Sunday, December 27, 2009

Iron Mike

Here is a sketch of Iron Mike Tyson from my skecth book. To his side I stared to draw Don King as well. I didn't include King because I never liked him, his hair do, or what he did to Mike Tyson. Say what you want about Iron Mike, but there is no denying that he was a tremendous athlete in the ring, a vicious and brutal champion! I hope this sketch captures a bit of that!!!!!

Iron Mike

Iron Mike with Cus Damato

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Random Quakers

Over the last few weeks I have been working on a project , which involves illustrating some old CT., folklore. For one of them I thought that I was going to go in the direction of one of the sketches below. I needed an image of a confused or out right crazy Quaker woman. So the sketches below are some of what I came up with, although none will end up being used for this particular project, I do enjoy them as stand alone drawings .

Crazed Quaker 1

Quaker 2

Young Quaker girl
with thumbnail of old crazed woman

Old Quaker Woman

Friday, December 18, 2009

West Oakland Beast

I created a series of images for while I was staying out in the Bay area this past fall. I did not get the chance to finish one of them, the West Oakland Beast, so I spent a little bit of time the other day trying to finish it up. I still need to do some work on it and will post the final when it comes together. In this post I decided to also include a little detail of the attack dog, in which is based on my friends dog named Alpha. Alpha and her dad Roman run amuck, chewing on buckets, speakers or whatever they can get their jaws on, during training sessions at the dungeon. They keep the riff raff out!!!!!!

Alpha Detail

This painting as many of my more recent paintings is completed with a very limited palette, Ultramarine blue deep, Cad Lemon yellow, Burnt Sienna , white, and Alizarin. I have learned a lot from working with this limited range of color and is quite the change from the 24 color palette I used on my thesis paintings.

West Oakland Beast
Acrylic on Board

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Childhood influence: Stephen Gammell

Outside influences play a large role in who we become as people and Illustrators, whether we like it or not! I find it very interesting to hear about a particular artists influences and whose work they were looking to for inspiration through their lives. I try and look at my favorite artists, and then the work they were looking at. Most importantly I like to, if at all possible, look at who it was in which their influences were looking at. This gives a lot of insight to where a particular style has evolved from.

For me one of my earliest childhood influences would have to be Stephen Gammell, notably the books, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
By Alvin Schwartz
Illustrated by Stephen Gammell

I believe I obtained this book at fifth grade book fair at my schools library in Wethersfield , Ct.. I have to say that looking back I am actually pretty surprised that they even let us have books like these at that time. Although absolutely masterful, the images in which Gammell created are pretty horrifying, slightly gory to say the least. Some might even say disturbing. Many of which I am sure sent a young boy like me hiding under the covers at night! Without a doubt this must have been an issue at that time.

These books have been included on more than one list of banned books . I was able to find one list of banned books online in which Scary Stories was included. The reason Scary Stories was placed on the list was that they went against religion, and included elements of witchcraft and magic!!!I personally do not find the stories in the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,to be anymore scary, far farfetched, or full of magic , as the ones found in the Bible!

Stephen Gammell
in his studio

Despite some of the negative criticism that Scary Stories has received , in my opinion Gammells work is amongst some of the best. Not always is he creating dark and morbid illustrations as the ones that are found in Scary Stories. Many of his illustrations are full of saturated color, and are quite humorous and energetic. Whether he is working in black and white or in color his unique style of drawing remains consistent, and his amazing ability to compose dynamic compositions always holds true.

The Relatives Came
Cover art
Stephen Gammell

Gammell's style has a wonderful atmospheric feel to it, no matter what medium he uses. He is able to create a look in which objects in the picture fade in and out of fog or mist, and meld into the white space of the page.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Interior Illustration

Many of Gammell's illustrations are designed in a fairly simple manner, often including a single item, object, or figure. Due to his great sense of design and control of value the viewer is always directed to where Gammell wants them to be, right on the center of the action. Gammell's illustrations keep us asking questions, and wanting to know more about what is to happen on the next page!

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Interior Illustration

For me Gammell has been, and will remain one of my biggest influences in the world of illustration. I know I am not alone with this as I have found many different blogs paying a tribute to this great artist. I have been trying to find out who his influences were, without any luck. One would think by looking at his illustrations that he may have been influenced by, Gustave Dore, the drawings of Seurat , and perhaps Goya? This is just a guess. Anyone out there that may have some insight to who it is that Gammell looked to for inspiration, please share!!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Revised NYC Dog Walker

Currently I am working on a revision at a larger scale of one of my paintings, The NYC Dog Walker. In this post I wanted to share a little bit about he process I used to create the original piece. For the most part it is pretty straight forward, and like most pieces I start off by drawing tons of small thumbnail sketches. For this one, once I had a thumbnail that I liked (pictured below)I went ahead and ran it through some filters in Photoshop.

Dog Walker Thumbnail
After the thumbnail went through the photoshop filters, I went ahead and colorized it blue, as seen below. This image will serve as the final paintings under painting:

Thumbnail after applying Filters

This process of running the sketch through filters, and then colorizing it, makes for some spontaneous patterns, shapes, colors, and textures in which you may not arrive at otherwise. Once I have this done I will print this image out and mount it to a piece of board, and begin to paint on top of it. I have an idea where I want to go with the painting in terms of the figures, as this was worked out in the thumbnail stage. I try not to be a slave to my original skecth and make efforts to hold on to the more abstract shapes and patterns created by the photshop filters. From this point I continue to paint pretty directly, making changes and revisions along the way until I arrive at the final image seen below:

NYC Dog Walker

So the revised version of this painting is going to be a bit larger, measuring about 12"x16" versus the original 5"x7". So I wanted to tighten some things up in the drawing , and make some changes to the dog's, vehicle,etc. Pictured below is the new drawing that will serve as the rough for the new painting!

Revised Dog Walker Sketch
Graphite on paper

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Random character, and vehicle designs

Working in a digital format is something I enjoy from time to time. At this point in time I am not as comfortable with digital tools as I am with a regular pencil and paper , or with paint and a brush. Although, I do appreciate the tool and try to make as much time to learn as much about the many applications that are available to create artwork both 2d and 3d. I have included some random character designs I have created over time. Some are from my children's book Norton B. Nice and some others are just things I do when I am bored. These are created by using a combination of Adobe Photoshop, and Corel Painter. All of these began with a pencil drawing which is later scanned into the computer and then painted. Sometimes I will create an illustration completely on the computer, but most of the time I begin with a regular pencil drawing on paper first. Either way everything comes down to drawing!!!!!!!!!

Winterg the Wizard


Norton as the monster



Blue Monkeys

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wagon Wheel Final

Wagon Wheel Rough
Graphite 8"x8"

The earlier Wagon Wheel post was a quick look at some of the preliminary drawings, thumbnails, and doodles I used to arrive at the final. This has been a fun project where I was given complete artistic freedom. When asked to create this piece , I was not given any real guidelines other than to make something fun and cool. Even though it is to be used for a rock climbing related business,(The Wagon Wheel Co-Opt), I was told that it didn't have to do much at all with climbing.

In some ways this is great to have this sort of freedom to create, and in other ways makes it tough due to all he directions in which it could go. We went through various concepts, such as a Pulp style cover, a simple shot of a camper, and a few others. In the end I came up with this final sketch. One might ask how does this relate to climbing, Hueco Tanks, or the Wagon Wheel ?

In my eyes it goes like this:

There is a climber who is in transit, crash pad upon his back, accompanied by his trusty canine companion. They are stuck in a city, that I hope resembles El Paso, which is near where the Wagon Wheel is located. In the air above is a dream bubble in which contains the thoughts of both the dog and the climber about how great getting to their campground at the Wagon Wheel will be. So included is imagery of their girlfriends awaiting their arrivals, one of their friends floating around with golf clubs, and of course an image of Hueco Tanks North Mountain in the back ground. Also they are both thinking about how much easier life would be if they had a jet powered camper to fly from climbing area to climbing area.

The final painting will be acrylic on panel with some digitally integrated items/text.!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rickshaw Challenge

As all guys, I of course have a dream vehicle . For some it is a red Porsche, for others it might be an old school Camaro, or maybe a Benz or a sporty Beamer. For whatever reason we are born with inherited attractions to certain things ,whether it be a particular color, a flavor of soda, or a type of music. If you know me , or have had a good look at this blog and my art it should come as no surprise that my dream ride would be a pimped out Tuk Tuk or Rickshaw.

Ever since my first experience whipping around in one of these high powered go carts in South East Asia I have been obsessed with them. Not quite sure what it is about them that makes me so obsessed. Maybe it is the fact that they still embody the old school design relative to vintage vehicles of yesterday. In the modern world of today this style of design has been left behind. Except for in developing parts of the world, where this style still strives. Due to its small size, in large congested cities , old school Tuk Tuk's can be seen out maneuvering the most modern of vehicles. Perhaps my connection with this comes from growing up as the son of a guy who loved to drive old clunkers. When I was just a baby I was carted around in an old Chevy Vega, then an old Ford F 1-50, followed by a 1970's Bronco, a 1970's El camino, and in current times my Pop's still drives a 1970 Chevy Nova.

Vintage Chevy Vega

At any rate there is something I love about these three wheeled vehicles in which has driven me to create numerous pieces of illustration about them. I believe that in Thailand these little machines are referred to as Tuk Tuk's , whether they are powered by a motor or by a human. In India they are known as Rickshaws, and I am unsure of the name they go by in places like Cambodia and elsewhere, but different variations exist in many parts of the world. Tuk Tuks, and Rickshaws , etc. come in many styles and colors, and are commonly decorated to suite the drivers tastes. In this post I have included some paintings that I have done illustrating Thai Tuk Tuk's found in and around the Capitol Bangkok. Also included are numerous photo's in which I took of various Tuk Tuk's throughout Thailand and Cambodia, and an example of the Rickshaw found in India.

Bkk, Tuk Tuk Ride
Acrylic on panel

Tuk Tuk Driver
Acrylic on Panel

Tuk Tuk Sketches
Graphite on paper

Indian Rickshaw

Thai Tuk Tuk Taxi Bus in Ayutthayah

Cambodian Taxi Tuk Tuk

View of Angkor from Tuk Tuk

Bkk Tuk Tuk

Bkk night Tuk Tuk

Bkk Tuk Tuk 2

Bicycle Tuk Tuk , Chiang Mai

Southern Thai Style Tuk Tuk

Currently I am trying to assemble a team to participate in something known as the Rickshaw Challenge, check it out at:

If all goes well we plan to partake in the event this coming July. It seems like a wild, fun way to see India. So far I have a few friends on board and it looks like it is going to happen. Hopefully I am going to create a blog dedicated to this endeavor, as well as have a benefit art show to try and help fund things. I believe that a lot of the money that in which it costs to participate goes to charity in India, something that makes it more appealing to me as well.

Below are a few fun videos, one in which I slapped together quickly from some old footage, and another of someone doing some Rickshaw stoppy stunts!! Enjoy

Thai Tuk Tuk Ride 2007

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wagon Wheel Preliminary Sketches

El Paso Sketch

My favorite part of the illustration process is the thumbnail sketch phase. This is the stage where the basic shapes that will make up the composition of the painting as well as the basic overall look of the characters, vehicles, etc., will be worked out. I try to do at least 20 to 50 tiny drawings that do not measure more than a few inches on either side keeping them very loose and free flowing. Next I will edit the sketches and pick a few that I like. I may combine different elements from the various thumbnails using tracing paper or photoshop to make a final composite image. Having thumbnails plus composites/variations of them gives me a lot of different compositions to choose from. I believe that when designing an image one must try all possibilities in terms of composition and design, include everything and edit the material later. Never should your first sketch become the final!

Once I have a composition that is working I will go ahead and work it up in scale and detail. In this post I have included some of the thumbnails recently completed while working on my initial plans for a painting I am doing for the Strongs and the Wagon Wheel Co-Opt in Hueco Tanks, Texas . The piece has gone through a lot of stages and I have done tons of sketches while working on it. Most of the skecthes in this post are minuscule not measuring much more than 1.5 inches on either side. I will post the final composition soon, which has moved pretty far away from these initial concepts, although elements of these will be found in the final.

Wagon Wheel rough 3"x 5"

Thumbnail1, 2"x 3"

Thmbnail2 , 1.5"x 2.5"

Thumbnail 3, 1.5"x 2.5"

Tiny sketch, 1"x 1.5"

Tiny sketch 2, 1"x 1.5"

Tiny sketch of a dog 1"x 1.5"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Utah Bouldering

Returning to a great climbing area after a long period of time has passed is always interesting. Arriving in Joe's Valley after almost 10 years conjured up memories of the place that had been long suppressed. Memories of my cross country journey's as a young lad with my dog Ira and my friends Josh, Phil, Nadeau, and Watson rushed through my mind. Details of certain boulders, trails, and trees resurfaced from deep within my memory banks and made it seem like it was yesterday that I last visited. As a climber it is always nice to return and to complete climbs/boulder problems that had been to difficult in the past. Revisiting a place and climbing things that were far to challenging in the past can certainly leave you feeling as if you have progressed in your craft,which is always nice!

In other ways it's somewhat tough to come back to these places after such a long time, as for me it makes me think about where the past 10 years of my life have gone. It's a reminder of the fact that I am getting older and those care free days of traveling , sleeping in the dirt, and living on tuna fish and pasta are long gone. So in some ways revisitation of these places are revisitations of my past which lead me to question my present. Questions about where I would be in life had I been a little more focused on things other than climbing rocks. While climbing in Joe's I began to analyze the amount of energy in which I have put into climbing a rocks, and began to wonder about the bazillion other things this energy could have been applied to.

Thinking about this put me in sort of a dark place for a bit, and I do not think it should have! In the end I truly believe that the rich experiences I have had as a climber, the people I have met, and journey's that climbing has taken me on have made me who I am today. The memories I have accumulated through my years of traveling and climbing are priceless. Although I am without a lot of money, a house with a white picket fence, or a fancy car, I still feel as fortunate as any!No amount of money or material objects can replace the great times that I have been lucky enough to have!
The current battle is now to find a way to stay active as a climber while continuing to dedicate the appropriate amount of time to creating Art!

Well then, let me end this rant and share a little video that my friend Will and I put together while climbing in Utah:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Joe's Valley

The Scrawny and The Brawny

The Worm Turns

River Joe's Valley

Joe's Valley

Will on Smokin Joe's during a night session