If you follow me over on Twitter you’ll have noticed that over the last few months I’ve been drawing a complete Contra Guide book. I started this little project back in January thinking it would be something I could maybe draw in a few weeks. I was heavily inspired by the video game map making that Jeremy Parish was doing over on Retronauts, and I was looking for a project to do that wouldn’t involve looking at a computer screen. The goal was to draw up a map for each stage and the bad guys that went along with those stages. Then it kind of spiraled into something bigger than that. Four months later (although sometimes weeks would go by where I didn’t have a chance to touch the project) I now have a 24 page book about the entirety of Contra for the NES. All of which has been drawn by hand. The maps are crude, and my hand writing is (for better or worse) my hand writing, but that’s the fun of it.
Throughout the creation of the book I have had many people ask me if it would ever be available for purchase either physically or digitally. Unfortunately I do not have a means to physically publish this book at the moment. However I can publish it digitally and on top of that I can give it to people right now. Starting today you will be able to download a PDF of this guide through Gumroad (above!) all for the price of whatever you feel it is worth. Want it for free? No problem. Want to kick in a dollar or two? Swell!
Like many people my age that grew up with video games, I have a strong fondness for old strategy guides, instruction manuals and game magazines. Many of these resources would be full of cool illustrations that you couldn’t see anywhere else. In the case of Nintendo Power they would often have unofficial art drawn just for their guides and previews. As companies have locked down art assets, publications tightened their art budgets and video game manuals have just about gone away, this style of guide book has all but vanished. This book is a tribute to those guides and magazines.
I hope you have as much fun scrolling through it as I did making it. Enjoy!
I have been a fan of Square Painter’s work for some time now and I really love his overly large pixel paintings that he’s done. It always seemed like something fun to do so I decided a few months ago that I wanted to try my hand at a large painting myself. Of course life happened and I never got around to actually making the painting, but then when I was out of work and had that magical time period between getting an offer to start a new gig it opened up the time for me to do something I wanted to do. I already had all the supplies together and now it was time to make my pixel painting. The following are the steps I took in order to pull this painting off. Keep in mind this is a long process. I spent just over 40 hours on actually painting it, plus maybe another 5 of so of prep time before I even started. So don’t expect to blast through this in a night or two.
Figuring Out What You Want to Paint
I wanted to paint a screen shot from Castlevania. In particular I wanted to paint the Clock Tower scene from the original NES game. The first thing I did was find a proper resolution screen shot in GIF (or PNG) format from the exact scene I wanted to paint.
Something I’ve found during my Artistic Journey over the last year is that I like listening to things that motivate me. Sometimes all I need is a little push to get me in the right mind set in order to inspire me to work harder. Thanks to Stephen Silver I get that little push every Monday morning in the form of an Art Talk video.
Stephen brings years of experience not just as a successful artist, but as a father, into his insightful videos. As someone that is an “Art Dad” it’s nice to see the perspective of someone who not only gets it, but lives it. I’ll take whatever help I can get in figuring out just how to master this work, family, passion balance. However don’t think that there is nothing there for you if you don’t fall into that camp. The nice thing about Stephen’s videos is that they’re helpful for all ranges of artist be it a beginner or a seasoned industry professional.
My brother Frank was a huge part of Shamoozal back when we were doing our thing. He’s the reason Crapfest Force and How to Hook up the NES turned out really nice. He did tons of work on the GFGames series. Lots of people think all that stuff was me but there were times when Frank was doing possibly even more animation work on Shamoozal than I was. We were juggling lots of stuff at that point, like running the blog, the message boards, a podcast and god knows what else. It was crazy!
Anyway, for the last few months Frank has been putting some time into his YouTube channel simply titled Frank Summers Animation. There you can find his reels and other highlights of his professional work. However he usually updates it with some sketches that he does live called Wednesday Lunch Live and has even recently started to add Toon Boom tutorials.
When I decided to embark upon my Artistic Journey last year my first and biggest emphasis was on figure and life drawing. I spent the first half of 2015 using YouTube videos for figure reference (there are plenty of great ones like Croquis Cafe and New Masters Academy) and then in the second half of the year I began to regularly go to life studio sessions for the first time in well over a decade. While my figure drawing improved with time, I still felt a little lost. Then I heard about the book Movement & Form by Samantha Youssef. Youssef has amazingly beautiful drawings and years of experience teaching figure drawing. It did not take me long to make up my mind in that I needed to own this book.
I received my copy of the book at the end of December and have since read it cover to cover. Twice actually. Almost instantly I began to work the lessons from the book into my studies. The sessons here require a radical shift in thinking about the way I go about drafting my drawings, but I believe my drawings are starting to have a stronger foundation. I’m finding myself to have a greater understanding of how the body works, where the pieces fit together, and ultimately adding weight and believably to my work. This is of course a work in progress and without having a mentor telling me exactly where and how things work, my improvement comes down to me and my ability to recognize my mistakes.
Usually when I work on a new animated short I tend to keep very quiet about it. I generally like to keep those kinds of things close to the chest. After all, how can I surprise anyone with cool content if they know everything that’s going to be in it? With my next project, I’d like to be a little more open.
What I’m creating is something wholly original and in my mind, like nothing I’ve made before. As of this writing it is being referred to as Wrestlemasters, a name which may or may not be final. Anyway, I’m done with parody videos. I had a good run with Read Only Memory all those years ago now and the 1980s Anime videos literally sucked the life from me, even if I do think some of them had some good ideas thrown in there. It has been a full year since I’ve animated a video, and I suspect it might be another full year until anyone sees an animated video from me again.
For the last year I’ve been on what I’d like to think of as an artistic journey. While there have been improvements to my art over the decade that I have been creating on Shamoozal, the improvement has been very slight. I need to push myself. One thing that I’ve also started doing on this journey is finding particular artists to learn from and be inspired by. The problem here is that the very people you are inspired by can also be your temporary downfall.
We all get jealous. We all envy things that people can do or have. There are times when I go sit down to do work, I load up Twitter, see some incredible pictures and it cripples me creatively. I think “I’ll never be as good as this person” and IF I move onto actually drawing from that point, I’m harsh to judge what I put down. From there I usually go further down the rabbit hole of looking more into the amazing work of said person and feeling not inspired, but horrible about my current ability by the end.
Sometimes we need to step back and begin to filter the noise. The downside to having so much available to us is that there is simply TOO much available to us at any given time. If you’re ever feeling down about your own art after looking at great art, then that is your hint to take a break from looking at art. Choose not to look at great art for a day or more. Don’t allow yourself to get consumed by it. If that means temporarily muting an artist you admire on Twitter or another social platform, then do it. Once you feel better, allow yourself to become inspired by great art again. I’d also suggest not looking at art moments before you saw something that inspired you. Chances are you won’t be able to draw or paint what you just saw as good as the piece that inspired you in the first place. This will also cause you to fall into that pit of despair.
If you follow me on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter you’ll know that I did a Halloween/monster related drawing every day of October. Now that everything is wrapped up, I’m offering a free download of every drawing through Gumroad. The pack contains high res JPGs along with the original PSD files for the images I did digitally. The PSD file contain all the layers, including the original sketches. You can make your own prints or do whatever! Please know that for a week of October I was away on vacation with my family, so those drawings are simply cell phone shots I grabbed of the drawings I did in our hotel room when I was essentially dead from walking through Disney parks all day. I hope you like the pack.