29 July 2009

Usagi Yojimbo's 25th Anniversary.

As a fan of Stan Sakai's award winning Usagi Yojimbo I was asked to make an illustration for Usagi's 25th Anniversary by his online fan club. All the fan art and letters were assembled into a book and presented to Stan this past weekend at the San Diego Comic Con.

As indicated by the text attached Stan is a fan of Highlights for Children's Hidden Pictures so I thought I'd make his very own 25th Anniversary Hidden Picture. For those of you unfamiliar with Usagi's world, the characters depicted are 2 rather funny woodcutters that Usagi often runs into as he wanders around Japan. The lizard on top of the wood pile is Usagi's pet, Spot, and you can see Usagi walking away in the distance.

I have been consistently following Stan's work since 1987 (the year I discovered comic books) and it is pretty obvious to me how much of an influence he has had on my work. Most would remember Stan's Usagi Yojimbo as "that samurai rabbit on the Ninja Turtles cartoon," which is correct but most aren't even aware of the volumes of wonderful Usagi comics that Stan has put out there (23 collected books so far). Honestly, if you're not reading Usagi Yojimbo, you're missing out on one of the best comics out there. Pick a book up at your local book store (or give it a try at your library)- you won't be disappointed!

27 July 2009

4 Monks in a Civil War Battlefield.

...that's what I really didn't expect to see at my recent trip to the Bull Run battlefield in Virginia. There they were walking in the fields in their heavy cloaks and a stifling/humid 95 degrees.

20 July 2009

40th anniversary of the Moon Landing.

I still would give anything to be an astronaut.

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17 July 2009

Illustration Friday: Tango

In 2001 the Philadelphia Zoo held a Bachelor Auction for the benefit of the Zoo's conservation program, One with Nature. I was asked to draw tasteful caricatures of every bachelor (20 or so) holding a rose for the interior of the booklet as well as an illustration for the cover and the back cover (the illustrations above).

I did the entire booklet for free in exchange for some free advertising. Well, wouldn't you know it, when I received the booklet the only ad that they had "problems" printing was mine, so my phone number and contact information was rendered completely illegible. I still to this day don't fully understand what happened since I had submitted the file with plenty of resolution, proper formatting, and I even went so far as to outline the text to prevent any font issues. Good grief. To top it all off, I was also asked to sit and draw caricatures at the event (quite a tempting offer for a young single bachelor like myself- ahem) prior to the bachelor cat walk. I sat for 1 hour and didn't draw a single caricature. The only women to approach me were two seventy year old women to kindly ask me what I was doing. I left feeling quite humiliated. I don't think I'll ever recover.

Anyway, it was a beautifully designed book and I had heard it won an award or two. I can't remember who was responsible for the deign or I would give them credit.

13 July 2009

Dogs + Cowboys = Happy.

This is part of a big sketch I just finished for Highlights for Children. I'm waiting to get approvals before showing you the whole thing, of course, but I just wanted to share this dog with you. It makes me laugh. Nothing makes me happier than drawing cowboys and dogs.

11 July 2009

Illustration Friday: Hollow

I did this piece as a student at Hussian back in 1993 for my junior year Children's Book class. Each semester we had to pick an existing children's story and make it into a working dummy and complete the cover and a few of the illustrations. That year I choose the Grimm Brother's The Six Swans. I won't go into too much detail about the story but what you need to know for this illustration is that a girl's older brothers were all turned into swans and in order to turn them back she had to remain in silent seclusion in the hollow of a tree and sew shirts made of star flowers. This is why she has moss growing all over her clothes and her hair is a bit of a nest. Amazingly though, she always manages to have nice gigantic pink eyelashes. I made that last part up.

This piece was done on stretched 2 ply cold press Arches Watercolor paper with gouache, Doc Marten's Dyes and colored pencil.

10 July 2009

144 Aliens.

It's a good bet this is by far the strangest project I will ever will work on.

Back in 1998 Temple University, Moss Rehabilitation (at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia) and the University of Iowa were jointly conducting an aphasia study to determine why patients could remember certain aspects but completely forget others. The idea was to test them using variations in color and shape. Why they chose aliens I do not know, but it sounded like a pretty cool job to me.

I was given certain rules. They all had to be humanoid males, appear sentient, wear clothing, have two legs, and only have one head. Each battery had specific rules like having 4 arms, a tail, something growing off of the head, no tail, or a combination. The last 4 sets (98-144) were of the same alien species but of different shapes, sizes and clothing.

At first this sounds like a really easy job, but after your mind has been so heavily influenced by Movies (Star Wars, Star Trek, etc) and Comic Books (most notably Jim Lawson and Peter Laird's Planet Racers at this point in my life) it was quite tough to design this vast amount of characters and have them look totally unique, so my apologies if some look a little too familiar.

After some time I developed a fun process where I would close my eyes and haphazardly scribble. I would then open my eyes and turn that scribble into an alien face which would then help me design the rest of the body. It's funny how those random scribbles aliens turned out to be some of my favorites. I teach this process at Hussian for a Fantasy Art project and the students really have a lot of fun with it and do some great stuff.

All 144 aliens can be seen here.

All 144 aliens can be seen here.

01 July 2009

Living with Lizards.

I just finished this piece for Highlights for Children 2 weeks ago. It was a fun story to illustrate. It's not too often that I get to do some night/moon lighting, which is one of my favorite things to color.

There is a lot more to this illustration that I didn't post, the open light blue area toward the bottom is just the beginning of the space needed for the story text. There will also be skinks (the lizards) all around the text and hiding under some of the photos throughout the two pages. It will published in the December 2009 issue.

The sketch is below. You should immediately notice the change in the walls and the removal of the man's facial hair and some of the skinks, most notably the skink sleeping by his side which I was quite sad to see go.

I have never met a kid (or an adult) that didn't love Highlights for Children, you can click here to get a subscription.