Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rear Window Hitchcock Illustration

Here's another pen on scratchboard 12x16 piece, illustrating Hitchcock's classic Rear Window.  Between Rear Window and Vertigo, it seems Hitchcock took sick pleasure in throwing James Stewart out of windows, and offered prime caricature material. 

While I had planned on keeping Stewart as the focal point, after doing dozens of thumbnail drawings it just wasn't quite working.  I had one that cut Stewart out of the drawing almost completely, focusing instead on Hitchcock's enjoyment of dumping him out of the wheelchair.  Much more interesting!

Finally, here is a version done up as a mock MAD Magazine cover for the Hartford Art School MFA in Illustration program.  I haven't yet published a magazine cover, but wouldn't MAD be an incredible place to start?!  (wink, wink)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Screen-Printed Scarves

While learning the screen-printing ropes and testing some shirt designs, I got the wild hair to design some scarves as well.

I managed to pull those together faster than the shirts, which are soon to follow.  I'm really excited about these and had to share...

I'm always impressed by the high quality of what other artists are selling on, and I've been itching for a long time to have a product worthy of my own shop.  And that's a large part of what finally nudged me into screen printing.  
Check out the Etsy Shop and dress to depress!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

DIY Screen Printing

keeping it DIY... my hand-made one-color press

I'd been itching to design and print my own line of shirts from age 10, and now as a late-twenties illustrator, graphic designer, and MFA student with a curious energy to spare, the timing felt right.

I spent a couple weeks initially researching the logistics of doing this from my one-bedroom apartment while making up lists of materials and processes. 

Screen printing is deceptively complex... a massively multi-step process and an art in and of itself.   Much more akin to darkroom photography and traditional printmaking than making a quick digital copy, there are multitudes of steps and variables to account for within each piece of the broader puzzle. Very involved, in so many words.  Fortunately I am a very process oriented person and enjoy subjecting myself to masochistic projects. It's strangely meditative for me.

a small sample of supplies

A benefit of my working in black and white is that the drawings translate really well to one-color printing. As my aesthetic and process have gotten more consistent this year, it suddenly occurred to me that hand-printing shirts and posters would be a natural creative outlet for me (with added selling power) that would harken back to my undergrad foundation in photography and printmaking.

With a couple hundred bucks in materials and a handful of hours reading forums and watching YouTube, I got myself off to a good start, more or less.

The experience hasn't been without forehead slapping failures, but the learning process has been so rapid that any expense in ruined shirts is worth the price of admission. The way I see it, if I'd be willing to pay for a class, why not eat the cost in materials and teach myself on the job?

So after some early failures I pulled plans off the Internet and built myself a new one-color press out of 2x4s and plywood.  So far so good!

Check out my ETSY shop as I continue to post new items... 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Screen-Printed Scarf Concepts

A great thing about my propensity for working in black and white is that my drawings translate nicely to red/blue 3D and to one-color screen-printing.  

While teaching myself to expose the screens and print on textiles, I'm (sloppily) building myself a new one-color press that should really speed things up and cut back on misprints.  I'm doing all of this out of my one-bedroom apartment, so keeping it clean, organized, and in consistent quality are all high priorities.  This is easier said than done between the full-time design job, graduate studies, hobbies, social life, and down time.

So in the middle of all of this, I've been plotting scarf designs. I'm excited to get everything under control and organized for the launch of my web-store, which will feature hand-printed shirts, scarfs, and posters of my original illustrations and designs.

The end goal is to turn a fun DIY project into a consistent, high-quality outlet for my illustrations and designs... something I can be confident bringing to the public through the web, art/craft fairs, and beyond.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Branding Ideas

Playing with different branding ideas for an illustration-based webstore and apparel line... hand-printed shirts, scarves, prints, and originals.  

I'm far too indecisive about these things, but I can say that the skull itself is definitely going to reappear on a shirt or scarf or two.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pet & Baby Portrait Drawing

I thought I'd share my most recent commissioned pen & ink portrait.  Thanks Beth!

This was my first time rendering an infant, and I wanted to retain my familiar hatched shading technique without her appearing wrinkly, aged, or otherwise distorted (as the hatching sometimes can do).  All in all, I think she looks consistent with the rest of the image and I'm happy with how everything turned out.

I really love doing pen & ink pieces like these for clients. While I primary work less realistically and from the imagination, it's so enjoyable to work from a photo and explore basic shading techniques. I find the process meditative, and affords me the freedom to study value and play with texture. And ultimately it's just awesome hearing how happy people are to share it with their families.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pterodactdinner... yet another dinosaur drawing

Yet another dinosaur drawing... 8x10, pen on scratchboard.

A delectable dino dinner for drawing dorks like me, with color and 3d versions to follow. In fact, I have a feeling I will soon be starting an spin-off blog featuring my 3d drawings, which can for now be seen at and

Thanks, as always, for looking!

Revamped Portfolio Site!

Quick update!  I've revamped my official website and portfolio, highlighting my latest pen & ink illustrations, adding a print store, and even more exciting... a 3D section!  I've got a nice batch of 3D glasses if anyone needs them, just drop me a line and I'll mail you a pair!  Check it out!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Drawing Process - 'Sabre Skull Valley'

Greetings! Today I'll to explain the process of developing my latest illustration--a prehistoric landscape on 12"x16" Claybord (Ampersand brand uninked scratchboard).  You can click any of these images to see them enlarged.

Most of this will look pretty rough and scrappy, and I guess that's kind of the point.  It takes a series of steps for me to reach the final state of what appears to be a controlled drawing.  Despite the mass of detail in the final image, I honestly don't have it all just sitting in my head ready to go.  It comes out of a lengthy process of continually refining the composition and values through a series of thumbnail drawings, rough full-size sketches, refined tracings of those sketches, and ultimately the clayboard itself.  

It sounds like a masochistic process when you think about how many times the image gets redrawn, but I've found it's actually the most reliable way for me to come to a final image that makes me happy.  So in that sense, I quite enjoy it!

I begin with a vague concept that I'd like to explore, in this case a dense prehistoric jungle with the key elements of a dragonfly and sabretooth tiger skull in the foreground with a volcano in the background.  These tiny sketches aren't meant to lock down any real detail, but simply explore different combinations of the elements in a composition that leads the eye around the page in an interesting way.

Once I have a thumbnail that I'm reasonably comfortable with, I'll cut a sheet of scrap paper to the size of my final board and do some rough sketching to explore my options.  Here I've used a light blue pencil to start, followed by a regular pencil to lock in some of the elements.  As you can see on the left image below, there's a lot of sloppy sketching going on where I'm trying different things and making intuitive compositional decisions.  

After the first rough starts to come together, I'll cut a second sheet of newsprint paper and lay it over the first on a lightbox, tracing and refining the shapes yet again.  At this point I'll still have areas that I'm not totally happy with, in which case I'll do my best to erase or just redraw over them.  You can see with the dragonfly that I'll sometimes use tracing paper to clean it up some or try variations without wearing through the paper.

I'll then do yet another tracing of the image on the lightbox to double check everything and form a template of the outlines.  This version get's laid down over the final board, sandwiching graphite transfer paper.  Using a ballpoint pen, I trace over the outlines, which leaves a light carbon copy on the clayboard that I can then finalize with micron technical pens (I prefer the 03 (.35mm) width).  

Here's an animation of the final board as it's outlined and then shaded.

I'm always singing the praises of Ampersand's Claybords, and yet again I have to say how much I enjoy working on them as opposed to paper.  Having the freedom to scratch away at the ink for texture or for corrections has truly liberated my process.  The flexibility to draw the values from light to dark, and then scratch them back again from dark to light has allowed me to literally sculpt my drawings until everything feels balanced.  It's removed the fear of going to dark and ruining hours of work, and made the whole process a lot more fun.

I've been working so much in black and white lately that my next experiment is to do a colored version of this to include in my portfolio.  Stay tuned for that, as well as a series of 3D illustration for your retro red/blue glasses!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Flying Spaghetti Monster / SquiddySkull

While working on some tee-shirt concepts for a favorite metal band of mine, I deviated for a moment from some more lofty and original ideas and went with a more stereotypical skull graphic.  The thumbnails actually looked pretty sweet so I thought I'd do a small 6x8 inked version, ballpoint on bristol board. 

It took just under 2 hours to do this while sitting at my local coffee shop during their weekly open mic night.  Towards the end, as I was making the background a nice and evil black, an epic solo performance of 'Jesus Loves Me' provided a lovely soundtrack. Probably not the inspiration they were going for, but the lord works in mysterious ways. Or flying spaghetti monster, whichever.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Alice in Wonderland illustration

just finished up my Alice in Wonderland illustration, which I am contributing to a collaborative wordless adaptation through Facebook.  

Here's a link to the album "What's The Use Of A Book Without Pictures?" by Neoflux Productions

Any artist or photographer can join in and email to claim a paragraph, which is then posted in the facebook album, later to be collected in a PDF and perhaps printed and bound for nonprofit publication, in which case all sales will go towards printing for library submissions.  It seemed like a great opportunity to practice my compositions and ink work, and get involved in a large group effort.  And who doesn't love Alice in Wonderland?

My passage sees the loquacious Duchess blathering on while Alice politely suggests she limit her words.  The piece itself is 8x10, pen & ink on scratchboard.  For those of you interested in the typical process blogging, here are shots of some thumbnails and my rough pencils.

At first I wasn't sure which direction to follow.  I wanted to shy away from replicating the familiar character designs, but I was also a bit intimidated by the prospect of a complete redesign.  I ended up getting excited about representing the Duchess and something of a grotesque, saggy old loudmouth with an oblivious enthusiasm and unintentional domination over Alice.  I turned Alice herself away from the camera in order to place the viewer in her shoes, facing up at the overbearing Duchess.

And lastly, here's an example of why I love claybord so much.  After consulting with some of my illustrator friends and graduate classmates, I realized that Alice's hand at the center of the composition just called too much attention to itself and appeared to be grabbing at the Duchess's chest.  Not critical to the overall image, I decided to scratch it out and re-ink the area.  A quick and painless adjustment when using claybord.  Kind of remind you of those 'find the difference' bar games, doesn't it?

original with 'boob grab'
adjusted drawing, sans hand

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sealion Gig Poster - Process Diary 4 - The Finish!

And finally, here is the finished gig poster!  I happily took some direction from the band and toned down the font choice to something a little less distracting than the cowboy font I used on the original mockup.  This version lets the image carry more of the weight, and is more legible anyway.

Regarding the drawing itself, In typical form I had moments of sheer terror where I got sloppy and took the values much too dark.  As you could see at the end of my last post, the bottom right of the image was getting a bit too dark for the rest of the composition.  Fortunately, Ampersand's Claybords are extremely forgiving and allow me to scratch away layers of ink to bring white back to the surface.

A lot of artists make tactical use of these un-inked scratchboards by laying down black areas selectively and then scraping back into it for texture and pattern.  But for me it's worth the price of admission purely for the flexibility to draw like normal and then sculpt my values until everything feels balanced.  In the end I was able to save the image, and I'm really happy with how it turned out!

Here's the final drawing in solo form.

I loved the process of developing such a large piece, and ultimately seeing it hang on the wall gallery style (the 12"x24" board came cradled with a 2" wood backing, resembling a thick canvas).  I'm also thrilled to be working with the tight knit community of local musicians who were hiding right here in Dallas.

I'm looking forward to doing more pieces at this scale for both gallery display and for use on gig posters, and I'm excited to have rounded a new milestone.  It will be pretty awesome to see it pop up around town!  To anyone who'll be at the show on the 20th, we'll be selling 11x17 prints on the cheap.  Again, check out Sealion's new CD for free streaming and pay-what-you-want download at their Bandcamp page.

Thanks for reading along!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sealion Gig Poster - Process Diary 3

Alright!  On to transferring the drawing to Claybord!  I'm going to include Blick Art Supply links along the way here so you can look further into any of these materials, should you be curious.  Feel free to write me if you have questions beyond that.

Once the Ampersand Claybord arrived at my door, I was ready to roll with finalized pencil outlines on newsprint.  Fortunately, my roll if Saral graphite transfer paper was 12" wide, exactly the right size for the claybord.  So I laid it down quick without needing to trim anything, facedown, with my newsprint drawing over it facing up.  I then layered some tracing paper over that, which is totally unnecessary, but does help to identify if you've missed any spots while tracing.  With some strips of masking tape to hold everything firmly the the board, I was ready to start.

Any hard tipped writing utensil will work here, but I used my favorite ballpoint pen, a uniball vision micro... these are the darker grey barreled pens that you can get at any office supply store.  They're super fine, cheap, and totally reliable in my experience.  They lay down great on bristol board or any paper for that matter, but unfortunately, they don't lay down quite so well on smooth hard surfaces.  

My claybord inking is done with handful of Micron pens.  A lot of people prefer the super fine tips (005 or 01), but I'm most happy with the 03 generally.  I also have some 05 and 08 sizes for doing fatter outlines, but I find I'm happiest just going to town with the 03s.

finished tracing the original pencil drawing

At this point, I'm basically just tracing the drawing as closely as I can.  I might make tiny adjustments here and there, but for the most part I fixed the stuff that was bothering me in the pencil stage.  Once everything's been traced, I can tear that sucker off, check my transfer, and start tracing THOSE lines with my micron pens.

starting to ink on the actual board

After all of the outlines have been inked, I start shading the forms directionally with hatch lines... which means short strokes in the direction of the form (around curves, across flat shapes, etc).  From the minute I got home yesterday at 5, all the way to midnight, I was constantly tracing and shading.  All in all, the inking process here has taken me about 15 hours.  

Here's a sneak peak of the almost finished drawing.... it got a little dark in the bottom right, which I subsequently fixed.  But more on that later...

Next Post: refining outlines, balancing values, and tweaking the poster design,

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sealion Gig Poster - Process Diary 2

After toying with compositional thumbnail sketches to my general comfort, I cut large sheets of newsprint to the exact size of the final drawing and began roughing in the shapes. Because I normally work between 5x7 and 8x10, I would typically scan my thumbnail drawings, tweak them in photoshop, and the print out a copy to transfer directly to an Ampersand Claybord. But given the oversized scale of this piece, I went at it freehand for a change.  This was a challenge, and the lack of control caused (allowed?) me to modify the composition from it's original form.  

Call me neurotic, but I'm now on a 3rd pencil tracing of the full-scale image (1x2 feet) on newsprint.  As I continue to make adjustments to various details, such a hand poses, angles of the background elements, size and texture of the crumbling concrete, etc, I've found it necessary to continue transferring to a new sheet in order to retain the paper's fidelity and most importantly, so I can see the image as closely as possible as it will be when I finally transfer it to the claybord.  In all honesty, had the board already arrived at my apartment, I surely would have started transferring it by now.  But it's a blessing in disguise, because I continue to make improvements on the image that will be worth the delay.

Lastly, here's a rough mockup of the poster with text.  This is more about testing the composition than it is getting the values correct.  But ultimately, I'm enjoying the monochromatic presentation, and imagine I'll be doing something similar to this in the end.

By the way, you owe yourself a visit to to stream the new album "Keep The Camera Rolling", or pay-what-you-want download.

Next Entry... transferring & inking...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sealion Gig Poster - Process Diary 1

I was thrilled to be asked by Sealion, the skyrocketing Dallas indie/surf/punk band, to design a gig-poster for their CD release show on August 20th, 2011.  Being friends with them for years and having played fill-in bass recently, I have a strong investment in their music.  That said, by the time they came to me for help, I already had a concept and early rough sketch on the back-burner ready to go.

As Sealion is a surf-rock band, but hundreds of miles from the coast, it only seemed fitting to illustrate a hipster wiping out on a wave of crumbling concrete with the Dallas skyline looming behind.

I've been itching to challenge myself with a larger piece for awhile now, so I ordered a 12"x24" claybord, which more than doubles the size I'm accustomed to working at.  Consequently, I'm devoting a remarkable amount of time getting the details worked out before even touching the final board.

I've spent 6 to 8 hours in preparatory pencil stages, sketching compositional variations, figure poses, and texture studies.  The inking stage could easily take an additional 10 hours, but I'm psyched to get down to work and would like the final piece will be a crucial addition to my portfolio and something I'll be proud to show for years to come.

Next Post:  refining and full-size pencil roughs...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Graduate School Kick Off!!

It's official!  I'm now a graduate student on my way to a Masters of Fine Art!  Having just returned to Dallas from my first two weeks at Hartford Art School's low-residency MFA in Illustration, I felt it an absolute necessity to share an entry with you!  I still have a couple years to go, but in just two short weeks, I feel changed for the better.

how I missed group critique!

The caliber of students, professors, and guest lecturers is staggering!  Being inspired and supported by a crew like this is remarkable gift, and I can't speak highly enough.  I can't wait until our next contact period this November in Pasadena, when I'll be reunited with my dear new friends and wonderful faculty.

blind (or drunk?) contours
this is what a graphic novel looks like, barfed from the brain

Under the guidance of children's book illustrators Ted & Betsy Lewin, I was able to lay down the ground work for a new 40-page graphic novel for all ages, and I can honestly say it's the best writing I've ever done... granted the book will be wordless.  I've got a lot of refining to do before I can even lay down a spot of ink, but I'm pretty energized to see it through!  I'm thinking of epublishing for iPad, and have some ideas for physical product as well.

Alice 'Bunny' Carter & Dennis Nolan working their magic

Despite giving myself carpel tunnel syndrome in the process, I literally drew myself through a self-imposed creative wall that had been weighing me down for quite some time.  Alice 'Bunny' Carter and Dennis Nolan's Dream Assignment class taught me to let my pencil do the thinking and explore so much deeper into an idea than I previous realized was possible.  So many profound little lessons, my brain is still spinning.  Bunny worked with George Lucas for 18 years, by the way, and knows a thing or two about drawing and storytelling!

I've also come away with a newfound appreciation and awareness for my own unique storytelling ability, draftsmanship, and a more focused direction for future work.  I'm also feeling inspired to explore new side projects, even playing with sculpture, something which never interested me in the past but which I now find I want to dabble in just to keep the juices flowing.

We also visited the Norman Rockwell Museum, and I've come away with a remarkably expanded appreciation for his draftsmanship, color use, storytelling ability, and all around masterful approach to painting.  He truly was a modern master, and any qualms with his sentimentality can be attributed more to the cultural times and the illustration market of the 40s and 50s.  Seeing a magazine cover's original 3'x4' painting... there's no comparison.  I truly had no idea!

the great Murray Tinkelman!
Connecticut in July beats Texas all summer

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Illustration Friday - "Midsummer Night"

This week's illustration friday topic is "Midsummer Night", so I figured I'd continue the lunar theme from last week's 'Launch', albeit faster, smaller, and with a random bic pen (after my uniball quit on me).  Ahh bic, my old time friend.  This one is a handy little 4x6.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Illustration Friday - "Launch"

I've been meaning to participate in Illustration Friday for quite some time.  For those that don't know, it's a weekly random topic that illustrators around the world take part in... essentially to practice working spontaneously from a prompt, connect with other illustrators, and have fun!  It's also a good way to knock yourself out of a conceptual rut, which I probably need!  

This week's topic was the word "Launch", and I decided to make my first go at it.  I had fun sitting at the coffee shop for a few hours jamming to heavy metal and shading frantically.  The drawing is roughly 5"x9", uniball pen on sketchbook paper.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Facebook Page / Daily Doodles & Sketchbook Scans

I thought I'd encouraging everyone to visit and 'Like' my Facebook Artist Page!  That way, you'll get drawings in your news feed, which is way convenient.

I've been busy posting (almost) daily doodles and sketchbook scans, and it's a really easy way for people to keep up with what I'm doing.  And for those of you who are friends with me personally, I'm making an effort to use the artist page separately instead of posting as much on my own profile, so be sure to check it out.

Also, if anyone is a Flickr user, I've created an account there!

Here's a quick sampling of some of my recent doodles...