Making a Graphic T-shirt

Recently I've become more and more aware of books not just as canvases to place my illustrations in but as actual, physical art objects themselves. This is kind of spring-boarding off that Edward Gorey post I wrote a week ago. He was a great example of an artist that didn't consider himself to be only an illustrator, or only a graphic designer. Instead he thought it was best if one artist had full control over the entire book, it's design and illustration. John Hendrix is a current guy, and friend, who I feel is doing something similar. That being, having a high degree of both picture illustration as well as typographical design. This combination works so well when making a book feel like one artist crafted it. 

I've hand lettered type before for some of my books and I've really enjoyed it. But I wanted to see how I would do if I focused more of my daily attention at making words more illustration and pictures more graphic. This is one of those results. Because I was thinking about books and words I thought of phrases. New and used books and bookstores are a thing already, but how about tacking on the word AMAZING? It gets the idea across that yeah books can be either new or used, but they're all pretty amazing. They have the ability to transport the reader, make that person feel something new or different, they're pretty incredible.

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This design was the my initiation into the graphic world of letters and I'm hooked. I've drawn a bunch of other designs and have a bigger plan for them but first I want to see how others feel about it. I submitted the design to the Cotton Bureau and I've got less than 14 days now to sell 12 shirts. The design will be printed on a black, tri-blend t-shirt, a white cotton t-shirt, and a black, tri-blend tank top. Men and women's sizes and fits. 

You can pre-order these shirts at: And thanks for your support! Also, if you're an illustrator, I highly recommend getting down to business with typography. Print some interesting typefaces out and just trace them, you'll be surprised at how fun that can be. Once your hand knows the nooks and crannies you can do it without tracing and add your own vibe to it.

Making a Printed Portfolio

PRINTED portfolio?! You ask. 

Yessir. I again traveled to the ice cold city of New York, New York on February of this year(2017) for the annual SCBWI(society of children's book writers and illustrators) conference. I was there, in person, in the flesh with no computer to hide behind. This meant as well that my work had to be mobile, agile, hostile...sorry, got carried away.

I don't have an iPad and the last thing I wanted was to show people my work on my tiny iPhone screen. PLUS I love print. Most of us maybe are illustrating for print, books, magazines etc. It's all the more helpful for your viewer to see and handle your physical artwork. So I made a full sized portfolio, inserted printed pages into my Pina Zangaro. I also wanted to have a small booklet portfolio to give away to friends, art directors and editors.

To do this you've got to know Adobe InDesign (check some tutorials online) or have a really close friend that does. Also helpful to know something about basic graphic design, the spacing and layout of your images and text. When in doubt keep everything really simple, no flourishes and frills, just the facts ma'am. Let your art be the focal point and not have to fight with background paper color or filigree typefaces.

While assembling this portfolio keep in mind what your best work is, but also who your audience will be. For me it was the children's literary world. I included work that featured fun characters in interesting situations.

Where to print might be your biggest trouble. If you have a college or university near you that has a dedicated printing and bookmaking facility (resource for teachers and students, as well as the public sometimes) I would suggest trying that. They usually have very low cost and aren't in a business mindset like Fedex Office or something like that. It's a slower pace and if you can establish a nice relationship with the people in charge it will only help you out.

For added effect I ordered clear, plastic sleeves for my small portfolio. To me it felt more like a cool gift, like a mint condition comic or something. I also inserted business cards into each of them, knowing they wouldn't fall out because of the sleeve.

If you've never printed any of your work before I definitely suggest trying it on a small scale. It will get you to start thinking about clarity in your work. Images can look very different on a backlit computer screen than in print. It takes a few adjustments for me every time to get similar values on the printed page. Good luck!

Edward Gorey

I came across Edward Gorey by way of Jon Andrews, one of my college teachers, about 4 years ago. Since then I've had the sustaining belief that the terms "picturebook" or "children's literature" have a wide variaty of content, subject matter and even stylistic choices. The Gashlycrumb Tinies is a good example, it includes 26 illustrations for the 26 letters of the alphabet corresponding to the first letter of each child featured in each illustration. Every child in each illustration dies pretty horrific deaths, the most disturbing, for me, being Kate who was struck with an axe. 


The West Wing is the second Gorey book I purchased. It contains 30 illustrations of different views inside one house. It's bizarre, complete with faint spectres in the walls and often even more obscure and subtle hints that things aren't quite "right" in the West Wing. I have no idea if any of these illustrations are connected, if there's even a specific story trying to be told, but it's an interesting and unsettling flip through. Please let me know if you have any insights about it!


My third Gorey book is actually an essay by former New York Times art director, Steven Heller to accompany about 100 images of Edward Gorey's book cover designs. That's right, Edward Gorey was a very accomplished designer and typographer. This book "Edward Gorey: his book cover art & design" is awesome. I love the intersection of art and typography and this book showcases some really beautiful work by Gorey. Buy it for around $25 on Amazon or ask your local bookseller to order it for you.


Personally these books are a fantastic look back at someone who had an extremely unique voice and wasn't afraid to use it.  They also give me hope that design can be successfully "handmade". As an illustrator I'm a little more moved at the squiggly lines and imperfect letters of Gorey's drawn design style than most of the super clean design today.


Glad I could share this guy with you if you hadn't already heard of him. Go share him with someone else!

Nose to the Grindstone

Hey guys! I've got something here that I hope you'll enjoy. It's a new illustration as well as the process of making it in real time on my YouTube channel.

This is my first and second sketch in my Moleskine notebook, it's pretty wiggly and sketchy but I've become more interested in idea over form at this point. Always remember sketches are ideas, don't ever let that big brain of yours get in the way at first before you get your "feelings" down on paper.

This is my blue pencil trace over of the sketch after blowing it up in Photoshop and printing it larger.

The final drawing on Canson marker paper using a Blackwing-602 pencil. Really concerned here with getting some interesting background elements, looked at alot of reference for everything in the scene, thanks Google Images!

Here's the video! Hope it's insightful, let me know if you have any questions at the bottom of the video, and if you like what you see then please subscribe to my YouTube channel!

Jason Brubaker's Sithrah - Kickstarter

To all you comic fans out there, if you haven't heard of Jason Brubaker well....well, you really should hear about Jason Brubaker! He's a former storyboard artist that's been doing full time comic work for awhile now. His latest comic, Sithrah can be read at Webtoons, but the print version has gone to Kickstarter a few days ago and passed it's goal in the first day! Support it now to push into the stretch goals! Here's the link to check it out:

In addition to making great comics Jason shares his insights into the comic industry through his book Unnatural Talent and his Youtube channel ( I highly recommend both if you're at all interested in comics or just want an interesting podcast to listen to!

Oh yeah, and this is some fan art for Sithrah! first sketch on the left above, traced over with a blackwing pencil, scanned into photoshop and colored there. Hope you guys have a great weekend!

That Old Time Watercolor Feelin'

If you follow me on Instagram you've probably been seeing these already, you'll also know that I started making them as a result of listening to the band Lullatone. I found them on Spotify and they make music that really get's to the "kid in me", something pretty special, especially if you work in the children's literature arena.

 It's actually hard for me to stay in a "cute and cuddly" visual mode for too long, I'm naturally drawn toward more dark and mysterious subject matter, so finding this band was great, you should definitely listen to them.

As you'll see below, that gravitation towards dark and mysterious took me to this painting. I'm experimenting with one brush in particular and it's just blowing my mind. The "pastel palooza" brush in Kyle T. Webster's Ultimate Megapack is worth the whole $15 and more it takes to buy that set. 

Draw as You Please

This week I looked through one of my sister-in-laws books. Being a big Disney fan, she had ordered They Drew as They Pleased, a new collection of concept art from Disney's golden age. The book showcases 4 artists: Albert Hurter, Ferdinand Horvath, Gustaf Tenggren, and Bianca Majolie. If anyone's interested in visual conception, this is a good one to look through. For the most part it's pretty raw sketches, perfect for debunking that "perfect sketchbook" craving we all have.

Flipping through these pages I definitely wanted to played around with some ideas from this "old illustration" source. Naturally there were different sensibilities in a different time, I wanted to experience the same thrill that Albert Hurter felt when he drew those goofy noses on his characters. 

As a kid I can remember these "sausage" noses very clearly, they were actually quite disturbing at the time. I can now see them being used that way specifically to great effect. By and large I feel like the nose of a character in modern illustration is slightly overlooked, maybe just by me though. Here's to bringing some noses back! 

If you've ever read and agree with Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist you know what a freeing thing it is to try on different styles, forms and ideas from other artists you admire. I'd say it's one of the funnest ways to warm up and play around with new ideas. You're adding to your own repertoire so, draw as you please! 

A Half-tone Job

Hey everyone, just wanted to dump a few things on this blog, mainly spot illustrations I've been enjoying adding looser textures to, one of them a secret, organic looking halftone that I'm just crazy about. Live long and prosper. 

The Wizard Gandalf

So much for keeping this blog post serialized. Here's my newest piece in full, from thumbnail to final painting.

This painting pretty much followed the same steps as the previous Frodo one. Just alternating between paint and colored pencils. I've launched my Youtube Channel and have 5 videos of my progress through this painting. I go through my process a little more thoroughly as well as my materials. Please feel free to comment on my videos, subscribe, and ask any questions you'd like me to answer on future videos. Here's the link:

1. Thumbnail

3. Tight Colored Pencils on Illustration Board

5. Colored Pencils

6. Close up Grain.

8. Colored Pencils again

10. Framed up. I think I'll put them in nicer ones later though.

2. Color Study

4. 1st Acryla Gouache Wash

6. Heavy Colored Pencils

7. Second Acryla Gouache Wash

8. Close up detail

9. Final, with minor photoshop adjustments

Frodo of the Nine Fingers Part 3

Here we are at the final. Instead of scanning the picture in I took a photograph of it with a good camera. However it still took some work in Photoshop to get the image to look as it does to the naked eye. After that I refined some edges and played with the color just abit. All in all I'm super pumped about working traditionally for this series. Check out the second photo in the post to see a sneak peak of who's coming next!

Frodo of the Nine Fingers Part 2

Watercolor Freak Out happens immediately when I start painting. My once pristine drawing becomes a wet and wild mess of colors. Shapes are flooding over their lines, stuff is mixing, no one's behaving themselves down there, I start to question why in the world I'm working traditionally.

What do I do now? I just look up one of those dumb Keep Calm and Carry On flags online and remember not to panic. I proceed calmly with more opaque layers of Holbein's Acryla Grouache. I then get into light prismacolor pencil action, subtly shading and lining where I need to. 

In all honesty working traditionally can be a really relaxing endeavor. It allows, or rather you have to allow, time to think and evaluate your piece as it slowly takes form. I think of digital work like an action movie and traditional work more like a drama. Working digitally is expedient and puts tools at your fingers so fast that you simply can't say no to the "special effects." Working traditionally is can be more of a thoughtful narrative driven approach.

I think an answer to good picture making isn't so much concerned with the medium used but instead with the time allotted to make that picture good, make it say something and mean something. Next time: The Finish.

Frodo of the Nine Fingers Part 1

I would love this blog to be more "serial" like so I'm splitting this painting walk through into a few posts even though many of you may have seen the final product on instagram. Hopefully by doing this you all will see more current work and process from me.

To explain this piece and (hopefully) this Lord of the Rings series I'll give a brief intro starting with a question. Have you guys seen those old animated Lotr films? Weren't they awesome and slightly ridiculous at the same time? I love them. And as I think back on them I miss the obvious fantasy they portrayed. The Peter Jackson films were of course monumental in my middle school life and I appreciate the realism he brought to the stories. I hope however to go in a different direction, a direction that doesn't laugh at the ridiculous dog face orcs in those old animated classics, a direction in which fantasy can be fantasy and child like imagination can have it's say.

Why the Lord of the Rings? Every other illustrator has had a crack at them, what do I bring to the game? I don't know, but I don't care either, they're amazing books and I've got alot of love for them, so here it goes.

Thumbnail sketch and color study. After I finished this color study I really thought, "eh, should I even do a traditional work of art? It takes so much time and I have to get all my paints out and whine, whine, whine." Thankfully everyone on instagram was like "do it already!" So here goes:

Tight colored pencil drawing. Next post: Watercolor Freak Out and How to Address It.


Hey everyone, as always, it's been so long since I last posted. As I look around my office there are of course many comics, art books, and illustrated children's literature. All of them wonderful and equally inspiring visually.

However, I've come to appreciate most of all those pieces of artwork that I've had a personal interaction with the maker, whether that's doing coffee and hanging out, meeting them at a convention, or even just hearing about their work and talking to them through social media. I love being a part of the fabric of the present art/illustration community in a very active way, by contributing work and inspiration to fans of that community and by supporting the endeavors of my peers in that community. 

There are a lot of online venues for patronage today, Patreon and Kickstarter being maybe the most recognizable ones. I personally love just visiting the artist's online store and purchasing there, if you can't make it to a convention and meet them in person. Here are some of my favorites: original art from Cory Godbey, Warwick Johnson Cadwell, and Kent Ambler. Comics by: Sam Bosma and Joey Ellis. So get out there and "shop local," you'll be glad you did and so will everyone else.

Christmas Season Tips and Tricks

1. Go to the Indie Craft Holiday Fair, it's usually in early December, tons of fun and loads of great gift ideas for exactly everyone you can think of.

2. If you experience car trouble first check the gas tank, it may be that there is no gas in it, in which case all you need is a gas can and gas. You do not need to go to AAA car care for them to tell you that your engine is destroyed and you need a new car, you don't need to go to Master Tech Automotive either for them to tell you that you need a new fuel pump, all you need is Iain Fraser, I can give you his number, he'll save you dollars.

3 + 4. Hand painted and dipped Christmas presents are really fun and easy to make.

5. When entertaining your father make sure he has the necessary tennis guides to occupy himself.

6. When shopping for a Christmas tree try to get the biggest and nicest, even if you have to cut it in half to fit in your house.

7. When having a sleeping wife nearby make sure you can cup her head with your hand so she sleeps peacefully as you listen to the new heavy metal album you just purchased. Just kidding, heavy metal is ewh.











Seraphim Cars and Couches

You can usually find Karen and I working at night in our second bedroom/studio, last night we tried the couch and it was really great just to switch places and routine. Instead of client work I focused on getting a theme and idea for this coming year's Hodgepodge: Volume 2. While doing this I happened to digress into an admiration of my wife's awesome ability to mix design and illustration so well, check it out.


Karen's stationary business Paper Loop Troupe just released a bunch of new cards for the holidays! Check them out at 

Christmas Promotional - Process

Fantastic morning everyone! I've been trying my hand at backgrounds since my last post and have gotten some really great feedback from you guys asking for alittle peek into the process. It's alot like my usual process except with alot more Shift key usage. Probably throughout my entire life I've avoided straight lines, which has caused me to throw out architecture entirely... I know, what a tragedy! Well I've faced my fears, grappled with one and two point perspective, and realized it's not as hard as previously thought. Check it out by scrolling in the downward direction! (note, the pictures are alittle fuzzy for some reason so click on them and they will appear as crystal as that first day you realized that professional life is not at all like college life.)

Thumbnail and tighter drawing, these are done pretty small since I don't care too much about details at this moment, just need to get a good composition.

Flat geometric shape layer. I get all the straight lines by using the shift key and then transforming and distorting that flat line into the angle and thickness I need, it is time consuming, but not too bad.

Full colors with shadows and highlights. By this time I've already created my lines which have obviously determined where to put many different items and light breaks.

Line added. Same thing for the straight lines here, using basically a 1 or 2 pixel line and then transforming it to get the angles right.

Here's the background of the background. I really loved treating the colors under the line in a looser way, it's on one layer and treated in a painterly way, not worried about getting outside the lines.

Just add snow! The weather is on a different layer, you're seeing some grain brushes used as well as a plain round brush for the bigger flakes and then motion blurred to the right consistency of moderate blizzard.

Here they are added together, the cliche' warm to the cool, cozy to the freezy. I will say that the hardest part of this image was to separate the outside scene from the interior as far as values and colors. Color balance and hue/saturation were again my go-to couple.

Curious Asian child that looks alittle like my wife with not so equally curious reindeer that looks alittle nothing like my pet reindeer or the reindeer references I used to draw him.

Santa in his day-off heather grey sweats puttering about the kitchen.

All in all I wanted to make this image to send out to my client list for the season as well as give Santa Klaus an upgraded environment, he's been at this game a long time, he's probably worked his way into a posh city flat. Oh and also to give you all riveting content so you come visit my website way more than you should! Have a blessed one!

Background as Character

Hey everyone! Wow the days are so dark so early! If you know me much at all you know I have absolutely hated this my whole life. I found out once that there's such a thing as "seasonal depression," I must be that right there.

I've also learned that much of life is how it is because of your perspective so I'm trying to see this winter gloom in a positive light. It's given me a new perspective on how our environment really plays a roll in setting the scene, it is a very, very powerful character. So I'd like to share with you a trove of incredible animation backgrounds I found today at the wonderful Living Lines Library blog. These are all from 101 Dalmatians.

Weren't those awesome? Check out the Living Lines Library link I have in the previous paragraph and see about a hundred more, maybe even 101 more, there are a ton. Tee-Tee-Why-El.

Excuse me - Process

Hey everyone! Haven't posted a process piece in a long time it seems. As you can probably see I've been trying alot of new ways to make images, though still trying to keep things stylistically similar. I recently bought Kyle T. Webster's Megapack Photoshop Brush Set and man are the incredible, painting is a blast with them. I had previously bought Shiyoon Kim's Inkbrush Set and used one of his brushes to do the line work in this image, it's wonderful to have both but if you're on a tight budget I'd just get the Megapack, it's about a hundred different brushes that include inking and all types of painting brushes. (click on their names to go to their websites, and click on the brush set names to go to their respective online stores)

So my thumbnail(above) really does look that bad, but I just wanted to get the composition and basic attitude down the minute I had the idea.

At the same time I drew the thumbnail I did tighter drawings of the faces and placed them on top of the thumbnail and shazam, you have a tighter thumbnail. I did actually trace over all this with line to get my tight drawing though I seem to have deleted that layer after it became irrelevant. I used it to get all of my shapes correctly, one the shapes were down I just drew with new line over them.

Backgrounds are important, they can be a whole career if you're really good at them so I didn't want to skimp. I got this idea when I was at a gas station so I searched online to find something I liked the look of to start from.

I wanted the background to feel like a matte painting and so...I painted, not the whole thing of course considering these characters are static.

Our baddies here. My mouth waters over those painted textures and edges.

Our heroes here with the inquiring alien, which actually was added as an afterthought, I didn't think of him in the thumbnail but as the piece progressed I knew the composition needed him there, and it made sense with their eye lines. 

The finished flats without the top layer of atmosphere.

The atmosphere added, as well as some proposed dialogue. Hope it's helpful guys! TTYL

Hodgepodge Volume 1

In tandem with the previous Indie Craft Parade blog post I wanted to write about my experience in make my first sketchbook, which debuted at the parade. 

Alot of illustrators produce a sketchbook that chronicles their personal work over a certain time period, whether that's a year, or....more years. I've come to really admire the ones that can make something complete happen in a year. Some, like Cory Godbey, use the sketchbook to start and finish a whole new personal project within a year. Though I admire that approach I wanted to keep things kind of free for myself to play around with technique, theme and media, closer to what Cory Loftis has done with his personal sketchbook which can be bought at Gallery Nucleus. 

It was a great experience to collect alot of work that I had done without any real thought to where I would put it. It's really freeing to doodle and dream without thinking about audience, deadline, and money, remember, you can always edit down. 

The book is 7" x 11", perfect bound, soft cover, contains 44 pages of artwork, and if you order it before the end of September 24, 2014 I'll sketch inside on the title page just for you.


Volume 1 is dedicated to my wonderful Dad, whose middle school photo is proudly displayed on the back cover. I intend to use all child photos when dedicating any more future books.