Wednesday, January 7, 2015


You may be wondering where I have been since I have not updated my blog in a year. Well, it is fair to say that I am still here and that I’ve been a bit tied up in completing a challenge I set up for myself. In my previous entry (as I said, a year ago) I explained more or less what the challenge was going to be about. If you don’t remember, I don’t blame you, so let me start off with a story first for the people who may have forgotten entirely about me and my goal; or for new fans who want to know my secret origins and probably want to spend a nice weekend reading my adventures as well as my misadventures from previous entries.

It all started with an idea. This inception was born out of frustration and a profound sadness in having a job I was not meant to have. Being miserable is the best fuel for someone to snap out of it and embark on a quest to find himself. It was a dark silent night… mmm… I better give you the cliff note version for this tale. If you want the longer version you can always read my previous entries. So, I made up my mind, at age 32, to pursue a career in art, specifically in comics. What that entailed was to take on a lot of journeys and self-imposed challenges to achieve that goal. I designed a plan to master that craft by drawing (or painting) for 10,000 hours (Outliers anyone?) Needless to say, I’m still taking that journey, but most important of all, I’m enjoying the scenery as I go. I moved to New York City to study a Bachelor in Fine Arts majoring in cartooning at the School of Visual Arts. I had my share of great teachers whom I still share contact with. I graduated from SVA at 35 in 2013 and returned back home to Guayaquil, Ecuador. What always follows after any graduation is that sense of ambiguity. What to do? How to spend my working hours? Where to focus my talents? I needed to sort this out and my first goal was to create my own fan comic of my favorite character ‘The Flash’. I wrote, pencilled, inked, and lettered (with purchased fonts by Comicraft) the entire comic. Due to time constraints I had to let colorist David Méndez embellished my pages with his beautiful palette choices. It was a good call since I considered myself more a penciller and inker rather than a colorist, although I do know how to color, as you will see in my next challenge. Here are some examples of some of the colored pages:

Fan comic of The Flash # 276 by Jo

The only problem with this project is that it cannot be sold since I don’t have any rights to the characters and so on. Still, the purpose of this comic was to use it as part of my portfolio and also to indulge myself in making one of my dreams come true. Granted, it is not officially part of the DC Comics canon but it was well received among true Flash fans who happened to come by the story. You can check the complete story for free at my webpage One of the highlights of this project was the tweet that fan favorite writer Mark Waid (whom I dedicated the comic to) made:

Mark Waid's Tweet after reading my comic

Mark Waid and I at SDCC 2009

To be acknowledged by my favorite writer and the best Flash writer of my era was more than I bargained for. It was a complete circle for me because the first comic I read (when I became a serious comic book fan) was Flash # 74 written by none other than Mark Waid and illustrated by Greg La Rocque, who I met later on at Florida Supercon when I had a table at the artist alley. He is such a nice guy and gave me wonderful advice. He was my first favorite artist at that time and the way I envision Flash (Wally West) is based on his amazing art.

Greg LaRocque and I at Supercon 2014

Ok, back to the reason I was absent for a year. I’ve been way too busy trying to accomplish the ambitious challenge of drawing one DC Comics character everyday for 2014. I wanted to be able to post everyday on all my social media accounts a completed piece without any kind of delay. The pieces started simpler and at first they took me around 4 to 5 hours each. As time progressed, so did my craft so basically I was getting more excited with the results. I started, in some cases, adding backgrounds or working more in composition design rather than just poses. Needless to say, my anatomy was getting more accurate and my dinking (digital inking using Manga Studio) more precise. At an early stage in the challenge, my DC character a day (#DCDAILY) became my full time job. Yeah, I wasn’t getting paid in money but I was gaining tons of followers and most important of all, I was seeing lots of improvement in my overall technique.

#DCDAILY CHALLENGE - Drawing a DC character everyday for 2014 

I decided to do all this digitally. In other words, I used my Wacom Cintiq (to draw on a pressure sensitive screen) and the software I used was Manga Studio (I still think this is the best software not only for creating comics but also for digital painting as a whole). My artistic process could be simplified with these steps:

0. - Research. - Needless to say I did some research on Batman and most important on Gotham. There have been so many interpretations of Batman that I had to go with the most iconic. This one particularly is based on the Batman design for the story No Man’s Land (If you look closely the belt is not the classic one) but the color scheme is more classic. At the end it is the artist’s take but I did not want to reinvent the characters for this challenge, rather draw the most iconic costume for each character. This was no easy task though. Kids, Gotham does NOT exist, and although most of you are aware of this, Gotham is a character by itself. Gotham is a mix of New York, London, and Paris. It has a lot of skyscrapers but it is very gothic with churches and gargoyles all over the place. So I had a pretty good idea what Gotham looks like by now. In any case, most of the time I use Google images but only for reference. It is very rare when I draw an identical picture. There is always room to enhance the picture and mold it according to your own composition. Research is fundamental, at least when you are trying to go for a realistic take of the city and, in this case, the caped crusader.

1. Layouts (Thumbnails). - As you can see in this picture, I try to work very loose here. I draw small and try to focus my attention on composition. Because of this challenge anatomy is not as hard as it was at the beginning but it is always challenging depending on the pose. This pose is not particularly hard and the camera view is just a standard medium shot. At this stage I designed the cape taking the background buildings into consideration.

Step 1 - Thumbs

2. Perspective. - In some cases, when the piece has a background that needs perspective I tend to work on that early on. I’m already at ease with the pose so I know by now that if I do not nail the perspective, the overall image won’t look cool, or realistic for that matter. Sometimes fans cannot pinpoint where the mistake is but they do know that something is wrong, and that is not good because it throws you out of the story. In this case, I use perspective rulers in Manga Studio, but hey, it is not as easy as you would imagine. You have to use the same principles as doing it traditionally. You have to figure out where you want your horizon line and where are your main vanishing points located at. This is a clear example of a 3-point perspective but I’m not going to dwell on this since this is not a perspective class.

Step 2 - Perspective

3. Pencils (Roughs). - Keep in mind that these are digital pencils and are more or less the same thing, in theory. Something I do miss is working with real pencils on good quality paper. This is the stage when you start having fun. You start drawing on top of the thumbs and perspective layers (both of them are hidden in this picture, but are basically the same as the ones before only I changed the colors to blue for the figure and red for the background in order to have a blueprint (or redprint if you will). I try to make this step more fun and start fixing mistakes or adding details to the overall image.

Step 3 - Rough Pencils

4. Pencils (Tights). - When I go overboard with my roughs I tend to skip this step in order to ink the piece. I normally did this because of the time constraints I had with this project but under normal circumstances I wouldn’t do it. The tighter they are, the easier it will be to ink the piece with better results.

Step 4 - Tight Pencils

5. Inks. - I cannot tell you how much I love digital inks, specially in Manga Studio. They look like the real deal. In my case, I like my lines very clean (as you can see) so using a software that lets you erase your inks is great. Granted, sometimes it lacks personality in the lines, and you can also do a lot of stuff with traditional techniques. For instance, using a dry brush is awesome for some styles. Although I do have a dry brush tool in Manga Studio, it is not the same.

Step 5 - Inks

6. Flatting. - This is the boring stage. Lots of professional colorists use professional flatters because it is so time consuming. Because I did this everyday I became very fast at it and learned a few tricks on the go, but it is still painful to do it. Basically you use the lasso tool to mask areas with different colors.

Step 6 - Flats

7. Logo. - I cannot tell you how much I hate doing logos, mainly because you have to do them in Illustrator. I don’t know, using vectors is completely different as the way you normally draw. That’s why not every penciller is a good graphic designer as most people would assume. I did 365 of them so… kudos to me.

Step 7 - Logo

8. Coloring and effects. - This is a very organic step. It is more like painting, or rendering. I gained a lot of experience in making certain types of effects, most of the time through trial and error. Sometimes they worked and sometimes they did not. At the end of the day I do not consider myself a colorist since I know there are a lot of colorists that can do a better job than I did with these pieces. Then again, paying a colorist to work on 365 pages would have proven… unwise. Still, I learned a lot by doing this.

Step 8 - Coloring & SFX

Here is a tutorial I made for Tomorrow Woman and a time-lapse video on how I made Red Hood so you can get the idea. Take into consideration that this one took me around 9 hours and because of the magic of technology I can show it to you in approximately 14 minutes.

So I had to go through this process everyday. Some days I even worked on two because I knew that the next day would be impossible to draw due to… well… life. Because this is an artistic process it wasn’t as rigid for every piece, but you get the idea.

So what did I gain by sacrificing an entire year of my life on doing something that I probably can’t sell? I do have specific plans for this project and I intend to approach them in a timely fashion. The worst-case scenario is that I gained more skills during the year in order to make me more competitive in the industry. Will I ever do something like this again? Probably yes, if I were paid to do it. Thanks to all my fans for liking and commenting on my posts, whether you believe it or not, that kind of support is what kept me going. The challenge is dedicated to my wife Morole and my daughter Juliana for putting up with me drawing all the time.

My daughter Ju and my wife Morole

Here are only 25 out of 365 of my drawings. They are not my top 25 (some of them are though) but they are the most recent, hence, better. You want to see more? No problem, just go to my website and click My Challenge. I will upload them on and soon so I can sell them as prints. I will make sure to inform the fans.

# 365 The Flash (Wally West)

So now that this is all over, what are my plans? That is an awfully good question. I do have some goals for 2015 but I won’t divulge all of them right away. What I can say is that this year I will be making my own graphic novel and hopefully some publisher will be interested in printing it. It will be written, drawn, and inked by me. Colors will be taken care by another fellow artist. Also I’m planning to do something like my DC Daily challenge but this time based on Marvel characters, and only limited to 52. In other words, it will be one character per week. This collection is named ‘Marvel 52’. They will be more elaborated than my previous challenge practically because I can spend more time on them. I will try to focus these pieces as comic cover quality. Also, I will try to make a quick warm-up sketch from Monday to Friday and the fun part is that I will be taking requests, although they will primarily be characters from the 80s. I will try to do them with traditional mediums such as pencils, inks, washes, and markers. I will draw these warmups until I finish the sketchbook I bought for it (it will not reach 365 sketches though), and then probably auction it. Last but not least, I will do the infamous 24-hour comic. This was an exercise created by Scott Mccloud, and now a days lots of cartoonists are doing it. It is very hard to make with no interruptions but to have your own 24-hour comic would be great. I will make sure to post the rules of this particular challenge, and perhaps I will even put a 24-hour video feed of me working.

I will try to go to conventions to show my art and sell some prints of my DC Daily Challenge. As master Yoda said: “You either do, or do not… There is no try”, so I may as well do it. I will be posting my future cons so you can plan accordingly.

I will be doing commissions and I will be posting them as well, if the client lets me do it of course. Pricing depends a lot on the medium I use and the style and complexity it is preferred by the client, so it is variable and I would gladly quote everyone that is interested.

As you can see, it has been a very busy year, one I think, that will take me closer to my finish line. On the personal level I can only add that it was the best year of my life because I had a baby daughter, named Juliana (as you saw in the pic above dressed as a beautiful lamb) and that was the best gift I have ever received. From the day she was born my life is dedicated to her.

I won’t neglect this blog anymore because as you can see I will be logging 5000 hours soon and that means I’m almost halfway through from my original goal of mastering art by drawing 10,000 hours.

I hope I didn’t bore you and it would be great if my 4 F’s (family, friends, fans, and followers) give me some feedback on how to improve this blog, or ideas on what to do next. I can see myself having a successful life doing what I love; now I need to convince not only my fans but the publishers as well. The world is my oyster.

See you next time!!!



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