Selected Works

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Year 1

Exactly one year ago, my employment at a small game studio in the bay area ended after 8 years.

My time there was invaluable in my early development as an artist, but you can only trade progress for security for so long before it takes it's toll on you. After awhile, the niche you carve out for yourself becomes your cage, and you become frozen in place in exchange for a weekly check, fresh organic fruits in the lunchroom, and a generous discount at participating bay area YMCAs.

In January of this year, I began a strange journey in the land of the freelance illustrator. After years of meetings, spreadsheets, and progress reports being my primary concern, illustration seemed like a foreign place. Now it's December and well over 100  works later, here I am. And, minus much work which was either redundant, in progress, or under NDAs, here is what  I did:

I tried to keep things in chronological order but about halfway through it became a free for all. Much thanks goes out to the clients who were able to help me grow in this new year, and thanks to anyone who might have taken the time to drop by my blog along the way.
I’m looking forward to year 2.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Lighting Studies

So I was rooting around for something to put up and I found this little study I'd done several months ago for practice. It's not gonna set the world on fire but I think I got some nice time of day feel out of  these.

 So in the process of digging around, I came across all the work I'd done this year. Now a couple weeks ago, a friend happened to ask how many pieces I'd done this year, and I realized that I had no idea, but  I guessed that about 50 was a reasonable number. As it turns out it was alot more than that, and it was quite a shock to see it all together. It's been a heck of a journey for me this year and to be able to look back on it all at once is quite an experience. So, for my final post of the year, I'll be putting  it all together in one image for my readers ( if any ) and for posterity.

Stay tuned and check back soon for some montagey goodness.

Monday, November 16, 2009

As promised

Our 26th president never looked so good...

On another note, sorry about the lack of updates but I'm in too-many clients-at-once-madness right now. Hopefully some better and more frequent updates are to follow if I don't fall over in the next 2 weeks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Since alot of the stuff I'm doing is under wraps for awhile, I'm going through some stuff that I did earlier in the year which I never got to show. So I narrowed it down to this piece ( a portrait of Maddox as Moses ) or a illustration of Teddy Roosevelt in spandex underpants.

 After much deliberation I settled on this piece because I feel that the Roosevelt piece needs more of a write up than I'm able to give at this time, and I don't want to compromise the dignity of the image.

So anyways, here's Maddox as Moses, complete with in progess work ( Courtesy Maddox and Alphabet of Manliness extended Edition) .

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Freelancer's Guide part 2: Deadlines

The Second Rule of Freelancing: The best jobs will almost kill you, but you'll be glad you took them.

 At some point every freelancer will get the call: I need these 10 things in 10 hours. Yes, I know it's impossible so here's some extra money.

 I always dread these, but a small part of me is excited at the challenge, followed a few hours later by the part of me that wants to punch myself for always taking these jobs. It's amazing what some crushing pressure can do to your work. To that end, here's some 1 hour pieces done under just those conditions..not masterpieces by any means but not too bad all things considered ( All work courtesy In Character Games ).

This may be the best crazy guy expression I've ever done.

Fully half the hour on this piece was spent lovingly detailing the star wars blanket. I think this one may be my favorite.

Not sure how good of a shield my monitor would make, but it works for this guy.

 Car Salesman, Zombie Killer, Bad Ass

good ol containment suits- no face to draw...

OK at this point my hand was cramping up so I used a previous sketch of the background.

Man that brought up a bunch of painful know what, I'm never doing this again!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Swingsetasauras at Sunset



Sometimes, I guess there just isn't a whole lot to say. Hopefully the illustration does the talking.

I hope he catches whatever he's hunting.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Freelancer's Guide, part 1

Freelancing is an interesting exercise in controlled chaos. If you ask me it's a miracle that anything ever gets done on a freelance basis, but that's a subject for another day. The subject today is the First Rule of Freelancing, and that is: whichever idea you like the least is the one the one the client will pick. Consider this set of sketches that I did for In Character Games for the game After the Dead which you can play on facebook here.

These sketches are listed in the order I did them. Now when I'm doing sketches unless I know exactly what I want, my first idea is usually not my best, but I throw it in anyways. Personally, I think sketches 2-5 each bring a unique idea and mood to the narrative of the game which was related to me. I felt the first was a bit flat somehow, which of course guarantees that it's the one the client picked, which is what happened.
   Fortunately, the axillary to rule 1 is that you can always make it better, and fortunately the client knew what he wanted for the most part. So with a little back and forth, we managed to find a way to achieve all of our goals which resulted in the follow piece:

and thus all was well in the land of the zombies.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The 13th month

So August 25th is a significant date as it marks the release date of Maddox's latest book and calendar. If you know who Maddox is this is doubtlessly great news and if you don't, take a look here.

In the meantime, to commemorate the event, here's one of the images that will appear in the calender.

Oftentimes, when attempting to create an image with content this awesome, failure and personal injury can result. Fortunately under the tutelage of Maddox, we were able to safely contain the awesomeness without any bodily harm to me.

When he first approached me about this particular image, Maddox had only a vague concept in mind. Although he knew he wanted an image of something getting kicked in the groin region, he was not sure what, nor by what. So after an exhaustive research phase, we discovered that the most empirically awesome participants would be a shirtless guitar playing guy in the role of the kicker, and a rhinoceros as the kickee.

After completing the vignette, we could tell something was missing but we weren't sure what. Here is where the importance of having a good working relation with your client really comes into play. Maddox did some research and found the awesomeness could be increased by a factor of 6 with the addition of a nuclear mushroom cloud in the background. The rest was history.

So on the 25th go out and buy the extended version of Alphabet of Manliness and the accompanying Calender of Manliness soon thereafter ( in which this image appears in it's high resolution semi-gloss glory ).

More images to come!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Whale Sub, or A Little Sprezzatura

Sprezzatura is the fine art of making a difficult thing look effortless. Although I'm more of an expert in making easy tasks more difficult, I'm finding that illustration is an excercise in sprezzatura.

This piece, creatively titled "Whale Sub" was a careful study of putting just enough information to imply that this is a complex piece of machinery. I went through several iterations where I discovered that just one extra pipe or detail made it look labored and over worked. The same with the decking, where I initially tried laying in individual planks to convey the feel of the hull. In the end, it was far more more important to get the gloss from the wetness of the deck and the water dripping down the deck. I'd post up some of the in progress stuff but it's generally a horrible mess of trial and error.

And besides I wouldnt want to ruin the sprezzatura...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"The Pilgrim", or "1 day Painting Step by Step"

Done for the card: The Pilgrim, creation time: roughly 8 hours including thumbs and reference

step 1: create a quick thumbnail with color and value compostion worked out and some detail represented. Light is very important at this stage.

Step 2: Realize that the client is talking about the middle eastern religious type of pilgrim, not the thanksgiving type. Repeat step 1.

Step 3: After approval, continue to refine the color palette, starting with some photo elements if necessary.( note: the use of photos is sometimes a necessary compromise when working under tight deadlines. It can be thought of similarly to underwear: effective when used properly, but don't let anyone see it)

Steps 4-6: refine the things you can, kick out the fancy-dancy stuff you can't get to.

Step 7: exhale.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Double Agent

So I've recently been working on some illustrations for an online card game called The Far Wilds and they've been kind enough to let me post my work so I'll put up some of my more exciting ones in the coming weeks.

These paintings have been a bit of a departure for me for a couple reasons. First, when shown in game they are reduced to 250x250 pixels, which is really forcing me to think and compose in a very efficient way-when you only have 62k pixels to grab someone's attention, you really have to hit them over the head on first sight and draw them in. Also the turnover on these is really high..I'm generally spending 6-8 hours per painting, including reference gathering. This is a bit of a departure for me as I generally like to spend a bit more time to really work things out.

One thing I really like about these assignments is the illustrative nature. Often I get not much more than a card title or a brief description of the concept, and I've basically got one moment in time to capture it- in this case, the card was 'the double agent'. I used the theatrical conept of an 'aside' where an actor will communicate directly with the audience to relay information that is not known to the other characters. Here, the foreground character is giving us a wink to let us know the other guy is about to get the ol' shank.

Finally,here's some in progress stuff which i've been promising to save more of, now in glorious GIF format. one thing to note is that i think i lost a bit of the original expression of the foreground guy as I went from sketch to completion...rats.

on a side note, special thanks to a certain A. Lluch for technical support in the crazy world of blogger.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Volcanic Refinery and Custom Brushes

A Fairly quick ( 6 hours ) piece intended to be the basis of a matte painting sometime in the future..
The huge advantage of PS these days is being able to create and modify custom brushes so quickly and easily. Back in the day if you wanted high frequency detail you needed to select it out of a photo and sort of stamp that around. Now with the magical brush creator, it's become an essential tool for me. I am constantly making brushes and also trying out other people's brushes to get new interesting textures and marks.

here's an early stage shot where you can see alot of raw splooshy marks just being put down...many of these splooshes are nice enough ( in the cloud areas for example) that I can leave them as is in the final. Of course when I take it to a finished matte then alot of photo material will be mixed in, and even then the organic edges of the custom brushes help to transition into the photo material.

If you haven't explored the brush engine much, just do a google search..well worth your time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

process work

For a change, I thought I'd put up some process work on the last piece since some people have asked how I work. For me the first step is simultaneously working thumbnails to try to match what's in my head as close as I can, sketches of principal characters or props, and reference gathering. At this stage i'm working pretty small..maybe 500 by 500 or so.

here are some explorations of the staging and lighting. At this point I know what the scene will be, and I pretty much know I want a low vantage point. Now I need to figure out in a sloppy way how it all fits's a sampling of pose work and character exploration sketches

and finally the final lead up to the finished piece. Laying down the perspective grid is a pain, but necessary for something architectural. I'm working at about2000 high by whatever wide, because my final piece is going to be twice that, and there's a huge amount of layers at this stage which would choke my machine to death.

after blocking in all the elements, it's just a matter of polish. Ordiniarily there would be more thorough color studies in here, but with the night lighting i knew what I wanted so I just went with it.

Well, hopefully this is something interesting...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Portly Thief

who would think to look up for a portly thief?

If there's any interest I can post some of the process stuff on this in the coming days. It was a fun piece to work on and very challenging to put it all together.

I don't know what's in that bag, but it's really really valuable.

Friday, June 5, 2009


This piece is for an upcoming scene I'm working on where a guard is looking for someone who's just escaped. Interestingly, I originally had a totally different emotion in mind when I started this. Initially I was going with a ' I'm gonna keel you!' feel for the guy, with a sneering, teeth bared look. But as I was working on the face, the personality of the character established itself and ' I keel you' was replaced by ' alright, where did that bastard go?'

and hopefully in the end that's the right call for the piece.

On another note, if I had to pick just one group of guys to teach you everything you needed to know as an artist, I would say to look at the Orientalists. No foolin. With Sargeant, Bouguereau, Waterhouse, and Gerome amongst their ranks, you could sure do worse for mentors.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Sometimes I wonder if the earliest concepts artists had it easier. If you needed to design a troll or something, you could pretty much do whatever you wanted and it would probably be pretty original. Big ugly guy, maybe a club in his hand, maybe giant feets, and viola! Everyone else is painting flowers and popes and whatnot, I'm pretty sure this hasn't been done before...

The reason this came to my mind is when I set about to do a fantasy character, how difficult it was to avoid making something that had been done a hundred times before. If you think about it, the fantasy genre is pretty hasn't changed all that much in the time it's been around..and if you don't believe me take a look at Rackham sometime..if you ask me that's ready to be modeled rigged and animated.

Anyways, with all that bla bla out of the way, here's my latest character piece. The narrative I was trying to build around this guy is that he's been on his own wandering for some time and has to cobble together his armor from guys he defeats..I layered the armour in such a way that you could see a progression of styles over the thousands of years he's walked the earth..from bronze greek armour to plated horse armour ( on the last variant )

also I just gotta say it's still a bit of a thrill for me when I get metal to look just right...

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Character Work

So in my ongoing effort to refine my body of work, I'm going to be switching to characters for a couple posts, in this case with some model paintovers. First up, a couple of post apocalyptic survivors. I wanted to see if I could get away from the 'mad max' look and try for something a little more utilitarian and plausable for a near future scenario. For a good but depressing read on a scenario like this , try 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy. ( actually, I think reading that got me thinking along these lines to begin with )

For the first character I pretty much knew what I wanted but for the 2nd guy I knew I wanted something a little crazier. I knew I wanted to incorporate license plates ( keeping with a theme of common items being used for survival purposes), but I wasn't sure how far to go with the end I figured the most practical use for them was as a sort of a stab proof vest. There may be further guys appearing in this series if I think of anything good...

Friday, March 27, 2009

In the ghetto

an attempt at a bit more polish and atmosphere

Monday, March 9, 2009