Animation Experiment

Another short animation experiment, using Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint and MOHO (Anime Studio.)  Ten seconds, looped a couple of times. Nothing special, just working things out.

The End.

Tuneup for Bay Area Transit

This illustration was created for a story about possible fixes for the S.F. Bay Area transit system in the years and decades to come. The article was written by the excellent Mercury News transportation reporter Erin Baldassari and you can read Erin's story here.

Drawn in Clip Studio Paint EX and Photoshop. Open in a new window for a fairly huge image.

There was a late change of direction as to how to present the story in the print edition, so I had less than one shift to put this together. That's not a terrible thing – nor is it completely unusual – but it certainly isn't ideal. That being said, illustration opportunities have been rare lately, and I have been hoping for something fun to work on; I flinched at the frighteningly imminent deadline, but quickly found myself lost in the joy of drawing.

This is the initial rough, using screenshots, doodles
and a converted-from-Illustrator map, created in Photoshop.

I doodled an idea, consulted with my graphics partners during our afternoon meeting, implemented their suggestions, and produced the rough above for editorial approval. While it was going through the approval process, I started the final; that's standing operating procedure in the shadow of a falling deadline. In that situation, you have to hope that it gets a pass, but always be thinking about other solutions while you work, because it's never a given. Made it this time, tho.

It's not a great little cartoon but I had fun doing it. I ran smack into the end of my day and sent the illustration to the page designers without much time (or energy) for tidying it up. Of course, the story held for a few days, but I had a some time off and was out of the loop, so I couldn't do any polishing. 

Here is how it looked it print.

The End!

Old Reject

I found another old scribble in the archive. This was a rejected sketch proposal for a story about genetic engineering. I didn't post the final version when I finished it back in 2015. My recollection is that I didn't like it much. And looking at it again, looking at it now, I can't bring myself to bother to show it. It's just not very good.

In the project folder are a few files that show the struggle of creation for that underwhelming piece and it's clear it did not come easy and when it was done, it wasn't worth the effort. But there is one lonely drawing amongst the clumsy flailings that seems complete and dignified. It's not that great either, but it stands alone; no sketches to betray its construction, no copies showing other possibilities explored.

Drawing in Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop!

The patch of white probably indicates where to put the story and headline. I can't imagine it would work like this, though. I offer it as a curiosity and to add a fresh and wheezy breath to a tired old blog.

The End!

"...So everybody knows they love each other."

The character on the right began as an absent-minded doodle. It was a simple line drawing but he looked fun and quirky-cool to me, so I thought I'd render him a little bit and throw on some color, just for kicks. As I worked, my five-year-old daughter walked up and eyed him cautiously. "Is he... is he scary?" she asked.

I had to admit, he was creepy; but I explained in soothing tones that he was a good fellow, he just looked different. He probably had friends and a job, I said, and maybe even a girlfriend. With wary curiosity, she asked: "What does his girlfriend look like?" And thus my aimless doodle became a serious project with a built-in impatient audience fused with a potentially fussy art director.

I pondered the problem of a girlfriend for the creepy fellow, and – after a rough sketch and a few refinements – my daughter's tone changed; she approved of the pairing and thereafter regarded them both with convivial kindness. My daughter argued forcefully that the girlfriend should be all pink, every bit of her – horns to shoes! I suggested that pink skin could be enough pink, and I pointed out that the front of her dress kind of looked like a tulip. That was met with approval and did the trick!

Open in a new window for a much larger image.

As I worked on the finishing touches my daughter said to me, "Be sure to put a heart up in the air above them!"

Puzzled by this sudden introduction of more work, I growled and asked. "A heart? Up in the air? Why?"

"You have to put a heart above them so everybody knows they love each other!"

"Hmm," I said, eyes narrowing with mischevious intention. "Good idea!"

And just so you don't think I'm a completely horrible father, the finished drawing – the one I've shown to her – is below. 

Drawn in Clip Studio Paint EX and Photoshop.

The End.

Four for the Price of One

Here is another post featuring past work. I don’t believe I’ve addressed any of these projects here, altho I might be wrong about that. If so, I’ll adjust this entry later.

The “Marriage under reconstruction” and “Holiday headache” pieces are from 2013. Remembrances of the creation of either of them are wispy, vague. Sometimes, looking back on old work – even small, informal sketches – I can recall where I was, what I was snacking on, things I was thinking about while doodling; other times I might not remember squat about a larger piece that clearly took much time.

For “Marriage…” I have next-to-nothing in the memory bank. Hmm. That’s kind of me as a model on the right, except skinnier and taller; so much so that it doesn't look like me at all. I used the excellent pencil tool in MangaStudio and most likely colored it in combination with Photoshop.

For “Holiday Headache” I have a recollection of drawing a tiny, sinister looking face on the figure in the house behind the curtain. You probably can’t even see the figure in the image here – click on the images to embiggen. I got rid of the face when I realized how small it would be in print.

 “It takes a neighborhood” ran in 2015. I intended to have the little old lady falling from above and the neighbors looking up, ready to catch her with the safety net. That was probably too silly for the story, or maybe it was an unnecessary hassle to design a page layout that way.

“Yoga takes you higher” was great fun! I don’t know why I didn’t put this up before. Maybe I thought it was too goofy, or maybe the process was so easy and simple that I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say.  "It was fun to do and it was over way too quickly! I made a John Lennon style cartoon and then spent most of the time trying to get the spattery effect looking alright." Yeah, that's about it.

More art soon... maybe even NEW art! (Maybe.)

P.S. I included the layouts this time because, in each case, they clearly improve the art. Ahem, well, that might be the case all the time, but I re-discovered these while looking at full-page pdfs from the archive and I liked them better than when I saw the illustrations alone.

The page designer for all of these is, most likely, longtime colleague Jennifer Schaefer, who has improved (or saved!) many many many of my efforts.

Long Time No Blog

I found this on my work computer the other day. It was a brainstorm/rough for a story about women students making inroads into college classes overwhelmingly populated by men, I believe. This was several years ago, and I don't remember how it all played out. This idea wasn't pursued and I didn't do anything else for it. But I kind of like it in this slovenly, ragged form.

My blog-drought has lasted so long because I haven't been drawing much, and nothing I've created for my job recently has been spiffy enough to write about. Another art-slump, I guess.

I've tried to get the personal work going but  – whenever I crack my knuckles and sharpen my pencils and tape the paper to the drawing board and adjust the lights and knead my kneaded eraser into the perfect shape and go get a coffee and come back and crack my knuckles again – I'm beset by distractions and inconveniences both imaginary and actual (though I cannot perceive the difference until later.)

My quiver of excuses is deep and the lure of spending the final conscious hour of my day lying in bed, thumbing through old comic books, is strong. Oh, and pinball on the iPad; that's another bedtime thing. And CataclysmDDA. And Pathos. And Twitter-skimming. Settling down to sleep can be a time-suck for me.

It's nice to be posting something again, tho. I'd like to do more of it real soon...

Pot Savvy Seniors

Here is an illustration I put together for the July 6th Mercury News front.  The story, by longtime colleague Sam Richards, is here. He does good work, that guy!

I created a silhouette of a rocking chair, took a photo of wood grain and applied it to the silhouette. Then I went in and shaded it to give it some form. The seat cushions have a bit of burlap texture and a silly little pattern I made in illustrator.

Open in a new window for a larger image

It's a pretty simple idea and execution, although it took me a while to come up with it. Here is how it looked on the page:

That's all for now!

More Dubs vs. Cavs

Here's a collage, arranged for a Mercury News special section preview of the 2017 NBA Championship. I know, I know – that was weeks and weeks ago, but I've been lazy about the Blogspot upkeep.

Photos: Mercury News ace, Nhat V. Meyer; AP guy, Marcio Jose Sanchez;
Jason Miller working for Getty Images

As usual, I didn't have much time to work on this assignment, and – rather than try to do some elaborate drawing or cartoon – I thought it would be fun to use some photos and create something reminiscent of a rock poster. I was hoping to be a little edgier but, again, not much opportunity for exploring ideas. The image above is what ran in print.  

Below is a modest tweak for online presentation. Horizontal images are preferred for online, which is always an extra batch of work since one must squash and recompose the job as the deadline guillotine falls. There was an extra spoonful of disappointment when I realized it's more square than horizontal. Ah, well. It would make a pretty good CD cover.

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The Warriors Again

This is slightly belated, but: The Golden State Warriors are the champs! Again! It felt weird typing that the last time (a couple of years ago) and it might be even more bizarre now since it looks like it could be an annual occurrence. The past few decades have been grim for those of us who have a sentimental attachment to the ancient days of Clifford Ray and Rick Barry, or the exciting years spent with Run TMC. I don't follow the NBA like I used to but it's cool to see "Golden State Warriors" and "champions" in the same sentence.

We won't mention what happened last year, tho, 'kay?

When it became a distinct possibility that the Warriors might sweep their way through the playoffs, I started to work on this illustration, but it looked like the image below.

It became clear halfway through the fourth quarter of game four that LeBron wasn't going to let such a historic feat happen on his watch; and that was a bit of a relief for me, since I would have had to finish the illustration by the next day for use in the Sunday publication.  

I used the extra shift to re-think it a little bit, and to focus on coloring, which is the most time consuming part of the drawing process, in most cases.


Just a quick post to jolt the blog back to life. I'm still goofing around with Anime Studio/Moho in my spare time, of which there has been very little. Haven't animated anything yet but I'm re-learning how to rig stuff. Here is a quick figure I drew for practice, but I haven't animated him yet.

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Test Run

Purchased the latest Moho/Anime Studio update. Very cool, but I've forgotten what I learned back when I purchased an earlier version a few years ago. Can't figure out the freakin' walk-cycle to save my life, altho I had that down once upon a time. The rigging tools have stymied me, as well; and all of the youtube tutorials have left me in the lurch. Grr.

So, this is all I've figured out so far, and it's something I could've done in Photoshop, but it's as far as I've gotten. Imagine the horse is a fully rigged silhouette that gallops along until it gets down to the water. Then it steps carefully in before accelerating offscreen, stage left.

The art is a discarded piece I made a year or two ago, but I had to extend it quite a bit to fit the screen size, spending more time painting than learning how to animate. Bad planning. Again. More soon, unless I toss the computer through the window.

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Super WiFi

I created this illustration for a story by the always informative Troy Wolverton of the Mercury News, and you can read his most excellent work at this link. The image was drawn and painted in Clip Studio Paint with a bit of Photoshop.

Open in new window for a larger image.

After struggling for some time with a workable concept for the topic, I decided to create a simple parody (or homage) of the movie poster for the first Christopher Reeve "Superman" movie. My first submission to the editors was basically the sky and the emblem. Mr. Wolverton wrote: "Maybe the shield could be at Superman's farm out in rural Kansas? Like a lonely homestead out on the prairie?"

The scene where Pa Kent dies in front of the barn immediately leapt to mind. That shot – the barn, the house, the windmill, – I've always thought it was lovely. So, I tracked it down through the magic of Netflix and painted it in at the bottom.

Horizontal re-working for the online presentation.

I wanted to do an animated version, too; but it was long past the print deadline. In fact, I didn't get it done until... well, until just now!

Whoosh! That's all I've got for today.

Lois & Clark

Goofing around with the Clip Studio Paint drawing program. Touch of Photoshop for color tweaking.

This was part of the brainstorming work while trying to come up with an idea for an illustration to accompany a story about super wi-fi. Nothing came of this doodle.

Hey! It's That Guy, Again

Gotten a lot of mileage out of this president already. How many Obama-related assignments did I get over the previous eight years? Hm. Nothing on my blog, far as I can tell. I had a couple, I think, that I didn't get around to posting, but The Donald has been way more... "interesting," I guess.

Illustration for the Sunday, March 12 front page
of the Mercury News and the East Bay Times.
Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint Pro.

I am not a big practitioner of the photo-heads on cartoon bodies manner of working – I prefer to caricature – but it saved me a lot of time and I liked the way it turned out. I found a much better, sinister, laughing Kim Jong-Un head shortly after I sent the image to the designer for the final time, but there was a flurry of re-sizing and redrawing to fit a late size-change and I couldn't bring myself to give it one last tweak.

More Head Sketches, Screen Captured!

Goofing around with Photoshop, Premiere, iMovie, GarageBand and the YouTubes. Whole lotta For Dummies manual-reading going on around here.

It was fun to do this but there was a really crappy lag while filming. (Videoing?) Not great drawings but, of course, I got nervous because I always do when somebody might be watching. I got through it. Hope to do more silly stuff like this.

A Character Doodle

Rather than scratch out more head doodles (see several recent posts) I thought I'd do a full-figure character drawing. It occurred to me to illustrate a character from a game I've been goofing around with.

Anybody play "Cataclysm, Dark Days Ahead?" Here is my interpretation of my latest character as he looked before leaving his recently acquired farmhouse to desperately search for pots and pans to cook with. I think he got the purse off of a little zombie school-girl he dispatched, with great remorse.

The shirt is pinker than intended. Pretend it's more crimson colored. Thanks.

This is Moses Duvall, and he recently survived a Moose attack. Don't laugh. An angry moose is serious trouble and Moses was lucky to escape with his life. While he healed, he spent several days coping with a nasty bout of the common cold. Then he suffered a serious infection from a deep bite wound received during a melee with several zombies. (That's possibly when he scored the purse.)

Cataclysm DDA is a game I've had on the iPad for well over a year, and only recently have I learned how to make it go, although I'm far from being successful at it.

Mr. Duvall has avoided death for twelve days, game time. In my short CDDA career that's a pretty good run. He spends most of his time dressing his wounds, scrounging for wild vegetables in the bushes, and boiling toilet water to make it safe to drink. Yeah, you have to do that. It's all about surviving any way you can. And run like hell if you see a moose.

The End.

Heads. More Heads.

Some more little head drawings. All of these were improvised, no reference.

Kind of a cheat to keep the blogposts flowing by posting half-arsed scribbles but it's inspiring me to get the lead out and start drawing in my free time. I'm usually so burnt out from work that it's hard to persuade myself to assume my working pose after having been there for 8, 9, 10 hours already. But I'm enjoying it. Still have to take lots of breaks and I should exercise, too, but it's fun enough that I'm starting to look forward to it!

Nowhere To Hide

This illustration was for an excellent Mercury News Sunday Tech section story by Marisa Kendall. There have been a lot of tech-related privacy/security stories in recent years but – although the details and particulars of the stories change – as an illustrator charged with coming up with yet another image that addresses the core concept, it can flummox creative inspiration. In short: I was stumped.

Drawn with Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop.
Open in a new window for a larger image.

I envisioned a person, spied on by the various technologies suggested by the story's budget line; nothing interesting occurred to me. I suppose an image similar to the final is what crossed my mind, but with more conventional representations of the person and items. It was going to look boring. 

Determined to do this differently, I thought about John Lennon's drawings and drew the figure in a way that reminded me of his work, but when I finished my initial scribbles and then went to look at Lennon's images, I realized I was really thinking about late-stage Picasso drawings; the 50s and 60s era. (Love that stuff and have done work inspired by him before.)

The problem that comes with drawing in an unconventional style – unconventional for me – is I can't tell if it looks right until I'm almost done with it. The design of the person came most easily, but I spent a lot of time fussing with the hand and face relationships. I almost gave up on the idea, but I started coloring him and then it seemed to transform into a design that didn't put me off.

The difficulty I found trying to interpret the iPhone, the satellite and traffic light was in trying to make them recognizable. I abandoned more exaggerated drawings, retreating to simpler representations because even I couldn't tell that my haphazard arrangement of circles and rectangles was supposed to be a traffic light. The objects are therefore simpler, less daring caricatures for the sake of clarity and the usual time constraints.

I'm pretty happy with it, although I felt more like a member of the audience than the performing artist as it all came strangely together. 

As another exercise, I created an animated version. I dabble inconsistently with animation, and so I have to relearn lost knowledge each time I wade back in. At work, I'm going to try to translate some of my drawings to animated gifs for the website. This is my first whack at it, but I didn't get through it until several days after the story posted. It was a too complex and improvisational process this time, but I learned how important a clear and simple plan is, even for a fairly short presentation.

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Some More Little Head Drawings

Here's another quick batch of head doodles, just to fill the spot for this week. I image-searched for head profiles and drew about half of these from reference, but without trying to recreate the source images; I just riffed on the pictures. Then I doodled the rest out of my head, freestyle.

Drawing comitted in Photoshop.

Still trying to find time and build momentum for doing some comics projects. Hm. I've typed that a few times over the past ten years...

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Tweeting His Way to the White House

Here is a full-page illustration/graphic that I slapped together a couple of weeks ago. It is an arrangement of Trump tweets – hand-picked by reporters, editors, me – arranged and illustrated. Confidentially, it didn't start coming together until the final two or three hours. I was worried as I worked on it and the deadline approached.

Open in a new window for a HUGE, possibly readable image.

The general theme we decided on was "From the Trump Tower to the White House," and it was suggested it be done as a game board. I considered and explored using designs reminiscent of "Life, " and "Monopoly but trying to fit the narrative into a board game theme felt forced. It could have been done with wiggle-room for trial and error maybe, but there was only a day or so to get it done.

So, I made a simple timeline of tweets and inserted pictures and a blob-brush twitter-bird along the way. I added the orange toupée late in the process, too; which is why the bird isn't toupéed in every instance. I didn't have the time or the energy to crawl back in and add one on the scalp of each bird.

It's fun, and kind of cute, if anything Trump-related can be cute.

Anyway. The End.

Where Did The Pokemon Go Go?

I drew this for a short piece – written by Angela Hill – that ran in the Bay Area News Group's quarterly magazine. And, just now, I see that they published it online, as well. Angela always does good work.

Drawn in Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop. Open in a new window for a very large image.

The article pondered the sudden rise and swift fall of the Pokemon Go phenomenon. My illustrative offering suggests that, possibly, they were hunted to extinction.

This fad did not capture me. I think my gray hair and bifocals rendered me Pokemon Go-proof. Or perhaps it is because my daughter is too young and therefore I was not swept up in the excitement.

I'm more of a retro-gamer. If it's not more than twenty years old I won't even look at your "silly video game." I sort of faded from the cutting edge when the Sega Genesis disappeared from the toy stores. But I do game on the iPad and hit websites like where they sell old computer games on the cheap. Masters of Orion 2 is my latest purchase, along with Afterlife and EV Nova; and I occasionally fire up my late 90s iMac to play Unreal Tournament (1999 edition.)

That means, twenty years from now, Pokemon might seem cool to me. So, you might find me wandering the streets in 2037 with my retro 2016 iPhone, dancing and waving my cane while I shout: "I finally got the Squirtle!"

The End

Some Head Doodles

I haven't done much lately, so I whipped up a few quick head scribbles.

Drawn in Photoshop!

I'm trying to find extra time for personal work, and I have a comics project I'm really hoping to get to. With luck and determination, I aim to have some substantial output to share here. If not, I'll doodle more heads or some other slightly lame thing...

Return to Santa

For a story that can help you with what to do about those unwanted presents! Ran on X-mas day. I really enjoyed making the boxes, and Santa's house was fun, too. I actually like this one!

Drawn in Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop

I've been on a two-week vacation with family, which was nice. There was a lot of driving, sight-seeing and coping with a wretched cold that is finally losing its grip. 

Hope to have more to show in this coming year. I have a goal of putting something once a week! I know, I've said that before. This time I kinda mean it.

Goals for 2017: 
I hope for more drawing time. 
An improvement in health through exercise.
A better job or a major improvement in the one I've got.
The usual...

Here's how it looked in print!

The End.
Happy New Year!