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.