FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ARCHIVE

Byrne Robotics : FAQ : Creative Process

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Creative Process

 

 What was JB's first artistic experience?

Do your recall who was the FIRST artist who "grabbed" you and got you going on drawing? Perhaps when you were a child?

JB: Your question has a much more literal answer than you might have guessed when you posed it. There have been many influences in my artistic career, but the one who I will always credit as having jumpstarted the whole thing was my paternal grandfather, Frederick Aurthur Byrne, who, when I was a baby, would hold me on his lap, hold a piece of chalk in my right hand, and draw on a small slate. I still have the slate, recovered from my grandmother's house when she died. On it is a choo-choo train which she preserved and which, given the damp English climate, has eaten into the board to the point that it cannot be erased. The oldest existing John Byrne original, vintage 1952!!

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 What is a typical day in the life of JB, writer/artist?

JB: Start work around 7am. Break for an hour at noon. Afternoon is from 1 to 4, typically. 7 days a week, unless I have something else to do on the weekend.

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 What pencils does JB use?

JB: Mechanical pencil with an HB lead.

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 What tools does JB when inking?

I've read on the web that John sometimes used felt tips for his FF inking. Is this correct?

JB: Yup. And sometimes Rapidograph pens. And sometimes brush. And sometimes Japanese brush-pens. And sometimes even ball-point!! (9/22/2005)

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 What drawing board does JB use?

JB: "A big one".

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 What scanner does JB use?

What scanner do you use (for the full pages), and are you happy with it?

JB: I use an Epson Expression 1640XL, with which I have been very pleased. (10/31/2006)

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 How does JB lay out the page-to-page events of an issue?

I was curious about how much you choreograph / lay out events and action in each issue.

JB: When I am plotting or scripting a story, these days, I use a sheet of typing paper on which I have printed a grid representing the number of pages in the issue. In each box of this grid I jot down what I imagine being on that page, sometimes also indicating panel layouts. Since I usually draw the pages out of order, it's vital that I have the whole issue worked out in this way before I start! (2/15/2005)

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 How does JB draw those amazing perspectives?

JB: I have an achitect's drafting machine mounted on my board.



This is typically used, in the trade for which it was intended, to rule parallel lines. However, the straight edges rotate on a hub, with makes them ideal for drawing perspective grids. I usually lay a grid into most panels, even those that are figures without backgrounds. 3 point perspective, usually.

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 What 3D modeling program does JB use? And how does he use it?

I remember in an earlier post you used a 3D illustration program to work out some perspective issues in a drawing. What program do you use? Do you see yourself expanding its use to buildings, vehicles or other elements?

JB: The progam is Strata 3DPro, which I've used since I switched from ModelShop about ten years ago. (The first time I used a modeler to create a "set" for one of my books was the time machine in OMAC, which was done with ModelShop.)

In the ten or twelve years that I have been using the modelers I have made very extensive use, from building the whole city that Wonder Woman was based in, thru models of New Genesis and Apokolips for JK4W, a fleet of Batmobiles for GENERATIONS 2 (and Gotham and Metropolis), and various vehicles plus the X-Mansion in HIDDEN YEARS. Bits and pieces have turned up elsewhere, usually when I want a complicated set or prop to remain consistent thru-out. The most "intensive" use was probably the robotic Luthor who appeared in G2. 90% of the shots of him were model shots. In all those cases (except OMAC) the actual renderings of the models were either imported to the scanned art (as in WW and JK4W) or literally pasted onto the boards (as in GENERATIONS and XHY.)

Lately -- in DOOM PATROL so far, but likely to turn up eventually in BLOOD OF THE DEMON -- I have returned to the method I used in OMAC, where I printed out a rendering of the model and then used a lightbox to trace it onto the boards. Altho I found the pasteup versions seen in XHY and G2 worked very well, I find this tracing approach produces an even more "organic" image -- especially when the book is being inked by someone other than myself. (9/10/2004)

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 Does JB use computer models so he can save time?

It takes 40 hours to complete a single 3D model? I didn't suspect that using computer for drawing could be so hard.

JB: Not so much "hard" -- I wouldn't do it if it was hard! -- as time consuming. Working out the shapes, creating the maps appropriate to those shapes --- it eats up the hours.

Saving time is one of my lesser justifications for using the models, of course. If it really was a case -- as some seem genuinely to believe -- of basically typing in "Daily Planet Building" or "1940s Batmobile" and then walking away and letting the computer do the work, I would not use the technique. But the fact that the end result is something I spent time and energy actually creating means it is, to me, just as much a part of the process as a pencil or a brush. (Since it only takes a couple of minutes to draw some of these things -- the Planet tower, the Batmobile -- it is, of course, not particularly a time saver to use the models. Say it takes even ten minutes -- much too long, but... -- to draw a single shot of the Batmobile, I would have to use the model a couple of hundred times to "use up" the time it took to build it!) (6/29/2005)

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 What advice does JB have for aspiring artists?

JB: Someone once said that everybody has 10,000 bad drawings in them, so what every artist has to do is draw and draw and draw and draw and draw and draw and draw until those 10,000 bad drawings are all gone.

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 How did JB achieve the shading technique used in his '90s books?

I loved the shading technique you used in OMAC and some issues of NAMOR, and was wondering if you could go a little bit into the process behind it.

JB: The shading on OMAC, as well as NAMOR and DANGER UNLIMITED, was achieved with Duo-Shade, which is a chemically treated board. Printed into the surface in non-repro blue are two patterns (options of lines or dots) which become visible to the camera when painted on with special chemicals. (2/24/2005)

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 What is "DuoShade"?

What is "DuoShade"?

JB: DuoShade and Craftint are -- or were -- the trade names of a kind of board some artists used for creating grey tones in their work. The boards were imprinted with line or dot screens, in non-repro blue, which became visible when a special chemical was applied. One chemical would bring out one of the line or dot screens, the second would bring out the other, so that two shades of grey could be created. Skilled artists, such as Wally Wood, managed to create the illusion that there were more shades than that.

The chemicals could be applied with pen, brush, or any other tool the artist might choose.

The downside of these boards was that the chemicals that brought out the line screen were a kind of photographic process, so if the artwork was exposed to light the line would continue to "develop", growing darker and darker. Even the areas not treated with the chemicals would darken eventually.

Incidentally, altho they printed black, and thus gave a grey tone, the line screens themselves appeared on the board as a deep brown or brownish red shade. (11/25/2006)

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 What is the "dry brush" technique JB sometimes uses?

JB: Dry brush is just what the name implies -- a brush that is not wet. Or, at least, not very wet. Just enough ink to produce a gray tone. Especially on textured paper. (09/04/08)

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 How did JB create the font he uses to letter his books?

Could you give a quick run-down on how you created your font?

JB: The one I currently use in all my books is based on Jack Morelli's lettering. Knowing that I had been experimenting with hand-lettering fonts, Jack asked me what I would charge to make one for him, of his own lettering. I said "I get to use it." So Jack lettered up an alphabet, including all punctuation and special keys (like those little three line bursts that kinda look like > and <), and I scanned them into my computer. Then, using a low-end font maker called FONTastic, I dropped each letter into the appropriate "slot", fiddled the kerning, fiddled the leading, and created those option keys I mentioned above. That done, I imported the whole thing to FONTographer, which tidied up all the pixellation and created the different sizes. Whole process (excluding Jack lettering the alphabet) takes about an hour and a half.

BTW, I ended up using Jack's font so much, I also now PAY him a small stipend for the privilege! (2/7/98)

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 Where can I buy original art by JB?

JB: Jim Warden, at DOA (Distinctive Original Art), is my dealer.

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 How can I commission an art piece from JB?

JB: Contact Jim Warden at DOA -- and wait patiently until I get around to it. I do the commission pieces only when a break in my normal schedule allows. (I don't accept payment until the piece is delivered.)

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