Monday, December 21, 2009

Octopus Diptych Process

When I was younger I would take sailing classes during the summer. One time I was wading in the water, and a woman near-by called me over. "Look!" she said. And there near my feet in about 2 feet deep clear water was an Octopus. It stayed there very still for about 5 seconds with its tentacles spread over the sand, as if it was analyzing us. Then it zoomed away like a torpedo, pulling its arms down and jetting water. I lost sight of it in the deeper water.

I have never forgotten that moment, and octopuses have always been one of my favorite subjects to draw since. They are clever creatures and completely otherworldly, so different from anything we have on land.

Process: I started with a drawing in my sketchbook, graphite on paper 6x9"

I xeroxed the image and reduced it down to about 2.5x5" so it could fit into my projector.
With the projector I beamed an image of the octopus onto my two museum grade wood panels, an 8x8" and a 8x10", 8x18" together.
This part is relaxing and fun, I just listen to music and trace my drawing. I always feel like I am doing something naughty during this phase because I have always been taught not to trace. But I figure if I am tracing my own drawing then its okay. And its a real time saver!
Col-erase and graphite on the gessoed panel. I recommend not using col-erase, it smears when I sealed the drawing with gloss medium. I think a prisma color might have worked better.
I painted in the grayscale with titanium white and carbon black acrylic.
I then gently added glazes until I got to a point where I was satisfied. I put layers of gloss medium between each glazing to make the painting look deep. I love how the varnish catches light and holds it there. Plus I believe heavily varnished paintings age better. The varnish tans and it gives the painting a real vintage look. The photo doesn't do it justice.
The gap between the two panels adds an element of time, and makes the painting more sculptural. As you walk by the painting the gap changes from black (the color of the paint on the side of the panel) to white, or whatever the color of the wall is behind. Plus I think it fits the octopus well. They are tenacious creatures, and it looks as if the Octopus is sneaking over to the panel next to it.

It may be a strange painting to give for Christmas but I am going to send it to my brother. Hopefully he has a nice spot for it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Moleskin Madness

For many years I scoffed at those little Moleskin Journals near the checkout stand at book stores. I would chuckle to myself when I would see obnoxious wannabe poets hunched over their precious little Moleskin Journals jotting down oh so precious stanzas in coffee shops. HA! I would say. Who needs such an overly priced notepad? I am an artist! I could draw on napkins just as well! Never would I spend $16.95 for a book of blank pages, what a ridiculous idea!

So I bought a cheaper lookalike journal made by Piccadilly. And after six months of being carried around my Piccadilly sketchbook's spine detached from the pages. This made me unhappy because I had some great drawings in that sketchbook, and I wanted the book to be intact, I didn't want something that could potentially fall apart as I pull it from the bookshelf. But still I resisted Moleskin. Only phony posers use Moleskin sketchbooks thought I.

Then I noticed the instructor of my illustration class was using Moleskin. And I admired his work. Yet, I was still unconvinced. My instructor must have had a moment of weakness and bought the moleskin, or perhaps he received it as a gift, I mused. And then I noticed James Jean, one of my favorite illustrators, uses a moleskin for sketching. Well, he's rich I thought, he could use moleskins to wrap fish and afford it. I am a struggling artist! Why would I waste money on something so pretentious?

Then I was in Barnes and Nobles the other night Christmas shopping and I stumbled across the little Moleskin sketchbooks. Hmmmm, they seemed nice, and the tag said they were made by hand. . . And Picasso, Chatwin, and Van Gogh used them. You don't say? Pricey though, and I could probably buy them for cheaper online. But I don't have anything to draw on right now. . .

So I ended up buying one. I took it home, tore off the plastic, and analyzed every page. It was pretty nice. And I have to admit drawing on the pages is a pleasure. Like driving a car with a fine leather interior. Is it the actual quality of the product, or knowing that it is expensive that makes it fun to use? Its hard to know why, but something is better about Moleskin journals.

Below are some of my first sketches in my brand new Moleskin sketchbook. I have joined the ranks of the famous, and hopefully this overly priced notebook doesn't have a flimsy spine.

Blue Col-Erase and graphite 8x5"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jack White's Owl

This is a project I did a couple of weeks ago. I was rushing to get it finished and didn't have time to scan it. I got it back from my instructor and now I can post it on my blog.

The assignment was to create a pet for a celebrity. It's kind of like a caricuture or portrait of a celebrity with their imaginary pet. There was a lot of leeway and some of the pets people created in class came out pretty wild.

I went with simplicity.

The celebrity I chose was Jack White (I really like his music and style). For a long time I couldn't decide what kind of pet he should have. I finally concluded a owl would be best. I like how the final came out. Below is my process. Enjoy!

I started with some rough drawings, just trying to get the look of Jack White and his Owl. I really liked how the owl came out in the roughs, with the hat, tie, and suspenders. Although later I wasn't sure what the suspenders were holding up since I didn't want the owl to have pants. Graphite on paper.

I then made this water color painting. I liked how the colors bled, and the splatter of ink, but Jack's face was wrong, and I felt like it needed something else. Ink, water color on 90lb. water color paper.

I was a little stumped, and was doodling from photos, and suddenly I made this quick gestural sketch of Jack with his owl. Including the whole body seemed to help and I liked it a lot, but wasn't sure how I could duplicate this spontaneity on illustration board. (I made this sketch on crummy computer paper, unsuitable for watercolor).

Unfortunately, I waited until the last minute and held my breath and did my best to redo the gestural sketch on illustration board, just by looking at my original sketch (I couldn't think of a better way to transfer the drawing). Colored it, and turned it in with the paint still drying. My favorite part is the subtle change of color in his pants and the look of his fingers.
Higgins waterproof Ink, and water color, on illustration board. 8.5x11"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Heart of Darkness Continued

Tonight was the last night of my illustration class. I can't believe how fast the semester went by, and I am sad it is over. The last assignment was to create a book cover. If you have been following my posts you would have seen the rough idea drawings for my "Heart of Darkness" cover. I knew I wanted to use the character Kurtz for the cover, but I grappled with how he should be presented.

To help me decide I reread sections of the book and concluded that the direction I had been going was too brutal. The character Kurtz is ruthless, but he is also sophisticated. He is the type of person who could break your neck with his bare hands one second, or give you the best advice you have ever heard the next. Kurtz is a man who traded his humanity for knowledge and power, and sacrificed everything to satisfy his evil curiosities.

So, I scaled back the rage and let my pencil search for a Kurtz with a deceptively calm exterior. Mysterious and unpredictable.

I arrived with this pencil sketch below of a Rasputin like character. I then colored it with watercolor and prisma pencil, and added the copy with photoshop. I hope it captures the inner darkness of us all.

Graphite, watercolor, and prisma color pencils on cold press illustration board. 8.5x11"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hanging out at Uncle Andy's House

As a kid I used to go to my Uncle Andy's to practice drawing. My uncle Andy is a great artist, and I received my first drawing lessons from him when I was 10. Tonight, my girlfriend Nicole and me had dinner with him and his wife Jeanie. I hadn't been over to his place in years, and it was great hanging out with him and talking about art.

His wife Jeanie makes killer egg rolls.

Andy and Jeanie have some really cute Dachshunds and I couldn't resist drawing them. And neither could Andy, so there we were sitting on the sofa, stuffed full of egg rolls, sketching wiener dogs and talking art. . . Great times.

The dogs' names are Max and Buddy. Unfortunately, I didn't draw them together, and I could barely tell them apart so who knows which one is which in these drawings.

This is what they look like when they beg for food.

Graphite, and Prisma gray markers on paper, approximately 4x6"

Friday, December 4, 2009

Low Tire Pressure

My truck's front right tire is leaking. So I took it to Goodyear Tires to get it fixed. There was a borders across the street and I decided that would be a better place to wait than the greasy Goodyear lobby, the guy told me he would call me when it's finished. I whiled away my time reading books and people watching. This lady was really into the book she was reading, and she took notes on a little pad of paper. She was reading it intently, and would sigh every three minutes like she was upset or something. So I drew a quick sketch of her. I wonder what the book was about . . . Oh, and Goodyear never got around to my truck's tire. They told me to come back tomorrow. Yeah right, like that's gonna happen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Heart of Darkness

Graphite and Col-Erase on paper

Working on a book cover project for class. I chose "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad. Most of the copies of HOD I have seen have boring covers. So I am excited about bringing a fresh look to the cover. The book is pretty physiological, and with that in mind I decided the character Kurtz would be perfect. I am trying to capture something with impact, mystery, and a little violence. It feels good to let out the brutal side a little while working on this. Stay tuned for the finished product, should be done by next week.

Leave me comments about what you think about the direction.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

KISS+Thanksgiving+Hiking=Great 4 Day weekend

First of all, I would like to say thanks for family and friends, and for having a job. And for having a little time off from that job. It was great spending my four day weekend with everyone I love. My younger brother Jeff came home from college for some home cooked turkey and it was great seeing him.

Things started out this weekend with a KISS concert at the staples center on Wednesday. Those guys may be old but they can still ROCK! Besides how could I turn down free tickets for a suite? The best part was when Gene Simmons played his bass solo on top of the stage lights. Yes, that's right, he had a wire pull him 60 ft into the air and he stood on top of the stage lights to play his solo accompanied with pyrotechnics. It was one of the most amazing concerts I have ever seen. Those guys can sure put on a show.

Then Thursday it was Thanksgiving turkey at Grandma's and dessert at my Girlfriend's uncle's.

I think Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because there is no stress over presents. Just family and food. I love it.

To round off the weekend my Girlfriend and I went on a hike with some friends. Now its time to kick back, watch a movie rental and enjoy the last few hours of the holiday weekend savoring happy memories.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I was feeling a little antsy so I decided to do a little people watching, and practice my gesture drawing skills at the nearest starbucks (which happens to be right next to the theater).

While sipping a decaf Americano I watched as the coffee shop was inundated with a steady stream of annoying coeds. They were all bundled up cozy, frumpy, and in search of a caffeine rush. I think they are going to need it if they plan on getting through the latest installment of the twilight trilogy.

Just my luck to get surrounded by twilighters when trying to draw!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Self Portrait in Shop

Using my ichat cam as a mirror I made a rough drawing of myself with a col-erase pencil on illustration board, then I scanned it into photoshop. Strengthened the line a little with the brush tool, and then blocked in colors on different layers. The portrait is not quite finished but I got a little bored and didn't feel like cleaning up the edges. It feels great to practice using the graphics tablet. More to come! . . .hopefully soon

Monday, November 2, 2009

Learning how to sell the sizzle and not the steak

My latest project in my illustration class was to create an advertisement for the energy drink Xenergy. Since Xenergy is a major competitor to red bull I went with a sexy girl matador out maneuvering a dopey bull. When I told my teacher that I was concerned I wasn’t showing the product enough he said, “Who cares about the can? Show us the girl! Sell the sizzle not the steak!” So that’s what I did, and I think it came out nice. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to take a nice photo because I was rushing to class, but it gets the idea across.

Ink and watercolor, and colored pencil on cold press illustration board, 11x17”

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dancing Crocodiles

"Teaching the Reptilian Mind to be Civilized and Walk Upright like Humans" Ballpoint pen, and water color on 14"x17" 70lb. paper.

Ruff drawing, graphite on bond.

I got the idea for this composition while I was walking to my car after work. This image has a lot to do with my job.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


This is a ruff drawing for a digital painting I am working on entitled "Sleep." For three weeks I have been craving sleep. Between work, school, and my personal goals I have been unable to get enough Zs, and through most of the day sleep tugs on me, pulling at my eye lids, and weighing heavily on my muscles. It takes all my will power and lots of coffee to stay half awake.

Last night I was driving home late and I had this vision of a woman pulling a shroud over me, beckoning me to close my eyes and dream. . . It seemed so peaceful, and yet spooky (especially since I was driving!). In any case I thought it would make a great image. So I want to make a digital painting from this idea, but I may end up doing a traditional painting in oils, or acrylic, or with luck both. Right now I just have composition sketches. Stay tuned for the finished work. :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Book Cover Project

A finished class project made on scratchboard for the cover of a scary book titled "the Thing that Waited."
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