Putting it out into the universe…

So, tomorrow I move into Millie and my new house.  After Thanksgiving, I will have my studio up and running.  And while I am working at Ehrhart Energy as a marketing and customer service rep, I do want to do illustration on the side, but lean more towards passion projects.  I am *REALLY* missing doing work in oil.

One project that I came up with is because I have been reading some old sword and sorcery stuff.  Just finished the first collected volume of Kane by Karl Edward Wagner available as a ebook.  I was also reading some of Lin Carter’s sword and planet stuff this summer.

I have never really had any huge desire to follow in other’s footsteps, but I have been thinking a lot about doing a series of paintings… each painting would be the great character(s) of sword and sorcery.  So, obviously, Conan, Elric.  And I would be stepping into the shadows of Frazetta, Buscema, Whelan, Boris, Schultz and so many others.  Very daunting.  But perhaps at this time in my career, I should do a series like this.  Would folks want to see my Tarzan (which is blurring the line for sword and sorcery I admit) or my Belit or my John Carter?  Maybe I could do a gallery show in a couple of years?  Maybe folks would want prints?  Can I put my stamp on these characters that would be interesting to others?

Some of the ones I thought of really wanting to do:  Of course, Conan, Elric.. especially Elric, who might be my favorite fantasy character…. here are some others:  Tarzan, Jane, Deja Thoris, Red Sonja, Thoth Amon, Kull, Kane, John Carter, Fafhrd and Grey Mouser, Corum, Hawkmoon, Erekose, Eric John Stark (especially! never thought he was correctly depicted, he is dark skinned, not white!). Conn, (I always liked Conan’s son too).  What others would be fun to have done?

I finished this pic awhile ago, but kept forgetting to put her up.  The underpainting was posted in this blog back a few posts.  I think this series of “Maori” inspired characters also got me thinking of the Sword and Sorcery vibe.


Sometimes the road ain’t straight…

So, the pic of Medusa as a super hero didn’t quite meet Death Tribble’s request.  I missed the part that she was to be a patriotic super hero.  So I did another version, but I admit, I was pretty subtle with the flag motif on her outfit.  DT wanted it to be pushed a bit more and I came up with the final version for him.  I will present all three for your viewing curiosity.  Showing that sometimes, you have to sneak up on a concept.

Also, I did a crossbowman for yuks.  I had doodled him awhile ago.

Version 1.

Version 2.

Version 3.

Crossbow guy!

A return to super hero art

My long time patron Death Tribble gave me the challenge of doing Medusa as a super heroine.  Seemed like fun and it was.  I gave her a jaunty pose and smile.  He asked for a long, slinky outfit, but I felt that was kinda in the vein of a villain, so I gave her a skirt, semi-grecian, instead.  Hope he doesn’t mind.  What do y’all think?

Next are a couple of images from Green Ronin’s Cosmic Handbook.  Got to trout out my Kirby homage and my love of sword and planet motifs.  I went with some super vibrant colors on these both, trying for “alien and cosmic” after looking at a lot of what Kirby did back in the day.


Keep on smilin’ Smilodon!

Last Saturday (just scanned this yesterday), I went to Barnes and Nobles in Ithaca, NY.  The Museum of the Earth was there, promoting John Gurche’s talk at the museum on the new hominids recently discovered in S. Africa.  The talk was last night, and was incredible.  John talked about the process of coming up with the visuals based on these bones they found.

Anyway, the Museum of the Earth was really there at B&N to entice young kids to learn about dinosaurs, but I saw this skull on the table and asked if I could sketch it.  “No problem”… so I sketched this in about 40 mins and it was a blast.  I was told it was a smilodon skull…. but I’m no expert on that.

Happy with how it turned out.

Smilodon Skull

Where I have been

My art production has gone down considerably the last couple of months.  I had a nasty summer bug.  My wife and I are looking for a house, moved into a month to month apartment that is small 1 bedroom.  That means my traditional art supplies have gone into storage.  But the biggest impact on my art is that I took a marketing job for Ehrhart Energy.  They/we sell propane, fuel oil, wood pellets and wood bricks.  I grew up with the daughter of the owner.  So… pure nepotism.

It was supposed to be a 3 week contract but it is now permanent.  I write radio ads, I do graphic design, I crunch numbers trying to figure out trends.  It is a cool job, steady paycheck and great people to work with and for.

I am still doing artwork, still accepting assignments, but I’m much more picky as my schedule is much more limited.  I am hoping to work on some of my own projects too, now that I don’t have to solely rely on my art to make a living.

Meanwhile, I did get this out the door to Paul, who has commissioned several things in the past…. hope you like!





As a white male illustrator, I hate to admit this, but I often forget to push diverse images in fantasy.  Often, I return time and time again to white male protagonists.  Eurocentric imagery.  And this is not only boring, it is a disservice to the viewers of my art, who are varied and global.

When this assignment came to me, it was a pretty standard descriptor of Viking imagery for 3 character concepts.  But before I could get started, my client, Robert Walz, chimed in and said if I could change it up.  He cited Maori and Aztec as my cultural touchstones for the 3 characters and that I had free reign to change weapons into sharktooth clubs from viking axes or what have you.

I was really thrilled to get this challenge!  So the bearcloak became a manta ray cloak. I made the necromancer a thing of a dead sea.  Chain or scale became made up of ivory shark teeth.  These are the underpaintings.  Done on gray toned paper, done in pencil, white color pencil, Pentel white color ink pen, and copic markers.  Scanned in and given a bit of a sepia tone.  I have not done the color versions, but will share those when I get them up.

This is work in progress:  I will do the queen’s spear digitally, and I ran out of room on the paper on the Necro, so I will extend him a bit, so he is not truncated.  (Getting sloppy in my old age and taking advantage of digital).

So, without further ado, 3 fantasy characters who I hope do not read as eurocentric characters.

Art for a Simply Superheroes Kickstarter

I did this cover for Simply Superheroes awhile back.  But didn’t show it til now because the Kickstarter is now Live!

Here is the link to the Kickstarter for Simply Superheroes.  Seems like a pretty interesting, simple system as it’s title suggests.  There are videos on Character Creation and Dice Rolling Mechanics too… which are two areas I often go to first when assessing a new game.

Simply Superheroes Kickstart link


Simply Superheroes!

Not sure what that storm signifies for who I called Crimson Cloak.  I got a description for him, but not any really defined backstory or character sheet….. but I’m sure it isn’t good.  What do y’all think the storm signifies?  What, who is coming?!?!

A bit of Process. Part 2.

To continue on.  The pic below is where I am starting to block in my colors.  I tend to work in three modes.  Either multiply layer, when I want darker colors (like the dark red).  Overlay layer, where I want something very light.  And directly on the “home” layer when I want to kind of wipe out the textures of pencil and paper, but combine it with the value structure I’ve built so far.  Often, I will lay in a Multiply or Overlay layer and before flattening it to the home layer, I will take it down to 90% so some structure remains.

I’ve blasted some background in there, trying to keep it in the key of the painting so far.

This pic is somewhat of a rarity for me as the ground is really quite close to what I wanted for the flesh color anyhow…. so this went really, really quick.

Really starting to use the paint

And this is the final.  I continue to lay in colors and maybe I should have saved a step showing that…but really it is now just working into the shadow and lights of the various areas.  Like I work in a bit of green light into the red shawl that is emanating from the book. I then use the Marker brush with a bit of a light purple to work in the shadow areas.  The Marker brush is a Multiply brush in Manga Studio 5, so it acts like a Multiply layer.  Blending here and there when I want to.


I decide to blow up the main figure a bit and let her shadow side sorta blend into the background.  Then I rim lighted the back of her to pop her out a bit.  The client requested triskeles flowing from the book of magic.  Those and the light are done on about 3 layers of Normal and Soft Light and Hard Light layers, all of them down to about 10% to 30%

Punch up some of the highlights on that Hard Light layer (which can be really, really harsh, which is why I keep it around 20%).  I blended a bit in the face, to make smoother the pencil structure that was there… and viola…here is the final.

One of the things I struggle with at times is when to leave some pencil structure underneath the paint and when to wipe it out.  Sometimes, I love the energy from the original drawing to come through and sometimes it is something that I really fight against.  Here, if you look closely, you can see some pencil texture still in the darker shadows of clothing…and I like that.  The spell book is pretty much the pencil entirely, just with a layer of Overlay of that yucky, spooky yellow green.  But I pretty much blended pencil in the skin tones and on the jewelry away.

What do you think?  Does the pencil texture distract?  Does it lose too much energy from the original sketch and I should have kept more in?

Final look

A bit of Process. part 1

I got the chance to do some artwork for Storium, the very cool play by post engine that I actually kickstarted back in it’s beginnings.  I played in a very fun scifi space trader game for a bit before it ran out of steam.  Storium mechanics are all about sharing and determining narrative control as the story/game moves forth.  It is damn clever and anyone who is a gamer (and I know there are lot of you out there who read my various threads and posts!), you owe it to yourself to check it out.  It is a great way to have game with old friends who are scattered all across the world.


Anyhow, I got a chance to do 10 fantasy character illustrations for one their games because they met stretch goals via Kickstarter.  I thought I would share a step by step process of one of them.

I have been working on gray tone paper a lot lately.  I really like being able to get in lights, which is a combination of white pencil and a Pentel white ink pen.  LOVE the white ink pen.  Now, if they would only make a brush version!.  And then I tend to use 3 pencils.  One is a black color pencil (when I really know what I’m doing with shade or line, because it is not erasable).  A F pencil for light sketching and B 7mm mechanical pencil for tightening up the drawing.  I also will use the F for light shading, but mostly use the black color pencil for darker shadows.

And here is a scan of what that looks like:

Sorceress, scanned pencils.

Now, I tend to draw very light and so the scan is “punched up” a bit by playing with Contrast/Brightness and Levels in Photoshop… to get the darks a bit darker.

Next, I take the scan to Duotone in Photoshop.  Because one of the main brushes I use in Manga Studio 5 picks up a lot of the color of whatever is below the brush.  Doing it on gray tends to be a bit “dirty” and “cool”.  So, with Duotone, I take it to a warmer monotone.  Then I make the Duotone, RGB color, because Manga Studio 5 won’t recognize Duotone from Photoshop.  One gets this, see below….


See?  It is just a bit warmer.

The next step is to sketch a CONTINUOUS outline in Manga Studio 5 on a new layer (set to Multiply).  Because I am going to be working on the background separately and because I want to grab a copy of the main figure WITHOUT the background.  I like using the color pencil tool or the ink brush tool for outlines in Manga Studio 5.  Since my colors are fairly close, I threw a white layer behind the outline so y’all can see it clearly.  And it looks like this:


Now I can select the background, and any holes (like up in the hair near her face) and invert the selection.  I start another Multiply layer and fill it with a very light color, in this case it was the color I was using for the outline, that nice warm brown.  Keeping the selection, I drop down to the original layer and make a copy of ONLY that selection, bring it up to the filled color multiply section and merge those two layers.  Now, I have a layer that is normal and I can paint on with my favorite watercolor and oil brushes in Manga Studio.

If I have no background for a commission, which I often do, I might keep the Multiply line layer.  But with backgrounds, I tend to discard them or even blur and erase portions.  But that is something I decide about 3/4s through the entire illustration.

I’ve started to work on the hair and a bit of the face in the next pic, but you can see how the combo selection looks as I am putting paint down.  One these kinds of vignettes, I like to work on the focus first and the background second… the exact opposite I tend to with traditional oils or acrylics, where I like to build from the back and come forward to the foreground elements.  But with digital, I can really manipulate the background easily.. but that is to come down the line..

Some color done..

Some times during painting, I will throw up a layer of Multiply to get a nice rich dark.  I did that in a couple of places in the hair.  Then merge that with my painting layer.  I tend to like to have only 3 really active layers at at time, often flattening them, in order to allow the oil and waterbrush brushes to combine and blend with those colors.

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!

Two for Death Tribble

Here are a couple of concepts I have done for Death Tribble.

We have Sea Slug and Ghost Train.  I will let you guess which one is which.

I am pretty happy with how both of these turned out, there is something really fun with dealing with color in a very non-comic book way, ie, no real inked lines, but still reading as a comic book concept.  The original of Sea Slug didn’t have any inked lines, I actually came in AFTER the color and did those digitally with Manga Studio 5.  About the only program I can even approach a decent ink job with.  I have a really hard time inking with Photoshop or Painter, but Manga Studio 5 does the trick for me.