Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Wishing you all an abundance of joy this Christmas and hope for the new year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ghosts of Christmas Cards Past #3

More of the dachshund cards from previous Christmases....

Merry Kissmas! Everyone likes a nice slurpy dog waiting for them under the mistletoe, right? This piece was done in a watercolor/Prismacolor mix. I like working this way, since the Prisma picks up the texture of the watercolor paper. You can get some lively color blends depending on what colors you layer.

My actual dogs, in festive finery. This was a Photoshop job, of course - time was short in 2006, no time to render! That is handsome Louie on the left, and soulful Moose on the right.

No card in 2007. I had a big job due and not even enough time to slap together a Photoshop job!

In 2008 the kiddie lit influence began to creep in. Loud zippy toys make for happy kids but annoyed old wiener dog. This piece was done in oil.

Last year's card was another oil. Santa better get to this house quick...those cookies ain't gonna last.

This year's greeting will appear later this week. Our tree is decorated and there's just a little shopping to do. Time to fire up the CD player, listen to some favorite Christmas music, and try to avoid the egg nog and baked goodies for another week!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Ghosts of Christmas Cards Past - #2

I've always loved animal interlace patterns and the astounding Celtic gospel books ornamented in that style. Wiener dogs just naturally lend themselves to such a design. This is one of my personal favorites, because it comes the closest to being a successful combination of real Christian sentiment with the silliness of the dog designs. It seems like one ought to be able to be pious and have fun at the same time, but I found the combination very tricky to execute.Media for this design: gouache and digital manipulation.Walkin' in a Wiener animal dressed up in people clothes + St. Nick + tacky snow globes. What's not to like? This piece was truly mixed media. Paint, photography and Photoshoppery were all combined. This was the year I abandoned the attempts to combine secular and sacred. Wiener dog nutcracker - another of my favorites. This design was rendered in Prismacolor pencil.
Are you getting in the mood for Christmas 2010 yet?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ghosts of Christmas Cards Past - #1

One year I will have the Christmas card finished before Thanksgiving. Not this year, but one year. This year I'll be spending the holiday before Christmas in the traditional way - in front of the drafting table wishing that I had done the card back in July.

For ten years now I have done dachshund-themed Christmas cards. I'm smitten with the little weiner dogs, and have enjoyed designing something every year that demanded no consistency of style or materials.

So here's a little trip down memory lane, starting with the first card.

This one was an unholy medieval/photo mashup. That's an ox and ass in the stable. Baby Jesus is represented by the yellow glow, in the same way that he's represented by a lightbulb in many Christmas pageants. This design was a combination of photography and some work in the late, lamented FreeHand, assembled in Photoshop.

The following year I was still doing a sacred/secular mix. Here we have the Adoration of the Wiener Dogs, with the happy dogs bounding in to greet the Holy Family with the shepherds.. I'm not sure whose image I borrowed for the base. I do apologize; this probably doesn't constitute "fair use" and I promise not to do it again. Next time I'll have to paint my own Renaissance master-esque scene. I dropped my dogs in with Photoshop.

Have you ever enjoyed a December afternoon wrapping presents and listening to the Wiener Knabenchor (Vienna Boys' Choir)? How about shattering the peace with the Howleluja Chorus and the Wiener Hundenchor? This year's card was rendered in watercolor.

More to come!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Werewolf Club #1

These are a couple of sketches for some samples I'm planning based on The Werewolf Club #2 - The Lunchroom of Doom by Daniel Pinkwater.

Mr. Pinkwater used to review children's books on Weekend Edition on NPR. It's been a long time since I've heard him, though, so I wonder if that feature has been discontinued.

The first book of his that I read was the wonderful Lizard Music. I love it when a book surprises me, and this one had something unexpected on nearly every page.

Recently I picked up this second installment in The Werewolf Club at Half-Price. Even though this is a book for a much younger reader, and the story is pretty simple, it is still delightfully unpredictable and a fun read. It's unusual for a book that is supposed to be funny for 9 year olds to also be funny to bit more mature. Just the idea that a school would have a werewolf group along with Spanish club and chess club makes me smile. Lucky for this school, they had a werewolf teacher to act as faculty sponsor. I even enjoyed re-reading this story, and think that it's entertaining enough that young readers would want to look up some of the longer, unfamiliar words. The others in the series are going on my Amazon list, unless I'm lucky enough to find more of them at Half-Price.
One of the speakers at the last SCBWI conference I attended suggested that illustrators expand their scope beyond picture books and consider chapter books as well. Werewolf Club came to mind instantly as a story I'd like to tackle.
There's not a whole lot of character development in this story, but Billy Furball stands out as the comic figure within the comedy. The other kids are united not only in lycanthropy, but in their revulsion over Billy's lunches and hygiene. The villians are evil space aliens, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance!
No spoilers yet. More to come.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Plein-ish Air

Since the spouse is a serious photographer and I make pictures the really old-fashioned way, it seemed like a really good idea for me to work up some plein-air skills so we could go to locations together and both have some artsy activity once we got there. Last year I acquired a super cute little pochade box to help with this, but we still haven't done too much art travel.
Last week, while on a stay-cation, we meant to put our plan into practice.
We visited three state parks, but the wind was so fierce that doing actual plein-air work was out of the question. So I ended up using the camera, too, and working up a few views from my photos. This particular view was from Mother Neff State Park.
I purposely shot landscapes without distinguishing features or dramatic scenery. Not sure where I'm going with that, but I do know that I want my landscapes to be quiet and the opposite of exotic: something anyone in this part of the country might see any day.
Hmmm. Those Texas cedars look like they owe a bit to Van Gogh's cypresses!

Saturday, May 08, 2010


Alvin Langdon Coburn, 1904

Last week the spouse & I travelled to San Antonio to visit friends & family, and to take in a couple of exhibits at the McNay. TruthBeauty was a collection of photographic pictorialist work, and Impressionist Sensibility featured American impressionist painters. This was supposed to be a “something for everyone” trip, since the spouse is a photographer.

While the painting show was most definitely worth the visit, it was the photography that taught me the best lessons that day.

Pictorialist photographers were active in relatively early times for that medium. They sought to elevate photography from a mechanical, documentary form to art. To do this, they turned away from sharp focus, suggesting atmosphere and mood more than recording particulars. With such a lack of detail, shape and value become the important elements in their compositions.

This is a worthy goal for me, too. Much contemporary illustration seems to be heavily influenced by animation. Not just cinematic compositional sensibilities, but the hyper-realistic detail that’s made possible by digital processes. Yes, the look is new and (sometimes quite literally) shiny, but say an illustrator wants to stand out from the trend, and produce something that the digirati do not. Maybe said illustrator could take a look at the pictorialists.

"Spring Showers"
Alfred Stieglitz, 1901

"Kelmscott Manor: Attics"
Frederick H. Evans, 1898

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Undersecretary of the Underpants

This is another page from The Emperor's New Clothes, in which the Emperor dispatches the Undersecretary of the Underpants to check on the weavers' progress.

In my book, the Emperor has a costume change for every scene. And yes, I'm thinking of this as a staged piece. In this scene, I was inspired by some particularly aesthetic photos of Oscar Wilde
for the Emperor's get-up. So here he is, filled with ennui, and longing for his new clothes. Exit the Undersecretary, stage right. (is that right?) Umm, make that stage left.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Weavers' Fabrication

Even though it's been a long time since I've posted here, I have been working. I did another job for the Nazarene Publishing House, and a spread for a story in Red River Kids magazine.

For the New York trip, I wanted to take a book dummy, so I firmed up some ideas for The Emperor's New Clothes that I had been kicking around for awhile. I rewrote the story, laid out all the spreads, and did a finished painting for a couple of the pages.

This one here shows the rascally weavers whispering to the Emperor, "We weave a cloth so light, so fine, so incomparably delicate, that no one has ever seen anything like it." No one has ever seen anything like it, indeed!


Long blog.

There's nothing like winning an award to make you want to brag, or blog, or get the word out to people who really should be informed. Yeah, that's the ticket!
I won an award. At the local SCBWI conference, my portfolio was judged the best from among a bunch of other excellent portfolios. This was a huge thrill and honor. My prize was this lovely statuette and "tuition" to the big SCBWI conference in New York.

The trip to New York was exhausting yet energizing. Time to start blogging and posting new work again!