Monday, January 31, 2011

Appearing Today on Red River Radio!

I'll be interviewed by Carolyn Watson Dubisch live on the internet radio station, Red River Radio, on a show called, Art on the Red River. The show starts at 10:00 AM Pacific and 12:00 PM Central. More info, here:

Details about Red River Radio.

Carolyn Watson Dubisch is a talented artist in her own right, and I'll be looking forward to talking to her. I know nothing about this program though, and I'm not even quite sure if I qualify as an artist on the Red River. I'm not even sure where the Red River is. I have a little bit of an idea of what I might say, but I'm going in cold--I have no idea what she's going to ask me. My main goal is to pretend to be interesting and not to embarrass myself too much.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Striped Love Beetle or Flamboyant Flower Beetle

This has got to have one of the greatest names, ever. This one is bright green and yellow in real life. I thought about doing it in color, but wimped out and stuck with sepia. I'm still getting used to my acrylic ink.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I'll be interviewed by Carolyn Watson Dubisch for Red River Radio, a live internet radio program on monday. For details click below:

Red River Radio.

Color Preview

Here's a preview of the finished color piece for Cricket. I don't think I'm supposed to show the whole thing until the story sees print.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

From Last Nights Figure Drawing Session

I got frustrated trying to draw everything in proportion and correct, so I just gave up on it and had some fun. This is what came of it:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bess Beetle

This is the common name I was a able to find for this one--I'm not being very scientific about this--there are probably other names for it. I've found about 5 different things called, "rhinoceros beetle", the ones with all the horns. I've also seen them called atlas or gideon beetles.

This one in black acrylic ink. My black acrylic ink seems less thick, or gummy than the sepia--I actually prefer it to be a little thicker for drybrush, but at least it's a nice crisp black. Maybe I just need to leave it out a little so it sets up more.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eagle: Preview of the Finished Inks

Here's a preview of what the finished inks look like on one of the two pieces I'm doing for Cricket, with bird and background:

The second piece is a little more complicated, and happens to be one of the most difficult illustration problems I've ever had to solve, but I'd rather go into that in one big post. It's definitely one of my weirdest portfolio pieces.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Eagle Inks

Inks for a eagle for one of the illustrations I'm doing for Cricket magazine, to be incorporated into the larger image.

You may notice I fixed the tail from the original version, which was too small, too perfect and didn't have enough tail feathers. I also slimmed him up a little because he was looking a little overfed, and he's supposed to be starving, or at least, underfed.

I big hunk of the tail and top wing are to be cropped out, so I didn't ink those parts. It's been my habit these days to draw and ink every figure or animal and often the complete background and compose the image later, but it occurred to me that this isn't the most efficient way to work. I still draw everything out, but I compose the pencil drawings on photoshop and then print out in blueline just what I need to ink for the image. More or less. I still probably render a little more of the image than I need to. Inking is one of the most satisfying parts of the process, so sometimes I guess I overdo it. Hoping to finish up the inking today and start the coloring tomorrow.

Inking Technique

Lately I've been doing more and more feathering in my work--those long tapering brush lines--in an attempt to add more body and volume to my renderings, but I've been finding black and white line art rendering like this limiting. I just don't get that full tonal richness than you see in real painting. This is why I'm thinking of bringing some of the dry brush technique from my bug paintings into my renderings in the future to get a richer painted look, particularly what I was doing with this last elephant beetle. Not for everything--I still like the look of a good black and white rendering--but for some things.

I've not done fully painted work in recent years because I was resigned to the idea that line art was my strength, and that I couldn't compete with more accomplished painters, all the while developing this drybrush style in my personal work, which I just didn't consider painting. So without thinking about it, I've been painting all along. So I'm thinking maybe the two can come together more, especially since I discovered what I can do with acrylic ink. But that will have to wait till the next piece.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Elephant Beetle, Pros and Cons of Acrylic Inks.

I like that these beetles are named after large, lumbering animals. When you draw them at this size--not that big really, about 8x10 inches--but larger than life, they do have that quality, like noble beasts.

Got a little more opaque with this one. At first I thought I overworked it, but now I really like it. It's done in acrylic ink, which has a different quality than regular ink--you can really layer it in. So this one has more of a glazed look, like an acrylic or oil painting. Acrylic ink has got the opaque quality of acrylic and the fluid quality of ink that's ideal for dry brush. You just can't get the same effect with watered down acrylics. Acrylic ink maintains it's opacity as a pigment in it's fluid state, while you lose that opacity when you water down acrylics. Colored inks too, though more potent color-wise, aren't as opaque as acrylic ink.

I've tried acrylic ink with crow quill pen with mixed results. it tends to gum up the pen if you don't rinse it off frequently, and don't even think about putting it in a technical pen!

It's too bad acrylic ink doesn't tend to come in artist's colors, though. Last time I bought them they came in colors like, "Hot Momma Red". The problem is pigment--when you buy nice watercolors, acrylics or oils, the pigments are consistent-- cadmium red is always cadmium red, and if you mix it with ultramarine blue, no matter what the medium, you'll always get the same color. But who knows what happens when you mix Hot Momma Red with Lapis Lazuli Blue. There's a lot more trial and error, and you're just not going to be able to get the same colors you're used to. Right now that's less of an issue for me though, since I'm working in monochrome, but I've been considering trying full color painting with the medium. It might be my answer when it comes to this idea of painting nudibranchs with my dry brush technique! I might finally be able to get that luminous quality that they have. Also, I just like to say, "nudibranchs".

Saturday, January 22, 2011


A flea drawing rejected for the dry brush treatment.

There just aren't many pictures of fleas in action, and all the flea pictures I could find were either diagrammatically presented, or dead. So this flea is a dead one, and so this is as far as I'm going with it. Not quite worthy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gulls Inks

I was asked to change those earlier geese into gulls--for some reason I missed that part in the text of the article. Here are the inked gull versions of the earlier drawings, or at least, the ones I ended up using to be incorporated into the final image.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Two New Dry Brush Pieces

A grasshopper and a stag beetle. This stag beetle came out a lot better than the last one. I'm liking the sepia ink--it's actually FW acrylic ink.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Beetles, (as in actual beetles), Nudibranchs, Mushishi, Why the new Spider-man sucks, Why Zack Soto is Awesome

A stag beetle and a rhinoceros beetle.

So, my computer died, and I got a new Imac, but I didn't have photoshop for a while, so I haven't been posting. I also just didn't have much worth posting. I've been working on the Eagle piece for Cricket, and have been trying to get back into painting with a number of false starts. Just getting back into my drybrush technique. It's been a while. I'm doing some beetles and some insects to get grooving again. I tried to do some nudibranchs, but they're just too beautiful, and I can't seem to do justice to them. For those not "in the know" these are nudibranchs:

Show me some nudibranchs.

See what I mean? Those are just too amazing for words. And it's just really fun to say, "nudibranch". Maybe some day.

Anyway, a word to the wise: back up your stuff! I pretty much backed up all my stuff, so little was lost. Recently discovered the "time machine" feature on my new Imac, so now I don't have to worry at all about backing up stuff. my computer does it for me! Genius.


Been really into this japanese show, Mushishi lately:

The scoop on Mushishi.

It's very soothing. The mushi are these spirits that are basically these forces of nature. They're never malevolent, it's just their nature to do whatever it is they're doing, even if it's screwing things up. The mushi master is always saying, "it's not your fault and it's not their fault. It's just their nature." I dig it.

There are few anime series I like, outside of nostalgia, but this one hits the spot. I do like Galaxy Express 9999 though. It's about a space train. It doesn't get better than a space train.

It's this wonderfully logic defying space train. I still haven't seen the whole series, but I want to. It's got a Little Prince vibe. No pretense to realism. Why can't Americans deal with stuff like this? In the U.S., everything has to have a logical explanation. There's no pure fantasy.

I just saw a recent still from the upcoming Spider-Man film and it's clear they're trying to make it more "realistic."

Ag. His costume is some kind of rubbery goretex business, as if it were for some practical purpose. Superhero costumes are like space trains. There is nothing practical about a superhero costume. Nothing at all. This whole paramilitary look of these recent superhero movies is so off-putting. The science in superhero comics, at least originally, was always pretty sketchy, but they're trying to make these things into science fiction movies. Superheroes were never really science fiction. Don't get me started.

Not that I was all that crazy about the other Spider-Man movies. They had these great actors playing the villains who were just wasted. If you hire Willem Defoe to play the Green Goblin, don't put a big plastic mask on his face. Alfred Molina was perfect for Doctor Octopus, and he was still kind of fun to watch, but both movies would have been funner to watch if the scripts didn't suck and if they didn't completely not get Spider-Man.

This said, I'll probably watch the new one anyway. I liked the recent Iron Man movies, even though he was a free market Libertarian fascist who kills people. Kick Ass was pretty good, and at least sort of addressed the absurdity of treating the concept realistically. My favorite recent superhero movie of late, was Special:

The Scoop on Special.

This guy volunteers to test an anti-depressant that eliminates self-doubt and hallucinates that he has super powers. In the vein of realistic superhero movies, this one is the best so far, but someone really needs to just make a superhero movie that doesn't feel a need to justify itself logically. They're frigg'in superheroes!

The best superhero comic to come alone in forever is The Secret Voice by Zack Soto:

I wants to buy me some Secret Voice.

Zack isn't doing as much in comics these days, but is still doing great work. He recently put out a new issue of the anthology title, Study Group 12. I'm not sure if you can still buy that online, but you can see Zack's Website and what he's up to these days, here:

Zack Soto Headquarters.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some gestures

Sometimes a drawing looks really good when you're sitting there in front of the model and you become really pleased with yourself, and then you get it home and realize how much it sucks and how much you have to learn. Last night was one of those nights. Here are a few gestures I was able to salvage from the night:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More Geese, Some Ideas About Bird Anatomy

My latest freelance gig for Cricket magazine has me returning to the subject of geese--the eagle is the star of the show, but there are also geese, specifically Canadian geese.

With this and my previous geese and bird images I'm learning a lot more about bird anatomy in general, feather patterns, etc. So this next image promises to be a little more informed. The most challenging thing I've been doing lately is foreshortening the wings. I've learned that wings aren't these fixed paddles as they're sometimes drawn, but when in flight, the wings change shape, sort of like when you snap a towel or blanket straight before laying it on the ground. There's a sort of rippling effect with the muscles of the wing against the air current. Though I've captured this intuitively from reference in earlier images, I haven't quite observed it consciously until now, after having drawn what has probably been well over a hundred birds. You can see this rippling effect more clearly in the eagle image that precedes this post.

I've probably killed an ink cartridge worth of ink on reference for this project, but I really feel it's been worth it. Comparing recent bird images to my first birds back when I did the James and the Giant Peach piece, my earlier attempts seem pretty naive.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Eagle in Flight

This one just might work. Still have to see what I can do with the background.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Random Sketches, Recent YA Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reads

Did this while watching the Ken Follett mini series, Planes of the Earth. Follett's not my favorite author, but the series is pretty good so far. As usual, these sketches have nothing to do with the show. I was just screwing around.

Also, listening to a lot of sci-fi and fantasy YA audiobooks while I work. This has become a thriving genre of late. When I was a kid there was little good sci-fi and fantasy specifically written for the YA market--Wrinkle in Time is about all I can think of, but right now there's a mini renaissance. I should mention a few of my favorites:

Unwind, by Neal Shusterman. About a future where teenager's organs are harvested. The science is not so good, but the story is.

The Curse Workers, White Cat by Holly Black. A very plotty fantasy about an alternate world where people have a variety of supernatural powers that allow them to manipulate people through touch in various ways. One of my favorites this last year.

Peeps, by Scott Westerfeld. Westerfeld has written a number of good YA fantasy and sci-fi novels for the YA market, including The Uglies series, and the steam punk books, Goliath and Behemoth, but this is my favorite of his so far. It's about a vampire-like virus--yes I know, vampires again, but wait--that involves a lot of the real science of viruses. It's really a sci-fi story about how viruses work, and every other chapter talks about a real virus and how it interacts with its hows. The Last Days, the sequel is also good, but this one is the best so far. I've read the first two "Uglies" books, which were pretty good as well.

Probably the next best series by Westerfeld after Peeps is the Goliath series--though I've only read the first. I'm less into the steam punk thing, but they're nicely written and he's created a really comprehensive world and alternative history. His least interesting series is "The Midnighters" series--I've read all three, and it's just a better than average supernatural adventure series. It's got an interesting premise--at midnight everyone and everything in the ordinary world freezes and "The Midnighters" are these kids who are able to be conscious during this extra hour of the day. They have supernatural powers, and then it's just good guy bad guy stuff, with these other supernatural creatures and their allies.

Gone, and Hunger from the "Gone" series by Michael Grant. These aren't as well written as the others I've mentioned, but they're still great stories. Everyone 15 or older has spontaneously disappeared and the remaining kids have to piece together society again. Some of them start to develop supernatural powers--I think the premise would have worked fine without this part, but it's still a fun series so far. The new one came out recently, "Lies", though I haven't read it.

I'm currently listening to, Virals by Kathy Reich. So far, great fun, a murder mystery, a science fiction story, very plotty, a lot of real science about diseases and forensics, Looking forward to how this one turns out.

The Hunger Games is pretty good, but I think, a little relentlessly bleak--at a certain point you wonder, can anything worse happen to these people? Another good book is "The Giver" which also has two sequels, though I've yet to read the sequels.

Any other recommendations?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Yet Another Eagle

Again, this one didn't quite hit the mark. I think I'm back to a more or less daily posting effort, so though I might miss a day here or a day there, you should be able to expect something here every day again. Sorry about the gaps!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Another eagle

Not quite there yet. this one was closer, but ended up being too boring a composition when combined with the rest of the image. Also not 100% happy with the drawing. I have a pretty roomy deadline, so there's no reason not to get it right.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Eagle Gestures, a Goose's Head

More sketches for the children's magazine. Just trying to get a feel for eagles. There's also a goose in the image, but this goose was more of a warm-up--for some reason that morning I couldn't get myself together to draw, and I thought the discipline of a simple rendering would help. As you may have noticed I'm not posting every day anymore. I may resume posting every day, but for now, I'll try to do a couple of posts a week at least.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Bee Class Pics!

Here are some belated pics from the bee painting class I taught a couple of months back in conjunction with "Sticky Business" a bee-themed show at The Pence. Ages of the students ranged from one to nine, so we kept it pretty free-form.

First we had a visit from our Davis resident bee guy with gen-u-ine bees:

Me in action. Probably making some positive noises. With this age it's just good to be encouraging.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

More Eagle Studies.

Still trying to figure out the basic anatomy and feather patterns.

Saturday, January 01, 2011


I'm working on some eagle sketches for a a couple of pieces I'm doing for a children's magazine. Here's my first attempts at Eagles.