Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie

I seem to be on a dragon kick lately. I'd like to watercolor this but probably won't have the time for a while.
This was a morning loosen-up sketch that I worked on a little further. I liked the idea of a big ol' dragon sleeping curled up like a dog.

Inspiring Art

I have a question which I hope many of you will have some time to answer. What five (or more) works of art do you find most inspirational? We home school and as she prepares to introduce our 5- and 8-year-old to Art, my wife asked me what my top Ten would be. It's a difficult question.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Big Ed again.

This fella took 4 hours to do on hot press watercolor paper with watercolor pans.

I lay down light pencil first then a light wash of color and then thicker details with some colored pencil and a tiny bit of acrylic for accents. Inking is then done with a 10/0 nylon brush that I've cut down to half it's original size. On mixing colors, I find that mixing colors on styrofoam plates works great and then I keep the (now dry) plates stacked up, so when I need to find a muddy or a flesh tone it's there. A few touches with photoshop and I'm on to something else.


Saturday, February 24, 2007


You have to read David Wiesner's Flotsam! It is pure storytelling genius! It's small wonder that he won his third Caldecott Award with this book. Just awesome.
This is another wordless picture book from Wiesner. His previous winners were Tuesday and The Three Pigs.

Pile it on

I tried something new. I set out to watercolor a complete disasterous mess. And it worked.
I piled paint layer on top of paint layer until I had muddy chaos and if that wasn't enough, I crosshatched the smithereens out of the drawing.
Since I didn't care how it turned out, I was able to try new things without worry.
It's pretty fun making a mess.

7" x 10.25"
Watercolor and India Ink on Aqvarelle Arches, Rough, 100% Cotton

Read a book

7" x 10.25"
Watercolor and ink on Aqvarelle Arches, Rough, 100% Cotton

Girl and Dragon

Watercolor that I spent most of the day on yesterday. Parts are okay, parts I don't like. The background is a mess and I'd re-do that if I could. But might be a story idea here.

Artist Retreat

I just got back from my "Artist Retreat," an early birthday gift from my awesome wife... a couple of days at a cabin in the Smokies. I managed to do one watercolor piece and do a little thinking.
The pics of me working were taken via camera timer, and of course I'm not really painting. I also don't really smile (yes, that's a smile) when I'm working. Apparently I usually look ticked off when I'm drawing.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Big Ed.

This is a character that I've been hashing out lately named Big Ed. Believe it or not, I think I made his eyebrows too small. More soon.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

INN - Illustrator News Network

British children's illustrator Patrick Benson to hold workshop in Iran (link)
Authors, illustrator win AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books (link)
Disney Loses Pooh Battle in LA Court (link)
Nature illustrator to share first children's book (link)
Illustrator Jerry Pinkney draws on his experience (link)
Author and illustrator David Macaulay shows us how things work (link)
Cartoonist's Unpublished Drawings Get a Blog of Their Own (link)
Joe Edwards, cartoonist who drew Archie, Li'l Jinx, dies (link)
Scrotum Wars (link)
Brian Selznick lets images do some of the narrative work (link)
Children's book awards go to first-timer, veteran (link)

Illustrator Tim Davis

Tim Davis is a wonderful illustrator whose work you should check out:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mail Bag

Q: For someone interested in learning about how to get started working with watercolor, the way you guys do... where would you recommend one start?

A: Here's how I got started with watercolor. (I wanted to get into children's illustration and that's why I decided to torture myself). With hope, Wes and Stacy will chime in with some words that are actually helpful.

I went out and bought a pad of cheap 140 lb watercolor paper and a half-dozen or so W&N tubes. I had no idea what to paint. This coincided with my (I think) suggestion on the Wisenheimer cartoonist board to do a cartoon postcard swap. I decided to do all my postcards, some 40 of them, with the watercolors. I did all kinds of stuff, just experimenting and not worrying too much about it. The result was that I got a lot of experimenting out of the way, learned a little about how the paint behaves, what the brushes do, whether to ink first or after, etc. I think otherwise I would have tried to sit down and do a "real" painting and gotten very discouraged.

I also subscribed for a while to The Artist's Magazine, which I recommend. I see that they now make a magazine called Watercolor Magic which you can get a free issue of at their site.

(I had scanned in several of the postcards before mailing them and I found them on my old hard drive. Here they are, warts and all.)

Stacy:One day, I decided I wanted to do watercolor illustrations, so like Ted, I just jumped into it. I got some tubes of watercolor & some watercolor pans and a decent watercolor block and just started reading and studying from a step-by-step watercoloring book I got from the bookstore.
Eventually, I felt I knew how the paint was going to behave and I put the book away and started developing my own watercoloring style.
I think every artist has a watercoloring style, just like they have a drawing style. Sometimes, I'll see an illustrator do a drawing and the watercoloring style just kills the drawing. Your watercoloring style has to compliment your drawing style.

My advice is to read up on watercoloring, look at the step-by-step books, as Ted suggested-read some watercoloring magazines and DON'T be afraid to start putting paint to paper. Start with some watercolor postcards if you like, but don't be afraid...dive right in!

Sunday, February 18, 2007


This is a watercolor of my wife. It's very hard for me to do her justice.
I've hardly touched my watercolors during the past year. Trying to get back into the swing of things.

Friday, February 16, 2007


One of the shelves from my meager collection of books.
The Handy Man's Book is there not because I actually do any work around the house, but because it's from the 40's and the illustrations are awesome. Same with the camping book. The Ripley's book is there because I tried out for the strip a couple of years ago when they were looking for a replacement. And Ripley was an incredible cartoonist. Again, this is one of those big photos from which (I hope) your browser will let you zoom in and out.
Stacy, you might not be able to see it, but your Barkford book is in there.


There was a request for the cover so here it be. For me this orangey one trumped the more detailed one with the cactus on the right (it was putting me to sleep). Not the ideal effect for the "rant" topic. The orange one isn't perfect, but better.

Also, when things are uninteresting to me, I've taken up slapping subtle background details in the image. The splatters in the backdrop of this is scanned from a preschool painting assignment that my son did Monday. I often scan his little drawings in and hide them in the page just for fun.

The top bar was just placed for effect to give the editors a chance to see how it would look with their standard page.

Thanks, Bucky!



A lot of times when I'm not happy with something I drew, it's because of the expression in the eyes. They say everything. If you don't nail it just perfect, you might as well just bag the rest of the drawing. I've started to draw extra eyes on the side in sketches when I'm not happy how how the first inkjob came out.

Pirates of the Carribean, Dead man's Chest is a great example of good eyes. Ok Movie, but I LOVED Davey Jones in that movie. His eyes and speech were just perfect. One of my favorite characters in a while.

The ink spattering was just a way to link to the theme on the cover of this alternative weekly assignment "The Rant Issue"

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Black and White

This is just a small drawing for an educational workbook, nothing special, but I kinda like the way it turned out. The spec called for a small town at night with the moon rising. This is why I want to do more writing. It's easier to write "crowd scene" than it is to draw it. Anyways, this is no work of art but I'm happy with the black and white aspect.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Michael Sowa

I don't know anything about him, but Michael Sowa is a crazy nut who can really paint. Great stuff.


For those who might be interested, this shows the process of digitally painting the Face that I posted a couple months ago. You may notice that the position of the eyes was adjusted, something that I couldn't have done on paper.
I tried doing what I see several very good digital artists do... first lay out three colors for shadow, highlight and midtone, and work from there. That didn't work very well for me. It probably would have if I had used a reference instead of just making it up as I went along... or more likely, it's just a skill I need to work on.
I picked up a tablet pc on the cheap on ebay which needs fixing. I'm not sure whether it will be worth it or not, but we'll see. I'm just gonna bust if I don't get one soon, though.

I've been trying to translate the free feeling of just sketching to watercolor paper. If I sketched on watercolor paper the way I do on typing paper, it would show up as a mess in the background. I sketched on normal typing paper, and then scanned these both in at simple 150dpi adjusted the brightness and contrast to where it just barely shows up and printed them on hot press watercolor paper. It worked! The ink runs a tiny bit, but the benefit is that I messed up on the pressure-cooker one and just printed it out again, no sweat. The printer I have is a HP B8350.

This wouldn't work well with small details and faces because the ink runs slightly, but with large scenes it might do well. I still think having lots of time to pencil it out is the best, but if I'd like to experiment with some colors why not.

Oh and yes, the top one is photoshopped with layers.


Stage Two

This is the inked version of a pencil drawing I posted a few weeks ago. This was inked with the pocket brush. Will try to post a version in color soon.

The Octyboid

Another sketch from the Amy Lou and Her Kangaroo story. This is the nefarious Octyboid.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Spooner Sunday

I've been going through my old strips in hopes of putting them in a book. This one is kinda dry but I just like the punchline.

Testing the Water

This piece has some problems, but shows what I'd like to be able to do more of -- minimal background using lots of white but that still shows the environment clearly.

There is a painter whose name I would LOVE to be able to recall. He is a watercolorist, and has a beautiful way of doing outdoor scenes with edges that turn to white in a natural way, no hard edges. I had wondered if Bill Watterson was influenced by him, as there is a similarity between the way Watterson would use watercolor on the covers of one or two of his books. I believe the artist is Dutch, but I can't remember for certain. And try searching on the web for an artist or illustrator without any specifics and oh, boy... If anybody knows who this might be, I'd be forever indebted.


Just some pages from the sketchbook that I'm revisiting. The first sketches were originally for a SCBWI contest that I never entered, but am planning on doing something else with. The bat may be a little character in a current story I'm writing. The last one involves a farm and a tornado.

Friday, February 9, 2007

It is a head.

This wasn't working at all until i erased the body and just left it floating there. A problem I have with composition is knowing what NOT to draw... Like knowing when to leave something out. Sometimes nothing is the most important thing to remember.


Thursday, February 8, 2007

That's Stupid

My wife has gotten a little tired of the bickering that goes on between our kids, a 5YO girl and 7YO boy. She thought that one way to get to them to stop might be to give them a taste of their own medicine. She typed and printed out a transcript of one of their arguments and we kept it near. A day or two later they started up again, and I grabbed the script. In the middle of a conversation that we were having, we began acting out our parts, with gusto, to the amazement of our kids:

Me: "That's stupid."

Her: "No, it's not."

Me: "Yes, it is."

Her: "No, it's not." (raspberry)

Me: "Yes, it is." (raspberry)

Her: "No, it's not stupid... and you STINK!"

Me: (Ugly face and extended raspberry)

Her: "Hmph." (ugly face and foot stamp)

Me: "Go away. Get out of my room."

Her: "Well, I'm not talking to you ever again. Hmph." (foot stamp)

Apparently, I was so believable in my part that my wife didn't catch on at first. I had to prompt her for her line.

The kids were in disbelief and tried to be the consolers. Then we told them what we were doing and why. I don't know if it worked or not, but it was fun. Next time we'll use a similar transcript involving the president of the National Cartoonist Society.

Down and Dirty Lightbox

I'm working on a project that requires a bigger lightbox.
I priced this one for $341. YIKES!

My plan was to get my father-in-law to help me build a wooden one, when he suggested this plan:

It worked perfectly and for $250 less than the one at the art supply store!

The cool thing is I could go onto Craiglist and find a cheap-o drawing table and have this lightbox inset into the table.
Now that would totally rule!

Here is the result:

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A paper test...

I'm about to start painting a children's book and I thought I'd try out a sheet of paper I bought awhile ago and was too intimidated to use. Normally, I don't recommend trying new materials while on a tight deadline. It never works out.

After I watercolored a few doodles on this paper, I'm in love with it.
It took the paint and ink beautifully and I was able to rework some parts of the drawing.
It's a nice big sheet of Strathmore Series 500 bristol.

The book calls for bright colors and man, this really did it for me.
I'm usually a cold-pressed paper kinda guy, but this is opening my eyes to painting on a smoother surface.

I'm headed to the art supply store tomorrow to buy a bunch of it for this project.

BTW - This character keeps showing up in my sketchbooks, practice drawings, etc. He's begging to be the star of a future project!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


Just a little monster.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Nailing it down.

When I'm designing a character, I try to go through a quick evolution of possibilities. It's easy to get sidetracked or swayed by a sketch that is good but just doesn't fit what I'm trying to do with the character. Many times I just have to start from scratch and simplify everything.


Saturday, February 3, 2007

Rudyard Kipling, Illustrator

I was trying to think of what classic story I would want to illustrate. Two that came to mind were McBroom's Zoo, which I love but surely couldn't improve upon Walter Lorraine's work, and The Jungle Book, which my wife just got me as an audio book. I realized I hadn't seen what the original illustrations looked like, so I did a little search and was surprised to see that Kipling illustrated the original book himself, just as Dr. Dolittle was illustrated by author Hugh Lofting. I managed to find one really neat woodcut of Kipling's, seen above. So it's always good to realize that there is not such a great chasm between authors and illustrators.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Pick One

If you could pick one classic children's book (or any book for that matter), and illustrate it (or re-illustrate it), what would it be?

Warm-up Painting

Before I start painting something for a project, I like to warm-up by painting quickly and without worrying whether I'm going to mess it up. It's kinda like a shot of whiskey, it keeps me more relaxed on the next painting.

I like keep my warm-up piece somewhat related to what I'm painting for my next illustration, but I like to let my mind wander and do something fun. I never sketch these things out beforehand, so there's tons of mistakes in them as well as a few pleasant surprises. What you see is what you get.
If I could do this painting again, I'd take that @!*# door out of the tree. Why did I do that?!?