Sharpen your art skills! How to break into comics with DC’s Ken Lash­ley

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there was a time when I treated my dig­i­tal can­vas just like a tra­di­tional can­vas. I’d work with­out lay­ers and build up the im­age through my line work and filled ar­eas. I didn’t con­cern my­self with lay­ers, but that be­came prob­lem­atic as I moved for­ward and tried to make changes.

These days I’m con­tin­u­ously im­prov­ing my use of lay­ers and ap­ply­ing dif­fer­ent dig­i­tal art tech­niques. Yet I still treat each dig­i­tal paint­ing as a sin­gle­lay­ered im­age. To me it’s the eas­i­est way to fig­ure out how to do it. I think that’s the way you should start. If I had fol­lowed the rec­om­mended path to paint­ing dig­i­tally, this would have slowed down my growth quite a bit.

Imag­ineFX is the mag­a­zine that I picked up when I was start­ing to learn and im­prove my dig­i­tal art skills. By this time I was well into my ca­reer as a tra­di­tional il­lus­tra­tor when I made the de­ci­sion to tackle the dig­i­tal can­vas.

I’ve learned a lot over the years. The last work I did for Lu­cas­film was for the an­nual Cel­e­bra­tion event in Ger­many. I painted Groovy Galac­tic Love all on my own and am rather proud of that piece. It was done dig­i­tally on my Cin­tiq. I noo­dled in some places and then re­alised that I was work­ing too close to the im­age. I had done these beau­ti­ful de­tails in the scene, but when I zoomed out it was all but im­pos­si­ble to see them. Still, that’s just part of the learn­ing process.

Div­ing in and mak­ing mis­takes paid off for me – funny as that may sound. You have to be will­ing to make mis­takes and pro­duce aw­ful-look­ing re­sults, so that some­day you can look back at them and recog­nise how much you’ve im­proved.

1 Make a rough start on the im­age

I usu­ally start a paint­ing as­sign­ment with a se­ries of roughs, prob­a­bly four or five. My role as a cover artist at DC is to de­velop as many ideas as pos­si­ble. Some­times they’re off the beaten track, yet some have the po­ten­tial to in­flu­ence the orig­i­nal con­cept. Take this cover, for ex­am­ple. I was given lots of dif­fer­ent ideas to play with, and the bro­ken glass fun house was just one of those.

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