Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Flitcrfat Parable: Sam Spade, a rather pleasant blond Satan.

The Flitcraft Parable is done, completed! My wife (a designer by trade, the "In House Art Director")made a few last minute lettering changes, corrections, and gave me some art direction. So in a few working hours the finished five pages plus cover illustration will be in the clients hands, or server. Since I've posted a fair amount of the stuff I'll wait and let City Arts magazine publish the story before I post anymore of the final art. It should pub sometime in January. In the meantime here is a rough color test I did over the final inks of a close up of Sam Spade. I tried to stay as close to Hammett's description of him.

"Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another smaller v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose,...He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan"

Live Fast, draw hard.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Flitcraft Parable: Layouts

TFP is coming along great. Here is the first page with the title in place. Spade is based on the description in the novel, and Brigid is based on Louise Brooks, NOT what's her name in "Chicago"!

This is how I'm working the tight pencils in place of the roughs. I'll print these out onto bristol board after placing the type in Illustrator, and ink on the prints.
Well that's what happens today…
Back to work.
Live fast, draw hard.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Flitcraft Parable title lettering

Here it is. The main titling that will open the story. I wanted it to evoke the era but be a bit modern. I have changed most of the narrative to dialog and stayed close to the original era of the late 1920s into the 1930s. Layouts are done but I have to have the "In-House-Art Director" take a look at them before they go any further. Meanwhile, I'm chugging away on three other assignments. Live fast, draw hard!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Flitcraft Prable!

Lets start at the beginning, sort of. The Flicraft Parable is the tale that Sam Spade tells Brigid O'Shaugnessey in "The Maltese falcon" written By Dashiell Hammett. The parable appears in the first part of the Chapter "G on the air" just before Joel Ciaro, Brigid and Spade all meet in Spade's apartment. It's an interesting little tale that appears to have nothing to do with anything, that involves a Charles Fltcraft from Tacoma WA, who vanishes one day on his way to lunch. I won't go into too much about the story other than the more you know about it, Spade and Hammett, the more layers it seems to have. Although the simplest answer is most likely the best.
So, flash forward to a few weeks ago, I was contacted by City Arts magazine to illustrate the parable! Okay, I'll cop (no pun intended) to being a huge Hammett fan, and the fact that we both live/lived in Tacoma is another huge plus. The editor, Jefferey, was more than kind to pay my normal rate and let me expand the tale from 4 pages to 5, plus a cover illustration of Hammett.
So we were of to the races, kind of. My first instinct was to do a slavish adaptation, word for word taking every detail that Hammett put down and drawing that and only that.
Jeffrey, calmly let me know that I may want to really adapt the story. After three wimpy attempts at layouts for the pages, I finally took his advice. Some of the best adaptations are just that, adaptations, taking advantage of what the new medium has to offer and working the story so that you get the basics, the and best. Now I was free! Narration became dialog, Flitcraft became a speaking character, and the sexual…tension between Spade and Brigid became a visual, physical thing. Also the art moved from my wanting it to look old to being new, and having the same tough, noir feel that the book and film have.
My initial layouts sucked!. They gave me a good feel for how the story should break down, but they struck me as uninspired, dull and less than worthy of the story. By un-tethering myself from slavish adaptation, I found ways to express (in the layouts) the tension between the characters and the somewhat surreal nature of a story within a story within a story!
the images above are my tests for art style, inks adjusted and colored in Painter and Photoshop,and my first sucky attempt layouts. Right now I'm changing more narration to dialog and doing more layouts.It's happening fast, I'll do my best to keep the posts coming.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Three Months at McSoft with images!

Finally I can show what I did while at Microsoft. I consider these "Image design" and not so much illustration because there were things to consider and, approaches to, the visual that were outside the normal realm of illustration and somewhat in the realm of design. There was even a little consideration to user interface.

The first two are images for Prom. One shows the main art stripped and the other with most of the type and modules in place. We also worked the modules, some more elaborate than others, active and inactive, selected and various states of the links and type. Yee ha!

Next is Superbowl Party. I like the theme, but anyone that knows me, knows I am not a sports fan.

Moving along to Valentine theme. This stripped main art was a fun trick. My starting point was the title graphic for "I love Lucy", which I think was a heart on satin. I created a satin background. This is not a photo. All the work we did had to be free of all rights restrictions. No stock art or illustration. (also no words or language, international market you know.) And I never did anything in my own style(s).
The velvet was total CGI. So for all you lovers out there if you need that satin feeling, give me a call. I'll post more themes later. You can go to Windows Live Events create an event, and see all the themes.

Monday, August 06, 2007

"Out in the West"

These are four pages from a comic book short,"Out in the West" I did for Dark Horse Comics. The art is all black and white airbrush. I wanted it to have a Howard Hawks/John Houston feel to it. There are references to a lot of Western stories, some fiction and some fact in it, which prompted one critic to refer to it as a "Western fairy tale". However the title is a tip of the Stetson to "ElPaso" by Marty Robbins. The other four pages include a page that mirrors the one here of the Sherrif that features a outlaw who is more in the spaghetti western mode. If anyone would like to see the entire story, I'll scan the other four pages and post them. When he saw the rough sketches I was doing for this Chris Warner wanted to title it, "Slap leather!"

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Flaming Summer Nights!

I did this illustration a while ago for Seattle Magazine. The story was about a writers memories of summer camp in the islands of Puget Sound. In the good ol' days you could do whatever you wanted in an editorial piece. In this one I have kid running with flaming sugar torches! More commomnly reffered to as roasted marshmallows. Is it just me or does anyone else kind of see the similarity between a marshmallow on fire and napalm? Both kinda sticky and hard to put out. Great thingfor kids to have while running around I thought. I hope this sort of captured that fun(?) Lord of the Flies vibe.
Live fast, draw hard.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Playing the hand delt.

Needed to post and needed to sketch, something! Came up with this idea while doing yoga. It's for the words "Suit" and "Pencil" as part of my first posts to Illustration Friday, and Sugar Frosted Goodness.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gene Autry finish

Okay, I'm posting this even though I'm not completely happy with it. I think it turned out fine, just not what I had in mind. Sometimes, if I don't have a clear vision of what I want to see, the illustration gets away from me. In this case it looked best as a piece of line art, it's first incarnation. I was thinking of finishing it in airbrush then adding color digitally, but second guessed myself into trying to complete it all digitally. Top it off with some unseen drawing boo- boos and there you have it. A lot of hustle on the back end to make it work. It does get across the message/felling I wanted, that of a more wolfish Autry, but what I see is all the correcting I had to do and the illustration it could have been.
I think any creative goes through this. We see not what we have created, but what we didn't create. A wonderful illustrator by the name of Fred Pfiffer went through this at the end of his life. Not to worry, I plan to be around to make many more boo boos like this.
Live Fast, draw hard.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Flash up

This is my first Animation.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Das Boot Illustrations

These are the rest of the samples that I did for a boot company. Not a real gig, but I liked them enough to want to show them. Not quite portfolio ready, but in this informal blogosphere they fit.

I looked at a lot of different boot designs to get an idea of what was being done, and then let myself play. Most of these ideas started out as visual puns. Water, fire, running and flying… I tried to be playful and have fun. I know I had fun, so I wanted to share.

Mavis Staples: The Gospel Finish

Here it is, the finished Mavis Staples Illustration. I had some problems wit the values, I'm a bit rusty with the airbrush. So by way of practice, I will be doing the Gene Autry illo with airbrush. I think this is close to the feel I wanted, the power seeming to both come from and to the figure. The faint glow around the figure ads a touch of the Divine in an old poster sort of way. The glow, colors and texture, I hope, have somewhat of an old Southern feel. Not too old I think but, I hope it takes you back to the 60s, and the A men corner.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mavis Staples: Cutting frisket

At this point, cutting frisket, I try to keep in mind not to clutter things up with cutting a lot of shapes that will need to be sprayed. Keeping it simple and value areas few so the piece holds together instead of looking like a jumble of cut outs. Also it really focuses the concept. I want the illustration to be strong, simple and poster-like. Also I think about texture while I'm cutting, should I use pressure or spray-thrus, and what that will add or distract.
Live fast, draw hard.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Draw Fast!

Ha! Here is a boot I designed for a well, boot company as a sample pitch. I was asked o submit samples for their kids boots and I did this. My thinking was, what kind of boot would I want to wear if I was a kid, in the rain, running and splashing, and jumping not quite over big deep puddles. Man, if they ever make this boot I will get a pair. Once the idea was there it took me about 30 minutes to do the vector art. With a neat work-around to get the thick key line, for the extra cool big water repellent look.
I'll post the rest of the samples later today.
Live fast, draw hard.

Gene Autry Editorial Illustration: Back in the saddle again.

A few years ago, as part of teaching by example, I kept every rough thumbnail and every sketch I did for every assignment for an entire year. It's bound into a nice 2 inch book that was a great teaching tool, and part of an exhibit of my work. Keeping my roughs made me more aware of what I was putting down and what I did at that early stage. Not to mention, force me into coming up with more than one good, usable idea. The notion that I would be keeping them lead me to take more time and care in drawing them, so they even look nicer.
I'm keeping this in mi ind with Gene Autry. I have heard two schools of thought on the number of concepts. A) After years of experience, you usually get it right the first time, so one is enough and you refine that along way.
B) The more the better. Anyone can come up with one good idea, a true pro can come up with more.
Well, sad me, I always get a bit rusty if I haven't done an editorial piece in a while and it's been a while. Seems like I have one idea. I like it, but it's only one. A tight close up of bad boy Autry in a dramatic composition that throws attention to his face. His face that has a cock-eyed grin. The article talks about the early, rougher, bluer side of Autry, different from the singing cowboy we all know and love. I had hoped to come up with more concepts. I have some flexible time coming up this weekend, so I may sit down again and give it a whirl.

Mavis Staples: The Gospel Illustration

Much time has been spent, lately, doing illustrations that I can't show because of NDA or corporate stuff. What I can show is this, an in progress of Mavis Staples for No Depression Magazine. This is fun, after many months I'm back to the black and white airbrush. Simple and clean, well okay not clean.
The big thing about this piece is that I have given in to the impulse to not do a close up of a singer. The idea I had was more about Mavis in context of what she's singing on her new cd (Gospel and Civil Rights era songs), and how she sings, with much power and emotion. So my idea shows her as a singer and as a conduit of a higher power. A bolt of lightin' from the Lord, or is she exploding with power herself? That's what I wanted to get to. Power, but from which direction, or both? Also, I'm still working through my love of Aaron Douglas.
At this stage (sketched, scanned, and value study done, I'm about to cut frisket today!)the illustration is free of cluttering detail, I'd like to keep it that way. My temptation is to ad bits of line swirling through describing stuff that may be clear enough anyway.

Also today will be concept work on an illustration of Gene Autry. After reading the article there is good reason to not show/refer to him in the Gentleman Cowboy manner.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A blog is a dog

Most of the work I've done lately has been for big companies, Microsoft, Hasbro, Wizards… not that I'm complaining! The work has been been fun, financially rewarding and in various ways a creative or artistic challenge. The down side is that I have to wait for approval or until the project is "live" before I can post anything on my blog.
So what can I post? How about this. This is a small spot illustration done for Washington law and Politics for an article about a bill that would allow pets into bars. I inadvertently made this screen shot. The concept owes a lot to cartoons of the 50s and 60s and the fact that I was wanting to play in Illustrator for a bit. The concept isn't very strong but it's a bit of an exercises for me as far as color goes. (see my previous post about using every

Friday, February 16, 2007

Three months at McSoft Part One

So, where did I go for those few months late last year? It's all a bit TOP SECRET. After a dreadfully slow period that followed my annual Spring teaching stint, I wound up with a contract position at Microsoft. What I was working on should be released soon, so I think I can talk a bit about my experience, which was pretty good. This post hopefully will reappear once the project is launched and I can show the art completed.

The first thing I encountered at Microsoft was that the department I worked in wasn't set up the same as my home studio. Go figure. At home I have my iMac, Wacom, scanner, printer, and second monitor, a drawing table, light table, big ol’ work table. Plenty of sloppy conventional art/illustration materials. Things such as ink, paint, pencils pens and brushes. Not too mention my library. (I have way too many books to just say "books".) No such thing there in the Customer Design Center, CDC for short (or Center for Disease Control as my wife called it). They had a scanner, (in another area) and they sprung for Wacom tablets for myself and the other Illustrator/designer working on the project. As one would guess I had to work on a PC. So, most of the day I sat at my desk with just a couple of sketch books, the Wacom and “Dell the Funky PC" (my pet name for the Dell computer).

I was aware that some illustrators sketch directly with the tablet. I had never done that because I thought it would be much more difficult to actually start art on the tablet. There's a big difference between sketching on paper and on a tablet. I quickly had to overcome that, or face lugging the scanner across the department every time I wanted to scan something. I made a special Photoshop brush with eraser settings that looked and acted like a nice soft pencil. WOW, it’s fun. Forced to use the Graphire tablet exclusively, I came to really love, and appreciate it. I realised that I had yet to touch on all the things I could do with the Graphire more so even with my Intuos at home. I used layers like tracing paper. Revising a sketch, making alterations and such until I was happy. You can’t really turn the tablet like paper (Okay not in P-Shop, but you can in Painter and that makes inking, say a "Daredevil" comic page, a blast! But that's another post!) but you get over that once you get into what you’re drawing and focus on making a picture. The hypnotic lure of drawing!

Freelancers work alone, very alone. At Microsoft, I worked with a lot of people. Oddly enough, because of where my desk was, my back was to most of them. After years of not interacting with people I felt like an oddity. It was hard for me to start talking and just as hard to stop once I got started! I tend to put my head down and work like a hamster in a ball, pushing through to the deadline, which was 4PM, when my vanpool came to get me for the hour long commute home. (Tacoma to Redmond and back again). I confess to not being the most socially adept person and I have long thought it a failing of mine not to be a sparkling conversationalist. I admit to erring on the side of "stoic worker bee" mentality. But being in that context, talking with people, listening to people and making idle chit chat around the "water cooler" and trying to take lunch it was a very good thing for me as a person.
When I first entered the CDC, I noticed it was very quite, and a lot of people had headphones. I thought they were listening to something having to do with work. Silly me, they were playing music. I quickly logged on to Pandora and set up my SnoopDogg, Propellerheads Big Audio Dynamite, Prez Prado and Louis Prima stations.

There were two other illustrators on the project. One was moved onto another assignment and the other illustrator, Karen Kirchhoff, and I finished the bulk of the themes. We had weekly meetings with the UI designer, Cinthya, (who is Japanese but has a heavy Spanish accent, 'cause she's from Peru. It threw me a bit, but in my case most people don't expect to see a "pro basketball player" when they look for an illustrator, or one that sounds like Kermit the Frog for that matter. Whatever…)
Karen has a different approach than I do and it was eye opening to see her solutions to some of the same assignments I was doing. I learned a lot about my work and what I needed to do, from the meetings with Karen and Cinthya. For one thing I didn't need to use every color! Karen's work is more thoughtful and, gulp, more "artistic" than mine, which tends to be like a hammer on china. There was one person I had known previously who was in the department, Marty. He's great and was invaluable in making me feel like part of the department and answering technical questions and questions about "campus life" at McSoft. Others around me were Greg; who is uncannily like my good friend Jesse Reyes, Jennifer; who has a keen eye for illustration and some really cool ideas about UI, Francie; the only other person as quite as me, Chris; who is a sarcastic hoot and half and got there almost as early as me, 7AM! And lastly, the guy who showed me how to refill the coffee maker. Ah the coffee machine, it was an old Farmer's Brother machine that was later replaced by a spankin' new Starbuck's one-touch-instant-robo-brew-by-the-cup-thing, that made all manner of hot drinks. All the drinks were free, and one day there was an ice cream truck, well more like a motorcycle with a side car, that came around with free ice cream. Another day when I arrived at 7AM, they had placed a espresso stand in the lobby and all the espressos were free, all morning! After years running upstairs at home to reheat my coffee, I felt I had died and gone to double mocha heaven!

When they hired me they wanted an illustrator to make pictures. What I actually did bordered more on design. We (Karen, J.D. and myself) built themes. For a lot of reasons we had to be original but not obtuse, not create all the art in any one style. Since I was working for the MAN, I certainly didn't want to use/give away my own style. Not everything was strictly illustration. I did a lot of illustration but also a lot of design and iconography. None of it with type. All of the work is unrecognizable as mine even the illustrations I did complete. As I learned more about patterns and the technical limits we had for cutting assets, I began to experiment more and had a great time pushing the boundaries of what we could do. Also got deep into working with both Photoshop and Illustrator side by side, back and forth.

I would start my day with about two or three themes that I wanted to get done to stay on schedule. In my sketchbook I would do a few very rough thumbnail ideas and make notes as to what I wanted to see and any stylistic riffing I could do. Then it was onto the web to find reference.

We kept in our minds that anything we did had to be very clear of any sort of copyright infringement. I would even go with something I though wasn't as good if it was at least original. After that, about 8AM, I would start sketching with the Wacom for the main image or pattern tile to be used in the background or header bar (go to to see what I'm talking about.) By the time Greg got in I'd normally have the image about half done, or at least looking good. Once the main image was done I could use that to set my color palette. Before lunch I would start sketching for the second theme of the day, being warmed up, full of coffee and all. After Lunch I would begin the modules and create any tillable images or single image if needed. Most of these were better in the idea stage than in reality. We had severe size limits and that with resolution made small images almost a waste. Near the end of the day I would be developing color ways for the type, selected and unselected, apply those and double check for legibility. Legibility was a big issue for me since my color sense was so, um…freakin' aggressive! Sometimes they were too harsh and other times all a bucket of mud. Karen's work was a beacon of tastefulness and Cinthya was good at pointing out what needed to be changed, nice art direction. At the end of the day I would save the file and pick two more for the next day. Given time, both Karen and I got into the habit of creating several different versions of each theme for client approval. Sometimes we had four versions for a single theme. Once I had two solutions with a couple of versions on each! Got to be kind of fun. Most often they picked the first versions anyway, such is life…

Creatively we were left alone. At first we were given a list, with some partially completed by the previous illustrator, J.D. Then Karen added to the list and the I added to the list! Shortly after I arrived J.D. was pulled of the themes and onto something else. For a week I worked just to streamline the template we had and get a handle on the technical constraints since the process had not been fully tested. Once I had the template file cleaned up and stripped down, it was time to get busy. Being the illustration fool that I am and given that they didn't want any particular style it was a blessing to go romping through the history of design and illustration. I love to do research and so I allowed myself the luxury of going deep. It might not be readily apparent to the casual viewer, but I like to think good research is what makes the image rich and appealing and supports all the creative decisions along the way to a successful graphic.

Recently I looked back over my 13 sketchbooks that cover more that 13 years. I was struck by the swing from style to style, medium to medium that is there, and not in my paid/published/commissioned work. Each page was a small experiment, a small adventure that lasts anywhere from a few minute to s few days depending on how long it takes to complete the page. In a way, each theme was the same. My range is something that few art directors have seen or expect from me.

For three months I didn't have the usual freelancer concerns of looking for work! That and free coffee!
Before I end this I'll answer the one question I get asked most. Yes, I did see Bill Gates, up close! I was getting into the Vanpool van there was a car next to it. Two guys got out of the front and walked past me, a third got out of the back and started to put his jacket on. I was about 10 feet away from him. I was going to say hi because I thought," He looks familiar, I think I know him." It was Bill. We nodded and I got into the van. As we were leaving, the traffic was bad, and one of the other riders, Beth, said it was all Bill's fault (Bill was also the name of the van driver) I said ," Yeah I just passed him."
"Bill's driving." she replied, "what do you mean?"
"No, Bill Gates." I said.
"He was going into the building."
And I was on my way home.

Well, that's about all I can say for now, the rest is TOP SECRET, so you'll have to wait until Part Two. Next post will be about something I can show!

Live fast, draw hard.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Three months at McSoft Part Zero

Sorry to say that I have been informed that since the work I did at McSoft has not yet gone "live" I can't post any of it. After some review I may post the written portion again.