Friday, December 20, 2013

Scrooge Abridged

This was my Christmas card from 2009, before I started my blog. I created it with the panels lined up horizontally, and folded accordion style.  But it's fun to stack the panels vertically and scroll down through the story. I should say my memories of A Christmas Carol are from the 1951 movie, with Alistair Sim as Scrooge. I think the problem with many filmed versions of A Christmas Carol is that they cast a grouchy, gruff actor to play Scrooge. I think the key to the character is finding an actor who can be convincingly giddy after his transformation. Grumpy, cranky and mean is easy; sincerely joyful and ecstatic is hard.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2013 Holiday Card

Here's my 2013 Holiday Card
 This image of the caroling snowmen was originally painted as an assignment for Wowindows ( a company that makes holiday posters for windows that glow at night as they are backlit from the lights inside the house. The posters are most effective if there are large opaque areas of black, to contrast with the translucent color areas. The image also needs to be vertical, to fit a variety of windows.

For my card I de-verticalized the image to give the snowmen a nice roundedness. I added a blue nighttime sky with snowflakes, but I toyed with the idea of keeping the black background with snowflakes. My daughter was the only other person in the house when I was playing around with the backgrounds. She nixed the black sky, so I went with the blue. But I'm not sure, I kind of think the black is cool and graphic.

This is the original version as a holiday window poster

This is the alternate card. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013


This guy has a snout like a gavail, kind of beaver feet,
and I 'm not sure what animal has little knobs like that.
I attend a writers' critique group most weeks, and I generally spend most of the time listening. When I listen I like to doodle, and what I'm doodling has nothing to do with what I'm listening to. My high school biology teacher was stunned because I would be drawing constantly the whole time he was lecturing, but I was still able to get A's in his class. I mention this because I have a habit of drawing dragons during my writers' meeting, and I don't want people to think I'm not paying attention. Rarely does anyone in the group read a story that has anything to do with dragons, but for some reason that's where my brain goes.

I guess this is pretty typical
Usually my basic dragon prototype is an alligator head, a dinosaur body, iguana spikes, and giant bat wings. But I've been playing around with the form and trying to introduce DNA from some other species (I really was paying attention in biology class).
Different kind of dino body.

I scanned a few and added some color in photoshop.
Aquatic dragon (I don't think he's going to fly very far with those wings).

Maybe a rainbow stork dragon? Definitely from the tropics. The feet remind me of aye-aye hands (except with webbing)

Snapping turtle head. I figure this guy doesn't move to fast, except for his head and neck. And those wings are just for show. Maybe, like a hippo, he sits with most of his body under water and the  heads whips around and catches prey. Maybe the wings swish the fish to where the head can snap them up.

Not quite sure what to say about this guy. Probably good at texting with those fingers.  But why is his head so heavy?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Blast from the Past

I've been trying to post an illustration every week on the "Illustration Friday"blog.
This week's theme was "HYBRID".
I have an illustration that features a whole bar full of hybrids. This is an illustration I did at least 20 years ago for a puzzle company. All they told me was that they wanted a science fiction bar scene, kind of like Star Wars, but, with all original characters. That's my favorite kind of assignment. I should mention that probably as long as science fiction has existed as a genre there have been scenes like this, assemblages of other worldly creatures hobnobbing and sharing libations.

The puzzle as to have a thousand pieces. I tried to fill it with details, so every piece would have something interesting on it. A few years back I received an e-mail from someone who bought the puzzle when it was published, and tracked me down. They wanted to buy a new one, but unfortunately I couldn't help them out.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sketchbook Doodles: Robo-Bugs

For some reason I started playing around with mashing up insects (and arachnids) with robots. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say mechanical vehicles. I took two of the doodles into photoshop and added some color. 
 It's important to let your mind wander, you never know what it will lead to.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Puppies! Puppies! Puppies!

With July comes the launch of a new chapter book series that I’ve been illustrating entitled Palace Puppies, written by Laura Dower.

Whenever I’m discussing what goes into illustrating a book cover I explain how the cover illustration should engage the reader, how it should convey information about the character and the setting, and most importantly how it should make the reader curious about what is happening inside the book. With Palace Puppies there was one task that superseded all the others; make some really really really really cute puppies.

Another interesting aspect of illustrating these covers was the specific directions I received regarding the color palette (Sunny and the Royal Party was to be a little more pink, Sunny and the Snowy Surprise a little more blue, etc). I didn’t really appreciate the reasoning behind this until I saw all for covers presented as a group, with the varying color trim. I enjoy looking at the 4 books together as a set, it reminds me of a box of puppy marzipan or something.

Creating the text illustrations for Palace Puppies was fun on a number of levels. It was fun to show the regal lifestyle of Annie and James, the princess and prince in the fictitious kingdom of Glitter Rock, and their puppies, Sunny and Rex. The royal family has loved dogs for generations, so wherever possible I tried to incorporate canine elements into the lavish palace d├ęcor.

I was allowed to be creative with the placement of the illustrations and how they interacted with the copy. This meant more work for the designer, who sometimes had to bend the shapes of the paragraphs, but I think it makes for an end product that is much more fun to read. I'm really hoping young readers enjoy this fun new series.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Really Sweet!

A few months ago I was commissioned by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library to do caricatures of FDR, Eleanor and their dog Fala for them to reproduce onto certain items of merchandise. Mugs and tee-shirts was what I expected. What I did not expect was the packet of caricature chocolates arrived on my doorstep this morning!

Actually it's the caricatures printed in (I assume) edible icing on top of the chocolate. The reproduction is great. Kudos to the chocolatier, The Chocolate Canvas™.
The reproduction is just as good, if not better, than traditional prints on paper.

  I showed them to my son who is home for the summer from college. He was impressed, but thought it was a weird choice to print old people on chocolate. (He's not a history major, and to be fair, he had just woken up). I just need to keep people from eating them.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


I'm am going to start participating in "Illustration Friday" a website where illustrators post work relating to a weekly theme.  This week's theme was "sweet".

Monday, May 27, 2013

A new technique?

For years I’ve been struggling to find a technique that is well suited for illustrations that feature a lot of humorous details. One that maintains the fresh quality of my pencil sketches. I used to use pen and ink and watercolor for these pieces, but, in my hands, these tools did not result in work that I was 100% satisfied with (or even 60%). I envy those who have mastered watercolor. I am not one of them. Yet I love working with it, the way the paper and the liquid interact.

I’ve been experimenting with digital techniques. I thought the answer would be to create work from scratch on the tablet, yet I always found something sterile in the results. Too airbrushy.

So, I think I have stumbled on a technique that resolves the issues I’ve been having with both techniques. I refine my pencil drawing using graphite, water soluable black pencils, sometimes black prismacolors. Then I use grey watercolor (neutral tint) to add value and texture, then I scan into Photoshop, and add color transparently, in different layers, with different opacities.

So, I guess I'm really compartmentalize the process, first line, then value, and finally color. But the good thing about working in layers in Photoshop is that I can always go back and adjust my line, or adjust my value.

Original drawing, value painted with watercolor. 

Final piece, color added digitally.