Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Summer's Gone...

After the horrid ice storm that ravaged New England this week, I thought folks might appreciate a sunny beach picture. If you hold your ear to the screen you can actually hear the ocean!

I did this acrylic painting for my agent, Portfolio Solutions. It was part of a larger promotional piece that featured each illustrator's interpretation of the theme "toy box".

FYI: I had a big stuffed shark like that when I was a kid–and wish I still did!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dinos All Around Part 1

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm working on a series of dinosaurs books. Since starting the project, I've become aware of the many dinos that have accumulated around around the house. These pencil "toppers" have been sitting atop the door frame in my kitchen for several years.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Cards Arrive!

Here's another detail from this year's holiday card. I'm keeping the card under wraps until I have a chance to send them out. I'm one step closer to having the card in the mail–250 cards arrived from the printer today!

Want a postcard? Send me an email with your snail mail address and I'll send one along. Supplies (and stamps) are limited!

You'll find my email address on my website.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mad Painter

Character Actor Paul Benedict died recently. Who's that? You might know him as Mr Bentley from the 70's sitcom The Jeffersons. He played the crazy British neighbor.

A Google search on Paul Benedict produced this image. I recognized it instantly; memories suddenly began bubbling up from my subconscious. I knew that brush, I knew that bald head–I knew every brush stroke leading up that moment.

A few clicks and I was reacquainted with the Mad Painter, a character Paul Benedict played periodically on Sesame Street. As you might guess, the Mad Painter painted numbers on people (or objects) to comic effect. A great way for kids to learn their numbers.

I'm sure Mr. Benedict helped me learn my numbers, but it was the way he painted those numbers that inspired me. Today, watching Mad Painter clips on Youtube, I became cognisant of the impact this man likely had on my young psyche. I must have been transfixed, watching his steady and confident hand paint all those numerals.

Thank you, Mr. Benedict, for inspiring me when I didn't even know it!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Velociraptor with All the Fixin's

UPDATE: I decided this post was perfect for the current Illustration Friday topic, Similar.

I'm doing a lot of research on dinosaurs for a book series I'm illustrating. Theories about dinosaurs are constantly changing, but one idea that seems to have gained consensus is that birds evolved (or devolved) from meat-eating dinosaurs.

When I was eating my turkey this year, I kept thinking about the similarities between a Butterball and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. My mind wandered to a parallel universe where folks eat Velociraptors for Thanksgiving.

Happy Holidays everyone!

And to all you vegetarians, I apologize for this gruesome post–I hope you enjoyed your Tofurky!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Holiday Card

Here's a detail from the Holiday card I'll be sending out soon.  I had been on the fence about whether or not to do a card this year. I'm really busy with the dinosaur books and I always question if a promo has any chance of making an impression during the craziness of The Season.

Then I remembered my brother-in-law's rehearsal dinner back in July. Uncle Dave, acting as MC, introduced me to the room by saying "everyone here needs to get on this guy's mailing list because his Christmas cards ROCK!"

That was nice to hear because I wondered if my wife's extended family thought my Holiday cards were deranged–and by extension perhaps I was deranged. Admittedly, my cards are often on the dark side.

So, this card might end up lost in a sea of holiday cheer at publishing houses around the country, BUT Uncle Dave will hang it on his fridge–and that's pretty cool!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hurray for Dinosaurs!

This photo of me and T. Rex was taken at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in DC a few years back. I'm posting this photo now because I'm currently illustrating a series of dinosaur books! The project is extensive and lots of fun!  It's now my job to research dinosaurs, watch Jurassic Park movies and buy dinosaur toys (more about toys in a future post).

And here's an adorable photo of my wife posing with the same T. Rex a couple decades ago.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Art Talk

Recently I spoke to a class at the Monsterrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts. Fellow illustrator Nathan Walker, an instructor at the school, invited me to speak to his Illustration 1 class. Public speaking is not one of my favorite activities, but I was honored to be asked; and I figured I've been doing this long enough that I've accrued some wisdom!

Nate assured me the class was small and informal.  Rather than prepare a speech, I gathered my portfolio (along with lots of preliminary sketches) and headed to class.

The school is charming! It's housed in a cool historic nineteenth-century brick building that looks like a classic high school. Before the class I wandered the halls and absorbed the familiar sights: a room filled with easels, rows of cubbies with enough space for large oil paintings, a naked man posing in front of a throng of students - ah, memories!

The aim of my presentation was to share my process. I showed the class examples from each stage of an illustration, from rough thumbnails to finished art. Creating an illustration is rarely a linear journey. My process involves searching and experimenting to find the composition, the character, the pose, the color. Rarely does my first stab at an illustration resemble the final product.

What do I wish someone had told me when I was in art school?--That's the question my wife suggested I contemplate while preparing for this talk.

I wish someone had said it's okay to emulate other artist's work. I avoided studying and learning from other artists because I thought it was "cheating." I've come around to the realization that I can learn a lot from other illustrators and artists without polluting my integrity! 

BB King was asked how he found his style of guitar playing and he answered--and I'm paraphrasing here--I was trying to imitate my guitar heroes but fell short–that's where my style came from.

And similarly, in the words of Stephen Sondheim from Sunday in The Park with George:

Just Keep Moving On
Anything you do
Let it come from you
Then it will be new
Give us more to see…

UPDATE: After further thought, this Sondheim quote, out of context, sounds a bit trite. I assure you, in context, it's wicked profound and life-changing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lemonade Girl

This is an illustration I did for a local insurance company. The ad copy makes the case that the right insurance coverage can help you turn lemons into lemonade (how sweet is that?).

This was painted digitally using Photoshop with a Wacom tablet. And here are three of the ads in the series:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!! (Resurrecting an Old Post)

When I was a kid, the local Recreation Department held a Halloween window painting contest and every year I would enter. I recently made a high-resolution scan from the negative of this old photo. The resulting 2400 dpi scan is full of details (and memories) that until now were too small to see in the original print. I can now read what I wrote on the coffin - "Dracula's Pad." Also, I can make out a witch riding a vacuum cleaner and a Jawa (from Star Wars) onboard a spaceship.  That's my brother David stealing my limelight.

People familiar with my home town might be curious where this was painted -  that's the laundromat on Lincoln Street.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Educational Work

I've been busy working on illustrations for an educational publisher. The client was looking for black and white illustrations with no outlines. My portfolio was lacking that type of work but I felt it was well within my comfort zone. I whipped up a sample and convinced the client I was a good fit. FYI: The fellow is this illustration survives his heart attack!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mess of a Desk

This is what my drawing table looks likes when I'm painting. I keep a printout of my color study nearby as well as the original sketch. The spiral pad is there to remove excess paint from my brushes. I use Liquitex acrylics and cheap brushes. My butcher tray palette is MIA, probably sitting in the sink waiting to be cleaned.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

High Five!

I'm thrilled to have my illustrations featured in the pages of Highlights High Five magazine! Look for me in the October 2008 issue, in stores now!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Other Side of Summer: Color Study

This is a Photoshop color study for an acrylic painting I'll be starting soon. Photoshop allows me to experiment quickly and effortlessly with color. The final painting will surely take on a life of it's own – but this study gives me a clear direction before any paint leaves the tube.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bears, Squirrels and Kids, OH MY!

I've been working on these two paintings over the summer and chronicled my progress on this blog. I've posted sketches, color studies, different stages of painting and FINALLY (?) the finished illustrations! Next, I will turn them into postcards and hopefully generate some more interest in my work!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Illustration Friday: Clutter (from the Archive)

This unfinished illustration is from my early days. I was fairly comfortable with drawing, but painting was a different story. After meticulously transferring a sketch to watercolor paper, I would freeze up for the painting stage.

I felt like I was walking a tightrope every time I applied watercolor. I didn't think there was any way to "fix" a mistake - it was DO or DIE. It was seriously stressful and not much fun at all!

My mind became cluttered with doubt and I abandoned this piece.

Since then, I've learned that watercolor is reversible to a degree. It's possible to "lift" a poorly chosen color out of the paper by saturating the offending pigment with water and scrubbing it off with a brush. My watercolor work was much more successful when I learned such tricks, many thanks to my friend Teri Weidner!

Honestly, watercolor is a drag and still causes me anxiety. For me, acrylic has proven to be a more flexible and freeing medium. A mistake in acrylic can simply be painted over and forgotten!

Here's a closeup of some clutter. 

Friday, August 29, 2008

Illustration Friday: Memories: THEN & NOW

You're probably wondering, "What am I looking at?"

Inspired by the Illustration Friday topic, "Memories," I dug out one of my composition books from grade school. The notebook was devoted to a catalogue of state facts (state tree, state flower, state nickname...). Throughout the notebook are doodles. Inexplicably, the page for "Oklahma" has a sketch of a boy spitting seeds with the caption "watermelon spitting contest!"

Above is the sketch from thirty years ago. Today I took another crack at the subject. It's encouraging to see that I've improved. (I have improved, right?!)

Below is the complete drawing. As I often do for Illustration Friday, I challenged myself to create an illustration in short order. I completed this in an hour and a half. Medium is acrylic with some colored pencil.

Here's some fascinating state facts from my research:
"Magnet Cove etc make AR a wonderful state!"
"AL has a statue in honor of a bug (boll weevil)"
"AK is the closses state to Russia"
"IA has the biggest popcorn-packing plant in the USA."
"People visit Las Vegas to get rinch??"

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bear Scare

I've been working away on this illustration for a couple weeks. It's come a long way since I first posted sketches; I feel it has further to go but I need to take a break. I'll step away for a couple days, collect some feedback from other illustrators and gain some fresh perspective. Then I'll get back to painting and finish it off or good.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Project Runway is Back!

I sketched these two contestants from the Season 3 DVD of Project Runway (got to love that pause button). And yes, those are real tattoos on that guy's neck.

I think creative types of all stripes can (and should) enjoy this show. Every week an eclectic group of fashion designers are challenged to create high fashion under a variety of constraints. How would you like to create an evening gown out of garbage? Or redesign the uniform for US mail carriers? Oh, and you have 30 minutes to sketch and 6 hours before your garment has to walk down the runway to be judged.

Project Runway is about creativity under pressure. Anyone that has pulled an all-nighter to meet a deadline will relate and empathize with these contestants.

Season 5 of Project Runway begins Wednesday, July 16 on Bravo in the US!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Scare Bear

Here are some sketches for a new illustration. The final will be handled much like the previously posted Kids vs Squirrel. The top sketch is nearly ready for transferring to illustration board and painting. The bottom sketch is earlier in the process.

Some of the changes I made between the two versions and why:
  • I moved the bear up. He now has more presence, he's also bigger/closer to the viewer
  • The dog is more animated and stylized - a little goofy looking. I like that!
  • The kneeling boy has been nerdified - I think that makes him more distinctive.
  • I changed the standing boys gaze and expression to differentiate him from the kneeling boy.
  • Details! Between the two drawing I spent time studying: bears, canteens, hiking boots, trees and ferns. I also took some reference photos of myself (and my wife) assuming the poses in the illustration.

Illustration Friday: Fierce

FROM THE ARCHIVE: The heart and soul of my hometown is The Music Hall, a 125+ year-old theater that features live performances and movies. Summerfilm is the Music Hall's film series that runs from Memorial Day through Labor day and features an eclectic mix of Hollywood blockbusters, art films and classics. Where else can you see Tarzan and his Mate (1932) one night and No Country for Old Men the next?

I created this poster for one of the first Summerfilms and it hung around town and in the lobby. It's a loving homage to the giant monster movies I grew up watching. I think that thing qualifies as fierce.

Special thanks to fellow illustrator John Watson for insisting I submit this for the Illustration Friday topic "fierce."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Illustration Friday: Hoard

This balloon cheeked vermin was inspired by the Illustration Friday topic "Hoard".

I gave myself three hours to create the illustration (from concept to final piece). I experimented with a style that I want to cultivate - line art with color washes. The black line is India Ink; the color is acrylic with colored pencil. I did this on toothy, "cold press" watercolor paper.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Attic Detail

I first posted sketches for the "Attic" back on May 18th. I'm putting finishing touches on the final painting this week. Here's a closeup of a scaredy squirrel.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Illustration Friday: Punchline

FROM THE ARCHIVES: One of my first paying clients was a comedy promoter. These are a couple of the many posters I created for comedy shows. Although the pay was modest, it was a great way to beef up my skimpy portfolio and get some much needed exposure - plus I always made sure I got myself some free tickets!

A sad side note: I had to scan the actual posters because the digital files are too outdated to open!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Attic Kids: Painting Progress

I'm making progress on the final attic painting! The actual piece is 14" x 10" and done in acrylic. This is approximately 75% done.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Illustration Friday: Forgotten

I had forgotten my "pillow in the freezer" technique to keep cool on hot and humid summer nights. And yes, I did have Pac Man sheets.

I just celebrated a milestone birthday and that has me feeling nostalgic. Another year older plus the first heatwave of the year brought this memory to mind.

Speaking of minds and forgetting - while working on this illustration I jumped up from my desk and ran to the kitchen. Once there, I had NO IDEA what had compelled me to go in there. I stood stupefied for a moment and returned to my desk. I then remembered I had intended to study the fridge for this illustration.

Illustration Friday is a great excuse to try a new technique. For this illustration I scanned the pencil drawing and printed it on heavy matte paper. I then applied acrylic washes to to the print. I also worked fast and loose (for me). I spent just under three hours on this illustration.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


One of the fringe benefits of being an illustrator for the children's market is that it gives me an excuse to buy TOYS!

Toys connect me to my past and to the stories and characters that have inspired me. That hunk of plastic sitting on my desk reminds me of the hours I spent sitting in kindergarten, drawing Godzilla over and over.

I got married last year. I'm starting to look into buying a house for the first time. I'm fast approaching one of those milestone birthdays. There's no doubt that I've grown up. But I'm happy (and relieved) that I haven't grown out my love of monsters, aliens, ghouls and dinosaurs!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Acrylic Study

OK, OK - I know, everyone is sick of these sketches and color studies! But this is the last one!

Friday, May 30, 2008


Visitors to this site have seen me working on an illustration featuring kids in an attic being startled by squirrels (just scroll down to see what I'm talking about). At some point I decided that the illustration would make a good postcard. And that got me thinking about a spot illustration for the address side. But what?

I thought about the "story"and what might happen next...

The kids run from the attic in a panic and drop their book of ghost stories. And then the squirrels find the book and spook themselves!

I was happy to work on a spot illustration. To be honest, the attic scene is a little intimidating and this spot is a good warm up. When I painted this, I started by covering the drawing with a dark layer of burnt umber and then worked from dark to light - an effective approach for nighttime scenes!