Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!


I like changing my avatar. Here's my Halloween 2012 collection. Not sure what to do for November. Pilgrims? Robot pilgrims? Pilgrim robots? Hmmmm.

I've got a series of these new avatars collecting over on Flickr. There's no plan to keep this up... just when I get bored. You can see the 2009 series over on Flickr too.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

PBS Kids Democracy Project


PBS Kids asked me to draw some icons for their 2012 Democracy Project, and I was happy to do so. While the creative brief called for "eleventy-billion icons" I ended up producing 44 in all. Maybe 45. I can't remember now. Hmmm.

Anyway, doing a large project like this is always a tremendous amount of fun as you hammer out exactly what the style is and try and carry that style out through an entire series.


I love drawing lots of little things.

I find that I get to draw certain things over and over again. It seems like every project I do has a whale, trees, hands etc... and every time, I try and approach it a bit differently. It helps me become quicker and it allows me to change a style, within a style, so to speak, so that different clients get similar, yet different results.

Working with a simple system of colors is a great way to help keep things together, making sure that each illustration feels as if they all belong as a series, rather than a collection of one-offs. It also helps to build things up together, rather than finish one icon at a time.


I draw in pencil, then trace, then clean up.

My method for creating things changes from project to project. Some projects require a tremendous amount of drawing on paper, while some projects can be completed all within Illustrator. This project started off as simple sketches for each icon, and cleaned up within the computer. The shot above shows an example of some of my pencil roughs, next to the finished piece. You can see some larger views of some selected icons below.

PBSKids_04 PBSKids_06 PBSKids_07 PBSKids_08 PBSKids_09

Be sure to check out the PBS Kids Democracy Project and make yourself a sticker!

You can also visit my site and see larger views of each icon.

Thanks again Mr. Bishop!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

One Monstrous Train: A New Promo Series


It's always been my experience that you need to promote your business while you're busy, because if you wait until you're not busy, you'll be out of business and you'll have to eat your own hair or something. My point being, no matter how much client work I have going on, I still like to fit in my own personal promo projects. In this case, I decided to create a series of postcards that would be sent out to new clients and art directors over a period of 6 months.


I choo choo choose YOU vintage railroad playing cards!

Last year I visited Biltmore Estate and found this deck of cards in the gift shop. Each card had it's own illustration of a classic train and I found all of the various shapes and sizes appealing. I enjoy drawing vehicles but had never attempted to draw a train before.


This is a really long jpeg. Sorry.

While I enjoy drawing vehicles, I enjoy drawing monsters even more. There's really no wrong way to draw a monster, so it's fun to put pencil to paper and create appealing shapes and characters without much regard to realism. Because this was a personal project, I'd work on it for awhile, then put it away for awhile. The shots above show just a few of the explorations done over a 6 month span.

I researched all different kinds of trains, train cars, bolts, wheels, gauges, lights, bells... really everything. I found Dropbox to be quite helpful when doing this research because sometimes I did image research while on my iMac, and other times it was on an iPad or iPhone and I could save everything to an organized folder in the cloud.

If I got bored drawing trains, I'd focus on monster studies, and when that would bore me, I'd go back to doing image research/homework. I think keeping these "buckets" to put work into helps stop the old creative block and helps you build confidence that you know what you're doing (even though you don't).
At the bottom of this monster-sized jpeg (sorry) you'll see some color studies. I like ROYGBIV and usually start there, pulling out colors that I think will work well together. I'll do color studies in Photoshop then pull flat colors into Illustrator for final art. For this train, I figured the caboose HAD to be red, so I started there. I then went back to the front of the train and started with orange, yellow then began on to greens and such. I also used these same colors to build my monsters.

Note the coffee ring on one of my sketches. Oops.


Fancy train clothes!

My original concept involved having fully clothed monsters on the train, each one wearing a specific train outfit specific to their job. What I discovered is that putting clothes on monsters can be difficult, especially when you are dealing with several different kinds of monsters, none of which share a specific body size or scale. Also, there's so much detail going into the train at this point, having the same level of detail on each monster was going to prove to be too much. So while it was fun to draw and research train uniforms and jobs, I decided not to use it on this piece.


Quite a group of characters.

The shot above shows the final designs for each of the monsters. I derive a lot of my monster ideas from Jim Henson and his artists. I think a good rule of thumb for any fun monster design is "would this look cool on Sesame Street"?


Various color builds. Pencil on the left and vector on the right.

In most cases, I still use pencil and paper to design my characters. I clean them up, scan them into Photoshop, then trace and build their shapes in Illustrator. When I draw, I use two colors of pencil; red and black. My red lines are "thinking lines" and the black lines are for cleaning up. I enjoy drawing this way, and it's a technique I've picked up from watching other artists.


I try to put story and personality in everything.

These are a few of the finished monster designs. While not important to this particular project, I do name each one and create some sort of story to go along, even if it's just a sentence or two. It helps drive a design so that I don't end up with 12 monsters that all have the same personality. I may end up using the names and stories later on future projects.


Postcard #1: The Engine. He sure seems happy about his dead-end job.


Postcard #2: The Logging Car. I thought coal would be boring, so I drew logs instead.


Postcard #3: The Passenger Car. R.O.A.R.R. stands for the "Rotten Ogre Apparitional Rail Road".


Postcard #4: The Tank Car. Not sure what that green sludge is.


Postcard #5: The Circus Car. Why I put a blue Flurpsnoz next to a green Whurppurd is beyond me.


Postcard #6: The Caboose. It's not very roomy.


More details.

It's always fun creating a world that doesn't exist. These are some details that I designed to go along with the monster train.


All 6 postcards.

The final execution was to print each train as their own 8.5 x 6 postcard. Each one gets mailed out every 6-8 weeks and the hope is that people are able (and want) to collect all 6. When you do, they form the entire train, in all it's colorful glory.

If you are interested in owning your own set of 6 monster train postcards, I do have a few sets available for sale over at my shop.

You can also view each illustration larger over on my studio site. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Pacific Helm Avatars

Most of the time (like 100%) I surf through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, iChat etc. looking for people's avatars. In fact, there are several people I follow where I instantly recognize their avatar but couldn't tell you their first name. From my point of view, a good avatar is pretty important, so I really enjoy creating them for people. A few weeks back, I wrapped up work on a new avatar project for Pacific Helm. The task was the create new images for Brad, Jessie and Louie, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share some of my process.

PH_01 That's a good looking crew!

Above are Brad, Jessie and Louie in their human form, with their final avatar forms (no, not naked blue kitteh aliens) shown below. What I always find interesting is that, the less I know someone, the easier it is to draw them, whereas the more familiar I am with someone, the more difficult it is to capture their likeness. I've known Louie for several years now, and capturing the "right Louie" was really challenging.

PH_02 A bunch of Brads and Louies that don't look much like Brads or Louies.

Drawing is always key with any visual problem. I rarely ever find the right solution with any drawing I do, but it helps me loosen up and try different shapes and expressions. None of these really look like Brad or Louie, but I'm searching for elements that feel right together.

PH_03 I should have left Brad with pink hair

For me, red and magenta lines are "thinking" lines, so I often will draw in these colors when I'm building artwork. Brad has a lot of architecture in his face, especially with his glasses, so his evolution from sketch to final art was pretty quick.

PH_04 Reminds me of GEM. Truly outrageous, you guys.

Jessie has a lot of personality in her hair and a really soft nose. I spent a lot of time exploring hair and nose shapes. She's also rocking' the Mona Lisa smile. Eat that, art history.

PH_05 One can never have too many Louie Mantias

As I mentioned earlier, I've known Louie for awhile, so capturing his look took me a lot longer than Brad or Jessie. The heads above are just a few studies completed while trying to get the right Louie.

PH_08 PH_06 PH_07 Accessories are the best.

I like the ability to change avatars as well, without CHANGING avatars. I wanted to give the Pacific Helm crew lots of options when using their avatars.

Thanks again to Pacific Helm for allowing me to create new art for them. Be sure to follow Brad, Jessie and Louie to see what great things they come up with next!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Creating Apperson Prep


A few months back I posted some very early work I did for Apperson Prep, a series of online educational videos that I provided illustrations for. I wanted to share more of the concept work behind the finished product and walk you through some of my process.


The image here shows Max and Morty in their final design.

Sometimes being the sole illustrator responsible for creating an entire world of characters and settings can be quite daunting. It's fun for sure, but there is a lot of second guessing, self doubt and a lot of late nights. For Apperson Prep, my responsibilities were to create the two main characters, Max (the boy) and Morty (the ghost) along with a few scenes that they would appear in.


Some early color tests. The skull shirt was inspired by Sid from Toy Story.

When developing characters, watching movies really helps me. It gives me visual ideas on how characters might walk, talk, interact and deal with every day life. When developing these characters, I watched the Freaks and Geeks series over and over again. That show is so great at capturing the naivety and awkwardness of middle school/high school life, which is the age range the Apperson characters needed to be. The influence of that show appeared in a lot of my thumbnail sketches.

I tried lots of different ideas before the team and I landed on a boy and his ghost.

When designing characters, I often like to think about how the shapes of their bodies fit with each other. Are they similar? Opposite? How do I draw their personalities? How do they play off of each other? Do they like each other? Repulsed? Very basic ideas, but it helps when creating sketches.


I did a lot of weird studies.

Drawing is all about rhythm for me. I start drawing what I know, turn my brain off and try to fill up as many pages as I can. Typically there will be a handful of useful designs that help me move forward.

Lots of influence from Freaks and Geeks

Most of the early designs for Max had him either too old or too young. The drawings in the upper right ended up being pretty close to the final design.

Studies of Morty, a shape-shifting ghost.

Morty the ghost was extremely difficult to design. Even though his final build is really simple, the journey to get there was a very long and winding path. The Apperson team and I really struggled with how old or young to make this ghost. Did he look human? Was he a former student? Was he scary? Did he realize he was dead?


More early studies of Morty

I did a lot of exercises with trying to find the perfect "ghost" shape. I tried to steer clear of Casper, the Pac Man ghosts, Slimer and the Ghostbusters logo. It wasn't easy to not have every single idea be derivative of those existing ghosts... so I did a lot of studies.


Hat studies?

There were lots of details put into Morty. I even did studies of his hat to make sure he had just the right look. The sketch labeled "Hat #02" ended up being the final, approved sketch for Morty. All of the vector files were built off of that original drawing.


Several scenes developed for the Apperson Prep videos.


Diagram of Max's house


Max and Morty hanging out

Working for Apperson was great. It was a very rewarding experience that taught me a lot about communicating through drawing and making sure to pay attention to even the smallest details. The work shown above was a fraction of the work that went into designing the Max and Morty series. It took a lot of effort and I look forward to doing even better next time.

Thanks for hanging with me through all the sketches. :-)