Picture the scene: it’s Thursday night and I am ultra aware I haven’t posted anything on Instagram for a while. I take my iPad to bed and decide to do a little sketching. As I had just finished reading Secret Avengers and M.O.D.O.K. is a key player in that series, and I had just been informed by Sasha (my girlfriend, agent, manager, and friend who keeps her finger on the social media pulse) that March is March of the M.O.D.O.K.s I thought I would provide my version of this character. This is what I drew:
Now between you and me, I don’t like that very much. I planned on never showing that to anyone and calling it a day on M.O.D.O.K. drawings. It felt flat and joyless, a version of someone else’s drawing that I’ve repeated. It’s a kind of suck-through-your-teeth-and-say-I-can-see-what-you-were-trying-to-do drawing. I contemplated deleting it.
That’s a problem right there. I used to keep a sketchbook; almost solidly for six years I have had a black A5 sketchbook that I would draw in wherever I went. Buying the iPad has changed that as I have a tendency to crack open Procreate in my spare hours and draw straight into it. This means that if I don’t like something I’ll erase it, and that means that all the imperfect stuff goes missing and I don’t have stuff stored to learn from. A crap drawing has as much to teach you as one you’re really proud of.
On Friday evening I went to a talk by Kristyna Baczynski as part of the Leeds Girl Gang’s celebration of International Women’s Day. As part of her talk she said something that really struck me that I will now impart to you. When asked about producing content for Instagram she talked about how she thought that Instagram is on its way out, and that if you produce content specifically for it, then you’re not going to get paid and chances are the vile algorithmic demon will keep you from ever expanding your market. I realised that picture I had made was exactly that, art to feed into Instagram that would get maybe 50 likes and then blend itself into the soup of my feed. Some rap artist from Belarus would comment the splash emoji a few times in a year or so and I’d remember that I’d drawn it, and then that’d be that.
In the margin of my notes I sketched this out:
Inspired by Kristyna’s approach I decided to get back to it and I screen grabbed the thumbnail and stuck it in Procreate. I like the dynamism of the scene and M.O.D.O.K. has always been one of those characters that really appealed to me. It’s the audacity of the characters design, the fact he is a GIGANTIC FLOATING HEAD who is designed specifically to murder people. The original Kirby drawing has that heavy eyebrow and machine chair and its truly the sort of thing that can only exist in comics. It’s the bread and butter of 2000A.D. which is what I grew up on, so things like M.O.D.O.K. were the bridge between UK and US comics for me. Interest renewed I went full bore into the pencils.
Sasha asked me why pencils are done in blue. I know that in the past it was so that pencils could be removed from the blacks of the inks more easily, or at least that’s the tale that I’ve always been spun. I suppose that its partly a hang over from that, but also because that’s a colour that rarely gets an outing so its easy to spot on the final image. You can see where you’ve missed a spot. Here is an action shot of my blasting out the inks:
The photos of the process were made after finishing the image so some of the lines have been erased and replaced but you get the general idea.
I experimented early on with some tone on the inks, because there’s something about the depth of the blue pencil lines behind the inks that I often fear will be lost in the final image. But then I reconsidered and decided that I need to be more bold with my final colours and that’s how I should add depth. I learnt quite a lot treading out of my comfort zone with the Placeramblers poster I did last month and I wanted to apply that to something I was more confident with. Digital art can provide you with so many cool things to play around with like textures and brushes, so I took this as an opportunity to marry the two things together.
I am extremely proud of the end result. I think that its a really solid image and I’m glad I stuck with it. I now have an image too that I can share on Instagram. The moral of the story is if you make the artwork because you want to make the artwork, then you’ll both have a product you can be proud of, and also something to pop around the social media as well. Drawing a thing to share with your followers is all well and good, but if you’re doing that for the viewer and not for yourself, it becomes a task, a job to do, and it loses its energy.
At least that’s what I got out of it anyway.
Stay tuned for news on coming convention appearances and new products in the shop very soon. But for now, thanks for reading.
And apparently he got legs in an issue of the Incredible Hulk when the writers decided to bring him back as a scary character again rather than a comedy foil. Instead I’m all: Get you a M.O.D.O.K. who can do both.