Happy Halloween!

This is the cover for this week's "Preview" section. I put this together in less than a shift in Photoshop. I like the rough-hewn quality. I didn't have to do any design here-- purely a stolen image-- so I was able to stand back and hurl paint at the canvas. Good fun for me.
... The topic?: Horror movies you might want to watch during this, our most bizarre of "holidays."

...Several of our writers picked their top five horror flicks, but I'll just vouch for my favorite:

1. Frankenstein! Can't beat the best monster movie ever! If you can pretend you've never seen it before, and if you try to ignore its pop-culture pervasiveness (is there a more famous image than Karloff's monster?); if you can get into character, if you can method act and grasp the the mind-set that people had, in 1931, when they walked into a dark theater to see a black and white horror film for the first time... whoa. Awesome, scary movie.
...And then, at the end, you're rooting for the monster! Suspense, horror and tragedy. It's perfect.

"Poltergeist" was pretty good-- good movie poster, at least. I liked "The Shining," too. Oh, and "Tremors."

The End.


This is a photoshop drawing/painting for a story about what players for the Warriors think about the election. It looks like it might be a pretty interesting read. Stories like this give me hope because-- although we percieve these guys as dumb, arrogant, selfish-- we often find out that they're really much more pensive than they appear. It's all the screaming, chest pounding and whining that distracts us from the true souls of these men.
...Sometimes they're genuinely unpolished young fellows, to be sure, but we hope for the best.
...This illustration will run tomorrow-- Fri., October 31st-- in the sports section, and what you see may not be the finished piece. I'll update this post if it changes significantly.

The End.
p.s. New record for posts in a month!

Closing In...

Okay, two days to go and I've tied my record for most posts in a month. AND I've got two more waiting in "draft" mode, almost ready. This is me celebrating and skipping and taunting before I cross the goal line, I know, but I've always suspected that I would be the type of guy to let success, however humble, go to my head. Take that, June 2006!

...Today's contribution:

This is a scan of another comic test-run. I inked on cheap tracing paper over a very rough pencil sketch-- I like the way the paper buckles and warps; it can drive you crazy if you let it. The trick is not to notice, not to care and just let the accidents happen. (And then try to cover it all up with color in Photoshop.)
...Colored in P-shop.
The End

Heads Heads Heads

First, I drew that stack of five heads on the left, in pencil only. Then I thought, I should really draw from reference more often, if only to make sure that some of those skills (such as they are) haven't been buried under all the other make-believe nonsense I do here. To address this concern I created the portrait of French engineer Louis Larent Simonin; he's the large, obviously referenced drawing. Not too bad. It came out sort of looking like him, too. Bonus.

I felt good enough about Louis that I decided to go back to my usual head-doodle routine. I roughed in featureless head-shapes all over the page, filling up the space. I did varying degrees of tightening up in pencil and my intention was to scan it un-inked; it would be a page of pure pencil drawings!
...I was listening to an old Gunsmoke radio-show, and I was really focused on it-- William Conrad as Marshal Dillon, John Dehner playing an old friend of Dillon's, Harry Bartell playing a bad-guy in this episode; great stuff-- but, as it ended, I came back to attention and noticed that I was inking a head. Dang! And I had already inked three others! Double dang!!
...I really wanted to finish this page quickly, but I was in a groove and having fun. I gave myself one more radio-show to ink as much as I could and then just let it go. So I did.
...And coloring? Well, I couldn't stop that either. I fear posting some stuff in naked black and white. I tried to limit the color work to 5-10 minutes a head, and I managed to stain the whole thing in about 2 hours, cheating a little bit with those pink and blue heads.

The End.
p.s. As a show of courage, here is the uncolored scan

Freestyle Doodle Improv

First, I drew a box. Then, I sketched the guy on the right. I put a hat on him, and I dressed him in a fashion to quietly compliment the hat-- he struck me as a bloke who would frown upon a gaudy dissonance of appearance. He looked like he needed a girlfriend, so I made one that I thought he might like and tucked her under his arm. I'm not sure he's all that crazy about her.
I put in the blind-folded guy over on the left and, by the time I finished drawing him, he was being driven by a little monkey. That was surprising! He looked lonely over there but I didn't think he'd be the type to attract the chicks. Instead, I gave him a friend who is like-minded, although I think #2 is more interested in the first fellow's girlfriend.
...The red figure in the background is the lady with the helmet from two previous posts (just scroll down a few, you can't miss her.) She wanted to be in the picture but she's been hamming it up, so I asked her to stand in the background.
...I roughed in the buildings, not really knowing what any of it is, but it didn't look bad to me at the time. I inked everything and I thought it was finished.
...The two people behind #14 poked their heads in. I shooed them away, but it was too late. I inked them too and proceeded to scan and color the whole shebang.
...I wonder what it all means?
The End.

Gun-Guy and Bad-Heads

Very quick sketch of some guy and a batch of not-so-good heads. I was going to hide these doodles but I thought I'd try to make them presentable somehow.
I haven't been inventive with my photoshop coloring lately; I have found or created a few brushes and methods that I lean on exclusively. This was a mild attempt to shake up that comfort zone.
...They ended up pretty colorful!
The End.

Bad Trip

My latest illustration is slated to run this weekend in the travel section. A few times a year the editors call upon the readers to submit content, which might sound like a crap-shoot but it's very popular and there are always some real gems (sometimes they're unprintable, but those provide extra entertainment around the newsroom.) This time we asked for tales of what went wrong on vacation; this is my humble effort to illustrate that theme.
...This piece was done entirely in Photoshop. I spent some time working up ideas with paper and pencil, filling a few pages with funny characters, cartoon airplanes, Eiffel Tower doodles, and so on; but when I scribbled a palm tree it looked very "Ukiyo-e" and I liked it.
...With that style in mind, I doodled a little kid with a shovel, pail and raincoat; and I liked that, too. The deadline was approaching so, for expediency's sake, I shifted to digital and improvised the rest of it.

A personal aside (boring! You can probably skip it.)
...I've probably mentioned it before but the newspaper business is in bad shape, and the past few months have been particularly severe. I've seen an large number of colleagues squeezed out, bought out, laid off. A couple of very talented and long-time friends have recently been let go. There are rumors of even more cutbacks to come.
...Now, as a member of a staff so decimated that we struggle simply to cover the shifts, there is less creativity in what I do and much less joy in the environment I work in. The people who remain are stellar; committed, professional, a pleasure to work under fire -- and I'm proud to work with them -- but the burdens are much greater and the rewards have diminished to the point where I wonder, "why am I doing this?"
...When I manage to score an illustration, or another assignment that gives me a more personal sense of satisfaction and a stronger sense of contribution, I really appreciate this aspect of what I've done for the past 7 or 8 years. What fun it can be to create something from start to finish, sign my name to it, and then, the next morning, 350,000 people are looking at it.*
...I'm also aware that each enjoyable project might be my last, and I try to find the extra time and the extra oomph to make sure it isn't something I'll be embarrassed of. I did have fun with this one and I kind of like it, but it makes me miss the good old days.
...Not a bad one to go out on if this is it.
The End
p.s. Just in case it isn't clear, the headline will probably go across the very top and the story will flow in a box, something like this:

*That's a guesstimate; might be a little less, might be a lot more. I looked up the circulation numbers of five of our papers (from a couple of years ago) added them together and rounded down. There are 11 papers that my stuff appears in, but circulation is down everywhere and, if what I've heard is true, numbers are often overestimated just to fluff things up. I'll fix this later if I can find the right numbers.

Senior Super-Hero!

These aren't very good but I've been on a roll lately and I'm desperate to keep it going. My record for most posts in a month is 13 and I may be able to beat my high-score if I stay on pace. So:

A new drawing of a character I was slightly obsessed with a few years ago. On a lark, I drew a few pages of a comic featuring an old-lady-superhero battling a giant robot. There wasn't a point to it other than I was exploring whether or not I could manage to put together a comic at a decent pace and with a level of quality that I wasn't embarrassed by. It was fun to work on and it didn't look too bad, but it wasn't quite what I was hoping for. I still like her-- there's something about her that cracks me up.

Backup Feature:
These are little doodles I wouldn't even show (and I may pull them later if I decide they're just bad fan-art) but I was so tickled by that Ditko-style fist on Peter Parker I felt like I just had to show somebody.

I recently read the Essential Wolverine collection and I was totally blown away by the John Buscema/Al Williamson art. I'll confess that the stories were pretty good but I never cared for Wolverine once he became a super-secret-agent-ninja guy. I thought he was cool when he was the mysterious, cigar-chomping, beer-drinking absolutely UGLY little psychopath who might turn on his own teammates. But as a Bogart-style, world-weary good-guy hero? Puh-lease; that is NOT the guy who ripped up those guards in the Hellfire Club. (I think my age is showing.)
...I did a quick sketch to see what he'd look like in my version of the X-men and, yeah, that's about right, but he'd be a little uglier. Also, I meant to draw a cigar in his mouth but forgot about it, so that why it looks like he has a weird grimace on his face.

The End

A Couple of Characters

Here are a couple more character doodles. As I was coloring the second one I wondered what they'd look like standing right next to each other. Quite a team!

The End

Sci-Fi Gal Again

Another drawing of this character, but with a decidedly different face. No reason for the change, I just thought I'd try a stronger nose on her. Maybe she's her sister!
...This gal looks a bit taller than the other drawing, which wasn't intentional. I have a tendency to make figures long and lean, and I work hard against that-- I prefer to draw characters who look slightly normal. The eight-or nine-heads tall proportioning of figures is well-and-good but I don't look at those figures and find myself identifying with them very often.

The End


I found an old sketch on a piece of typing paper. I liked the way she was standing, so I jumped in with the pen and proceeded to take the life right out of it.
...I colored it, hoping to push it back into the realm of "tolerable." Almost made it.
...I uploaded the poor thing and tried to find something nice to say on her behalf before posting. Nothing occurred to me so intended to "think on it" for a short time-- until inspiration struck! She has been sitting, waiting for a couple of months, lost in the shuffle. I found it this morning and thought I'd just throw it out there.
...Pencil, pen, P-shop.

More Head Doodles

For the two heads on the bottom, I was looking at an old photograph. I didn't try to do portraits but they came out pretty close to the pictures anyway. I avoided their hats, not out of fear (for they were very fancy hats) but because I had to leave for work.
...Then I did the top two, no reference. Freestyle. The bottom faces look more "real," I suppose, but that's only because they were.

My Latest Newspaper Illustration (Failure)

...The story angle: During these times of financial strife for the common man there is a crop of new shows depicting the fortunes and misfortunes of impossibly wealthy people-- programs reminiscent of "Dynasty" and "Dallas."
...Interesting, eh? Well, how do you illustrate that? I still don't know.
...I could have made a collage using the handout art from various shows, but that's tedious and the pictures were blah. So, by combining several small not-so-great ideas, I crafted one, gigantic bad illustration.
...Usually, when I'm stumped, I just start working; adding, subtracting as I go. Most of the time I can find a concept that is at least competently illustrative before I get to the deadline.
...But not all of the time.
...I prefer to be able to look at an illustration and get some idea of what the story is about-- this one does not succeed. If you don't know the gist of the story there's NO WAY you can guess the topic. Even after you read the story and then look at the picture, you might say: "Yeah, well. Um, I guess I  see the connection there. Yeah. Hm. Cute doggies!"
...I put in a bunch of cute widdle doggies because sometimes if you mix in a large enough chunk of  saccharin, you can distract the eye from the quality of the rest of the art. I should have just filled the page with Yorkies.
The End
p.s. The funny part is, and I forgot to mention it, I had a great time doing this. I worked on it in short bursts over a couple of days between my job's other tedious labors, and I was completely happy with each little bit I drew as I went along. In the end I don't think I pulled off what I was trying to pull off, because I didn't know what I was trying to pull off, if you get me.
...You know that saying about the journey being the exciting part, and how when you get to where you were trying to get it turns out to be a dump? Well, I had a great journey!

Some Heads

Here are some quick doodles in the form of made-up character heads.
...Top left -- when I completed the shape of the head, the hair and scribbled in his glasses -- I thought of Random Wilder from Dan Clowes' Ice Haven, but I wasn't trying to go after him; I just didn't fight the resemblance when I started refining him. Otherwise, they're all straight outta me head in freestyle fashion.
...Ooh! A little bit of Palin-hair on the lower left lady, I suppose, but that wasn't on purpose.

The Last Time I Saw Paul

This is a simple doodle I liked. I was going to make a production of it and turn it into a faux paperback cover but I've run out of gas. I figured out the title though, and it turns it into a sad thing, doesn't it?

Oh well. The End.