Images From Around this Blog!

15 October 2015

Fear is the Mind Killer! - Dune Poster at Patreon

Recently completed and newly added to my Patreon feed, here's my tribute to Frank Herbert's "Dune" series of novels.  I can't believe it took me this long to get around to reading these books, but now that I have, I finally recognize what great works they are.  The first novel deserves its place as a masterpiece of science fiction, and the following novels are, for me, the kind of world building I like to see around a story of such scale.  This is the kind of approach that films such as Star Wars and Star Trek (and to a lesser degree the Marvel Cinematic Universe) have the potential to develop.

Core to the Dune series, and for me an important theme of the first novel, is the idea of overcoming fear through an effort of self-determination, as represented by the Bene Gesserit creed.  It was that idea that inspired this piece, a strong visual image of a single person against the vastness of the desert.  It is, I think, a subtle depiction of the kind of heroism I find echoed by many of my favorite authors - Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ayn Rand, and now Frank Herbert.

As this is not an officially licensed work, I cannot make it commercially available, but a limited selection of prints will be available to my Patreon supporters.  You can find the link in the sidebar.

Click the image to see it at a larger size.

08 September 2015

I'm Patreon-izing this Establishment!

After much dithering on the idea, I've finally decided to open a Patreon account

For those not familiar with the service, it's a way to support your favorite creators by making repeating or one time donations and receiving rewards for doing so.  It's a great way to keep creators creating, and earn some fantastic art in return.  From where I stand, it's a win/win situation.

In my case, I've set up my account on a subscription basis, with several different levels of support.  The rewards differ based on the subscription amount, starting with access to the private Patreon feed, and going (so far) up to delivery of actual physical prints of new art.  There will be more levels to come, depending on response, but I want to see how the very basic levels do first.

Patreon also lets creators define goals that their supporters can help them reach.  Right now, I've only got one goal, and that's to give up my other side gigs to concentrate my studio time on producing work to share with my supporters.  I have goals in mind, but they will depend on if and when I reach that first goal.  That's really up to you.

The idea behind Patreon is that the creator has to really get out there and sell their work.  I'm not much of a huckster, but I'm going to give it my best shot and see what happens.  Please do me a favor and check out my Patreon page and see what's happening over there.  Even better if you could sign up and help support the artist, even if it's just a buck a month.  I promise to do my level best to make it worth your while....

14 August 2015

Now Available: The Journals of Simon Pariah #2

Reposeted from the AIM Comics blog, because I can...

"The Journals of Simon Pariah" #2 is available today in print from Amazon and in digital form from DriveThru Comics!
This issue is set in Scotland in the early 17th Century, as Simon has an encounter with ancient forces in the person of a strange red-haired woman and the powers at her command.  Simon Pariah must stand in the teeth of the wind and face "The Hounds of the Forest"!

This story is one of the original stories run at the old Comic Genesis website, wrapped in a redrawn cover and slightly edited for this version, along with a bibliography (!) and several pages of sketches and notes from the development of the story.  
 It was partly inspired by the film "Braveheart" and the legend of William Wallace, and partly from a dream told to me by a friend of mine, who did double duty as the inspiration for the female lead in the story.
It's weird, it's fantastic and it's Simon Pariah all the way!  Check it out today! 

04 August 2015

New Work Published: Angelina and the Egg! by David and Faith Brzezinski

Well, sort of new work.  I took a back seat on this one, working mainly as the book's designer.  David Brzezinski wrote the story and his talented daughter, Faith Brzezinski, provided the illustrations.  I (along with some help from assistant art monkey Cameron) added a few photographic elements to help unify the pictures and words, chose the fonts and generally tweaked the layout of the thing.
From the book's description on Amazon:

"Angelina is a dragon. There is a new egg in her house. A new egg means a new sister. Well, it should mean a new sister. What if it doesn't? What if the new egg isn't all it's cracked up to be?

I think the book will be a treat for younger readers, and I say that not just because of the role I had in it.  The intent of the design was to create the illusion that the pages of the book were actually created by the main character, and so the photos you see are actually photos from within that dragon's world.  Take a look at it and you'll see what I mean.  
The story itself is fun and entertaining, and will make a great bedtime or classroom story for any kid, but especially those who might have a sibling on the way.


 I've worked with David before and always enjoyed the experience and this time was no exception.  Check out the book for yourself, support a young artist, and be sure to let them know what you think!

25 June 2015

Of a Wedding and a Return to Acrylics

Recently, I was commissioned to do an acrylic piece for my nephew's wedding.  I had done a piece for him when he was born, and this would make a nice companion piece.
This was a definite departure for me, in that the subject was worlds away from the fantasy/horror/comic and character design work I've been doing for the past few years, and more so because it's been at least a decade since I've done any actual painting.  My workflow has become almost entirely digital, and producing a finished product using more traditional materials was challenging and somewhat daunting.
Nevertheless, I invested in a good set of Liquitex paints and gave it my best shot.  The images that follow (shot rather poorly, I admit, with the camera on my Nexus 4; I'm an illustrator, not a photographer) are the results.

As always, we start with a sketch.  In this case, time was a consideration, so the sketch was done at the final size of 16 x 20 so that it could be worked up into a final line drawing and transferred to the board.

In thinking about this piece, I was inspired by the work of Amy Crehore, who seems to do some fantastic things with wood, so I decided to try working on a wood panel.  This turned out to be a good decision.  I tend to work my acrylics a LOT, and after a while, even the best illustration board gives up little bits of fibre that roll inseparably into the paint.  Meanwhile, canvas does not excite me, as I don't like the way the paint tends to settle into the valleys in the material; I like more control over my color.
At this point, able-bodied art assistant Cameron came in to apply several layers of gesso to the board to smooth out its surface.  After much priming and sanding, he also transferred the drawing to the board and did the underpainting (which I shamefacedly forgot to photograph).  I knew I was going to lean towards a blue-oriented palette for this painting, so I had the underpainting done in a dark green.  From there, I started laying down some paint. Here you can see the basic design and palette that I'll be carrying through the painting.

One of my problems with working in paint is that I tend to get bogged down in the details very quickly, and it takes me much longer than it should to finish a piece.  I knew I couldn't do that with this one, so I tried a different approach, drawing on lessons learned from my digital workflow.  Rather than start with my usual right to left, finishing an inch at a time method, I did the painting in layers, adding slightly more detail with each layer, working from back to front, with the intention of ending with the smallest details.

The mountain range turned out to be quite a challenge for me.  It was based largely on a tattoo design that had special significance, and I wanted to retain features of that design while adding more realism.  Working from dark to light, ending with white highlights and a sunrise on the left, I eventually achieved something close to what I was aiming for.

More details, with highlights added to the water and more features added to the plants.  The plant on the left is the dogwood of British Columbia, and the one on the right is the pitcher plant of Newfoundland, reflecting the bride and groom's heritage.

Another layer of detail brings out the features of the dogs and adds the fishing boats in the middle distance.  The boats represent the parents and grandparents of the couple, some of whom have passed on recently.

A lot more detail in this pass, bringing out the sunlight more and more features of the dogs. I should point out that at this stage, I'm mixing everything.  I don't use color straight from the tube often in painting, as unmixed colors tend to be overpowering.  Even the white of the dress sleeve has a small amount of blue mixed in.

In the final pass, I add final highlights with some unmixed white. And so on, until, finally, we're done, with about two days to spare.  My poor photography does not really do the colors justice.  I've always liked both the color and texture of Liquitex paints. My only complaint about this set was that the Burnt Umber had nearly no emulsion in it, and was just a tube of clay.  I had to improvise around it in the skin tones using sienna and pthalho orange.  
There's lots that I like about the final piece, but as always, there's lots I don't like as well.  I'm still not completely happy with the mountains, and the dog on the left ended up a little too large, amongst other things.  However, a hard deadline meant I did not have time to work this piece any more, so a splash of fixative and some wrapping and it's out the door.
The piece seems to have been well received, so I guess in the end it's all good.  The takeaway for me was that I kind of miss working in acrylic and should spend more time on it, as time allows.  Also, I really enjoyed working on a wood panel, and will definitely return to that.

Some final detail shots of the painting.  I took a bit of symbolist approach, so everything in it is meant to be in some way significant to the people involved.

As always, I'm happy to read or hear what you have to say about the work.  I've got no illusions about my talent in this area, so feel free to be critical in the comments, or in email, or by hitting me up on Facebook.

25 February 2015

A is A, and I am I

I have a new print available in my Society 6 store, taken from Chapter 11 of Ayn Rand's novel "Anthem".  Anyone who knows me knows that I'm inordinately fond of Rand's philosophy, and a lot of it is summed up nicely in this short sample.  Now you can also proclaim your intellectual liberty with an eye-catching print, t-shirt, or what-have-you from the Society 6 store.  Take a look, and be sure to tell me what you think!

20 January 2015

Brain Dead: A Work in Process

Recently, I was hired to create a poster for an upcoming tour by the thrash bands Brain Dead and Madrost.  I thought it would be fun for me, and possibly instructional for some, to show the steps I took to making the final image for what turned out to be a kickass piece of work.  Enjoy.

Preparatory notes:  I have a little bit of history with Brain Dead, having designed the art for their demo CD and their first studio album, and had created a mascot of sorts for them that they wanted to use on the poster.  I had no direct contact with Madrost for this project, but they had a mascot of their own that needed to share prominent space on the poster.  The notes I was given for the poster indicated that they wanted something that showed the two main figures doing violent things to the audience at a thrash metal concert.  From that, I got the idea that they would be brutalizing the crowd, but that the crowd was loving it, kind of the way a good metal concert will tear up your eardrums (at the least!), but is more enjoyable the more it does so.  The band liked the idea, so off to the drawing board I went!

At this stage, I really just wanted to nail down the concept and composition of the piece and make sure the major elements got enough room.  I was also asked to leave some room at top and bottom for text placement, so I avoided putting any important details in those areas.
Just for a personal touch, I looked up some photos of the members of Brain Dead and sketched them into the drawing.  I may have hidden a small self-portrait in there as well, but I ain't telling!

As I've mentioned here before, most of my ink work these days is done on a tablet PC.  I met cartoonist Mark Oakley a few years ago and he let me play with his Toshiba Portege, and I've been a tablet convert ever since.  I'm currently working on a Fujitsu Lifebook T5010, and it's the best art tool I've ever bought.  If there ever comes a day I can't get a tablet PC with pressure sensitive pen input, I think I'll be lost.
For this, I scanned the pencils in pieces using a nifty little hand scanner I found a while ago, and stiched the whole thing together.  Then I opened the piece in Sketchbook Pro and a couple of my favorite custom brushes to ink the piece.
When I'm working on a project like this, I'm always aware of where my influences are coming from, and they're always coming from somewhere.  Working on a piece like this, the work of Derek Riggs on Iron Maiden's album covers can't help coming to mind, but I was also aware of bringing in a little influence from such odd characters as Drew Friedman and Robert Crumb.  That's the kind of odd paths my mind takes at times.  Plus, if you'll take a close look at those clouds in the background, you'll see I've been toying with the style of Nico De Lort a little; his work has just been blowing me away lately.
Clearly, I tightened things up a lot here, and I must confess to one little cheat:  the buildings on either side in the background were photographs that were corrected for perspective, then converted to black and white using the Threshold tool and Gaussian Blur filter in Photoshop.  It saved me some time and gave me the raw kind of look I wanted for those areas.

Here, the color work begins.  For this I switch over to Photoshop, and follow a very comic book style process.  My first task here is to do flat colors for the whole piece.  This lets me get the overall color scheme in place and figure out where I need to balance or adjust colors.
I knew that the bands were going to want to add some text at the bottom, so I made the crowd nearly monochrome to create a good contrasting background for anything they might drop in there.  You can see that I'm leaning towards primary colors here to give the final image more impact, with just enough variation to allow me to establish depth and make the central figures pop.

Next, I add another layer set to multiply and brush in some shadows using a bluish shade of grey.  I realize a lot of colorists use channels for this sort of thing, as using layers increases file size significantly, but I'm more comfortable using layers, and my PC has plenty of RAM, so if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?
Somewhere in there, I added the "Brain Dead" logo (also my design) to the band mascot's hat.  In earlier images, the hat says "Thrash", but we've changed it for this version for a bit of brand recognition.
Now we finally start to get some depth to the figures, even the monochrome ones, and this thing is starting to come together.
On top of that, I add yet another layer set to Lighten, and add some highlights.  Using the extra layer like this lets me adjust the intensity of the highlights much easier than if I were to paint them right onto the flat color.
Now this thing's getting much more life, and getting much closer to done.  Time for a few special effects.

For this (nearly) final stage, I added three special effects, one of which is very subtle.  First, the glow from the stage lights was created using the lasso tool and a gradient fill on a layer set to Screen mode.  Then, I selected the area around the trailing edge of the discs the robot creature is throwing, did a "Copy/Merged" in Photoshop, pasted the copied area as a new layer and ran a Motion Blur filter on the layer to add a slight sense of motion to the discs. 
Finally, I pulled a little trick that's sort of the artistic equivalent of backwards masking in music.  I found a large, good quality scan of Bruegel's "The Triumph of Death" and pasted it over the background layers (everything except the figures).  This is very subtle, but it lends a little bit of texture to the background plus it lends a little symbolist depth to the whole piece.  It's probably difficult to see at all in the online version.  If you happen to see a good print of this, look in the lighted areas of the background, especially right around the spotlights, and you'll catch a bit of it.  This is not the first time I've used this technique, but in prior attempts it was a little more obvious.

As I did not have to add the text areas myself, I guess we're done now, right?  Wrong.
Since this was going to be printed up for offline distribution, I wanted to be sure the colors would register properly and that the printed product would look good, so I had a test print done locally before sending it off.  In so doing, I found out that the Brain Dead character was turning out WAY too pink, and that the red tones overall were just way off.  So, I took it back to Photoshop for some color adjustments and tried it again.
 NOW we're done!  This final version doesn't come across quite as vibrant online, but it prints a whole lot better.  This is the one that shipped off to the band to add the final text to promote their tour.
And here's the poster with all the added text.  If you're in L.A., keep an eye out for this thing around town, and be sure to check out Brain Dead and Madrost when they roll through in May!