Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Commodore

An early color rough for the "Commodore". I was still using rat-traps for his epaulets at the time. I later did a version in oil, before the final, award-winning, digital version. This is from 2000.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Charlie Rose

A few weeks ago I was sketching while watching "Charlie Rose". It's a trick I have to convince myself I'm being productive while watching TV. This page captures Simon Schama's hand (1st guest), and Elmore Leonard (2nd guest). I should say that Elmore Leonard was the starting point for this. I was attracted to the way his wispy white hair clung to his skull; beyond that it could be anybody, really.

He's in his mid- 80's and sharp as a tack. I wish I was.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mechanical Fish

A recurring subject.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

El Gato Gordo

Earlier this week, the cat napping. It's always an ownership thing with cats. Topper rarely sleeps on a single surface. He's happier half-draped on a book or a shoe. Lucky for him, we keep lots of things laying around the house! If my book-bag had been open, he would have been inside of it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Home of the Brave, 2

These are from early June, before the weather became unbearable. Outside of Target, in the "Chesterfield Commons" - a 17 mile continuous strip-mall. I'm beginning to wonder if we mid-westerners don't have a diet problem.

I love this one. She was able to cross a some-what busy street, texting (odd that that's a verb now), never once looking out for traffic. But what style!

From the vault, 1

From out of the past, say 10 years or so ago.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Not sure where I was headed with this. I was toying with the idea of selling some more "pin-ups" on ebay, but when I realized the sketch looked like an average person wearing a rather dumpy leather outfit, I scrapped any ideas of profit and had fun drawing shiny leather. I have no idea what her costume looks like these days ....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Still life with Cat

I grew up in a house with pets; dogs, cats, gerbils, chameleons, fish. Over the years I'd weaned myself from the habit of keeping pets. I enjoyed the mobility and lack of responsibility associated with being petless. Last year our nephew bequeathed a cat to us and Topper is now a full-fledged member of the family.

Topper was homeless and near-starved when he was rescued by our nephew. The time he spent under-nourished must have affected him deeply, as now he can't stop eating. I thought at first about seeing just how fat a cat could get, but a veterinarian reminded us that the fatter a cat gets, the less able it is to clean itself. What a buzz-kill.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Action & Adventure

Joe shooting Nazis from behind the coffee table.

In South America with Lego Indiana Jones on the Wii.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Peak Experiences

The front page of the St. Louis Post Dispatch recently gave me a moment of "Aesthetic Arrest". It was a photo of a night-time arrest of under-age drinkers. What caught my eye was the massive deputy administering a sobriety test to a teen. The deputy wasn't much older than the teens he was harassing, but he easily tipped the scale at 400+ pounds. This young man has found his place in life. Rousting youths on county back roads, cleaning up at every BBQ. A self-actualized man, obviously, and I envied him.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Home of the Brave, 1

About a month ago, I started using my lunch hour as an opportunity to sketch people coming and going from discount department stores. Originally I was preoccupied with the clothes people chose to wear in public. Alright, it was a sneer-and-mock mission. The pickings were pretty slim, though as I work in a relatively upscale area.

I need access to some of the outlying towns where I once saw an obese young woman wearing a t-shirt with the word "Sublime" stretched across her front in pink letters. I'm haunted still. Or the Aryan Nation gentleman who frequented a local Wal-Mart Superstore, with swastika tatoos and children in tow. Heartwarming.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It's Star Wars

I promised my son I'd paint a Star Wars mural for his room. This was 3 years ago and it kept getting bumped by over-preparation, intimidation and TV watching. As is my way, I made it over complicated. It snowballed into something which collapsed under it's own weight. I worked up a color rough in Photoshop which included droid armies, flaming troop carriers and murky atmosphere. I stalled on the project. Eventually I compromised, and came up with an easier-to-manage close-up of his favorite character: Captain Rex. A color rough of the final painting is shown above, this time with good ol' watercolor. The digital behemoth appears below.

The painting was finished over the winter, and I'm reasonably pleased with how it turned out. As soon as I borrow a camera I'll post it. Star Wars used to be my sons' world. He thinks of nothing but Pokemon now.

Monday, June 15, 2009

In public places.

My son has weekly math lessons at our local Kumon affiliate. The waiting room there provides a mixed bag of sketching opportunities. If it's a full house, I usually resort to doodling robots or what-not, anything to keep my eyes on the page. God forbid I talk to anyone. In close quarters, it's a little rude to openly sketch a stranger. It can be pretty invasive. There's usually a bunch of kids fighting over toys on the floor, but being the creepy guy in the corner drawing other peoples' kids opens up a completely different can of worms!

Above: a thick mass of hair propelled by skinny little legs. In high school, I would've given this a title like- "loneliness" or "lost in thought". Over the years, I've become an expert at the 3/4 angle-from-behind view, it's much less confrontational.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

...but he's good at math.

A "conceptual design" for a failed graphic novel. Leon is obsessed with numbers- so much so that his body is riddled with number tattoos. I was actually trying to broaden my horizons a little, working with characters that have shaved heads and tattoos. I think eventually some form of implied enlightenment was to be the crux of the story, achieved through mathematics and shaved-headedness.

I draw using Black Prismacolor pencils for the most part. For years I drew with the Color-erase Blue pencils favored by most (as far as I know anyway) animators. I switched a few years ago to Black Prismacolor, primarily to get a rich dark line that didn't smear. I think this has something to do with my animation background. As a species,(animators) we're obsessed with bold, clear outlines and not so much by shadows and atmosphere. I sometimes have to remind myself that it's okay to smudge lines and have fun with textures. This is all just pissing in the wind, of course .... isn't it all done by computers now anyway? The idea got scrapped due to my ignorance of mathematics, tattoos and shaved headedness.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Beginning Backwards

And so, I begin a blog which is primarily about drawing, with a digital painting. I admit to having mixed feelings about digital work. I'm old, and a fuddy-duddy, and it'd be just like me to avoid a perfectly good tool just for the sake of principal. It appeals to my lazy nature. I can sit down, open Photoshop, paint wildly for 10-15 minutes, then walk away with no mess to clean up.

It had been a while since I'd been able to paint digitally. My wife attended her 1st year of Law School this year, and we share one laptop, so guess who had to wait his turn. A new P.J. Harvey cd caught my eye and I decided to break in with something easy. I began on a toned background and sketched in the basic shapes. I soon realized I was trying to draw the painting, so I widened by brush stroke considerably and dove in to the shadows. I gradually tweaked some of the mid-tones and tightened some of the features, saving the highlights for last. The white hatching over the background is a swipe from J. C. Leyendecker. Steal from the best!

I read an interview with a hot-shot "conceptual designer" from Denmark who advised against using too many layers in Photoshop. He was producing some intricate work, yet claimed to use only 3-4 layers at most. This has helped me immensely! Tone the background, draw/paint on the next layer, and save additional layers for experimental lighting or anything you may feel unsure about. This has helped me keep my pieces fresh (I think) and spontaneous. It also saves a lot of time not having to waddle around a dozen layers every time you want to add a stroke.