June 17th, 2002

It's the SykoGrafix 5th Anniversary Extravaganza!

This old article is removed from the main website and is now hidden. But you found it!

Ninjatron is going to talk about those days long past.

June 17th, 1997, was a day that I'll not soon forget. It was not a great year for me, nor was the year prior. I was lacking direction, inspiration, and basically didn't know what the hell I was going to do with my life. Things had started to turn around when I decided to put more focus into drawing, something that I'd been interested in for a long time. Despite the fact that I really didn't know the right ways to draw, had very little focus, and didn't even have a scanner, I decided that I needed to share my work with the world. So I learned some really basic HTML and made myself a webpage. It was on that fateful day in mid-June when that website first became fully accessible. Oh yeah, and it was also my 17th birthday. That was no coincidence.

Now, 5 years later, as I polish off 22nd year of existence, I present to you a special retrospective look at the art behind SykoGrafix, how my work has progressed, what it took to get here, and what SykoGrafix means to me. By a strange twist of fate in true SykoGrafix style, this is the extra lucky 13th article. Hope you enjoy it.

Original SykoGrafix title

For much of the time when SykoGrafix was just a puny little site on the free web space provider Geocities, this is what the title image looked like. Yes, it was fairly simple stuff, but I was just starting out. As you can see by the background, my affinity for electric blue never really went away.

And here are a few examples of the artwork you would have found at the time.

Iron Man Boba Fett Raphael

There we see Marvel Comics' Iron Man, the bounty hunter Boba Fett from Star Wars, and Raphael of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Impressive stuff, huh? Ok, not really. But these were totally drawn with only the use of a mouse and a fairly unsophisticated graphics program. But the Internet was a very different place back in those days. People didn't have fast connections, and generally didn't expect as much as its potential had not yet been tapped to the extent that it is today. Listen to me, I sound like an old man.

Eventually I got a scanner and some actual drawing skills, and the site lasted for a little over 2 years. Not a bad run, all things considered. However, as has been documented in a previous article, SykoGrafix was purposely shut down when Geocities made me angry. I had plans of bringing it back, some how, in some way, but knowing that the site at its state at the time was no longer a true reflection of me, I knew that I'd have to do things over. I just didn't know when I'd ever get around to it. So in the meantime, I just did my thing, kept getting better, and did my best to tackle a frustrating little program called Photoshop.

Spawn lineart

This is an old drawing of Todd McFarlane's Spawn, done by me sometime in 1998, I think. It's not exactly even as I had to scan it in 2 pieces and stick them together. Not a bad drawing though, all things considered. It would become one of my first pieces coloured with Photoshop, and one of the last to ever be posted on the original SykoGrafix (I believe that Robocop Vs Terminator was really the last).

Spawn coloured

You can really tell that I had no idea what I was doing at this point, because the line are all jagged and aliased. But the colouring is not too bad, despite the fact that I didn't really know how to use Photoshop, and I was just starting to figure out the special effects and layers that the program had to offer. I was so used to other drawing programs that I found Photoshop difficult.

In order to get some experience and get my name out there, I joined a Transformers Fan Fiction group that was needing an artist to draw comic book style covers for their stories. I really didn't care about their stories and most of the writing really sucked, but I figure it was a good opportunity. Of course, they never actually used any of the images I gave them, and hardly finished any of the things they set out to do, so I didn't exactly make myself any more well known, but I did get some good experience as I actually took the time to learn how to colour with Photoshop.

The first cover I had to draw had Optimus Prime on Cybertron looking sad because of the toll that the war with the Decepticons had taken on the planet. The finished version is here, but here's a look at what went into it.

 Optimus Prime 1 Optimus Prime 2

There's my original drawings, before I coloured them. At this point, the pixels were very jagged. I actually had to fix that before doing this article just so the drawings would show up after I shrunk them.

Optimus Prime 3 Optimus Prime 4

Here are the basic colours applied with some shading and highlights. On the right is a section of the piece shown at 100%, without being shrunk, so you can see how big I was working at the time. There's a few things I'd do differently if I were doing it over today. There are some stray pixels that I didn't catch.

Optimus Prime 5

Here's a look at the final version, with the background and all of the extra highlights. I remember that putting this together was a real pain, because certain things were the wrong size and I, once again, didn't know what I was doing. The extra space at the top is where the comic book title and masthead would have gone. I worked on this for a long time, but it was a good learning experience that helped me to figure out Photoshop some more.

The next one, and the last cover I did for these clowns, was to be for the first issue of what a Beast Wars comic would look like. I was given free reign to do whatever I wanted, and it's a good thing too, because the script was awful. So I just drew a picture of Optimus Primal looking mean, a jungle background similar to the TV series, and left it at that.

Optimus Primal 1 Optimus Primal 2

Here's the original line art, darkened a bit for your convenience. Where as with the Prime drawing I coloured an inked drawing, this time I decided to try a different technique and colour a clean pencil drawing. I went through a few different versions before I settled on this, and in order to trace over my roughs to get a nice clean line, I had to tape the paper to my computer monitor and turn off all the lights in the room so I could see all of the detail. It was not fun.

Optimus Primal 3 Optimus Primal 4

Colouring this was a big headache and took a very long time. Here's a look at the coloured version before I added it to the background, and another look at it from 100%. This is when I figured out that if I used a yellow background when colouring, it'd be easier to colour without missing any spots.

Optimus Primal 5

And here's the finished version, which can also be found here. Once Primal was added to the background, I added some highlights from the moons and the energon mountain, then another layer of plants to tie things together. Not really the best way to work. I was manipulating this thing for what seems like ages before I had something I liked. Or maybe I just gave up on it, I don't remember. But I was trying new things and seeing what would be the best techniques to colour with. For example, I experimented with using coloured lines instead of leaving them black. I never did another one exactly like this ever again.

Darth Maul

Here is a drawing I did of Darth Maul from Star Wars Episode 1. This was done some time in April of 2000. Aside from figuring out how to do a lightsaber effect, I'm not really happy with it. The ink was bleeding on the paper I was using, and the pose is dull. And, geeze, look at that useless use of the lens flare filter. But I suppose this drawing did help to pave the way for another anime-style drawing I did of him in the Phantom Menace Manga painting.

Ok, now here's an interesting one. As many know, I'm a big wrestling fan. One of my favourites has always been the Undertaker, mostly because he used to scare the hell out of me when I was younger. There was a time in 2000 where he was out because of injury for a year and the WWF was preparing to hype his comeback with a new webpage for him that was going to include fan art. So I did one based on the look he had the last time he was on TV regularly. Here it is.

Undertaker 1 Undertaker 2

Here's the line art and the preliminary colours. I remember doing a lot of research on this in order to get the tattoos as accurate as I could. Really, there's nothing special about this piece, except that this is the first time I've ever used my rough pencil style on a coloured drawing. I was going to keep the line work clean like the Optimus Primal drawing, but when I was finished tracing it to get a good copy, something was missing. It was just too perfect for its own good. So I went back in there and roughed up the lines. That's kind of become my signature way of doing things, and I have yet to see anyone else do anything like that.

Undertaker 3

And here is the finished version, with more added highlights and some cheesy special effects. I made the symbol myself. When I sent this to the e-mail address the WWF had provided, it was bounced back as if the address never existed. I don't think they ever put that website up. Too bad. Even though the WWF is now the WWE and the Undertaker has changed his look quite a lot since I drew this, I still kinda dig this.

When I was called upon to become the teacher for an all new how to draw anime program, I figured that I should do some supporting artwork. So I whipped up a character design fairly quickly and coloured it. While the drawing itself isn't so good, I saw a great potential in the character design. Needless to say, I'd go on to draw her again many times. Now that class has become a huge hit and most of my students are familiar with her. But very few have actually seen this drawing until now. So here is the first appearance of the original character that would go on to be known as Magenta.

Magenta

I've refined the design quite a bit since then, but most of the basic elements remain. The whole portfolio thing was just to imply that there was a drawing class involved. This was another learning experience, mostly because Photoshop crashed and I lost most of my hard work. Around this time is when I really started to focus on drawing anime, and in doing so it really gave me a solid direction that I needed in my art. And of course, life imitates art.

On to Page 2.

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