Tuesday, April 15, 2014

High Fashun

Have you ever been at a fancy funeral or a birthday party at the Pentagon and thought "I wish my t-shirt really made a statement about how dignified I am"? Well friends, wish no more! Introducing the Gold Digger T-Shirt, exclusive from Joey Ellis Incorporated, the industry leader in drawing fat floating heads with silly faces.

The Gold Digger T-Shirt from Cotton Bureau is guaranteed to have people saying "Who invited that person?" and "Why are you hiding in my closet?" and "Please stop eating my garbage". The Gold Digger T-Shirt uses water-based ink on a Heather Black, poly-cotton t-shirt from American Apparel that will leave your body soft, smooth and better looking than ever before. The Gold Digger T-Shirt also comes in man sizes and lady sizes and is the perfect gift for any occasion or court appearance.

You may be asking "Hey, haven't I seen this artwork before?" and "So... you're just recycling your old ideas to make a quick buck?" Dear friends, America was BORN on recycling old ideas into new ways to con people out of money achieve the American Dream™! In fact, I can't think of anything more UN-American than coming up with an original idea! Think of this as a reboot, and there's nothing more American than a reboot, save from meat on sticks and jean shorts.

Time is of the essence, dear friends, and the Gold Digger T-Shirt is available ONLY for a limited time, which means you need to buy one TODAY! It's easy! Simply find a computer (the glowing rectangle things at the library), enter www.cottonbureau.com into your Netscape browser, follow the instructions and buy as many Gold Digger T-Shirts as your credit card will allow! I'm really looking forward to seeing how amazing you look in your new Gold Digger T-Shirt!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Milk Splashed

Over the past few months, I had the opportunity to work with Luquire George Andrews and S&D Coffee & Tea to help develop a series of characters for their new MilkSplash line of products. The challenge was to take an existing series of characters, that were only featured on product, and bring them to life, allowing them to exist within other applications.

Two of the final characters, Sir Strawberry Swirl and Jammin' Banana

The image above shows two of the final characters I developed for the MilkSplash line. I wanted to keep the shape of the bottle (you'll notice the color of the tummies match their original bottle... Care Bears anyone?) but also build these characters in a way that let them exist as their own, appealing personality... allowing them to help expand the brand awareness through other executions. MAN! That was SO marktingspeaky! I know you liked that.

Existing MilkSplash packaging, supplied by the client

This shows the process of evolving the existing package into a full character

With this project, the first piece of business was to simply take the existing bottle, and put arms and legs on it. From there, I began to flesh out the rest of the body... what does the head look like? How tall is the character? How do they move? Some characters came to life quite quickly, while others took a bit more time. The chart above shows a typical process in my character development... moving from the existing package (1) into sketch (2) and all the way into the final produced artwork (6). The end result for all the characters had to evoke the look of the package without actually copying it.

Ultimately, the group worked best when everyone was of a similar height

Another challenge with this type of project, where you're working to create a group of characters, is that the whole group has to work individually and as a whole. My original idea was to have the characters be different sizes, but this decision made the smaller characters insignificant. Designing the characters to all share a similar size and proportion helped give equal weight to everyone, and helped them feel more like an established group.
Some buildings were pretty straight forward... others took a bit more work

The other really cool part of this project, was that I was asked to design where each character lived. I love matching a building to a characters personality... treating the building as a character itself. Like the characters, some buildings came to life much quicker than others. The castle, for example, was pretty straight forward from day one... while the tiki hut slowly evolved into a music studio tiki hut. Can you have electricity in a tiki hut? Sure you can!

Welcome to a land of flavor, you guys!

Finally, after all of the characters and buildings had been approved, the final step was to put them all in their own little village... surrounding a river of milk! Personally, I would not go swimming in a river of milk... unless I had a cookie raft. Mmmmmmmmm... cookie raft.....

I invite you to check out more of my work on MilkSplash, including larger images over on my portfolio site. If you'd like to learn more about the product itself, visit MilkSplash's website! Now... go drink your milk or else. OR ELSE.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Now on Kickstarter: Leaky Timbers!

I am VERY excited to finally announce my new Kickstarter project: Leaky Timbers! Leaky Timbers is a 72 page, hardcover comic book that stars Wolfie Monster, his brothers and all of the other residents of the Leaky Timbers apartment complex. I've posted a lot more details over on Kickstarter, including a video featuring Wolfie that I hope you'll check out.
I have until March 18, 2014 to make this book happen and I need your help! Please visit my Kickstarter page and consider becoming a backer before time runs out!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bingo... DINO DNA!


A couple of weeks back, Facebook asked me to create a new set of emoticon stickers for their Facebook Messenger app. Several other of my favorite artists had already contributed so of COURSE I said yes. More like "OMG YES" but let's be professional here. A "yes" will suffice. They pretty much gave me complete freedom to create whatever sticker system I wanted, as long as it was central to one character. I decided to draw a dinosaur, named Mikey.


From pencil to vector to brush pen back to vector, just like Rembrandt.

An earlier concept of Mikey had him with smaller features like eyeballs and arms, and while at a larger scale this design would have been okay, Mikey needed to be optimized so you could read his emotions at like 240 pixels tall. That's pretty small. So, for Mikey's final design, I gave him really big eyeballs and big arms that were a different color to his body. Having different colored arms allowed him to be able to move his arms across his chest and have it not blend into the torso. They don't teach you that in art school. (Actually, they probably do, but for the sake of argument, let's make me look as good as possible here).


Look, I use a computer!

While I did have a system of colors that I thought worked really well, I didn't quite know where to use these colors. I experimented with a lot of different options with Mikey before landing on the final palette. All of his different body parts had to coordinate but also contrast against all of his other body parts so that, no matter what pose I put him in, you could instantly tell what he was doing. It was a bit like Jurassic Park when that cartoon is like "Bingo... DINO DNA!"


It appears as though I drew these with my feet.

Now the real challenge, once the final design was in place, was to have the character emote. Doing really rough thumbnails to quickly get down ideas really helped. Not everything ended up in the final execution, but you want a glut of ideas that you can choose from. This helps take the pressure off and avoids awkward situations where you spend hours screaming at your computer "WELL NOW WHAT, COMPUTER?!"


Wow. That was a really long image. Sorry about that.

Once you get the ball rolling on a few poses, the rest of the series really begins to take shape. It's much quicker to do poses 20-30 than it is to do poses 1-5. Also, the more time you spend with a character, the more you get to know them... what makes "them" "them" so to speak. You begin to picture what they would and would not do and that really helps with creating more ideas for poses and situations.


Spy Hunter anyone?


If you scale this up, it's a guitar. Scale it down and it's a ukulele!


Sure it's only one seat, but it also has a bathroom!

I enjoy drawing "things". Props, vehicles, food etc. Sometimes if I'm stuck trying to come up with an emote for a character, I'll just give them something to hold or something to play with, and an emotion can come out of that. Putting things into a context helps me further the story along. From this series, the TV with the old NES-ish console was my favorite prop. I remember when games really looked like that. Such glorious memories! "Is that a car?" "Is what a car?" "That red rectangle. Is that a car?" "Of course it's a car, you moron."


I'm like Indiana Jones but without any of his looks, knowledge or whip/hat thing.

I'd like to end this post with a bit of personal stuff. Whenever you own your own business, or are freelance or whatever, you sometimes have to work from anywhere. During this particular job, I started work here in my studio in Charlotte, then packed up and headed out to San Francisco and then packed up and headed out to Long Island NY where I wrapped the project up. I think that was about 6000 miles or so.

These weren't ideal working conditions for this project, but everything stayed on schedule and was produced on time. The point being for any young designer/illustrator out there is that you can't let outside circumstances stop you from delivering a job that you've promised to deliver. Just like Indiana Jones. Remember, even if you fall into a pit of snakes and some old dude is like "YOU'D BETTER PICK THE RIGHT CUP", you have to deliver what you promised, when you promised to deliver it.

You can learn more about Facebook stickers here and be sure to download Mikey's series for free!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Hometown Team

The Charlotte Hornets are coming back. I AM NERDING OUT HERE.

I grew up watching Charlotte Hornets basketball games. They were my TEAM! I loved them all. Zo. Muggsy. Grandmama. Rex. Glen. Dell. ETC ETC. The Hornets simply captured my imagination.

I, like many fans, were heartbroken when they left for New Orleans, and I've tried to make do with the Charlotte Bobcats... but it just wasn't the same. SO when Michael Jordan announced that he was going to rename the team back to the Charlotte Hornets, I think I could have flown to the moon and back! MY HORNETS ARE COMING HOME! BOOM! WHEW! I'm sweaty. Are you sweaty?

Anyway. I wanted to celebrate the return of my Hornets with a little postcard/promo piece. Of all the Charlotte Hornets, who would be more fun to draw than Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues?
Larry Johnson could take on the HULK any day.

For this piece, I worked directly within Illustrator. I started off with just shapes. After I had a composition that worked, I began filling in those shapes with color, adding detail as I went. Once I had enough detail, I worked on the background. I wanted this postcard to be bold and simple.

Everything looks better in Charlotte Hornets pinstripes.

I tried several color variations, looking for the right amount of contrast to help pop my characters off the page. I really liked the idea of using the pinstripes from the uniform (top left) but ultimately felt like it was too busy. A direction closer to the image in the lower right was where I landed.

I wish my name was Muggsy.

My early version of the postcard featured a Muggsy Bogues that didn't look very Muggsy Bogues-ish, so I reworked some elements to make him more like himself.
The final postcard, mailed out to clients and BFFs

The finished piece, featuring LJ and Muggsy, swarming into battle.

On a more personal note...

Who is that doughy-looking doof in the lower right? HE'S SO HANDSOME.

I have always believed that you support the team in your backyard. Win or lose, it's just what you do. For the past 10 years, my family and I have supported the Bobcats, because they are from Charlotte. We have never been thrilled with the Bobcats name or the branding, but, no matter what, we support Charlotte. The Hornets name belongs in Charlotte. It's part of our history. It's part of our soul. It's just who we are. Having the Hornets name back won't add any more wins or score more points, but my family and I don't care.

The team in our backyard finally has it's identity back, and we're excited to be a part of it. Go Hornets!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Building Blocks


Back in late 2012, I had the pleasure of working with McGraw-Hill Education to help develop a series of iOS. Ultimately, the development team took the games in a different direction, meaning most (if not all) of my art was left on the editing floor. Sadface. However, I received the greenlight to share my work, so the post below walks you though some of my process behind the project.


The interface was supplied by the client. I supplied that realistic tiger.

The majority of my responsibilities were to design a series of sprites/characters for each game, as well as background scenes that would fit around an existing interface. The image above shows an example of a finished scene, with the character and controls in place. A scene, like the one our tiger friend is in, can take weeks (even months) of concepts and redesigns. Patience (and coffee) is key.


Workflow from Illustrator. How did people research before the internets?

Whenever I started with a new scene, I always worked on the easiest, or most comfortable portion first, then worked my way out of that. I also pull a lot of reference images, especially when drawing animals. The shot above shows an example of what my Illustrator screen looks like while constructing a scene. I'll usually have tons of reference photos and color swatches and whatever construction lines are needed. In this case, I had a template of what the final interface would look like (see the pink lines) which helped me design the scene around where the buttons would go.

building_blocks_04 building_blocks_03

A sample of some final animal designs.

Originally, I wanted the characters to have a lot of detail and roundness (as shown in the chickens above), but due to the volume of animals/props needed throughout the entire series of games, coupled with the production schedule, a simpler execution was needed, so the final designs took on more blocky shapes.


Some key frames for the animals' movements.

I am NO animator. I don't have any animation background and it's a service I don't offer, but sometimes I still have to give the real animators some sort of concept to go on. For each animal, I did a few key frames that gave my idea on how I thought each animal should move.


What's that Van Halen song?

The chicken and the mouse above show my ideas on how I thought they should jump. This is pretty much the extent of my animation ability. So… if you know of someone who's looking to make a major motion picture starring a jumping chicken and a jumping mouse, send them my way.


I'm faxing these designs to NASA as we speak.


That might be the worst-looking robot ever.

Designing animals can be time consuming, so it's nice when a project also has in-organic objects that need to be illustrated. Part of the assignment was to draw space ships, trees, cactuses, robots, musical instruments, and so on and on and on. The images above give an example of some of the objects I produced to exist within the games.


Several final scene designs. Leaving room for various interfaces was tough.

The last part of my responsibilities was to stage my animals/objects in a way that would match the style and also give room for the game buttons/controls. Most of the games needed space above and below, so scenes were designed accordingly (which explains why most of these have big spaces on the top and bottom). It's always a challenge to design a stage that has the same amount of personality as the characters, but also lets those characters stand out.

building_blocks_07 building_blocks_08 building_blocks_09

A couple of examples of scenes with final characters in place.

Designing games is always rewarding, but there's always a tremendous amount of editing, re-working and changing concepts to match the production methods. Even then, there's always the chance that final art won't get produced. But that's the biz, yo!

You can see more examples (and larger images) of my work on this project by visiting my portfolio site. Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Beastly Badges Series 1 & 2


I'm excited to announce a new personal project: Beastly Badges!

Beastly Badges are the best pet monster money can buy! Beastly Badges don't require food, water, shelter or any attention whatsoever! They can fit in your pocket, decorate your book bag, take up room in your hoarder house... whatever you need them for!


Series 1 and 2 contain 10 Beastly Badges. They do not bite. Well, a few of them do.

Beastly Badges Series 1 and 2 each contain 5, 1.5" buttons that are individually named and numbered. Once each series is sold out, they will NOT be reprinted, so be sure to grab them while you can!


Early sketch of Muck Mouth. He's so handsome.

The size and shape of the Beastly Badges allow me to come up with lots of ideas. "Aren't you just drawing monster faces on circles?" OH, YOU. There are no plans to produce a certain number of these. I'll keep making them as long as people keep buying them. When people stop buying them, I'll collapse into a heap of depression!


"Urpp" is actually short for "Urpphaldudelphiuserton".

SERIES ONE: 01: Toofy 02: Grimey Slimey 03: Muck Mouth 04: Lord Barfington 05: Nervous Nerdly SERIES TWO: 06: Snort 07: Glurp the Indifferent 08: Urpp 09: Caveface 10: Picklenose


Each series comes individually packaged in a monster-safe pouch.



I've had a lot of fun creating these, and I look forward to making many more. The folks at Pure Buttons did a great job of producing all of them, and the quality is top notch. I think you'll be pleased!

Head on over to my Big Cartel store and order Beastly Badges today!

Buy Beastly Badges Series 1 ($4.00 +$3.00 s&h)

Buy Beastly Badges Series 2 ($4.00 +$3.00 s&h)

Buy Beastly Badges Series 1 & 2 ($7.00 +$3.00 s&h)

Good luck and happy collecting!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

FOR SALES: The best t-shirt I've ever made so far.


I have now entered the lucrative world of t-shirt design. Yes. I'm finally able to share the best t-shirt I've ever made (since it's the first, it's the best), and for just $20, (the price of 20 $1 bills) you can own one. The "Monstercycle" is a very limited run, since it's my first shirt and it's only available in mens XL and L. Sorry ladies, childs, and Hulk Hogan. If this shirt sells well, many more will be on the way with many more fitting options and such.


Me, starting off in to space, pretending to laugh at something.

The shirt is American Apparel heather black super soft something or other and has been printed with water-based inks for that lived-in feel. My wife is like "ooh, that's soft" so, that's a ringing endorsement.

If you like monsters, motorcycles, shirts, sleeves, neck holes, fabric, gray or impulse buys, then this is the shirt for you.

Head on over to my internetz store and buy yourself a great new t-shirt to impress your friends and business associates!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Design Recharge Show


Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with Diane Gibbs on the Design Recharge Show. It was the first time I've ever spoken live about illustration, so I had a lot of fun, and did my best not to ramble (although, once a rambler, always a rambler). She and I talked about topics such as my studio space, where I draw inspiration, business practices and lots of other things. I've included the video here so you can watch it at your leisure.

There were a few areas where I misspoke (it happens when idiots do live shows), and wanted to clear a few things up:

• I mention buying a mailing list from Constant Contact. I actually used Agency Access.

• I discussed the cost of my postcard promo as being between $3-5k to produce. This included printing, list buying and postage. This did not include design time. I believe (knowing what I know now) I could have produced this much cheaper, but wanted to be honest about what I spent.

• There's a part where Diane asks me who my favorite artists are (or who inspires me). I drew a blank, but wanted to pull out a section from my earlier Design Inspiration Blog interview:

Chris Sanders, Adam Koford, Alex Deligiannis, Peter DeSéve, Melanie Matthews, Invisible Creature, Laura Park, Chris Lee, Matt Kaufenberg, Scott Campbell, Scott Chantler, Eddie Pittman, Robot Johnny, Todd Bright, Dustin Harbin... I’m just going to keep naming names until my computer battery dies.... these are just a FEW folks I really dig. I admire people that can flat out draw. Jared Chapman is great. He makes me laugh. No one makes me laugh. His work is great too. I’m lucky enough to have a brother-in-arms, Matt Stevens who is also a brilliant designer/illustrator. I think everyone needs a close friend in the industry that you can commiserate with.

ANYWAY! I had a blast talking with Diane. She has produced an entire series of worthwhile interviews that are available online, so please check that out. Thanks to everyone who tuned it and for all the kind words and great feedback!