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Friday, July 30, 2010

Rockabilly chick

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Space Base Gr8: An Exclusive Interview with Comic Artist and Illustrator, David Scott Smith

You may remember my mentioning a friend of mine, one David Scott Smith, who draws the webcomic, Space Base 8. Dave and I have worked together at "the day job" for several years and I’ve always been impressed by his talent. In this age of ever increasing amounts of digital artwork, Dave’s traditional gouache work is always beautifully executed. As someone who still feels like he’s finding his own style, I’ve often found myself aiming for that “Dave Smith” look when I’m planning out an illustration. This generally means that the background should have a strong layout and a nice simple color scheme. A little more than a year ago, Dave told me he was thinking of starting his own web comic. "Yeah right," I thought, "till something shiny catches your attention". Well, I am pleased to say that Dave's path must not have been crossed by any shiny objects, because Space Base 8 not only launched but has managed to stay aloft in the ether of the interweb, and has proven to be both a beautiful and entertaining strip. I thought it would be interesting to interview Dave here and delve into how SpaceBase 8 came to be.

ES: So Dave, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your art education?

Cargo, the star of the strip, finds himself in a tight spot with some giant alien rodents.

DS: When I was a kid my parents bought stacks Walter Foster art books for me at yard sales, and this was my first art education. One of my favorites was called “Animal Expressions”. It showed step-by step how to draw chimp faces, which has turned out to be some important art instruction for me. The best book, though, was Preston Blair’s “Animation” book. I read it until it fell apart.

I have a BFA in illustration from California State University, Long Beach. I am so glad I took color theory class. I am not too happy with the color work I do now, but you should have seen it before that class!

ES: That’s ridiculous- your color sense is brilliant. But these interviews tend to make the subject look a little arrogant so for the sake of letting you appear humble I’ll let your comment remain.

DS: Oh, thank goodness. Thanks.

Meela, the Base's resident Administrative Assistant,
and Vesto, personally my favorite character.

ES: I know you’ve told me you were an avid Comic Book Reader as a kid- which ones in particular did you like?

DS: I really liked comics like Richie Rich, Casper, and Hot Stuff. The linework in those things has a clarity and charm that I would love to get into my work today. I also was a big comic strip fan. Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes were always my favorites.
I got into superhero comics when I was older, but now I prefer cartoony comics, like the stuff I read as a kid.

ES: What things (TV shows, Movies, etc…) inspired you growing up?

DS: Star Trek. The original one. Sid and Marty Krofft kid’s shows like H.R. Puffinstuff, Lidsville, Land of the Lost, The Lost Saucer, and the Far Out Space Nuts. The sillier the better!
Star Wars. The original one. Anything by Rankin/Bass, like those great Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer shows. I loved Happy Days Mork and Mindy, even though now I think they are hopelessly unwatchable. I think my joke writing is heavily influenced by all the junky sitcoms I loved as a kid.

And Star Trek and Star Wars. And Star Trek.

The robot, Lighthouse, wanders through the endless maze that is Space Base 8.
The strips color style will consistently wow you.

ES: And I know Monkeys are a big thing for you- ever work as an organ grinder or something?

DS: No, but I play the accordion, and people always tell me I should get a monkey and go collect change in the park. I guess people confuse organ grinders and accordion players. Probably because most people really hate organ grinders and accordion players. But everyone loves monkeys. Now that’s something to think about.

ES: So tell us a little bit about Space Base 8.

DS: In Space Base 8, my online comic strip, a space monkey named Cargo tries to deal with life on a space station where everything is illogical, irrational, and unfair. So it’s like real life, but funnier. And in space. And with monkeys, and robots, and rocketships.

ES: How long did you actively work to develop Space Base 8 before it’s premiere?

DS: The concept had been brewing for more than a year, and I worked for four or five months to make the first forty strips before I put them out there online. So I started with forty finished strips ahead of schedule. Now I am down to three strips ahead. It is hard to keep producing comics on a regular schedule.

ES: Can you outline how a basic strip for Space Base 8 is created?

DS: I start at the computer. I type the dialog directly into a comic strip template I have prepared in Photoshop. This gets the rough draft lettering done at the same time as the joke writing, which saves me time. Then I use a Wacom tablet to rough draft the art onto the template, and position the art and lettering in the template so it all works together. Getting art and type to work well together is very important in comic storytelling, and working digitally allows me to easily rework things until they are just right.
I print the rough draft and tape it to the back of a piece of bristol board. I use a lightbox to see through the bristol to my rough draft, and use it as a guide when I do the lettering and final drawing. I use speedball dip pens for lettering, and a brush for the line art.

ES: With comics no longer being confined to the printed page, there are a variety of styles in today’s webcomics. Even so, the style of Space Base 8 stands out- not only the way you draw the characters but also the way you’ve chosen to do the color. Where did that come from?

The older models of robot are steam driven (of course!)
Here one of them tries to fill Lighthouse in on "The System"

DS: I take some inspiration from Mid-Century Modern design and 50s illustration and animation, but try to let it only flavor the strip, not dictate the style. I really enjoy using a brush to make calligraphic linework with a lot of thick-and-thin variation, so put that into the style of the strip, too.
The coloring style came as kind of an accidentally-on-purpose situation. When I first drew my characters in black outline against a solid black outer space background,I saw that it hid the cool linework I worked so hard on. To solve this, I put a lighter color outline around the black outlines. Since that worked well, I started leaving a space of lighter color or no color at all around the characters all the time, leaving a kind of halo around them that sets them off from the backgrounds. I have started to use this halo in an expressive way. So if a character is angry, his halo might get more jagged or something like that. And it turns out that you can see this type of thing in Mid-Century design too, so it ties in well with the look of the strip. I also like to let the colors fall in and out of the linework, to give it a funky modern feel, like the colors are out of registration a bit from the lines. I have had some fun with that.

ES: That’s an accurate description but doesn’t really do it justice. The simple blocks of color really do make the strip very striking, and I think the overall look instantly puts people in that hokey sci-fi frame of mind.

DS: Thanks, I’m glad to hear that. That is pretty much what I’m going for.

ES: The Base (that’s what us uber Space Base 8 fans call it) is populated by some pretty unusual characters- robots, all manner of aliens, and of course Cargo the Rocket Crash Test Monkey. Not to ask you to choose a favorite among your children, but do you have a favorite character in the strip? Maybe one who’s particularly fun to write for or who comes more naturally than the others?

DS: I get a kick writing and drawing Oril, the unmotivated, time-traveling temp worker. I plan on doing a one-shot comic book starring Oril someday, with lots of “Back To The Future” -type time travel fun in the story.

Oril- Dave gets a kick outta' him.

ES: Any hints on what readers can expect from Space Base 8 in the future?

DS: Well, what I will try not to do is introduce more characters. There are already too many characters in the strip. I will put existing characters together that have not interacted with each other before. That will be fun.

ES: Can we look forward to a book of your strips anytime soon? T-Shirts? Cargo and Vesto action figures? An adhesive third eye so you can look just like Oril?

DS: Book and merchandise will come eventually. I plan on offering the original art for sale too. But right now I have enough trouble making time to produce three comics a week, so I’m mostly focusing on just getting the strip done. The good news is I’m getting faster at producing the strip, so pretty soon I should be able to move on to getting these other things started.

ES: Do you have any final comments for someone who wants to become a comic strip artist? Any resources you can reccommend?

DS: Absolutely. The book ‘How To Make Webcomics” is the best thing out there. It is written by the guys at, four successful web cartoonists who have been doing webcomics for a long time. They also did a teriffic podcast called Webcomics Weekly. Unfortunately, they seem to have stopped doing the podcast, but you can still find the old episodes online or on iTunes. I really can’t recommend the book or podcast more. They give all kinds of great advice for beginners and professionals, and they are really fun to read and listen to.

ES: Thanks Dave. As always, it’s great talking to you.

For anyone who missed it, you can find Space Base 8 at this link. Space Base 8 runs new strips Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (barring unexpected intergalactic phenomena). You can also find more info about Dave and Space Base 8 at Dave's blog, MonkeyAlwaysWins , or become a Space Base 8 fan on Facebook. And you can check out some of Dave’s other work, or see his resume, or ask him a question at his webpage. By the way, all artwork in this post is Copyright David Scott Smith.

Until next time, keep those pencils sharp and those sketches coming!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Down in Fraggle Rock pt. 2

I've started adding the second Fraggle.
I decided to give her eyes that were not quite typical for Fraggles, but still Muppety (it's a word- at least in my house), and that made her kind of feminine looking. I'll probably just leave her this way until I get some of the Fraggles around them blocked in, and then go back and finish what still shows. This will ideally be a very crowded group shot, so in the end it may just be a bunch of heads showing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Down in Fraggle Rock Pt. 1

I loved Fraggle Rock as a kid, though I don't know if I really watched very much of it. I do remember my mom telling my brother and I that there was a new kids show coming on, and we could stay up to watch it. Strange as it seems, it was originally an HBO show, on at 8pm, which was our bedtime. I believe it was shown on Sunday nights, so perhaps Jim Henson was hoping to recreate the success of Disney's long standing Sunday night program, something in prime time for the whole family. I don't remember watching more than a handful of Fraggle Rock episodes in this time slot, but somehow, through merchandise, books, and reruns, the world of Fraggle Rock became pretty familiar. Though my memories of it were pretty vague, I do remember that the thing I liked most was the atmosphere of the setting. The fraggles lived in these endless caves, all colorfully lit (like the caves in Star Trek, where was all the light coming from?!), which always looked cozy and warm. I was never claustrophobic- far from it! I used to love to take a coloring book into the deep closet that was under my grandparents staircase and sit and color behind the coats, for hours, with a flashlight as my only illumination. So living in a cave seemed like great fun to me. Anyway, thankfully we now have Fraggle Rock on DVD, and I often put it on to listen ot in the background while I paint. I took a break from a larger project today and just started doodling in Photoshop, and I decided I'd doodle some Fraggles. They all have things in common, but there's an endless variety of colors and features that can be mixed and matched, so I thought it would be a fun thing to doodle. My plan was to just draw a pile of them, just fill up the page. And since I'm still kind of figuring out how I prefer to do this digital painting thing I think what I'll do is post it in stages, as each character comes along. Here's what I've got so far:

First off, this isn't supposed to be any one Fraggle, in fact, I would like to have them all be new Fraggles, not ones from the show, though my daughter says this one is Wembely. But it's not- Wembely has green body fur and overall is more yellow green than this guy. Anyway, I really stumbled over how to do this, not quite knowing how refined I wanted this painting to be, so he's not as pretty as some of the others might be. Hopefully I will remember to save some more preliminary progress shots along the way so you can see how each one evolves. This guy's looking at another Fraggle, who's not there yet, but hopefully will be tomorrow. See you then!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Just two more doodles from my session of drawing giant reptilian beasts the other day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


As a kid I remember watching a Spanish import cartoon called "The World of David the Gnome" , based on the beautiful book about Gnomes by by the Dutch author Wil Huygen and illustrator Rien Poortvliet , which I had briefly seen some years before. The animation of the show wasn't great, but I loved the peek into this secret world. The antagonist of the show was often a group of trolls. Again the designs on the show left a lot to be desired but the beautiful watercolor paintings in the book depict trolls as haunted looking creatures, dirty and hairy with glowing eyes. I did the one below loosely based on those memories.

Here is some of Poortvliet's actual artwork that I found through the modern marvel of Google.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Like I mentioned in a previous post, I really am not very good at drawing dinosaurs. A life of drawing cartoons has left me with a poor sense of non-cute proportions- thus my dinos end up looking cute or wacky or mutated, but rarely do they look, well, correct. But I keep trying. Here's one where I tried to be a little more free with it, keeping the proportions caricatured but still trying to give it that creepy predatory look (and you can see I abandoned the idea of giving him a ridge of spikes down his back).

Below I really wanted to depict a scene from the book version of Jurassic Park where the T-Rex follows the heroes into a river. Inspired by that, I wanted to show the moment where he emerges, with water flowing off his great leathery head. Being done from memory, it has none of the strength of the T-Rex from the film, and looks more like the classic Godzilla to me. And I added the small man in the fishing boat- who looks more confused than scared.

Monday, July 19, 2010


This is dedicated to the little Hummingbird that I saw plucked from midair by a neighbors cat. RIP little guy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Foxy Roxi

Here's the second of the characters I designed for the website. Roxi, known on the site as the Bar Temptress, hails from Hawaii and is site's resident bartender. If you'd like to read more about her, or read some of her own writing, click here, but as I mentioned with Demi, the content is mature, so please don't click if you are under 18 or likely to be offended by such content.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Swear I Saw a Dragon

I filled 5 pages with Dinosaurs and Dragons the other day so expect to see them in the next few days. Here's a dragon on the ceiling of a cave...

...and one who prefers staying close to the ground.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I love ultra realistic drawings and paintings of Dinosaurs. Having drawn cartoons most of my life though, my sense of proportion is very definately skewed, and so it's tough for me to draw these amazing creatures with anything close to the majesty that they must have really possessed. Generally they come out looking more like Flintstones dinosaurs. However, my friend and follower Brian Blankenship does some amazing dinosaur illustrations, and they inspired me to draw one. Mind you this is nothing like the way he does his, but the effect he captures so well was inspiring nonetheless. I especially like this one and this one. Actually, mine isn't based on any actual dinosaur, so much as just the whole bird/dinosaur connection. It's heavily inspired by a trip to the LA Zoo near dusk a few years ago. Just as I approached the pen, a cassowary came charging out from some foliage and ran past where I stood at the fence. Watching this giant bird lope by I was instantly reminded of the Gallimimus' in Jurassic Park. I've always thought birds were a bit creepy, with their vacant staring eyes and scaly legs. It's not hard to imagine that they are an offshoot of the dinosaurs.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Send in the Clowns

I think I got more immediate comments on my last scary clown I posted than I have for any other post. Let it not be said that I don't give people what they want.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Extra Extra!

One of my followers here, Melanie Jordan, contacted me for an interview a while ago, and that interview has just been posted to her site, . You'll get some insight into a bit more verbose version of Eric Scales than the who posts here. Go check it out!


Some quick sketches of my daughter. Bikes are harder to draw than people.