Try, Try Again

 Had to do a second take on the striped bass (see previous post.) The first one is too mature; this is a little guy.

Hey, Look! Fish!

Today, at work, I am drawing fishes. They will be shrunk down to a very small size and placed in a graphic with charts that show the decline of their populations in the SF Bay Delta area. Here we have — from top to bottom — the delta smelt, the threadfin shad, the longfin smelt, and the striped bass. Drawn in photoshop, but not to scale.

Later: Eventually these fellows ran in a very small two column graphic... in black and white. And so it goes. Eh, I had fun.

Rough Painting Doodle

Here's something I slapped together. It means nothing. I got bored with it just as it was getting interesting.


First iPad sketch

Done with ArtStudio, iPad and a Targus stylus. Kinda fun. It's a sleeping cat, if you can't tell. Maybe my next one will be better.

In Progress

Here are a few samples of my latest doodles. Nothing finished yet, so these rugged fragments are today's only offering...

Super-busy weeks ahead, but I'll try to add a few to my 2010 post total. Dang. I was hoping for 100 posts this year. I think I might fall short by about fifty...

The End.

One Out of Three Ain't Bad

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I'm trying to get into the habit of practicing character design in my spare time. I enjoy drawing people, the human figure and faces, so the motivation isn't a problem. But I need to find the discipline to create designs that might be appealing to the fans and consumers of video games, cartoons or comics. The characters I come up with should fit into the mainstream, commercial sensibilities of the existing styles of characters that populate those mediums. Oops.

Obviously, without adult supervision, I have a hard time sticking to that. I like plain, quirky, odd characters. In a sci-fi/fantasy illustration, I would rather see a giant robot in battle with a frumpy, pale little old man than a giant robot in battle with a bronze, near-nude, ultra-fit, super-hot blonde amazon. I am, however, brutally aware I'm alone in this. I'm trying to get in line.

The lady on the right was a drawing that I started a few weeks ago. I blocked in her body shape and knew immediately that I was straying. Okay, I said to myself, finish this one and then do a hot-chick for a sword & sorcery video game. No joking around.

The lady in the middle is what happened when I focused. It was hard. The temptation to get silly was enormous. I almost turned her into a Playboy bunny style cartoon character -- with more wildly exaggerated proportions -- but I reigned that impulse in. Okay, we'll let the little green glasses stay, but that's it. Stop. She's done.

Then, the woman on the left erupted into that empty spot. Couldn't stop her. Poof! There she was. Phew. Much better. For some reason, painting conventionally beautiful people does not appeal to me.

Boris Vallejo has been one of my favorite fantasy artists since I was 10 years old. The background here is based on lingering impressions of his work. He paints fabulously beautiful people in fabulously beautiful fantasy settings, and I've always particularly admired the dreamy landscapes in the backgrounds of many of his works. He paints snow-capped mountains or craggy peaks in the distance, strange colors blending in a cloudy haze, and it all looks so lovely. I didn't quite get what I wanted here, but it was fun trying. Dang! That shapeless lump of rock behind them could easily have been re-worked into the head of a slain dragon! Boris would've caught that...

Painted/drawn in photoshop.

The End.

It's that time of year...

This is the final version.
... and here's another holiday-related doodle. This was fast-paced fun and I had a good time making the drawing.

The business page needed a chart for this story -- that's pretty typical -- but the page designer asked me to do an illustration to go with the chart, if I could come up with something. No pressure, just "if you have the time."

She might have overheard me complaining about how little artwork I get to do on the job these days, and so she gently confronted me with a "put up or shut up" opportunity... but without the "shut up" part-- she's far too kind for that.

This is my original sketch.
I did a quick rough of a hand holding a smartphone, with the intention of putting the chart on the screen. Not brilliant, but hey, it's drawing! My favorite part of work! The designer responded to my sketch with a design incorporating the hand as the main art. My vision was more along the lines of using it as secondary art, down at the bottom. I envisioned a large photo up top, with my drawing/chart down in a lower corner.

This is my first shot at filling up
the space of the layout design.
Nothing says "Christmas" like
a pale, meaty forearm!
Well, she's the designer, so back to the drawing board for me. I had to finish the rest of the arm to fill the space. I did that, but it was a bare, naked arm! It looked extremely weird to me. Forearm porn, kinda-- if there is such a thing. I didn't show it to anybody (until now) because I knew it was wrong.

Then, for the first time, I noticed the headline was going to be "Shoppers' little helper." Ah-ha!  I just had slip Santa's sleeve over the naughtiness and it all came together. If you stay in pursuit of a solution it usually presents itself, but I always feel relieved and amazed when it happens.

Drawn and colored in Photoshop but I tried to make it look like pencil and sloppy watercolor or acrylic. All digital, tho.

The End.

P.S. Here's the final drawing at a larger size:
This is the final drawing on it's own.
A pretty large picture when you click.


Hello again. I haven't been doing much art lately. The iMac hard drive became ill and died a horrible death. It's amazing how dependent we've become on the machine-- I have, at any rate. I don't listen to radio or watch TV, so the computer is my only connection to the outside world. It was nice to be cut off for a few days but -- oh, I'd say about 4 days into the fast -- I started getting twitchy. 

Well, we're operational once more. Experts performed a hard drive transplant and the computer seems fine; there isn't even a noticeable surgical scar.

Here's a fragment of a character drawing I was working on just before our hardship. I have a couple of others near completion, so I might have something more substantial in a day or three.

Hm? Oh yeah, I have a blog! Now I remember.

Snow globe and ballerinas. Nutcracker ballet. Get it?
Initially, I was uncertain that snowpeople would be
recognized as Nutcracker characters. Was I right? Too late now.
Hello. Allow me to reintroduce myself. I am Jeff. I used to post here regularly.

I was kidnapped by pirates and taken to a faraway mist-enshrouded island. There, I was marooned and left to cope with wild animals and pre-historic savages. Using my superior technological know-how and 21st century intellect, I quickly became Emperor and ruled over all. I introduced the concept of democracy (to be implemented upon my passing, until then please keep feeding me those grapes, ladies) and had just put my best men to work on making color television when I was kidnapped by flying saucers and taken to another planet.

The sinister aliens had superior technology and wore very cool shiny, silver outfits, but they had forgotten how to tie a decent knot. I slipped easily out of their ropes, ran to the nearest highway and managed to hitchhike back to California.

Strange, but true!

"Oh! The logo goes over there? Is that new?" Know the format
before you start your illustration -- just a tip. I didn't want to let
go of the ballerinas. Just wanted to draw girls, I guess.
I'm fairly certain my adventure has sent me backward in time and to a slightly different dimension. Here, Jerry Brown is our newly elected Governor but, in the history of my world, it should be 1975 or so, and Gerald Ford should be President. But he is not. In fact, he's dead!

Even more curiously, the internet is already in full bloom but the Beatles are appearing for the first time. I'm a little confused. I'll just try to go along cautiously and blend in with all of you here in this alternate reality.

*  *  *

Here are some drawings I created for the cover of the TimeOut tabloid, which will be appearing today in all of the East Bay editions of the Bay Area News Group newspaper family.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season is upon us, and the snow globe is a handy symbol for all things associated with the two months of American Christian celebration. I know it doesn't snow here, but these are the visual cliches we are burdened with. I don't imply that as a bad thing, it comes with the trappings of a cultural history, but I wonder if this will have meaning for anyone one hundred years from now. (I think my traumatic abduction experiences and transplantation from my native reality have left me peculiarly pensive and contemplative, not to mention wordy and pleonastic!)

I left some areas unfinished on purpose. Most will be hidden
behind the crop, but I like artwork better when it isn't "done."
Maybe it's because I like to quit early
The top two drawings are, of course, the roughs. My first one, the one without the dummy logo, was done in ignorance of the cover's updated design. It has been over a year since I did an illustration for the TimeOut tab-- and, the last time I looked, it had a different name! Even though I used to do a lot of these covers, I hadn't noticed the change. Pay attention, huh? Well, they probably made the change while I was busy as Emperor of that island... far beyond the subscription delivery boundaries.

Drawn entirely in Photoshop over a few days whilst working away on other stuff, too.

The End

Warriors Fans and a Personal Lament

I created this illustration back in 2002 to accompany a story about the tortuous plight of the Golden State Warriors fan. Things sure were dismal in '02, weren't they? Hm. Hasn't changed much, has it? I suppose there was one happy bump in the road -- their solitary playoff appearance and celebrated ousting of the top-seeded Mavericks -- but that has been the only moment of joy in nearly two decades.

I enjoyed the Richmond/Hardaway/Mullin years -- I've never seen a team that played such a lively, watchable brand of basketball. Lots of scoring, lots of running, flashy plays, crisp passing... just a great, great time to be a fan. I concede they didn't go very far in the playoffs, but they were in the hunt every year and they were always fun to watch.

Tim Hardaway is my favorite ball player ever. Bar none... except maybe for Sarunas Marciulionis, who had the same kind of gimme-the-ball fearlessness that Hardaway had, but without the grace.

When Sarunas came off the bench it was like he had just snapped the leash that had been holding him there; he was a shooting, passing, fouling tazmanian devil from Lithuania. He left teethmarks on the ball and spittle all over the floor, and somehow he'd have 6 fouls and 28 points before they'd catch him in a net and drag him back to the bench.

After the Chris Webber/Don Nelson fallout, it was over. I stopped watching the Warriors and I haven't had the stomach for them since. Boring boring boring. I started to get interested when they showed up in the playoffs, but they fizzled before I fell in love with them again.

Fair weather fan? Maybe, but they made me one.

And on that cheerful note, let me say that I had fun doing this illustration! I remember working on it, and I was feeling it! I still had a strong affection for the team and absolutely HATED what they had become.
They were GREAT! GREAT, I tell you.

This is the onset of my cranky-old-man-phase, and I'm ready to embrace it. Things WERE better when I was a kid. You don't know! You weren't there! You and your fancy LeBron and your little iPods. There's nothing you've got that compares to Larry and Magic, nothing that compares to Hardaway and Marciulionis, either.

Roughed out in pen & ink and re-"inked" and colored in Photoshop!


This is bizarre, but... yes! I did this. Don't believe me? I don't blame you. It looks like it came from someone else and I am lying about it being mine. But unless you can prove I'm lying, this is my work.

I'm not too clear on what the story was about. Perhaps it was a "soccer-mom" thing. Maybe it had something to do with diet? This I offer because the food seems to be the center of attention in the composition... and as I type that, it almost rings a bell. Pasta, milk, fruit, potatoes... potatoes? Does that seem like a good mix of foods? I'm not a dietitian by any stretch-- I'm a pizza and pop-tarts kind of guy-- but that looks weird to me.

Stylistically, I was obviously trying to do something "different." Was it my idea, or was it done at the urging of an editor? Couldn't tell you. This is about ten years old and the clarity of my memory fizzles out about three hours into the past.

The characters were drawn in pencil and the coloring was done in photoshop. By me! Really!

Home and Garden Illustration Fragment Part 2

Here is another portion of an illustration done for work. Go here for the first part, or just scroll down a bit, it's only a few posts back.

The point of the story that this little illo represents is that aphids aren't necessarily a bad thing for your plants! I forget why. Sure are cute, tho, aren't they?

Okay, The Next Post Will Be Fresh...

... but this is all I have right now. Another oldie. There's a semi-nteresting story behind it, though (semi-interesting to me, at least, but I've heard it before.)

This ran with an article that was published a couple of months after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, and the headline was "Is it OK to laugh now?" or something like that. (Edit: After a little searching I can say that's exactly what it was called, and this was the cover to the entertainment tabloid, not an illustration on the regular news page.)

It was fun to paint, but I remember this assignment as my first huge frustration with an editor. The idea I pitched was a crowd of clowns-- just like this layout, more or less -- but the characters would all be sad clowns. They would have frowns, their heads bowed, their eyes shut; very serious and dignified and respectful for a bunch of clowns.

But one of them would have a smile, and this clown would be looking slyly at one of the somber clowns next to him. And in his hand? A pie! Ready to go. It is time! Ha!

I was really excited about it. However, the editor saw one of my other thumbnails, and it looked like this illustration: People, still sad and hurt, cautiously or angrily eying the clown in their midst.

The editor insisted that this was the better idea. I said that it was not as satisfying conceptually or visually as the all-clown idea. Then, the editor insisted that I was wrong. I said I didn't think so. Then, the editor commanded that I was wrong. I relented. Insert heavy sigh of regret here.

I was still new on the job, I still had to ask questions all of the time about how things worked. My confidence in my instincts was strong but I didn't have the weight of experience behind me. I gave in out of respect for the editor even though I knew it was the lesser of the two concepts.

Oh, well. Just another lesson about how you shouldn't EVER show anyone an idea you don't like -- particularly when working with a client or an editor -- because that's the idea they will like best. Every. Time.

The faces in the crowd I invented or found on the internet, and I did improv portraits from them, changing their expressions to fit the scene. The guy to the right of the clown isn't off the internet. He looks an awful lot like me.

The End

Relax, It's Only Shakespeare

I've hit a rough spot lately, creatively speaking -- again. Work, commute, work late, commute. Very frustrating. The past month has been extremely busy. I have managed to do a couple of drawings but I'm neither finished with them, nor happy with them. I think I've been too burnt out to bring my best to the drawing board when I finally get there.

Therefore, this:

Here's another old thing which I will use to prop up my blogging habit. This was the first digital painting I did for my newspaper job. It ran on the cover of the entertainment tabloid. The story was about the unwarranted intimidation of Shakespeare on the modern audience. He wrote for the common folk, after all, and his plays were pop theater. No reason to be intimidated by the Bard. He's about as hip and edgy and naughty an artist as ever was.

I probably painted this with a plain round brush set to about 30% opacity. What a long grind that must have been. I didn't know any better at the time.

Family Camping

I found this illustration amidst the files of my very first website. The story for this illustration? I don't remember. It was 2001. It was one of the first things I made for my newspaper job. I do remember I drew it in pencil first, scanned it in and I might have worked a photoshop/illustrator combo to get it done-- pretty tricky stuff for a newbie.

I kind of like it. As I've said before, it's fun to see stuff I've forgotten about. It's like looking at an artist I'm not familiar with. Sorry it's so tiny. It's all I've got.

You know what? I DO remember a story about this picture. The page designer was anxious for a place file-- that's a copy of the work to put on the designer's page so he can make sure the size right, and design around it. I was the new guy, and veterans -- rightly so -- are always a little nervous about dealing with rookies. So, the designer approached me when I was still figuring out the linework on the drawing and had only applied a few patches of color. I sent a copy of it as it was, and I went back to work.

When I finished it, I sent it to the page designer and went on to the next project. A few days later, arriving at work, I heard a couple of compliments as I made my way to my desk. "Jeff, the illustration for Sunday's Bay Area Living section front looks terrific. Good work," they said; probably just trying to give the new guy a little confidence. I'll take that. I felt good. I went to the table where they have all the papers stacked and I grabbed a few copies. I was excited about seeing my work on the front-- and it was going to be big!

Ah, yes. And there -- you guessed it -- was the horrible, unfinished place file.

I think the father and son were colored in, or maybe just their shirts. There were only a couple of leaves drawn. hadn't figured out the design for the little girl's face, so I don't think she even had eyes, yet. Etc. I'm afraid to go on because I didn't save a copy of it, and I might be making stuff up without realizing it. There was a LOT wrong with it. At best it was 1/3 done.

There's nothing like that sick feeling you get knowing that you've somehow made a mistake, and that mistake has been printed 100,000 times and distributed to newsstands and doorsteps all over the Bay Area. (Newspapers were in better shape back then, so that may be a very conservative estimate for a Sunday section front, but you get the idea.)

And the absolute worst part of it? I don't think anybody knew it wasn't done! They seemed to like it. That will inflame the humility of the humblest of artists.

The End

More Characters!

Here are a couple more efforts in character design. I'm being far too precious with these. I want to be doing rougher, less refined drawings but I keep getting wrapped up in unnecessary details. Next time.

Okay, the guy on the right is a bit of a re-hash, but I've been thinking about him again of late. I did this one without looking at my previous drawing. He's an attractive character to me. Skinny, ugly, a fashion rebel... I dig him.

The lady on the left seems a little dull. I had a GREAT time drawing her, but when I finished, she didn't look as cool as I thought she might. Oh well. Love is blind.

Home and Garden Illustration Fragment

Here's part of an illustration I did for work a couple of weeks ago. The story addressed common misconceptions about gardening-- it was one of those stories with a list of topics covered in short bursts. The initial idea was to do little illustrations for each topic, but I just couldn't find the time. I ended up putting in some overnight hours just before deadline to get things looking better.

I'll post the other drawings later. This cartoon ran along the bottom of the layout. It pertains to how difficult it is to deer-proof your garden.

Drawn in Photoshop.

New Characters, New Directions

I recently watched a character design tutorial and I was totally inspired. The process that this particular artist and company go through in order to create characters seems to be a natural extension of what I do just for fun. I'm going to work on creating a portfolio of characters and see if I can head in that direction, professionally speaking.

Photoshop drawing/painting.

So, here are 3 characters I've done in the past day and a half. There is a tendency for my creations to be slightly silly, and I think that's somewhat apparent here. I love slightly hokey sci-fi and pulp art, and the sense of humor that it has, but I'm going to try to resist that tendency and see if I can get "darker," more serious. I probably can't, but I'll take a shot at it.

I worked on the two male characters in the fashion I watched on the tutorial, and the woman I based on a character I have been working on for a personal comic project.

Do they look convincing? Would they be good enough for the first or second stage of design?

I should have given the woman a large laser-rifle; she doesn't look contemporary, western, or sci-fi. Just kinda goofy.

Oh well. The next one will be better. Maybe.

The End.

Quick Sample!

Been busy. I'm working up some character studies as part of a personal project. I just noticed I haven't posted here in a while so here's a close-up of what I'm working on right now. The rest of it will be posted later...

Old Travel Illustration

This is an illustration for a story about the flavor that music can add to the travel experience-- this is very old but I'm pretty sure that was it.

This piece was secondary art, used down page or maybe even on the jump. The main piece was a painting with the headline incorporated. I can't seem to find that one.

It might be on one of those back-up cds over there on the shelf-- there are hundreds if them. I looked through one stack and checked on a couple of discs, but I only found this painting again.

I wonder how things I've misplaced or lost over the years?

Anyway. This is a Jeff Durham primitive digital-age photoshop painting; 2002 or 2003, I'm guessing. Sorry it's so petite; I was only able to find copies from a folder that had my original AOL website stored in it.

Two Heads!

More heads. I have a whole slew of them, but not much time for coloring. Colored these two quickly this morn. Not very good, but I'm trying to pick up the pace around here! I hate a stale, boring artblog, especially if it's mine. 

Pencil, brush and P-shop.

More Head Doodles

These are weird little heads drawn on a scrap of paper at work. I don't even realize I'm doodling 'em, most of the time.

Colored in Photoshop right before posting 'em.

The End

Photoshop and Me...

I received a comment on my previoius blog post from Mr./Mrs. Anonymous that went like this:

Now I know I am going to come off as a photoshop dummy, so I am warning you in advance. I love drawing cartoons and am beginning to become interested in photoshop as most of my favorite artists (you are totally one!!) use it. It is so expensive and definitly will not be an impulse buy. Would you mind giving me a very basic "This is photoshop and why I use it" tutorial?

No dummies here! I'm glad you asked. There are still a lot of artists out there who are reluctant to embrace the digital arts. Here is my rapidly-typed response with a couple of images included for illustrative purposes. I'll probably be editing and updating this for the next three years, so if you're at all interested you might want to check back on a regular basis! Ha!

This isn't part of your request, but you might be able to relate to my initial feelings about working on a computer. I clearly remember saying: "Create art on a computer? Never!"

I was a "traditional illustration" kind of guy -- acrylic, gouache, pastel, oil, watercolor -- and I was not even slightly interested in creating art on a computer. The digital art I saw was obsessed with a slickness and shininess that did not appeal to me.

But I started seeing digital drawings and paintings done by classically trained artists-- and I couldn't tell that they were digital! Well, I wanted to play, too. I sought out articles and tutorials and I slowly gained an understanding of how to use layers and how to modify the drawing tools.

In 2001 I landed my job as an illustrator/graphic artist for a newspaper. I worked with another artist who was a more advanced Photoshop user and he was interested in the new wave of digital art-- so I watched and learned and experimented. It took a while, but I became comfortable with the process, and I continue to learn new ways of working.

Today, there are YouTube tutorials a-plenty! It's easy to discover how artists are creating their digital art. With all those how-tos on YouTube I bet I could learn in a few weeks what it took me 5 years to figure out on the job. No exaggeration.

Old iMac and Wacom held together with tape.
I use a Wacom tablet to draw. My newest tablet is about 5 years old, so I can't vouch for any of Wacom's more recent products, but I've heard the bamboo pen tablet is spiffy. I've only worked with the smallest tablets; I did a demo on a mid-size tablet for a couple of hours but it seemed about the same. You can find others who feel differently, but it made no difference to me. (And smaller tablets are cheaper.)

Photoshop CS, CS2 and CS4: Dang! I just looked it up on the web and CS5 is 650 bucks! That's huge money. I qualified for an education discount when I purchased CS4 last year-- it wouldn't hurt to ask if there were discounts available.

Or you might want to try purchasing an older version of Photoshop. I mostly use the first CS-- it's on an old computer at home that is not connected to the internet (pictured), so I can't pop open a browser and fritter around on the web when I should be working. At work, I use CS2, but it seems the same as CS as far as I can tell.

If you purchase an older version of Photoshop, do a little research first and make sure it will work on your computer! The Adobe forums might be a good place to ask about that.

CS4 is totally fab, though. It does amazing stuff and is a big leap over the older Photoshops, but I'm not really comfortable with it yet.

My very first day with Painter 7!
A study of one of John Singer Sargent's portraits.
Painter! I should mention Painter as an option. I don't use it, but I wish I could!

A long time ago I bought Painter 7. It ran very slowly on my computer. I have no doubt that the limited horsepower of my lime-green iMac was to blame, but it was so slow to respond I couldn't take the frustration.

Later, I purchased a newer computer and upgraded to Painter 8... and it was still so pathetically slow I couldn't stand it. I was very disappointed because the results were amazing! Wonderful texture, and the way the colors behaved and interacted-- it was just like real-world watercolor, pastel, acrylic! Couldn't use it, though.

I installed Painter 8 on my newest computer a year and a half ago and it does the simple coloring jobs well... but the performance still lags horridly. I'm so comfortable with Photoshop that I haven't felt the urge to do more than dabble occasionally.

A lot of artists swear by it-- they probably have more powerful computers than I do; I swear AT it.

Do some research and ask around online; ask artists about it on their blogs, post a few inquiries in digital art-related forums. It's MUCH cheaper than Photoshop and, again, some folks love it.

All your art supplies are included! You never have to buy paper or paint again.
You'll never run out of cerulean blue and you won't be inhaling the fumes of your cadmium red. No paint thinner! You don't have to wash out your brushes! Etc.

Speed and elasticity!
No drying time. You don't have to mix paint. You can stop at anytime and you don't have to set up your work space all over again later. You can change colors on the fly, even after you have painted them! Your cats cannot tread in your palette; they can stomp the keyboard and wreak havoc that way, but at least they will not make a mess.

If you work with a professional printer you have total control over how it comes out! You can personally prepare the files for print yourself! (This'll take some cooperation from the printer, of course, but never before has it been so easy for the artist to become involved in that process!)

If you take advantage of the ability to work with a lot layers you can shift and change whole sections of your work without damaging other areas. Without a doubt this ability has come in very handy at my newspaper job. In many a tight pinch, I have been able to make wholesale changes under tight deadlines.

Here's a quick diagram of the art for my previous blog post. This is the basic layer structure I use for most of the art I create on the job. It's very simple and an easy way to work.

Bottom: I have my original drawing on the bottom layer. This is a drawing that has been done on paper and scanned; it just as easily could have been drawn in photoshop.

The layer is locked and I cannot directly deface it. I can only work on the layers above.

It does not suffer any damage as paint on it! I can go back to it later if I have to.

Middle: Above that is a layer of flat color-- wide, simple patches of color.

Not to get too technical, but you can set the layer to be transparent, so that the drawing shows through the color.

For most of my work at the paper, that's about where it ends. Art below, color on top. If you just want to draw cartoons and color them, that's all there is to it.

Top: If you're interested in digital painting then you can go further, like I did in this one. Here, the top layer is my rendering. I also often use a top layer for highlights and special effects. I've created a few brushes in photoshop that have more "natural" textures and look like what you see when you paint on paper/canvas, etc. If you're into painting then you'll want to learn how to do this at some point.

The brutal truth. If you have any aspirations of working commercially, you have to learn how to create art digitally; not necessarily in its initial form, but it will become digital art eventually. It is the best way to show and to share your artwork. Two minutes after you finish it, you can post it for an audience. Everybody's work goes digital and it will continue to do so.

The beautiful truth: It is fun and gives you tremendous power over your creative process. Once you get used to the technology-- not as hard as you might think-- it is a completely natural way to express your artistic vision. I'm not saying that it's the only way to create art, but it is necessary and can be completely satisfying.

Any more questions, class? I hope I sorta addressed your concern. I think I got way too chatty here. I could probably lop off about 12 paragraphs and make it less painful-- starting with this paragraph, I bet.

If you have any more questions fire away at any time-- I'm only too happy to write a novel-length response!

Geez, I get on a roll sometimes. I'm going to be late for work!

The End

Head Painting

I haven't done any digital painting in a while so I thought I'd take a couple hours on one of my days off and go after it.

I drew the head a couple of weeks ago. I didn't have any reference for him, I just dragged the pencil around on the paper and sort of let it take shape on its own. I then went in with a big brush and inked him.

Today, I attacked him with photoshop. I beat him about the head with several textured brushes for about an hour and 20 minutes. He looked a bit better about 10 minutes before I stopped, but this'll do.

I liked the challenge of taking a cartoony looking face and trying to give him a slight touch of realism. Sorry about that ghastly green behind him -- Truly hideous. I don't know what I was thinking with that!

Frank Hamer

Here is a quick drawing of Frank Hamer, Texas Ranger, the man who tracked down and wiped out Bonnie and Clyde.

Created with pencil and brush on very cheap paper. Colored with absolutely no enthusiasm in photoshop.

I've been finishing off a drawing pad that I've had for over 20 years and the paper is terrible. No wonder I never used it. But I've decided to get my money's worth out of it. Almost finished.

Quick Study and a Doodle

I'm totally in love with the work of Gene Colan. I've always been an admirer but I've recently been picking up some Daredevil and Tales of Suspense comics from the late 60s and early 70s out of the 1 and 2 dollar bins at the comic shop next to work; so I'm seeing a lot I've never seen before. He's absolutely brilliant. That word is used way too often, but it applies to Colan.

I've also snagged a bunch of his comics shopping online for about the same price. Classic comics and artwork for much less than the price of a new comic! I seriously can't afford new comics and I don't like them as much as I like the old stuff. I check out new comics at the library but they just don't appeal to me as much as the old books do.

Anyway, sometimes when I have ten minutes to spare before going to work I will do quick studies from photos or old comics. Most of them go to the trash, just because I don't get around to finishing them. The top panel I swiped from Colan a couple of weeks ago. Later, I freestyled the two characters below just to fill the spot. I was going to toss it out when I thought I'd color the thing and fill some space on the blog.

Here it is!

Drawing and Coloring Studies!

Last year I started writing/drawing a short story. Some portions I drew like a comic, some of it was written in sloppy longhand as a script/short story. I came close to finishing it, but I can't find a bunch of the pages! They must be around here somewhere.

I wonder if it might be too irritating to read one story presented in different formats. The beginning done in comics, the second part perhaps presented as a tv script with camera and stage directions included, and the final act written as though it were traditional prose fiction. Would the reader be able to follow the story over such an uneven surface?

In the moments since I finished the last sentence, I've thought of a few examples. Dang. For a moment I thought I had a brand new, innovative idea. Nah. I stole it.

Getting back to the first paragraph, I've been doodling around while thinking about my crudely concocted short story and it's re-shaping in my head. The pages I drew in comics form are still pretty good-- I'll probably post them later-- but the characters don't fit the mental images I have of them now.

So, here I'm experimenting a little with one of the characters and trying a variation on a coloring technique that I've used before.

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Pencil, pen on paper with Photoshop colouring.

Summer Fun Art

This illustration ran with a story about keeping the kids busy during summer. A lot of activities were covered and a broad topic can be a challenge for an illustration. In the end, I opted to focus on one image emblematic of the the story; it also is very representative of my best childhood summer memories.

During the summer my folks would drive me and my sister to a cousin's house and we would swim in a big pool for hours on end. It was a lazy, dreamy, wonderful time and I still think about floating in that pool, laying on the hot concrete, the smell of chlorine and the grass of the lawn. Ahhh. I'm there right now.

A really wonderful time. Mmm.

Okay, I'm back.

I had several ideas for this assignment before I zeroed in on the final presentation. In this rough, I addressed a few of the suggestions in the story, conjuring an iconography for them. I took a sort of aggressive tone with the main figures-- the father dragging the kid away from the video game, telling him to go outside and play, dammit.

I kind of like it! This could've worked.

This was my first rough. The story pitch mentioned a summer activity including a trampoline. I think, personally, a horrible idea. Has there ever been a more obviously dangerous thing to purchase for your kids? Has anyone ever bounced on a trampoline and come away uninjured? Awful, awful idea. Great opportunity for a fun image, though!

Still needs work, of course, but I like this!

So, this is the development of the final. I stole the kid in the foreground from the trampoline rough. It seems obvious to me that an attempt to get kids out and away from the TV/computer/entertainment console is going to be near impossible in this, the age of the laptop/iPod/Pad. Certainly, one of the little tech-addicts is going to bring his tech-toys with him. I certainly would. I certainly do.

I'm working on that, by the way. I don't bring the ipod with me when I'm out and about. I kept getting it out to check if I could log on to wi-fi wherever I happened to be. I wouldn't DO anything; I just kept checking to see if I could see the internet. I hate being that dumb.

At this stage I've finalized the characters and begun experimenting with an approach to the coloring process. First, I colored with simple, flat color. Then, I took those simple colors and overlaid them on a scan of paper that had been painted with a broad brush.

By using a combination of adjustment layers, I applied the texture to those colors. I then replaced the flat colors with the spiffy new, textured colors. I've done this before but it always takes a while to get it to look pretty good. There are some colors that behave entirely differently with the adjustment layers so I have to go through the process of tweaking each color to get it to look right. That's why I tried to keep the coloring simple in the first place.

What a headache.

At this point, I had gone a little wild. I got carried away because I had extra time to work on this and I was having fun. I decided that I would give each kid his own wave to be floating on.

I was really getting into it. But, as I was sorting through nearly 80 individual layers -- adding more waves and more adjustment layers as I tried to get it to look better -- I glanced back at the original rough.

Geez, I thought, that looked pretty good. Now, it looks like the kids are in rough seas; I'm almost worried about them. There should be a life-guard swimming in there somewhere to put the audience at ease.

So, I ditched the nonsensical turbulent water shtick and went back to the original pool. It was quick work from there.

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Bonus doodle: Here's the first drawing I did while brainstorming. I quickly colored it before bed the other night.

Everything done in Photoshop.

Bored Democrats

This ran in the paper a little while back; I can't take much credit for it, though.

The story was about the California Democratic party and a perceived lack of energy on their part heading into the election season; the bored Democrats. I'm all for donkey/elephant cartoons! A long-standing American tradition and one that I'm only too happy to carry on. I've done it MANY times.

This time, Chuck Todd-- King of the graphics department-- had a terrific little drawing mapping out this idea. Looked great! I tried to talk him into using his drawing, but he felt he didn't have the time to work it up properly, so I simply took his idea and drew it my way.

Easy stuff! Didn't even have to do any thinking! 

Roughed out in real pencil and then scanned and buried beneath photoshop coloring. Of course, the story goes into the box there. I'll try to dig up a pdf of how it turned out and post it later.

The Worst Thing I've Ever Done?

I almost feel pain when I look at this. It's taken me a while to confront this one, and writing about it has been very difficult. It's a traumatic experience I don't want to think about. But it's all about getting back on that horse, isn't it? So, here I go.

Sometimes you take a swing at something, like a fastball, and miss. Stee-rike. That's alright. Dig in, get ready for the next pitch.

Sometimes you swing at something -- like a pinata -- and you miss. Worse, you stagger when you swing, and flail three or four times amidst the screaming congregation. (Is that screaming or cheering? You can't tell. Keep swinging!) The pinata seems kind of soft when you club it. When you are finally knocked down and the blindfold is torn away by those who have subdued you, you do not see the cheerful sight you were anticipating. Instead there are bruises and welts and blood everywhere. Party over. No candy.

For this illustration I feel like I sorta clubbed the writer. What a crummy illo.

I work hard to make all of my work "good enough." I'm not saying that I strive for mediocrity, but there are times when things don't come together well. Maybe the concept isn't well-thought out, maybe the application of the idea isn't clear, maybe the subject doesn't inspire, maybe it's an off-day for drawing; an art slump. Still, the professional has to fight through those negatives and try to deliver a piece that is strong enough to stand on its own. At the very least you must try to hit close enough to the mark that nobody will be outraged. Well, I'm a little outraged by this one.

This was for a story about the resurgence of Betty White. All the elements that should buttress the story are there, aren't they? The crowd beneath, holding up the laptop, symbolizing the on-line campaign to persuade the producers of Saturday Night Live to have Betty White appear as host; the lotus flower, growing out of the laptop's screen, symbolizing re-birth of Betty White's popularity. Gag me. An awkward couple of concepts topped with a crummy caricature.

Does it even look like Betty White? At one point it did, but I think I managed to obliterate the resemblance as I went along.

As time was running out before deadline, I thought: "Geez, this looks lousy. I hope I can pull this thing together." I don't think I did. In desperation I pumped up the saturation of colors before I sent it; at least it would be colorful!

The End.


I've been trying to find the time to create some samples of comics pages. I used to write and draw stories, but for the past five years I've failed to make any progress. So, I sat myself down and sternly set the goal to create a comic page in a day. Three months later... I finally got there.

I haven't even been goofing around much. Really! I've been (almost) THAT busy.

There's not a lot going on here-- just a few simple shots so that I didn't get hung up on creating detailed environment. There was no story in mind when I started it-- although now I have one. Obviously, I won't get around to making the whole thing unless mankind's life-expectancy suddenly grows by a decade or two. It's not that great anyway; just a sci-fi/western thing with no real plot.

I had a great time writing the dialogue in ten syllable bursts (not strict iambic pentameter, tho-- I just made it fit the syllable count.) It took a couple of days to do that, but that was because the story was growing and sorting itself out while I wrote-- I kept changing things and writing notes and making doodles for the rest of the story on a couple pieces of paper.

The writing took much longer than the picture-making. I'd guess there's about 7/8 hours drawing time here and about the same for coloring.

I stole the general layout from Steranko-- I've seen a couple of examples where he's done this: Full-length figure going top to bottom, and three panels falling down on the right.

Because it's bothering me so much, I'm compelled to write this: I am not a fan of word balloons done in vector and laid on the artwork after-the-fact. I dislike that a LOT. I much prefer to see the balloons drawn on the page, so I cringe and weep when I seen them all over my work. Is it resistance to change? I don't think so-- I hated it the first time I took notice of it and that animosity has not diminished. So, maybe it is resistance to change! Either way, it sure it quicker and easier to make adjustments on the fly. I see the appeal, but I despise the look.

I hope to do more pages for fun and portfolio, soon!

The End

A Very Slow Month

And by slow I mean not much art has been getting done. Horribly busy.

I've mentioned my second job before, but I don't think I got around to saying what it actually is. I've been teaching an online class for the Academy of Art. I enjoy it a lot. It's very rewarding personally, but it is time intensive.

Billiam Franzem
The online environment is interesting and effective if the students are studious and committed; they're pretty much on their own when it comes to doing the work. It's not like a real classroom situation where I have face to face contact-- if someone doesn't turn in their homework in person I can raise the eyebrow at them, let them know that ain't right. Online, you don't have those loaded non-verbal weapons to use on the slacking student. Perhaps there's an emoticon for that...

A simplified description of the class is:

1) Students read the lessons online, and they get a homework assignment that pertains to what they've read. There is one lesson for them a week, which also involves a quiz pertaining to that lesson.

2) I answer questions the students may have about what they have read; they often come up with some real puzzlers, so I have to know what I'm doing... or I have to scramble quick and go find the answers.

3) The homework is submitted to a message board where I critique and encourage, with the students (hopefully) joining in and doing the same. In effect, I am a message board moderator that all participants sort of feel they have to be nice to. Pretty good situation!

I stray off-topic a bit and try to get some chatter going about... whatever. Mostly art, of course, but I think it gets pretty dull when we only type about homework. I try to turn it into the art-conversation forum I would like to post in.

All kidding aside it is a lot of fun, and I feel great about it when I see a student progress and improve over the semester. Can't beat it.

It does, as I said, take a lot of time, but this week is the last for me until the Summer semester begins (although I'm not sure if I'm going to do it-- I feel like I need to get some personal artwork going again! I'd rather take time off from my real job, but reality intercedes...) I have a couple of household projects that need to be addressed, but I hope to get in some artwork, too.

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Oscar Fentwick Zimm
These heads have been sitting here for some time, ready to go. I started to write a story about them, but I realized the story wasn't about either of these guys; so, I drew a couple more pictures for the story and the story grew.

I'm still working on that post. Should be done soon.

So, here are these heads. No story, but at least I gave them names.

Pencil, brush and P-shop.

The African Yorkshire Terrier

In the early 1900s it became fashionable for adventurous souls in the upper-crust of western society to travel to Africa -- the Dark Continent -- for the thrill of hunting on safari. It was not uncommon for the more daring women of the time to accompany their men into the wilds of that uncivilized land.

Many of these refined ladies brought along some of the accoutrements of their fashionably pretentious lives to make the hardships of the safari less traumatic. It was not unusual to come upon an encampment to find a wind-up Victrola playing wax records or a full-length mirror set up inside a woman's tent. A very popular comfort for the ladies was the companionship of a lap dog. Sadly, a number of these domesticated and defenseless critters wandered away from the safety of their campsites and were tragically lost to the perils of the savage land -- or so it was thought.

During the past decade, from the remaining wildernesses of Africa, there have been reports of large packs of very small dogs lurking in the jungles and roaming on the veldt. These accounts were not given credence until recently, as the frequency of these sightings has increased, and the carcasses of several beasts -- victims riddled with hundreds of tiny, vicious bite-marks --  have been studied.

The few human witnesses to the attacks of the African Yorkshire Terrier describe the dogs as swarming and overwhelming their prey much in the manner of the piranha. It appears there is little defense against the quick, painful, skin-pinching bites and high-pitched yapping as they circle and confuse their quarry.

So far there have been no known human victims. Why not? It seems odd considering their seemingly fearless attacks on water buffalo, hippos, and even the occasional lion. Scientists have not yet been able to study these resourceful beasts but the popular theory is that they still retain the instincts that cause their domesticated cousins to fear being stepped on by someone with heavy shoes.

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Acrylic painting and story by me, about 12 years ago.

Old Newspaper Illustration Plus One Doodle

Gosh, I don't remember the particulars of the story that I did this drawing for. I don't think it was the centerpiece; more likely something to fill up space after the jump. Maybe they didn't even use it.

I think it the story had an incident wherein the ball ended up in a gopher hole in the outfield and the fielder had to drop his mit and actually dig like crazy to get the ball back. I wish I could say he got it out and threw the runner out at home, but that would be a lie.

That would make a good story to go with this, tho. I might re-type this later and spiff it up with a pleasant fib.

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 I've had this doodle floating around for years! Always kind of liked it, but I didn't know what to say about it. I have no idea where it came from. It's mine, but I'll be darned if I could tell you a thing about it.

I posted it in draft mode when I first started this blog-thing. It just sat there. Didn't know what to say. Eventually I deleted it. It was too hard to think of something.

Well, it was parked in a folder next to the above drawing. Now, it sorta has a story. The doodle that would not go away.