Thursday, 2 June 2016

Photorealist Tryout: Carson Grubaugh

Here is a more developed page for Dave [...which I've split into two for better screen display ~ Tim W.]. No more for a while, I promise. The intro pages Dave requested are gonna take a while...

(click images to enlarge)

A bit of background on Carson Grubaugh...
Carson Grubaugh was born in Sacramento, Ca, raised in Modesto, Ca (the hometown of George Lucas and inspiration/setting for American Graffiti, which seems relevant to the subject of 1950's car culture central to TSDOAR and the kind of loose synchronicity that Dave Sim spins into narrative gold.As a child I thought that Graffiti Night, a summer cruise festival, was a national holiday, not a bizarre local custom). He double majored in Fine Art and Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, and then earned a Masters in Painting from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI (Detroit and Pontiac basically sandwich Bloomfield Hills, so more car culture for me. I felt right at home with the Woodward Dream Cruise, another legendary summer-cruise event). Upon graduation he was named the Mercedes Benz (swear this is true) Financial Services Emerging Artist of 2011, and has since shown his artwork across the United States as well as in Canada, England, Germany and Tasmania. Carson is currently coming to the end of his time as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Painting at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, and will soon be headed back to Modesto to resume working as an Adjunct Professor of Art at Modesto Junior College. (Surprisingly, until writing this, I never realized how much of my life has been spent around 1950's cruising culture because I personally never gave two hoots about cars. As long as they get me where I am going I am happy. Such a shame, given my name.)


Lee Thacker said...

Wow, Carson! You've blown me out of the water with those amazing drawings! Good job!

Paul Slade said...

One of the things I found most fascinating about the Glamourpuss SDOAR pages is the amount Dave was able to deduce about the various' photorealists' tools and techniques simply through the exercise of meticulously copying their panels. Nice to see the try-out artists are finding it so instructive too.

Carson Grubaugh said...

Thank you. What size were you tracing yours at? had the originals listed at about 6" tall so I was working to size. It makes all of that nuts line-work easier to deal with.

I agree. That is one of the things I cherished when the books first came out. Currently, the most instructive thing has been looking at those high-quality scans at

From what I see I am skeptical that Raymond did not use a dip pen and am very curious why Dave is so adamant that Raymond never touched them. There is a way that pens leave marks with physical height that thin brush strokes don't have. I see evidence of this in some, not all, but a good number, of the really high quality scans. I am too familiar with how that looks to not see some of these marks as pen marks. I also see a lot of evidence that, unlike how Dave describes the process, the drawings were probably done mostly with the thin contour lines first, the blacks done second and then, maybe, the feathering/hatching done last. It shows up in the way some of patches of black appear to cover over thinner lines in spots and the way the lines ride over the blacks in others.

It is also much easier to keep the brush at a thin point if you never saturate the thing with loads of ink, so the idea that they were doing their blacks first as a way of helping bring the brush to a point seems counter-productive to me. As I have mentioned a few times I also see a lot of stuff that looks like it was done with a thin, flat brush as well. I would guess a 1/8 inch watercolor style flat. Maybe I just suck at getting my round onto its side, but some of the starts and stops on these thick lines are so abrupt and flat it seems nuts to do them with a round.

I do, however, agree that the fine weaves of hatching were absolutely done with a brush.

That is what I see when I look at these things. Could be totally wrong, therein lies the fun!

Lee Thacker said...

Hi Carson.
I was just about to ask you what size you worked at but you beat me to it!
I did mine at 4 1/2" height, which would explain why some of those lines looked impossibly thin! D'oh! I'll try the next strip at 6" - I'm sure that extra inch and a half will make all the difference.
I have to agree with your observations on HOW Raymond inked the strips based on the ones I've studied so far from HA scans. There is certainly evidence of (very thin) pen lines, use of a flat brush and adding blacks and heavier lines over the thinner lines. Filling the whole brush with ink DOES make those thinner lines trickier to do, but I suppose it's all a matter of technique and what suits individual users of the Series 7 #2! This is becoming a real education.

Sandeep Atwal said...


Sean M Robinson said...

Absolutely agree with the flat brush observation. Those lines would be killer with a round but quite natural and easy with a flat or rigger. It's my experience that this kind of close copy work, seen from the inside-out that is, is the real way to learn about the submerged technique beneath the surface and intervening layers of imperfect reproduction. Fine, fine work Carson!

Jeff Seiler said...

Well, Sean and you guys, I have to say that all of this "inside baseball" talk about technique and tools has got my head spinning.

Kinda puts your printing discussions to shame, Sean...


Jason Winter said...

Really well done Carson. I feel a bit sheepish about submitting more work after seeing this, especially since all I'm doing is downloading work off the internet, opening it in Photoshop, and essentially tracing directly over the line work with my brush tools. I think Dave's found his man.

Jeff Seiler said...

If you want a critique, Carson, then read on.


First of all, the eyes are a bit off. Eyes don't work like that, unless you've got some sort of physical damage in your past. (I won't even approach the subject of emotional damage to which any models may or may not have been subjected.) You're not gonna be a model if you've got asymmetrical eyeballs. And, if you copied this line for line, accurately, then I would REALLY like to see that photo, as the fashion magazine would have made a really bold choice.

Secondly, the mouth (lips), while very pretty, is slightly askew.

The break in the line of the curve of the nose is kinda weird, but I also kinda get it.

The dress pattern is lovely and well-reproduced.

There is a problem where the hair meets the dress, insofar as some inked lines overlap. Look closely and you will see where the hair should obscure some lines on the dress, but doesn't.

Or, maybe I'm reading it wrong.

I don't like the shoes, but, then, I'm not a fan of stripper heels.

Okay, there ya go, Carson. Feel free to excoriate me, at length.

Jeff Seiler said...

Whoops! I take it back about the hair. Now I see that it is hairs crossing hairs. Again, kinda weird looking, but I get it.

And, I forgot to mention the fingers on the hand on the knee: kinda claw-ish. Not round-ish.

But, overall, a nice-looking drawing.

And, um, "dar...pretty flowers..."

On the dress, that is.

Carson Grubaugh said...

Thank you Jeff. I totally agree, especially about the claw hand and some of the less elegant spots in the hair. The hardest part of this whole style, for me, is how elegant one has to be in tight spaces.

Michael Grabowski said...

I'm not an artist of any sort but I do appreciate this discussion of technique especially as it ties into things Dave wrote in glamourpuss and various updates when he was still drawing. A good addition to recurring AMOC topics!

Jeff Seiler said...

Well, Carson, I certainly can empathize with you, as I think most of my ex-girlfriends could tell you that I was never all that " tight spaces".


Couldn't resist.

I'm glad that you appreciated my input. *I* can't draw a straight line to save my life, and I haven't an iota of understanding when it comes to brushes, pens, and nibs, BUT, to paraphrase a Supreme Court Justice, "I know good art when I see it."

Your art, Carson, accompanied by your attention to detail (as evidenced by your commentary) is good. Despite my critique, I vote first for you.

*Are* we voting, Dave?

Lee Thacker said...

Jason - what you're doing also takes a lot of skill and patience too, don't throw in the towel! May I ask what tools you're using in/with Photoshop as it's something I've been meaning to try my hand at too.

Jason Winter said...

Thank you for your kind words Lee. I may take another crack at it. In Photoshop I usually size my files at 300 pixels per inch.I use a standard brush tool. In the brush presets I click on brush shape, and switch on Shape Dynamics which gives me a tapered line. I set the diameter between 3 and 4 pixels, the spacing at 1%, and the hardness at 100%. Hope this helps.

Carson Grubaugh said...

It absolutely boggles my mind that you pulled that stuff off on a computer.

Lee Thacker said...

I have to agree with Carson – I really don’t know how you did this so well in Photoshop! Mind boggling indeed! Then again, it’s as much as I can do to scan, colour and add lettering to pages!

I have CS3 and I went onto ‘brush dynamics’ but can’t figure out how to get a tapered line.

Also, do you use an external drawing tablet? If so, which model can you recommend? Please forgive my ignorance, but it’s something I’ve been meaning to try for a while now and you seem like the perfect person to ask.

Jason Winter said...

Carson- Thank you very much!:)

Lee-If you go into your brush window, there should be a box to the left
of the window with the title Brush Presets. Under that there should be the title Brush Tip Shape, and under that there should be the title Shape Dynamics, with a little box on the left hand side of it. If you click on that box, a tick should appear indicating that Shape Dynamics has been switched on. Hope that helps.

I use an Intuos Pen Tablet, model PTH-451.

Lee Thacker said...

Thanks, Jason. I aim to give it a try. I'll let you know how I get on...

Carson Grubaugh said...

I have been drawing in Photoshop, printing out in no-repro-blue and inking. Don't have to worry about erasing the blacks down to grays that way. Still can't imagine inking on a Wacom and not being all shaky.

Barry Deutsch said...

Avoiding shaky lines in Photoshop on a wacom (or a cintiq) is pretty much a matter of making rapid, unhesitating strokes. (In my experience).

You can also use a program that will steady your strokes as you draw them, like Clip Studio Paint (which used to be called Manga Studio).

Dave Sim said...

I'm having to be cautious about what I say and don't say about Raymond's brush techniques because that's definitely the most popular part of SDOAR for "civilians", so I'm pretty sure IDW would prefer that I not discuss it publicly if they're going ahead with however much of SDOAR they're comfortable can be legally published. THAT part they'll definitely want to publish.

Yes, there is definitely pen in Alex Raymond's RIP KIRBY work but surprisingly little of it. His brushwork looks like pen. "How can he DO that?"

That's part of the technique that I THINK I figured out. One of the things that I thought of was photocopying those pages from SDOAR and sending them to the short list of guys who are posting here since I think they'll help you to get over the "fine line hurdle". I mean, you're not alone: Hal Foster was intimidated by Raymond's brush lines. Jeff Jones was intimidated by Raymond's brush lines.

Dave Sim said...

Carson - Those Raymond Comic Art Metaphysics just never cease to amaze: the upper right panel that you did of Karen Caryl and Honey Dorian is from the exact point in "Peril in the Snow" that I'm working on in my RIP KIRBY Commentaries this very minute: the phone call from Moms (January 1950).

How does that happen?

Carson Grubaugh said...


I totally understand about saving your technique discussion for the book. It has been fun to see different folk's take on the whole thing here on the board, however. The variety of conclusions we are coming to is interesting.

My assessment of the pen lines was based on the apparent physical presence of some of the lines I saw in the scans. It wasn't a frequent occurrence but some of the lines just popped out like, oh, that has the kind of physical height a pen line has. This was further reinforced after getting and trying out some Gillott nibs the other day, which left an even taller puddle of ink than my 102 does(You are right that the 290 is a special kind of frustrating).

The really fine lines don't bother me. I actually prefer the brush to the 102 for those. The stuff that kills me with the Series 7 number 2 are the thick, consistent lines and how flat some the ends of different marks look. When I turn my brush on its side to get a thick mark it leaves a ragged edge that I have to touch up, whereas Raymond's marks look very one-shot and perfectly clean. I bought a small flat brush the other day and it performed exactly how I expected, able to leave pretty darn thin lines on tip, but turns out to nice solid lines with perfectly flat ending/entry points.

As far as synchronicity goes, I just hope the Margaret Mitchell Glamour (I always did hate Gone With the Wind and Scarlett O'Hara) leaves me alone now that I have interacted with your project. My current re-reading of Glamourpuss has me seeing eerie connections to various things in my own life.

Carson Grubaugh said...

Oh. I forgot to mention, I got fantastic photos at Local Heroes in Norfolk. It is an awesome shop! When I looked up images of them on Google the first ones that came up was from It shows a long shelf of comics with a big stack of Zootanapuss vs Cosplay Lass issues front and center in the photograph. More synchronicity.

I had to alter the straight zoom through the window given the set up of the shop. The camera has to move across the street, through the window and swing behind the counter on an s-shaped path to make the sequence work, but it all flows smoothly. Have the pages all mocked up and have started tracing them off.