Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Time Machine

I just got in the mail a product that I worked on last year. This one didn't turn out too badly. It's from a card deck called Story Retell. It was colored in Illustrator, which is probably my least favorite program. It looks like somebody mucked with the color, too, as this isn't quite how I remember it. Ah, well.

Gasoline Alley Sunday

A lot of folks don't get to see what it was that made Sunday comics special. Today the Sunday comics can actually be smaller than the dailies, if that's possible. Frank King was awesome in his day, and I thought I'd post an example of what's possible when you have a full page for your comic.

I find it odd that there is so much more freedom with web comics, yet the majority still stick with the awful format of daily newspaper comics. We have more people than ever doing comics nowadays, yet most of the innovations happened before any of us were born.

I won't get into the monopolization of syndicates, or how newspapers moan about money yet profits are double-digit and the industry is considered a cash cow. The best work in comic books is coming from independent publishers, and it would be nice to see the same spirit with comic strips.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


This is a drawing for a recent project, inked with the pocket brush pen. I've been using it almost exclusively for inking lately. It was a quick do, but it's got a little personality.

Stacy's Studio

Here are several photos of my studio, which is located in the basement of our house. When my wife and I went shopping for a house, my only requirement was for a large workspace that I could have all to myself, which I got. Luckily, two years later when I got laid off, it worked out just perfectly for a workspace that I could spend most all day in and get work done.

I have a lot of stuff just sitting around my studio, things that inspire me....cows, an Obey Giant poster, various stuffed jungle animals, Sylvester, a fiberglass duck, various Garfield things, original drawings hanging on my walls, etc.

These first two pictures are of my computer workstation (from Ikea) and my drawing table (which I bought from an architect on Craigslist).

These next photos are of a clothesline I strung across the basement to hang finished drawings or pieces of inspiration. Hung on there now are some of my watercolors and gigposters....oh, and a witch (that I love for inspiration) I bought on one of our annual trips to Nashville, IN.

These next photos are of the sitting/reading/writing/goofing off area of my studio. I love sitting next to the fireplace and sketching and letting my mind wander.

Also in my studio is a display cabinet with some of my vinyl figures, a tile from the Charles Schulz Museum, action figures and snowglobes. That one small bookcase to the left of the cabinet only has sketchbooks on it. Strangely enough, I have tons more. I love sketchbooks.

Here's the back door to my studio, it takes you out into our backyard.

One last photo is of my studio in our condo prior to moving to our house. All I had was a corner of the basement and one day I just went nuts because it wasn't creative enough and I strung plastic plants everywhere and bought stuffed jungle animals and turned my corner of the basement into a jungle. You'll notice a bunch of the same stuff made it into my current studio. Some days I miss that craziness.

Okay, that finishes up the tour of my studio. Thanks for stopping by and please feel free to visit the giftshop on your way out.
Y'all come back, ya hear?

Boat, boy, bear

I haven't made a post in a while and I thought I'd post this sketch from my sketchbook.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ted's Studio

Okay, let's see how this works. I'm posting big photos of my work area, so you can see the details. Hopefully your web browser has a zoom in/zoom out feature.

Picked up the chair thru Craigslist a couple days ago. Pretty snazzy, I thought!

The drawing desk I made about a year and a half ago. Got tired of looking for a good and cheap drafting table. I didn't have any way to do any board cutting (just as well, with my laughable skills), so I decided to try and build a desk without having to cut any wood. It's a 2 X 4 oak top resting on two 3 X 3 pieces of something, probably pine. It was a little short so I raised it with 1 X 4 s along the bottom.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Coyote and Lizard.

I'm drawing these guys to warm me up a bit. It gets below 50 here and I just think I'm going to die. I am such a pansy. These two are going to be the focus of my next "dummy". I'll post a watercolor in the next few days.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Desk and snow.

Here's my desk where I hide away from those brutal southern Arizona winters. Sheesh. What happened? What is this white stuff? We must have got a foot the other day and i just had to show it off. My beautiful desert trees began to snap under the weight of all the snow, so that's me frantically beating the branches with a big beam.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Big Fella and then the McGulligans revisited.

Two pages from different sections of my "dummy" which is now done. I'll go fishing with it next week.

Dang, Ted. You posting fiend! great job. I'm not going to let you have all the fun.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Don't Spec on My Blue Suede Shoes

Kudos to whoever is going around posting this on Craigslist:

Every day, there are more and more CL posts seeking "artists" for everything from auto graphics to comic books to corporate logo designs. More people are finding themselves in need of some form of illustrative service.

But what they're NOT doing, unfortunately, is realizing how rare someone with these particular talents can be.

To those who are "seeking artists", let me ask you; How many people do you know, personally, with the talent and skill to perform the services you need? A dozen? Five? One? ...none? More than likely, you don't know any. Otherwise, you wouldn't be posting on craigslist to find them.

In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are professional illustrators. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are SEVENTY times as many people in the IT field. So, given that they are less rare, and therefore less in demand, would it make sense to ask your mechanic to work on your car for free? Would you look him in the eye, with a straight face, and tell him that his compensation would be the ability to have his work shown to others as you drive down the street?

Click here for the full text.

Personal vs. Professional Ethics?

I was recently confronted with a project that conflicts with my personal beliefs. It doesn't happen that often, but often enough where I have to sit down periodically and determine what work I am and what I am not willing to take on. I'm a firm believer in the notion that there should not be a separate set of ethics for things personal and professional. This generally makes the decision-making process a little easier, but it can also make me question, in a healthy way, the validity of decisions made on either side.

I took this project on, but it still bugs me. It's not anything off-color or political. I do wonder how other illustrators handle things like this, though.


This is a cartoon that my seven-year-old son drew tonight. I like it a lot and I think it shows a lot of good ol' Cartooning Ingenuity!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Monday, January 22, 2007

Good Night... er, Morning...

I've got deadlines out the wazoo. I took Benadryl a couple hours ago to relieve a little sinus pressure so I could sleep, then ran across a project that is due sooner than I thought. So now a pot of coffee to cancel out the Benadryl. The plus side is I get to illustrate a scene from Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

I'm having a hard time squeezing in the time and mental energy to work on a couple of my own projects. One is a comic book, another a graphic novel and another a children's story. They're mostly Writing projects, which is more difficult for me than Drawing. The plus side is I have so much work that is keeping me busy.

I have been feeling cramped and unorganized in my studio. Papers are strewn about, the floor is barely walkable. The plus side is that I can gravitate to the living room to work. Comfy chair, good lighting, soft lapdesk.


Here are some typical things that have been on my plate today. Educational workbooks and a comic strip.

Boohoff Watercolor

This is a watercolor version of Boohoff. I don't think this the look I'm going for. I'm shooting for something a little more friendly, a little more human. (Yes, I realize that might be a contradiction of terms.)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ask the Three Tub Men ...

Question: When you have a project that needs to get finished and the last thing in the world you want to do is work on that project, what do you do to stop procrastinating and get started working on it?"

Ted Dawson: "I use the tried and true method of Visualization. I visualize holding the check in my hand.

Otherwise, one way I ease into a project is to do whatever mindless preliminary work is necessary. I'll cut paper, pencil in guidelines, search for and print out reference pics if necessary, whatever. That puts me in something of a work mode that can accelerate.

Oftentimes what keeps me from working on a project is the large number of drawings I have to do. I used to look through all the specs when I would receive them, but I noticed that would overwhelm me. Now I just start with the first one and muddle through.

Sometimes I'll use the Charles Schulz method. I'll just sit down and start doodling, or just do some free-flow sketching of nothing in particular.

I don't know if any of this addresses the psychological block. Probably the thing that works best is for me to roughly formulate what my workday will be like the night before. That generally programs me for the day.

One last thing is to prepare something that I look forward to listening to while working. I assembled a good playlist of Songs To Work To. I'm experimenting with audio books right now, listening to the first Harry Potter."

Wes Hargis: "It's hard, because there's two types of procrastination for me. The one where I'm avoiding the task and the one where I recognize I'm not in a good "zone" and I'll just blow it if I dig right in. If I sketch at it while I'm watching a program in the background that I enjoy, I can generally get myself interested. Ted mentioned that... part of the process is just keeping yourself at the table long enough to get going.

In this business, after a while (and quite a few tortuous all-nighters) you formulate an idea of just how long you can meander until it's go time and it doesn't matter if you feel inspired, you just have to start cranking.

I like getting started early enough on a project to be able to toss the first stuff I do if it sucks. Because it usually will."

Stacy Curtis: "I find myself in this position quite a bit and I don't know exactly why.
It's not like the projects I have in front of me are something I don't want to work on. Heck, lately, I can't ask for projects more suited to me!
I think a lot of it is because I was born a procrastinator. My first words were, "I'll do it tomorrow."

When I find getting started difficult, I usually go through a series of exercises until I find something that has motivated me to get started....
  • I start with thinking, "I can't get paid until the work is finished." That's usually good motivation, but usually not enough to spark work getting done.
  • I will go do research on images that appear in the book I'm working on. This usually gets me excited enough to start making sketches in my sketchbook.
  • I will make my workplace more comfortable, put on some music or an audiobook, toss in a DVD...anything to keep me interested in being in my studio.
  • I'll do a quick little drawing for myself, cut and rule off paper and clean off my drawing table to get me in "work mode."
  • If I'm procrastinating doing sketches, I'll pack up my sketchbook, some paper, pens and pencils and go mobile. For some reason, the constant chatter of a coffeeshop, a bookstore, the mall, the library, etc. inspires me to draw (and even write!). Some of my most creative and productive moments come from sketching in these places.
  • Last, but not least, I think about how I would feel if I miss my deadline. That usually does it for me.

    Sometimes, I think I procrastinate because I've envisioned the job to be more difficult than it is or more work than it actually is. Ever do that with something like painting a room, cleaning out the garage or mowing the yard? I don't know how many times I've procrastinated doing a painting for four or five days, when it has only taken me two days to actually get the work finished. If I could learn how to turn off that part of my brain, I think I'd have a lot less procrastinating happening."

    What do YOU do to get yourself motivated to work on a project?

    Got a question for us?
    If you have an illustration question that you'd like answered, e-mail us and we'll try to answer it right here on our blog!
  • Friday, January 19, 2007


    I was trying to figure out what the Barndingle looks like from the story below. I ran across a photo of a baby Slender Loris this morning. I thought, This must be what a Barndingle looks like. Thinking about the comments from the "!!!" post about using references, I made a sketch of the Barndingle based on this photo from the Zoological Society of London.

    The Barndingle

    It was a dark and stormy night. The thunder exploded in the air outside. The rain pelted the flowers in the fields until nearly all their petals fell off. Tiny rivers of rushing water cut grooves through the earth. A tiny boat made of leaves and twigs coursed through brush and grass. Its pilot strained to keep the boat aright, but he was at the mercy of Nature’s power tonight.

    The boat’s pilot was Boohoff, a Barndingle, a creature of the fields and pastures that is well known to farmers and young children. Boohoff had spent all day and most of the evening building his leaf-boat in preparation of the storm he knew would come. A Barndingle’s large, nostrilly nose is especially sensitive to changes in the moisture in the air, and Boohoff’s large elf-like ears allowed him to hear the distant rumble of thunder, miles and miles away, slowly getting closer and louder.

    These are the traits that farmers know well and appreciate enough to let Barndingles live in barns and under porches without any bother. Knowing the weather has always been of great importance to farmers, and few regular folks know of this special relationship they have with the Barndingles.

    Boohoff knew the approaching storm would bring no mild rain shower. As soon as he had awakened that morning, he could feel the tingle through the ground of powerful lightning strikes, and sense the vibrations in the air of heavy rains. By mid-afternoon, deer were running through fields, looking for higher ground. Birds he didn’t recognize flew by, stopping to rest on the old wooden fence and ask for directions. Farmer McMurphry had come out to the side of the porch where Boohoff kept his simple home, a concerned look on his face. They had talked for awhile and Boohoff told him about the thunder and the deer and the birds. Farmer McMurphry said it looked like a fine boat that Boohoff was building. They wished each other luck and went about their preparations for the storm.

    Now night had come and the storm was upon them.

    Tuesday, January 16, 2007


    I was mentioning how i liked the tilt in one of Stacy's drawings and I thought I'd try one myself. I think it made what was a straightforward scene a bit better.


    Monday, January 15, 2007

    Amy Lou

    I'm working on a story called Amy Lou and her Kangaroo. Adventures, mystic places, mythical creatures, blah, blah, blah. This might not be the final Amy Lou, but it was fun to draw. Still working on Bartholomew the Kangaroo.
    One thing I've been working on the past year is my major weakness, backgrounds. Urg. This aversion keeps me from working on several projects that have been simmering.

    Sunday, January 14, 2007

    Saturday, January 13, 2007


    A sketch resulting from a flurry of drawing activity last night when I realized I couldn't draw anything but cute kids any more. I've been doing so much children's illustration, I'm forgetting how to draw anything else. Anyways, this one didn't turn out too badly, but I've got some practicing to do.
    Drawn with #2 pencil with flames on it with eraser worn down and metal bitten to raise it a bit, on legal-size 20# copy paper.

    Friday, January 12, 2007

    On a walk.

    This is a page where the boy is taking his sasquatch for a walk. I was hoping initially for the sasquatch to be chasing a truck full of rednecks, but there's a "reveal" at the end of the book and if any humans had already seem him, it would lessen the impact of that moment. So it's bears and wolves.

    One thing, It would be nice if Stacy and Ted could get permission to post some of their really cool book work here. They have agents and publishers, which limit their freedom here on what they can post. Too bad.


    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    Picture Book Sample

    This is a picture book sample I did for a publisher.
    It was challenging getting so many unique people into the same illustration, but it was exciting to do.

    Six pages...

    ...of a book I'm sending in soon. This is the way it starts. No text in the beginning, just a strange dude on a bike making a delivery. I'm watching too many Sergio Leone movies lately.
    Somebody on the "Wisen" board mentioned they'd like to see sketches and I think that's a fun idea.


    Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    LOST Love Triangle

    Seeing as LOST is about to finally kick in again, I thought I'd post this drawing. Inspired by Archie, Betty and Veronica.

    This Just In ...

    Illustrator's Children's Book Becomes Reality (story link) (Illustrator's site)

    Dave DeVries' Wild Child Side (interview link)

    The Lorax Moves to Lawrence (link)

    Museum Of Picture Book Art Undergoes Overhaul (story link)

    Picture Book Banned in Public School (link)

    Editorial Cartoonist Jim Borgman Dumps King Features Syndicate (link)

    New York Times Bestselling Author Pens Critically-acclaimed Graphic Novel (link)

    Not News But Interesting:

    Humphrey Bogart's mother, Maud Humphrey, was a successful illustrator (samples)

    Craig Mullins Is Damn Good (link)

    Tuesday, January 9, 2007

    Story sketch

    I've got a bunch of half-baked stories jotted down in my sketchbooks.
    Some of them are junk, not worth revisiting and some of them just won't leave me alone.
    Sometimes, I'll make a sketch for these stories...something to inspire me to keep working on them.
    This is one of those sketches.

    Sunday, January 7, 2007

    Mas Sasquatch.

    This was a drawing that started off good with the pencil and then I blew it with the initial watercolor layer, and then tried to recover with the inks. It's two pieces stitched together- (you can see the "Strathmore" paper logo on the little table in the middle)


    Friday, January 5, 2007

    Tree dude.

    I'm not exactly sure what dusty corner of my brain this came from, but I decided to color the artwork in Photoshop just to see how it would look.