Wild birthday party

birthday party fb
A friend of mine pointed out to me that I should have more images of groups of people in my portfolio, which is largely images of one or two figures. He also suggested that I should look at the portfolios of other illustrators and find an image to sort of recreate in my style while keeping the general content and feeling of the original image. I chose an image of a very chaotic birthday party with lots of kids running around doing stuff, a dog, a toddler, and a slightly overwhelmed parent. Here is my first sketch:
I felt like this conveyed the action and feeling I wanted, so I tightened up the pencils and in the process, made a few changes. I added a couple more kids to the background, sort of reposed the Mom so that it seemed like she was in danger of being tripped as she moved through the kids with the cake, and I decided that the kids would be playing with balloon animals and objects. Here is my tightened pencil sketch:
I then made a few more changes after looking at the image with fresh eyes, such as changing the position of the Mom’s legs, the position of the baby, making the pairs of balloons asymmetrical in relation to each other, and making some of the balloon strings more curly, which added even more to the feeling of movement and chaos.
I inked this image traditionally, scanned the inks, and added colors in Photoshop using  a brush that simulates the look of traditional watercolors. I think this image turned out very well, and was a good exercise for me.

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Dapper armadillo

armadillo blue fb
My wife suggested to me that I should draw an armadillo in a bowler hat. Why a bowler hat? I’m not sure what her reasoning was, but for me it was an opportunity to create a reason why he would be wearing it. I began sketching out ideas, and on this page you can see me working out several ideas for this fine armored fellow. Eventually I put him in a sport coat, holding flowers, and checking his pocket watch (because if you have a bowler hat and a sport coat, you definitely are carrying a pocket watch!):
You can see that I played around with the angle of the flowers and his pose until I hit on what seemed to be a good combination. You’ll also notice that I ditched the bowler hat in favor of showing off his ears, which make him look distinctly like an armadillo. When I painted him, I painted his jacket brown, because that is the color I think of when I think of a sports jacket (and I’m not sure why that is), but once I was done painting, I decided that the brown was too close to the color of his body, and I also realized I had missed an opportunity to use the jacket color as the center of attention. Enter the incredible technological power of Photoshop, with which I was able to create some other color options for the jacket while maintaining the watercolor textures and shading of the painting:
With some help from my friends, I decided that I liked my navy blue option the best, and so that is now the final jacket color in my illustration. I’m really happy with how this turned out, and every time I see it, I wonder if he made it to his date on time, and how it went. I’m definitely rooting for this little guy!

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Duck and hound

duck and hound
This image was originally done as a black and white illustration for a book of short stories about a very precocious basset hound. In this story, the dog makes friends with a duck, and they would often fall asleep snuggled together. I thought that my drawing of them turned out very sweet, and after turning in the finished illustration, decided that I wanted to do a watercolor version based on my pencil sketch. Here is my pencil drawing:
This is the vector line art of this image that was printed in the book:
beagle3I did three versions of the watercolor version, trying to get the gradient of the sky and the shadows on the dog and on the ground to look right. I used some masking fluid create the moon and stars. This third attempt felt pretty good, and I’m pleased with the result.

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Pig in stroller

stroller pig
A few years ago my niece delightedly told me about going to the park and seeing a pig that was being rolled around in a stroller. I thought that was an engaging visual image and decided to try and turn it into a painting. I drew a girl who sort of looks like my niece, timidly approaching a pig in a stroller. I decided that I would have her holding flowers, as if she might be thinking the pig might like to smell or eat them. Here is my first sketch:
I decided that there wasn’t enough context for where this was happening, so I added some background that looked like a park:
I felt like the park bench was sort of crowding the scene, so I changed it around and added a tree:
I decided to paint the pig brown instead of the standard pink, largely because pet pigs tend to be colors other than pink. Over all, I think this one turned out pretty well.

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Girl with pinwheels

pinwheel girl fb
A few years ago I was watching my nieces from Alaska running around a park with some pinwheels and decided that I should paint a scene like that. I loved pinwheels as a kid and even when I pick one up now, there is a particular pleasure in moving it around and seeing that wheel turn. I decided to draw one figure instead of two, but gave her two pinwheels. I also decided that her emotion would be one of unbridled joy, with the wind in her face and leaves flying past her. I added the leaves in particular to reinforce the force of the wind, as does her scarf and hair flying around. Here is my basic sketch:
In the inking phase, I decided that instead of loose ‘gusty’ wind lines, I would ink bands of the sky behind her that look reminiscent of wind, but not in the traditional sense. This also allowed me to give the sky an interesting look when painting it. I chose sort of warm pastel colors, with a couple slightly cool ones in there. My final touch was to add white lines for some extra wind, and to help sell the idea that the pinwheels are actually spinning around. I really enjoyed working on this piece and am pleased with how it turned out.

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Waltzing penguins

dancing penguins fb
I was watching Planet Earth 2 around the beginning of the year, and was struck a segment involving a huge colony of penguins living on a big frozen lake. For some reason, later that evening the image of a penguin couple waltzing around on that frozen lake popped into my head and I thought it would be fun to paint. Here is my page of sketches:
I liked the lake that I drew, but wasn’t satisfied with the initial sketch because instead of looking like the male was dipping the female, it looked like he was keeping her from falling down. I decided to rework the pose so that it looked more like dancing. Here is my refined sketch, combining the best parts of my initial sketches:
You can see that I refined the shapes of arms and legs, and clarified their expressions. I am really pleased with how this image turned out; this penguin couple looks like they are having a lot of fun. Thanks for stopping by!

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New website (sort of)

I have my rebuilt website up and running. A few months ago I lost access to the server my site was on, and no longer had access to my database of articles and everything, but as it turns out, thanks to the Wayback Machine internet archive, I’ve been able to access my blog posts and have started working on recreating them. Many of the posts were written over 5 years ago, but they are a record of artistic growth, and I think they’re valuable to recreate. Here’s to remembering the past while looking towards the future!

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Cow wearing sunhat

cow hat fb
It can be difficult to answer questions like, “How did you come up with the idea for a cow wearing a sun hat?” The truth is that I was in the shower and the image popped into my head: a cow, standing in some water, eating a water plant, wearing a sun hat. Why? I have no idea. I had to sketch it out though, before I forgot about it, so this is my attempt to get the idea on paper:

In the process of sketching, I decided to add a bird to the cow’s back, because it seemed right. Possibly I was influenced by seeing birds sitting on the backs of hippopotamuses in Africa. The bird needed something to do though, so then I drew a frog which the bird was watching. Here is my cleaned up sketch:

Here is my color comp. I decided to try and keep the colors very naturalistic so that the garish color of the hat would really stand out. Fuchsia seemed like a good color at the time:

When I was finished with the paints, I added some white highlights on the water with a white paint pen. This was fun to draw and paint, and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. 

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Hedgehog

hedgehog fb
I was riding in the car with my wife one evening after work, discussing ideas for watercolor images, when she suggested a hedgehog playing in the sand. I decided right there to paint that image for her as a gift. My first sketch was not that great:
I felt this hedgehog looked a bit too much like Sonic the Hedgehog, and he looked sort of unhappy, so I started over and came up this sketch:
Here’s my revised sketch, where I decided to clarify what this hedgehog has been building:
I then did a color comp in Photoshop to figure out how to do the colors. Here’s what I settled on:
You’ll notice that in my final I added some ocean to the background, because I got done replicating my comp with watercolors, and I felt like something was missing. The addition of the water seemed to tie everything together. I had a lot of fun painting this hedgehog and my wife loved it!

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First bike ride

first bike ride
This painting was commissioned by a friend of mine as a Father’s Day gift. She wanted something that would show how encouraging and devoted her husband is to their daughters, and decided to focus on when her oldest daughter first rode her bike without the training wheels. I thought this was a great idea, and did this initial sketch:

As you can see, the father is focusing on his bike riding daughter, but is still aware of, and protecting, his younger daughter, who is very interested in a butterfly. I did a revised sketch which basically followed the shapes in the rough sketch, but I updated and clarified the expressions and clothing. I also tried to make the faces look more like the real people I was trying to depict:

The next step was to try and figure out what how to color the image. Here is my color comp, done in Photoshop. I had access to a video of the event I was depicting, so I was able to be very specific about the colors of the bike, the helmet, clothing, etc., which was very helpful:

When it came to the final painting, you’ll notice that I decided to add some more trees to fill in the background, and I changed the colors of the young daughter’s clothing to reflect the colors of the father’s favorite sports team. This was one of the most detailed paintings I’ve done to date, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Thanks for reading!

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