The missles look photoshoped in a way.

  2. Tom says:

    Thanks. Yes, the background is painted. I used a texture for the ground in front/underneath and I used a small photo of an exhaust cloud way in the background which isn’t even visible in this cropped shot. The missiles and all other elements are painted.

  3. josh says:

    looks awesome Tom! Your style still shows through even with the new technique.
    I look forward to seeing you on Sunday… and there is a couple other former St. Louis Six Flags artists that also now live in the LA area that might make it as well.

  4. N8 says:

    Not bad. Missles look a bit too sharp around the edges causing them to pop out a bit, rather than blend into the background. Painting in a realistic style or cartoony style will always have a bold boundry between them. When you learn one style it can be difficult to adapt to the other.

  5. Tom says:

    Who wants them to blend into the background???

  6. N8 says:

    My bad, just my honest criticism. unless thats was your intention.

  7. Tom says:

    Not at all. I\’m not postng my artwork looking for a critique, but if you feel the need to offer one go ahead. You are right, if my purpose was to make a realistic scene the missiles would be too hard edged and too separated by sharp color differences. Likewise Kim Jong does not have enough depth of shadow nor contains enough background colors to look like he exists in the same realistic scene. That wasn\’t the idea, however.

    The purpose of the illustration isn\’t to make it look like a photo or a Whistler painting. It\’s supposed to look like a video game cover. Things pop out on video game covers. Soft blended edges and colors that are congruous and blend together are not usually what video game covers are known for.

  8. giangia says:

    NEW MEMBER HERE, Hey Tom, Great new style!!


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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