The Panel-ist: VIKING Artist Takes Us Inside His Process

Nic Klein Talks Viking

Image Comics upcoming new series Viking is getting a lot of buzz in advance of its April 22nd debut, and while Newsarama has spoken to artist Nic Klein about the series previously, he recently found some time between drawing pages to offer us an inside, step-by-step look at an image from the book - from initial sketch to final rendering.  Take it away Nic...

"The Sketch"

Okay, the first thing when working together with an author is obviously reading the script. Here is the bit for this particular panel;

"3/The boat pulls away from land, Finn is at the front, with the torch. Behind them, the ever dwindling pyre is visible."

At this point Ivan [Brandon] and I have completed an issue of the series and he knows he can keep the script pretty loose, and he gets to see the layouts anyways in case I totally blunder it up. Speaking of which, here is the sketch for the panel. I changed one thing and that is I put Finn (one of the brothers) to the back of the ship...someone has to steer after all ;)

1)  "Pencils"

Because I planned on painting this panel (page) and I knew this panel was going to be very much atmosphere, I kept the pencils to a bare minimum, just blocked in figures and the boat.

I work on Arches Grain Satin (hot pressed) 140 Lb, 14.5 by 20 inch, watercolor paper. After trying many papers I found that this paper is great for any medium, even inks. And most importantly it can take a beating - material wise.

2) "Foundation"

I'm going to paint in B&W and do the color in Photoshop afterwards. It gives me the best of worlds, the textures and messiness that comes with traditional painting and the control and options of Photoshop.

I basically cover the whole panel with acrylic washes trying to block in some certain areas already. I work fairly thin so that the drawing will shine through at least in some parts.

3) "Form Building"

Here I start darkening some areas and lightening others. The boat starts to take shape, and the water gets some sense of motion ;)

4, 5 & 6) "Detailing & Refining"

In these next three steps I basically just render out certain forms more, and add detail where it needs adding. The Figures of the brothers on the boat should read somewhat clear, even if the one Brother is sitting/leaning against the mastpole. The background stays rather vague, because I like the feel of atmospheric perspective, and it is sometimes nicer to leave things to the imagination of the viewer than to render everything out. Either that or I am just lazy, whatever you choose :).



8) A close up shot of the figure at the back of the boat, with the black pencil (Faber-castell Polychromo) that I use for detailing. I like mixing pencil/pencil crayon with paint. It's a good mixture.

9) My "Analogue" workspace. That’s all I need to work, a table, paint, water...and coffee/coca cola.

10) This brush is what I did most of the rough work on the panel with. I like messed up brushes, they rob any fear you might have of breaking expensive brushes. So you can just paint without worrying of how much money you might've just thrown out the window by messing up a brush. I do have good brushes as well, but I always pick up cheap ones whenever I see them at the German equivalent of Wal-Mart. As you can also see here you don’t need fancy palettes of anything, I use the lids of store made potato salad containers... I just clean them off when the salad is done and mix my paint on them. They're out of plastic and great for acrylic mixing; when the paint is dry you can just peel the old stuff off.... I know I’m a cheap bastard, but as the saying goes "It's a %#$ carpenter who blames his tools".

11) "Photoshop Time"

Ok, now the Black & white painting is done, I scan and start to tweak/color in Photoshop. Basically all I do for the pre-painted panels is set them on a separate layer and set them to multiply, then I lay color underneath. I use a Wacom Intuos 3. In addition to color I also throw several adjustment layers onto the panel. Some color adjustments, some level adjustments, where I can pick out spots of light and make it pop, see the waves for example, or the torch at the back of the boat. Compared to the black and white paint I pushed the lightness a lot on these parts to avoid the image from looking flat and having no depth.

      12) "The Final Panel"

All done and ready to go to print, or lettering as it were. Voila.

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