Juan and Sally tag teaming it today: Drew Alderfer’s THE ROOK; Pixels, tones and the aesthetics of granularity; Berliac on Vice; Fantom Comics Signing and Roundtable; Juan Fernandez at the ToonSeum; Frank Santoro’s Comics Corner #2; and much more!

Take note! We are featuring the work of Drew Alderfer – or Meaty Comics – on the site this week. His comic The Rook was made for the Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers in 2014. Check it out HERE!


Pixels, Tones and the Aesthetics of Granularity

Juan here! I wanted to share with you a digital painting method I’ve come across, created by Dan Fessler, where he’s developed for his environment work on Chasm a way of turning Photoshop into the most powerful pixel art tool. What he calls “HD index painting”. What’s interesting about this? It works on the granular level of the pixel and plays with abstraction for story telling and evocation in the way that comics and cartooning does. It also does it in an incredibly robust and non-destructive way. It got me thinking about a lot of things. But first, have a look at what makes this technique tick.

Why “HD?”: The backbone of this method that makes all the magic happen is the concept of manipulating higher resolution data than the end result. Instead of painting directly with an indexed color palette, you’re always painting in HD which then procedurally gets mapped to the indexed palette. For every color ramp you define your source data is 8bit allowing for a possible 256 colors, with no limit on the number of ramps you define. Typically when dealing with pixel art you’d map that to 32 colors or less. What’s most important though is the indexing is non-destructive. All of the high resolution detail is retained allowing you to do things that no other index painting tool allows, essentially making this the most powerful “pure” pixel art tool in existence.

Dither Sampling using HD Index Painting

I’m not, necessarily a pixel artist,  but I’ve been working extensively in exploring color and compression across digital file formats. Especially through collaging animations. I don’t know why, but I’m really interested in it. It’s the same way that I’m interested in how Jordan Crane and other master screen printers separate their colors in their prints.

Spread from “Soap Star Joe” by Juan Fernandez

All of this has me think about halftone and more generally the voice of a story in a visual tradition. For some examples, I’d like you to think about how certain contemporary comics makers, like Laura Knetzeger,  Kevin Huizenga, Dan Zettwoch, Sophie Yanow, Ron Wimberly, Mickey Z, or Berliac all use halftones. While many artists use halftone traditions in ways that are used to evoke an aesthetic of nostalgia (most effectively used by Ed Piskor in The Hip Hop Family Tree) these previous artists use them in ways that break from the print based traditions and the limitations of halftones. Instead, they use the half-tone as a framework that provides an aesthetic tool to help create their sequences.

They all do this in different ways that create hums, and musical tones in the work. Different line qualities with different size tone dots that result in different feelings. Different voices for the soundless music of their comics.  In a way that harkens back to previous technologies and grounds the work within a larger tradition, but that also side steps certain associations and assumptions related to genre. It’s great to think of these tools in a way that allows for more technologically mediated impressionist painting than commercial illustration.

If you’d like a bit of a look into different coloring ideologies at the nuts and bolts level, take a look at this post by Dan Fessler on Pixel Purism. 

And of course, in the weekly “Please think about contemporary AI” department I have an article for you to read – HERE.


There is a new weekly comic by “the mysterious Berliac” on Vice – titled Asian Store Junkies it is about “MSG-addicted youngsters who crave ramen“. Read it HERE. Follow Berliac on Instagram – @yung_qin_berliac.


Reminder to go check out this signing and roundtable if you are in the Washington, D.C., area this week – catch up with Ronald Wimberly, Chris Visions, Shannon Wright, and Chris Kindred at Fantom Comics on Wednesday, Feb. 15th, 7-9 PM!


PCS’s Artist Lecture Series 007: Juan Fernandez
Join Juan and the rest of the @pittsburghcomicssalon this Thursday! Come on down to The ToonSeum to catch Juan talk about strip cartooning, expanding & teaching visual literacy, and comics making systems. He’ll cover principles in youth and adult comics education. He’ll show a little of what he’s making & how he does what he does. We’ll play some keygen tunes, dive into Photoshop, and talk about oblique strategies in comics making.

The presentation will be followed by Q+A.

You can join the Comics Salon at The ToonSeum (945 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15222) – art, conversation, and an atmosphere of solidarity.


Frank’s Comics Corner #2 is here! Gather round one and all.


The Ebb and Flow


Announcing the Spring Semester of thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers!

The course starts March 7th 2017. Apply by February 26th to get 100 bux off! The course is 8 weeks long – payment plans are available.

Application guidelines:

– 3 figure drawings done on blank 3 x 5 index cards

– 3 landscape drawings done on blank 3 x 5 index cards

– 3 still life drawings done on blank 3 x 5 cards

– draw in a contour line style –think Matisse – no under-drawing

– draw directly in ink

– just send me small jpgs of images – dont post to your blog pls

– send specific url links to any comics work you have done. If you haven’t done comics before that is not a problem.

Email santoroschoolATgmail to apply! More details HERE.


Blinkers – 2-13-2017 – by Jack Brougham


Suzy and Cecil – 2-13-2017 – by Gabriella Tito


Joanie and Jordie – 2-13-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio


Cozytown – 2-13-2017 – by Juan Fernandez

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