Tuesday, December 27, 2011

iPad Is Coming to Town...Digital Painting on the Go

Self Portrait - Digital - Click to Enlarge 
Christmas night.  The Barrys were engaged in the ritual viewing of Christmas Vacation (still funny).  Clark Griswald was engaged in his pool fantasy (Mele Kalikimaka everyone).  I was engaged in a fantasy come true.  I was painting digitally on my brand new iPad - THANK YOU WIFE!

I have to say that I have been skeptical about the abilities of an iPad as an art creation tool.  I adore my Wacom tablets.  With them, I have become so accustomed to pressure sensitivity that the idea creating a painting without it could be likened to handing me a couple of stones and expecting fire.

Mr. Teeth - Digital - Click to Enlarge
I was using the $2 ProCreate app.  I can't express how impressed I was with the experience.  This app emphasizes the paintbrush, smudge, and eraser tools.  This suites my digital painting style perfectly.  Even without pressure sensitivity, I found that the size and opacity adjustments were so easy to access, that I after a few minutes I was no longer longing for my Wacom. 

Ultimately, what the iPad experience comes down to is portability.  Did I create anything that I couldn't create with my Wacom tablet and Photoshop?  No.  But I created something completely comparable while sitting on a sofa, watching a flick with my family.  

Cheers to the iPad.  

More digital sketches to come...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Season's Greetings from Some Vexing Varmints

What are those pesky Procyons up to anyway?  Are they building snowman with a bit of holiday magic?  Or are they ganking all the goodies off of the Frosty that kid spent all day building?

Let me know what you think in the comments...

Watercolor on Arches cold press watercolor board - Click to Enlarge

Presented above is my 2011 holiday card. If you are looking for a last minute card for friends and family, please feel free to download and print.
Free PDFs: exterior art
                  interior art

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Watercolor - Click to Enlarge
Tom is thankful for another year without being shot, plucked, or eaten.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pianos Filled With Flames

Watercolor on Illustration Board - Click to Enlarge

This piece was inspired by the song "Holland 1945" by Neutral Milk Hotel. The song (along with most of NMH's material) is filled to the brim with stunning imagery that jump-starts my imagination.  Great music to play in the background when in need of inspiration.  Today I was particularly inspired by the line:

Now she's a little boy in Spain
Playing pianos filled with flames.

I had been itching to do some wet in wet watercolor painting, and I knew that the flames in this piece would be a perfect place to experiment.  I began by sketching out the figure and piano.  I did a quick google image search of grand  pianos to help.  My sketch wasn't too detailed, as I knew i was going to let the watercolors do a lot of the work.  Next, I covered the figure and flames with masking fluid.  This made it so the watercolors would not cover those areas.  I splashed a dark brown mixture in the top right corner and a bit down the right edge.  I lifted the piece and tilted it down toward the bottom left corner.  I began squirting the wet paint with a spray bottle, letting the color flow and drip naturally across the page.  This creates some exciting effects that I never could have created with a brush. 

While the background was still damp, I painted the piano.  I wanted the piano to blend in a bit with the background, allowing the little boy and flames to be star of the show.  I then had to walk away for a bit and let the background/piano dry.  The piece had to be completely dry before taking of the making fluid, or the surface of the board would have been damaged.

Next was the exciting part, painting the flames.  Excited about the masking fluid, I dashed in some streaks
that would preserve the white of the page.  Next I globbed in some bold yellows and reds, tilted my page back toward the upper right corner and hit my colors with the spray bottle, again letting the paints flow.  I only have marginal control over the directions they take.

I finished the illustration by painting in the figure.  I dipped back into my background colors so that the figure's color world would match the rest of the piece, but added bits of blues, yellows and reds to provide interest and attract the eye.  I went back in with my pencil and added some details that got washed out while painting.  I signed my name, and called it done.  A fine Sunday morning.  Special thanks to Neutral Milk Hotel for the inspiration.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from a once terrifying comic book villian!

Digital - Click to Enlarge
For your Halloween viewing pleasure, I bring you what was once the most menacing villain in mainstream comic books:  Venom.  The character has changed in many ways over the years.  This is the version I prefer to remember:  No pointy teeth.  Not as big as the Hulk, but Spider-Man's better in every way, and, you know, insane.

Digital - Click to Enlarge
This drawing is a couple of years old.  It was created in Photoshop.  As I recall, I used a mix of the paintbrush, dodge/burn, and smudge tools.

Bonus Drool Monster
Digital - Click to Enlarge

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Harry Potter is Made of Lines

Graphite - Click to Enlarge
While I love to use many media (brush in ink, watercolor, Photoshop), what I find myself drawn to (PUN!) is simple pencil on paper.  There is something about the feel of the graphite breaking down on the fiber of the paper that is absolutely comforting.  It probably comes down to the fact that pencil is the medium I have used more than any other for my entire life.  While I have certainly come to love the spontaneity of watercolors, the boldness of ink, and the seemingly limitless potential of Photoshop, putting pencil to paper is like coming home.  It is comfortable, and I can apply the lead without fear of losing control or making an irreparable mistake.

Fearless, I can dig in with my million little lines.  I used to try to smudge my lines away to create sleek tones, somehow thinking that belief in a 2-D reality had a direct correlation to drawing realistically.  Now, I am making a concerted effort to let the lines shine.  The tiny hatches and visible paper fibers can do just as much to create a reality as the most
labored/photo-realistic drawing.

Graphite with Photoshop - Click to Enlarge
So what next?

I've been playing with the next step off and on for years (the first time being for a close-call picture book submission - post to come).  How do I add color to my drawing?

In Photoshop, there are many different ways to go about this.  You could paint right over your drawing, using it like an under-painting.  You can set your drawing layer to multiply and color it like you would a coloring book.  This is a great technique for comic book style illustrations.  There are countless other ways, I'm sure (feel free to add them to our comments section).  The problem I have found is that my darling little pencil lines end up washed out or completely obscured.  And I love my pencil lines.  They are my home.

What I have been playing with recently is using the selection and colorize tools as my primary coloring device.  I used the lasso to select specific areas of the sketch (hair, hood, shoes, etc.) copy/pasted them to new layers, and colorized them.  This way, instead of color on top of or behind my pencil sketch, I am actually changing the color of my original grey work - preserving what I loved about the drawing while adding color.

I did have to monitor the contrast of the drawing as I worked.  The art became washed out at points, but the fixes were easy.  I could either adjust my levels to bring the punch back to the piece, or I just hit small areas with the dodge/burn tool.  I did feel that the highlights of the original piece got lost in the digital color.  You can see that I added new highlights to the piece, being sure that my marks fit in with the style of the original sketch.

Ultimately, this is the best technique I have been able to find to preserve the feel of my line drawings while bringing them into a colorized world.  I am using it for a picture book project that I am putting together (sketches to come).  Give it a shot.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Francona Goes Down with His Ship

Graphite - Click to Enlarge
Terry Francona was given a sinking ship and told to sail.  As manager, Terry's job was to provide the rudder. He did.  Since 2004, Francona guided the S.S. Red Sox through treacherous waters admirably, twice returning to port with a World Series trophy.  This year, however, Francona was given a mutinous crew of spoiled ballplayers who seemed to expect the sails to raise and fill with wind just because they stepped on board.  A doomed voyage from the start.

Terry Francona provided the rudder, but he could not put wind in the sails.  Ever the captain, Tito went down with his ship.

Thanks to Francona for 8 years and 2 Championships.  He will be remembered fondly in the hearts and minds of Red Sox fans.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001 - Ten Years Later

September 11, 2011
Black Guache on Cold Press
Ten years ago I was assigned to create an illustration in reaction to the events of the September 11th attack on the United States.  I was at a complete loss.  There was no clever way to sum up that day.  There was only reaction to a living nightmare.  Sky promising and threatening.  World familiar and foreign.  Heart full of fear and resolve.  Hurt and love.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jim Lee, Justin Long and the iPad

If a new comic book initiative launched in the forest,
 would anyone care?
Okay.  I didn't want to do this, but my hand has been forced.  I now have to accept the job of DC Comics Marketing Director.  I am now the new DCMD.  They've been knocking on the door for some time, and I haven't been answering.  They couldn't handle me.  My years of marketing training, my Don Draper swagger, and my awe inspiring work ethic are just too much for them.  They are Zack Galligan and I am the Chinese man with the Mogai.  DC Comics...You are not ready.

Okay part II - The Admission.  I have no marketing training, and I never would have claimed to until I witnessed DC Comics pushing of their New 52 initiative.  But after seeing how this giant multi-million dollar corporation (which is backed by Warner Brothers no less) is going about their business, there are only two possible solutions:  either I am a genius or the marketing people at DC have no idea what they are doing.

A quick explanation of the New 52 initiative, which I believe is great (actually not sarcasm).

1.  DC Comics is cancelling all of their regularly published comic books (Batman, Superman, etc.) and relaunching them from new number 1 issues.  In theory, this makes DC Comics accessible to anyone that might want to give them a try without needing 60 years of background information to make sense of the book.  Great idea.  It might irritate fan-boys in the 30 to 60 year old market, but lets face it, those fellas are going nowhere.  WE have nowhere else to go.  

2.  This is the exciting part.  DC Comics will be made available digitally on the same day that the books are released.  That's right ladies and gentlemen, you will no longer have to seek out the dark, smelly dungeon that is your local comic book store.  You will now be able to tap download on your iPad and bingo-bango presto-change-o, you have just downloaded the ass-kicking new Batman #1.

Great initiative.  This potentially puts comic books into the hands of people in markets that have never even considered comic books (this includes business men on the morning train and, sadly, 11 ad 12 year old boys who only vaguely know that Spider-Man existed before they were born).  Unfortunately, the industry still hasn't figured out how to put comics into the hand of girls and women.  Perhaps the iPad is the first step. 

Great initiative-Greater problem.  No one knows about it.  Sure, the nerd market that frequents CBR, Newsarama, and verious nerdy pop culture sights have read all about it with fervor.  But DC comics already sells comic books to us.  Sure, their sales will spike for a few months as some Marvel readers say, "Hey, Jim Lee is drawing Justice League.  I'll have to check that out."  But ultimately that will end when those same marvel readers remember that they have loved The Avengers since they were 10 years old and don't need DC's version.  Congratulations DC.  You had the opportunity to change the industry and you settle for a few months of stealing Marvel readers.  Bravo.

What abut those business men on the morning train?  What about those kids who know little about comic books beyond Diary of a Wimpy kid?  They surely don't know about the New 52.  Shouldn't someone at DC be asking, "Why the hell not?  Why are we aiming our marketing at people who already buy comic books?"

Here is the pitch.  
Jim Lee talking comics
with Justin Long
Two nationally televised commercials.  One featuring Jim Lee standing next to Justin Long, both of them holding iPads.  The two of them are talking about the latest issue of Batman (or whatever), and slipping in how they downloaded it from iTunes.  The second commercial is more like your typical iPad commercial, showing people varying in age, sex and ethnicity using their iPads in different ways.  I'm thinking of the man on a train, closing his stock portfolio and opening the latest issue of Green Lantern, the 11 year old kid in his bedroom closing angry birds and flipping through Superman,  and the hipster-girl on the park bench delving into Wonder Woman while waiting for a group of friends.

DC Comics has to sell three ideas before they can sell comics to the mass public.

1. Comics are easy to get on your iPad.
2. Anyone can read and enjoy comic books
3. Comics are nerdy-chic, just like iPads and Buddy Holly glasses.

DC Comics has created the opportunity to change the industry.  If they are not selling these points, then they are going to a lot of effort to just tread water.  

*Apologies for the non-art blog.  Back to normal in the next couple of days.
*Artwork in this particular blog post belongs to DC Comics

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

All Around the Mulberry Bush...

All Around the Mulberry Bush... - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More
Click this link to help get my design printed
On Monsters

The outer world may be full of full of terrible people doing awful things for insane reasons.  You hear about them on the news or read about them online.  You stand aghast.  You shake your head.  You ask why.

What next?  You move on and forget about it.  You know that in your world, you are safe.  There are no monsters...

...But there are monsters.  In the inner world, they are legion.  They creep through your imagination with free reign needing little more than a dark corner or an creaking floorboard in the night to reach out and grab you by the throat.

Since I was a child, there have been clowns stalking through my nightmares - waiting.

Threadless Tees is running their third annual Threadless Loves Horror competition.  I could think of nothing more horrific than the emergence of a nightmare clown through a jack-in-the-box (the most fundamentally deranged toy ever given to a baby).

Compostitional sketch
Click to Enlar
On the Design

The artwork for this piece was created entirely in Adobe Photoshop using a Wacom Cintiq Tablet.  I began by loosely sketching the concept in various compositions until I found one that felt right.  At this stage, I am thinking in broad strokes.  What is the audience going to take away from this piece when seen in the blink of an eye?  If I am doing my job, then they will see a child shocked and terrified by a horrific clown.

Once I find my composition, I have to sell it.  This is in the details, and for me, the details are the really fun part.  This is where I get to work out just how vile this jester will be.  The wrinkles, the jagged teeth, the fake nose that may not be fake.  This is also the part of the process where you can catch me making funny faces and weird gestures.  It is invaluable to act out the parts of the characters in your scene.  I strongly believe that you will be able to draw your subjects with more authenticity if you (at least on some minimal level) have stood in their shoes.  Elbows raised with huge snarling grin?  Leaning back, hand draw close to the body?  Yes, I was both the clown (his name is Twinkles) and the kid (place your name here if you are afraid of clowns).
Black and White Art
Click to Enlarge

The next step was digital inking.  I created a new layer over my sketch and started to create the final artwork right on top of it.  I leave my sketch loose enough that this part is still an exciting, creative process - not tracing.  I was surprised at how little of the kid I had in my initial sketch.

 Clown Final Art
Click to Enlarge
Next comes the color.  I had decided on my black, white, gray, and red palette during the sketching phase.  At this point I was just following my plan with a bit more finesse.  The colors are rendered using halftones (tiny little dots).  You know what these are if you ever looked way too close at the Sunday funnies when you were a kid.  You can make the dots so tiny that they are virtually imperceptible or leave them big enough so that the viewer is entirely aware of them.  It depends on your preference.  For this Piece I wanted to play the middle ground.  You can see them if you dig into the illustration, but you probably won't notice them with a passing glance.  If anyone is interested in how to create halftones in Photoshop, let me know.  I'd be glad to do a step by step, pure art nerd post about it.

The finished piece is to the right.  Click the link below to rate it on Threadless.
All Around the Mulberry Bush... - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More
Click this link to help get the design printed

Thank you, and remember...monsters are real.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Make Room Under Your Desk


No matter the mess in your office, always keep it clean under your desk.  You never know when you might need the space.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Oh look. I've found my chops.

The comatose blogger awakens.  There hasn't seemed to have been much art time recently while preparing to get permahitched.

Spending time away from the drawing table is the absolute best way to get lost in self doubt.  Eventually you have to buckle down and face the dreaded blank page in its featureless face, if for no other reason than to discover that your chops have not abandoned you.  "Oh Chops, you would never leave your old Pah, would you?"

Here is a small character sketch created for a picture book idea that's been percolating for some time. Graphite on cold press watercolor paper.  More to come.
Draw everyday kiddos.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Brush and Ink, digital Color - Click to Enlarge
Welcome to Made of Lines, Love EditionI know that it's been a while since I've posted, but that doesn't mean I don't love you Baby.  Now, I know you've been hurt before, but I'm here to make it all better.  Let's fill that hole in your heart with A FREE PRINTABLE VALENTINE created by Yours Truly. 

1.Click here to download the printable Valentine
2. Click here to download the Valentine Interior

If you like the card, do me a favor and share this link with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.  Why do you have love, if not to share it?      ----------------------------------------------->

Printing tip:  I set my printer to borderless printing and the cards turned out great.  I used Avery Note Cards, but you can use whatever paper you have around.  Cardstock or photopapers would be best.  All you have to do is print and cut that beautiful baby down the middle.  Bingo-bango!  You now have 2 copies of the cutest little Valentine to come out this year. 

Original Art and the finished product
* I included the interior for those who would like it, but I recommend using the inside to write a special message for your sweetie.  Something along the lines of, "I know you aren't into flowers so I got you a card with bugs on it."  Awww yeah!  It's business time.

Click to Enlarge

This card is more than a year in the making.  I created the original pencil sketch as a Valentine for my lady last year (she being of the flower hating/bug loving majority).  I like the concept, but I wanted to take it further.  This year I stretched out the image so that the card would have a continuous front and back.  I printed this sketch in light blue (20% cyan for you art nerds - leave a message if you want more info on this).  I then inked over my light blue print.  I rescanned the image, removed the light blue lines, and colored the whole thing in Photoshop. 

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Batman

Brush and Ink - Click to Enlarge

I have had an itch to put brush and ink to paper.   Today I scratched it.  Scratching it didn't help.  It just turned into a rash that looks like Batman.  Weird!

I called my Dermatologist.  He told me that it wasn't a rash, but a drawing.  He also told me that having an itch doesn't always mean having an itch.  That is even weirder than my Batman shaped rash.  I think I need a new Dermatologist.

About the drawing:  This is one of those sketches that I created without even an inkling (sweet pun) of a plan.  I had a piece of watercolor paper, a brush and some ink.  It is always one helluva party when art supplies and the subconscious get together.   You never know who else will show up.  Could be a mouse on a mission.  Often it is Wolverine.  Sometimes it's David Byrne or a fowl-esque dragon.  Today Batman arrived in a dark alley.  Helluva party! 

Start to finish, the sketch probably took 25-30 minutes.  It is a mess, as it should be.  I didn't plan a bit of it.  The anatomy is a mess.  There is no clear light source.  Some parts are way over-done (head and face).  Others are way under-done (the mist/smoke effect).  There are some bits that I really like about it.  This is the first time I played with dry-brush on rough cold-press paper as an inking technique.  Cool effect.  I really like it in the bricks.  I also enjoy the brushwork in the cape, though I am still trying to suss out what is appealing about it.  What I like more than anything else is the smirk on the dark knight's face.  It looks as though he is really going to enjoy whatever punishment he is about to dish out on some punks.  Batman as a maniac vigilante always made a lot more sense to me than Batman as a super hero.