Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reference for Cars

Today I find myself looking through tons of photos of cars trying to find the perfect match for my new book. After some time searching I discovered some great websites that actually sell cheap die cast models of cars. I know this tid bit of info will be extremely helpful later down the road with other projects and with this one. Typically I will be forced to work from photos for most everything I illustrate. Often for more complex objects and characters I have to make models in order to see how the light falls across forms. However I knew there would be no easy way to create my own model of a car from scratch so buying a diecast model should be the perfect solution. Mainly I want to share a couple of links for that as I'm sure others will eventually be faced with a simialr problem.

Secondly I didscovered some amazing diecast models of much older cars like this fire truck which would be a lot harder to go see in person. Buying a diecast could be the solution to doing historical paintings of rare cars. I could even see these older model cars being a great starting point or inspiration for creating futuristic car designs. The older cars have way more class and style than all the new stuff they are coming out with. One link to cheap die cast cars is

there are plenty of websites I found that sell these sorts of things but this is one of the best I found so far. Secondly I found a great website with links to paper models of objects including things like cars, buildings, insects etc. One of the cooler ones I found was this hornet model. You can go on there and download the whole thing, cut it out and glue it together. The link,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Free Andrew Loomis Books!!!

If you're an illustrator and haven't heard of Andrew Loomis then you will certainly be glad you stopped by this blog. I grew up in a home that was pretty much illiterate (or maybe that should be ill-art-erate) when it comes to art. My exposure to art was my older sisters traced drawings of cartoon characters. I was lucky to have a grandfather who loved art at my age and actually has a HUGE Norman Rockwell collection which he loved to show us whenever we stopped by for a visit. Since art college he has even opened me up to a whole world of his art he created for a mail-art instruction school he participated in at my age. In my senior year of high school I was one of two people in my whole art class who had a hard time passing an art history test my teacher gave us. As I left for college all I knew is that I loved making art and I wasn't too bad at it either.
Unfortunately my poor knowledge of art history persisted throughout most of my art college experience despite the required art history courses for which I actually bought and read the huge text books for. I just couldn't grasp the stuff. However I eventually got tiered of not having an answer to the question that would continually pop up the more I progressed in my art. First people would ask what college I go to or what I do for a living and when I told them I'm an artist they immediately ask who my favorite artists are. For the longest time the only name I had to throw at them was Norman Rockwell. Sure I knew of Picasso, Monet, Gauguin, Michelangelo, etc. etc. and I grew up on Bob Ross and some dude who drew cartoon characters on tv, but I was never really really inspired by any of them. Not initially anyway.
The point I'm trying to make is that I finally broke this bad habit and came across some spectacular artists who i admire and learn from on a regular basis. Without these influences I don't feel i would have been able to pursue my art in the way I have, creating children's books, commissioned paintings, logos etc. So my hope in writing this is that one young artist who may be in a similar situation would start the whole process early. Look at tons of art and find out who is your favorite. Then buy their books, read their blogs, watch their videos, learn from them. Soon I hope to have the time to post a list of artists who I look to for inspiration and guidance whenever I'm faced with challenges. For now I Just want to open your eyes to one artist in particular as he has taught many of the greatest illustrators with his books. That is Andrew Loomis. Unfortunately his books are out of print but luckily I found them for free in PDF form here . So go download them and start reading! More artists and great resources to come.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Weird mediums

Weird mediums
This is a blog post I have been meaning to write for a while now. I just haven’t been able to find the time. Since I still have not time I’m just going to post a bunch of photos and links from various artists using weird mediums to create art and not say much about each one. Some of these artists have really done some terrific art and it’s worth the time to go check out more of their work.
For some great painted hand art and optical illusions check out

Won Park makes some amazing money origami.

Scott Wade makes art using dirt smudged around on the back windshield of cars. This is just one sample of his. Check out more at

A guy on youtube by the screen name of Eclecticasylumart makes are with his food. One sample below shows an image draw with his fingers and BBQ sauce. It’s way more impressive when you watch him make the art before your eye so go check it out. HE uses other food too!
Eric Daigh was recently featured on the morning news for his pushpin art. Initially I found this to be pretty darn cool but then they showed his process and it kind of ruined it for me since he takes a photo and breaks it into pixels which he follows as a guide to place the pushpins. So I think I’ll stick with monet and van Gogh .
Nathan Sawaya sculpts with legos. You may have seen his art on the news as well as he was featured a couple of times over the past two years.
Liu Bolin is known as the invisible man. He actually paints on his clothing and face to match whatever is behind him then spends hours getting a photo of him in just the right position to make himself blend into the background. One sample below, can you find him? Check out
Julian Beever uses chalk and concrete for his creations. At least two people have sent me a link to his site so far so I figure he needs to be included in this post. Below is one sample but you deff. Don’t want to miss out on the rest so check out
Eric Grohe does murals as well but uses brick Walls for his canvas.
And of course Edgar Mueller. (ice)

I plan to do separate blog posts on Sand castles, snow sculptures and Pumpkin carving when I find the time later down the road.

Pumkin Carving

Last year I entered the Pumpkin Masters Carving Competition for the first time and surprised myself by winning second place in the faces category. I did a bunch of research on pumpkin carving techniques and set to work. That process produced "Enchanted Lady" pictured below.

So this year I couldn't pass up the opportunity to give it another go. I had to revisit some articles on carving techniques and discovered one sentence which changed my whole approach. One of the articles said something about how small details should be carved by taking away the skin and some pumpkin flesh but not carving all the way through. It also spoke of carving away a bunch of pumpkin from inside out to make the pumpkin walls thicker. This is common knowledge for anyone who does this on a regular basis but for me it was a revelation of sorts. Last years carving was the first I had done since childhood and I had always just assumed that carving all the way through was the way to go. Carving away the skin was almost like doing Scratch art. I also decided to work with a clamp light bulb on an extension cord placed inside the pumpkin while I carved so I knew exactly how much to carve away. I wouldn't advise this for young children or anything as the bulb gets hot but it was a ton of fun for me. Below is my carving for this year. The voting won't be for another month or so.

Every good carving needs a good stating place and this competition requires you send a copy of original carving design. SO below is my design. I never would have even considered drawing such tiny detail work if I had thought I would need to carve all the way through the pumpkin. I projected this design onto the pumpkin surface with an art projector I use for my illustrations, then drew it with a permanent pen that I tested before to be sure it wouldn't rub off when the pumpkin got wet pulp on it.

Fun fact: For some reason I seem to misspell the same words over and over again even when I know the correct spelling. "Pumpkin" is one of those words as I tend to spell it "pumkin". Every time you see that word in this post it was spelled wrong until iwent back to correct it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Getting the Perfect Reference for Tricky Perspectives

If you've ever had to illustrate objects or people from weird angles for a client or otherwise then you should find today's post quit helpful. I actually recently came across this dilemma with a few of the children's illustrations I've been working on for my recent book. In one illustration I wanted a view of passengers getting ready to board the train but the perspective is from that of an ity bitty caterpillar in the hub of one of the trains wheels. So I needed to figure out how to get reference image of people from a perspective below street level. One obvious option is to have people lie down and try to get a picture from below them. the trouble with this is that their clothing will look wrong because the folds don't have gravity effecting them. A similar option would be to actually put yourself in that particular position and take a picture. If you're doing an illustration from above someones head looking down on them at strange perspective then just get up on something high and get someone to pose for you. Both of these will most likely give you trouble with the way the camera has translated the foreshortened limbs. There are a couple of other options I have enjoyed playing around with that don't include those wooden dolls you get at the art store.
For a while I have referenced a site called where you will find tons of poses of computer sculpted models . The best part about this site is that you can rotate around the poses to see them from all sorts of angles.

Another great option for models of people and other objects like cars, helicopters, building etc. can be found at . This site is just amazing because once again you get to rotate around the poses and the objects. You have to do a quick download of there software but I've found it useful so far. I've only used the free models but I can just imagine how amazing the others must be judging from the free samples. How often do you really get the chance to rent a helicopter and take a photo of a house from above anyway? obviously you could spend hours looking for reference online but you won't get to choose the exact point of perspective you want unless you draw it all out, happen to know a drafting software or own a helicopter.

There is also the whole area of creating your own physical models out of clay, paper mache, wood, found objects etc. This works pretty good for very specific characters you've designed for a project. For example you may design an alien with all kinds of strange limbs so the best option most likely is to build your own model. For one of my books I got to do a bunch of illustrations of Noah's ark so I decided to take a few hours to actually build a small replica out of wood, shown below.

One final option I've used is called google sketchup which you can actually download for free and legally. This program allows you to build things from the ground up and then you can rotate around, under, above, zoom in and out etc. The trouble is that you will have to spend a bit of time figuring out the software but it's actually not too hard. I actually used this program to redesign my studio room. Now you could go all out and by the expensive programs but who really has the money for those?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Art in the City

For the past ten days I went out to Boston and New York for business and pleasure. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet with publishers as I had originally intended but I did get quit a bit done. I started off in Boston where I had the awesome opportunity to speak with the massart senior illustration class about what life is like after graduation. I was lucky to have three other graduates at my side telling their stories as well. I had plenty of time in Boston to meet with friends and work out some illustration ideas while also leaving myself time to celebrate my birthday and holy week. Luckily I had some amazing friends who let me stay at there places over the eight days. Below is a sketch I did of the Boston skyline.

Then I headed off to New York. Below is a sketch I did in New York’s China town and a sketch of my accommodations at the Bowery white house hostel for two nights. It was basically like sleeping in a closet with a latticework ceiling and each room up against each other with very thin walls. Since it was only two nights, it was actually a fun experience. The showers and bathrooms in general were definitely a bit shady for me though. It reminded me of this one time I went to another school with my wrestling team in high school. They warned me not to drink the water there but I didn’t listen and ended up with the worst stomach pains. Then I found out that the bathroom stalls had no doors, in order to keep kids from doing drugs etc. Let’s just say that was a very uncomfortable night for me, LOL. For my second nights stay at the bowery in NY I came back from the Art Gallery in a dress shirt and dress pants. So there I am with my huge luggage and all dressed up staying in this tiny closet for the night. I swear they checked out my height before I came and made sure I got the room that was one inch too short. If that doesn’t say starving artist then I don’t know what does.

While in New York I met with more friends and attended a gallery show with my “Graduate Pinball” illustration featured in it. All I’ve got to say is that the show was awesome and exciting to be a part of. My painting won second place out of 35 artists, yeah!!! I’ve posted some photos of the show below.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Children's Illustration Process

My process mentioned below is quite long because good children’s book illustration should go beyond what the written word says and go into a further dimension ,adding to the story. Some illustrators just make an image depicting the exact words of the text, which is fine in some cases, but I find that my favorite books demonstrate a give and take relationship between the words on the page and the images.

There are two main categories of children’s books, the picture book or story book. In short, picture books are supported by the pictures and would make no sense without them. Story books are held together by the story and the illustrations serve in a somewhat subordinate role. Neither of these should be limited to what the story tells us.
A picture book may say something like, “The apple was huge” and the image may show the apple taller than buildings and perhaps show workers loading large dump trucks with pieces of apple. A story book may say something like “ The bright red apple was larger than any building in town and the workers had to work day an night to remove the apple before the big day”. While the image would need to communicate these things, it’s still a good idea to add to the image. Perhaps as complicated as adding a huge worm in the apple, snapping at the workers and making their jobs harder, or as simple as adding a small but noticeable worm on a sidewalk, slithering away in horror of how big the apple is.

Thumbnails- The very first art I do after talking to a client about there project is the initial idea thumbnail sketch. I also take lots of notes from the children’s story and from the client on what they would like to see in the illustration. The notes make it easy for me to refer to specific colors mentioned for the scene, specific characters and objects mentioned in the story etc. Most of the smaller elements may not be incorporated into the illustration until the next drawing stage, but it’s good to keep them in the back of your mind. This first image is extremely rough as you can see below.

Then before doing any research I continue to make thumbnail sketches (smaller than a business card) , loosely putting my initial ideas on paper. This helps weed out the bad ideas and develop them into good ones. Generally clients have a very static idea in mind of how each image should look. That’s where it’s good to take notes on there thoughts, but then be sure to give them other unique and creative solutions that would work just as well or even better. This takes more time but it ensures you get fresh results instead of just the first idea that pops into your head. Generally the first idea you have isn’t necessarily the best or most unique. If you get stuck for ideas at this point try some of the tips from my post titled “Generating ideas and Inspiration.” Below you will see a few of the thumbnail sketches I did for my image “The Search for Rudy”. The clients asked for an image of Rudy sleeping behind a trash can in an alley, while kids and a helicopter are searching for him. In my thought process I figured it may be cool to have an image looking down on the town from the helicopter or a bell tower. This is also a good point to start drawing elements at different scales. You’ll notice the difference between the giraffe in 15 and 16. The clients loved these ideas but decided to stay with their original idea, so Rudy would be center stage.

Refined Sketch- Once they chose from about fifteen thumbnail sketches we go onto a more detailed sketch maybe two in which I include facial expressions, correct size relationships etc. when we narrow it down to one image I go into a much more detailed sketch. Sometimes I get reference photos before I even begin sketching the thumbnails but by the time I get to these final sketches I have to get even more references for the image.
References consist of googled images, movies, national Geographic’s, travel books, art books, figurines, textured fabrics, objects, nature etc. Take lots of photos, and use more than one model or more than one costume. In some cases I even make clay sculptures of characters, cardboard sculptures of buildings etc. to help get lighting right on the objects and to help draw characters in weird positions from any angle.

Value Sketch- Now I decide if I need to do a black and white shaded sketch or if I can go right to the color sketches. For this image I had a pretty good idea what the values should be and I did experiment a bit during the thumbnail stage. For the more complex images I almost always do a value sketch to make the color stage easier. Sometimes I do more than one of these for the client to choose from. I might have a sketch of a room interior and the shading will show if the room is lit or not among other things.

Color/Hue- Now that I have a final sketch that the client and I are happy with, I move on to color samples. The idea here is that you want to give yourself and the client a pretty good idea what the final overall color scheme will be. Don’t worry about the details at this point, you want to see what a purple shirt looks like up against the background colors, we don’t need to know the color of the buttons on the shirt. Experiment the same as you did with the thumbnail sketches. If you’re doing an illustration of a UFO it might be cool to have a greenish tint to a night sky rather than a dark blue or black. For one of my recent logo designs I did thirty color samples. For some tips and tricks with color check out my post titled color tips and tricks.

Once I have a refined sketch, a good value study, a good color sample and some photo reference to work from, I’m clear to go onto the final image. Generally I work on a pretty good size canvas around 18”x24”, so I usually use a projector to draw the final image onto the canvas. When I work with watercolor I usually work around 8”x11”, I find that sometimes it works nicely to print the drawing directly onto watercolor paper.

Generating Ideas and Inspiration

There are three things you must do in order to successfully generate ideas for your art.
1)consume plenty of ginkoboloba
2) stand on your head, count to ten while holding your breath and think happy thoughts.
3) Sit very still in a metal chair with a hat made of tin foil placed perfectly over the back of your skull.

If none of these work for you, continue reading.

In reality there are no sure fire ways to get great ideas. In a sense they come to you when you are ready to receive them and each person prepares themselves to receive ideas in different ways. Since I’m an artist I tend to think of things visually, so the methods I’ve mentioned below are mostly based on visual observation.

mind/idea web- Most people have used these before for writing papers and other projects. The basic idea is you write down a starting word, then build a web of related words around that word, then build off from each of those words as far as you can. This process often generates ideas you may not have otherwise thought of.

Observation- This method for me primarily refers to observation of nature. When you think about it most inventions are things observed from nature. We see a duck with webbed feet and think “those are cool, I’ll make me some” and we get scuba diving flippers, we see a bird flying and create airplanes etc. Artists have also observed nature to create some amazing and imaginative scenes. The more you study nature the easier it will be for you to create imaginative worlds and creatures and objects that look and feel real. Ask any concept artist where there ideas come from and they will most likely tell you that the ideas started from observation of natural and man made objects. Even if they could create a castle without any physical observation of castles then they will at least resort to there memory bank of images they’ve seen in the past.

Do something to it- This is a method that evolves over time. Take an object or a drawing and do something to it. Do something else to it. Do something else to it. This is the method I generally use to design characters until they look just right. Most people get locked into there original ideas without ever seeing if it could evolve into something better. Check out my blog titled “Graduate Pinball Painting” to see an example of a simple cartoon I developed into a larger concept for a painting.

Images- I often use tons of images to jog my mind into thinking of ideas. As a visual thinker, it helps me to see lots of other images to start mapping out ideas for my own images. Most of the ideas we have start somewhere, as creators it’s our job to find that place to start. I often start by looking through old copies of illustration directories. I’m pretty sure you can get a free copy by going here It’s also helpful to look through magazines, travel books, books about the topic you’re illustrating ,whatever works to jog your mind into action. Some of my best ideas come while I’m watching TV.

The internet- Even if you don’t happen to have tons of reference images in the form of magazines and books laying around you can always go to the internet for ideas. Find a good artist forum like , ,,, or for images on particular subjects check out stock photos on sites like , , etc. if you’re looking for pictures of animals you can find zoo websites like . These are meant to generate ideas and help you draw particular elements. Don’t just find some photo and copy it.
Other Artists- One of my favorite places to get ideas and inspiration is to look at my favorite artists websites and read their blogs. Below are just a handful of all those who have inspired me and my art.

James Gurney
Dani Jones
Richard Watson
Dan Dossantos
Tony Diterlizzi
Scott Burdick

Relax- Stop trying so hard. Just relax and get away from the project for while. You may spend hours racking your brain in the studio trying to come up with good ideas and get nothing. Some of my best ideas come when I’m in bed almost asleep or when I’m walking along the sidewalk or something mundane. This does tend to happen more often when I have thought about a particular project for a while already.

Friends- Let others help you think of ideas. I think all too often artists have the mentality that they have to come up with all of the ideas or it’s not really there art. Well that really depends on what you’re talking about I guess. I wouldn’t think it’s a great idea for someone to come up with every last detail in one of your images but it never hurts to ask for help and to accept someone’s ideas when they come up with something good. Just be careful of intellectual property. If you rely heavily on someone else’s idea, then make sure they are fine with it first and give them credit where it’s due. In actuality there is often more than one mind involved in illustrating any given image in a children’s book, as mentioned in my blog discussing the process of children’s book illustration. Most of the time an illustrator is working with their client and whoever else the client shows the sketches to as well as whoever pops there head into the studio. Many people have there own opinions and ideas so I would suggest tapping into that whenever possible. Sometimes and outsider can think more clearly than someone who’s been working with an illustration for weeks. As annoying as this can be at times, it can also be helpful.

For more on how to think of ideas check out

Color Tips and Tricks

-Use a computer program like Adobe photoshop to tile your image onto a page and print
off a bunch on an appropriate paper. This gives you a guideline to place colors onto.
- Determine your light and value. establish lighting and emphasis. What color are the light sources? (e.g. warm daylight or cool night light?) How does the light/shadows affect the local color of the objects in my painting? (e.g. colors are usually brighter and warmer in light, darker and cooler in shadow)
- Educate yourself on the basic qualities of color. know some basic terms (hue, saturation, value, etc.) and relationships (monochromatic, analogous, complementary, etc.).
-Limit your color palette. If your understanding of color is a bit fuzzy, try limiting your palette to one red, one yellow, and one Blue along with white and black. From these you should be able to mix most any color you need.
-limit the amount of black you use. Before reaching for a tube of black paint, experiment with your own mixed blacks. Try mixing a dark purple with a dark brown. I would also suggest you never use any color directly from the tube especially black and white. Everything in the real world is affected by the light in the environment around it. Right now I have two pieces of paper on my desktop. One is close to a window and the other is closer to the lamp light. The one near the window is bluish white while the one near the lamp is a yellowish white.

-Play with color temperature. Ask yourself if you want to use dominantly warm or cool colors? Most illustrations will be predominantly one or the other. In the image below I knew I wanted a dominant cool color scheme because it takes place at night. Most of the time I try to make the main character either a complimentary color to the background or have a high contrast between the character and the background to make him/her stick out more. While a brick building has an orange tinge during the day, I wanted it to be more towards a dark, cool reddish purple color at night with the exception of where it’s being hit by artificial light.

If you don’t have a color wheel, then either make one or buy one and learn the warm side and cool side of the wheel. Also warm colors like red can slowly turn cool with more cool color added. For example, add blue to red and you get purple, which is a cool color. Add only a bit of blue to red and you get a cool red. This can be helpful in creating atmospheric perspective in paintings. Below you will see two examples of the same image. One has a cooler and unsaturated earth red floor which recedes in space making it look further below, while the other image shows the floor in a warm saturated red making that part of the image come forward which distracts us from the focal point.

-play with saturation. Most children’s book illustration is pretty high on the saturation scale because kids love bright bold colors. If you’re going for a more sophisticated look you may wish to use less saturated color in your image.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

character designs

I thought maybe some of you would enjoy seeing the initial sketches for the characters I have designed for variouse projects over the past few years. A great book on character design is "Creating Characters with Personality" by. Tom Bancroft. Some of these are influences by the clients and others are influenced by other artists and objects. For example, some of these robots were inspired by a cd player I had.
This hippo character was my own design but the guidlines put forth that he had to be a hip hop hippo, a male, an adult figure, not necisarily dressed, kid friendly.

My initial Rudy sketches were my own design with very little input from the client. They needed an anthropomorphic saftey dog who loved donuts. These are a couple of the sketches I did. This is basically the first character I ever designed for a client. I used to draw stuff like this all the time in grade school, mostly aliens though.

Then with more guidance and sketches Rudy eventually evolved into this little guy. The clients were fairly specific about what they wanted but getting it right took tons of work.

Clara was a cartoon character but not quite as anthropomorphic as Rudy. She stay on all fours and talks to other animals. She does have a bit more facial expressions than a typical pug though.
This starfish actually took me a bit of time to develope as my original sketches were fairly stiff. Now he's one of the first things people comment on in the final images.

These are princesses from variouse lands of different times in history. It was a bit of a challenge for me to develope there costumes and facial features to make them easily recognizable as having a particular land of origin. They needed to be very distinct from one another and yet all have a sense of beauty about them.

And last are some seasonal characters I sketched for variouse projects. The witch was for a pumpkin carving design contest with "Pumkin Masters" which took second place in the faces category 2008. I don't typically draw characters that are meant to look evil. I have noticed in the past though that evil characters seem a lot easier to draw. I think it has to do with there imperfections. Sometimes when I draw children I have a hard time making there smiles look real. They often look angry. The Santa Clause is just a sketch I did for my sketch book. Maybe I'll develope him more next Christmas. I suppose I will probably go for more of a Saint Nicholas feel than a mere santa clause. The snowman was designed for a Christmas card. This character really humbled me because it was one of the first few I designed with no one elses ideas. I thought how hard could it be to draw a snowman? Really really hard. But for me it was mostly tough because I wanted to get an original feel. I also wanted him to have a spark of life to him. I tried variouse size snowballs, a pot for a hat, vest, variouse eyes, with and without ear muffs, etc. A detail as small as adding or leaving out eyebrows makes the biggest difference.