Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beginning to revise Elorgo's Tale

Well my simple idea about fixing this piece didn't pan out. Still trying to fix it. Changed the angle of one arm so that it's less of a straight vertical. Tried to use a graphic element to incorporate red into the cloak. That head is still sequestered. Brought in some more imagery into the cloak so that the outstretched hand isn't on a background that pops it so much. Decided that having everything in the cloak red was causing it all to become an indecipherable mush. So I wanted to bring in just a hint of color. I'm thinking the interior of the cloak probably needs to be completely re-done since the overall composition of it wasn't thought out beforehand at all.

Mage revised

Finished with revisions on this one. Too many clear verticals in the background with one shooting our character in the head? Maybe. Does that right most vertical create a tangent with the tip of the wing? Almost. Something about those feels right to me. Maybe I'll change my mind though in a couple of days. Moving on to the Elorgo piece now as I think I've come up with some simple solutions to some problems with it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Starting to revise

Starting to go back and revise those pieces from the review.
Think it's an improvement so far?

Sunday, November 8, 2009


So I had my portfolio review today. My reviewers were Jason Manley,Brett Briley (or did he leave before mine, I can't remember),Anita Kunz and Brian Hagan. So I got lucky with having two extra reviewers there.

I was really worried that they'd pick a weak piece to really critique the hell out of and wouldn't give me a broad overview of what my problems are but they really did give me some solid direction so that maybe my future pieces will be better.
I'll get to those broad things at the end, but I know some people wanted to know what was said about certain pieces so I'll go through the individual pieces real quick. Now this is just based off my notes, I haven't had an opportunity to go back and watch it on demand.

Perhaps move bird into void in top right. Maybe cape blowing up on left. Figure appears to be on separate layer as it's edges are too defined. Edges within figure seem better so I need to lose some edges on the outside. Lower leg of leading leg appears too short. Potions aren't sort of bouncing up like the knife,cape, and clothes. Belt shouldn't be straight across. Could bring some light or shapes into the background to add some interest and depth. Some sort of dark shape to break up ground plane perhaps.

Underwater part doesn't look underwater. More murkyness or bubbles or fish swimming around. Birds or fish or something to show sense of scale better.Fins look a bit wooden. Opportunity for transparent fin. Jason wished ocean floor was more interesting.

Blood Goddess
Green background is too harsh. Maybe bring some of the fog throughout image. Thought pink glow was Kali's foot. Could design trident more. There were some comments about the blood that I wasn't able to catch. I think I was having pen problems or still taking notes on Mage because I don't have anything else written for this piece. I'll have to go back and check this out on demand.

Elorgo's Tale
Bring some of red into bottom right. Possibly cloak too. Face that's streaking up in cloak looks a lot more artful and interesting than the Elorgo face which has been cut off from everything else. Arms form perfect horizontal and vertical that's hurting composition.

Demon VS Angel
Muscles on demon are all tight. More relaxed sections can be very detailed while the parts with more movement could have less detail.

Broad Overview
I need to work on my color circulation.I need to work on my edges.Both of which could loosen up my stiff figures.
Some things to keep in mind to really kick it up a notch. Try to keep counterchange in mind. Think of some figure/field play. Try to really think of creating shapes with areas to create interest. Use focal points within subjects to create push and pull. For instance a bent elbow could be facing us and the elbow would be detailed and then the detail would fall off towards the wrist and deltoid. Helps to create depth and resting spots within the figure. I think my figures have suffered from an equal overall treatment dependent upon their plane so I think I'm really going to try to focus on this in some future pieces.

Jason also told me to just go ahead and completely learn zbrush or sketchup because just knowing them a little bit doesn't help with employment.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Awful. Just awful.

Thought I'd make a not so serious post. Dug up a couple of old pieces that I thought might be amusing to bring up.
Couldn't find any of my pre-college stuff on disc but I was mainly creating linoleum cut prints and textiles. Then there were a couple of ink wash drawings from life. Without much work or experience under my belt, I decided to go into art. Mostly because my mother came home all of the time hating her job and it made me want to pursue something I enjoyed regardless of whether I was any good at it. These images may be a little misleading because I actually worked mostly traditionally because my college didn't have a lot of support for digital work. But this is what I had on disk.
Beginning of 1st year of college. 2001. hellblazer fan art.photoshop. I love how I used the circle selection tool to make the outside line of the wheel but didn't use it for the interior. Somebody didn't know how to contract selection.

Sophemore year. 2002. Painter on a Mac. Thought photoshop work was looking too digital and the novelty of Painter attracted me. Look at how everything is made up of a million brush strokes! hah hah. Oh painter and your default brush sizes and inability to handle large
brushes. You're probably thinking, "wow you were still absolutely horrible your sophemore year! You must have been the laughing stock of the school." No I'm afraid I wasn't the worst. Not even close to it. Scary huh?

Junior year ( I think). You can see that somebody is digging the Hellblazer covers by Tim Bradstreet and has mixed in some techniques he's learned from going to Started thinking that year that watercolors with microns was the way to go.

Senior year 5
Finally played with oils for illustration rather than just working from life. Didn't gesso the illustration board so the oils dried much faster and I put in a lot of painting medium to increase flow. This bad boy was shiny like glass. Really liked how it looked in person. For my senior thesis I did a bunch of digital environment concepts where I was still struggling to figure out how the hell photoshop works.
End of 2005. One of my first gigs for RPG industry. 4 days to do a cover for Silven Publishing. I don't think this is a great piece or anything but I think it shows that I learned a hell of a lot about photoshop in that 3 months between graduating and doing this piece. It was also a ballsy perspective to attempt for my limited skills and the limited amount of time I had.

And here's a pic I finished recently. 4 years since the previous entry. I think I might just start updating this every 6 months. See if I can't blow the previous entry out of the water. Force me to keep an eye on whether or not I'm actually improving. It kills me a little that I can still see a bunch of bad habits carrying on.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


  • Underpainting
One of my best teachers set me against underpainting. The philosophy being that you should take the most direct route to finishing an image. If you know what color something is going to be, try to put down the note as quickly and accurately as possible and adjust from there. 0fcourse this was taught in regard to painting from life by an impressionist. Nonetheless I've been applying it to my imaginative illustration. I've finally realized this philosophy doesn't work in those cases because I can't truly know the color things will be. As I worked on the miniature portraits, I found it highly advantageous to paint a base that works against bias. Also an underpainting for digital painting really helps my images have texture. I've been doing a lot of environment concepts for a company that are meant to be speedpainting'ish and underpainting has really saved them from being texture less and boring digital work.
  • Working an image
I've been a believer in working up a whole image simultaneously up until now. I believe it really worsened the situation of the past two years while I was taking on too much work (and low paying work at that). The method makes it too easy to say "good enough" when everything gets to a point where it's reading well and you begin to lose money with the more time you spend on it. The result is an underwhelming image where the entire picture receives the same amount of attention. I believe it would have been better for my career if I'd super rendered a couple of small areas and rushed the rest of the image. This is assuming I still had a heavy work load. I think the images would have had better focal points, been more impressive and also seemed more artistic. Perhaps if work paid more, it would be a more successful tactic for me to work everything up at once.

  • Bulk pricing is bullshit
So I'm dead set on never obliging any clients again who request "bulk" pricing. I've made the mistake of thinking that clients know the benefits of a seller to sell something in bulk in other industries and that's why the buyer gets a discount. The only thing clients seem to understand is it's a term for them possibly paying less. If you place a large order and have received bulk pricing, I'm expecting to receive all of the briefs immediately and I'm expecting to get prompt responses regarding sketches. This way I can work on nothing but your company's work for a solid block of a couple of weeks and I don't have to worry about hunting down other clients for work for a while. See how the bulk idea could save me from spending time doing non-art related business? Clients don't seem to get it and I keep finding myself hassling clients for responses,briefs and payments! You've placed a large art order where the price is known at the outset and months later you don't have the reduced fee ready to be paid immediately on time! So you diddle daddle around with getting the last briefs or responses to me because the penny bank is empty and you think it would be better to delay by being unresponsive and slow so that you can pay on time. You're an idiot. If you've placed a large art order and I've cleared my plate for you and you've left me flapping in the breeze not knowing whether you're going to send me a dozen responses/briefs the next day or have disappeared or are going to continue to be a train wreck. From now on you commission each piece individually and get the special asshole mark up.

  • The industry
I was included in a mass e-mail about doing some work for a large company and while the e-mail did include dimensions and prices it did not include whether the work was color/b&w and when the deadline was. I responded immediately asking when the deadline was so I could tell how many I could do. I received a response extremely quickly that all of the art order had been filled.WTF? Other artists had to have just stated they'd do the work without regard to whether it was rush,color, or payment upon publication. Makes me throw my hands up in the air. There have also been some forum posts by artists who think they have no right to ask for better terms in their contracts. It makes me just want to burn everything I've built, career-wise, to the ground.
In a fit of hopelessness after having the baby, I nearly decided to do just that. I chickened out and instead I just switched usernames on DA, abandoned updating my website and have switched to a DA portfolio site. Immediately got a DD and some great work through it so it turned out for the better. Felt like I'd be an ass to delete all of my messages and couldn't decide how to choose what people to thank so I began posting thanks to everyone who faved or devwatched me. It's quickly become some sort of obsessive compulsive problem. Finally under a thousand messages. Apparently thanking someone a week later for a fave they've forgotten cause them to visit your page and fave and devwatch a lot more. Good trick to remember for the future. I feel a bit like Sisyphus though.

  • Composition
James Gurney has posted some interested stuff on his blog that kind of confirms some of my thoughts on composition. Post 2 and Post 3.

  • Reference
I've really gotten into getting better and better reference lately. Inspired by Gurney, I've sculpted a dragonborn head for re-doing one of the miniature oil portraits and I've also sculpted a portrait of my Elorgo character from the graphic novel I'm working on. Thought it would give him some consistency. I've been using this super articulated spider-man toy for some reference and I've finally decided to upgrade that by ordering some figures from this site. I never even knew about this whole subculture of doll collectors. Slighting thinking about this super articulated doll where you can even supinate and pronate the hand. Proportions are kind of ugly though and there's that stupid hand. I tried to use a fish tank and a piece of cloth to simulate a cloak blowing in the wind like Gurney said he did in his blog but it really didn't seem to work for me. Anyways, I'm also thinking about picking up a 3D program to start learning that. Steve Argyle's booth was right next to me at GenCon and it made me wish I had some 3D in my toolbox.

  • Going Forward
Big part of improving has to do with learning to teach yourself. Not sure how beneficial it really is to post on forums and have people hold your hand. People that may not lead you where you want to go. I've decided that competition really pushed my improvement in college so I've come up with a plan. Each new piece is battling the previous piece to decide which is better. To improve, I simply need my new pieces to have a winning record this year.

  • Design
I tend to design an image and forget about designing the parts. I think my Taishu illo has been wildly more popular than most everything else I've done because I designed the parts and then the image. Coal golem tends to be the next most popular so that follows the trend. Designing the parts first seems to create an image with potential for being called "cool".Cool seems to trump composition or art.

When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take-choose the bolder.-William Joseph Slim or Ezra Pound (the internet flops between the two)

Anyways, despite current plans I've fallen back into doing NDA work. Not the sort of stuff that's going to make prints but it actually does fill a hole in my portfolio (there I go with my fxcking excuses again). Doing environments does really help you to understand the importance of focal points and how to create them so I can't say I'm not learning. Working on environments reminds me of how much I do not know. I've done all sorts of prep for a full sized oil painting so hopefully I'll have that on here in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pet Peeves as AD

I know I changed my format to being posts more directed at myself but I thought I'd still post this.

  • If I post a call for artists stating that we pay X and you respond citing your e-mail as a response to my post, don't be shocked when I offer you work for X pay!!!! READ! Read a post before you waste my time with an e-mail! Quality illustrators made this mistake. If you're simply submitting your portfolio for consideration for future covers or would like to try to negotiate higher pay, then you better say that in your initial e-mail.
  • If you're a studio, have a studio name and use it in your e-mail. Don't send me an e-mail as "Greg" and link to a portfolio by a half dozen artists. I won't know whether I'm just supposed to look at Greg's work or if I'm looking at the entire group.
  • If you have an apprentice/understudy that's going to do part of the work, better tell me that shit. If you haven't told me and I find out, you look like you're cheating me. Or if you tell me at the end of the process when I'm getting your information for the credits, I'm going to be pissed as well. Some companies might be okay with it but I'm not. I don't like the idea that you could be paying your apprentice/assistant/understudy $5 to do a drawing for my company. When our company paid less, we had problems with people trying to turn in plagiarized work and we've seen it with other companies who pay very little. For the same reasons, I personally have absolutely no interest in working with studios.
  • Telling me you might be late with your work because you've got some work with a BIG company that you REALLY need to finish by X. WTF. I'm understanding and will say okay but you have to understand that I think you're a dick and given the choice between you and someone close to your skill level, I'm now going to choose the other person every time.

Lack of Foresight

So I was looking through some of my records and couldn't help but notice what a short-sighted moron I had been in 2008. I completed 338 commissioned illustrations (296 of which were icons) and worked about 470hrs between my concept art gig and art director job. I would say it was like I was trying to keep my head above water by making lots of small frantic movements in no particular direction. It wasn't and isn't something that can be prolonged. I should have been making a few, bolder, focused movements to get myself to dry land. My portfolio hardly improved at all that year. I made some nice quarter-pagers but didn't work as much on the kind of work that has potential to be awesome.

It's difficult to see students with very little work but still manage to have some pieces much better than mine despite also having some work that is absolutely awful. It's one of those benefits of being a student where there's low risk and lots of time on individual pieces. I somewhat regret that I chose a school that wasn't geared towards exactly what I wanted to do because I ended up working extra outside of school to create the work I was interested in. Sort of missed out on that great portfolio building time and instead created a habit of working on a million things at once.


Anyways, back on topic. At GenCon I couldn't help but look at some other booths and think,"how do they have this many print worthy pieces?" Then the wheels start turning and my brain begins to run the numbers. It would only take 2 pieces a month for a year to have 24 amazing prints/portfolio pieces in a year. There I had been throwing away probably 7 months of 2008 and then creating an illustration every 3 or 4 days and that's not counting contest entries. My head swims with all of the ambitious and awe inspiring work I could create given two weeks per piece. Ofcourse another part of me,my stomach, swims at the thought of how little money I would make in that year. Technically my wife would probably be willing to support such a bold move and I'm sure Iv'e told myself repeatedly that I'd commit to making fewer pieces but I was never able to factor in self-esteem. I was never able to anticipate just how soul-crushing it is to only make $100 in a week and willingly put in so many hours that I've effectively dropped my hourly rate below minimum wage, while knowing I could satisfy the client with a quarter of the time.

It's very easy to lie to yourself and persuade yourself that the well paying jobs are helpful. "If I do a million icons for an MMORPG then I can say I have work XP on an MMORPG and I can get into the game industry without leaving northern Kentucky!"
"This AD job will get me a higher profile AD job down the line," or "this AD job will show I'm responsible and larger companies will trust me enough to take a risk on me as an illustrator!" That last statement is especially ridiculous considering I never mention being an AD in my submissions to companies.
"This concept art job will put some sci-fi and turn-arounds in my portfolio and that'll really help me with the game industry."
The harsh truth is that what really helps you get bigger and better work is making bigger and better artwork. Right now I don't feel like my portfolio represents my abilities so I really need to stop lying to myself about the work I take and suffer through the low self-esteem from making very little money for a while.

Monday, September 7, 2009


So the baby has really thrown a wrench in things. Didn't realize until the day of that the deadline was here for the owlbear challenge. Threw together this illo at the last minute. The goal was to try to make it so that you didn't have much you could put your finger on and say "that's from an owl and that's from a bear." The strange should eye/eye stalks came from the thing I like most about owls being that they can turn their head nearly 360 degrees (I think). So I wanted to give it eyes that could really look all over the place. Then the spikes/horns were...well a take on the horned owl. Originally I had these guys with wings, then that morphed into velvet moose antlers and then I thought it would be cool if visually they created a flared out shape like the horned owl. I came up with the odd little sketch for the baby one where there's a massive beak in the front and then just thought it would be neat if as they aged, it grew small and rotated down to the center of the chest. This was all done super quick though so I can't make the argument that I lot of thought went into it. Probably should have made them furry so that they're a bit more like a bear. Threw in some little birds for size reference. Probably should have worked something into the foreground. Even if it's not the best rendered, hopefully it will at least stand out as the most drastic departure from an owl or bear. Not thrilled with it but am actually pretty happy with it considering how quickly I pulled it together.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


This is going to be a bit rambling. Sort of like a shout out track on a CD mixed with some actual information on rare occasion. Drew Baker,Kat Argyle,Andy Hopp,Jason Engle and his assistant (sorry I forgot all three of your first names) were all very nice to me at GenCon and I really appreciated it. Thanks for inviting me along to those dinners. I'll assume the kindness wasn't just because I was giving out velcro to everybody.

Side note:velcro is about the only thing I nailed at my first GenCon. I brought fabric hooks too and they were a huge pain in the ass compared to just using velcro. I was also able to safely remove the velcro from all of the foamcore prints.

Kat was the bizarro version of me at the con. She was an excellent sales person, talking with such excitement and love for the work that you couldn't help but like the work as well (not that it wasn't awesome anyways). Meanwhile I felt completely incapable of hyping my own work. Actually I think Kat was one of the few who was able to hype the work and maybe that's because she was one fo the few people running a booth who wasn't the artist. Maybe most of us artists egos were too damaged and weak from having so much great art surrounding us.

Drew had some very handy vertical panel extensions. Next year I'll have to ask to have my back to Drew's booth so I can mooch off the extra space. :) . I had planned out how to put my work on the panel before arriving but you don't realize how small those panels are until you're there. Drew also had a big banner thing that stuck up out of the top of his panels. If "Joe Slucher" ever comes to be a name somebody might recognize I'll have to consider it. Drew also had a homemade display thing for flipping through his smaller prints. Very nice and affordable solution. Mark Poole had a super fancy version of the same thing. It was more like a pedestal and each page was kept semi-rigid by a frame.

Moving on, I got to meet the Aberrant guys;Simon,Tony and Bryan.They were nice enough to take me out to an Indian restaurant that required walking down a long hallway and through a grocery store. My wife can't eat Indian food so it was a nice change. Then I went with them to a gun store where it looked like you could buy various law enforcement badges. Scary. They told me how much it costs to get an exhibitor booth and I think it was $2000. It amazes me that there are any artists in the exhibitor area at those rates.

Ben Thompson was nice enough to talk to me for a bit. I was too chicken to talk to him last year about the WoW card game. Thought I'd be a jerk to walk up and ask him something about his AD job while he's running a booth as an artist. After talking to him, I think it was silly to be so reluctant last year.

Raven Mimura and I talked for a while about what's popular and clients. I was really surprised by how long he talked to me and we even did a print trade. Very nice guy.

I had a great time at the bar with several artists I'd never met. Aaron Miller was nice enough to pull me into the conversation. He's just now getting into the fantasy art field and managed to land a gig with D&D I think. We ended up trading oil paintings. His portfolio was a box with prints mounted individually. I always think of that style as more of a fine art thing so I was a bit surprised by it. He only showed about 8 pieces though so the arrangement didn't seem too awkward. I would love to know what ADs think of that presentation. It makes you really focus on the individual pieces of art rather than the whole of the portfolio. Sounds like a good tactic if you have a couple of super strong pieces that you think really fit the client well. I also talked to Mark Winters,Caroline Himmelman,Anna and Jeff Himmelman. All were very nice and I hope to see them next year. So there were a lot of Illustration Master Class alumni and WIP podcasters. All of us were talking about going in new directions with our art. :) It appeared artists liked my miniature oil paintings way more than customers. I should also probably mention my two buddies,Oliver Meinerding and Chris Simmons that I brought along and helped a lot with the booth. I think they had a good time at the bar. Me and Oliver ended up getting to work on the same sweet gig from GenCon. Also talked to Jared Blando for a bit. He's an amazing cartographer who is now moving into the illustration side of things. Seemed super enthusiastic and excited about getting into the illustration stuff.

Oliver introduced me to another local artist, Woodrow Hinton whom I have heard a lot about. He was nice enough to introduce me to Andrew Bawidamann and tell me about the weekly illustrators lunch that happens in the area. Hopefully I'll be able to go to one soon.

I also got to finally meet Billy Tackett in person. He's another Covington artist and I've been reading his blog for a while. He's super active with conventions,fairs, art shows,etc so it shouldn't be too hard for you to run into him somewhere. Kind of embarrassed that I hadn't made the effort to meet him before now. Can't really say a bad word about any of the artists I met. All of them were very nice.

Also met Thom Scott. I talked to him for a little bit about sales and he's stats flew in the face of my previous post about what seems to sell. His best seller was a guy with a shark head. He had other pieces that were much better in my opinion but that was the one that got people. I think I was just afraid to look like a fool in my previous post and suggest others make illustrations of people with shark heads.

Met Jeremy McHugh for the first time and he interviewed me for the Ninja Mountain Podcast. With a little bit of clever editing, I'm sure he could have made me sound like a complete idiot so i appreciate that I only sounded like a partial idiot on the podcast. He was just as nice as I expected although I was not expecting the pinstripe vest. Perhaps it was a clever ploy to throw off interviewees. I know I was expecting to be handed a fancy martini at any moment.

There was also a super odd meeting at GenCon. There was a company that I worked for that gave me every reason in the world to hate their guts. I mean they are the absolute worst company I've worked for and would never ever consider working for again unless there was a clause in the contract that said, "if I'm displeased at any point, I can walk away and still get paid". These guys were what spawned my Client Warning Signs journal entry. Well they came by the booth and chatted it up like everything was wonderful between us, as if one day maybe we'd have kids and they'd grow up and marry each other and we'd be related. It was mindblowing. I would have thought they likewise weren't happy with me but I guess all of the anger is strictly on my end.

I also got to meet Joe McDonald whom I did some illustrations for a long time ago. I think we were both surprised to see each other. He was looking at my booth for a while before finally going, "oh hey you did some work for me!" I take it as a good sign that my new work would be that different from the old work. I was mostly shocked by how young he was. So keep an eye out for him in the future.

I'm sorry if I've forgotten to mention our meeting. I ran into a ton of people and most of the time it was while I was running around as fast as I could while Oliver or Chris watched my booth. Not to mention, one night I slept in the hotel closet to try to escape a roommate's comically loud snoring so some sleep deprivation was going on. Also check out this video to see one of my friends in a hilariously bad Hutt costume that some friends made.

Next post will be an actual discussion of illustration. Promise.

Monday, August 17, 2009

*UPDATED*Back from GenCon

Finally unpacked and settled back at home. My son was born on Tuesday at 1:05am so it was rough leaving the family for GenCon but my wife was very understanding. I talked with her on the phone while I was gone and found out when I got home she started running a fever Saturday night and didn't tell me because she didn't want me to run home. So to sum up, I'm a big jerk and I couldn't ask for a better wife. She had family staying with her and is on antibiotics but I still would have abandoned the booth.

Anyways...GenCon was really great for meeting potential clients and other artists but no so great with the print sales. This was my first time having a booth and I've definitely learned a couple of things. Here are some notes.
1. Eye level is more important than anything else! An amazing number of people walking by never noticed a single thing on my table. I could have had bright flashing neon lights of naked ladies and I still don't think they would have been noticed. I had one of my most popular prints printed on canvas and so I had to have it a smaller size. It was on my wall so people would often walk up squinting to check it out, and then I would direct them to a larger print on my table. From there they would check out the rest of the stuff on my table. This accidental trick worked well at getting passerbys to check out all of my work. Unfortunately it hinged on them at least catching a glimpse of the canvas print.

2.People don't read but money signs catch their eye. Despite prominently having some large text stating that 11x17 prints were available of all of the foamcore mounted prints on the panel, I found that I was having to tell everyone that information. At the same time, at the beginning of the convention I had two obvious sheets stating that 11x17 prints costs X, 8.5x11 costs X, foamcore prints cost X and oil paintings cost X. People tended to see those dollar signs before anything else and would turn away, assuming that the work was not worth the price without looking. After removing almost all signage with prices, I found that a lot more people stopped.

3.Purchases are often made based on content rather than polish. The work I had with familiar subject matter seemed to do best. Cerberus and Thor were easily recognizable as well as the angels and demons. The gods playing a board game was also popular because of the simple fact that they were playing a board game. I could have switched the gods out with horses and I think it still would have been one of the more popular pieces. In talking with Andrew McIntosh, he made an interesting observation. At comic conventions he often does well because he's the guy doing work that isn't in a comic style or subject matter. There he could make sales based on the polish while at GenCon everyone was working in a fairly realistic painterly fashion and the contrast between different artists work is different. In this situation it becomes all about content. I'd also like to throw in that having done some of the wildly popular card games like L5R or Magic helps a lot too. Plus if you've done card games you can make deck backers and play mats which I would bet sell better because people can tell themselves that the art piece is utilitarian.

4. Raven Mimura said that in his experience awesome monsters are a tough sell since many people have significant others that have to accept the artwork as well. Makes sense. I would also say that extremely large prints would probably be out of question for many. I know if I look at my house the largest I could probably go with any art is 22in. Anecdotal but still something to think about. Steve Argyle's booth was next to mine and I think all of his prints would be too big for my house but it looked like they were selling really well.

5.Variety is the spice of conventions or something like that. I unwittingly chose a poor tactic by printing only a couple of pieces but printing a large number of each. This tactic may be doomed if only because you're trying to predict which of your pieces will appeal to people. The fewer prints tactic will lead to lower up front costs/less risk but will likely cause your prices to be slightly higher. Prices appeared to play very little of a factor though I think. Most people who asked about prices or seemed genuinely interested bought the prints and price was mostly to check to make sure I didn't have some sort of insane price. There were better artists with cheaper prints and weaker artists with more expensive prints. When I quoted prices I don't think anybody thought, "pff, why would I buy this sea monster city for $15 when I could buy this more popular artist's wizard print for $10?" We're not selling the same thing so prices should really be able to be thrown out the window and not be dependent on size. By the same reasoning nobody is looking at the cost of packs of TCG's and saying why should I buy L5R rather than Magic when there's X price difference.

6.Booths are great for getting those hard to contact clients to come and find you. There were also some clients that I hadn't submitted to because I didn't have work in their genre really. For instance, the Shadowrun art director stopped by,seemed interested and talked to me for a bit. So now he has my website information and everything and I didn't have to feel like a jerk submitting a portfolio that I felt was inappropriate. Another company has only done historically accurate books and stopped by to ask about doing sci-fi work. I never would have thought of submitting a sci-fi portfolio to them. Then there was the peripheral gaming companies that I just didn't know existed before the con or didn't know commissioned artwork. So some LARP people talked to me for a long time about getting some artwork.

7. I don't know why it took me so long to realize it during the con, but push those business cards. If somebody is casually walking by looking at your work but obviously isn't going to stop for a purchase, ask them to grab a business card and check out the website. Heck, if you have prints available on your site, you might even make a sale after the con from it. Nearly everybody that I suggested pick up a card, did so and it even encouraged them to hang around and look a bit longer.

I've hardly had time to write this with all of the baby stuff and wife's temperature spikes so later I'll have to return to update this. Thanks to all of the artists at the con. You were very nice and treated me like we'd been friends a long time. Thanks to everyone who bought prints as well.

Some quick tips. Subscribe to mailing lists for printing sites and you can catch some good deals. I got 500 business cards for free and probably gave out 250 at the con. Also, I got the banner for free as well. Banners can be quite expensive. I think if I'd submitted my own design for the banner I still could have gotten it for $6 but I'm just that cheap.

8.Leave a white border around your images. I printed to the edges and found that the prints would not take ink for signings. I could sign in the white areas though without the sharpie or ink bubbling up. FYI, to your amazement, some people will actually want you to sign stuff. Blows my mind too.

Anyways, the con has already led to some work and looks like it will pay for my poor decisions on the print runs.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


So I finally did a livestream and found myself surprisingly nervous. I've talked to classes before and done tons of portfolio reviews but working live in front of people was a bit nerve wracking. Made me more timid and slow. Next time I'll have to make it something more focused like rendering some sharp texture on something. That would limit the length and eliminate stress.

Anyways I've been doing some actual oil painting. While I've been happy with how these little paintings have gone, I'm excited to soon be trying some new materials. Hopefully in a couple of months I'll be experimenting with some alkyds and water miscible oil paints. At the moment I've been mixing in a lot of painting medium to increase flow and it extends the drying time. I also mix in a lot of medium to lower opacity when laying down the base color.

I like to do my drawing on illustration board but it soaks up the paint a bit too much. So I go over my pencils with pure matte medium. That preserves my pencils and makes it so that if I want to make highlights later, I can rub off a touch of paint with a rubber tipped color shaper to get back to pure white. Dan Brereton does something similar. He does the matte medium thing to preserve his pencils and than paints with watercolors but doesn't add much water. Then later, he can just rub anywhere with something wet to erase back to pure white/his pencils.

In college I had to use acrylics so that I could transport art and it would dry in time. I always hated using acrylics though. They dried too quick and dried darker. What I found worked best was to paint much lighter than you planned on the final image being. Then after the acrylics are dry, go over it with a thin wash of a very dark oil paint. Then rub off the wash for your more lit areas. Picked that up from some demo in a mag by David Michael Beck. He's another Cincinnati artist.

Anyways, I haven't continued the dark wash at the end with oils since they take so long to dry. I'm hoping alkyds will allow me to bring that trick back or that water miscible oils won't require medium and will therefor dry faster for the wash at the end.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Notes to Self

Just more notes I've written down that I wanted to put on here in case I lose my little pieces of paper. Several are from Stapleton Kearns blog. Some are probably from Loomis and maybe a couple from James Gurney. A couple are mine. The more obvious ones are probably mine.

A picture is more articulate where the light is concentrated on a certain part rather than all of it.

If you face strong sunlight in a picture, your color is in your shadows.

If two or more figures are together you can bind them together by running a shadow of same strength from one to the other.

Imagine the texture under your brush as you paint. (Boy is this one helpful.)

It appears I can easily fall into work mode rather than learning mode. I work better and smarter when I have some bit of new art theory or trick on my mind. Repeating past process seems to make work stale.

If colors work together at full saturation, they should still work when completely toned down.

No pure black. There is bound to be some ounce of light between your eye and whatever is in shadow.

At the same time though, make entire image slightly darker than you'd expect to achieve a greater sense of light.

Eyebrows cast shadows dumby.

Reflections can sell realism.

Dust and fog is useful for separating planes.

When bright light hits a light surface there's a halo affect. Some anime seems obsessed with this light effect.

Repeatedly blurring until well developed and then add edges. Can really make things pop.

Image>mode>index color. Image mode>color table

Repeat shapes to establish depth.

Contrast of shape to create focus.

Contour cannot be continuously defined all around all units and a sense of space be achieved.

Blocky paint rather than smooth can add interest to heads,drapery and clouds. Very counter intuitive.

When your picture is dead or unpleasant, the fault is usually too much raw unrelated color, rather than not enough.

Use cloth underwater to simulate capes in the wind.

Clients are like stepping stones that immediately begin to sink under your weight. You must find the next which will also begin to sink. Keep looking forward.

Learning to paint from photos is like learning to swim at home on the sofa.

Put the note down and leave it alone. If you don't like it, repaint it, or throw more paint down onto it. You can't worry the paint into a picture once it's on the canvas.

The more white you use, the less color you have.

Observation should not rule, but suggest execution.

Style is how it is a picture of, rather than what it is a picture of.

A painting should be one single image on the canvas, rather than a number of smaller images clamoring for our attention.

I should probably have to write all of those 100 times. It would either make me better or give me carpal tunnel.


Seems like a big part of improving has to do with finding increasingly comfortable methods of working. I've realized that my work goes much slower when I enter into a piece without confidence. For years I'd say I've continued a practice that leaves me with no confidence when it comes time to render. Going into photoshop with loose sketches. It locks elements into locations but forces me to flesh out the full structure and details on the fly. This gives me some hesitation and I work much slower. I seem to work fastest when I have a detailed line drawing going into photoshop OR if I'm going into photoshop with practically nothing at all.

I may have been aware of this subconsciously for a while but I really get impatient with drawing and rush into photoshop when something happens where I like an element but want to re-size it or change the angle slightly. Also, I don't enjoy drawing in line. I prefer to erase out of a base or work with bigger charcoal marks. I think it's been a process problem that I've been avoiding addressing. Well I think I've finally found a more relaxing process that also allows me to head into my digital finishing with more confidence.

In the past I've done thumbnails to work up comps and they've literally been the size of a thumbnail. Lately I'm instead starting at a larger size which I've always thought was insane because I'd never tried it or heard of many artists beginning that way. I've been getting out big sheets of cheap paper and doing more gestural charcoal drawings to work on my characters and comps. Takes the focus away from line work and puts it more on proportions and pose. After I've got some good poses I get out marker paper. Marker paper is a lot like tracing paper except sturdier and can take more erasing. It also won't have all of those crinkly lines you'd get from scanning tracing paper. Using the marker paper, I can turn my messy mass drawing into neat line drawings that I can flip over to get a fresh perspective. Then it's easy to do another layer and adjust any proportions or angles I might feel could change. Then I can use a micron to go over the lines and then really pour on the markers. Then I scan in all of the individual elements and combine them.

I used this on my latest entry for Art Order and I got the piece done very quickly. I'm currently using it on a illustration of Kali with all of her arms fighting 4 other characters. Such a busy scene might have slowed my working to a crawl with my past habit of doing the most minimal drawings. I always thought I was taking a shortcut but I think it likely caused me more stress.

Anyways, get out there and try some marker paper if you haven't. It's nice stuff to draw on.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Digital painting from life

So I thought I'd try to jump to doing a color painting of the model this week. I was a bit worried. If you've read my review on DA you'll know that I think the tablet pc's color is pretty weak. This week definitely proved it. These are much more garish than I thought they were. Did not expect that shoulder to be so green. Face was really rushed and looks awful. That part had nothing to do with the tablet. Next time, I'm thinking I should perhaps use the dodge and burn tools (I don't normally) so that I know the values are around where I want too. I thought some places were white and they weren't even close once I got it onto my main computer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Digital Painting FROM LIFE

Got to use my new tablet PC to do some live nude figure drawings. It was a lot of fun. I kind of hate drawing in line and prefer to work where the image emerges from the darkness and digital really allowed me to do that easily for the first time. No big rig of paints and everything to carry around. No using conte on colored paper, neither of which are accepting of revisions.
Richard took a picture of me working. It's also nice that I don't have to go through the pain in the ass of scanning sketches in.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Composition and Convention

Working on a big art order of 21 pieces. All post-apocalyptic. Lots of vehicles. The average quality of my work is really on the rise I think. I've really committed to the idea of trying to make each piece look as good as I can despite whatever I may be getting paid. It certainly helps the self-esteem to not be making pieces that are under par. These pieces still need work but of the 5 I've done, I don't feel like I should throw any out and start over rather than making corrections. Still difficult to try to hit the over-all composition and character/vehicle design at the same time. I've realized when I get super complicated briefs with a half-dozen things going on, I tend to come up with diagram-like compositions. Here's the flaming skull, the exploding bike, good guy, bad guy, stormy sky, and flunkies. The compartmentalizing also tends to make the individual parts a bit generic and separate. It's from a desire to please a client by fulfilling all of the requirements of an illustration. While important, ultimately the client wants a great illustration and I should be less shy about cropping,grouping and lowering certain things on the hierarchy.

Looks like my most affordable option for GenCon is going to be 11x17 posters sold in mailing tubes. Print costs for larger images really jumps up beyond that size while I'd feel a need to matte smaller pieces and sell them in plastic baggies. Matting and baggies would really shoot up the cost of those smaller pieces. For the display, I think I'm going to maybe have my Taishu pic and maybe the Enter the Pumpkin pic printed and mounted either on canvas stretcher or standout. Not sure about the rest since I don't understand the hanging system yet.

Big opportunity is coming up with the announcement of a new Thunderdome competition on CA. Unless it doesn't start for a while or the deadline is way off, it will be hard to create anything for it. I've got this big art order to finish and then a baby and GenCon coming in early August. Still, I hope to participate. I learned a lesson from the past 2 I've been in and I think I can make a piece aimed to please judges.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Boll Deevil

Entry for Art Order contest.
Despite a terrifying appearance the boll deevil prefers to avoid a tough fight. It tends to prey on small groups or stragglers by swooping down and using a gaze attack to stun or paralyze it's victims. Upon success, it uses it's telescoping snout to quickly coup de grace the victim or pluck off a limb or weapon if it doesn't have much time due to other party members. Facing serious opposition though, it will abandon it's attack and seek easier prey.

Would love constructive criticism on this one. I think it needs work in certain areas but can't exactly sort out how to fix them. The head could be rendered better but I'm not really sure how to at the moment.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Checklist in the head

I made this list and put it above my computer. I'm not going to be a slave to look at this all of the time but I think it will be useful for when I'm stuck on a piece and can't figure out the problem.
  • Are there any tangents?
  • Where do lines lead?
  • Have long lines been broken up?
  • Are the silhouettes interesting?
  • Where's the point of highest value contrast?
  • Where's the point of highest color contrast?
  • Where's the point of highest texture contrast?
  • Where's the point of highest shape contrast?

  • Are the colors harmonious?
  • Do the colors support focal point?
  • Is image cool or warm? (Can't be both)
  • Is it saturated?
  • Are there subtleties?

  • Has perspective been drawn out?
  • Has necessary reference been used?
  • Is there an atmosphere?
  • Are the light sources clear?
  • What time of day is it?
  • Are the figures stiff?
  • Does the skin feel like skin?
  • Have I remembered to consider transparency?
  • Are there soft,hard and lost edges?

  • Are the details in the shadows or light? (Can't be both)
  • Has movement been indicated?
  • What's the mood?
  • Does the image tell the story?


I've been thinking about what the point of this blog is. So far, It's just been a repeat of what I post on and Deviant Art except with a much smaller audience. Seems kind of silly for me to be repeating myself when I already post art on a half-dozen sites other than those two. I think the blog will benefit me best if I treat myself as the target audience.

New plan. From now on, this blog will be dedicated to me talking to myself...about what I'm learning or simply documenting the criticisms I have of my own work. Much like a teacher forcing a student to write, "I will not ____" over and over again on a chalk board, I think the new format will help me improve by seriously committing some of these fleeting thoughts to memory.

This week I began a traditional painting for a contest over at Art Order. It's probably been years since I've even attempted a traditional painting. In college, I loved oils but their slow drying times made it difficult to do last minute work. So I would paint on ungessoed illustration board because those oils would soak so quickly and dry. Anyways, back then I didn't think much about my options because usually teachers wouldn't give you any. If it was painting class you had to use oils on canvas. Drying times meant you practically had to use acrylics for illustration class. I found it either difficult or time consuming to gesso masonite. So through college it was either oil on canvas or acrylic on illustration board. So I never gave much consideration to the material I would be painting on.

Cut to this week. Having been a digital artist for the past couple of years, I've become attached to the "undo" button so I started my painting off this week in the most chicken shit way possible. I drew my creature on my illustration board and then conservatively inked my creature. Then I covered it in a couple of layers of matte medium. So my pencils were still preserved and I could now lay watercolor down as opaquely as I wished and even after drying could wet and remove it. The traditional equivalent of undo. After getting my values to where I wanted them, I started laying down oil paint. I think working digitally has gotten me prejudiced towards re-applying paint to my brush because I couldn't help but load up on winsor newton painting medium. It was nice smooth areas of color without that evil gravity interfering like it does with watercolors. In the past, I've always felt that if I used paint straight out of the tube I'm being lazy so I spent a great deal of time trying to mix my paint on the palette. I would waste tons of paint and would get really frustrated. That could be because those were paintings from life but with this illustration, I had no shame in using paint straight from the tube and modifying it a little once it was on the canvas. So much paint saved and so much less stress.

It's funny that Stapleton Kearns says that when he tries to paint in photoshop it's like painting with gummy worms because with my super wet and fluid oils, I often felt like I was trying to paint with gummy worms. Note to self;wet oils means sharp edges but poor gradation. Thicker oils on on a dry surface allow for some nice transition through dry-brushing or scumbling. Before, I'd always thought I had poor dexterity because I was unable to execute some technique I'd seen William Whitaker display once. Lightly touch your brush to canvas to place the paint right on top of what was there before. Press harder for the stroke to blend in. I always had trouble placing the paint on top. I figured out this week, that I'm not the clutz I thought I was. I simply hadn't worked my paint to the right consistency. My titanium white from Gamblin is super thick. Dragging it lightly across a canvas only picks up paint from the canvas and if you add too much medium it will automatically blend rather than sitting on top. It was something, I'd just been to rushed to notice what the problem was in the past, but would instinctually move on to a different light color or would wait for the paint to dry.

As a digital artist, waiting for paint to dry is the most discouraging part of traditional art. I couldn't help but think,"I could have completed this illustration in a day if I wasn't having to wait for this to dry." That has killed all of my attempts at traditional painting in the past couple of years. Plus I can never get any traditional work scanned into the computer where it doesn't look like crap. This painting will be especially challenging since there's enough painting medium in there that it's like painted glass. I think when I have my GenCon booth this year, I'll be regretting that I didn't fight it out more with traditional painting.

I doubt anyone made it through all of that. Anyways, I've been commissioned for a pretty massive amount of work for a product and I'll be doing about 90% of the work. I started doing work for this particular company and although they were commissioning work in greyscale, I was doing it in color and showing them both versions. A couple of times they broke down and paid the additional fee for the color work and now they've asked me to do a ton more and have switched many of the pieces to being color. It's great to have a client loving your work enough that they practically decide to give you the rest of a book and greatly increase their budget. I really like several of the pieces I've done for them, hopefully they'll release some previews and I'll be able to show a couple of them before release.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ship Concept

Ship Concept for Carpe Chaos. Kind of wonky. I've figured out how to use SketchUp pretty good now so hopefully the form of these vehicles I do will tighten up.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Page 6 Panel 3

Fooling around with the graphic novel stuff I'm doing for fun. In my previous picture of Elorgo, he belonged in a gay pride parade because I swear I tried to paint a rainbow on his face. I'm really embarrassed by those colors now. Will have to re-work that piece for when GenCon rolls around again because I officially have a booth. I haven't felt much self-loathing showing my portfolio for the past couple of years but I have a feeling that having a booth and seeing some of my stuff larger is going to make me weep. hah hah. It's good for me though.

This could still use some work. I'm really not prone to doing action shots. Need to get better and make figures feel less stiff. Little zoom focus might help. The little manga background tries to help the sense of action.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


A garreth is about to start scrubbing and polishing a red dragon's rear. Another sketch done for Art Order. Wanted to do something that looked reptilian. Last minute addition of ears sort of destroyed that and made it look less iguana and more cow-like. Kind of like that it's more difficult to define now. Anyways, I liked the idea of these little guys just being decked out in treasure from these red dragons. So much so, that they'd become mundane. P.S. I know the helm of brilliance only looks like that when worn so no need to point out the inaccuracy. Just wanted a very fancy helmet used as a bucket and as a scale reference.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Jon Schindehette prompted a weekly sketch over on his blog where people try to imagine an evolved cockatrice. I guess the last time I'd heard of a cockatrice was back in the early days of Magic the Gathering and I remembered it being a long, thin thing so I was surprised to see Jon's example was a compact and stout beast. Anyways, just sort of tackled this without wracking my brain too much. Wanted to keep that compact design though.

This is a sketch in my new moleskine. Absolutely loving it. I had to do a bunch of sketches for Aberrant to be used as final illustrations and it was a real joy working in this sketchbook. Paper can take a LOT of erasing, you can draw easily across pages (needed since it's small), and it's just a real comfortable size to have in your hands while watching TV,sitting in a car,sitting in a restaurant,etc. Pages are off-white which I normally love but I can't get it to take prismacolors.
P.S. Updated my website. Took some stuff off and put up some stuff. Still waiting for some art to come out from under NDA and then I'll be posting it.

Friday, February 27, 2009


My friend, Richard, always doing these silly photoshopped images of his face into master painting and I thought I'd try it. I saw this Rembrandt painting and thought it would be fun to throw my face in there. Looks like I should have lightened the cheek and tip of the nose some. Actualy fooled with trying to paint the nose. Probably should have just stuck to the photo and manipulated it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Angels and Demons

It was fun to get some briefs where I could put some women in there even if I didn't handle them as well as I would have liked. It's easy to do guys since I can just pose and shoot a photo since I make such a good monster. I however do not make a good woman and my wife doesn't like to pose so the females tend to have to be out of my head. Working on a way to improve my females. I hope to do some more pics with female heroines in August.

This batch is probably a little loose. Before I did this, I did several illos for Aberrant Games where I was anal retentive so I think this was a slight backlash. Trying to find a good ground between reference,imagination, and straight photos and then techniques with rendering. I feel more lost than ever but much happier since I'm at least trying to discover something which I hadn't been able to do for a while.

Taxes are going to destroy me.I owe much more than I expected. :( Not sure if I'll be getting a booth at GenCon after all. The baby's due date alone is already making that questionable but I'm afraid if I don't do it this year, I never will.

Also, I'll be give a lecture and demo at the Art Academy of Cincinnati on Feb.26th. If you go to school there, weasel your way into Ken Henson's illustration class on that day. Should be fun.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Figure Drawings

Just finished one of my "moleskine" sketchbooks that have the super thin paper. I've pretty much been exclusively using it for figure drawings so I thought I'd show some of them. Last one is definitely my favorite. One of the few times where the face is remotely close.