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!