29 December 2010

Merry Christmas

I didn't have the time to make a full color Christmas card this year so I stuck with something simple and easy to reproduce on my home printer. The drawing is of my daughter Virginia.

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

21 December 2010

Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators Interview

Good news! I was recently interviewed by Anni Matsick for the December issue of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators newsletter. The interview focuses on the release of the Which Art Student Are You? book. This is just a screen pic below but you can read the full article here. The article is on pages 6 and 7.

Thanks to Anni and the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators for allowing a Philadelphian to join in the fun. I really do appreciate it.

01 December 2010

Welcome to Paper Bag Town.

In the December issue of Highlights High Five I had the fun privilege of creating the aptly named Paper Bag Town. The feature was in the interior back cover. The idea is that children can create a small village by cutting out each part and attaching them to stuffed paper bags. I can't help but imagine all of the little boys that, after putting it all together, destroyed it like Godzilla. Virginia and I didn't get a chance to yet but we will. Winkity wink.

This was a lot of fun to work on especially since I got to play with my design skills for the store signs. Thanks, High Five!

Highlights High Five makes a swell gift for the little ones in your life. It does, it does, it does!

23 November 2010

The Backyard Murder.

This morning I woke out to find that there had been a murder in my very own backyard. It's terrible. You can see the photos and read the story here. Make sure to read the captions.

16 November 2010

What's Wrong, Ice Sculpture?

This is my submission for IF: Winter.

This What's Wrong? piece was really fun to work on. It appears on the back of the December issue of Highlights for Children. Below is the finished line art. Roughly 16 inches wide. More details and secrets below...

Below is the sketch. Going into this I thought it as going to be really difficult but it all came together pretty easy. It wound up taking only 7-8 hours to sketch. You can see the major differences between the final art and the sketch here. Changes of note: Most of the sculptures are close to finish. The Texas shaped base of Ranger Kent. The guy with the chainsaw. The sea turtle the woman is standing on. The kid "stabbing" the fisherman in the back (not intentional). Also, Ranger Kent looks like he is sitting inside the horse, a major oversight on my part.

Below are the little "secrets" that I added. Again, I think it would go over most people's heads but it's fun for me to add them in.

26 October 2010

Kayakity yak yak yak.

Things of note in this one: I not only added Usagi Yojimbo to this piece, he's the white rabbit with the top knot in the inflatable raft, but I also added Jim Lawson's frog, Orson, from his comic Bade Biker and Orson. The comic books Usagi Yojimbo and Bade Biker & Orson were two of the biggest art influences on me when I was in grade school.

In the final printed version of this piece (see below) Usagi was changed to just a plain white rabbit. Cindy and David caught me on that one!

November's Highlights Magazine features not only my work on the back cover (see above), the interior (November's hidden picture referred to earlier in blog here) but for the first time my work was on the front cover (see below)!

Okay, okay, not REALLY. Look closer. MUCH closer. I just had a snippet from my hidden picture on the front cover. Re-cork the champagne...

19 October 2010

The weirdest of the weird.

I have seen some weird stuff in my days of living in Philadelphia but this one takes the cake. If three of my students did not see it with me I really would have thought my mind was making it up. Take a quick look at this sketch and then read the story below.

It was raining and we were walking back from Subway after lunch. To the left of us I see, what I thought at the time, was either a dressed up statue or a man doing spontaneous performance art (a sight usually only seen on our First Fridays). He was perfectly still in this odd position leaning to the right with his left leg extended as far as it could go in the opposite direction. I leaned in to get a better look and that's when I realized that he was peeing. Not with his pants unzipped as you would think but he was peeing down his left pant leg and allowing it to flow out by his shoe! I guess the angle was supposed to help keep his leg from getting wet? Before you judge him, remember he was nice enough to allow the urine to come out onto the roots of a tree because if there is one thing we have learned in school it is that trees LOVE urine. Now I have to say, I may have half-expected this from a homeless man but this guy was in his mid thirties, dressed fairly well and was carrying flowers in his backpack for his sweetheart. I can see it now, "Oh! Thank you, honey! (pause) Why do the flowers smell like urine?"

12 October 2010

Courier Post

Back in August I was featured in an article in our local newspaper, the Courier Post. I hesitated to post a link to the article here because the accompanying photo contained a sketch of the That Silly Highlights' Building which I did not want my fellow Highlights illustrators to see since it was to be a big surprise for this year's Highlights Illustrators' Party. I foolishly left it out on the drawing board and didn't realize the writer had taken a photo of it.

Here is the article, if you haven't read it. Thank you to writer Kevin Callahan and the folks at the Courier Post.


My wife's latest obsession is Fantasy Football which means we have been watching a lot of football which means I am bored which means I have been drawing a lot and catching up on sketchbook stories that I have been meaning to draw out for several years. Man, that was a long sentence. Anyhoot, here is the latest sketchbook story in all of its unedited glory.

This happened about 2 years ago.

04 October 2010

That Silly Highlights Building!

Back in July I was asked to create the above mural for the Highlights Illustrators' Party. A big honor. The theme was based on Highlights High Five's "That's Silly!" feature, a variation of the Highlights' "What's Wrong?" feature that is found on the back covers of which I have been doing a lot of the past year.

Since blogger will not allow you to get a closer look at this image I have split and uploaded the mural as close up segments below. A detailed description of how I went about making this piece is below the last segment.

A lot of people have asked me how I did this piece so I will do my best to explain this process without boring you with too many details.

Right away we knew we wanted the Highlights building to be the central feature of the piece so I started on some loose sketches using photos I had taken myself and some that I had found on Google Maps' street view. I also did some brainstorming by writing down some silly ideas.

Once I had a rough sketch of the scene chosen I enlarged it and made these rough sketches on top to flesh out the ideas for the silly situations (some I made up and some were suggested by the staff of Highlights). All four season were to be represented in the illustration which was hard to pull off. Winter and fall were easily recognizable but how does one differentiate between summer and spring?

Once I had some ideas down I did more research and sketched out the building with the characters to be added later. I always consider the background just as important as the characters so I take the extra time to make sure it has enough character to stand on its own. I also didn't use any vanishing points since using them often makes the drawing stale and kind of phony looking. I just eyed it up as best as I could. All of this was done by hand on a 24" wide piece of paper.

As you can see above I only drew 2 windows and a few of the small pillars but after it was scanned I duplicated them and carefully put them in position using Photoshop's distort transformation tools. I also separately sketched some elements to the right and left of the building to fill the 40" width as seen below. I had to keep in mind that when printed it would be 13 x 40 feet so I worked with the ratio of 1 inch = 1 foot. Some of the drawing was also done using my wacom tablet.

After the building was completely sketched, I tile printed it and taped it together. Now it was time to add the characters. I placed two sheets of 24" layout on top and went to work. It went form one side of my art table to the other.

After the characters were finished I scanned them in and used Photoshop to place them in the scene. I think there were some 40 layers at 175 MB before I flattened it.

At this point the file was sent to the Highlights' Art Director, Cindy. A week or so later corrections were sent so I quickly revised the sketch as seen below. A big benefit to having all of your characters on separate layers is that if something needs to move, be removed, or replaced it is fairly easy to do. The windsurfer was removed and replaced with the cabin among other things.

Now it was time for inking. Usually I ink all of my work by hand and scan it in but once I started I realized that all of my small details were getting entirely too fudgy. Since this piece was going to be enlarged I knew that all of the flaws in my inking would be magnified so I decided to ink with my wacom tablet in Photoshop using the brush tool. That way I could get up close and personal with the line and really have control over the small minute details (click on the 100% view below). I'm not a big fan of the artificial smoothness of the pen tool so I stuck with the brush tool. Thanks to the suggestion of a few illustrators I inked at a higher than normal resolution of 600dpi.

It definitely took some getting used too and I really damaged my hand inking it over the next few days (a price I'm still paying for). Once done the entire piece was inked in one 13x40" file. I inked only two windows, one small pillar, and duplicated them here as well.

After the inking was completed I reduced the file to the standard 300dpi resolution and got to work on the colors (click on the 100% view below). I start off with point-and-click paint bucket coloring first and move onto textures later. I have designed and/or downloaded some of brushes over the years to use for texturing.

A little over a week later I finished the coloring and sent it off to Cindy.

UPDATE: I forgot to thank my wife, Daisy, for pulling some single Mom duty to give me the time to finish the coloring. Toward the end there, I was working 18 hour days in order to have this done on time.

That same day it was sent off to the printer and enlarged into this billboard sized mural. After being delivered those brilliantly handy guys at Highlights built a frame so it could be to be placed in the local firehall for the party. Here is a photo of it before the party.

Tim was nice enough to let us see it before the party so I could get a few photos with my family. I can't put into words how cool it was to see my art so large.

It really was weird and wonderful to feel as though I was standing in my art work.

Thanks to everyone that made the decision to honor me with this crazy project. I hope I get to do something this fun again. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

All images are Copyright © Highlights for Children 2010.

28 September 2010

100 years ago.

Our home is 100 years old this year. With that comes a lot of thought into what it must have been like living here in 1910 and who exactly it was that lived here. As far as we know there was a Dairy Farm in the back of the house (the foundation is still there) as well as the Post Office and General Store which is the current house next door. A friendly neighbor recently told me that the man who built the house was a police officer and his wife was still the owner of the home only 5 years ago. Anyway I often think about what their conversations were like just after building the house. Did they think about who would own the house 100 years later?

Now I'm thinking about who will be in the house in 2110 but that's a story for another time...
PS: Absolutely no research was used in the drawing of that radio, that's why it looks so bad.

27 September 2010

Sketches of Philadelphia locals.

I managed to draw these three (over about a 5 day period) last week. When I see a person in the street or at the Bourse Building, I stop and quickly take some notes, which are nothing more than quick lines to help me remember a gesture or something about their character. Later, when I find the time I finish them up by memory.

This jazzman had on a thin red plaid suit. I wish I had the time to color it.

This is an example of someone who thought they would never age. By 22 he was covered in tattoos (including his face, neck, and head) and by 35 he realized that it was getting pretty difficult to find a job. My personal favorite accessory is his puffy top-knot.

21 September 2010

Which Art Student Are You? books are now available!

As stated in the book trailer above, the Which Art Student Are You? book is now available at IndyPlanet.com! Featuring all 22 original student types as seen on my blog and 3 all new never-before-seen types. Plus, a look into the students' future in 15 years later. All characters have been completely re-lettered and colored for maximum humor potential.

Available for purchase at IndyPlanet.com! You can also purchase the book via the paypal link located on the right side of my blog as well.

Thank you for your support. Please forward friends to this blog if they are interested in purchasing a book.

31 August 2010

New Basement Floor!

My wife and I recently put a much needed new basement floor into our 100 year old house. To celebrate I skated to the tune of the hustle. I don't usually post videos but I think this one may be worth seeing.

18 August 2010

What's Wrong, Southwest Ranch?

Yee-haw! This is my latest What's Wrong? to be published by those wonderful folks at Highlights for Children! It can be seen on the back cover of the September issue which should be available now.

This one really had me missing the Southwest. My alter ego, Ranger Kent, can be seen teaching some kids how to lasso, and my wife's alter ego, Cowgirl Pearl, is riding a reindeer. As previously posted, the famous racehorse, Secretariat, is on the lower right.

The first sketch is posted below. You can see some of the major changes that needed to done to complete this one. Most notably the switching of Pearl and the Ostrich which really did improve the composition. The funniest correction I thought was that the sunbathing roadrunner because he looked like he was dead. I couldn't make myself get rid of him entirely so I moved him next to the birds listening to the boom box in the final art.

Click here if you'd like to get your kids a subscription to Highlights for Children. Don't subject them to only seeing Highlights when they are sick or about to get their teeth drilled. That's not very nice, is it? Be a good parent.

17 August 2010

Summer sketchbookings.

This summer I have been the busiest I have ever been which is why my sketchbook is fairly empty these days. Sure, there are sketches and thumbnails but 90% of them are work related so I can not post them here (plus they are rough, incoherent, and boring). I rarely find time to sit and sketch leisurely these days but I have had a few chances this summer...

The first three here are from Philadelphia's Penn's Landing on the eve of Independence Day, during the fireworks.

Below are sketches from Delaware while on vacation with Virginia, Daisy, and her family.

For those of you who are not aware, a sunfish is a small sail boat.

I will be back teaching in the city in a few weeks so I should have more time to sit and draw weirdos.