Sunday, September 14, 2014

TIM HOLTROP: Five Things Learned Illustrating the TRANSPORT Interiors

Specialist Eddie Mulholland, Rear Gunner of the M213 HTV HURON
I met Tim Holtrop about 20 years ago (my, how time flies) while pursuing a local illustrated digest thingie called PETRUS COMICS PRESENTS. I got lucky enough to know this very talented guy, and ran into him again a year or so back when I was writing another Grand Rapids-based post-apoc tale entitled FINAL RIGHTS. Tim did some sketches for that story, just for my eyes, just for the fun of it.
When my idea for a post-apoc military/zombie action-adventure series came about, I told him about it, and next thing he was working on little illustrations to visualize things.
And then I got him REALLY involved, paying job-wise, in doing real deal B&W illustrations for the TRANSPORT series. (Thank you, Stephen Zimmer.)
Tim is a great guy, a truly blessed artist, and a friend.
Take it away, Tim...
When Pete asked me to write "5 Things I Learned..." doing the interior illustrations for TRANSPORT, I had to take a moment or so to think.

I wonder if it would count toward the five things if I mentioned the renovations to the fallout shelter, adding extra rooms (secured, separated from the rest of the unit) in case some of my loved ones were zombified and needed a safe place to stay near us in a nuclear war...or my recent investment in developing and stockpiling MORG (doped meat by product used to feed the local zombies in the book series--PJW) for the pantry, so they'd have something proper to eat.
Hmmm...maybe that's not what Pete wanted me to write about. (Nope--PJW)
I guess I'll move on with things related to doing the art for his books.
1. I still enjoy helping others put their imaginative vision on paper.
I've drawn a lot of pictures for a lot of people over, well...A LOT of years. When people want me to draw something for them, they usually have some idea of what they want me to draw. Some folks have a very particular vision, and I have to work diligently, using the skills I've been given, to meet their high demands. Other folks have more of a general "subject matter" in mind, and are willing to allow me to craft the art as I see fit, trusting that I'll do something cool. Most folks that I've worked with fall in between, having varying degrees of clarity about what they want drawn, allowing me some freedom to explore and help them bring their idea to light.
Tim Holtrop early sketch of the M213 HTV HURON
Pete Welmerink had some ideas in mind for the TRANSPORT art he wanted, and he provided me with good reference material, including some of his own stick figure sketches to help communicate his ideas to me. (That's about the best I can do. Stick figures.--PJW) He also gave me the freedom to explore the characters, settings, and action of each scene within the boundaries of his vision for it. I was able to help him explore possibilities for actions, poses, shots and angles in the concept stage of the art, and he provided me with good feedback and decisions that helped keep us on-track all the way to the finished art. I think we worked well together. (Yes!--PJW)
For many years, God has blessed me with the ability to enjoy working with and serving people. My job as an artist has been less about "art", and more about helping others with the skills I've been given. I had a great time working with Pete on the TRANSPORT illustrations. After all this time, I still enjoy what I've been given to do, and for that I'm very thankful.
2. In a world full of bleak doomsday scenarios, Pete's approach to Zombies is interesting and refreshing.
We seem to be fascinated by death and destruction in our culture, and that's reflected in a lot of our entertainment, especially the Zombie stories that I've seen (I may have missed something, of course...I can't read books or watch TV and movies all the time...I'd never get work done!).  Pete brings in a very interesting human element to the post apocalyptic world as he shows that people still care about their loved ones despite the horrifying condition they're in. They care so much that they've developed a way to keep them fed and docile, and given them places to "live" in the community. Zombies have been integrated into this speculative future society as they rebuild and deal with other danger and the politics of life in this new world. I like what he's doing...I think it provides us with a sense of hope...perhaps the future isn't going to be completely ruined after all.
I also like how Pete made use of real places in this speculative, fictitious future. I enjoyed drawing what some of those places might look like in that setting: the Westside Apostolate, the old Marathon station, the city of Grand Rapids itself...wonderful tie-ins to this real world we live in. Some interesting fictitious characters like Sister Mary Mirose, Bob the zombie gas station attendant, and the Huron's crew, coupled with a good story, gave me a lot of interesting things to draw.
Tim Holtrop sketch of the M213 HTV HURON with its 25mm cannon turret.
3. I enjoyed researching and drawing military equipment and vehicles.
Some folks may think artists have to have everything already memorized to be able to do their work on a job...but that just ain't so. Artists get to research their subject matter before they draw it. They tackle assignments involving things they already know and things they have yet to learn about (although, some clients might prefer that an artist already know the subject matter to some degree, especially on a tight deadline with little to no time for research!). As an artist, I am blessed with the opportunity to learn new things frequently as I do my research for a project. Even though clients provide visual reference for the things they want rendered in a particular way, I still have to explore the reference, and I come away learning something about what I'm about to draw.
Tim Holtrop does action figures...illustrative-wise!
I knew a little bit about military equipment and vehicles from past work, but working on TRANSPORT helped me learn a whole lot more, which is something I definitely enjoyed. The future world Pete has crafted isn't so far removed from our own, and the military items in use are still pretty close to the things we use in our present world. Even though it's a bit more time intensive to draw military gear than normal day-to-day civilian items, the researching and sketching taught me more about the things our brave men and women in uniform have to use to protect us and our interests in today's troubled world, and helped me apply them to a speculative world of tomorrow. 
4. Digital inking takes a bit more time for me than traditional pen & ink, but I like the's worth doing.
It's been a while since I've smelled the odor emanating from an open bottle of black ink, or felt the sensation of my #102 dip pen nib through it's plastic handle as I moved it across a sheet of bristol. It's also been a while since I've felt the disappointment of having to white out a stray ink line, or patch in an element I've had to make changes to after it was already finished in ink. I miss these things, but at this point in my life I don't have the studio space to accommodate all the art tools I love to use...Instead of buying a bigger house, I chose to use the digital tools being offered these days.
Driver of the M213 HTV HURON, Spc. Loutonia Phelps, laying down the law.
Although I drew the interior illustrations for TRANSPORT in pencil (on paper), I used a combination of Manga Studio EX 4 and Photoshop to handle the inking chores. After scanning the pencils and making any adjustments necessary in PS, I imported them into MS (yes, I like to abbreviate!), turned 'em into bluelines, and set up my layers. From here onward, I inked the art with some of the wide variety of tools available to me. I don't even come close to using all that's available, but it's always good to have more than enough. Later, I exported the inked art to be able to do any final work or effect in PS.
I'm used to using triangles, french curves, and other physical tools when I draw and ink, but in the digital world, things are a little different. Inking in MS provides some cool tools with the special rulers like the perspective rulers, the parallel lines ruler, and the custom rulers I can make when I need to ink a special shape. It's different from traditional inking, but it's actually pretty fun to use. It takes me a bit more time than traditional inking at this point, but there's a lot to explore and the effects that I can produce digitally are much easier for me than when using pen/brush & ink. As for making corrections...well, I still need to make 'em sometimes (ok, a lot more than I'd like to admit), but now, it's a whole lot easier, and involves a lot less disappointment.
5. I still enjoy drawing zombies.
I've always loved drawing action-packed and adventurous material, but back in my "artistic youth" I loved to draw wild and gritty subject matter too, like zombies, violent battles, and destruction. What other fantasy-loving heavy metal music fan wouldn't love stuff like that? But God had other plans for me, and brought me through a lot of experiences over many years changing my life and helping me broaden my artistic range to be able to enjoy working on everything from sci-fi to children's subjects.  (Once God gave us some kids, I couldn't help but start working on softer, friendlier material...who wouldn't do the same?)
A Feral Zombie and not-so-Feral, but local Grand Rapids undead citizen BOB the 1950's gas station attendant zombie
I've worked as an artist on projects in all sorts of media, drawing fantasy creatures, cute cartoon animals, cars, food, and normal everyday folks. I didn't draw much of the gritty, violent stuff anymore...and, oddly, I didn't mind.
Over the past few years, I've been given opportunities to draw the undead again, and I've realized that I'm approaching it from a different standpoint. I've grown a lot in my personal life and as an artist. I was a little apprehensive at first about drawing zombies again, but I gave it a shot, and found that even though my heart and my life have changed, I still enjoy drawing a wormy, walking corpse from time to time. I think Pete's approach to zombies (as I mentioned above) has helped me ease back into this, as he really has added something significant and mature to the direction of post-apocalyptic zombie lore.
Well, I guess these would be the "appropriate" 5 things I learned working on TRANSPORT. I should probably wrap it up now, as there's still a lot of work to be done if I'm ever going to get a 15-foot tall, heavily armored family transport ready to roll so I can run errands safely when the world falls apart.
Hmmm...I think I'll need to build a bigger garage, too.
Tim Holtrop always has loved drawing and telling stories. He’s very thankful that God has blessed him with the ability to do both professionally. Over the years, he’s been given work in publishing, film, television, advertising, web, and other entertainment related arenas drawing comics, storyboards, comps, concept sketches and illustrations. He’s spent some time working in Los Angeles before moving his family back home to West Michigan, where he currently provides his services by working from home and delivering art to clients via e-mail / internet.
Web Sites:
For the whole family (I told ya'...I do more than zombies):
            Cute cartoon animal designs:
            Free printable activities and books:
You can find Interior Artist Tim Holtrop and Cover Artist Jason Conley's work upon and within Peter Welmerink's military/zombie series: TRANSPORT.
TRANSPORT Book One available now at all booksellers. Ask for it by name if they do not have it on the shelf.

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