Giants Do It Again

The world is topsy-turvy and anything can happen. Weird to think that, a few years ago, I figured I would slip free of this mortal body (many decades down the line) and never see the Giants contend in a World Series. This season, the instant they beat the Pirates in the one game playoff, I would have been more shocked had they not won it all. Again.

Open in a new window for a big ol' image.

Drew this in photoshop over a couple of days (and a little bit of night) for the special section of the Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times etc. I had a great time doing it!

I'm pressed for time right now, but I'l come back with a more formal post about it in the near future, including a pic of how it looked in the paper, as usual.

Staying in the Game

This painting is in today's TechMonday section of the Mercury News-CCT-OaklandTribune-etc. A link to the online version of the story by George Avalos is here.

Open in a new window for a larger version

I did loose photoshop painting studies from some staff photos. I wasn't too concerned with likenesses. I wanted to represent each sport rather than each player -- kind of like those old Pee-Chee folders, for those who remember them -- but I suppose Frank Gore's number totally gives him away. Oh well.

While painting I thought I might be channeling Leroy Neiman, but I'd forgotten just how crazy his colors actually are. My humble efforts above are tame and nearly monochromatic in comparison. There was no time to take another shot with a better Neiman emulation once I realized how poorly I'd done. I'll keep an eye out for another opportunity, tho. I would love to try it!

Hm! It usually runs in BW and color, but I've only found BW version
so far. Will update when/if I run across the other.

The End.

Live and Learn!

I created this cute little illo for the paper a couple of weeks ago & forgot to post it. It's about older folks going to school, taking classes and keeping in the habit of learning new things. Here's the story by the always fabulous Angela Hill! 

Drawn in Photoshop!

Had a good time with this drawing. It was difficult coming up with the idea but I really like how it turned out. Tried to keep the characters less detailed than I usually do. It's so easy to get carried away, but I think I managed to keep from complicating it.

The End

The Soulless Scourge of the Humble Commuter

I wrote a detailed post for this piece. Really, I did. It was in draft mode and I, you know, cleaned up the blog a short while ago. I edited and deleted a few things, and... and I guess I don't need to say any more about that.

Drawn in Manga Studio 5 and Photoshop

Rather than labor my way through recreating the missing text-- there was a lot of it -- I'm going to take the easy way out and simply post the final drawing. The illustration was created for a story about the soulless scourge of the humble commuter, the evil red-light cameras.

The End.

The Bagrada Hilaris Is Not Funny

Photoshop drawings done for a project at work that didn't pan out. Hate for them to just sit around, creeping me out. So! Here are ten (10) Bagrada Bugs. Nasty little pests.

Open in a new window for larger image.

Google and Amazon

This is one of my latest illustrations, created for the Bay Area News Group papers. Here's the story written by the Great Brandon Bailey (unfortunately he is moving on to another job. It's been good fun working on illustrations for his stories and it's a bummer to see him go.)

This was a slightly-out-of-my-comfort-zone effort in that there was a pretty short deadline and I committed to creating it in Illustrator rather than my regular Manga Studio 5 and Photoshop process. It wasn't as frightening as it has been in the past; I must be getting used to it. Not totally happy with how vector art looks when I churn it out, but it's not as ghastly to my eyes as it used to be.

This is the illustration reconfigured for online presentation.

I thought I could save time by making just a few boxes and cloning them repeatedly –– and I tried that –– but it seemed obvious to me that it was the same few boxes over and over again. So, I went in and tweaked all of the box shapes and drew an original face for each one. It wasn't an unbearable amount of work –– much less than I thought it would be –– but so much for my clever shortcuts.

Here it is as prepared for the print edition.

It's always fun to draw, regardless of how I have to do it. Even vector art is better than no art (he said, half-joking and half-not-at-all.)

Here's how it looked in the paper.

The End.

The Ol' Vitruvian Man Bit

Even though I’ve been doing this newspaper graphics and illustration gig for a long time, it’s always fun when something I’ve made goes on a section front, paired up with the efforts of seasoned journalists. Here’s an illustration I created for a story by Brandon Bailey which ran on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News. You can read his excellent work at this link.

Open in a new window for a very large version.

I suppose a possible reaction to this illustration might be, “so, the Vitruvian Man shtick, huh?” I know, I know, you can shake your head and say, “bit cliche,” right? I kind of feel that way, too; but sometimes illustration is about finding a common cultural touchstone and tweaking it to fit your message.

As I brainstorm-doodled, I was using a figure I had drawn previously for another medical illustration, hoping it could be a springboard to get an idea going. One of my editors said that it reminded him of the Vitruvian Man. Hmm. I thought hat might work! I decided to commit entirely to it and see what happened. I don’t believe I’ve made use of this image before –– this crutch, if you will –– in any of my illustrations; at least not that I remember, so don't hold me to it if you come across one in the blog backlog.

Here's how it looked in the paper.
Don't bother clicking, it doesn't get any bigger.

Ha! Now I think, “But so what if I did?” What can you do? Leonard DaVinci was a badass. Here we sit in far away modern America, almost 500 years after he died and you can riff on his work and everyone still knows who he was. He was an art monster.

I found a good size jpeg for reference and the instant I looked into that drawing’s eyes and started making my line on a blank document off to the side, I felt it. The profound weight of those marks on that paper shouting at us from the intense heat of the Renaissance as it exploded like a Big Bang of science, culture and aesthetics. The drawing is so amazing because of where it’s from, when it’s from, and what it represents. Such a beautiful drawing. I certainly enjoyed the experience of adapting it to my purposes.

Drawn in MangaStudio5 and Photoshop.

The End.

Crowdfunding For Animals

Drawn in Photoshop and Manga Studio 5. Open in new window for a huge image.

I was working on this illustration concurrently with the "Housing Crunch" illustration covered in yesterday's post. They were both due on the same day of a busy week, which made for an extremely tight deadline squeeze. It's hard to complain about having two illustrations to do... so I won't. I'll just mention again, it was down to the wire on both of them and I was so relieved I finished in time.

If the image doesn't move you, here is the excellent story by Patrick May. That should do the trick!

The End

Housing Crunch

I had plenty of time to work on this one. I was given the assignment a week ahead of time – couldn't come up with an idea, tho. In my defense, nobody else had any ideas either. I worked on other assignments, stopping occasionally for a futile brainstorming sketch session. It was a bleak drought of creativity.

Open in a new window for a very large image.

The bosses called a late breaking meeting to try to figure out what to do about this disturbing lack of production on my part and, just before walking into the room, I roughed up this concept.

The lesson learned? Should I be threatened with a compulsory meeting involving all of the bosses, I then find my inspiration. The other lesson learned is "Don't come up with an idea that involves drawing bunches of tiny houses." The drawing took a looong time and coloring was even worse, so there was a large dent in my sleeping pattern afterward, but I finished in the nick of time and I'm glad it came out okay.

Here's how it looked in the paper:

Don't bother clicking, it doesn't get any bigger.

The informative and excellent story by Pete Carey – finished way ahead of time in a truly professional manner – can be read at this link.

The End

The Dreaded Flip Play or Slide, Jeremy! Slide!

Darth Jeter made his final appearance at the Oakland Coliseum earlier this season and the powers-that-be, here at the newspaper, decided to commemorate his worst offense, the force choke perpetrated against the Athletics in the all-around dismal year of 2001. What. Ever.

Drawn and painted in Manga Studio 5 and Photoshop.

I couldn't find any good reference picture of that damned Yankee as he cut the heart out of the mighty A's post-season with a flick of the wrist. I had to watch the low-res TV replay over and over and over, studying his pose at that terrible moment.

I utilized the 3D figure model in MangaStudio 5 and posed it as closely as I could to my studies, and then I was able to rotate and turn the model until I found a good angle. Then I searched for pictures of his head that were pretty close to what I needed as reference.

It's an amalgam of extensive reference and winging it. It came out alright, I think.

Here's how it looked in the paper.

If you'd like to wallow in it some more, here is a link to the story by John Hickey, who usually writes about more pleasant things, but somebody had to write the story and his straw was the shortest (I'm just guessing that's how the sports department decided who got stuck writing this one-- certainly we don't have any Yankee boosters writing for our sports pages. Right? I shudder at the thought.)

Sorry to see you go, Jeter, you heartless, no good, pin-striped... um, 5-time World Series champion.

The End

Killer App

Gosh, it's been a long time since I've sounded the horn here at the old blog. I've done work but I've lacked the energy or interest in shouting out loud about it. I won't spend time chatting this go 'round, but I aim to post something every day or two to catch up on some of my work. I don't have anything I'm extremely proud of, but I'll post a few recent pieces I think are pretty good.

This ran last Sunday. Tried to do an ugly, unrefined drawing; I think I did that okay!

The excellent story by Heather Somerville and Patrick May is linked here.

Here's how it looked in the paper:

Disney Villains

Here is the final version of a drawing I did for a story about the best Disney villains, as chosen by a small constellation of the Bay Area News Group's writers. Sue Gilmore, Chuck Barney, Lisa Wrenn, Ann Tatko-Peterson and Tony Hicks each share a brief literary sketch about their favorite devious Disney character. You can read the story here.

Open in a new window for a massive image.

This was a nice and relaxing assignment. Between you & me, when you draw popular and iconic cartoon characters all you have to do is render them fairly closely to how they're supposed to look and everyone thinks it's great. Given the opportunity, I would work on my Cruella de Vil interpretation a little bit more, but otherwise I think it came out okay. Maybe I'd fix the crown on the Queen, too.

There wasn't a big concept for this illustration. I simply took the list of characters and had them interact somehow while leaving space for a headline and the start of the story. Perhaps I should have used the Wicked Queen as the uppermost villain, simply because she is more iconic than Lady Tremaine.

Below is the rough sketch I submitted for approval. There was plenty of reference to be found for most of these characters but, disappointingly, Miss de Vil images are scarce. I found countless pics of Glenn Close from the live-action movie but very few of the cartoon.

Open in a new window for a very large version of this very sloppy drawing.

I haven't seen any of these movies in more than a decade, maybe two decades. And I've never seen "Jungle Book." I think Beauty and the Beast is the most recent one I've watched, and that might have been back when it first came out for the VCR. Funny how time flies.

I think my favorite Disney villain would be Monstro the whale from Pinocchio, if we can count him as a villain. I haven't seen that movie in a loooong time either, but I remember being really impressed with his chase scene in pursuit of Pinocchio. The animation of the water was spectacular.

Here's how it looked printed in the newspaper, but not as bright because newsprint destroys bright. But it did look pretty good anyway!

Don't bother clicking. It doesn't get any bigger than this.

I did most of the drawing and coloring in MangaStudio 5 EX, with touch-ups, adjustments and the background colors painted in Photoshop.


Directly below is the online version of one of my illustrations for the newspaper. It's about coping with the ramifications of injury for the sports activity enthusiast, and how it can affect more than just one's love of participating in the sport. It's written by long-time colleague, Randy Myers and you can read his always stellar work here.

Open in a new window for a very very very large image.

almost like this piece. I enjoyed working on it and I'm happy with it save for one glaring gaffe. I had a momentary lapse and forgot that I hatehatehate drop shadows. Hate! Gah, I wish I had forgone those horrible gray blurs beneath the callout boxes (or whatever you call them.) I'm so mad at myself for doing it. It flattens the painting below, destroying the illusion of depth. It approaches the catastrophic and turns the image into a personal disappointment. But I'm letting go of the rage right now and carrying on as though I didn't do such a ghastly, stupid thing.

The rough, submitted for approval. Like the final, the medium is MangaStudio&Photoshop!
Random notes

As you can see from the rough, I pretty much nailed down the layout from the get-go. I didn't care for the focus on the tear drop and was relieved when the editors agreed.
*   *   *
I had several day before the final was due, so – in between time with other chores – I experimented with more painterly techniques. I settled on using a combination of the "India Ink" and "Oil Paint" tools in MangaStudio for the main figure with adjustments, touch-ups and background colors in Photoshop.
*   *   *
The character isn't referenced from anyone in particular; I just made her up as I went along.
*   *   *
For my illustrations, I work on the version for the newspaper first. Most of my compositions are vertically designed, or "L" shaped to accommodate headline and text. After the paper version is put to bed I move things around and try to re-shape the images into a more horizontal presentation for the web.

Illustrations are not treated with as much gravitas as they are in the paper –– most often simply put in a small clickable box –– so I generally don't do much more to them beyond trying to make them look decent in their new shape. This time it occurred to me to put a tile floor beneath the woman's hospital bed or gurney. Casting a shadow on the floor made it better horizontal composition and the tile floor and, I think, improved the image.

It was too late to amend the illustration for the newspaper, tho.
*   *   *
A simpler drawing approach would have been just as effective, but I like to take the opportunity to bask in the richer painting experience when I can.

Here's how it appeared in the paper:

The End.

Lights Out

This is the online version of my illustration for the "Your Life" section in the April 20 Sunday edition of the San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times and all those other papers churned out under the Bay Area News Group banner.

The story, written by DeAnne Musolf and posted online here, examines the the problematic effects on sleep which may arise from too much exposure to our personal electronic devices before going to bed, particularly the effects on our kids.

Open this link in a new window to see a pretty danged huge version of this image.

My daughter -- bouncing in the sunlight on her second birthday as I type this -- has a stunning mastery of the iPad, which her mom and I worry about. We're limiting her time with it and try not to use it when she's around. I fret she may be developing an addiction but then again, I am the one standing inside the closet, out of sight, checking my email...

After I read the story and my rough was approved, I planned to photograph my daughter holding the ipad and use that image for reference. But long before going home I refined the rough and drew her from memory. The illustration was 90% done before shift's end and it really looks like her. I guess I've been studying her without realizing it.

Here is how page designer Jennifer Schaefer designed the page layout.

My initial rough is below, left. Obviously, for the sake of story placement, I lost the window along the way and attempted to evoke the the impression of night rather than showing it directly. On the right is a screen capture of how it looked after cleaning up the rough and experimenting with a color scheme.

Drawn, colored, painted in Photoshop!

That's all for this time! 

Selecting Your Stuff

Sorry I've posted this a little late, but Angela Hill wrote another nifty story, this one discussing the stuff we have and probably don't need. Angela's story is here. It's a few weeks old, but timeless.

My illustrative accompaniment is a play on Charles Shulz's Pigpen character. We go through life and the possesions that we accumulate and drag around with us can seem to be a cloud of debris that eventually ends up somewhere else by way of garage sale, thrift store or garbage truck.

Open link a new window for a monster-size version of the illustration as it ran online;
a moderately large monster, that is. Not King Kong, more like Mighty Joe Young, but still big enough to intimidate!

Hopefully it's not too oblique a reference. I think that the people who still read newspapers are people who grew up reading Peanuts during it's initial run, and they will make the connection.

Every once in a while I try to cut down the clutter in my life. This morning I stared for a full minute at two shelves full of old magazines that I don't need anymore, but I have one of those annoying emotional attachments to them. Several years ago I had about seven shelves of old magazines and because of a de-cluttering frenzy, I'm down to two. And you know what? I haven't looked at them once since I selected them for saving. I might be on the brink of another severe de-clutter.

Here's how it looked in the paper on a page designed by Jennifer Schaefer.

Back to the illo: I tried to keep it loose and light, not only because it was a busy work-week, but because I really liked the rough I submitted for approval. I don't show it because it's pretty much what I ended up with. I wish I had tightened up the original figure (shown below, left) and gone with her. Sometimes drawings that are modified with the intention of making them "better drawings" can end up losing some of their charm. The second one walks more like a real person, but the stiff spine and simpler face of my first effort appeals to me more.

The initial character sketch and her eventual replacement.

Drawn in Manga Studio, colored in Manga Studio and Photoshop.