Friday, December 23, 2011

Illustration Friday: Messenger

I honestly didn't think I'd get another image posted before Christmas but, when this week's Illustration Friday topic popped into my email inbox, I remember this little drawing I did a while back.  My wee gerbil messenger seems to have gotten herself lost, and I don't think that sign's going to help her.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Carrot carrying rats

Here's another picture of rats stealing food

because there just aren't enough of these creatures in the world...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Illustration Friday: Rat Brigade

I had already started inking this picture when the Illustration Friday email with this week's topic (brigade) arrived in my inbox.  That was good timing!

(Click to enlarge.)

It was intended to be a companion piece for last week's Illustration Friday "round" picture.  This one:

I have an idea for a third image to go with these.  One that would use the two characters in the image below

that I haven't used yet.  Spotted them?  They're the two on the left.  

Wouldn't it be nice if their picture wound up fitting next week's Illustration Friday topic...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

End Page of Treehouse Sketchbook Project

Here's the end page of my Sketchbook Project book:

It's not a very elaborate image on this spread because some of it will be covered by a pocket before the book goes into circulation.  I don't remember which side they put it on.  Now I have only to pack it up and mail it to the Art House Library in Brooklyn, NY.

If you're interested in seeing all the sketches I've done in this (SBP 2012) book and the one I did last year (SBP 2011), click here or on sketchbook project label in the right hand margin and scroll through the posts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This Year's Christmas Card

Just finished my Christmas card picture:

If you scroll through my old posts or look at the color portfolio on my website, you can find the village I decided to blanket in snow for this image. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens and watercolor on Arches 140 lb. hot press paper.

Now to order the cards...

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Last Illustration Friday Sketchbook Project Combo for the Year

This is the last full spread in my Sketchbook Project "Treehouse" book:

The contrasting designs of the two houses is inspired by this week's Illustration Friday topic "vanity."  Sorry, no prizes for figuring out who's meant to be vain in this picture, but if you can come up with a creative reason why it would be the guy in the tree on the left, I'd love to read your explanation in the comments.

One page (half a spread) left to go before this puppy gets mailed to Brooklyn.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Playing around with Photoshop

For well over a week, I have been busily working at my lessons in the Adobe Photoshop Classroom in a Book.  Today I decided to take a break from the proscribed lessons and play around with the book cover image I created a couple of weeks ago.  I tweaked colors and added borders and text.  Here is the result:

Please don't fall asleep.  At least it's an improvement over this:

But clearly I need to learn a few more things about graphic design and Adobe's tools for generating it.  I've ordered a few more books on the subject.  I've only used Photoshop so far. InDesign is bound to prove more helpful for layout and text matters.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Illustration Friday: Stripes

Here is "Stripes":

I am almost at the end of my Sketchbook Project book, so soon you should start seeing Illustration Friday images posted here that don't involve a treehouse.  It's been fun to combine the two exercises, but I'm about ready to move on to other themes...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Man's Treehouse is his Castle

There are only about five spreads left to fill in my Sketchbook Project book.  No rush to finish this year.

I've been doing a little less drawing these days as I spend more time familiarizing myself with my new Adobe Creative Suite 5.5.  I had an old version of the design software (Photoshop, Illustrator, and Pagemaker, purchased in 1999) that I barely touched.  But a lot of brilliant work has been generated in the newer versions lately, and it's made me want to master the medium.  It's going to take a lot of practice.  Starting with Photoshop, I'm orienting myself with Classroom in a Book.  I'm amazed at all the tools available.  I don't imagine I'll come anywhere near to using them all.  To begin with I'll probably just use Photoshop to tweak scanned illustrations. But once there's room in the budget for a tablet with a pressure sensitive stylus, I may see what it's like to generate images like the one above in digital form.

Of course, I will always have inky fingertips.  I love the tactile experience of generating art on the page too much to ever go strictly digital.

What about you?  Do you use digital tools when you create your art?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Illustration Friday: Scary!

Once again I have managed to combine the week's Illustration Friday theme with my Sketchbook Project "treehouse" topic.  Here is "scary":

This is the darkest I've drawn on the sketchbook pages, and I'm pleased to report no problems with bleed through.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

IF: Fuel

I'd hoped to get this up a couple of days ago, but - oh, well - things don't always come together as planned.  Here is my Illustration Friday answer to the theme "fuel," drawn in my treehouse-themed Sketchbook Project book:

Click on image to view it large enough to see the maple syrup dripping onto the pancakes. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Playing with pencil

So I've been attempting to enhance the cover image with colored pencils.  Hm.  I guess I'm done?

Here's the scan I made after I decided to stop fiddling around with it:

Interesting how different the colors look under the influence of the glaring light of the scanner.  I suppose I could tweak it some more with my new Photoshop CS 5 - after learning the software better.  I'll let the picture sit a spell while I take a shot at another mock cover, perhaps this time a retake of a published book.

But first, I'll take a crack at this week's Illustration Friday challenge ("fuel").  Once again I have an idea that will tie it in to my "treehouse" Sketchbook Project.  Look for the picture to appear on this blog sometime this weekend. I have an SCBWI conference to attend tomorrow, so you may not see it until Sunday night.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cover with inking

I've been inking and tweaking the lines on the cover for the past two evenings.  This is how it now looks:

I'm not quite satisfied.  I know I'm going to need to produce more mock covers for the portfolio, so I'm going to play around some more with this one without worrying about destroying it.  I think I'll see what kinds of effects I can get by adding some colored pencil.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cover progress

Yesterday I transferred the cover sketch to a watercolor block, lightly inked guidelines for the paint, and erased away the graphite. This morning I photocopied the image and tested color possibilities with colored pencil on the copy, which you can see on the far left of this photograph:

Then I began painting. As you can see, I did not put a whole lot of effort into clearing a workspace ahead of time:

I let the picture dry while I ate supper, then began picking out details with ink line. I think there is more to be done, but right now I'm afraid of overworking. I really need to take a break from looking at it. Tomorrow (after I get home from the day job) I'll see it with fresh eyes and perhaps be a better judge of what needs tweaking and what needs to be left alone.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book cover sketches

This weekend I started work on a cover illustration for my portfolio. In the interest of tying the task in with the middle grade novel I'm in the process of writing, I'm doing a front cover mock up based on it. This is the idea I sketched up first:

The scene is one I thought might make the most intriguing cover. The two girls are peeking in a neighbors window. The title is just a stand in. (I'm nowhere near choosing a final one.) I didn't quite like the way the figures are dwarfed by the title text. They also seem a little too stiff. The tree shape's not working for me either. After much struggle with pencil and eraser (I was covered with rubber crumbs by the end of the day yesterday) and a little inspiration from Ernest Shepard's Winnie the Pooh drawings, this is what I came up with:

I'm still not sure of the layout of the text and border, but I like the proportions in the picture. I think I'll go ahead and get to work on the illustration in watercolor and ink. Then when I have my new Adobe CS 5.5 (on its way!), I'll play around with the other elements.

Friday, October 14, 2011

IF: Scattered

Once again, this week's Illustration Friday theme has been easy to tie in with the "treehouse" theme of my Sketchbook Project book.  Given a heavy enough gust, leaves and treehouse inhabitants are "scattered" on the wind:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Two more for the Sketchbook Project

Here are two more spreads for my treehouse-themed Sketchbook Project book. This first one, a treehouse ferris wheel, didn't come out as well as I'd hoped.  The idea looks much better in my head.  I may need to revisit it later.

It seemed appropriate that one of my treehouses should be occupied by squirrels.  I decided to give this one a little bit of story:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Treehouse Contraption

Today's drawing kills two birds with one stone. It fills the next spread in my Sketchbook Project treehouse sketchbook, and it contains a contraption to fulfill this week's Illustration Friday challenge. These little tree people needed some way to move fruit from the apple tree to the pine tree (thus making them pineapples - you may all groan now).

As always, click on the image to view larger.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Christmas treehouse

After a couple of months of neglect, I have finally pulled my sketchbook project book out from under a pile of stuff, turned to a fresh page, and begun drawing again.  This one came to me as I was imagining what sort of treehouse you might find in an evergreen...

Click on image to enlarge.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Season, New Postcard, New Virus

Happy Autumn, Everyone!

So, Friday the 16th I chose the image for my next batch of postcards, and I ordered them online from moo. Then my throat started hurting. I swear it was at the exact moment I clicked to confirm the order. I've spent the better part of the past week popping ibuprofen and pseudo-ephedrine and forcing fluids. I started climbing out of the yuck on Thursday. Then yesterday my new postcards arrived in the mail.

I swear they appeared on the porch exactly seven days to the minute after I clicked to confirm the order.

I had planned to attend the National Book Festival today, but as it is threatening rain, and I am still not 100 percent better, I have decided to stay home.  Disappointing, but I have 60 postcards to prepare for mailing and some spot illustrations that need inking.  The spots are spec work I'm hoping to sell to a periodical.  You can see part of one image in the photograph above. See the penciled mouse on the sketchpad in the upper left corner?

On the writing front, I'm working on character backgrounds for a new early middle grade novel.  This is a project that  has grown out of the picture book dummy I created last winter.  The book seemed to want more story to it, so I'm letting it grow.  I have aged up the main character from about 5 or 6 to 10 years old.  I have a good idea of where I want to go with the plot, but earlier this week I was struggling with writing.  Literary agent Kristen Nelson's post on the subject of character development hit my blog reader at just the right time.  I need to discover more about my characters, their backgrounds, and their feelings about their circumstances and one another to know how they would act and speak in the scene.  So, more prep before writing.  But it's a happy-making task.  I am enjoying getting to know my cast.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Promo piece redone with wash

I decided to redo the cinema promotional picture from the previous post with different hair on the woman.  This one has a neutral gray wash. Click on image for a closer look.

I like this one better.

Now I'm eager to get on with creating images to go with the chapter book I'm writing.  More posts on that to come.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New promo materials

Here is a first stab at a new promo piece:

Click on the image to enlarge. Note the slick way I slipped my web address into the image.

I plan to work on a couple more ideas over the next week or two before I decide what to put on the next postcard. I want emphasize black and white work in this round of mailings. My self-imposed deadline for getting the next batch of postcards into the mail is the end of this month. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bookshelf Pics with Wash

Not a huge change, but an improvement I think.

Pic 1, before:

Pic 1, after:

Pic 2, before:

 Pic 2, after:

This blog was pretty quiet in August.  You may be wondering what else I have been up to.  Well, I recently wrapped up a round of revisions on a novel work in progress.  It is with a critiquer at the moment.  I have a new short story off on submission to a magazine and have just gotten another ready to submit as well.

In the drawing department, I've been sketching characters in preparation for my next promotional mailing. I want to get a batch of postcards in the mail by the end of the month, but I'm struggling with getting the characters to a level of dynamism that satisfies.  My people aren't quite interesting enough for the market I'd like to get into.  If you, dear blog reader, have used any resources - books, websites, blogs - that have helped you get your characters to the next level, please, please, please leave the names of them in the comments. Thank you!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Better with Wash

I finally got bold enough to add a neutral gray wash to a few pen-and-inks I drew earlier this summer.  Being  essentially a coward, I had to try first with a picture I wasn't particularly attached to. This is a quick piece I did in response to an Illustration Friday challenge:

And here it is after I've enriched it with the wash:

I don't know about you, but I see a massive improvement. I clearly need to quit being so precious and trust my hand more.

I was so pleased with the outcome I went right on to add washes to the two bookshelf pictures. Posts with their before and after images to follow...

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Companion Piece

I've finally got the companion piece to the bookshelf picture where I think I might actually like it. Click on image to enlarge.

I drew the pair of pictures with Copic Multiliner waterproof pens on Arches watercolor paper blocks. The pictures are still attached to the blocks and are sitting in plain sight on my drawing table. The more I look at them the more I am thinking of using a neutral gray wash to define the figure better and to play up some of the shadows. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bookshelf picture

Here's what I think is the final of the bookshelf picture. If I tried to do more to it at this point, I'd probably kill it.

As usual, click on the image for a closer look.

Next up, I plan to work on a companion piece to this one with the same characters in a different arrangement with a clearer view of the girl's face.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

What I'm working on...

I'm currently working to develop the black and white section of my portfolio. Here's a sketch I've been working on today. I'll work up the final image with pen and ink, possibly with a gray watercolor wash.

I'm also planning a companion piece that will show the girl's face better.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

IF: Midsummer Night

"Methought I was enamour'd of an ass."

As a huge Shakespeare fan, I couldn't read the Illustration Friday topic "Midsummer Night" and not think of the play "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Here is the scene where Titania wakes from the spell to discover that she has been making love to Bottom, a big oaf with a donkey head. Since the scene occurs at night, with lots of dark, I decided to try my hand at scratchboard again. It took longer than I expected, but perhaps I just need more practice with the medium. If you want to see a real master of scratchboard, go to

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Treehouse interior

For the next spread in my Sketchbook Project book, I decided to take a look at an interior room:

Click on image to view larger.

Friday, June 17, 2011

IF: Launch!

Here's a picture I did fairly recently that seems to fit this week's Illustration Friday "launch" theme as the cat is being launched out the door:

The picture is a scene I finished to accompany a dummy for a picture book I wrote. It's a story that, after discussing it with an art director, I now think might work better as part of a chapter book (for early elementary school age readers). I've been brainstorming ideas for expanding the story in my journal. This could be my next major writing project.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Another treehouse

Here's the third spread in my sketchbook project treehouse book. Click on image for a better view.

I draw these during the evening news. It makes listening to what's going on in the world a lot more fun.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shadows rough sketch

Before I did the mixed media version of my "Shadows," I worked out the composition in the pencil sketch below:

That sketch has been in an open sketchbook on my drawing table for the past few days. It has been catching my eye everytime I pass by. I kinda like the noir look of the black and white image.

I haven't been doing much sketching (okay, not any) since Saturday. I've been trying to write a short story, but it's not coming together very well yet. Perhaps I need to goof off to get the creative juices flowing better. Time to pull out the treehouse sketchbook again and play.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Illustration Friday: Shadows

For this week's Illustration Friday picture, I went with a mixed media approach.

That means I couldn't make up my mind. I started in pen-and-ink, but then thought the shadows would be better depicted in a wash. I used watercolor for that, but only for that. In order to get my witness character to show up a bit more in the dark, I brought her out with colored pencil. I also used some warm yellow colored pencil to set off the cold shadow drama.

I may try more mixed media work in future. I kinda like it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Treehouse Sketchbook Spread #2

I spent a fair chunk of my holiday playing with my Sketchbook Project book and exploring the treehouse theme. Here's another spread. Click on the image for a larger view.

I chose to go with a more ordinary backyard treehouse because I wanted to get in some practice drawing kids. Then I decided to add a cat. (I thought of drawing a dog, but that didn't seem quite right up in a tree.) Then I added the squirrel to amuse the cat. The bird in the nest (another form of treehouse) at the top was an afterthought.

Friday, May 27, 2011

IF: Asleep

This week's Illustration Friday theme "asleep" fits with this pen-and-ink and watercolor piece I did two and a half years ago for a now defunct blog:

The blog was a short-lived project I called "Rat Manor." It was to be a journal of my days (what was really going on) as observed by rats that live behind the walls in my house (that part was fiction -- I hope). This character's name was "Cob."

It was an ambitious project. Too ambitious. I had developed several rat and mouse characters and tensions between them. I had intended to illustrate each post. It took away time from all other creative projects. My novels were gathering dust. And, as to writing about what was really going on in my life, the rats were getting awfully close to narrating scenes of me trying to come up with the next illustrated blog post. Still, it gave me a lot of material. I suppose someday, these rodents may end up in a story of their own.

Happy Holidays 2020

Here's the winter holiday card image for 2020. This is my first holiday card created entirely in Procreate on my new iPad Pro.  I had so...