Pig in a Stroller

Pig in a stroller
My niece told me a story about being at the park and seeing a pig in a stroller. The image stuck with me and now, a couple of years, I finally got it on paper. The concept turned out to be difficult to express visually though, and as you can see it went through several revisions. Here is my first sketch:

There’s nothing wrong with this I guess, but I felt like it raised way more questions than it should…the pig in the stroller is just too unexpected and needs more context. I tried to draw a park around them as the background and setting:

This helped a lot, I thought, but I didn’t like something about it. I eventually decided that the bench looked crammed into the image and was awkward looking, so I redrew it so that it disappeared off the left side. I also added a tree because it felt park-like:

This all felt right, so I inked it, did my color comp, and then final watercolors. I’m pretty pleased with how this one turned out.

Cow with sunhat

Cow wearing a hat
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 are my ink lines:

This is my color comp, done in Photoshop to help me work out colors before I jumped in with watercolors. I printed this out and had it on my watercoloring table while creating the final image.

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.


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!

Christmas fish

Christmas fish
This is the image for my 2015 Christmas card. I was in a staff meeting at work, and was thinking about undersea creatures (because so far my Christmas cards have featured underwater animals), when this idea of a normally predatory angler fish setting aside his violent tendencies to use his luminescent lure as a “Christmas tree” light popped into my head. Here is my initial sketch:

I figured that I would have a coral shaped like a tree, with some starfish to look like decorations. I eventually got rid of the various other fish though, because I really liked the look of the little dumbo octopus (a real deep-ocean octopus) I’d drawn, and decided to just have more of them. I also added an eel to look a little like a streamer wrapping around the tree. Here is my cleaned-up sketch:

I think those octopuses look really cute, and I am particularly proud of the gentle and satisfied expression on the face of the angler fish. The finished image is pen and ink with watercolor (and a little help from Photoshop). I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Hugging owls

Hugging owls
This painting started out as a Valentine’s Day present for my wife, who loves owls. It took a while to work out how to draw owls who look distinctly male and female, but I worked it out eventually through size and the the indication of eyelashes of the female. Here is my pencil sketch, tinted a bit sepia with Photoshop:

I added little patterns in their chest feathers as a reference to things we each like. I put the triforce symbol from Legend of Zelda on the female because my wife loves those games and I added the Star Trek: The Next Generation symbol to the male because I love that show. They still exist in the original painting, but I digitally edited them out for this portfolio example. I inked the image in brown ink because I thought it would look good with the colors I would use. I painted the male brown because I have brown hair, and the female yellow because my wife is blond. I think it turned out well and my wife really loved it.

Suave koala

Suave koala
I’ve been wanting to do a watercolor image of a koala bear for a while now, but it took me a while to come up with an image I liked. My first ideas were two koalas, presumably a couple, sipping champagne while enjoying the sunset, or a koala in a hammock with his leg drooping over the side while he munched on a eucalyptus branch, but I couldn’t really get those images to work visually. Finally, I drew a koala dressed up in a suit, looking like a super spy (at least that’s what he was in my mind):
suave koala
I inked the image on cold press paper, and then he sat around on my art table for 2 months or more while I did other stuff. When I finally got back around to coloring this image, I forgot that in my sketch, his glasses were supposed to be sun glasses, so now he looks more like an aristocrat than a spy, but I still like how he turned out. I used gray with varying amounts of water added to it for most of this image and I’m still really enjoying working on the cold press paper compared to the hot press I used when I first started. Thanks for reading!

Panda mother and cub

Panda Mom and Cub
I was thinking about painting an animal mother and child, and having recently seen the pandas at the Atlanta Zoo I decided to give them a try. Pandas are adorable, but it took a while to pose these two so that the dark areas wouldn’t just blend into each other. Here’s my pencil sketch:
panda sketch
Up to this point, I’ve been using hot press watercolor paper for my paintings because I wanted to have a smooth surface for inking. I don’t really like how the paints act on the hot press paper though, whereas the rougher cold press paper spreads and holds the paints much better, so with this painting I tried cold press. I wasn’t sure how the inking would be, but it turned out to not be a problem. I decided to build up to a dark brown rather than straight black for the dark areas of the fur, which would allow me to add some volume to the figures. I think I’m going to be using cold press from now on.

Leopardess and cub

Leopardess and cub
A couple of years ago, a co-worker of mine started suggesting that I should create a watercolor image of a leopard, and she has continued to suggest this at various times ever since. I like leopards (though my office isn’t filled with leopard skin patterned items as is her office) but I never seemed to be able to come up with an image of a leopard that I liked. I like to create images that tell a story, but I just couldn’t seem to find the story for this leopard. Finally, I hit upon the idea of a leopardess watching her young cub attack her tail. Using this as a starting point, I spent several days on my final sketch, using photo reference to change and refine the pose, the anatomy, the coat pattern (which I didn’t finish on purpose) and the facial expressions until I arrived at this sketch:
leopard fbI didn’t intend to include the spots in my inked image, but rather planned on adding them with paint, which is why I didn’t complete the coat pattern in my sketch. I will admit to being nervous about the coloring process for this image because it is a more complex image than I’ve colored before. I started with the yellow-orange over both the leopardess and cub, then added the spots with a dark brown, and finished by adding shadows with a sort of blue-gray over top of both to sort of unite them. I was so relieved when I was done! I darkened some of the spots in Photoshop, but otherwise I was pleased with the result, and will be more confident about doing coloring like this in the future. Thanks for reading!

Mother Hen

Mother hen

Towards the end of last year I was asked to do a chicken themed commission, and, while I felt up to the task, I’ve never really drawn chickens before. In preparation for this illustration, I spent quite a while sketching chickens from reference photos. I first wanted to figure out how to draw a chicken that looked like a chicken (because my initial attempts looked more like short-necked geese than chickens), and once I figured that out, I needed to figure out how to give a chicken personality. This piece came out of the ‘attempting-to-give-a-chicken-a-personality’ phase. This image popped into my head while I was thinking about the tender, nurturing aspect of a mother hen:

It took quite a lot of erasing and revising to arrive at this sketched image, but I think it now reads like a real animal with personality. When I think of hens, my first mental impression is the classic red comb and white feathers image, but now that the city of Nashville is allowing residents to keep chickens in their yards, many of my friends have been posting images of their chickens on Facebook and I’m now aware of the wide variety of feather colors and patterns that chickens display and decided to use a more interesting coloring and pattern for this hen. I’m very pleased with the final results.

Boy avoiding snake

Boy avoiding snake

In my last post, I mentioned that I have been making an effort to include more humans in my portfolio. This piece today is part of that same effort. The same day that I sketched a little kid watching a butterfly, I drew another kid hanging from…something. I wasn’t sure what he would be hanging from, but I liked the sketch I’d done with his little arms behind his head, his eyes looking down with a concerned expression, and his shirt sort of riding up. I wanted to know what he was looking at though, and what he was hanging onto. I went through a bunch of different ideas and scenarios (hanging from a wire in a circus, hanging from a high tree branch where he slipped while trying to get his kite back, etc…), but I eventually decided that since he was a kid, I didn’t want him in too dangerous of a situation, as that would probably cause the viewer to worry about him instead of enjoy the picture. I finally settled on the idea that he was getting away from a snake, tried to climb a nearby sapling, and discovered that it wasn’t able to support his weight. Here’s my initial sketch:

I didn’t really change much when I refined this one. I mainly tried to smooth out some of the details of the tree:

In thinking about the colors for this one, I dressed the kid in colors I tend to like to wear. The blue shirt happened to work out pretty well in retrospect. With all the green surrounding it, it helped to draw the viewer’s eyes to the boy who is the center of interest. The circular composition then gets the eye moving around the image. I wish I could say I had planned that, but the truth is that I only discovered these things after it was finished. I’ll have to keep that stuff in mind though for future illustrations and try to be more intentional about incorporating it.

Thanks for stopping by!