The new STARSTRUCK book is funded for full color on Kickstarter, but there’s still one day to go to support the project and reserve your own copy, with lots of bonus stretch goal extras (for $35). If you have any interest in the work of Michael Wm Kaluta, this is something you should put your money on!
This and all images © Todd Klein and Gene Ha, all rights reserved.
Here’s the top half of the print completely lettered, though the lettering overlay is not correctly positioned on the art. The top line, a floating “time and place” caption in uncial style didn’t come out quite as I wanted the first time, so I lettered parts of it twice more. With that, I felt this part was complete enough to scan.
Lettering the bottom half of the print was next, and here I had two floating captions and a large title and credits. The title was the most important part of the print lettering artistically, and I gave it a lot of thought. Should I go with something Greek-looking? I felt that wouldn’t blend well with the art, I wanted something more rounded. In the end I came up with a style that is essentially Roman letter forms but with an Art Nouveau feel of organic curves and playful curls on the ends of some elements. I wanted to have a place for spot color inside the J, so I planned an opening inside the vertical stroke. While the title is large, I didn’t want it to steal too much attention from Gene’s wonderful flying horse, so I planned to have the letters go behind that. For the credits I went back to an Uncial style to match the time and place caption at the top.
I began inking the title outlines with my size 2 tech pen, using circle and oval templates where possible to keep the curves even and consistent, and a straight edge for the straight lines. While the shapes are worked out in pencil, I continue to make decisions about the final shape while inking, and can make further adjustments later after scanning if necessary.
Here’s the entire finished lettering for the bottom half of the print. I was happy with the title outlines, and planned to fill them in after scanning. Everything else here is final. Next I erased all the pencil lines and scanned each lettering vellum.
Here’s one section of the scanned lettering. As I’d hoped, working larger allowed me to be less fussy with touching up and correcting the scans. I did some of that where the pen hadn’t quite gone where I’d wanted, or the ink was a little too light or too heavy, but much less than usual. (All such corrections are made in Photoshop using the eraser and pencil tools mainly.)
Here’s the title and credits scanned and cleaned up. With all the lettering scanned, I was ready to digitally combine it with Gene’s finished art scan in Photoshop. There was some juggling of sizes to get everything to match up, but that didn’t take too long to work out.
Here’s the first panel completed, not as clear as the original, but the best I can do here on the blog. The top caption has been assembled from the best elements of the three versions I lettered. The narrative captions have a thin open drop shadow to which I’ve added a gray tone. This gives them a little more weight on the page. Notice that, while Philona’s caption narration is italic, Bell’s quoted speech is not. The pronunciation note is upper and lower case, and lettered a little smaller to fit into the gutter between panels.
And this is the entire print with lettering added. For the title I decided the filled letters should be gray to keep them from battling the horse for attention. The curl on the E was moved to the right a little for better balance. The open area of the J, where I would add a painted spot color, was made narrower so the vertical strokes on each side of it came closer to matching the size of the other letter strokes. In tiny gray type at bottom left is a link to the full text of the stories on my website, and running up the side at top right is the copyright and printing info, also in gray. I printed this on 11 by 17-inch white card stock, as I had planned for this print, and scanned it, that’s what we’re looking at here. My printer would trim off the edges of Pegasus’s wings about a quarter inch from the edge of the paper, which was fine. Having them go right to the edge of the paper would create problems for anyone wanting to frame the print. I sent this image to Gene, and he liked it, so I was ready to get printing!
My print run this time, as with my last print, would be 300, plus some personal copies for Gene and myself. I ran these on my 11 by 17-inch capable Xerox printer with no problems, and then it was time to think about the spot color that I wanted to add, as I do with all my prints. I decided a pale pink would look good inside the J, I’ve always liked pink and gray together. I use Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus liquid watercolors, and I did some tests with a variety of different reds in my color sets. I wanted a warm red, not a cooler magenta pink.
The winner was Brilliant Cad Red diluted to one drop per 12 drops of water. It looked fine to me inside the J, but somehow the print didn’t seem quite complete and balanced with only one area of color. Most of my prints have at least two. I had already thought about another place in the art where I could put a bit of pale pink, but didn’t see any appropriate place.
Then I thought about adding a bit of color to the lettering somewhere, and the obvious place was in this small balloon in panel 2. It’s one I added after seeing Gene’s art. He did a very convincing job of showing Philona suddenly noticing the approaching Pegasus, and I felt I needed to acknowledge that with this balloon. It’s a pivotal point in this brief story where her gloom and sadness is suddenly transformed to joy by what she sees, so I thought it was an appropriate place for the happy spot color as well.
Here’s the final print painted, needing only the signatures of Gene and myself to be finished, and by the time you read this, they’ll be in place. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the creation of this print. More about all my prints can be found on the SIGNED PRINTS page of my blog, where you’ll also find links to purchase them. All my items for sale are together on my BUY STUFF page, too.
Gene Ha, San Diego Comic-Con 2007. This and all images are © Todd Klein and Gene Ha, all rights reserved.
In the fall of 2011 I contacted artist Gene Ha about collaborating on a signed print with me. Gene and I had worked together on TOP 10 for America’s Best Comics, among other things, and I love his art. Gene thought it would be fun to work together on a print, as long as I could wait until he had time to fit it into his schedule. I agreed and told him I’d come up with an idea and script.
The title of our print would need to begin with the letter J, in keeping with the alphabetical series I’ve been doing since 2007. I had no immediate idea, and went through the dictionary, making lists of words beginning with J that sounded promising. The word, or actually words “joy ride” seemed like it would lead in a fun direction, though I knew right away I would combine them into one word for my title. At first some kind of wild teenage car ride suggested itself, and I thought Gene could probably do that, but I wasn’t sure what I could write about it. Then another kind of ride came to me, from a favorite story of my childhood, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s retelling of the Greek myth about Bellerophon and Pegasus the winged horse. I reread the story in one of my books above, don’t recall which, and I still loved it just as much, though Hawthorne does seem rather sugary to me now. But the core of the story — a man taming a winged horse, and the bond between them as they agree to fight a monster together — still appealed to me. I didn’t want to simply illustrate the Hawthorne story, though. I’d done that already with my Hope print about Pandora. I read up on the myth of Bellerophon and found another character I hadn’t heard of before that I thought I could center a story on: the daughter of King Iobates, the man who set Bellerophon the task of trying to kill the deadly Chimæra. Her name was given as Philonœ, and one version of the story has her marrying Bellerophon after the defeat of the monster, and the two of them ruling her country Lycia together and raising a family. I decided to write from her point of view, but first I had to do something about her name, which had an œ, hard to read, and didn’t sound very feminine in English. I made it Philona, and began working out her tale. After a week or so I had a story of a few pages that I liked. I decided to make the print a single-page comic with several panels that would depict one important moment from her story, the one where Philona gets to go for a joy ride with her lover Bell on Pegasus. It seemed right up Gene Ha’s alley. I put my script together with Hawthorne’s story and my script for the print and emailed it to Gene. The complete text of both stories, mine and Hawthorne’s are on my website HERE.
On January 21st, 2012, Gene emailed that he liked my script very much. He said, “My take on your script is that it’s about youthful hope in the face of death. Bellerophon is audacity and dreams, Philona is hope tempered by wisdom. The note that gives the story complexity and a hint of sadness is the presence of the Chimaera.” I knew from this that Gene had really absorbed the story and gotten into the character’s heads as much as I had. I was happy and excited about the project, and now it was just a matter of waiting until he could fit me into his work schedule.
As it turned out Gene had lots of prior commitments, as all good comics artists do, and it wasn’t until November 13th of 2012 that I received his loose pencils, above. I loved his layouts, my one request was that he have the wings of Pegasus go over the panels above rather than behind them. Gene said he would lower the wing angles and make that happen.
On November 16th Gene sent me this scan of his inks. I loved it! the entire piece was perfect, and better than I could have imagined. And his storytelling is great, you almost don’t need any dialogue to know what’s going on here, though I planned to add some! Gene still needed to add textures and gray tones in Photoshop, and while he did that, I went through my script again and made a few small changes. First, I wanted to keep my words on the page to a minimum so as to cover as little of this fine art as possible. Second, I wanted to help tell the story as Gene had drawn it, and a few tweaks were needed for that.
On November 21st Gene sent over the finished art file. I was thrilled all over again! One thing that surprised me was the white background on the large lower panel. I thought Gene would probably add gray clouds or something like that, but when I saw it this way, it seemed perfect. You can place a white horse on a white sky if you know what you’re doing! Now the ball was in my court, it was time to start lettering. Thanksgiving was here, though, so it took me a week and a half before I found time.
On December 1st I was ready to begin. First I printed out the image as large as possible on two 11 by 17-inch pages and taped them together. This would allow me to letter larger than printed size for the first time on one of my prints. I thought that would give me the freedom to be a little less fussy with the scans later. I worked on the upper and lower halves of the print separately, the upper half first, working on translucent vellum, a fancy name for thick tracing paper. I penciled everything in first and then got out my lettering pens and began working.
For this project I used a Speedball dip-pen with a C-6 wedge-tipped point for the regular letters, and a Castell TG-1 technical drawing pen, point size 2.5 (0.70mm) for the emphasized words like LISTENED above. I decided Philona’s narrative captions would be italicized or slanted. This made the emphasized words stand out less than I really liked, but I felt it worked best for the page overall.
The balloon borders were done with the next size tech pen down, point size 2 (0.50mm), and with some large oval templates to make the rounded shapes look good. Here there are two versions of one balloon. The upper one was my original placement, above Bell’s head, but it was too tight a fit, so I did the lower one as well, in the clear over a little shrubbery that wasn’t important. That’s the one I would go with.
Here’s another section showing the borders in process. I use different parts of several ovals to get the exact shape I’m after, sometimes filling in long sections with a french curve. And there’s Pegasus’s one brief line of dialogue!
The rest of the lettering and what came after it follows in Part 2 of this article. More about the making of all my signed prints can be found on the SIGNED PRINTS page of my website.
Image © Gene Ha and Todd Klein, all rights reserved.
I’m happy to announce that the tenth print in my 11 by 17-inch alphabetical series is now on sale!
Famed artist Gene Ha has illustrated a key moment from the story of Bellerophon, a hero of Greek myth, who has captured the winged horse Pegasus and returned to his lady love, Princess Philona of Lycia to give her the ride of her life. It’s based on a short story written by me, inspired by the retelling of the Pegasus myth by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Both stories are available on my website HERE. Printed on pure white cardstock, Gene’s exceptional art is enhanced by his gray tones and pale pink spot color hand-painted by me on each print. Both of us have signed all the copies. The price is $20 plus shipping.
To order go to my BUY STUFF page. Over the next two days I’ll be running a two-part article detailing the creation of this print here on my blog. Details about the creation of this and all my prints are available HERE.
While I can’t guarantee arrival before Christmas, orders I receive by the end of the day Monday should have a good chance of arriving by Friday, at least in the USA.
Thanks to everyone who orders, Gene and I appreciate your support. I look forward to hearing from you!
TODAY, MONDAY NOVEMBER 26 ONLY: A Cyber-Monday special, all items on my BUY STUFF page are 10% OFF PLUS FREE SHIPPING. Prints created with and signed by Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Alex Ross, J.H. Williams III, Mark Buckingham, Bill Willingham, Shawn McManus, Steve Rude, Dave Gibbons and more! Great Christmas gifts for comics fans!
I’m busy doing the dreaded taxes today, so I needed something to cheer me up. Fortunately, this photo arrived yesterday, and is just the thing! Many thanks to Miki Kadubec who writes, “I started buying your alphabet prints because of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman (by the way – great way to hook people). My husband and I are both collectors so we had to keep getting them! And they are all really awesome. Its an exciting day when we get a new one and have to go out and find the perfect frame. I think eventually, when we have kids, they’ll be on the nursery wall. Yes, some of them are dark, but you should see some of the other stuff in our house.”
Thanks for sharing your “letter wall,” Miki! And, of course, you can order any of these on my BUY STUFF page.
Image © Todd Klein, all rights reserved.
I’ve recently colored nine copies of my black and white print from 1993 (had ten but ruined one), so they are once more available on the BUY STUFF page of my website. (Scroll down to see it.) My price is $32 plus shipping. It’s been unavailable for over a year, and there’s no telling how long they’ll last, so act soon if you want one.
Images © Dave Gibbons and Todd Klein, all rights reserved.
Once I had the print layout finalized it was time to redo the text by hand, using the layout (where the text was in one of my lettering fonts) as a guide. I made an enlarged printout of the text area and on a light box traced over the layout on a new piece of 11 by 17-inch one-ply Strathmore drawing paper with a plate or smooth finish. Since the lettering does not take up the entire print area, I was actually able to work a little larger than printed size this time, usually a good thing, and since the letters were relatively large it didn’t take as much effort to produce them as in some previous prints. Above you can just make out the pencilled letters with horizontal guidelines to keep the lines level, and the top circle and bottom two lines have been done.
For everything except the title and the small words “BY” I used a dip pen with a Speedball FB 5 point. The FB series was discontinued many years ago, but I still have a few. Unlike the regular Speedball points, the ink reservoir flips open, as shown above. This makes for much easier cleaning. The mechanism, consisting of two interlocking metal pieces, one above and one below the main point shaft, is somewhat fragile, though, so you have to open and close it carefully. Like the B series, the FB series had round tips, perfect for making rounded letters of even weight.
Here’s a close look at the top circle. For the open title I used a Faber-Castell TG-1 technical pen size 2, first outlining inside the shape, then the outside, and filling black between. I kept in mind Dave’s comments about the title, making it as rounded as possible, and a much better match for the rest of the lettering. A straight edge (actually the side of a small triangle) was used on all the vertical strokes of the main letters, and on the title. There I also used circle templates for the round bits.
When I was done, and had erased the pencil lines, I scanned the lettering at a high resolution, then spent quite a few hours and days cleaning up and improving the scan. Above is a close detail of the original scan, and the same area after cleanup. This is the most time-consuming part of the process.
Here’s the entire scan after cleanup. If you compare it to the approved computer layout in the first part of this article, you’ll find a few other changes. I went with round bullet dividers between lines rather than the diamond-shaped ones, a better match for the lettering, and in the last two lines I suggested a change of line order that Dave okayed, so that it goes from third person to second person to first person, which I thought read better. One area I improved on the layout is that all the stroke widths on the lettering are now the same, no matter the width of the letters themselves. In the layout they were narrower on narrower letters, and wider on wider ones, an unavoidable side-effect of the process there. This gives a more even look to the lettering overall.
In Adobe Illustrator I combined this new lettering scan with the existing layout, added the tiny text at the bottom with © and printing info, and once more emailed a copy to Dave for his approval. He loved it, so it was time to print copies! I’d decided to go with pure white card stock for this one, it seemed to work well with the stark, abstract nature of the content. And, for the first time, I decided to do a smaller print run. All my previous prints in this series have been 500 copies, this one would be 250. While the first two prints with Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman had sold out quickly and gone into second (and third for Alan) printings, the rest have not yet sold through the first printing, and I thought I might save some painting time and shipping costs by cutting back on the print run. If they do well, I can always do a second printing.
Speaking of painting, I tried several watercolor samples to fill in the open title, and these two were the ones I liked best, a gamboche yellow and an ultramarine wash. Dave preferred the blue, and I agreed it seemed to suit the print best, so I spent about two weeks painting each print. I also signed them, and shipped them to Dave in England to add his signatures. It was now December, and too late to get this print out before Christmas, but that was just as well, as it’s such a busy time of year.
They came back safely with Dave’s signatures on them, and are now ready for release. Dave and I are both very happy with the finished product, and hope you’ll find it worth ordering. You’ll find info about that and more about the creation of all my prints on the SIGNED PRINTS page of my blog. We thank you for your interest and support!
Images © Dave Gibbons and Todd Klein, all rights reserved.
These days I most often meet up with Dave Gibbons at the San Diego Comicon, and we try to have at least a brief chat to renew our friendship and work partnership of about 30 years. (I’ve written about that HERE and HERE.) Such was the case in 2010, and it was then that I asked Dave if he’d be willing to do a signed print with me. I’ve been sending him the prints as they came out, so he was aware of the concept. I said he could be the writer, the artist, or some of each, as he liked. Dave agreed, saying he only wanted to write, which was okay with me. I was busy with earlier prints until March of 2011, when I reminded Dave about this project, and we talked ideas via email. In June he sent me a first draft of the poem he’d written titled “It Is.” It was fairly short, a list of contrasting statements, an abstract idea that would be hard to add art to, but I liked it. We discussed it further, and Dave expanded it a bit and rearranged some things, delivering the second and final draft in August. About the design, Dave wrote:
“What I’m thinking is something really simple in design. Basically, a field of lettering that has the negative space of the letter “I” in the center of it. The idea is that “I”, as a persistent object, don’t really exist; rather “I” am the ever-shifting, dynamic effect of all that is happening in the field of perception. The lettered text could be varied in size, style or color, as appropriate. The challenge would be to write and letter it to fit…”
With those ideas in mind, I did some rough layouts in pencil to see what might work.
Here’s the first. I thought a lower-case I would have more visual interest than an upper case one, and pursued that idea throughout. This is just a basic layout around a large i.
Here I wanted to see how the text would look alone, thinking I could make the large i a shape that would run behind the letters. The text was so short, though, that it didn’t seem to work.
I went back to the earlier idea, this time trying to give each line of lettering a distinctive style reflecting the meaning. Kind of ran out of steam on this, so I decided to try working it up on the computer in Adobe Illustrator.
My first attempt followed the variety of styles idea, and I got this far and decided it wasn’t working. Too much like a font catalogue, and I thought it read as more of a gimmick than a poem. I put the project aside for a while, and when I came back to it I had a new idea.
Since the amount of text was relatively small, why not put it INSIDE the i shape? And in that role, a consistent style would work best rather than a variety of styles. I’d use one of my display lettering fonts, widening or narrowing the width as needed to fill out the shape. For the title, I’d draw something in Illustrator to fill the upper curve of the sphere. Here’s my first try a that, which I sent off to Dave for his comments. He liked the idea, but thought the lower shape looked too much like the number 1.
The next version solved that by giving the letter slab serifs on both sides at the top of the vertical stroke. This helped to fit the text in, and also gave the design more symmetry, a win all around. But what to do with all that white space? I asked Dave, but he didn’t seem to have any ideas, so I tried a few things, and liked this idea best:
A series of concentric rings radiating from the center and getting gradually darker gray toward the outside. I thought it gave the image some depth and even some apparent movement, as we tend to see that in such patterns.
One other idea I’d suggested to Dave that he’d rejected was to have the sphere also be the iris of a large eye. I couldn’t resist giving it a try here, but Dave still didn’t like the visual pun.
One last version makes two major changes: moving the center of the radiating circles to the sphere, which seems to work better, and putting a white area behind the lettering to separate it from the circles, for better reading and to give it more of a shape. Dave and I both liked this, but Dave wasn’t happy with the title, saying it was too angular. I told him that I planned to do all the lettering by hand using this as my layout, and I’d address that issue then.
More about that in Part 2, and you can read about the creation of all my prints on the SIGNED PRINTS page of my blog.