Trillion Dollar Apple

Hello, Blog, it's been a while. Work has been a bit slow as far as creating art is concerned, and there just aren't as many illustration opportunities as there used to be. Oh, I've done a couple of others since my last update two or so months ago but I haven't been fired up enough to show them off here. Maybe I'll circle back and post one or two, I just looked at them and they're not that terrible.

This one was drawn for the occasion of Apple becoming the first publicly traded company to hit the trillion dollar mark. I thumbnailed a few (silly) ideas, the editors picked this one, and I inked & colored it in Clip Studio Paint. Fun to do, of course, and it makes me want to do more. I should really try to get back into freelancing, but it's been a while and I'm busy at work, drained on my days off and generally feeling a bit mopey lately. 

Anyway. Positive energy coming soon. I just had a coffee! See? Better already...

Created with Clip Studio Paint for the Friday, August 3
edition of the Mercury News and East Bay Times


The Blame Game

I created this illustration for a Bay Area News Group online special report published on Sunday, April 8. The Bay Area housing crisis! The influx of people from far and wide coming for jobs in the high-tech industry! Real estate developers and City Hall at odds as to how to create more homes! Greedy landlords and tree-hugging environmentalists gumming up the works! Bay Area residents looking on helplessly and in horror as traffic gets worse and worse... and worse!

All those topics (and more!) have been herded into one story by ace business and real estate reporter Marisa Kendall, and you can read her excellent work right here! She's done a heckuva job and really touched a nerve with this effort.

Created in Illustrator. No Photoshop, no MangaStudio! Pure vector, which is so unlike me that friends may worry.

The webpage was arranged and designed by graphics chief, the great Pai Wei. I have another little explainer graphic set up like a slide-show about halfway down the page. It's a series of spot illustrations and all of the heavy lifting (meaning the writing) was also done by Marisa Kendall.

Hindsight afterword:

Ugh! There are a few of annoying tangents that I missed but otherwise, I'm pretty pleased with how it came out. There were so many iterations of this concept and design that I probably was a bit snowblind when the deadline arrived. "Huh? What? Yeah, I'm done. Here!Take it! Take it! I'm going home."

And I could have done better than just that gray-green color scheme for the board. I didn't want to make it too crazy colorful – and it was crazy colorful along the way – but, again, I was a bit burnt out and just waved it through.

Had a good time working on it, and as I said, I'm happy with it!

Tale of the Tape

Here is an illustration I created for the Mercury News a couple of weeks ago. Rather than try to explain what it's about, I'll just link to the special edition website with the whole story. It was written by Tracey Kaplan, an investigative reporter for the Merc and can be read here.

The great Pai Wei created the webpage.

Created in Photoshop.

It's a fab piece of journalism concerning a past incident of harassment and a possible cover-up by the Santa Clara County Sheriff. If you have any interest in such topics it's a great read, and – I almost never do this – I also recommend the comment section for a little extra spice.

Since this post is so light on detail about the creative process (not much time for it today) I'll show my rejected first effort here:

Drawn in Manga Studio and Photoshop
More art coming soon!

Vida Blue

More than just the name of a man, Vida Blue is a pleasant three syllable incantation that revives and resurrects early memories of watching baseball games with my father on a small black and white television. I was a seven-year-old baseball fan, and the early 1970s Oakland Athletics' cast of characters was a roll call of strange and catchy names: Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Blue Moon Odom, Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson.

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

I suppose Reggie Jackson might sound pedestrian compared to the others, but he was such a great character and such a great player that "Reggie" became a name of royalty, and achieved an other-worldly mythic resonance.

The A's were a big deal when I was in elementary school. World Series champs three years in a row, and Vida Blue was my favorite, probably because he threw lefty like me.

I've contributed illustrations to the annual baseball magazine several times – The Mercury News baseball season preview mag – but this is the first time I felt personally connected to the topic. I was given a choice of stories to illustrate, but the instant I heard "Vida Blue" it was settled. I didn't even want to know the hook of the story, I was in.

The story's hook, though, helped me figure out what to do. Vida Blue Hit the Big Leagues in 1969 with the A's and served two stints with the San Francisco Giants, ending his career wearing the orange and black in 1986. Seventeen years, he pitched. Six-time All-Star, American League MVP and Cy Young winner in '71; he was the youngest American League player to win the MVP in the 20th century.

I didn't have all of that off the top of my head; I had to look it up. But personally, although the stats back up my impressions of him – his greatness as a player cannot be doubted – it is the sound of his name and the pleasant memories of watching the A's broadcasts with Pop on Saturday afternoons that I remember.

Pop and Kerr in 2020

Made this silly little drawing for the Mercury News sports section. It ran in print and online today, March 8, 2018. You can read the excellent story – written by the excellent Melissa Rohlin – by purchasing an archaic (or "retro-cool") printed-on-paper newspaper facsimile of the Mercury News or The East Bay Times at your local newsstand or – if you have no idea what I'm talking about – just click this link here!

It's a nice story about a couple of famous sports figures who, by all accounts, are pretty good guys, too.

Drawn and colored in Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop.

Mariah's Story

This illustration ran with a story that was published on February 11th in the East Bay Times/Mercury News newspaper and website. Longtime colleagues Matthias Gafni and David DeBolt reported on this one, and they did a terrific job. You can read it online right here.

Open in a new window for a much larger image.

I worry when I'm tasked with creating illustrations for stories that are controversial or sad – it's too easy to offend; it's too easy to hit a bad note. I fear I might hurt the feelings of those who the story will impact if the people involved are victims of misfortune or tragedy, but there was no way out this time. The direction was suggested by the editors and after a teary reading of the first draft, the drawing began to take shape.

I found a picture of my daughter taken a couple of years ago when she was Mariah's age – there are so many of her on my phone – and used her body for reference. I drew a likeness of Mariah from the photos included with the story and merged it with the figure drawing. It was a sad process. I didn't like doing it at all.

The first pass of the drawing was initially in sepia and a bit of pink but, as you might imagine, it seemed awfully brown. I tried to find a way to bring in more color without softening the mood, and above is the final result. I'm glad it came out as rough and "unfinished" as it did and I'm pretty comfortable with its attitude. I'm happy with how it turned out, but looking at it does not make me happy.

I wasn't sure I was going to post this; it has been waiting in draft mode since, well, since a few days before publication. I didn't want to take the time to write about it. There's been too much bad news about little kids lately, but here it is. It's not comfortable but in light of the events of this week – more kids lost to gunfire in school – I thought I should show a little courage, a little courage for the kids that have been failed.

The end.

Messing Around With Moho

Here is a short animation I put together recently. I've been working on the character and the background during quiet moments; finally put them together and made them move and wiggle with Moho Pro 12 (formerly Anime Studio.)

I can't describe the joy I felt when – after days of frustration and study – I got the rigging and switch layers to work. Not an exciting animation I guess, but hey! Progress!

*      *      *      *

This is not a commercial, but:

Years ago I bought Anime Studio, eager to try animating on a computer. The learning curve was steep. I had no digital animation experience and no friends with a shared interest. That left me sitting alone, reading the pdf instruction booklets and trying to mimic written tutorials. YouTube had very few instructional videos at the time, and those I found weren't much help.

I managed to fight my way through the fog and put together a modest project or two – each one running about ten seconds – but there was a lot of trial and error. It was fun in the way that learning new things is always fun, but I burned way too much time trying to do more advanced things without being able to do the basic things consistently.

Recently I ran across the Udemy site, and they had a sale on Moho courses: "The complete rigging course – Moho & Anime Studio" by McCoy Buck, and "Anime Studio Pro 11 – A practical training course," credited to Simply edukator.*

They really did the trick for me.

I know, I know... there are dozens of tutorials on YouTube now, and most of the information is out there, but the structured courses nail the tips in place. When I (frequently) forgot how to flexi-bind or bind a switch-layer folder to a bone, it was easy to find my way back to the video that shows you how, and the videos are about 5 minutes a piece so it's not difficult to scrub through and find the relevant info. That's just one example; I was frequently baffled and forgetful, and I never had to thrash about blindly hoping to find the solution to what was vexing me.

And the courses cover a lot of topics you won't even know about if you're like me and your attention wanders while you read through the SmithMicro Moho 12 Tutorial manual. That is one tough manual for a newb.

McCoy Buck has put some chapters from his course on his YouTube channel so you can check out his teaching style there; the Udemy site also has some samples. Again, highly recommended!

*At the time I'm publishing this post, I don't know the name of the person teaching the "Anime Studio 11 Practical Training Course," but when I find out, I'll edit his name in here and provide links if he has something to link to.

There's a whopping ten hours of video on that course, and I haven't gotten through half of it yet, but it was a huge help. Skimming over it again, I see a lot of things that I will be referencing in the future.

The End For Now

Another Silly Animation

Short post:
Made a silly little animation using MOHO 12 for a story that ran on the Mercury News website by longtime colleague Jessica Yadegaran. It was fun to cartoon it and lots of fun to make it move around a bit.

Drawn in Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop.

Random Heads

Head sketches based on mugshots found on the innernetz. Used one those floppy brush pens that gush, dry out, gush, dry out. Hard to tell what you're going to get from beginning to end of each stroke. Great Fun! If that's your idea of fun. (I hate it.)

The End

Patio Sketch

Quick sketch on the patio early Saturday morn. Drawn in Clip Studio Paint on an iPadPro, puny size (get the big one if you want to draw on it; the small one is alright, but a bit frustrating) Took about 50 minutes. Stopped because it was COLD out there!

The End