pen and ink

Comp Studies

Here's a little exercise I've been doing lately that I'm really enjoying. Take an image that you really like (painting, illustration, photograph, movie still, whatever) and do a little thumbnail size study. Don't worry about the details, that's why you're working so small. The idea is to get past the content of the picture and see the underlying composition: lights and darks, warms and cools, the big puzzle pieces.

Here are a few of my examples:

These are digital greyscale, originals on the left and my studies on the right. You can click for a slightly larger view, but really the point is to see things small so you get away from the details. The pictures are from my favorite book: Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan.

Here are a few from famous paintings - 10 points if you can name them all. I wanted to try a few outside of the computer, so I did most of these using my fountain pen. I also tried a few in gouache so I could study the color arrangements.

These are a few modern works. From the top left: Chris Van Allsburg, Gianni De Conno, Shaun Tan again, a photo from my favorite photographer Lartigue (look him up, he has a very interesting story), Eric Fortune, Jens Claessens, Shaun Tan again again, and Peter Nguyen.

This is a good way to deconstruct works of art you like and see what makes them so appealing. It's also a good way to rehearse successes, get a feeling for what makes a composition work so that you can apply those lessons to your own work.


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.

The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council, and Its Shiny Vacuum Tube Head

Another in the series of training material illustrations. For this concept I wanted something a little more avant garde than the fairly traditional style of the last proposal, so I decided to personify (robotize?) the concept of the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. That way I could show him/her/it performing the various functions of the regulations like inspections, network security sweeps and written exams.

Again I went for ink line drawings, but this time I did them with brush and ink to get a rough feel to the lines. Keeping to a limited palette I added color as a sort of cutout style with scanned in paper textures.


I think this last one is my favorite. It shows the robot doing a network security scan.

In My World, All Businessmen are Short with Egon Spengler Hair

I've been working on a series of illustrations for some corporate training materials. As part of the effort I created a number of character and style proposals as examples of different directions the project could go. These pieces were from storyboards of some of the early designs. The story follows an executive at a company who carelessly loses a laptop with customer data on it, resulting in bad press for the company and disgruntled customers.

These training materials will be shown to people in a number of different counties and cultures, so we needed something that would look generic enough not to be any specific ethnicity or style, but still charming (hence the hair and stature).

For these guys and gals I drew the characters and set pieces by hand and then vectorized the line art and added digital paint. This way each component (head, body, arms, legs, etc) is a separate piece that can be animated later in flash or after effects.

More to come . . .

Toil in the Radish Fields


A little mock up painting I made to try working on hot-press rather than cold-press watercolor paper.  I actually did this painting some time last semester, but never got around to scanning it.  

I've always been told that hot-press paper (which is the smoother kind of watercolor paper) is best for ink and line work, but in playing with this and a few other scraps and some india ink I found that this paper was much more apt to leach and bleed the ink lines than good ol' cold-press.  

The caption is a little hard to read at this dpi (and lacks a certain appriciation for proper spelling), so I've reporduced it below.  It reads:

Elizabeth was told on numerous occasions not to play in the fields at harvest time, but every year the temptation proved too great, so Uncle Mark always told the field hands to keep an eye out for her.  She would be the one that didn't look like a radish.

The line is from a short story I was working on.