Cable Original #100 - Slave Leia
Posted by: Contributor 02.25.06 12:01am
At last, after numerous delays, it's finally here! My one-hundredth "Cable Original" drawing! I've been thinking quite a bit about how I want to handle this, and I decided to go with the long-winded, mostly-dull, big-ass, introspective, rambling mess. Feel free to skip to the end and just click on the art.

So, where to begin?

The History
Oh, what a long, strange trip it's been! If you had told me 9 years ago that Star Wars fans would pay me to draw them portraits of their favorite characters, I would have laughed in your face. Sure, I was a decent artist; but I'd never been really paid for anything I'd ever done before. And when I was presented with the idea of selling my art by a fellow collector, I initially resisted the idea. First and foremost, I didn't want to get sued!!

Here's how it started. In the summer of 1997, after graduating from the University of Virginia, I moved to Ohio and joined OSWCC. After attending a couple meetings, I decided the club needed a T-shirt. So I drew up a few ideas and presented them to the club. They voted on one, and I started working with Andrew McGinley on getting it produced. Andrew was so impressed by one of my non-winning designs that he offered to buy it. Then he said I should start selling them. I politely declined, because I was afraid of violating copyrights and I didn't think people would be interested.

But Andrew wouldn't give up! He attended a sci-fi convention, and talked to an artist about the legality of selling Star Wars character art. Turns out it's legal, as long as you only sell the original! Then he wrote up a business plan for me. His idea was to make the art collectible by retiring the characters I'd already drawn. He came up with a price point... $50... which I thought was ridiculous. That is until Andrew offered to buy more art from me! He just kept pushing and pushing until I finally said I'd try it.

I received quite a few commissions from a few OSWCC members. I thought it was successful enough to put together a web site. After hosting the images on my employer's web site for a few months, I registered the domain SWDrawings.com. And for 3 or 4 years I happily drew art for whoever came across the site and sent me money. And I began a career of shameless self-promotion that continues to this day.

The site was good, but I didn't get a whole lot of hits. I figure the only people who ever found it were those who read my posts in the various Star Wars forums I frequented. I needed more content than a new drawing every month to bring in the crowds. I needed a gimmick! Knowing I didn't have a prayer competing against the dozens of independent Star Wars collecting news sites, I shot for something different: COMEDY! And this CreatureCantina.com was born! I didn't want to make people laugh for laughter's sake... I wanted people to laugh so they'd buy my art! I staffed the site mostly with guys from OSWCC who owned my art, and we were off and running. Posting jokes. Pissing people off. Getting the site shut down for libel. It was a blast! But man... if I'd known what a time sink this place would turn into, I may have thought twice before starting it up.

Looking back, I'm amazed at just how far my art has progressed. Compare a 2005 piece to a 1998 piece, and it's just night and day. I'm almost embarrassed by some of my early efforts. It makes me even more amazed that people actually paid for them back in the day. I'm still no ace at the human face, but I'm getting better. Everything else is like butter. I'm almost as good as a professional artist. Not quite as good, but at least I'm in the same ballpark. I guess after 85-90 paid commissions I should be in the same ballpark. I just wonder if I'll ever get to the point where I like my own art as much as the people who pay for it.

The Art
I've been saving Slave Leia for a very special occasion. Ever since I started taking commissions to draw Star Wars characters, I've denied everyone the option of Slave Leia. At first, I just didn't want one of the best characters to get gobbled up right away. After a while, when my art became a little more popular, I was planning to do Slave Leia for myself. Besides a rejected drawing of C-3PO, I don't actually own any of my own art, so I figured Slave Leia would be a nice one to have. Around the time I started up CreatureCantina.com, I started to think that I'd just save her for something special. Some promotion or prize or something. Then last year Jay from Rebelscum did a nice article about his Magnaguard Cable Original, and I started getting ALL SORTS of inquiries about my art. And ALL SORTS of questions about Slave Leia. So I started telling people I planned to do her as my 100th drawing, and that unless someone ponied up a good amount of money she'd end up on eBay. After quite a bit of interest, somebody ponied up. The owner of Cable Original #100 was set.

As you know, I strictly enforce my "One Drawing Per Costume" rule. I only do one drawing of any character in a particular outfit. Slave Leia should adhere to the same rule, right? Well, it will surprise and shock you to know... as Yoda would say... there is ANOTHER! That's right, there are TWO Cable Original Slave Leia drawings! what's the deal? Well... OK, so in early December I started working on Slave Leia #100. I wrapped it up mid-December. Then before mailing out this particularly expensive piece of art, I wanted to confirm the customer's mailing address. I waited 7 days for an E-mail back. Over the course of those 7 days, I began to have second thoughts about the art. I began to think of me legacy. Was it good enough for #100? By the time I got the guy's mailing address, I loathed the art. The background was awful. He head was a bit too big. It just wasn't good enough to be my signature piece. So I scrapped all our plans for the unveiling and started again from scratch. Here is the first Cable Original Slave Leia:

Overall, it's not a bad piece. I know my patron would have been quite pleased with it. But, as you can see, it's painfully obvious why I don't usually do backgrounds in my drawings. I just don't know how. I don't know how to do the textures. After failing with the backgrounds in the first drawing, I knew I had to do some research. So I looked up some images of the inside of Jabba's sail barge. I got a feel for the architecture. For the first drawing all I really looked at was a blueprint, which was obviously insufficient. Using set photos, I got a much better idea of what elements would be in the piece. After inking the outlines of everything, I stumbled upon another reason why I hate backgrounds. Thinking long and hard, I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to stipple the whole damn thing. Cross-hatching is a much quicker way to fill a lot of space, but it just looked horrible in the first drawing. So I sat down for hour upon hour of stippling. It was so bad, I had to wrap my knuckles in band aids to prevent blisters. I've never worked so damn hard on a drawing... after having worked so damn hard on the first one and not being happy with it. I sure as hell earned my fee on this one.

After going through a couple nibs and stippling the ever-living crap out of the thing, I was done. And I was happy. I sent it to my patron, and he was really happy. To quote him: "It arrived in perfect condition and looks great! Thanks!" Gotta love another happy customer! And so, now I'm free to share the art with you, my loyal readers. Behold Cable Original #100 - SLAVE LEIA!!!

The Future
Sitting on number 100, it's hard to sit down and think of the future. I never expected in my wildest dreams to make it to 100. I didn't expect to make it to 10! I can't imagine how many more of these I could end up doing. In the short term, I know you won't be seeing another on the site for at least a month. My next two drawings are kinda special, and won't be unveiled until after a big event (for which I'm still waiting on $15 so I can promote it). If I happen to get done with those two PLUS a third, you might see a drawing before March. I'd love to take a little break from the art, but I just have some many commissioned pieces right now that's just not possible. I can't have people waiting a year and a half for a character they reserved. So I'll continue my knuckle-breaking pace as much as I'm able. And I look forward to many more happy customers!