As promised, I finished my latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles artwork last night after about a week or so, from pencils to digital colors. This one features Master Splinter, The Shredder, and some gnarly Foot Soldiers. I’ve drawn a lot of stuff over the years but, personally speaking, this may be the most badass yet. I just totally love how it turned out, like all the colors are splashing and exploding onto my eyes whenever I look at it.
Everything starts out with the pencils, and oftentimes this is the hardest part, or to be more precise–starting the pencils is the hardest part. The actual pencilling itself is challenging, what with all the concepts that you wish you could stuff in the small space bounded by the edges of your paper–but bringing yourself to start that process is even more difficult. There are those countless nights where I had to choose between rummaging for my pencils and erasers and setting up my drawing table or just switching on my PS4 to play NBA2k. Passing up all that guaranteed relaxation for a few hours of excruciating pencil work and reference research is a fearsome commitment that’s not for the faint of heart.
But once you start seeing the fruits of your labor taking shape, the laziness evolves into curiosity, and then into a goal–and finally, into an obsession. That was pretty much the same path I found myself following again working on this piece of fan art. I postponed it for several days but once I finally drew Shredder on paper, I just felt the need, and then that rush to see the whole thing through.
I knew I wanted Shredder and Splinter in this one but I wasn’t sure who else should be in it. At first, I sketched Baxter Stockman (Shredder’s mad scientist) in the background but I felt that it took away the spotlight from these two arch rivals, so I decided to do away with him and reserve him for a future illustration (maybe with his iconic mouser robots). Instead, I just surrounded “Oroku Saki” and “Hamato Yoshi” with some Foot Soldiers as these had more of a connection with Shredder and Splinter in Turtle lore. In more serious stories, the Foot are actually a ninja clan that serves Shredder; in the IDW Publishing comicbook series, Splinter also used to belong to this clan.
The inks proceeded quite swiftly. It’s still the most satisfying part of every illustration process for me, although I feel kind of guilty that I’m now moving on to coloring when I still haven’t mastered inking yet. I know the results I want to see on paper but that’s not yet happening because my skill level with the ink brush is not quite there yet. But like I said when I was doing the Turtles and April O’Neil piece, colors are just somehow an essential part of the 1980s/1990s TMNT animated series that I had no choice but to start relearning how to color digitally. Like in the first part of this series of drawings, I began with a flats layer that actually had a unique, simple charm in itself. In the end though, the purely flat-colored version lacked a punch that I needed to see, so I still ended up adding cell shading to give the image more pop.
When I showed the nearly completed work to my girlfriend, she said it looked good but there was too much purple in it (I had already thought about that potential issue before but it helped that she confirmed it). That’s when I figured that a green splatter in the background could help balance out the colors. The green splatter also reminds me of the ooze or mutagen that’s in nearly every medium of the TMNT (in some stories, it’s purple instead of green). This ooze, of course, was responsible for mutating otherwise normal turtles into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other people and animals into strange and powerful mutants.
As I said, I was really–extremely–satisfied with the final result. The plan is to rest for a few days then to literally go back to the drawing board and start the next drawing in this series–most probably featuring Krang, Rocksteady, and Bebop. Stay tuned for that!