Great Moments in DMV HIstory

Last week, I quickly drew a few spot illos for a story about highlights in the 100 year history of the California DMV. You can read the story here!

These are some of my efforts for that assignment:

1947: Folsom Prison inmates begin making license plates.
1958: Photographs first appear on driver licenses.
1965: Smog control devices required for registration.

All drawn in one afternoon, using  Illustrator!

Happy Birthday, Blog!

To celebrate, I'm reviving an old blog project. I bought a little sketchbook back in 2008 and decided I would fill it full of head studies and post it as I went. The process: I google random names on image search, scroll down until I find a head that interests me and then I do a quick sketch. That went well for a short time, but this was before the advent of easy digital photography, and I tired of scanning, importing, cropping. Then I got tired of drawing those little heads that I was too lazy to scan.

It fizzled in mid 2008. I found the sketchbook again in 2011, decided to begin again. I still didn't have a decent digital camera and quickly rediscovered what a pain scanning was; and so, after two or three unpublished heads, it re-fizzled.

I found the sketchbook again last weekend. I did three heads yesterday, two of which are here for the blog party. When I finish another head I will post the two-page spread and continue the proud Head Sketchbook tradition, until it fizzles yet again, which is also a Head Sketchbook tradition, but not a proud one.

Here is a link to a few of the other Head Sketchbook posts.

I painted the paper green a few years ago, thinking that maybe the notion
of painting heads would excite and compel me to keep this project going
as a painting exercise. That was the last thing done to this sketchbook. Fail.

Happy Birthday, Blog!

Nine years ago today, I published my first post here at blogspot*, and I embarked upon... a colossal waste of time! Just kidding! Kinda.

My goal was to try something new and to push myself to create more personal work and keep the inner creative fire kindled, with the ultimate goal of finding a way to make a better career as an artist.

Well, I still have the same job. Don't get me wrong,  I get to draw and illustrate – and I think I'm making more art than at any other time, and I'm enjoying it as much as I ever have –  but I'm not making a very good living at it. And I'm not creating any personal artwork to speak of.

So, another Blog birthday resolution! I will revive the freelance career, which has been in hibernation for nearly a decade. I haven't had a (decently paying) freelance job in an extremely long time. And I will put a priority on personal work, with the hopes of finding a way to make a better living and a better life through doodling.

I am considering shuttering this blog and beginning anew elsewhere. Maybe a change of scenery will help me keep this going. Socially speaking, Blogpot has been a bit of a ghost town the past few years.  I might set up shop elsewhere and try doing this differently.

*Ha! "Blogspot" autocorrects to "Bloodspot."

Close To Home Encounters

Here's my illustration that ran in the Bay Area News Group newspapers on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015.

The story touches on the recent release of files from Project Blue Book, and highlights a few reports from around the Bay Area. The article by intrepid reporter Matthias Gafni is also sprinkled with a brief history of the UFO in pop culture. The story is here and a companion story, focusing on local UFO reports, is at this link.

Drawn in Manga Studio and Photoshop!

Being a fan of golden age sci-fi art, this topic afforded an opportunity to pretend I was creating art for "Amazing Stories" magazine. (That was one of my goals in life at age 10, and I'm starting to feel that way again. Do they still print that? Anyway...)

The "photo" on the lower left is a rearrangement of my first illustrative attempt for this assignment. One of the featured reports is about a hunter who was up in a tree and accosted from below by aliens. I thought about illustrating that particular incident as an entry point to the story, but it was decided later that it would be better to be less specific. Totally agree with that and I like this presentation better.

I found an old illustration of a flying saucer I created for work back in the early 2000s, and used it as a spring board for the illustration above.

Here is how this illustration looked in the paper:

I enjoy watching UFO documentaries made in the and 70s, and I still follow UFO news, but I'm not a believer. I think it's fascinating how UFO culture has moved from strange subculture to mainstream mythology. It's a topic always gets a reaction from readers.

I'm not very surprised that the story at the link has attracted a long chain of comments but, of course, the louts and the boors drag it all down pretty quickly. As always.

The End

Monumentally Lazy Blog Post 1

Rather than creating a post for each illustration*, I'm going to fling the whole bucket at the wall. I've been procrastinating on these and still I feel extremely lazy today. I just can't face doing them individually. So, here they are, rapid-fire, in no particular order:

Photoshop painting. Open in a new window for large image.

Not a high-concept illustration, rather a fairly common visual cliche, but I only had a few hours to generate an idea and deliver the final. I envisioned a few more defenders dangling about, but couldn't make them quickly enough.

*Updated the post later and spread it over four posts. I'm experimenting with different layouts for the blog and having all four images on one post hides three of them in certain configurations.

Monumentally Lazy Blog Post 2

Drawn in Photoshop and Manga Studio.

The character pushing the stroller was, in its initial form, a generic robot, symbolic of the tech enriching/taking over our lives. It was suggested later in the process that the figure be made of some of the objects that will be connected and aware of our preferences and tendencies. Dude, the internet will be in everything!

As I worked on the final, objects were improvised on the fly, taking the whole thing right down to the wire. (Maybe I shouldn't type stuff like that any more; almost everything I do at work is done under a hard, falling deadline.) Very happy with how it turned out.

*     *     *     *     *

Monumentally Lazy Blog Post 3

Drawn in Illustrator.

Simple. Took longer to do than you would think, but simplicity – for me – is most often a result of pruning a more convoluted and complex effort. Very true in this case.

The link to the story is here.

*     *     *     *     *

Monumentally Lazy Blog Post 4

Photoshop with a bit of Illustrator.

I borrowed that trophy from another illustration I did a couple of years ago and intended to re-work it, but drawing the stadium took MUCH longer than anticipated. This effort, like many of my other efforts, was a case of a simpler visual style arising out of a more complex approach. I drew every freaking thing in here several times. Not one object, not one figure, not one line drawn on the canvas appeared in perfect form. I had to jab and stick and move for fifteen rounds. It was a long, ugly, brutal fight.

The story, short and elegant, is linked here.

The End.

Just Goofin' Around

There hasn't been much time for personal art over the past few months, but I'm trying to get it going. No more laying in bed at bedtime and playing pinball on the iPad! Might as well get up and do something!

Open in a new window for a much larger image.

Scribbled up the little lady on the left and worked on her for 10 or 20 minutes at a time over a few weeks. I put the lady on the right in because the spot was empty.  I bashed her out in a few sessions over a couple of days. I had a little extra art-time due to a bout of insomnia brought on by a sick daughter who was up most of the night. Sure has made going to work hard this week but who needs sleep?

There is no real purpose to these drawings other than just play. I think of them as characters for a really dumb sci-fi fantasy show that will never be made.

A Window Into Art

I was stoked by the story topic for this assignment. It's terrific to read that museums are stepping up to enhance the art experience. A year or two ago, at a museum I won't name, the ushers were going around asking people to put away their iphones, etc. Those poor ushers were extremely busy and watching them them harass the visitors over and over again brought down the museum-going experience.

Museums have been isolated, impregnable caverns of art for centuries, and they didn't seem to realize they were on the verge of being culturally paleolithic. It totally put me off. So, this story sounds like good news to me. It's by Patrick May and you can read it here. He does great work and is always worth the look.

The painting without the text boxes. This was how it looked before I rearranged things
 to accommodate the layout for print. Open in a new window for a massive image.

After reading the proposal for the story, my first thought was of Rockwell's great painting, "The Connoissuer." I wanted to do a riff on that, and I imagined the character wearing his Google-glasses and toting his iPad. But his back is turned in Rockwell's painting, and straying too far from that iconic pose might have disconnected it.

My solution was to have someone offering him the chance to enjoy his modern painting in a new way. That seemed like it might work!

Doesn't get any bigger. The section front
title font defaulted here, but not in print!

Drawing the Norman Rockwell figure was a lot of fun, and when it came time to render the woman I had planned on taking a photo of my wife and working the image up in the painstaking manner of Rockwell. I roughed in a figure as a placeholder and started refining it. I got caught up in the task and an hour or two later I thought it looked good enough. No need to take a picture and start it all over again!

This was the first rough I put together. I rendered the figures
a skooch more before submitting for editorial approval.

There was a bit of a rush toward the deadline, and the inclusion of the text boxes – representative of looking at the paintings through your Google Glass thing, or iPhone accompaniament – turned out to be trickier than I thought. I imagined it would be no trouble to plop them into the painting but it didn't look or feel quite right to me. I fussed with it, but it still came up a bit short, I think.

Had to wrap it up and send it down the chute, tho. No time to dally with it when the deadline doomsday clock sounds its menacing chime.


Just for kicks I'll post the paintings within the illustration below. Click and open in a new window for giant-size images!

To create the faux Jackson Pollock I went in search of Photoshop brushes made from paint splatters, and I found a bunch. I tried a lot of them but there remains the problem of repetition of splatters. If there are several spattery shapes that look the same, then they cease to look random. So it came down to just playing with the settings on a few brushes and messing around – layers upon layers upon layers – until it looked right to me.

The "Salmon Trout and Smelt" painting is at the De Young Museum and I have memories of looking at that painting going all the way back to childhood. Once, maybe twice a year, my family would drive to SF and either go to the De Young or to the Steinhart Aquarium. I grew up looking at that painting of dead fish.

I resolved not to get too involved with it as a study, and began to paint at a small size, hoping to minimize the effort. But, after a short while, I blew it up big so that I could attack it properly. I was enjoying it too much to do a hack job on it! I don't know if it turned out that great but I spent a little extra time at home so that I could play with it for a little longer.

The whole illustration was a pleasure to create because I was able to work as Norman, as Jackson, as Samuel. It's like going to a costume party as three different artists!

Merry X-mas!

This is a quick post on X-mas eve day; I'm too busy working and can't really get into it. And posting this later in the week is really missing the boat. The illustration ran on the front of today's Merc and all those other Bay Area Media News Group papers! The fine story by Patrick May can be read at this link! 

Open in a new window for a monstrous-sized image.

Drawn and colored in Manga Studio, more color and some tweaks done in Photoshop. Here's how it looked on A1:

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

Lots of fun to work on. Have a happy day!

Texas vs. California

Hey! Found this the other day. It is my very first op-ed illustration, done for the Oakland Tribune back in 2001. I believe the story was about the growth of Texas in relation to California at the time; population, business opportunities, some tech companies moving for tax reasons, etc.

Drawn on actual paper, with pencil and pen. The white swirlies in the water were done in photoshop and are among my first lines drawn digitally. Weird how things have changed.

Gosh, I really wanted to do op-ed illustrations and cartoons, and I did for a couple of years, but that particular career is pretty much dead. The editorial cartoonist and illustrator is almost a mythical beast at this point; there are more Bigfoot sightings than editorial cartoonist sightings. 

Working Under a Watchful Eye

Quick post, late night, under the influence of nighttime cold medication. I'm suffering from a terrible bug and I'm trying to reassemble myself for work tomorrow, after a vacation decimated in large part by the illness that harries me now. But enough about me, here's one of my drawings done for work:

Open in a new window for a HUGE image!

And here is a link to the excellent story written by Steve Johnson. It's a story that is somewhat disturbing, but definitely a trend that will continue.

I suppose my little cartoon makes light of this topic, but I tend to shrug and laugh when faced with the darker side of employer/employee relationships, and I won't say any more about it than that because, now, I'm certain they're probably listening! ;-P

Here's my original rough sketch.

As a laughing colleague or two pointed out to me, I have, again, drawn naked people for a front page centerpiece. This is a disturbing trend that I do not approve of, mostly because it may betray some tacky thing about me that I was, and still am, unaware of. The doodle above was my first idea after reading the story. I submitted it to those in charge and -- much to my surprise -- it was approved and there was nothing to do but to do it.

I kid of course, unless you can tell me what's wrong with me.

Here's how it looked in the paper:

Drawn in MangaStudio 5 with a touch or two of Photoshop.

Some Food, Part 3

Hello! I hope this isn't getting tedious; here are more food drawings with plenty still to go. I think I'm losing interest in doing the (crappy) lettering job and arranging these all together for the blog. It was fun to draw but damn if this isn't turning into a chore!

Open in a new window for a much larger view of this stuff.

My attitude problem may stem from having to tend to this while I'm on the first vacation I've been on in a very loooong time. I spent some days hanging out with visiting parents and it was wonderful; and just as that wound down I came under the heel of a wretched cold or flu or some gawdawful thing about which I will not go into detail since we are talking about food here.

I've been out of commission for a few days and I'm still feeling terrible, but vacation's end looms and I should get this together since "free time" will be back to a bare minimum shortly.

Same here.

The chicharron thing above was a challenge to draw. It was a lot like my previous post's "chicarron of trout skin" which was not very good either. This one's quite a step up from that one, tho. 

I really like the flat, graphic quality of the seaweeds in this post's second collection of images. I could have composed it a bit better, but that's my favorite, maybe of the whole batch posted before and yet to come -- so maybe I should just stop here and skip the rest!

So sick and lazy tonight. To be continued...

Some Food, Part 2

Two more sets of drawings from my motherlode of art created for Eat magazine, which appeared in the November 30th Sunday edition of the Bay Area News Group newspapers. An online version of the project has not yet appeared, but if and when it does, I'll provide a link. Great writing, great photography, and twenty-six drawings like these:

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

I wasn't sure how to approach this assignment when I started. My general instructions asked for drawings of the items served, and I thought I could do pencil style sketches, but the variety of textures and colors made that extremely difficult. It would be more effective to give each a painting-style treatment. The images above were my first two efforts.

On the left, I kept it loose and it just flowed. I was done in about ten minutes and pretty happy with it. The second one was a nightmare. You should see the actual thing; such a rough texture. I experimented with about three different approaches and this was the best of my attempts. I was not overjoyed with it and I meant to come back to it later, but time was short. It's not too bad, but I was really struggling with it.

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

Gosh, I also meant to come back and fix the cup on the top one. It took a while to paint all those little round things and I hastily filled in the container just to get the general shape right before moving on to the next one. It looks pretty wonky to me. Too late!

I should mention that for reference, reporter Daniel Jimenez took iphone pictures as he made his way through his meal. I was doubtful about how that would turn out, but his efforts were fabulous. He made it very easy for me, although he explained that he started eating a few things before remembering to take a picture, but I just left out the bite marks.

More coming soon!

Some Food, Part 1

I drew a slew of food illustrations for a special magazine insert for the San Jose Mercury News Sunday paper, which appeared on doorsteps November 30.

Daring reporter Daniel Jimenez bravely went forth into a posh restaurant and ordered one of the most expensive meals in the Bay Area to judge for himself if it could possibly be worth it. Mr. Jimenez did what he had to do to get to the bottom of the story, which meant eating all kinds of stuff I would NEVER eat.

Open in a new window for a much larger image.

I created a lot of drawings for this piece and I will share them all, but it would be way too much labor to put them in one post right now; I'm a little full of Thanksgiving turkey and wondrously lumpy smashed 'taters, and can't sit upright in this chair for very long. I'
ll try to show the entire collection in four or five posts and then, ideally, put them in a single enormo-post when I’m done.

Same here.

All of the art was drawn in photoshop, with a touch of MangaStudio here and there. I’ll talk more about the project and the drawings in the entries ahead.

As implied above, I’m not a foodie by any stretch -- I’d frenzy-pounce on the “flash-grilled lobster” for sure, yet flick the yuzu lime thing off my plate with a fork so as not to get any on my fingers -- but I enjoyed drawing all of these.

More to come!