Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fox & Phoenix Cover

Well, after an extremely busy few months I'm really excited about this post - a cover for a brilliant young adult novel titled "Fox & Phoenix" by Beth Bernobich.


I was approached by Jim Hoover, an art director at Viking Press who thought I'd be a great fit to illustrate this southeast asian inspired world where the people have spirit animal familiars and the technology is powered by magic flux.

The concept was to have the two main characters and their familiars entering a bustling city filled with people, lights and magic and being a bit overwhelmed by it all. I put the characters into a dark, narrow alley that almost feels like it's going to close in on them, played up their distinct personalities and brought the city to life with lots of atmosphere and bright neon signs.

I really enjoyed getting my head into this world and bringing it to life and working with Jim was a real pleasure. This was a super fun and rewarding project from start to finish and I'm really happy with the result. It's scheduled for a Fall 2011 release and I can't wait to see it on the shelves!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gallery Page Added

Hey hey...I've been crazy busy at work for over a month, so I haven't been able to finish any personal work lately. I did, however, put a selection of my finished work from 2007 to present into a Gallery page. I've been adding alot more work-in-progress stuff and sketches lately, and it's bogged down the blog a bit for anyone who'd like to get right to the goods, so now it's all in one place, HERE.
You can also access the Gallery by clicking the Gallery Link in the top right corner of the home page.

This image is an old one that got tweaked a bit before I submitted it to Spectrum. Turns out it's the one they chose to publish in Spectrum 17.


Friday, April 23, 2010

White Widow

For some reason, "White Widow" got in my head, so I did a sketch inspired by it over a couple nights this week. I may take it further, but would probably end up liking the rough better as usual, so we'll see...


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Finished Up...

Spent the weekend finishing up and tweaking a few pieces.

Hard to know when to call this one finished... it's a bit minimal in tone so I didn't want to overwork/ overtighten.


I put this one away a little too early to feel good about it for long... now I think I've done all I can do with it.


I was okay with where this was at, but while I was in the finalizing mindset a gave it another hour or two to fix a couple things that were bugging me.


click the thumbs for a larger image from Flickr. That's all for now...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

News and Art...

Happy to say I'll have some worked featured again in Spectrum 17. Not sure which piece or pieces yet... I submitted 3 images this year. Can't wait to see what made it in.

I've been finishing up this image for the last week or so. I had tried this idea out last year with some pretty mixed results... mixed meaning, well.. kinda shitty and here's another attempt.


A little something I wanted to make note of involving the process on this one...

When I sat down to draw this, I grabbed a blank sheet to scribble on a bit to warm up my hand. What I ended up doing on it was blind contour drawings of the reference I'd printed out. I just focused on the contours in the ref and felt them out on the paper getting a feel for the rythm and flow. It ended up being a really enjoyable exercise and I think it'll become a regular thing. I loved the feeling of just putting down the lines without getting all tight and overworking them.


When I'm warmed up for the real drawing, I've absorbed the contours and have the reference images more in my head - my lines are then more likely to keep some of that looseness. I'd recently read Itten's Design and Form and thought his thoughts on warming up and preparing for work were gold.

From Johannes Itten's "Design and Form"

"My first morning periods in class begin with relaxation-, breathing-, and concentration exercises to establish the intellectual and physical readiness which make intensive work possiblee. The training of the body as an instrument of the mind is of great importance to a creative person. How can a hand express a characteristic feeling in a line,when the hand and arm are cramped..."

There's a few other real pearls in there too. I found his Art Of Colour to be a worthwhile read as well.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Solace progress

Yesterday I worked up a thumbnail posted a bit earlier. I really tried not to overtighten and to maintain the value relationships...


click the thumb for a bigger size...

And I did up this thumbnail...another angle of the "Well" thumb - also posted earlier. Glad I experimented in the thumbnail stage for this one. If I'd gone ahead with my first thumb, I would have ended up with another passive compostion/boring angle. Funny how I'm such a passive observer in life and how that translates to how I compose least until I finally break the habit of framing a scene like I'm just documenting it.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Character Sketch

So this is a sketch for another character from my wife's novel-in-progress. I think this guy is going to take some further development before I really get to know the character. Inspiration so far is a rouge-ish young guy... a rebellious, anti establishment type who's also a bit of an inventor/ engineer. There's a bit of victorian and turn of the century wild west influence going into the costuming, and he rides a cool vintage motorbike, too. Speaking of the bike, this is a painted over design from a 3d model I blocked into the scene. I've changed the design a bit to resemble a modern made, but vintage styled bobber.


...I tweaked this later in the day and refreshed it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Carry On...

Well this turned out a bit awkward all around, but whatever...I'm pretty much done with it. I dropped the overall saturation - except for on the bird to pop it out a bit. I also changed the lighting a bit to cast it up on the baggage and the dude's face more - those things both helped it out.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

More Thumbs and Progress...

Here's a couple colour thumbs from the last week. The one withthe tree shows how great these are for idea development, as I think it improves on the previous version in a few ways... more story, more interesting mood, more compelling.


This one came out of some interesting ref. I like the small hits of light.


and here's the progress on this one. It's just about there...


That's all for now. I hope to wrap the last one up this weekend, and I've got a few more pencil thumbnails that I'd like to throw colour on... just need to find the time.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Some Progress

Just been working this one up for the last few days...


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Thumbnails and Sketches

Here's a few more thumbnails and sketches from the last week or so. I'm definitely seeing the value of these in terms of evaluating whether or not a composition is going to work. I've always enjoyed experimenting with these, but now I think it's getting to be a must-do stage of my process.


experiment with the comp...


Here's one from pencil thumb through a more worked up stage...




Here I've printed out the photoshop sketched lines and cleaned them up in pencil on heavy watercolour paper, then scanned and added them back in. With the value blocked in, I'm better able to see how the drawing needs to be, rather than going to far too early and needing to change it midway through the colour stage. The pencil and paper texture is subtle, especially at this size, but I think it adds a certain something.


And another.. this one will stay in greyscale for the final. This has been worked up from a previous thumb... you might be able to see that I've comped in a 3d model of the motorcycle to help with the structure. It'll get all tweaked and painted over for the final... just need a little help with all that complex machinery and perspective.


Last but not least, a character sketch for a project, this has been pulled back from a version that I went too far with and overtightened... I'm slowly learning the value of staying loose... still have to force myself to do it.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Here's one of the sketches from last post that I worked up. I tried to keep it loose overall and only tighten up a bit more in the focal areas.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Colour Thumbnails

This week I've been drawing loose thumbnails sketches and then doing quick colour and/or value passes on them in Photoshop. It's a good, fast way to see if compositions or ideas are going to work before I go ahead with them. If the thumbnail doesn't read or look good, it's likely a bigger version won't either.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gorilla Artfare's Second Birthday

I'm lucky to be a member of a really great artist collective by the name of Gorilla Artfare. It's an amazingly talented group of artists. January 24rd was the second anniversary of our blog and we all decided to celebrate by riffing on another Gorillas work. The pairings were done at random, and I was lucky to get Sergio Lopez - aka Main Loop. I thought his series of Hip Hop portrait paintings were really inspiring, so I did my own take on this one. I would have liked to give it a little more attention, but as usual I've been busy with lots of little things cropping up to eat away at my personal time. Anyway, I had alot of fun with it, despite being a bit rushed. Here it is...


Cody Tilson covered my Wolf Girl piece - I was really stoked to see what he did with it. On the 24th, there was a huge post on the GA blog with all the pieces - and all the work was incredible and inspiring, check it out!

Thanks go out to all the Gorillas for the insight and inspiration they've shared with me over the years, and a special thanks to Victoria Maderna for organizing the 2nd b-day event.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Neon Dragon Final

So here's the final version of the Neon Dragon piece I've been chipping away at for the last month or so. It actually turned out to be much more of a learning process for me than I had planned, and the piece really benefitted from getting workshopped a bit. During the process I got some great input that helped me make up for some poor planning the piece suffered from in the early stages and highlighted some areas I need to focus on to push my work forward. It showed some promise as far as process and technique goes as well. There's more on that after the image, which will link you to my Flickr account where there's a larger size as well...


Back in December when I started it, I began thinking about major areas in my work and process that I'd like to work on for the coming year, I've been meaning to make note of them for a while and now that this is done, it's a great example of what is working and what isn't for me right now.

So here's a sort of manifesto/ art resolution for me going forward.

1 - Theme.
I need to always clearly establish a theme for any given piece I start...even for fun, personal work. My personal work in particular has often started with an image in mind, and gone from there, working in or just hinting at theme as I go. Instead I need to sort out exactly what my theme is first, or right after my initial thumbnail or idea, and then decide how I want the piece to communicate that. This should help keep the work focused and cohesive, as well as help make decisions for everything from composition, colour and design details to gesture and expression. It's what will make work compelling, rather than just an interesting image.

2 - Reference
In the last year or so I've really learned alot about how important good reference is, and I've loosened up a bit about how much I use and how necessary it is - even for less realistic work. Getting the right reference for a piece and using it without being a slave to it is key. I've been shooting my own for a while now and it's helped tremendously. I need to carry on with that and take it further - really spend the time to get what I need to serve the piece, not make the piece according to the reference that I have available. That means getting the right acting, costuming and lighting. I'm hoping this will help with some anatomy issues that seem to continually creep in to my stuff, I need to know how poses look in reality before I tweak them. Lighting and details in reference will also help to push my work into a more immersive, compelling reality of it's own.

3 - Posing and Expression
This ties in with the Theme and Reference points but deserves mention on it's own as it's really important. Once theme is established, the first thing I need to do is decide what my characters are communicating, and how to express that through gesture and expression. If I have characters interacting, I need to make sure they actually look like they're interacting, and compose the piece accordingly. This means making decisions and not trying to show too much sometimes - which is what I didn't do early on in the Dragon piece and it was a major setback.

4 - Tones
I've been starting to become more aware of tones and the relationship between tones. I've read from some really impressive artists that tones and tonal relationships are really important in creating realism. Using more reference and doing some studies will help with this.

5 - Saturation
I do like working with bright, vivid colours, but that can lead to over saturating the entire image sometimes. With more attention paid to contrasts of extension and balance in my colour work I can have areas of colour pop out more and the piece can be more realistic and dynamic. Working up from desaturated backgrounds to the foreground and hitting areas of interest with the highest levels of saturation and contrast will help.

6 - Perspective/Compostion
This goes along with not making decisions and trying to show too much - I sometimes end up defaulting to safe angles and compositions. With theme established, I need to decide who or what the primary subject is and choose an angle and compostion that best communicates that - in a way that is fitting with the mood of the piece, be it dramatic, static, dynamic, etc.

7 - Texture and Materials
Also tying in with reference, paying more attention to rendering texture and materials will help make my stuff more plausible and immersive. Really paying attention to how highlights break up and falloff is key. I'm not happy with my mark making as well. The right brushes and materials will help, but it's probably also just something I'm going to develop over time as I work at it. Like anything, the more experienced, comfortable and confident you are at something, the more style and expression can come through.

I think that's all I have on my mind for now - it's plenty to work on. Hopefully by taking the time to write all this out, It'll be more firmly established in my mind, and I'll refer back to this to remind myself once in a while.

Thanks for looking...


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dragon - Settling on values and hues

Okay so here's another minor update. I've just been tweaking hue, value and saturation levels on this for the last day or so... trying to get everything balanced nicely before I flatten it out and start the final rendering and details.
It's been tough trying to get the neon to look convincing but not too blown out.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Dragon Progress

Well the holidays are over, but this piece still isn't done. I didn't get as much art time as I would have liked over my 2 week break, but that's often the case during a holiday. So I've lost a bit of momentum on this, but I'm hoping to get back into it this week and get it done asap.

I've recomposed the background and dutched the angle a bit for a more dynamic shot, and I've started to render the girl character a bit more as well. I'm close to flattening it and doing the final painting pass, but first it needs a few more lighting adjustments.