Thieves Guild Show at the Phoenix Gallery


Come and see some of my art in person!

I have two pieces that will be part of an art show at the Phoenix Gallery in downtown Lawrence, Kansas. The exhibit is a showcase of work from the Thieves Guild, who run themed figure drawing nights each month here in Lawrence. There will be drawings and finished pieces by over a dozen of the regulars including a lot of my very talented friends.  The work is all based on art created or inspired by our drawing sessions over the last year and a half.

There will be an opening as part of the Final Fridays Art Walk this Friday, the 27th of June, starting at 6pm at the Phoenix Gallery on Massachusetts Street. If you can't make it to opening night, no worries, the show will be on display through the month of July.

While you are there, keep an eye out for my pirate lady sculpture and this portrait of our model from 80's night. I will post a bit more about the process of making these, but don't miss out on seeing them in person.


The Daring Escape of the Misfit Menagerie

I have some exciting news! I'm sorry I have neglected posting for so long but I've been engaged in a big project. I just wrapped things up a few weeks ago and now I get to share. I've been illustrating this book:

It's called The Daring Escape of the Misfit Menagerie, and it follows the story of 4 misfit animals as they escape from a villainous circus master. The story was written by the super talented Jacqueline Resnick, and is aimed at the grade school chapter book market. The book won't be out until December, but it's already got a page on amazon with my name and Jacqueline's and an ISBN number and everything. I feel so official!

This is my first time illustrating a whole book for mass market publication, and it sounds like this is Jacqueline's first book as well (although a little birdie (@Jacqwrites) told me she has a set of more grownup thrillers coming out next year). If this book is any indication I'm sure she has a big career in front of her. The characters and events were so well written it was a pleasure to  illustrate them. I hope I did them justice.

I did 35 interior illustrations for the book in black and white ink wash, as well as the color cover illustration and titles. Once the book comes out I'll share some of the pictures with you. I'm very proud of them, and a lot of that credit goes to my great art director and the book's editor over at Razorbill.

It was a lot of work and a great learning experience. The first of many I hope!

Father's Day Card (part 2)

Lucky me that my Grandfather lives near by and comes to visit often. My Grandpa (we call him Jop) is a very good chef, especially when it comes to cakes and pies, and he always brings something delicious when he comes over for dinner. Here's the father's day card I made for him . . .

Father's Day Card (part 1)

I have the roughest time picking out cards for people. I like blank cards because I like to write my own sentiments but good blank cards are hard to find; most card shops have only tiny little blank sections if at all. Well this year for Father's Day I decided to make my own. My Dad is a car enthusiast and a fan of boats . . .

Nadar, Amazement

Another drawing from my Nadar book. The original photo for this one is entitled: Dr. Duchenne and Adrien Tournachon, Amazement, illustration for Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine, 1854

I gather from the title that this was an illustration for a set of expressions in some sort of medical physiology book. There are a number of other similar photos of this man and others making wild expressions, usually with an offscreen hand holding calipers to their face to show size or measure extent. Kind of creepy really.


I'm working on my figure drawing as of late and in my searching I came across a collaberative sketch blog by Emily Carroll and Vera Brosgol : They take old photos of 19th Century fashions and do illustrations of the people wearing them. They are so fantastic. Last year about this time I came across some dress designs by the French designer Paul Poiret that I just love and so I thought I'd give Vera and Emily's little game a try. My first try is below:

It's not quite up to Emily and Vera's, but I had fun doing it. I'm still trying to get the hang of painting in the computer but I think I'm getting better.

In case you're curious, here's what the original dress from 1912 looks like:

Drawing My Studio

Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you lived, say, a few hundred years ago? I think it's kind of romantic to imagine myself living in a victorian manor house or as a medieval artisan but the longer I dwell on it the more I realize that, 200 years ago I would probably be considered blind. Now, today, in 2010, I'm not blind. I have big thick glasses. Without them anything more than an inch or two from the tip of my nose is a blurry blob, but when I have them on I can see just fine. I pass my driver's test, I catch things people toss to me, I do carom off furniture but that's just because I'm clumsy. Vision wise I'm just fine.

The one caveat is that, to correct for my astigmatism, my lenses have a pronounced cylinder rating. This means that when I look directly on at a straight line like the corner of a room or the edge of a table it looks as it should, but as I turn my head and look at the line askance it begins to curve away from me as if the wall bowed outward.

When I first get an updated prescription the difference can be pronounced and things can look a little strange. For example with my glasses on it looks to me like I'm at least 4 inches further from the ground than without. But, after an hour or so my brain adjusted and everything looks ok again. After that I don't notice the effect unless I consciously look for it. It's not that I get used to things being curved but that my brain tells itself that the curved things are straight, which is pretty amazing.

I often wonder how this distortion effects the way I draw what I see. I don't seem to have any trouble drawing things in perspective and as far as I can tell the straight lines I draw are actually straight. Still, it's hard to say what the effect might be

It also makes me wonder what other optical effects my brain is screening out of what I think is the real world.

Consider this:

The lens in your eye focuses light on the back of the inside of your eye in an area called the fovea where the majority of your optical receptor cells are. However stuck in amongst those receptors in your optic nerve, which has no receptors on it. This causes a blind spot in your vision, an area where you see nothing. Everyone has this spot, but you don't perceive it because your brain edits it out.

Or this:

When you fix your vision on something your eyes don't stay still. Instead they're continually making tiny jerking movements called saccades. This is because your brain will begin to ignore signals coming from your optical receptors that don't change. If your eyes didn't move then you would swiftly find yourself unable to see what you're looking at.

Makes you wonder what you're really seeing, doesn't it?

Well this all brings me to what I've been drawing. I've been working on some backgrounds and interiors for my animation project and since it's been a little while since I last did some real perspective work I was feeling a bit rusty. To sharpen things up a bit I parked myself on the floor in my studio on Sunday night and took a stab at drawing the room.

I have to admit I goofed off a bit, but after about 2 hours here's what I came up with:

I'm pretty happy with it.

Part of that goofing off I mentioned was listening to things on my phone. When I was all done it occurred to me that the phone has a camera too and that got me wondering how my drawing and reality compare.

To draw the section of the room I did, I had to turn my head a bit. To cover the same area with the camera I had to take a few shots and stitch them together in the computer. Here's what I ended up with:

I should say a few things about this image to begin with. First, it's awful. The light in my room at night is not very good. Sorry. Second, in camera terms your field of view is determined by the focal length of the lens. For a 35mm camera normal human vision is in the neighborhood of 50mm. Lenses around 35mm or below would be considered wide angle (think fish eye) and higher around 100mm would be telephoto. My phone's camera is equivalent to a 30mm lens. This means that there's a degree of spherical distortion in the image. This is intensified by the fact that this image is stitched together from 6 pictures moving across the room.

So here's the moment of truth. I've superimposed my sketch over the photo (deep breath):

It's interesting to see what I got right and what I didn't.

  • The general perspective lines (angles of the walls and ceiling) are pretty darn good.
  • I started the drawing in the back corner where the two walls meet, and based measurements of features near that location. As you move away from that center you can see that the differences increase.
  • Most of the things I measured carefully were rendered pretty well (windows, desk, back table with radio, computer monitors). Things I drew free hand did not fair so well (notice how big the lamp is compared to it's photo).
  • Some things (the stuff pinned to the wall for example) I drew without regard to reality, so they can be ignored.

Keep in mind that there are three distorting factors here:

  • The distortion of the camera.
  • The fact that the drawing is in 2 point perspective, but reality (camera reality anyway) is in spherical perspective. This causes a lot of distortion towards the far right edge for example.
  • General "mistakes" in my drawing.

I put "mistakes" in quotes because I still think the drawing is pretty successful as a drawing. I also think it's interesting to consider how my subconscious may be responsible for exaggerating the size of some objects like my lamp and radio while others nearby were basically the right size. I do interact with the radio and lamp a lot, and if I were doing an imagined drawing and wanted to emphasize certain elements in a room I might exaggerate their size. More food for thought.

To round things out I colored the drawing. I always wanted a green room. Here's the final piece:


A friend asked if I could draw some penguins for her so I took the opportunity to get the ink and brushes out over the weekend. I have a very sketchy piece-meal style of drawing that basically involves drawing a contour and then redrawing and re-redrawing it in fits and spurts until I can find right shape. I know other artists who do this, but I also know artist's who can draw things with only a few strokes as if they're doing all the work I' doing on paper in their heads. It's very enticing I have to say. Especially when you want to draw something in ink with a brush or pen. Every once-in-a-while I give it a try, but in the end I usually end up back where I started with lots of little lines.

A Wedding in the Woods: wedding gifts!

You may remember the wedding invitation illustrations I put together for some friends recently. (If not, please see here and here). Well you will be glad to know that the wedding was a spectacular success. The ceremony was beautiful and the settings was sublime. There was a little rain at the end but it was kind enough to wait until we were all under the big tent enjoying barbeque and wedding cupcakes, so it felt kind of fitting. Just for fun I made up this little card to go with my wedding gift. The image on the left was the outside of the card, and on the right the inside (notice the big pile of new wedding gifts).

Disaffected Youth

I've been working this week in my spare time on a lanky teen character that a friend of mine will be turning into something 3D. Things are still a bit preliminary but here are some sketches:

We talked about having a skinny looking kid with a sort of emo affect, so I was playing around with the idea of a theater geek (that's him in the middle), but it didn't quite have the right look. I really liked the shape of the one on the top though.

Ok, I admit it, I got a little carried away with other things here, but I really like the guy drinking coffee.

Thinking about hair. When it comes to emo for guys there's really only that one bangs combed forward look. It screams emo but structurally it's not much fun. I like this sort of overgrown bowl cut better, and I think it will look interesting in 3D as a mass.

Continuing to work things out here. Emo wardrobe seems to be decidedly minimal but there are a few hallmarks. A hoodie is a big one. I decided to mix in some hipster elements too. Big collars and those Chuck Taylor converse sneakers.

Here's the turn around for this first draft.

Ada Bake

Guess what . . . No, that's horrible! I was just going to tell you that I finally baked my Ada maquette. Isn't she dashing? Here are some grainy, poorly staged photos to commemorate the event.

If you look closely at her raised hand or the edge of her glasses you can probably see that I left her in the oven a little too long so the clay got a little scorched.

I've discovered, both with this model and the CGI model I'm building, that I was taking some liberties in the 2D drawings these are based on that don't work in 3D. If you take a look back at the original sketches, you can see that straight on Ada's face is a little tall and fairly narrow at the base but in profile it widens out and become more square. In 3D this means finding some sort of happy medium and I'm not sure this is all that "happy", but the point of this maquette was to prep for the CGI model so at least now I know what to look out for there.

Still, I'm pretty happy with the way this turned out. Next up, a coat of paint (and hopefully some more flattering photographs).

Sketchbook Pro Sketches

This past weekend I downloaded a copy of Sketchbook Pro after one of my friends at work was raving about it. I've tried it in the past and liked it ok, but was never impressed enough to begin using it in any major way. Funny though how you can never give something a second thought until someone else mentions it and then all of a sudden it's all you can think about. I'm far too impressionable.

Here are a few sketches I came up with. I'm still in the process of designing a posable model for some 3D animation practice. Ears and hats are in fashion this season . . .

Jaunty Witches and Things Without Faces

With all this 3D modeling type learning under my belt I want to start putting together some animation examples for practice and to populate my demo reel. My initial plan was to make a very generic figure dummy, something like one of those posable sketching figures, and then animate that doing various things so that the action would focus on the action and not on an elaborate character that would be hard to animate anyway.

This whole line of thinking has involved a lot of "what would I be interested in if I worked in human resources for a studio and had to see boring old demo reels all day", which it turns out is a dangerously recursive place to play, because then I started thinking that "a boring old dummy is boring and I want to make something shiny", which lead to "I bet they want to see something shiny too, that would make my animation sample stand out", which lead to "I like witches (for no particular reason)", which lead to sketching all morning rather than animating.

But look, I drew some jaunty witches!

One thing I did get out of all of this is the idea of dressing my dummy up in some interesting accouterments, like those stylish high boots. It reminds me of the character from Emanuelle Walker's Après La Pluie movie from Gobleins a few years ago.

I also briefly flirted with the idea of doing a monkey figure rather than a human, but I think I'll leave that for the second go at things.

Little Witches

A very long time ago I wrote one of those uncontextualized and plotless fictional vignettes I write from time to time (we'll talk more about that later, I promise) about an elderly college professor who would, from time to time, go to sleep in his bed and awaken the next morning still in his bed clothes but nestles in the arms of a large statue in the center of town, unaware of how he got there.

Then about 4 years ago I saw the movie version of A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The movie was, well, unfortunate. But, in the opening scene you see the Deep Thought, a mountain sized computer that looks a bit like a little person with a giant CRT head.

Then last year for Animation class I invented but later abandoned an idea of a pitch battle between a little witch (representing magic) and a little scientist (representing, well, science).

And that's what I was thinking about when I drew these.