Young Rhino

Last Summer I got to see some white rhinos at the Baltimore zoo and although I have seen rhinos before, this time I was much more mesmerized watching them than ever before. Perhaps it was the overall setting, because there were ostriches and zebras in the same enclosure, so the scene felt prehistoric somehow with the huge powerful animals lumbering around while fleet footed bird monsters roamed around in packs. I still had rhinos on the brain when I got home and wound up sketching out this little guy:

Around the same time I invited a friend of mine over to show me some of her watercoloring techniques, and so I let her paint on these inks while inking a second for myself, the results of which you can see above. I’m very hesitant about working in too many layers when painting with watercolors, which is sort of the opposite of how my friend works, so this represents a tentative step forward in that area. After adding a layer of grays, I added some light pink, yellow, and orange washes in certain areas to make the colors more interesting, and I wound up really liking the results. Since then, I’ve been working on adding this technique to my work.

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Shy Mouse

white mouse standing in a patch of clover, holding a clover blossom.

I was sketching a mouse one day and decided it would be interesting to have it holding a clover blossom. In the process I decided to make the mouse female, and have her sort of coyly holding the clover, possibly in an alluring way. Here is that initial sketch:

I eventually redrew this pose, and decided to make her more shy than coy. I changed her pose, I hid her face behind the clover blossom a little, and changed her tail. I also added a patch of clover as a little bit of a background:

In the final inks, I made her ears a little rounder. During the watercoloring process, I tried to add some gradual color gradients on the clover, shifting from a yellowish green at the top to a bluish green toward the bottom. I’m really pleased with the resulting effect on the clover. Thanks for reading!

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A friend of mine challenged me to do some work that would push me out of some of my artistic ruts, namely making characters a bit more cartoony and playing with the relative sizes of everyday objects. I started by sketching what I thought to be an action-oriented, sort of cartoony scene of a guy outside grilling, and fending off a bee which is flying around:

Based on this, my friend suggested I redraw the scene where the bug is much, much larger and being intimidating. Here is the result:

Feedback included making the bug even larger and more intimidating, including more creepy insect details, and emphasizing the physical shock the guy feels at suddenly seeing this bug crashing his bbq:

I finally wound up with this sketch, which I inked and painted for the final image. This exercise was really good for me, and has given me several more things to think about every time I approach an illustration.

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Dancing Gator

This dancing alligator started with me doodling some random shapes in my sketchbook. I just started moving my pencil around , and after a few shapes I tried to determine if the shapes looked like anything, in the same way that we look for shapes in the clouds. In this case, the shapes started looking like an alligator, and I began moving the sketch in that direction, settling on this dancing gator with a cane and top hat:

Before inking, I made a few small changes, such as closing his eyes, making the cane topper a duck instead of a fish, and adding an old fashioned Victrola record player:

I messed up my first attempt at painting by, on a whim, adding music notes to the background despite the fact that I know basically nothing about music. I re-inked the image and looked up sheet music for a song I like so that I could reproduce a sequence of actual notes. The result was much better, and I really like the result. I think this image has a very New Orleans feel to it, which was exactly what I was going for.

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Not a morning porcupine

porcupine fb

This image started as a quick sketch of a porcupine I did after seeing one in a zoo. As I was drawing, I started thinking about what a porcupine would look like with bedhead, and then I drew the hairbrush stuffed full of big quills, the way that many hairbrushes tend to gather and hold hair:

I took this sketch and did a refined sketch where I tried to give our porcupine friend a little bit of environmental context. I initially pictured him in a bathroom, and tried to indicate that with a sink and vanity mirror stand (because I didn’t want to draw a whole bathroom). Here’s that sketch:

I wasn’t satisfied with the look of the bathroom background though, and though I kept trying to change it, I couldn’t get it where it looked right to me. Eventually, I decided to change the background to a bedroom, to emphasize the bedhead nature of the porcupines wild quills. This felt better to me; more visually self-contained:

The inks and colors went pretty smoothly once I had finalized my pencil sketch. I think we’ve all had the experience of being up earlier than we want to be, and realizing that our normal morning preparation instruments need maintenance before we can use them. I really enjoyed creating this image and I think it turned out pretty well.

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Puppy chasing butterfly

Several months ago I drew this happy little puppy while doing some warm up sketching:

I liked his head-to-body ratio, his flapping ears, and his determined expression, and decided to turn him into a watercolor painting. As it turned out, I wound up doing six versions of this painting because each time there were things I liked and things I didn’t like. Here are some of the versions:

Eventually I was able to take all the things I liked from all the various versions, and put them together into a final version of this painting. I’m pleased with how it turned out. Thanks for reading!

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Roller skating elephant

rollerskating elephant fb

I was recording a podcast for a friend of mine (the audio was messed up, so don’t go looking for the interview) and we were discussing how I can pretty much draw any idea I can see in my head.

He said, “So, if I gave you an idea, like, an elephant rollerskating through the park, you could draw it.”

“Yes,” I replied, “In fact, that’s a great idea, let me right that down!” That was the beginning of this image. Here is my first sketched out idea:

This drawing was ok, it is definitely an elephant on roller skates, but it had no energy. I wanted to capture how easy and light on his feet this elephant would be on roller skates, and it just wasn’t happening. I spent a lot of time redrawing things in this image, trying to make it better, more right, but eventually I gave up and decided to start again with a simpler sketch to try and better capture the energy of a roller skater:

This loose prelim sketch perfectly captured the feeling I wanted. The pose is more open and natural feeling for rollerskating, the action feels forward moving, and the closed eyes bring a feeling of comfort and ease. Here is my cleaned up pencil drawing:

I stripped some things out of my original sketch, like the ipod and the earphones, as well as the wrinkles on the skin. They seemed unnecessary, and I didn’t miss them. I eventually added a second tree to make the setting seem more park like. I painted this elephant with red shorts, and then began to second guess my choice. Through the incredible technology of Photoshop, I was able to shift the color of the shorts through the whole color spectrum, and I opened up this image for comments from my friends on Facebook:

I tallied up the votes, and red slightly edged out blue (people didn’t really seem to care for green), however, the reasons people gave for choosing blue were more convincing to me than the red, so I went with blue. Blue made the image feel more peaceful, and was a lower visual anchor to the blue sky. As you can see in the final image at the top, I changed the color of blue slightly from what you see in this comparison image, making it a little lighter and shifting the color slightly toward green-blue. I really like this painting, I feel like it succeeds at everything I was trying to capture, and it makes me smile when I see it. Thanks for reading!

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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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