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. Not "perhaps;" for sure, since I just had to go look up her name before typing it right now. Oh, well.

Below is the rough sketch I submitted for approval... almost. I think Cruella is more refined here than in the initial rough, which I can't find a copy of. 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 ever 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 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.

Head Doodles

I sketched these up tonight but there's no real point to this effort. Probably delete this post later if they still lack any pop for me tomorrow. I was trying to generate a little bit of joy for creating art after a couple of long, dreary days at work. I think I was just too tired, tho.

I aimed to create a couple of full-body characters but quickly realized that I wasn't up for it. I retreated to head drawings and tried to make them fun, but they aren't. They're a little strange, entirely lacking in emotional content and depressing.

Oh well. Try again later.

UPDATE: Deleted this post, added a third head (far right) and reposted. I deleted the post because I didn't care much for the drawings the next day, but as I worked on the third, they grew on me. I'm determined to leave them up this time unless I really really really hate them later....

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.

Off to Tech Heaven

Here is an illustration I did for work in February. I had totally forgotten about it. I happened to be in the office where the writer works and she stopped by and said that she really liked the illustration I had done for this story... and I had no idea what she was talking about. God, I felt like an idiot. It took a few seconds -- loooong seconds -- before I pulled up the vision in my head and was able to stammer out a few words that indicated, in a sputtering fashion, that I was indeed the fool who drew that thing a few weeks back.

Open the link in a new window for a HUGE version of this image.

It was a very quick turnaround so I didn't spend an overlong amount of time with it, and in this instance I never saw it in the paper. I usually follow up and check on the stuff I've done to see how it printed, but I sent the image to the page designers, made a version better suited for online presentation (above) and sent that to the web folks; and then I pretty much blotted out the memory.

It seems strange that I lost it so soon, because I really connected with the story when I read it, and here is the link to Michelle Quinn's story. I mourn the demise of my G4 iMac and my 3rd generation iPod. Well, I still have them but they can only talk to each other, and the iPod is forgetful and can't hold a charge for more than 10 minutes. But I think of them as my favorite tech devices, particularly when it comes to interface and usability. They sit next to each other in a corner and every time I look at them I wish they'd make new iMacs like that, and update the iPod classic to look like that one. I should just throw them away but I'm still in love.

Here's how it looked in the paper!

So, I can't really explain why I lost track of it. I kind of like the drawing, too. Weird.

I drew it in Photoshop, colored it therein, too.

Here's my first rough, for those (like me) who like to see these things.

The End.

New Wave of Mobile Messaging!

Here's an illustration that ran in the Bay Area News Group papers a couple of weekends ago. The excellent story by Troy Wolverton is here! It doesn't really feel like an illustration to me, but that's the case whenever I work in vector. All I did here was trace app icons, create a wave and arrange them until the editors said "good enough!"

I'd say my lack of enthusiasm for vector art is an old-school bias against these new-fangled computer-thingies, but I draw freestyle in Photoshop almost exclusively, having neglected pencil and paper for several years now. Something about adjusting lines with little handles makes it feel more like putting a model together rather than drawing. But at least you don't have to wait for the glue to dry! That always put me off model-making. Anyway, where was I?

Open in new window for giant size image.

Here's how it looked on the page designed by Daymond Gascon:

Don't bother clicking. Doesn't get any bigger.

That's about all I have to say this time 'round. Except for...

The End.

Just Messing Around

Trying to get back into the habit of having fun and enjoying the process of drawing and painting characters out of my head. I haven't been feeling the joy lately. So, this weekend I goofed around and whipped up these three characters based on heads I doodled for fun last week.

Open in a new window for a pretty large version.

I gave myself until last night to finish them, but I cheated a bit this morning because the lady on the right had no legs. Much better now. I'll probably tidy it up later and re-post because I can see a bunch of simple things that annoy me. Looks like I wasn't up for drawing shoes at all, doesn't it? Weak-ass crap that is.

Again, just for fun! Figures drawn mostly in Manga Studio 5, tweaks and some drawing added in PS.

Coping With Fear

This was fun to do! Here’s the story by long-time colleague Jessica Yadegaran.

Open in a new window for a very large image.

This illustration was pretty much done straight from the initial rough. I tried to keep it cute –– as I often do –– but I tried to be cute in a different way. I'm trying to diversify my cartooning styles. I've been flattening things lately, leaning more toward an animation flavor rather than my Mad Magazine tendencies. Everything I do would look like a poor man's Jack Davis if I just sit back and scrawl.

Rough drawing on the left, line work and flat colors right. I made that blue guy less interesting as I went along, didn't I?

In preparation I spent time looking at lovely animation-style art on Pinterest and tried to lean on other artists’ tendencies rather than my own. I drew these character’s bodies while looking at other artists’ cute kid drawings.

In retrospect it looks like I drew my inspiration from artists who draw a little bit like me. I’ll be darned but the proportions of the final figures look almost spot on with my roughs. Oh well.

And my characters’ hands look like the kind of hands I’d draw, too. I was purposefully trying to do them differently but they looked wrong when I tried to steal their style from other artists.

Here's how it looked on the page. Ace designer Jennifer Schaeffer
always makes good-looking pages, no matter the dross I toss into hopper.

Drawn in Photoshop.

Just A Head Scribble

Found a little bit of time tonight to mess around with the painting tools in Manga Studio 5. I really like the oil and india ink brushes. This is about a 10 minute scribble out of my head.

I appear to still be mired in a catastrophically huge art-slump. I'm not very happy with my artistic output on the job, and the necessary time and energy for personal art isn't quite happening right now. I should try more of these 'round midnight scribble sessions and see what happens. This is kind of fun.

2013 Hasn't Been That Great For The Blog, Has It?

Is the blog still alive?

It’s obvious the habit has been broken. The blog began its eighth year in February, but 2013 has been the least productive by far. I’ve managed less than 30 posts and about half of the images are accompanied by tedious complaints about how I’m not finding time to draw or blog. Kind of like this one, I guess. Who wants to read that crap?

Back in September I was very depressed by how it was going. I started preparing the blog’s formal obituary notice – if it's no longer any fun why not just kill it? – but I haven’t had the heart to finish it. I occasionally look in on the blog as though it were an old, sick friend. I smile and check the pulse. “Hey, 13 visitors today. Oh! And 45 last Thursday? That’s not bad, eh?” And the blog coughs, and mumbles something I can't make out. I pat it gently. “There, there, you’ll be alright.” And then I make sure the “Do not resuscitate” tag is still tied firmly to the toe before quietly moving on to another web page.

Here are a few heads I doodled up in Photoshop the other night. Just goofing around.

Very good and pretty bad

I have a 20 month-old daughter and she has been alert, mobile and needing a father’s attentive eye during the morning hours I used to fill by creating personal art. She is transforming into a person, and the days of dropping her into a crib and rocking her to sleep are long gone. We go for walks every morning. She sits in the stroller and points at cars and trees and dogs; or she’s exercising her little legs at the park, running about in a wobbly manner and terrorizing the ducks who inexplicably don’t hear her coming. This is not a complaint. She is some of the best fun I've ever had and it's a joyous privilege to have this time with her.

My job, on the other hand, still affords opportunities for illustration but there has been a decline in the type of assignments I enjoy. As the newspaper business continues to change, I can foresee a time where creating art will be such a small part of what I do that I won’t be able to think of myself as a working artist anymore. To be honest, I’m feeling that way now and I'm struggling with finding a solution for the disappointment.

I’ve done a few illustrations at work since my last blog post, but I haven’t been happy with them. It has been extremely frustrating, but it has ignited an enormous urge to do work that I have more passion for. I have two small projects I’ve been cultivating during bouts of insomnia for the past year and I hope to show new stuff soon.

From slogging to blogging

The blog isn't quite dead. Why should it be? As long as I still have a hope that someday I might become a real artist, then there's no reason why I can't just wake up the slumbering blog when I want to play with it. I've found it's always a matter of momentum when it comes to this habit. Post three times in a week and a fourth becomes easier. Skip November and missing December is a piece of cake.

I'm confident 2014 will be a huge uptick for the blog and – with a bit more concentrated effort – my professional life will begin to achieve the kind of fun I'm having in my home life.

The End of 2013

Disjointed Connections

Digital illustration for a Troy Woverton story that ran in the Bay Area News Group newspapers' Technology section on Monday, Oct. 13. Click here to read the story.

Open in a new window for a much larger version.

Without purposeful intent I've been experimenting with a flatter style of illustration lately. My next effort will also be that way, but intentionally so. I've been feeling bored by my work and this is a strategy way to revive my interest in drawing. 

Here's how it ran in the paper!

I have enjoyed the process. I'm not completely happy with the pieces so far but I feel like I'm learning something new, and it's refreshing to be surprised by what I have when I finish.

The End.

Always On

Here is an illustration that ran today – Monday, October 6 – in the San Jose Mercury News Technology section.

The story by Patrick May (click here for the link) is about coping with the stress brought on by our reliance on today's popular personal technology. In the article Patrick considers a variety of our anxieties and their causes. We just can't get away from it all, can we? Not that I'd want to, to be honest.

Drawn in Photoshop, this version of the illustration ran online.

The tech-worry I have right now is upgrading my iPad2 to iOS7; I'm holding on to iOS6, thank you. I mean, what if it jacks up my favorite games? 

This version, a bit taller and with the tech-devices flipped, ran in the paper.

The End.

Hey! Another Old Doodle!

I just found this on an old computer of mine. I don't think it has ever been seen on a screen other than that of a Lime Green 233 mghz tray-loading iMac back in 2002. And now, dear internet, I give it to you:

Open in a new window for a MUCH larger image!

Probably painted in Photoshop 5 or maybe 6. 

Know What They Know

This is an illustration for a story about accessing the information that companies have gathered about you as a result of monitoring your internet activity. Or something kinda like that. For the full scoop read Brandon Bailey's story on the San Jose Mercury News website right here.

Click to open in a new window for a HUGE file to view.

Above is the final art and below is the rough. Drawn mostly in Manga Studio and colored mostly in Photoshop!

Don't bother clicking. It doesn't get any larger.

The end.