Look What I Dug Up

General / 13 February 2024

Ok well, technically it wasn't "dug up" as the painting still sits on the wall in my studio, but I just came across the original Photoshop file while cleaning up my work folders on my PC. Originally, I didn't think much of it as it was a school project, but everyone in class liked it and felt like I should frame it. Titled "An Eye Is Upon You", it was my attempt at something abstract which is out of the norm of my usual work, but something I did enjoy creating, even though I found the assignment stressful as it pushed me outside my comfort zone. 

Acrylic on board. (I forget the actual dimensions - forgive the glass reflection)


Unveiling My Creative Evolution: Join Me On My Journey Creating A Supernatural Western Graphic Novel

Work In Progress / 04 February 2024

Wow, has it really been this long since I’ve written a blog post? I guess time really does fly whether you’re having fun or just so busy you lose track of it. Well allow me to reintroduce myself, I guess. If you’re new to my work, you might be more familiar with my 3D art but prior to that I was self-publishing a comic called “Asshole”, a ‘what would you do with super powers’ fantasy that debuted to good reviews, but ultimately led to creator fatigue, as I was wearing so many hats myself. So I took some time off to recoup, wound up going back to college, really got heavy into 3D and doing custom collectibles , and before I knew it “Asshole” was pretty far in the rear view mirror.

But I still had stories to tell. And while 3D statues and figures told little stories of their own, they weren’t MY stories. Which leads me to today. My studio, Rival Design Comics is ready to publish again, and I’d like to share with you some of the process that’s led up to this point. And it started with a photo on internet.

One of the comments was “He looks like a sharecropper assassin.” Now this made me burst out laughing, but also made me think “that’s a helluva story right there.” I sat on that idea for weeks just thinking about what life would be like for a sharecropper assassin, and what life in general at that time would have been like.

That was the entrance to the rabbit hole. I had seen plenty of movies regarding the black experience at that time and while there were a few gems, everything always seemed framed around slavery, and personally, I had had enough of that perspective.  I wanted to know what life was like during that brief period of Reconstruction that we never really read or hear about. Two books I dove into were “The Souls of Black Folk” and “Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880” both by W.E.B. Du Bois. My eyes were opened wide and so was my mind as it seemed like the ideas began flooding in. However, the more I thought about the time period, the less I was interested in a sharecropper assassin story and the more I became enthralled by the story of the black cowboy.

I grew up loving westerns, but aside from a few blaxploitation flicks there was really no one telling the story of black cowboys. This of course led to more book purchases, studying the life of people like Bass Reeves and Nat Love; the book “Black Cowboys of the Old West: True, Sensational, And Little-Known Stories From History” is now one of my most treasured possessions. I was set. I knew what the book would be about, now I needed a who. Well, if you know me you know I love horror, particularly supernatural horror. And the television show “Supernatural” was just ‘chefs-kiss’ IMO (all but the series finale ☹) so a black cowboy in a supernatural western just ticked every box in my brain. Thankfully my love for what I was about to write made the process of writing the script flow in a way it never did during the creation of “Asshole”, the words were just pouring out of me. But with this being such a big departure from what I had done previously I knew the road with this script would be a long one. I attended writer's conventions, workshops, read every book I could get my hands on (within reason) about world building, character development, monster creation and motivation. I was determined for this book to be heavy in a way the humor of “Asshole” just didn’t allow. And finally, after nearly 7 months of constant reworking and rewriting, I had my script, all 160 pages of it. The thing about writing though, it's never quite finished until its published as I’m still polishing it to this day, nearly a year to the date of its inception.

Which leads to the part I was really looking forward to, the art! One of the things I got into while working on “Asshole” was the use of 3D in creating my backgrounds. Below are a few pages from the first three issues where I recreated the building I grew up in, my bedroom, and a few other areas around NYC, all in Sketchup. This time around though, because of the time period and the scope of what I want to do, Sketchup just wasn’t going to cut it. Besides, I’m now a college grad who’d studied 3D animation and grown familiar with programs like Unreal and ZBrush, so I wasn’t going to just make a few buildings, I needed to make a whole area of the country! No longer just being backgrounds, I see them as miniature movie sets that exist on my hard drive. Looking at it this way then began to change my entire approach to how I would normally approach drawing a book. Anyone familiar with the comic creation process knows that the art begins with the thumbnail, and for those familiar with the movie creation process knows it typically begins with the storyboards. Looking at the two processes, its nearly the same thing but by approaching my thumbnail process by storyboarding but capturing the beats instead of every few seconds of the scene, it’s changed the entire look, so it no longer feels like a graphic novel and more like a movie on paper. I believe this will enhance the reading experience far beyond anything I’ve ever done previously, as I’ve never been so excited to draw as I am now!

 Of course, I can’t say all of this without a few reveals, right? Well, here are just a few shots of the set created, some in Unreal Engine, some in Daz Studio, just to give an idea of what to expect. Now before I lead anyone on, I don’t want anyone to think that I modeled everything you see. I purchased a LOT of assets to save me from what would have been well over a year spent modeling, though still took some months to arrange the sets as they are. Most of my actual modeling was done creating the characters so that I would have reference for any and every look, pose, expression and action.

And as promised here are a few pages from “Asshole” I mentioned. I can’t wait to show off some of the new pages so I can show the growth I’ve gone through, but what I will share some of the character art in the coming weeks to give a sense of just how different this new book will be stylistically. One day I do want to come back and wrap up “Asshole” properly, it had way more fans than I ever thought there would be, and they deserve proper closure.

So, I just wanna thank you for hanging around and reading through this long ass post. Going forward I don’t want to have years between blog posts as I really want to use this as a means keeping everyone interested in my work, abreast of my work. I’m just so thoroughly excited for this next chapter, and I really hope you’ll join me on this ride, I promise you it’ll be a wild one and well worth the wait. And please if you have any questions about anything, feel free to hit me up, because I can’t wait to tell you more!


Realization of a 90's dream

General / 12 January 2018
Hey everyone! This is my first blog post so I feel something of an introduction is in order. I'm Ejay but you already know that, I'm a recent graduate of Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design here in beautiful Colorado. I went back to school after a LONG layoff because after years of freelancing as a comic book artist I was kinda burnt out and just done with the medium, and 3D animations and video games I had been playing at the time really intrigued me. So I enrolled in the school's game art program and off I went. During my first semester I found myself gravitating more towards 3D animation as I saw the greater potential for storytelling there, and as a comic artist I was all about telling the story. So I switched majors to 3D animation and really began to focus on modeling since I fell in love with Zbrush (once I managed to get a grasp of the interface!) and really wanted to translate my 2D skills to 3D. 

Then something switched in me and modeling was ALL I wanted to do, I didn't care about story as much anymore as I wanted to make these really cool looking figures. But my school didn't have a modeling for collectibles course so I was left to kind of figure out how to proceed on my own. In my last semester we were finally offered a course on traditional sculpting with clay and working with my hands not only opened my eyes up to what I could do digitally, and reinforced my desire to create these lasting figures that I could enjoy pretty much forever. So I bought the few (and by few I mean two) books on the subject, Pop Sculpture by Tim Bruckner, Zach Oat and Ruben Procopio and Babes, Beasts and Brawn: Sculpture of the Fantastic by Steve Kiwus, and with the additional help of numerous YouTube videos I began to teach myself what I couldn't learn in school. But what would I sculpt? I could pick from any number of pop culture icons like I had been doing but I didn't feel connected to them so I had no passion to create them. Then as I was reorganizing my studio one day I came across a bunch of work I created as a teen and what stuck out to me were these X-Men/Avengers ripoffs I had created and I instantly knew what I would be sculpting. But these were really dated looking 90's designs so maybe I should update the designs first, then create them as models. But the teenager in me wouldn't recognize them so I decided the designs would not change at all.

I didn't want to just make another statue though, I had done quite a few of those already, I needed a new challenge and as I looked around a studio loaded with statues and action figures it was obvious what I would try. So what I present to you know is my current WIP action figure sculpt, The Dark Star (its a corny name, I get it, but it was the 90's).

Here is "concept art" that I worked from, since there were no turnarounds I had to flesh him out as best as I'd remembered him.

Like I said, sooo 90's. Don't dwell on the piss poor anatomy, just marvel at all that wannabe Jim Lee-ness!

So I grabbed one of my ready made base meshes, dynameshed him and prepared to get busy.

Nice heroic build, completely symmetrical and ready to go.

First thing I always do is change the background so my model doesn't blend into it, then add placeholders for all the accessories like the shoulder pads, gauntlets, etc.

I then masked and split off the head, mask and replaced the hands. Since his abilities include force projection there's one hand for that and one hand good ol' punchin' stuff.

More splitting of the limbs and planning of future cuts. I also cut out the 'fleshy' parts of the face as a separate subtool so that it'd be easier to polypaint later.

My first pass at adding the joints in. The joints I created in Maya since I wanted them to be as geometrically perfect as possible. I also added a cut to the upper thigh to allow the maximum amount of articulation possible. For reference I used a combination of Marvel Legends figures and various figures from McFarlane Toys.

Just another shot of the inserted joints and pins.

Double hinged knee joints allows the figure to kneel all the way. I then swapped the ankle joints out for a joint I found in my Bandai Sprukit Arkham Batman figure.

A shot of the elbow joints, I chose not to use another double hinged joint since I don't care for how they look in the arm and this character didn't require that level of articulation so single hinge it is!

To allow the legs to fully rotate out they needed to be spread a bit further than they were. Also, gratuitous crotch shot!

To get those funky horned things at the top of his boots to work I had to create some kneecaps, and I also added a new joint and pin in the shoulders after detailing a little more muscle separation.

Now it was time to replace the placeholder geometry with the final pieces. The gauntlets and other hard surface items were created in Maya, I just find it easier to work with for hard surface items (when it doesn't crash).

When it came time to make the cape I had a choice to make, sculpt a hard cape or use Marvelous Designer to simulate a cloth cape. I settled on a cloth cape since I want the actual toy to have a cape that flaps in the wind.

The head needed to be changed to allow full rotation and I've begun polypainting the face which was so much easier as its own subtool.

Finally here's a batch of Keyshot renders as it stands now. No textures, just a basic plastic material applied to give it that real toy feel.

Well that's it for now, at this stage I'm going through and refining some of the details before I finish adding in anymore color. In case you were wondering, yes I have tested out the articulation to make sure no pieces bump into each other or intersect in anyway. Hope you guys like it, let me know what you think. And if there's any experienced toy builders here I would certainly love to get your thoughts/advice/critiques and if I cant apply them to The Dark Star there's several more characters on the way that I would definitely apply it to. Anyway, thanks for checking it out, have a great day!