In one of our most inspiring features yet, Chester Ocampo, an accomplished illustrator and one of the fantastic artists at Imaginary Friends Studios, gives us a comprehensive view of his evolution as an artist; from creating stapled comics with pencil and crayons in 1992, to published digital illustrations in 2009. If his experience doesn’t make you run to pick up that pen, brush, stylus, mouse, keyboard, instrument or what-have-you, I’m not sure what will!
You can find a tutorial of how he created his 2009 image, “Warsong,” in ImagineFX issue #43. You can also find more of Chester’s work at his website or deviantART gallery. Now read on, and prepare to be inspired!
Hi, I’m Chester Ocampo, freelance illustrator and concept artist. I’ve been working as a professional artist for six years now, despite having majored in Advertising Management back in college. It was never an easy ride making a career out of my passion, as the stigma of the “starving artist” has always given my mom doubts about my chosen profession. Nevertheless, I’d like to share some of my selected works, some dating back as far as when I was nine years old. I believe that learning is a lifelong task, and I see that I still have a long way to go in terms of improving my craft. But every now and then, I look at the works I’ve done throughout the years and they never fail to put a smile on my face. Now, enough talk, onto the art.
“Magnetron” – 1992
Defender of Dynamo City. My first original character, whose appearance and powers I borrowed largely from Mega Man and a local comics character called Combatron. I loved doing these one-of-a-kind homemade comics back then. Four sheets of copy paper folded at the middle and stapled together, pencil and crayons. Oh, and check out the letter stickers I used for the issue number and the byline. High-tech!
“Technus: Warriors of the Future” – 1993
Influenced by 90’s American comics, as evidenced by the cross-hatching. Inks were done by my older brother, Bryan. Only the covers of these comics were ever inked, with the interior pages done in pencil. Every now and then, my eldest brother Don would create fake advertisements in one of the pages, just for kicks. It helps when your siblings share the same interest in toys, cartoons, and comics.
“Chinito & Co.” – 1994
As one of the few slanty-eyed kids in class, I took it as my sign of identity. Chinito is an original character, my very own Gary Stu. Yes, I wanted very much to be a Saiyan when I was 12 years old (duh, who didn’t?!). “Dragonball Z” was a very big thing for me at that time, and it was my official introduction to manga and anime. This drawing is a cover for a 16-page comic, ink and colored markers on 9 x 12 Oslo paper.
“Samurai Circle” – 1995
Moves demonstration for my character, Kenichi. Influences came from locally-dubbed anime and “Samurai Shodown.” Not much in terms of style growth, just a bit more refinement in inking. Ink and colored markers on 9 x 12 Oslo paper.
“Pyrotechnics,” Page 9 – 1996
Sample page from one of the longest comics I’ve done to date (a whopping 75+ pages!) The huge leap in styles between ’95 and ’96 was due to me breaking my right elbow at that time. I wasn’t able to draw for a good six months. After two surgeries and a couple of casts, I went back to drawing with a vengeance. Traumatic, but it reminded me never to take this passion for granted. Ink and pencil on 9 x 12 Oslo paper.
“Pyrotechnics,” Chapter Break – 1997
One of the few colored drawings I did. A combination of my dad’s old Prang eight-color watercolor set and some poster color, to achieve that cel-shaded anime look. Adam Warren’s run on “Gen13: Bootleg” was a major influence on me at that time. That, and puberty. Ink, watercolor, and poster color on 9 x 12 Oslo paper.
“Princess Gabbi” Character Profile – 1998
Character design of a cast member in one of my untitled comic projects. Influenced by Joe Madureira’s later “Uncanny X-Men” issues. Ink and pencil on sketch pad.
“Dreamlore,” Page 3 – Early 1999
Sample page from another comic project that I never got to finish. Ink and watercolor on ½ copy paper. Trying to integrate some Chris Bachalo layout and shading into my regular manga-ish style.
Sketches – Mid 1999
As a kid who wanted to have several different styles to play with, I was also trying to develop a slick, smooth style; definitely more manga-oriented than American comics. Points to anyone who can translate the katakana characters. I have absolutely no idea what they mean. Ink and pencil on copy paper.
“Dreamlore” Characters – 2000
Not much in the way of personal drawings, as all my drawing time was devoted to making art for the college newspaper. First year of college (17 years old), and it was the first time I heard of a photo-editing software that could help in lettering and toning comics pages: Photoshop. Ink and pencil on copy paper.
“Rei Ayanami” – 2001
One of the few successful attempts at using Photoshop for coloring, using a mouse, gradients, and feathered lassos. Admittedly, I had already watched “Neon Genesis Evangelion” several years prior to this drawing, but it left a big impression nonetheless. Scanned ink line art and Photoshop colors.
“Ara” – 2002
Still no pen tablet, but a mouse worked just fine for cel-shading. Scanned ink line art and Photoshop colors.
“Lily” – 2002
To achieve the selective blur effects, I drew certain body parts on separate sheets of paper and assembled everything in Photoshop. It was a rather time-consuming process, but the experiment with filters paid off somehow. Scanned ink line art and Photoshop colors.
“Kandy Kool” – 2003, Halloween
One of my first few illustrations as an official member of the working world, fresh off college. I finally got my hands on an Intuos 2, which was relatively new at that time, though I still relied on airbrushing for digital painting. Scanned ink line art and Photoshop colors.
“Project::Nirvana” – 2003
Unused game character concepts for the old company I worked for, my first job. I always have a soft spot for unusual heroes (rogues and anti-heroes), a trait that I seem to carry even today. Scanned ink line art and Photoshop colors.
“Nomads” – 2004
Luckily, I met some good friends in my next job who gave me pointers on how to paint with hard brushes and blending. An unused game character for a pet project we planned on doing on our spare time. Scanned ink line art and Photoshop colors.
“Psylocke” – 2004
I also tried Painter during this time, which had powerful brushes and blending capabilities, but the interface was just mind-boggling for me as I had been using Photoshop ever since I started coloring with computers. Scanned pencil line art and Photoshop colors.
“Last Flame” – 2005
Early attempt at all-digital illustration. I was still getting the hang of drawing all my line art with Photoshop, and it took quite sometime before I could actually make the strokes go the way I want them to. 100% Photoshop.
“Reiko” – 2005
During this time, I would switch back to paper and ink for the line art as I was rarely satisfied with how my all-digital illustrations came out. Scanned pencil line art and Photoshop colors.
“Amber Crescendo” – 2006
Thankfully, when I switched jobs, I was in a more supervisory role, which left me ample time to get accustomed to drawing 100% digital. I also invested in the then-new Intuos 3 pen tablet, which I still use to this very day. 100% Photoshop.
“End of the Line” – 2006
Eventually, all that practice on all-digital illustration was put to good use; I was contacted by a local magazine publishing company to make some drawings for them. It was a relationship that led me to hone my digital illustration skills further in the years that followed. 100% Photoshop.
“Midnight Monarchs” – 2007
By this time, I was pretty comfortable with doing my line art and colors with the computer. 100% Photoshop.
“Sinbad” – 2007
I moved to Singapore to join up with Imaginary Friends Studios, and was opened up to several techniques and styles that I previously had no idea how to execute. With help and encouragement from the wonderful IFS guys, I built enough confidence to try different approaches to my style. This particular drawing was done with a rough sketch and painted to final. 100% Photoshop.
“Pepper Pinay” – 2008
Still with IFS, I was able to settle into a painting style I was comfortable with. It really helps to have people with a discerning eye take a look at your work objectively and give useful suggestions. 100% Photoshop.
“The Gods of Harvest” – 2008
In hindsight, this illustration is most probably the culmination of all the things I learned at IFS at that time. I was finally able to integrate all the neat tricks I picked up from them and combine those with my previous style. The result is something I’m quite proud of, a rare moment. 100% Photoshop.
“Warsong” – 2009
Now that I’ve gotten into my groove of digital illustration, I feel that it would be nice to go back to traditional line art, as I miss the feel of paper and pencil after all these years. Although I don’t think I’m ready to go back to watercolors just yet, because coloring with traditional tools is just way too hard for me right now, but who knows. Baby steps. 🙂