An Old Fragment of Something

This is an oldie. I read somewhere that when drawing digitally-- in the traditional pen & ink style-- it was best to do so in bitmap mode. I started drawing the page above and couldn't stand it. I finished this one and another page but the jagged edges were far too annoying.

There was a larger story here, but I've lost track of it and I don't think I wrote it down anywhere. Typical. It wasn't a complete story but it was enough to give me the traction I needed to move from one panel to the next with an idea of where it was going. I can make stuff up as I go along but I prefer to have a structure of some sort to cling to.

I know she was an archaeologist searching for signs of civilization on the surface of Mars. On the next page she is attacked by Martian "savages," but the drawings aren't very good and I didn't get around to coloring them.
The End.

No Ball Games Today (Updated!)

This is a preliminary rough for an illustration. The topic: addressing the dilemma of what to do on those days when there are no sporting events.
...I kind of like it. It's energetic and fun. Maybe I can persuade the editors to take it like this-- not just because I'm busy and it will be less work, but because it is different and energetic. I will try.
...Later: I am suddenly worried. Does it say "No ballgames today-- AAAAAH!," or does it say "No ballgames today, let's french kiss!"? I may have to re-think this one...
The End, For Now.
Finished. The television looks more like the TV ideal of today rather than cr0-magnon TV. Also, in my eyes, the men no longer look like they're about to kiss. You may feel differently.
...I redrew almost everything but I don't think I managed to totally kill the freshness of the first rough. I may attempt more illustrations in this style; the result did not look the way I thought it was going to look. Fun for me!

The End Again.

Revisiting a 2004 Olympics project

In the months leading up to the 2004 Olympics, the sports section of the Oakland Tribune ran a weekly feature about notable San Francisco Bay Area athletes who had participated in the Olympic games. It started with the first modern Olympics in 1904, then 1908 the next week, then 1912, and so on.

A small sample of some of the drawings for the feature. All Photoshop drawings.

The writer, Jeff Faraudo, would work up short pieces on a local athlete, other notable Olympic performances or personalities, important world news of the time and another significant sports story that would have been in the headlines. I would then gather reference -- with some of the more obscure reference being provided by Mr. Faraudo -- then I'd create four or five drawings and arrange the layout.

This went on for, what? 20 weeks? I did dozens of drawings and it was a close shave at deadline every time. It was a long, hard road considering I had other duties and other illustrations to create. Long hours and extra effort in the middle of the night on the lime green iMac at home was the key to getting it all done.

I learned a lot about speeding up the digital drawing process and simplifying the drawing process. Even if I wasn't happy with every drawing -- and I certainly wasn't -- it was a trial by fire that increased my familiarity with creating art digitally.

The End.

Online Bullying

(I'm going through some older work in preparation for rebuilding my website and I'll be posting a few that aren't too embarrassing...)

This was an illustration assignment for a story about online bullies. The bottom one was my first take on it, but the story turned out to pertain more to girls and the tone wasn't suited to the slightly sillier treatment.

The End

Older Works...

I'm going through some old stuff as I prepare to re-think, re-imagine, rebuild my website.
I found these two caricatures off in the corner:

...I don't recall what prompted these; they were mixed in with some of my newspaper work files but I'm sure they weren't for the paper. Maybe I just did them for the heck of it when I should have been doing something else.
...They look like they were done around the time I was trying to figure out how to get my digital drawings to look like pastel drawings-- I'm guessing because they seem to be more concerned with the manipulation of textures than with the drawing itself. All part of the learning process.

The End

Head Doodles

At work-- during long saves on one of the old computers or delays while waiting for something to print-- I occasionally doodle on the nearest scrap of paper or post-it note. I've been making a concentrated effort to invent heads of late, and these are a few of them.

These are drawn with pencil, marker and ball-point. I scanned them in and colored them this morning just for kicks.

The End

Maggie In Her WIndow

My thoughtful wife Tracy gave a watercolor moleskine sketchbook to me earlier this year and I've been slow to make the first mark in it. Well, I finally got there. While cleaning my drawing area-- a long process-- I painted this rather sloppy thing. Faithful cat Maggie held her pose for nearly an hour while I painted, cleaned, and painted more.

The End

The Game Plan

This is an illustration for a trilogy of articles about game-planning for pro, college and high-school football. Stylistically, it doesn't look like something I'd do. I'm not fond of the drop-shadowed, vector illustration-- probably because I'm not very good at it.
...I like to see that the human hand was involved somehow. I'm a total hypocrite, I know, considering I do almost ALL of my work on a computer, but you know what I mean!
...Still, I was pretty happy with it. It's not one of my favorites and it's not designed all that well (that ear, for example, doesn't seem to fit right) but I'll give it a C for effort and efficiency. I started with one quick thumbnail and drew the head in photoshop at the beginning of my shift. I came back to it many hours later and slapped it together before ending my day. No fussing allowed.

The End.

U.S.A. vs. U.K.

Here's a big, ugly illustration for the A&E cover to go with an article penned by Tony Hicks and Jim Harrington-- who's got the better Rock & Roll resume, U.S.A. or the U.K.? (Article here.)
...I figure it started here with Chuck Berry and Elvis, but has Rock & Roll ever gotten any better than the Beatles? Dylan might have one-upped them for a bit, but they definitely took that inspiration and responded with authority.
...I can't think of any band or artist on our side of the pond that tops Led Zep or the Stones and their respective, wrinkly old bodies of work. Hendrix might have gotten there-- and still he looms large-- but he stopped too soon.
...I like the American roots of rock and R&B-- Aretha, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley-- but I feel their artistic merits don't match up well against the late 60's early 70's crowd, not on grounds of talent or innovation, but the later acts have this appearance of sophistication, of doing something heavier than creating pop songs. However, that may be a case of buying into fraudulent aesthetic pretensions. Is "Stairway to Heaven" really better than "Maybelline?" It's harder to play on your guitar but it's probably not superior because of it: I say Chuck Berry trumps all!
...This discussion perhaps leads to another question: Has there been any great Rock & Roll since about 1974? I haven't heard anything, with a high level of popular influence, that I could make a confident case for. Going the alternative route, I think Tom Waits and Elvis Costello have created original and Olympian bodies of work, but I think one would be booed from the stage if one was to rank either of those artists above, or perhaps even among, the usual suspects.
...I confess to having given up listening to contemporary pop/rock music for 10-15 years now, therefore I won't claim to be tuned in to what has been good within recent memory, but when I visit the music I grew up loving, I mostly listen to the artists Tony and Jim discuss in the column.
...Today, for personal enjoyment, I listen to old jazz ('20s and '30s stuff mostly) and mp3's downloaded from online archives for late 19th/early 20th century cylinder records and 78's, and radio shows from the golden age. I'm not an expert in any of that-- most of the time I don't even know who I'm listening to-- but I know what I like and that's where I'm at now. Early. 20th. Century.
...Please send help.

...I had MUCH fun drawing this piece, done entirely in Photoshop.
...(Left side: Elvis, Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin VS. Right side: John, Paul, Keith Richards and Robert Plant-- so if you want to leave a polite comment and you aren't sure who those people are, you can now-- without fear of offending-- say: "That's a very good Elvis you've done there.")
...(Top left!)
The End.
P.S. So, if I have to pick a winner, it's Chuck Berry and the USA! The problem is: He isn't one of the artists who made the list! Crap! If Chuck is out of the equation then the U.K. dominates. But, no Chuck, no rock! Chuck takes all comers and destroys them with the opening riff of "Johnny B. Goode." Take that, U.K.!

P.P.S. Here's the alternate version running in some of the other newspapers.

I-Sci-Fi 3

The following text is a short excerpt from "President Ventman's Wife is a Martian" by F. Webber Slingbrook, published in the March 1947 issue of Interesting Science Fiction.*

The man standing guard-- a Martian soldier, blue-skinned, almond-eyed-- gazed across the empty reception hall in the mountain-top castle located on Blynt's Peak in Mars' northern hemisphere. He was bored, but sharp and vigilant. There hadn't been an intruder this deep into the Martian kingdom for over 400 years but this was his job, and so thorough was his training that he was diligent in his duty even though the oppressive, silent monotony would crush the soul of most men of action.

This day, however, was to be different. Something happened. First, a noise -- a scraping noise -- coming from outside. And over there, across the hall, through one of the tall frosted windows he saw the silhouette of a man. Puzzled and amazed the guard walked across the room, closer to the window. So puzzled and so amazed was he that his training failed him. So peculiar was the occurrence, so far outside of what he thought could ever happen was this unforseen circumstance that his gun was left forgotten in its holster. It is impossible, he thought, that a man could be outside that window-- the building was high atop a mountain. And the building? It was tall and featureless on that side. Impossible!

But, despite history and despite reason, it seemed that the impossible was possible.

The window slowly opened inward, and there was a man there-- an Earth-man; short, stocky, a pale pink color, very ugly-- and he was standing on the sill. The Earth-man was plainly surprised to see the Martian. For a moment astonishing in its length, two men from two different worlds stared silently at one another, exchanging only meaningless blinks of their eyes. Finally, the Martian soldier exhaled. A slow wheeze of air escaped from him and nothing more. It did, however, end the lull and the human intruder was the first to seize the initiative.

"There you are!" He hopped down from the window and snarled at the guard. "You've really done it this time!"

The Martian took a step back. Confronted by an aggressor, his training began to take hold again. The man of Earth saw one of the Martian's blue hands fall dutifully toward his holster. Firmly and with a venomous tone the Earth-man said: "The Queen is so angry! And she mentioned you by name!" The idea of the Queen's anger bearing his name chilled the Martian. Did she even know his name? It did not matter. The instincts for his duties were buried beneath his fear of the Queen.

 "Me?! Wh-what did I do?" squeaked the blue fellow.

"What did you do?" shouted Dalton Trencher, astronaut, expert pugilist and adventurer from Earth. With a great flourish of hands and the strongly projected emotings of a practiced thespian, he sputtered angrily before squealing in a manner mocking the Martian's own quivering voice. "'Me?! Wh-wh-wh-whhat did I do?!' he asks! By God, you heartless devil! Put up your paws and show me what you're made of!"

The guard was baffled and nearly helpless, but the sight of the Earth-man, his fists clenched and held up in front of him-- a universally understood sign of an invitation to a fist fight-- offered some kind of hand-hold for his reeling senses and appealed to his warrior's heart. Here was an opportunity for a trained soldier-- a soldier lost in a fog of unexpected occurrences, with no clear course of action and no hope of receiving orders from central command-- to lash out and hit somebody.

The absurdity of the situation was weightless. It did not matter that he was on stale guard duty mere seconds ago, and now found himself squaring off against an alien intruder from another planet. To the Martian's panicked mind, here was a much smaller man standing ready to brawl, practically asking to be beaten, and tell me, what man-- man of Mars or man of Earth-- doesn't perk up to that? What could bring more pleasure than engaging in a quick sparring session with an opponent who, after a quick assessment of size and weight, was not likely to be much of a problem?

But Dalton Trencher had been a problem in the ring, as a sparring partner, for the great Joe Louis. "Mr. Louis," as Dalton told the story, "was caught off guard in our first session and I landed a few shots that I thought might have done him in. But Mr. Louis climbed back into the ring and I'm proud to say he gave me a beating he told me he HAD to give. Otherwise, said Mr. Louis, he felt would have to hand me his championship belt before I walked out of the gym that day."

The Martians had been listening to radio broadcasts from Earth for decades and the broadcasts of heavyweight bouts were even more popular on Mars than on the planet where they took place. It is not an exaggeration to say Joe Louis, in the cultural perception of Martian civilization, was the most terrible warrior and most admired person on that distant planet. Martian women coerced good behavior from their children by saying "If you don't eat your Vlarfrak, Joe Louis will get you with an uppercut." Martian men, in a culture where toughness is the highest virtue, would praise the greatest of their warriors by saying, "he's a real brown bomber!"

This Martian soldier had listened to many of Joe Louis' fights; he marveled at the descriptions and hoped one day to travel to Earth to see the great Joe Louis beat somebody in the ring. In spite of the Martian appetite for boxing and the pride his people took in the development of those skills, the thought of getting into the ring with Joe never crossed his mind-- it was practically unthinkable.

As the soldier eagerly readied himself to box the Earthling, he could not know the quality of fighter looking into his eyes from behind heavy fists. Had he known, he might have remembered his weapon.

Dalton threw two hard left jabs, and the blue man gasped in pain. He had not seen the first jab.
The second jab he saw but he could only shut his eyes as those knuckles cracked against his cheek.
The Martian's sense of perspective and duty returned as the pain of the second jab took effect. Slugged into submission by the inflicted agonies of the Earth-man's vicious punches, his confusion was gone and there was no doubt of what his course of action should be.

The Martian's survival instincts roared to life and tried to assert themselves. But the jabs had done their work on him and, instinctively, he knew a strong right hook was coming in over his dropped defenses. He tried to raise his shoulder a bit, hoping to deflect the finishing blow, but he also knew it was too late. He gave thought to a short Martian prayer and -- eyes shut, teeth clenched -- sleep came with a thudding suddenness. He settled to the floor and was still. A single tooth cartwheeled and clattered away from the unconscious soldier, roster-tailing a tiny path of spittle and blood.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Trencher took a deep breath and held it. Silence. Good. He glanced back to the window and saw the rope ladder dangling outside; his rocket ship hovered twenty feet above, waiting.

He ran across the large high-ceilinged room and grabbed the handles of an enormous pair of white doors. At his touch the doors slid sideways into the walls and Dalton found himself looking out onto a large and elegantly furnished balcony. The high peaks of the Martian landscape were seen beyond the railings, a heavy white fog swirled above, below and between the peaks. A red moon hung low in the purple sky.

There was a small table set with shining utensils and fine china. Fancy pastries were stacked on ornately decorated platters beside a silver tea-pot. Standing next to the table,wearing a robe of the finest silk, was President Ventman, elected leader of Planet Earth. A long hand-rolled cigarette rested on his lower lip and it wiggled as an expression of bewilderment when the President recognized the man before him.

"D-Dalton Trencher?" The President stammered. "How the--"

"Mr. President, sir." Dalton put his hand out and by reflex the President responded. Dalton grabbed and shook, and he was pleased at the firmness of the President's grip. Dalton felt great pride in his leader; despite his kidnapping, despite his abduction and imprisonment by the Martian scoundrels, it was bracing to find that the leader of the Earth was still able to take you firmly and confidently by the hand. Indeed, the President's well-practiced handshake was strong and smooth; so smooth that the equally strong handshaking motion of Dalton Trencher's grip didn't ripple the tea in the cup that the President held in his other hand.

"You've got the bastards serving you tea, sir?" Dalton laughed. "Absolutely ripping, sir! What a story to tell the boys back home, sir!"

"What?" said the President.

"That's all right, sir," Dalton tried to take the tea, but the President pulled it away. "You'll be safe in just a few minutes, Mr. President."

"I am safe, Trencher!"

"Thank you for your confidence, sir, but I don't think we'll truly be in the clear until we get aboard my ship."

"Your ship? What are you talking about?" The President grimaced angrily and took another sip from his cup. "I'm not getting on your ship!"

"Look out, sir!" shouted Trencher. He lunged and slapped the cup from the President's hand. It shattered on the marble floor and Dalton was relieved to see that the liquid didn't eat into the surface. "It could be poison, or worse!"

"Trencher, come here." Angrily, the President stomped over to the balcony's edge. "Look." President Ventman pointed to a nearby peak, similar in height to the one upon which they were now. It also had a Martian castle built on its top. Further down that mountain was a man-made cave, and out of that cave came a narrow road. Trencher saw that the road passed over a bridge, to another peak, and continued on an elevated ramp which eventually entered into another cave about fifty feet below where they were standing.

"Ah," sighed the President. "Here she comes." Out of the distant cave came a sight that put a cramp in Trencher's throat. An absurdly tall, regal, blue-skinned woman emerged wearing a pale, purple jumpsuit and a domed helmet of shiny metal. She came forth riding a peculiar vehicle -- part scooter and part war-bot -- standing on a wheeled platform towed by the menacing machine of destruction. The war-bot responded to buttons and levers arranged on handlebars held by the Martian woman. Her gloved fingers moved gently, expertly over the controls and her deadly transport rolled silently and swiftly along the roadway that ended in the cave below them.

"Holy smokes!" exclaimed Dalton. He knew who she was: Madame Essima Fondrey, Queen of Mars and sworn enemy of the men of Earth! Twice this cruel giantess had led attacks upon the Earth, the horrific results of which included the cleaving in twain of Earth's moon and the destruction most of the public buildings and bridges in the states of Tennessee and Kentucky.

"Quickly, sir, to my ship! She'll be here in moments." Trencher turned away from the approaching horror to see that the President had walked back to the table. He was calmly chewing a mouthful of pastry and he was dropping sugar cubes into the next cup of tea.

"I shall wait right here," the President said around a too-large bite of delicious pastry. He swallowed part of it and continued. "You, on the other hand should probably leave-- I might not be able to prevent her from setting the war-bot on you." He sipped, washing down the last of the bite, and added, with a pensive expression: "Although she would probably demand the satisfaction of demolishing you herself for intruding, uninvited, into her personal apartments."

"What is going on here, sir?" Trencher felt the urge to slap the President to his senses; it was not a thing to consider cavalierly, but if President Ventman didn't start behaving sensibly then he would have to! "What kind of evil power does that foul female Martian beast have over you?"

Here, the President stiffened. The scowl he cast upon Dalton Trencher was pure Presidential fury, and the strength of his gaze drew upon the incorruptible authority of the constitution and the power given to his office, and to him, by the people of the United States of Earth. Trencher had never been one to flinch before the anger of another man, but flinch he did. He flinched mightily and a sweat broke out upon his brow.

"Mr. Trencher," said President Ventman, with indignant scorn for the man who had come to rescue him. "That foul female Martian beast," he said, putting down his tea and resisting the impulse to pick up another pastry, "is my wife!"

The End

*It's fake. I made it all up.

Cheating in Sports

This is an illustration for a Marcus Thompson II column about cheating in sports. (Marcus is one of the Contra Costa Times' sports writers and he tends a lively blog where we can all go and worry about the Oaktown Warriors together. As a long-winded aside I have a mild but long-lived interest in the Warriors, and I fear that last year's pleasant resurgence was but a freakish blip destined to be followed by the return of the bleak and dismal days brought on by the whole Chris Webber debacle which left all of Golden State fandom trapped in a mineshaft with no light and no breath of fresh air, but I'm digressing more than a decade back in time, so let's try to forget it and concern ourselves with the drawing... although it feels like it was just yesterday and boy has it been a bummer ever since!) Whew.
...I received plenty of advance notice for this project, and the topic seemed pretty clear to me, so I was able to do quite a lot of sketching and thinking-- a few days' worth of doodling during the idle moment. I was imagining fun and light-hearted examples of cheating to use as a humorous representation of the column's topic. Horseshoes in boxing gloves, rockets or springs on shoes, big wads of tobacco thickened saliva on fast-balls, etc. Ha ha!
...I was searching for a complete idea and a style that felt right, a few samples are these two collections of sketches here:

...The top left hoopster was my first effort and I "painted" it with a technique I've been using often. I enjoy working that way but I felt it might be more fun to use a "pen and ink" cartoon drawing. My further efforts fell into that style and I stayed with that look for the final.

...Out of necessity, I do many of my illustrations without having seen the story-- it's not unusual for story and illustration to cross the finish line at the same time-- therefore it's possible for the artist or the writer to stray a little bit in tone or content, which can leave you with two elements that might not be entirely in sync.
... Lately, I've been working with writers I'm very familiar with and those assignments are easy because of our history-- I know them, they know me-- it's more comfortable. And, if I really mess up, I can count on our good relationships to discourage them from yelling at me.
...Well, my spider-senses were tingling this time because I hadn't worked in tandem with MT2 before and, though I read most of his work and stay pretty current with his blog, I didn't have an intuitive feel for how he would handle the topic. After a quick email he let me know that his story was mostly done, and I was able to read the unedited version. Good thing. Madcap comedy and mayhem was definitely not in tune with the column.
...After checking the editor for vibes about what they were anticipating, I took a more literal approach by caricaturing people mentioned in the column; I abandoned the concept of a zany representational illustration. It isn't the presentation I daydreamed about at the beginning but I like the more restrained tone and, as a package, it's much better because of it.
...Of course this meant I had to essentially start over and go like crazy to get it done but, like I said, much better.

The End

Two For The Price Of One Today!

...Columnist Candace Murphy is one of the writers I've had the pleasure to work with for several years. She's brilliant and a great writer-- a true artist. She has a terrific range topically and stylistically, but when she's in light-humor mode I think my work (always light) sits humbly and comfortably next to it.
...She's rather hung up on the baby topic lately-- since there is one impending-- so, I get to do two in a row that are thematically linked!
...#1 is a photoshop drawing for a story about baby naming trends.

...#2 is a "drawing" done in Illustrator, for a story about things not to do/say to pregnant women.

The End

Football Season

...This is the cover for the prep football special section. The feature story addressed the trend in local high-school coaches being wooed to take jobs at schools that are in the same area or even possibly at schools considered football rivals. It's really cut-throat, I guess. (The lettering on the signs refers to the different divisions, or so I was told.)
...The concept was nailed down ahead of time and I tried to come up with an interesting design. Eh, it's okay. I had fun with it until I had to start thinking about the headline and making room for text. Sometimes you just don't want to face it.
...I did worry that maybe it doesn't say "FOOTBALL" as boldly as perhaps it should, but must every football related design package be so blunt and obvious? Must it be about pigskin, eye-black, blood and dirty uniforms? I say thee, nay. It can be about bright colors and chubby cartoon characters parading about in a leisurely manner. Can't it?
...What would Dick Butkus say?
The End

Another A&E Cover

From the beginning this cover was a tough assignment. Most often, it doesn't take too much effort to come up with an idea that relates to the story but in this case I was wrestling with it up until the very end.
...The article is about how the biggest trend in the latest crop of new TV shows is fantasy. With the success of shows like "Lost" and "Heroes" there is interest in the fantastic as opposed to the more "realistic" shows that have been in favor the past few years.
...I turned to the internet and watched the trailers for all of the new shows mentioned by the writer. I saw the common thread, but I didn't have the concept to tie it all together. Desperate, I watched the clips again. I decided that the show I was most interested in was "The Bionic Woman."
After several viewings of the trailer and associated teasers I realized I was just watching them over and over because I liked looking at the cute gals-- so I stopped because it wasn't helping me with my problem.
...When I'm stymied by the conceptual phase of an assignment my typical strategy is to just start in on it anyway. So I did. But In this case, I started a couple of times and got nowhere. It just wasn't happening.
...The solution I went with is an old concept that I'd been saving for the right moment. I listen to Old Time Radio programs-- The Shadow, Suspense, Gunsmoke, Dimension X, etc.-- and I've had this picture in my head, an illustration of an old radio sitting in a rocking chair telling stories to people sitting around, listening intently, as though it was story time.
...With the deadline looming I appropriated that concept (figuring we weren't likely to do a cover story on radio theater in the future,) threw a TV in the rocking chair and hoped it would work. It sorta did.
...I'm not really tickled with the execution of the drawing, it seems to be a slightly confused, indecisive blending of two different cartoon styles, neither one handled particularly well. If I'd have had time to revise it I think I could have made it a better presention, but at least I finished it in time.
The End


Hello, I'm typing this from the very top of on-line journal entry #100. It is, more likely, #110 or so due to some deletions along the way, but the number on the post list says 100, so this is where I must put the plaque. I don't believe that a pedestrian activity should be revered for its numerological significance but those two zeroes, side by side, are staring me down and not blinking. I must take a moment to twitch, to smile and to drink a celebratory beverage. My morning coffee, of course.
...I never thought I'd get this far. I'm not good at keeping a sketchbook, I'm not good at keeping a regular journal, and when I started this project I thought I would be too self conscious to keep at it for very long. There are more than a few posts in the wake of this one that I would like to swim back to and push under; I've done it before. Deleting posts, however, feels like it goes against the aesthetic current of the blogging enterprise and I will try not to do it again. I might edit some of the text, though – there are shrill whining sounds leaking from some of those floating corpses back there that are unappealing to the living/breathing September-2007-editor in me.
...I was writing the Hawkbot Berserker entry when I took notice that 100 was coming soon. I thought I should work up something really fun! I've enjoyed creating the slightly goofy sci-fi paintings I've done in the past and it's been a looong time since I've made one, so I thought I'd start turning that crank. (Some examples here, here, here, here, here and here)
...Well, it's over a month later and I'm still cranking, with a good deal of cranking left to go. It will have to wait. This is what I have. It is not the "special" event that I was aiming for, but as I said at the beginning, it's not about numbers. I suppose, in my eyes, it's about doing something I like to do and nailing it on the wall for other people to see. Hope you like it.
...Pencil, Brush, dried out Pitt pen on yellowish card stock.
The End.

Sex On TV

For this assignment I was given the ticklish task of illustrating a concept without, you know, illustrating the concept. Oh! how many captivating-yet- vulgar little doodles were squelched during the brainstorming phase by the restrictive tethers of taste, tact and fear of losing one's job by offending everybody.
...When dealing with a subject carrying a heftiness of cultural contention I find that it is sometimes safest to smile, wink and be as cute as you can possibly be.
...So, by golly and by gum, here 'tis. Ta daa!

......Having decided upon a light, cartoon-ey treatment, I put on my clown nose and my clown wig, and I did my preliminary drawings while listening to a jaunty calliope version of "Turkey in the Straw," which I played over and over until I could not stop laughing! Ha! Ha ha ha! Ha! (help.)
...I took those sketches into Illustrator and polished them up while improvising a humorous-- although slightly naughty-- conversation between the two characters with the aid of many deep puffs of helium. And I ended the performance with a rousing chorus of "Turkey in the Straw," also fueled by helium.
...I took the finished drawings back into photoshop and laid down the color scheme, no doubt getting my inspiration from the morphing spots and blossoming swirls of psychedelic colors brought on by excessive exposure to helium and to "Turkey in the Straw."
...Seriously, it only took a couple of hours from start to finish, while I attended to several other tasks on a busy day in the office. It sure is nice when it goes so smoothly, although it felt very frantic at the time.
The End.

Robin looks a little worried...

...but The Bat-Man seems all right.

Just drawin' heads for fun. Pencil, brush & ink on cardstock. I did a quick sketch with the broadside of a pencil and then laid down the ink. After a scan I applied a quick and simple color job and started to do too much. I put on the brakes and stopped.

The End.

P.S. Extra Batman picture added a couple of days later, just because I found it in my pile of doodles and thought it would fit right in here!
Pencil with colors digital.


Months before Mr. Bonds surpassed Mr. Aaron's home run total, our graphics department started planning a page to commemorate the achievement. Without much thought toward a page layout-- which would need to incorporate stats & factoids-- I worked up this piece as a starting point. It's a cobbled together arrangement of my drawings of the two sluggers and a simple, quickie graphic environment meant to evoke the feel of a ballpark without being a realistic representation.

Treating it as pure illustration, I would have liked to have simplified the field and the figures even more, to have broken it down into an expressionistic/cubist piece along the lines of Gary Kelley's work. I didn't get around to pushing it because the final layout went in a different direction and, for the purpose of being an infographic, it became a much more sensible presentation.

So, I found this unused arrangement in my reject pile and I kind of like it, even though it is-- in many ways-- a useless thing and a bit of a failure.

...Go Giants!
The End.

Another A&E Cover

...For this Arts & Entertainment section cover I pulled out my box of (digital) pastels, propped up a (scanned) piece of cardboard on my easel (monitor) and-- after soaking my eyeballs in a frenzy of Toulouse-Lautrec-- I perpetrated this attempt at "art."
...I referenced a photo taken of the performers in this play-turned-opera, and I did a fairly brisk and straight-ahead figure sketch-- not much erasing or undoing permitted. After the drawing was settled, I scratched in the color, being careful not to "finish" any part of it.
...I was trying to capture the improvisational feel I get from T.-L.'s work. Did I get what I wanted? Eh, kinda. I think I treated the figures with too much caution; I should have been a bit more energetic and little less faithful to the photo. Lautrec's drawings, those that I like best, tend to thrash around a bit, most lines finding their resting place after two or three others have missed the mark. Lovely stuff.
...Hit or miss, I had fun doing it.
The End


My Spider-Man-fan nephew, Gus, sent me a very nice drawing of our friendly-neighborhood you-know-who. There he is, swinging along beneath the moon, beneath the clouds.
...His drawing was done on typing paper in pencil, colored pencil and marker (I think.) It was folded up rather vigorously and mailed via U.S. Postal Service-- this accounts for the unique and interesting wear of this piece.

...I responded with this pencil, pen and watercolor attempt, done on yellowish card-stock paper because I have a lot of it. I didn't have the energy or the discipline to include a background.

...When nephew-Gus' envelope arrived, he had included a note that read, "Please send back!" This let me know that it was a work of which he was particularly proud. I placed his drawing and mine in a large flat envelope and mailed them in tandem. He, perhaps will tack them to his wall; I will tack them here.

...I have exchanged Spider-Mans with him before, in 2005. In the scan above, I have dropped my 2005 drawing in between his two earlier efforts. A quick comparison of our scribbles will show that he has improved; I have not.
...I'm afraid that he is practicing harder than I am.

The End.

Hawkbot Berserker

I was sketching without plan, without purpose; doodling and daydreaming, and this drawing started to take shape. It began as a man in armor, but moved briskly from man to machine. Some kind of Berserker, I thought, as I almost always do when I draw a menacing robot.
...I read "Berserker" by Fred Saberhagen when I was about 12 years old. It had a cool Boris Vallejo cover with spaceships blasting away-- a sure sign of quality as far as I was concerned-- so I figured it was going to be a great book; and it was! It was a collection of short stories about robots that seek to destroy all life, wherever they find it-- at least that's my 12-year-old self's quick and dirty summary.
...How could you go wrong with that? More Berserker collections and novels began to appear after I made my way through the first book-- most of them with Vallejo covers! I ate 'em up. Killer robots and Boris!
...While in the midst of my Berserker frenzy, I found Saberhagen's "The Empire of the East," a sci-fi-fantasy story that absolutely blew me away-- I read it several times during high school. I bought anything with Saberhagen's name on it. The assorted sci-fi novels, his Dracula series, the first Swords trilogy; he has been favorite of mine all of my life.
...I haven't bought any of his books since the early '90s-- not for any reason other than I haven't done much recreational reading at all since then. Even so, Saberhagen's work has remained vivid in memory, and I often think about his stories, especially when I'm doodling robots. His work has been a cornerstone in my imagination for about thirty years.
...I checked in on his website for the first time in a long time and I see that he passed away on June 29th. Bummer.
...I wrote an email to him last year, the only time I've tried to communicate with a celebrity-- I'm too bashful for that sort of thing and it was out of character for me. I'd been inspired to do it because I had recently opened a box and found my stashed-away Saberhagen collection; I hadn't realized how many there were! On the shelf it's a stretch of paperbacks longer that my arm. Looking at the covers and flipping through them took me to a time when I really enjoyed reading for pleasure and there were no pleasures that were as satisfying to the imagination as reading.
...I wrote and thanked him for the great books, confessing that I hadn't been keeping up, but that I was re-visiting the old work and looking forward to what I'd missed. He said:

Hello, Jeff --

Glad you like the books. And, thanks for dropping a note.

Hope you enjoy reading the later books.



...Neat. Made my day and I'm glad I did it.
...So, here's a berserker. I had been thinking of him as "Hawkbot," uncertain of his character or his intent. After reading of Saberhagen's passing I have decided that he is a relentless destroyer of men and would squash you or I if given the chance. Dedicated to Mr. Saberhagen.

The End.

A Garden Rock and the Importance of the Artist

Last Saturday morning, I spent quiet time on the patio in the company of my cats, my cup of coffee and my sketchbook; and I put those idle moments to some kind of use by drawing a portrait of this rock.
...During that brief sitting I came to know that this rock is a rock like no other rock. See how he sits so unpretentiously in the small plot of dirt that is his domain! See how his friends-- also rocks-- gather around, drawn to him by the natural feelings of admiration that a rock such as he may inspire.
... How often do characters worthy of mention go unmentioned? This is the importance of the artist. Without the eye, without the sensitivity, without the heightened perceptive abilities cultivated by the artist, so many things pass without celebration; so many things pass without notice.
...This rock, despite his sturdy significance in the small community of which he is-- well, the rock-- he might simply have gone on, silently, receiving no recognition for his calm, for his dignity. This is the first time, I am sure, he is praised in so public a forum. This is the first time, I am sure, his portrait has been drawn.
...I take pride in my part in this. Now, his likeness and his story are presented in this age's arena of stories and images, the internet. Judging by recent traffic, perhaps as many as ten people will know of this rock; they will see his portrait and learn of his dignity. Perhaps these visitors will be compelled to seek and to find, in their garden, a rock of such character. Perhaps they will take a moment to appreciate and to praise something of seeming commonness which they can, with an unwieldy aesthetic construct, elevate to a proper state of grandness.
...(It took me all day to write this. Much longer than it took to draw the stupid rock.)
...Pencil sketch, colored in photoshop.

The End.

Harry Potter Finished!

Okay, here's the whole Harry Potter Home & Garden illustration. The text and the headline flowed down that white path there.
...I whipped up each drawing separately and smashed them all together in a somewhat cohesive design with the guidance of stellar page designer Jennifer Schaeffer; the illustrations were crafted and refined with the helpful, sharp criticisms of Master Gardener and columnist, Joan Morris.
...The online department made a little slideshow of these drawings, and a couple more that didn't make it onto the front. No telling how long that will be there, so if you've any interest, act quickly!
...Maybe I should read those books now that I feel I have some connection to them. That's a lot of pages, though. Maybe somebody could just tell me if he dies or what.
The End

With Regrets. . .

I posted my preparatory Silver Surfer doodle several entries ago. I sketched it quickly in photoshop and inked it in illustrator, with an eye toward experimenting as to how to approach the coloring for the final illustration. I treated it as a study, not as the final; I was focused more on establishing the technique and not on making a strong drawing-- I didn't give it the consideration I should have.
...The very same drawing (with minor cleanup) made it into the final version that went to print. Bummer that. What's the matter with his leg? It's pretty awkward, says this critic.
...As I recall, I saw the movie and afterwards, consulted with the Contra Costa Times' ace movie critic, Mary F. Pols, about what we wanted to do with this piece-- how it should relate to and compliment her review. I went back to work, drew the heads and did a quick layout/arrangement. Colored most of it then, too. The next morning I added the text -- provided by Mary -- tweaked the layout and sent it off. Never really "looked" at the drawing again... until I saw it hanging on the newsroom wall a few days after it had run.
...All I saw was some kind of disjointed hip action going on. Weird, puffy thigh. Ack.
...Well, I have a feeling if the King ever drew a bad leg he wouldn't have gone back and fixed it either. No erasing! Forward!
The End.

Have You Heard of "Harry Potter?"

It's this book, you see, about a magician, and I think it's pretty popular with the kids. At the paper we've run several stories relating to Harry Potter books; and there's even a movie! It's crazy! Keep you eyes peeled and your ears open and maybe you'll come across it.

...Enough of that. I was going to keep playing dumb for the rest of this post but I'm out of energy already.
...I've been working on a Home & Garden illustration about some of the magical plants from the Harry Potter books. I am not a Harry Potter-ophile. God knows how I avoided that particular bug, considering I can geek out to just about ANY fantasy/sci-fi/children's book shtick-- I tried to read the first book but it just didn't click-- but, fortunately, our resident master gardener, Joan Morris, is a Potter-nerd, and provided some nice descriptions for me.
...I avoided looking at anybody else's art, working from real plant reference or pure imagination. I've done nine or ten drawings and I used most of them for a section front layout. It won't run for a few days so-- not wanting to spoil it for those who might want to wait for the paper-- I'll just show this one!

Photoshop drawing!
The End.

A Cowgirl and the Blues

Whoa. It has been almost a month since my last post. Why?
...Have I lost interest? Has the thrill of being able to draw something and hang it on the World Wide Gallery Wall for all to see lost its novelty?
...Has my scanner been giving me fits? Sometimes working, other times not?
...Has my job and my commute been filling my time and burning me out? Have there been too many long days-- long work days spent sitting in front of the monitor-- days that grind me down and discourage the notion of sitting down, again, in front of a computer to scan, to draw, to color, to type?
...Has the uncertainty of working in a graphics department within the withering newspaper industry frayed my nerves and dampened my enthusiasm with anxieties? Have the jobless bodies of artists and journalists in my foxhole shaken my nerve and led me to dwell upon-- nay "obsess" over what may be my eventual fate?
...Have I purchased a new TV and a DVD player, so that I can now watch movies and be fairly certain that the entire show will play without freezing up? Have I lost an idle hour or two to basking in the glow of the TV's light while Charlie Chaplin waddles, while Humphrey Bogart lights cigarettes, while Harrison Ford cracks his whip and thumps nazis?
...Y'know, it's all of these things. And I can come up with more excuses if pressed.
...This post is for whining. This post has the blues.
...Anyway. Here's a cowgirl! Drawn from an old photo. Had a great time with it. Pencil, ink & brush, photoshop colors!

The End.

Surfer Sketch

This is a test for an illustration I'm doing for work. The plan is to go an advance screening of the new Fantastic Four movie and then do an illustration/graphic about it to accompany the review. It looks like there is going to be very little time to work on it after I see the movie, so I'm trying to do a few pieces of art that I can assemble and tweak quickly and still have it pertain to the movie reviewer's story.
...I have an idea on how to do it now but I had a busy last day at work and didn't get much/anything done. Looks like it's an over the weekend project.
...That's okay. I'm having fun.
...I did a loose figure sketch in photoshop, "inked" it in illustrator and then took it back into photoshop to color it. It might not even make it into the final!

The End.

End of the Line

I was asked to do a cover for the Arts & Entertainment section pertaining to an article about the Sopranos finale. Fine, but I don't have cable-- heck, I don't even watch TV. The last time I tuned in was on was the Super Bowl. Seriously! So, the Sopranos, eh? That's mobsters, right?
...Well, I got the first disc of season 1 from someone at work. Wow. Pretty cool. So, I'm netflixing the rest. The trick now is to avoid hearing how it ends until I catch up. I'm still working on season 1. Looong way to go.
...Painted in photoshop and running this weekend in the Contra Costa Times.
The End

A Head Sketch That Almost Got Away

I doodled weird heads drawn on a piece of paper. I then added bodies and tried to make them fit on the page together.

S'funny, I posted this in the unpublished "drafts" section more than a month ago. I wrote a lengthy essay to accompany it; I revised it several times. Each time I thought, "almost perfect!" I read it again just now. Why, just a few more tweaks and... Blah. Delete! I'm supposed to be drawing here!

Pen & ink, colored in photoshop!

The End

More Heads!

I found photos of faces, did quick sketches-- primarily capturing the headshapes and the placement of the features-- and then I put the photos away and continued onward.
...The guy at the lower left was totally made up.

Sketchbook Project Thoughts and CONAN!

I am rethinking the usefulness of this Head Sketchbook Project. It's pretty dull stuff. I'm sure it's good for me but I wonder if dedicating the time to scanning and typing about a collection of so-so head-drawings is of interest.
...I have a number of these efforts scanned in-- accompanied by way too much yammering-- in the "draft" stage, but I should throw some of this effort into doing something more meaningful.
...I'll finish out what I've started and I'll keep drawing, but I won't make it a priority.

This doodle was inspired by a recent comics acquisition. I picked up GIANT-SIZE CONAN #'s 3, 4, and 5. They were published in 1975 and # 3 has art by Gil Kane inked by Tom Sutton-- absolutely amazing work. I'm a fan of both those guys but I'd never seen them in tandem. Delicious.
...Here is a question and if there's a Conan comics aficionado who can shed light on this I'd appreciate a post or email:
The story in Giant-Size Conan 3 is continued in #4, but #4 is not continued in #5! Where did it go? I didn't see any clue in the "next issue" blurb. I've looked around a bit and haven't found a good lead for where it was concluded!

Conan head, ink & paper, stained with digital color.

The End

3 Works 4 Work

The paper I work at, the Contra Costa Times, has quite the rapport with its readers. In my short time here we have, on a few occasions, invited readers to submit creative pieces of their own, based on a given theme, and they have delivered some brilliant, funny stuff.
...Last month, our readers were challenged to come up with their own faux musical theater productions. I did drawings for the three favorites.
...I would post the submitted lyrics, but I'm blogging out here on my little blogspot island without any official authorization and I don't want to cause any trouble for work or any stress for the people who submitted their pieces. I'll just paraphrase what they're about:
Manifesto! The People's Musical
This was for a funny submission about Mr. Marx trying to come up with a name for his book. I wanted to put a crowd of people below, cheering him on-- Karl was singing with an energetic chorus in the reader's piece-- but I had a lot of drawing to do already. So, this!
...Not too effective on it's own and probably a reference to "Peter Pan" that I could have communicated more clearly.
...Over the years I've used the theatrical "Peter Pan" reference in about half a dozen works. Any time somebody uses the the word "theater" I picture Sandy Duncan on a rope spinning helplessly out of control while people sing and dance below, probably secretly hoping that she doesn't get sick up there. (At an impressionable age they ran advertisements for the play during cartoons, perhaps trying to trick all of us into thinking it would be just like Disney's Peter Pan. I wanted to go until they told me Duncan was playing the lead. A girl playing Peter Pan? Pass.)
Goodfellas: The Musical
I've probably mentioned it before but I don't have a lot of confidence in my caricatures. I'm pretty happy with the way these turned out, though. Joe Pesci was my favorite of the 3 until I added the hat; for some reason he stopped looking like Joe Pesci to me. Oh, well.

The Sound of An Inconvenient Truth
Ha! The music from "The Sound of Music" with new lyrics, it's all about the changing climate etc.
...I used to do the occasional editorial cartoon when I worked at the Oakland Tribune, so I could scratch out a Gore, or a Bush, or an Arafat now and then. I haven't had that opportunity in a long time but drawing this took me back to those days.
...It's fun to make fun of politicians! Republicans! Democrats! They all make me laugh! Some more than others, it's true, but let's not get into that here.

Drawn with pencils, scanned with a scanner and colored inside a futuristic computer!
The End!

Part 1: Some Animals

Last week I helped put together a graphic that featured several animals from the Contra Costa County area. These were my favorites.
Presenting: The Alameda Whipsnake, the Red-Legged Frog, the Western Pond Turtle and the Golden Eagle.
Painted in photoshop.

Part 2: The Graphic Itself

Chuck Todd, (King of the Graphics Department) did the map and layout. I researched, painted and came up with the blurbs.

If I'd had more time I would have given the map a more painterly treatment, and probably done something more attractive with the background.

Web Heads

When I'm trapped behind my desk and I have the idle moment, I'll occasionally image-search for mug shots and do quick sketches. Until recently these were committed to stickies which would then be used to dispose of my gum. I'm trying to save some of this stuff now.
...It's amazing how many different faces there are, isn't it? Almost every face I reference has something about it which makes me pause and think "I never thought of that before!" It could be the fold of an eyelid, the swoop of an eyebrow, the fall of a jowl. . . it can be a lot of fun learning from the most basic of observations.
...When I draw from my head-- freestyle, so to speak-- and I'm not concentrating on trying something new, I tend to draw faces, figures, caricatures that are similar to all of the other faces, figures and caricatures that I've drawn freestyle before. As a cartoonist susceptible to my all-too-human nature I will fall into that rut because I'm familiar with how to draw those things; I know I can get things to look the way I want them to look.
...So, at the moment I'm worrying about developing a cartoonist's shorthand that will limit the variety of faces that I can come up with; drawing from mug shots (and, of course, real life) encourages me to consider other solutions.
...A few of my favorite cartoonists seem to have a very limited range of faces or figures, and while that doesn't take away from my admiration for their work, I imagine that expanding their visual vocabulary could only help. I believe in some cases they may have chosen less variety because time constraints or because it's a comfortable and recognizable style, which is fine; for myself I would like to be able to scratch out a completely distinctive character every time. Long way to go on that, I know.
...These are fairly faithful caricature attempts.

The End.

The Walrus

I've always been a big Beatle fan. As a young boy with artistic aspirations I probably drew as many pictures of Lennon & McCartney as I did of Spider-Man.

One fun thing about my job is I occasionally find myself doing something that I had hoped to do when I was a kid. I fantasized drawing the cover for Revolver 2, the album the lads would make when they got back together. Alas, that will never be.

But here I was able to scratch out a big old Paul for the cover of the A&E section, accompanying a story about Starbucks and Sir Paul teaming up. It was a bit of a rush job, and I completed it in about one shift (with an extra hour or two thrown in from the previous evening.)

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Perhaps it's a little too "Mark Ryden," but it wasn't intentional!

Painted in photoshop with illustrator helping out on the tablecloth and McCartney's radiance.

My latest McCartney album? Run Devil Run. GREAT stuff on there.

The End