Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Card 2012

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The rough. Ditched the duds for the final.
(An odd choice as I am known for putting scarves on things.)

And then dad sends this shot to say thanks for the card.
Sigh. Yellow would have made it better.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


When I was 8, I often climbed to the top of the cottonwood in our back yard. From that place I could see to the outskirts of the small west Texas town in which we lived. There, I and the mockingbirds perched, each blown by the breeze, surrounded by the rattle of the leaves. The blue sky our home.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Space Santa : Sketchbookin'

Sometimes an idea grabs me, and for no rational reason, I become obsessed with it. It's the nature of the artist, I guess, to be drawn into an idea and explore it--even if the subject at hand or task is of questionable value.

And so it has become with Space Santa. Meant only to be a sketch study, the idea's pulled me in. I don't anticipate having the time to flesh it out completely, so there may not be a final. We'll see.

Space Santa is not the soft old man he's sometimes portrayed to be, but a guy who lives in the raw pioneer scrabble of space. He's strong. Capable. Someone you want on your side. Therefore, some of these Santas look mean. (As was pointed out on Facebook.) The goal is to make him fit the description above.

They are presented in the order they were drawn, so here's some of my journey as I explore this idea.

(click to embiggen)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Turkey Day Draw Time with Uncle Christopher

My nieces and nephews range in age from 2 to 13 (and a half, she would like you to know). Every holiday we are together we gather around the table, pull out the drawing supplies at hand, and draw together. It's always a lot of fun. I am related to some very talented artists. Here are my efforts from that day.
Crayon, which I rarely work in. Rose Art's black will draw on top of the other colors, but tends to get on your hands.

A bear. A baseball bear. (Drawn with my markers.)

The family pets.

Monday, November 12, 2012

From Rough to Final : Anatomy of an Election Editorial Illustration

Here's a shot of an illustration I did for the Fort Worth Star Telegram. the article was about how to host a bi-partisan election night watch party.  (I don't live in Fort Worth, but a friend was nice enough to take the photo and send it to me.)  
As always, click the illustrations to see them bigger.

Here's the final. 
(They cropped off the right side, which was what I wanted.)

The original rough sent to the client. They liked it, but needed it to be more tall than wide. In the final I changed all of the character drawings but the male donkey.

With the female elephant coming in from the right, and her donkey pal across the illustration from her, they needed a relationship, some reason to interact. "He's got her flag," was my solution. Note also, the switch from the elephant grabbing the Tasty Snack with his hand, to a more natural for elephants with-his-trunk action.

On my way from the elephant above to the elephant used in the final, there was brief stop here. This was from photo reference, so the elephant is more representational than my style.
(Though I still really like him.)

Here's Mr. Final Elephant.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Kids and Traditional Media

The above is a screen shot from a commercial (for a Microsoft product*) I find terrifying and sad. Little girl sets computer up on her easel and paints on it. What, no real paints for kids anymore?

Which I posted on Facebook. And people responded. Nice people who are my friends. People with kids talking about how this was good as there was no mess and the images could be sent to grandmother right away.

And so I said this to them, I say it to you:

Let me break down my position here. I am glad kids can have their digital paintings and grandma can have her artwork. It is handy to not have a gigantic box of a thousand kid paintings to keep track of. It is also super nice to not have a mess in the house. I appreciate all of these things.

But ... BUT ...

Gone--GONE!--is the tactile. Gone is the smell and the grittiness of tempura paint on paper. Gone is the way crayons kind of don't work when you try to pile color on top of color. Gone is watercolor paint running amok, escaping across the paper and bending it, soaking through. Gone is salt in that paint, spreading it, and creating weird effects. Gone is the pencil lead and the funky smell of markers. Gone is understanding why the media on the computer mimics what it does. Don't take real media away from your kids, especially if they are artistically inclined. The key element of art is the experience of all of those things. It's messy and weird and amazing. This is learning art. This is what art should be for children. (And adults too.)*

Admittedly, there is some irony here as I work digitally.  But, I still do all of my under drawing in non-photo blue pencil (items that are getting harder to find) and my line with B leads in my mechanical pencils on 50lb Canson paper. The lead is soft, almost buttery, as I turn my pencil for fat or thin lines. The paper pulls and tugs as I draw, spinning the paper around to get the right movement of the line or follow the angle of the shape I am drawing.

I got here through the journey through traditional media and they are still my favorite way to work. They are dear to me. As a kid, each time at the table with paints, pencils, or crayons were keystone moments of discovery in my development. Were I to not have had them, there would be a large absence from my life. You would be taking away one of the greatest loves I have.

* Copyright Microsoft 2012, used without permission

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I was commissioned to do this piece of their dog for by a husband (a good friend) for his wife's (also a good friend) birthday. I wanted to include them in the illustration too.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Higgs Bison shirt featured on Redbubble

My Higgs Bison shirt is featured today on Redbubble's "Blinded by Science" page. (And selling like hotcakes! Four! Woot! <>)

Get one! (or another shirt) (by me) CLICK HERE!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Opinion Polls and Character Designs

On Facebook I did an opinion poll for a character design featuring two very different versions of a character. It was a landslide. The loser, however, was my favorite of the two.

It poses an interesting question. As we're trying to sell books in end, do I go with the popular choice, or the one I like? That's the point, right, for the book and the characters to be popular?

In this poll, the popular guy is the expected one. "He looks like what he supposed to be." It's part of why I like the one I do. He's different, outside of the normal sort of actor cast for the role. Also, he fits the physical rigors of the book. The popular one is big and lumbering, whereas the other is--what someone else labeled, and it's one of my favorite words so I can't help but agree--spry.

Spry is good. Here we arrive at another consideration with a character's design--the rest of the cast. The other characters are spry too. So spry and lean and everyone is spry and lean and there's no juxtaposition. A potential bore. Perhaps I adjust one of the other characters to be slow or lumbering. As a chase is the central of the book, this doesn't quite work out either.

As with all characters I design, I will know him when I see him. At the end of a pencil stroke there he will be, smiling at me.

This process, however, is fun and if not fun, at least interesting. Lots of pieces in putting a book together. Minutiae and nuances lurk in every part of the story and its mechanics. Lots of stuff to be sorted out, some of it questions you didn't know needed to be asked.

"You just draw it, right? You draw it and it's simple like that."

Not remotely, my friend. Not even remotely.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Redbubble Store Open

I've been a fan of Redbubble for a while now. It's been my go-to for tshirts. The shirts are American Apparel, which I totally dig. Also, the quality of the print is really good. All of those things considered, I decided it was time for me to put some work out there. (It's really easy to get started and add work. If it sounds like an advertisement, it sort of is. I want all of my favorite artists to post their work so I can have more sweet threads.)

I added three Halloweeny themed shirts this weekend, but there are several of my more popular prints on for order too.

I am having a blast. There is more to come.

Check out the shirts! CLICK HERE!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Man of Steel : The Particulars of the Curl

At the drawing table, warming up tonight. Probably it's because SDCC is happening, but I was thinking super heroes. Superman showed up on the paper. I took a picture with an old Polaroid camera I had laying around and snapped a shot.*

Then a friend, who really knows about this sort of thing, pointed out, via Twitter, "His curl of hair is supposed to make a little S shape. Cool, subtle design idea, huh?"

So when the actual work was done, it was back to the sandbox to give it another shot.

I did a version of this with my normal shading and lighting. But, it looked better this way to me. Kicking it ligne claire-ish.

... with the effects.

*JK. Instagram.
** As with all posts, click on images to make 'em bigger.

You say Boson, I say Bison

Pretty much every time there is an article on the Higgs Boson Particle, I read "Higgs BISON." As his name is "Higgs," he's putting on the Ritz with a bowler hat and a monocle.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Kewbey (or) No Bang for Buckaroo

Sometimes a deadline gives you trouble. 
Sometimes you draw a picture of a cowboy with an empty gun
as a sort of allegorical expression of the situation.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling

Normally, I would just post a link. But this is not normal information. Below is some of the best story writing advice I've ever read. Reported by the website i09, these are Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats' pointers for creating a story. They are golden and so good I wonder if I have the space to tattoo it all on my forearms.

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on - it’ll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Charlie Holds Down the Fort

When I am on deadline I'll take breaks. Sometimes* it turns into a Charlie, the desktop T Rex, photo shoot.

*Ok, LOTS of times.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Goodnight, Ray Bradbury

"They blended religion and art and science because, at base, science is no more than an investigation of a miracle we can never explain, and art is an interpretation of that miracle. They never let science crush the aesthetic and the beautiful." ~ The Martian Chronicles, And the Moon was Bright

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp : Deadline 1

Accompanying any book deadline wrap is a moment of clarity. Perhaps the afterglow comes from looking up after days at my drawing table and computer. I become singularly minded in those last moments, stepping away and coming back, pacing the studio, leaning in my chair as I pick apart and rework, determining what suits my needs as a creator in the playground of the publisher's outlines. (I draw for me, for my satisfaction, for my fulfillment. I am happy and fortunate someone wants to pay me for it.) After the files are sent to the publisher, I return to the normal world. I have a fresh perspective of most things, even the mundane ones, like, I should really clean out the studio closet.

This morning the roughs for the third book in Nathan Bransford's dynamite series Jacob Wonderbar--Jacob Wonderbar and the Instellar Time Warp--went off to the publisher, Dial Books for Young Readers. The editorial team at Dial is stellar. Thoughtful and thorough, I have been in good hands for the whole trip.

The moment I realized I was drawing Jacob and the gang for the last time was bittersweet. Happy and proud of the work I've done in the previous books, and even more so of the work I've gotten to do with the new title, so ends a two year journey. (My travels are far from over, as we have revision notes, revision art, and final art to go.) I am a character based illustrator and author and come to like the people I am drawing or writing about. I'll miss Jacob and the gang and the world in which they live.

The list of things to be done--new site, updated blog, finishing up children's book manuscripts--is large. For a day or two, in this time between the notes from Dial, I bask in the relief of the deadline completed, trying to ignore the ones already beckoning my attention.

The latest in the series, Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe, has been out for a little over a month now. Head over to your local bookstore to pick up a copy if you haven't already. Or, I guess, pick it up on

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rock-n-rollers is a way cool promotional tool for musicians. 
They asked me to do some characters for their site.
I said, "Cool."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Goodnight, Maurice

Warm up sketch--Max. Sendak shout out.
(June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012)


Warm up sketch.


How're you spending your Wednesday night?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

He bit my finger!

Charlie, my reference t-rex (by French company, Papo). 
Because life drawing with a full-sized t-rex is too tough. 
(They do not sit still.)

Wonderbar Under Construction

Regular drawing table still being refinished--very close! Luckily had backup. Jacob Wonderbar 3 in progress. (Sorry, no spoilers here. All illo's from other books.)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Free Comic Book Day

THE INCREDIBLE ROCKHEAD graphic novel series I did for Stone Arch Books is paired with the great ZINC ALLOY title for Free Comic Book Day. In this sweet video from Bleeding Cool, we get a top of the stack shout out!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Rodan sketch from a sketch throw down with some buds.
(He is bring the "pain" not the "paw.")

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Prep Animals

We gathered around coffee and our sketchbooks. There was a photo of a store window somewhere in the northeast full-on representing preppy duds. Prep animals made their way out of my pencil and onto the page. (I guess the second one from the top is a deer? No clue what the thing with the afro is.) Scope those anchor shorts!