Let Us Finish This Damned Thing!

In early 2008 I bought a small sketchbook intending to fill it with head studies. I misplaced it after several months and two or three dozen drawings. A year passed. In late 2009 I rediscovered the book, promptly drew one head (very poorly) and placed it on a high shelf in the closet. The world whisked around the sun a time or two.

In 2011 the book came out from hiding and – again – I drew a single head. It was better than 2009's solitary effort but not by much. I must have been discouraged. The book settled back in the closet, out of plain sight and easy reach. Like Van Winkle's eyelids, the cover shut and did not open for a very long time.

In 2015, February marked yet another rediscovery. The tiny sketchbook had completely fallen from memory and was such a surprise that it prompted a blog-post where I spouted off about how this time I would see it through to the end; but a measly four drawings were all that I generated, two of which appear here. March contributed one half-assed effort – that would be Jon. Jon wouldn't be joined by Arlene until June but she was followed quickly by three Contessas.

Today, ten months later, the book is back in play. Wilhelmina was drawn this morning. I'm about 1/3 of the way through the book.

Enough! I'm not putting it back in the closet. I'll never learn to draw at this pace.

Let us finish this damned thing.

Dumping E-Waste

This is an illo for a San Jose Mercury News story about recycling electronics devices and such. It was written by long-time colleague George Avalos and you can read the story at this link.

Drawn in Manga Studio and Photoshop!

When I received this assignment the topic was clear but the story hadn't been written yet – not an uncommon situation. The general concept for the illustration was agreed on and it was suggested I not spend a lot of time on it; there were too many other assignments to sort through, so maybe just grab some bits & pieces of older illustrations and put them together with a couple new sketches. Sounded good!

But that never works out. I should know better. I spent too much time looking through old work and trying to make clip art out of it when it would have been more efficient to simply make a new drawing.

A few objects there at the bottom of the stack are cut and paste jobs, and there were a few others, but they didn't fit nicely and I wasted more time warping them, redrawing them, trying to get them to match with the general style. I finally came to my senses, put my shoulder to the old grindstone and drew the stupid thing.

Page design by the great Daymond Gascon

The End

A Tragic Love Story

Long-time colleague Matthias Gafni tells a powerful story of age, disease, the right to die and the compounding cruelty of the law; awful, awful circumstances. Matthias always does a great job and this is one of the most moving stories I've illustrated. You can read it at this link.

Open in a new window for a larger image. Drawn in Photoshop.

I plowed through this illustration as quickly as I could. The topic really bothered me and once I had the concept I did my best to keep my thoughts from dwelling on the tale. I much prefer illustrating fun, light stories and always find the darker and sadder assignments draining.

There is truth in that most news is bad news, but some news is worse than that. One must work on what he or she has to work on and hope that tomorrow's task is less depressing.

Below is the lovely Sunday page designed by Chris Gotsill.

Jack Kirby Study

In the bloom of youth, when I was “the kid who loved to draw,” one of my favorite things to do was to imitate panels or entire pages from my favorite comics. People, cars, buildings, animals, spaceships – you could learn how to draw everything by looking at comics. Redrawing pages and panels was a major part of my early self-education. I spent my formative years studying the great comics masters without once realizing that was what I was doing.

I still get to draw for my job occasionally – so I have not given up on drawing entirely – but I’ve drifted from the habit of drawing for pleasure and fallen far from the practice of drawing on paper.

HB and 4B pencils on Strathmore 300 bristol paper!

It has been more than a decade since I’ve created art regularly in any other medium aside from digital. I would like to return to the days of curiosity-driven study and joyful sketching. I’ve spoken often about getting back to the basic pleasures of drawing in the real world but haven’t made much progress.

Well, here is a nugget of progress. It’s a study of Fantastic Four, issue #91, page two. I wasn’t trying to create an exact replica, just looking at and following Jack Kirby’s design and layout. I think I may have followed too closely in spots – resulting in a piece that looks like Kirby on a bad day – but it was fun to do and the fun was what I was hoping for.

There will be more drawing on paper to come, and maybe more comics drawn on paper since this was such a good time!
The end.

Meager Post for Moby Drawings

No time for a long post, so I'll just say: These were part of a series of drawings for a story that briefly described the process by which whale bones were collected and made ready for presentation in a museum.

These two were my favorites.

I hope to have more substantial (and more fun!) work to show here in the near future.

Harassment Under a New Lens

This was a late-breaking, quick-turnaround illustration for the Sunday edition of the Bay Area News Group family of newspapers. I kept it very simple and was pretty much done in just a couple of hours. The story by Kay Murphy and Thomas Peele is at this link.

Drawn in Manga Studio and Photoshop!

The illustration was requested and I immediately cringed at the notion of having to come up with something for a story about sexual harassment. Topics of that nature are extremely tricky to illustrate in a way that will avoid offending a lot of people. I resisted and tried to wriggle free of it. An illustration about sexual harassment that will run on the front page of a respectable newspaper is too fraught with danger.

When it became clear that it couldn't be avoided, I consulted with colleagues and we all squirmed uncomfortably.  Since the story hinged on an incident involving a professor of astronomy I opted to focus on that aspect, and this idea occurred to me when I looked at an image of a large telescope.

I'm pretty happy with it. It's kind of cute, but not too silly; or, perhaps, it's a little silly without being too cute. Or maybe it's both of those things, but it was the best I could come up with. Yeah, that's probably it.

Page designer Chris Gotsill got ahold of it and made it look very nice on the page.

I haven't heard that anybody complained, so I think I got away with it.

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I-Sci-Fi Magazine

My ideal job would be to paint and draw for (bad) 1940's and 50s era pulp magazines. There are days when I think the best art of all time appeared in grotesquely vivid color on the covers of the pulps. Today is one of those days.

Open in a new window for a much larger image.

Back in the late 80s, it was pretty clear the sci-fi, fantasy, detective and western pulp magazine business was near death, but I hoped that it would last long enough so that I could score a cover painting or an interior pen and ink drawing for publication, just so that I could say that I did it. Never happened.

So, every once in a while, I hop the trolley to the land of make-believe and pretend.

Above are two screen-shots of the painting before I figured out what I was going to do.
I've had this notion to create my own e-zine of goofy science-fiction stories and artwork, and maybe I will get to it someday but, until then, I'm going to try to create more art like this because it's great fun. The grind of work has been getting to me and this reckless creativity has been refreshing. I think it's good for me!

Below is the painting without all the annoying type.

Open in a new window for a much larger image.
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Sketching at the Park

I took my daughter to the park this morning -- as I do most mornings -- and down to the creek we went, because that's the spot where you can find dragonflies, lady bugs, and water. I coaxed her out onto a rock and she sat and jabbed at the current with a stick for a few minutes and I was able to scratch out a quick drawing:

Brush pen on paper

Prior to that, the kid squatted on the bank and swished her fingers around in the water. I thought she was going to stay there for a minute or two, but I was wrong. I drew her hat, placed the bottoms of her feet, touched her elbow to her knee and she was gone. I told her to go back. She said no. I said there's a water bug, right there! She went back, assumed the pose for four seconds and ran off. No water bug, she said. So I faked the rest of it in a rush and moved downstream:

Brush pen on paper

Last weekend we stayed late at the park. The sun was all the way down and it was dark, dark, dark. Evel Bea stretched out on the ground and moved dirt and rocks around. Somebody in the parking lot turned on their headlights -- for some other kids who were lingering -- and I did some quick gesture drawings of E on the iPod with my pinky. The bottom one I drew mostly with my left pinky! I guess it kind of shows.

App: Paper by 53, drawn on an iPod.

The Big Bang of Nerd Pop-Culture

Can’t get enough Star Wars, right? Right? Well, like it or not, it’s only going to get worse. Here's my contribution to the onslaught. These character doodles are elements in a layout for a story about Star Wars fans. The story is linked here!

Drawn in Manga Studio and Photoshop! Open in another window for a HUUUUGE image.

In 1977, when I was a tyke, I saw the first movie and I can confirm it was the best thing ever. Star Wars -- not the repackaged 'episode 4' nonsense, but just plain 'Star Wars' -- was the big-bang of nerd pop-culture and you have no idea how bleak life was before Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 appeared; all you had was William Shatner Star Trek reruns, Super-Friends cartoons and mid-70s Marvel comics. That stuff was cool to me, but mainstream America didn't think so. When Star Wars hit the theaters, everybody was willing to stand in line for hours to watch a movie I wanted to watch. Suddenly it was a great time to be a 10 year-old boy.

A few years down the road, I thought the Empire Strikes Back was excellent. In retrospect I probably embraced it because, while it still appealed as a boys adventure story, the darker tone matched my outlook during the moody teenage-nerd years. I have no doubt it was an incomplete, incomprehensible, Muppet-infected entertainment experience if you weren’t heavily invested in the first film, but it hit the right spot for me.

Return of the Jedi – aside from the stunning leap in special effects – was a disappointment, but I accepted it as good enough for a conclusion to a decade of waiting to see how it would all turn out. I considered it over. Boy, was I wrong.

Thirty-six, thirty-seven years later, here I am drawing Star Wars characters for a story riding the wave of hype for the next Star Wars movie. It's kind of weird that something so closely tied to an artistic and cultural milestone of my childhood has such strong appeal today.

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Update! Here's the print version, designed and arranged by Daymond Gascon.


Howdy! I made this illustration last week, and it ran in the Thursday, August 27 edition of the Bay Area News Group family of newspapers.

The excellent story by the always excellent Pat May can be read here.

The brilliant design and vacancy sign was conceived and concocted by the always brilliant page-designer, Chris Gotsill.

Drawn, as usual, in Manga Studio and Photoshop.

The End
(Short post today. Kinda busy.)

El Niño is in the Cards

So it looks like El Niño is locked and loaded, but what does it mean? What's going to happen? Heck if I know, I'm no expert. That's why you should go read the story by Paul Rogers at this link. But if I understand, it could be terrible, or it could be great, or it could be negligible.

Hm. Maybe the mystery is why they asked me to draw faux tarot cards for this story. It all makes sense now!

Drawn in Manga Studio and Photoshop!

Only four of the cards were used in the print edition. The story relied on a report that was issued the day the paper went to press, so we had an idea of what was coming but the details weren't clear until the release. The direction and assessment of what the data means can be wobbly until the reporter and editors figure it out, so I have to be ready to chase the stick whichever direction it gets tossed.

One card was nixed, another couple of ideas were needed, one of those was nixed and the first nixed card was reinstated. That's how it goes sometimes with the breaking news stuff. I think it's kind of fun; if I didn't have that attitude, I'd be one large quivering ulcer, with glasses, sitting in front of a computer.

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Big Money, Big Pressure

This illustration ran in the Bay Area News Group family of newspapers on Sunday, August 2. Here is the handy link to the excellent story by Matt O'Brien.

Drawn in Manga Studio and Photoshop.

To sum up briefly: Shareholders try holding high-paid CEOs accountable when the companies they run fall in value. Most of those CEOs keep getting paid their hefty salaries no matter the misfortunes of the businesses in their care.

The likenesses attempted are of Marissa Mayer, John Hammergren and Larry Ellison. Ellison and Mayer are pretty well-known around these parts, so if I come close there's a good chance the informed reader will recognize them.

Sadly, John Hammergren has a lower profile, and only those who follow such things might know the name of the CEO of a pharmaceutical distributor; and fewer still would recognize his picture. Initially I drew only Larry and Marissa, but Hammergren turned out to be the lede in the story. Late in the game I was asked to fit him in there somehow.

Funnily enough, I had done a caricature of him a couple of years ago for a story about the highest paid CEOs in the bay area, so I was able to swipe his head off of that one and tweak it for this illustration. That saved me the small stress of wrangling with another caricature so close to deadline.

I made it, tho, and then the story was held for a week. That's the way it goes sometimes. No matter, it was fun to work on! Here is how it looked in the paper:

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This is sometimes unavoidable, but I'm bothered by the juxtaposition of of the serious, tragic story on top, and my silly illustration right below. The horrific murder of Madyson Middleton brings such strong feelings of rage and sorrow. As a reader, my eye sees the goofy illustration below as a dumb joke told by someone (me) in an inappropriate time and place. 

Like I said, it's news and different types of news will reside side by side as stories unfold, but sometimes the level of discomfort is escalated when the bad news is so disturbing. The small portrait of the beautiful young girl dominates and understandably so. 

Small Blog Update

I drew this a couple days ago; tweeted it, tumbld it, google+ed it and that was going to be that. I have a work-related, fancier illustration to post, but the publication date has been postponed so I can't show it here yet. In the interest of freshening up the blog, I'll slip this quick doodle in while no one is looking.

I was sitting on the floor in my daughter's room while she was drawing with crayons. Since she was so studiously making marks on paper while I sat idle, I stopped goofing around on the internet and did a quick sketch.

Drawn on the iPad. The app is "Paper" by 53. Ten, maybe 15 minutes drawing time. 

I've flaked when it comes to drawing on the iPad, mostly because I can't stand drawing with my finger. There's something about the friction on my fingertip that drives me nuts! But by not drawing on the tablet, I'm neglecting the main reason I wanted an iPad in the first place.

I've had a few styluses in the past but they don't seem to last very long. I just found another stylus that has a tough looking tip. It's finicky and doesn't register on every stroke unless I'm very deliberate about it, but it's okay. I'm still waiting for the perfect, pressure sensitive pen and over-size iPad! It should be like a portable Cintiq, but hopefully not so pricey. (It is Apple, tho, so it'll be double, I bet.)

As a blog bonus, this is the drawing Evelyn was making while I was sketching her. She says "it's a happy face and some shapes." I should add that my drawing above is of Evelyn and some shapes. We are a pair, me and she.

Drawn with crayons on legal-size paper. 

The End.

Small Animation Experiment

After a lot of frustration, I decided to go back and read the Anime Studio manual, which -- although extremely helpful -- is a total drag. Why can't I just figure it out? This is the 4-seconds-long result of a few hours of tedious reading. I'm making some progress, but I've already forgotten how I got parts of this to work. I have to repeat things several times before it sticks.


I'm having a good time creating characters to animate, but I should spend less effort on that and more effort on learning how to make them move. I'm aiming for a short cartoon with annoying tunes I've made in GarageBand; that's another horrid little hobby I've taken to recently. I hope the effort comes out along the lines of Yellow Submarine in style, but with way shittier music.

Here are a couple of characters I've made for this; I've got a few more I'll post later, or maybe I should just wait until I get them working.

Super Bowl Volunteers

This illustration ran in the Bay Area News Group family of papers back on Thursday, June 25. I try to post here on the same day it prints, but I've been on staycation, cutting back on time spent sitting in front of the computer. It's good to (mostly) disconnect now and then.

Drawn in Manga Studio and Photoshop. Open in a new window for a much larger image.

The day I began work on this assignment I had forgotten to bring my drawing tablet with me. I had to find a pencil and draw on paper. I know it doesn't sound too tough but there was panic and despair -- I hardly ever get to work on paper anymore. It feels weird, but after a few minutes warming up, it wasn't so bad. I thumbnailed my basic idea, gathered reference and created the rough in a couple of hours with the help of my iPad camera and Photoshop. It was fun and didn't slow me down much at all. The rough was approved and I started on the final.

The rough! Pencil and paper arranged in Photoshop.

Jumping back a little bit, I should explain that the story was about how the NFL recruits volunteers in host cities (San Jose this up-coming season) to put on the big game. The NFL relies a great deal on the host community to help out with the huge influx of visitors and press and whatnot. You can read the story online here. It's by Patrick May, one of the writers I work with regularly, and he always does a great job telling the story.

I started to think that Kaepernick may not be the best person to put on the poster. I sent out an email explaining to the editors that maybe Tom Brady should be on there. He is the reigning Super Bowl MVP, immediately recognizable, and much more likely to find his way back to the Super Bowl than the 49ers QB, I'm sorry to say. I heard back from only one editor, and the response was "sounds good!"

So, I drew Tom Brady and put him on the poster and forged ahead on the rest of the illustration.

As I was heading toward the end zone, ready to spike the ball and kiss my bicep, the other editors began to reply to my email and the consensus was we should use Kaepernick instead of Brady, mostly due to the "deflate-gate" nonsense which was flaring up again at the time. If people saw Tom Brady on the front page they would think it was about cheating. Yeah, they were right. Darn. I had to add a bit more hustle to get it re-done.

Every time I put my feet up and think I've got it made, it turns out I'm brutally wrong. Oh, well.

Here is how it looked in the paper:

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