Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Longest Winter For Cricket Magazine!

This month's Cricket Magazine features a story called "The Longest Winter" by Pamela D. Guaci, with illustrations by me! The story is about two Inuit brothers who go on a seal hunt. In this one the younger brother dreams that he's a seal, struggling to get through to the surface:

This one shows the distance between the two brothers:

They bond through the hunt, imagining their father, who had recently died, smiling over them. 

Like the last piece I did for Cricket, these required a lot of reference. The first challenge was to try to draw a harp seal. Unfortunately there weren't many pictures of swimming harp seals on the web. Here was one of the few I was able to find:

But it wasn't quite enough to really get a sense of what they looked like in motion. So I found more reference for a seal that looked similar who lived in a warmer climate, the monk seal.

So I found pictures of monk seals, watched videos on Youtube, added a little blubber, and whoola! I had a harp seal! For my Inuit reference I watched everything from the classic documentary Nanook of the North:

To this pretty horrible Anthony Quinn movie:

But these were Inuits from Greenland, and I was drawing Alaskan Inuits. So I did eventually find more authentic reference for my Inuits, and took a few photos using the timer on my camera for some of the harder poses:

I also had a student of mine do a few poses, but ultimately, I only use photos to get a general sense of the pose. When I draw directly from the photo my drawings tend to look a little stiff, so I try to reinvent the figure in the drawing.

These were the sketches I submitted to Cricket:

The art director, Karen Kahn wanted me to make sure the horizon faded out as it met the sky in the second image, something I could resolve in the color stage, and for the third, she wanted the hole in the ice to be smaller and more of an uneven shape. She also wanted me to show the tool made out of a bone and feather that the boy uses in the story. These changes were easy enough to make, and they were happy with my solutions.

Not long ago, I received an e-mail from the author, curious about how I had handled the story. I sent her the images and was gratified to hear that she was very pleased with them. So hopefully I got most of the details right! And here's the magazine, with a great cover by Heidi Younger:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Centaur Inks

So here's the centaur I posted earlier, now inked:

The last time I posted it I called it a pegasus, which wasn't entirely a mistake--he's to have wings, so he's sort of a pegasus/centaur. This is for my Wrinkle in Time illustration to beef up my YA portfolio. This particular drawing was inked in 3 parts, and there will be three figures on his back, and wings of course, so the whole drawing is done on a number of different pieces of paper.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Yet More Monsters

More monsters to give you the creeps...

Friday, December 16, 2011

More Mini Monster Drawings

More drawings for 50 Monsters to Give you the Creeps. This million-eyed beast has an excruciatingly piercing (and annoying) whistle:

And here's a Flibbertigibbet Flibbertigibbetting:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A 20 Minute Pose

Here is a 20 minute pose from yesterday's figure session:

Remembering to Draw

Once again, I choked on the long pose, so you won't be seeing that one. Last night, someone looked at the drawing I was doing at the end of the session, and said simply, "It looks like you're trying too hard." I wasn't sure about how I felt about this statement, until he elaborated, "it looks like you're trying to get it too perfect. You just need to not think about it so much, and draw." And he was right. I always get fussy on that long pose. I have more luck with the 20 minute poses, but it's that long pose where I always forget to draw, to turn off that fussy, over analytical part of my brain and to involve myself fully in the act of drawing.

 Drawing requires a little bit of both--you still have to pay attention to proportion and measurement, but then there's a part of you that has to fool itself into thinking that what you're drawing isn't a flat image but something three dimensional, and this is not the most logical way to think. You can approach it methodically, but there's a part of your brain, the non-rational part, that has to interpret what you're seeing and translate it into marks on paper, and there are a million ways to do this. You're always interpreting, deciding to emphasize some things and deemphasize others, to exaggerate some things and simplify others. I never stop learning about drawing, but sometimes I forget the most basic aspect of the process--to get out of your own way and to allow it to occur. It's good to have people around you,who, however bluntly, are willing to remind you of this. It's valuable to cultivate your own community of artists, whether in person or online, and to have at least a few people who are willing to tell you what often isn't easy to hear. But then it gets easier and easier to take that feedback as you gain confidence in your ability--knowing you can do something well gives you a foundation to be able to be told that you can also do it better. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More Mini Monster Drawings

More from 50 Monsters to Give you The Creeps, the side project I've been doing during breaks while my current fully rendered piece is driving me crazy. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More Monsters...

More monsters for my monster book. 

This would be a Dwarfis Creepus Insomnilopus:

And a Backwards Forwalpus:

Monday, December 12, 2011

50 Monsters in Progress

Some recent drawings for a picture book dummy about monsters, 50 Monsters to Give you the Creeps. This one has been in progress for a long time, so I'm just chipping away at it while i work on other projects. 

This is a comparative anatomy drawing between the common housecat, and Australapithacat. 

Some monsters get scared, too...

If you scroll waaay back in the blog you'll find the original drawings for these guys.  Each monster will have a profile that will include a description, a full page picture of the monster, and a smaller drawing with the monster in action, or that describes something about the monster.

But anyway, this is what I've been doing in the evenings. During the week I stick to my main priority, this bear of an image for my portfolio based on A Wrinkle in Time that's kicking me in the ass. It's always the figures! I don't think I'll ever be satisfied with my ability to draw people! But I keep working at it. There's another figure drawing session this week...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Couple of Random Sketches

These are, as advertised, just a couple of random sketches. They turned up somewhere, in a pile of stuff, and I have no recollection of drawing them. I think I must have drawn the first one while watching Disney's Sleeping Beauty since it has that look. 

It's been an exhausting week for a variety of reasons I won't go into. Nothing seemed to work out this week. I've been busy with a relatively complicated piece, which is just starting to come together, so that's something. It's been taking me ages to get this one together, but it should be resolved soon. Otherwise, I got my Christmas cards ready for the printer just in time, though I couldn't afford personal cards this year, unfortunately. These are going to publishers only. Dark blue is one of the most horrible colors to print digitally, so I've had to look at proofs, and adjust, and adjust some more to get the thing to resemble the colors I intended. I think I got them pretty close. We'll see when they come in the mail on the 19th. 

50 Monsters

I'm finishing up a dummy that I've been doing on the side, a compendium of silly monsters. You may have seen me post the drawings about a year ago now I think. So I've got 50, with descriptions, but I want individual illustrations for each one to demonstrate what they do. I've got about 20 of those done. I get these incidental drawings done, usually in the evenings, while we're watching TV. Reg and I are currently into The Fringe. It's typical trashy J. J. Abrams with all his usual red Mcguffins and red herrings, but it's still pretty fun. 

Books in Progress

After some feedback from first readers, I'm getting ready to do a second draft of my second YA novel for teens. The first is completed and sent to my agent. I've finished the first draft for a chapter book, and I've been writing the first draft for a middle reader book--something to do while I've been sitting on the YA novel until I've had enough distance from it to dive in again. After I've been sitting on it long enough, rewriting seems more like an opportunity than a burden, as I rediscover the book all over again.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Red Fox Racer, Early Memories of Saturday Morning Cartoons

Abigail Samoun asked all the artists she represents to do a small drawing of a fox for the holiday calendar. I haven't seen any of the other foxes yet, but all the artists at Red Fox are extremely talented, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the calendar turns out. For my own fox, I decided to draw a  fox in a foxy race car. The race car looks a little stern, but I'm thinking of it as more determined than angry.

The Laugh Olympics and other Horrible Cartoons 

When I drew this, a part of me was thinking about one of my favorite cartoons as a kid, The Laugh Olympics. All of the Hanna Barbera cartoon characters would compete in a variety of olympic competitions, and there was always a race where each character would have some personalized wacky car to drive. I always liked the unlikely combinations of characters, like Snidely Whiplash with Batman, or Grape Ape with Mutley. I think Snaggle Tooth and Sour Puss were the announcers. I can't remember. Anyway, I'm sure the cartoon would be completely unwatchable now.

 Most of those late 70s Hanna Barbera cartoons are pretty awful, though I think most adults my age who grew up with them have a lot of nostalgia for them. Hanna Barbera pretty much owned the airwaves back then. That was when Saturday mornings were always a big deal. My brother and I would sometimes get up so early we'd stare at the test pattern, waiting for the cartoons to start. Back then, the network TV stations crapped out sometime in the very early morning, and if you got up early enough there would be a color bar test pattern, followed by the National Anthem with an image of a flag whipping in the wind. That was back when some TV stations would air an image of a burning log in a fireplace on Christmas, or Christmas eve. TV was generally pretty awful and pretty weird back then. But even though the cartoons by and large, were pretty awful (aside from a few rare exceptions, like The Bugs Bunny Road Runner show), Saturday mornings-- before there was a Cartoon Network, when cable offerings were pretty meager--was something to look forward too.

Back then, everyone watched the same TV shows. When you went to school, everybody had seen Scooby Doo that weekend. During the week we'd watch Happy Days or All in the Family. I remember when everyone in my second grade class was talking about the Fonz jumping the shark, back when "jumping the shark" only meant that the Fonz was about to jump over a shark. I always seemed to miss stuff like this. Like when The Six Million Dollar Man fought the Yeti, or when The Battlestar Galactica ship actually made it to earth. TV really sucked unbelievably then. There was no Mad Men or Deadwood. But we all watched the same shows religiously. 

I think the quality of TV cartoons is also lot better now, and Nostalgia is pretty much all those old cartoons amount to, for me. I can't bare to watch stuff like Scooby Doo or the Flintstones, though I know they still have their appeal to a lot of people. I still like stuff like Jonny Quest and Bullwinkle, but I don't think I'll ever want to watch Turbo Teen, or Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels ever again for any other reason than childhood nostalgia.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New Christmas Card

Here's the front and inside, respectively, of my new Christmas card. This one actually came out a lot how I imagined it might. I'm falling more and more in love with drawing architecture--my role models for architecture are Windsor McCay and Nicolas DeCrecy--I love those rich, detailed environments! I also love the way they invent their own architecture, and how it always, no matter how elaborate, seems to flow and make sense. My buildings here aren't quite that inventive, but they do the job. 

I've been enjoying doing these night scenes lately, and using super contrasty light sources. Again, I had a great time with the perspective, no CGI primitives, just a ruler and a pencil. I tightened up the background under the light box and scanned it directly from the pencils, no inking, and changed the contrast to make the lines dark. This is the second time I've tried this, and I'm really satisfied with the technique, at least for stuff like architecture where line weight variety isn't as much of an issue. The sled is also done this way. For figures  and animals I'm sticking with ink, but for backgrounds, this really saves a lot of time, and I can use that time to put more detail in and simply focus on the drawing.

Now if I can get the thing printed in time, I'm in business!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Brief Thought About Character and Setting

We were discussing on Google+ recently about how much setting serves to establish character in a story, or just how important setting is.  

Setting in a lot of ways has to do with how your characters react to things, rather than the things themselves, which isn't to say that character alone determines setting, so much as voice determines setting. And voice doesn't have to be the literal voice of the protagonist or omniscient narrator , but an overall feeling of coherency. Character and setting flow naturally together in a consistent way when the voice is consistent.

Sometimes you change narrators in a story to tell the story from a different perspective, but if you also change your underlying voice, you change the readers perception of both setting and character. It's a change in tone. it's Huckleberry Finn vs. Tom Sawyer. You're taking the reader out of one world, and putting them into another. But if there's an underlying voice throughout the narrative, a consistent vocabulary and tone, you can change point of view without breaking the illusion of a consistent environment, an objective world that exists and continues to exist outside of the individual character's perceptions.

Edit: of course both approaches can be equally useful, but the question you want to ask yourself is: is it purposeful?  Is changing voice going to add something meaningful to the story?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kid Drawing for Work in Progress

THis is a kid drawing for a Christmas card. I'll probably post the full image in the next day or two. I'm pretty happy with it so far.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Art of Dmitry Sandzhiev

I know next to nothing about Dmitry Sandzhiev, but someone posted his work on Google+ and I was able to find some excellent examples of it online. This is the image that first caught my eye:

I'll let the rest speak for themselves:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

More Wednesday Figure Drawings

We had a great model last night, a retired physics and music professor who did some really fun short poses. The first two are longer poses, the the last one is one of his dramatic poses.

A 20 minute pose:

A long pose:

A 5 minute pose:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Winter City, Work in Progress

This is the background for this years Christmas card. I went with a looser approach to the perspective--when the perspective isn't quite so dead on, there's a much more organic feel. This is how I'd like to approach perspective in the future. I think it has a lot more character this way.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cherry Blossom Silhouettes

Here are some silhouettes I did for a background for a new image. The trick with silhouettes is to treat them just as you would any other drawing--a generalized or abbreviated silhouette will be noticeably unconvincing. The trick with trees in particular is to avoid repetitive patterns. Even though the bows and limbs of certain varieties of trees have a unique growth pattern, each branch and leaf is unique. The more cookie cutter you draw them, the less real they'll seem, so it's important, even when drawing trees from your imagination, to be conscious of keeping the leaves and limbs diverse.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Woman in a Japanese Kimono

My posts have been a little more infrequent--I've been so busy making pictures I haven't had a chance to post them. Here's part of a work in progress, a woman in a Kimono.

Also I should say that the earlier post, admittedly, isn't really a pegasus, it's a centaur, but eventually it will have wings, so it will be a little bit of both.

Friday, October 28, 2011


This is a Pegasus that's meant to eventually have wings, which is why its posture is a little weird. I'm working on a sort of mock cover for A Wrinkle in Time in order to do more young adult material.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wednesday Figure Drawing

Here's a figure from the figure drawing session last night. This was a twenty minute pose. Once again I choked on the longer pose. I just murdered it, but I'm relatively happy with this one.  It was a pretty good night for me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm Now Being Represented by Red Fox Literary!

I've been hinting at some good news for a while now, but didn't want to announce it until all the paperwork had been signed, and I just received the signed forms today! So as of now, my writing and illustration will be represented by Abigail Samoun at Red Fox Literary.

I was also honored to discover that Red Fox recently took on one of my favorite all-time illustrators, Henrik Drescher! I've been a fan of Drescher since my teens, with books like Pat the Beasty and The Boy Who Ate Around. I'm looking forward to working with Abigail and Red Fox Literary and making lots and lots of books!

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Picture, "Harvest Moon", What's my daily routine?

Harvest Moon

I did this illustration in order to include more kids in my images, but at the time I made it, it hadn't occurred to me that it was a Halloween image, so it's Halloweenness is a complete accident. In fact it didn't occurred to me until I completed it. My original plan was simply to do a birthday party, but I like to draw animals so I added the animal costumes. ThenI wanted to add some dramatic lighting, so I thought it would be nice to have it at night in the forest. Then, in the end, I decided to add a big bright harvest moon, which also helped to balance the image, bringing the eye around from the focal point.

And here's a detail:

I like the feel of this one, and now the fact that it's an unconventional Halloween image. I like that it has a little element of mystery, why these kids are out alone in the woods with no adults. It reminds me a little of Peter Pan's lost boys, and of Max, from Where the Wild Things Are in his wolf suit.

Where Have I Been? 

I haven't posted in quite a while, in part because I didn't want to show this one in progress. The images never quite looked right on their own--it's largely a bunch of drawings of kids sitting in space, since the background was done separately.  I was also a little unsure of this one until it started to come together.

The other reason I haven't been around is because I've been putting together some of my writing projects for submission. More on that later. No definitive interest by publishers yet, but there's some other news I'll be sharing soon that's almost just as good.

My Daily Routine: The Long Answer to the Question, "How Long Do you Spend Every Day Working?"

When I've gone to workshops and artist speaking engagements, someone is always bound to ask, "how long do you spend every day working?" When I used to hear their answer, I generally felt woefully inadequate comparing my own productivity to theirs. I think discipline is something you build up over time, and everyone has their own way of doing this. It took me years to develop the discipline I have now. For me, routine is critical, but time spent working and time spent wisely are two different things.

 Using the Pomodoro technique I've mentioned in earlier posts, I've gotten a better sense of what a real work day should be, but the Pomodoro technique is new to me, so the work day I describe here is something I've only developed recently. I try to work about 12 to 16 Pomodoros (as described in earlier posts), or 25 minute periods every day, while spending the morning writing. I don't time my writing period since it tends to vary, though I try to write 200 words at the very minimum, though usually I write more On bad days I write less, but these are rare. This takes about two hours. While taking breaks during my art making time maximizes my productivity,  taking breaks slows down my momentum when I'm writing, so for me, it's better to spend a shorter but focused and uninterrupted period writing than drawing. During my Pomodoro breaks I like to go on Google+ or Facebook, but these breaks go fast! (But that's kind of the idea)  I tend to work on the weekend as well, but less, because of household chores and other responsibilities, though sometimes on weekends I'll have a longer writing session. And working doesn't always involve drawing. Sometimes its about collecting reference and doing research. Sometimes it's inking, or coloring. Sometimes I'll spend the whole day spinning my wheels trying just about everything and failing miserably to get anything to work.

So my day begins at 5:30. I usually screw around for an hour, then walk our dog,  Cinder. When I get back from my walk, I eat breakfast. Writing usually follows, unless I'm doing something like a blog post, but that, I guess, also counts as writing. Drawing begins at 9:00 to 9:30, and ends anywhere from 5:00 to 6:00, or 6:30. I usually take an hour lunch around noon, sometimes longer if I have errands. 

Wednesdays I teach a student for an hour, and every other wednesday I have a figure drawing session in the evening that I administrate, which is usually a four hour time investment or more. Hiring models and other general upkeep of the group is also time consuming, so I don't tend to draw much on these days, but I do tend to write.

The Virtues of Goofing Off

Of course all of this is subject to having a life. This doesn't always represent a typical day. The math adds up just a little too perfectly, and most days aren't perfect.  There are always other responsibilities and distractions that come up, or sometimes I just take the day off. Or I'll take a trip. Or I'll go to the comic book shop.  Or I'll decide I just want to watch a movie instead. I like to spend time with my wife. I love having the evenings free. This said, I don't tend to get out much. social networking sites are great, but they're also a great time waster, but the Pomodoro Technique has really helped my limit my internet time.

 I think the consequence of being a full-time artist is spending a lot of time alone, and having your world become just a little smaller than it could be. If you want art to be a true discipline, this is the way it has to be. You have to make it an integral part of your life, but it's also important to have a life. My studio is a tiny room in our house with a single window that looks out onto the backyard. I like my work, so its not exactly a hardship, but sometimes you need to get out of your cave and get a little sunshine, or goof off, or otherwise do what you need to do to enjoy the life you have. And exercise! Get some exercise! Many Illustrators tend to get pudgier as they get older, so to avoid falling into this trend, I try to ride my bike whenever I can. For me, this isn't too hard a habit to maintain--it's more of a necessity, since I don't drive.  but it's always good to have some kind of outlet for exercise. I intend to to have a long life and career. So eat right, exercise, develop your discipline, and enjoy your life and work! That's the best advice I could give anyone who wants to become an illustrator.

Edit: I originally wrote "6 to 8 Pomodoros" when I meant to say, 12 to 18 Pomodoros. I tend to add each two in my head as an hour, so I was thinking hours instead of 25 minute periods. Oops!