Thursday, December 31, 2009


I'll be honest:  I am not likely to finish the book I resolved to write.  At least not anytime soon.  However, after watching Marcelo Vignali's inspiring interview, I decided that I shouldn't wait for that opportune time to share what I'm learning.  So I'm going to revive an old feature of this blog and post the discoveries I make as I evolve as an artist.

I still plan to write a book once I've got some of the gaps filled in my own knowledge, but hopefully this will do until then.

My other resolution is to start working on more personal art, specifically art that I can use to illustrate points in the book.  This image is part of a series of birds I'll use in the character design section of the book.

Thanks everyone for reading and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The real reason why toys are getting worse

The Avalanche topic was elves, so I started this by wondering, since there's no real description of Santa's elves anywhere (that I've seen), why do we assume they're all these cute, cheery-eyed fellows with curly hair?

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lessons Learned

I did this for a children's magazine published by the LDS church.  I'm also a member of the church, but that's not why they hired me for the article.  That credit goes to Natalie Malan for sending a letter of recommendation to their art directors on my behalf (Thanks Natalie!).  They hire a lot of very talented artists, so I'm honored to be included.

I learned some useful tidbits doing this, and I pass that knowledge on to you:
  • If nobody complains about your unrealistic, made-up lighting, just run with it
  • Bright pinkish-purple subtleties do not convert well into CMYK.  Experts conclude that you have to paint the colors and values more carefully so they will convert correctly.  I conclude that I'm going to avoid that end of the spectrum entirely next time.
  • If the borders of your painting are boring enough, your art director will never notice that you didn't include bleed for the edge of the page
  • If your wife has a baby due around the time your art is due, it's probably better to finish it early than to take a 3-week hiatus and then sloppily finish at the last second.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Twilight wasn't as bad as I expected.  But then, I expected it to be really, really, really, really bad.  Done for the Avalanche Blog.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


I had this idea of a mad scientist with a malevolent cupcake for a brain and it evolved into this.

Here's another monster with a different brain for a work friend who wanted posters for her Halloween party and an earlier design for the painting.  I like both of these monsters a lot better than the one I used, but the faces/horns were awkward when I tried to pose him with the scientist.  I was heavily influenced by Todd Harris's designs on these guys.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Autumn is my new favorite season. 
- Colors!
- Crisp air
- Crunching leaves
- Football games
- Back to school (this is the same reason why it used to be my least favorite season)
- Fresh vegetables and fruit
- Apple Cider Donuts
- Holidays
The only part I don't like is how short-lived it all is.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I have a bunch of half-finished images waiting for the day when I'll finally turn my attention back to them.  Today I had a little time at work while waiting for feedback on something, so this was what I did.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Also, something worth sharing

I'm working on a tribute-to-fall picture, and this is why.  We took these pictures on recent drives up nearby canyons.  My wife posted more here if you're interested.

Paint demo from class

I wanted to spend more time on this before posting it, but I'm getting that antsy "been too long since I posted" feeling.  So you get a glimpse of what something looks like when I've spent about an hour on it.  Lines by Joe Olson (link in my sidebar).

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Thinking Artist

Just a sneak preview at some of the stuff I'm working on for the book I (eventually) plan on releasing.  People taking my class will get to see the rest and the explanations that go with it.

I want my book to be about how aspiring concept artists and digital painters can cognitively increase their "talent" level.  Some people are probably born with great talent---but not most of us, including me.  Luckily, I had good opportunities and the audacity to think that nothing could stop me from doing what I saw my peers do.  And with a lot of effort, I learned how to do things I saw other people doing naturally.  Now I want to share what I've learned.

The only problem is I want it to be a masterwork, but I'm nowhere near capable of that.  Because I keep recognizing areas where I need to improve, I keep putting off my work on it.  So I hope people waiting for the book are okay with a release date of 2069, when I've finally mastered everything.
Either that or you can convince me that an amateur publication is good enough for now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not-so-popular admission

I like musicals, I can't help it.  I sometimes wish life was a musical.  Like when Jeff Bunker fires me, I'd much rather have him do it singing a bass counterpoint to the chorus of the entire staff of the company, who would of course be peering through the window to his office and flinging their hands into the air in rhythm.

My wife bought me some songs from Wicked for my iphone.  I've seen the musical, and it's okay (lots of untapped potential in the story).  But some of the songs are really great, including "Popular," which I can't get out of my head.  The situation behind the song is funny, but the song itself is nothing short of brilliant.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Chicken scratch

Went to figure drawing for the first time in months.  I need to go more often, I learn so much about observation and structure every time, even when the process is frustrating.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Marvel Tribute

My employer just recently bought Marvel.  They will never let me anywhere near the characters, though, and this is why.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


A post for the Avalanche blog.  When I was very young, somewhere between the ages of 3 to 5, I wanted to be a shark when I grew up.  But my mom tells me I was terrified of going into water, including the bathtub.  Now, thanks to Planet Earth and Youtube, it all makes sense.  Of course I didn't want to be a regular old water-bound shark.  I was planning to become one of those amazing flying sharks.  Alas, my dreams were never realized, but I do occasionally creep up on my children in the swimming pool and bite them just for old time's sake.

Also, in case anyone asks, I totally stole the ocean from a low-res photo and then painted over it.  They say cheaters never prosper, but the saying should be, "cheaters don't have to paint the whole stupid ocean."  I win.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

School mascot WIP

A little volunteer work I'm doing for the new school one of my kids is starting at this year. The mascot is a phoenix that teaches kids how to play with fire safely (parents, I'm joking!). Although I can't help but wonder how long it's going to be before they ask me to replace the fire with bubbles or draw him in an anti-smoking ad.

I'm open to suggestions, including any ideas you might have for his name. My wife laughed when I called him Lighty. She said his name should be something way more dignified, like Flamey. As you can see, I desperately need your suggestions.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Part 5: Slow

I have a baby daughter! She was born on Saturday and is doing great. For my week off, I present a little more progress on the pirate picture I started working on a year ago:

I thought since it looks almost done I'd be able to hurry and finish so I had something to post this week. I forgot that this is the most time-consuming part of any complex painting, where you're trying to pull all the parts together toward a semi-consistent level of finish. Also, most of my week was spent bouncing a fussy baby. Next update: 2050?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Another concept that won't ever be used---partially because after it was rejected, I totally revamped it. Why would someone use their spare time to keep working on something that was rejected? Boredom maybe, or brain damage. At some point in the future I'll hopefully be able to talk about the project this was for.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Selling Out

I'll preface by saying that I'm releasing an art book early next year. Mainly for fun, but yes, I do want people to give me money also.

Ever since starting at Disney I've been moving my art towards an "animation industry"-like style, because I like entertaining people and making them laugh. And I love the direction I'm headed.

Because of this, I haven't engaged in popular art communities like CGSociety or Deviant Art. They cater to a different audience.

But when a kind reader, Katie De Sousa, linked my site from Deviant Art, my readership jumped up by about 3200 visitors (6500+hits) in a single day. And suddenly, I was drunk with power. I began planning to change my style and use online art communities for my eventual world domination.

Today the eye stars are dimmer and my hands only twitch occasionally. I remember my heart is still in family-focused entertainment. But I am weak and still a little tempted. So I might open up galleries on a couple different sites just to see the response. Yes, I am still the kid who sits on the end of the cool table during lunch, hoping nobody will notice I don't belong. But this time I'm not going to make the mistake of changing who I am.

In other news, I got an image into UDON's DarkStalkers Tribute Book. I loved DarkStalkers as a teenager. But some guys at work were joking about entering a contest with an image that makes fun of the contest subject, and I couldn't help myself. Why do I have an obsession with half-retarded superheroes? To be fair, I wasn't as mean as I could have been.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Princess Coloring Book Too

I'm once again trying to be as cool as Ryan Wood. His idea of painting a Disney princess coloring book page like a piece of classical art seemed so artistically offensive and funny that I had to try it: William Bouguereau meets Aladdin's Jasmine. And yes, I admit with some shame that it was fun.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thinking Inside the Box

I've never liked the expression, "Thinking outside the box." I'm not against the principle---advanced artists/designers/whatever often come up with amazing solutions that defy convention. But defying convention is not, in itself, a virtue. I've argued for years that finding creative ways to work within "the box," or using rules and conventions to your advantage, is an art in itself. But a difficult project I worked on for the last couple years taught me why people use that phrase so much: Stupid boxes.

Let me be clear: a great box of conditions can be more inspiring than sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper. But a stupid box creates mental paradoxes, irreconcilable contradictions that make great solutions nearly impossible to find. Not that it's really impossible. In fact, finding an elegant solution to an impossible problem feels like the crowning moment of your career, if it ever happens. But most of the time, it's frustrating for everyone involved.
I feel like I'm being too vague, so here are some examples.
Good box: design a scary monster that still appeals to children and uses projectile attacks.
Bad box: design a terrifying yet expressive monster that appeals to children but that teenagers think is cool and not goofy, and make his arms into rocket launchers, and its head should be a chainsaw, so use something other than the face to make it expressive, oh, and the rocket launcher and chainsaw need to be made out of flesh.

Anyway, I still think it's a good skill to think inside the box. But my advice is this: if you feel like the box you're working inside is stupid, and if you have any leverage whatsoever on your project, do everything in your power to change that box so it no longer makes your life miserable! Then you will be happier and I will stop ranting about it.

In other news, some art I did for the Avalanche blog:

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Foresty Fun

Sorry for the gap between posts---I'm turning now to old stuff to keep things going. An environment I did at work that will never be used for anything.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Angry Yellow Eyes

I've seen lots of tributes for "Where the Wild Things Are" lately, and I couldn't help but wonder what it would look like if you made one of the monsters into a real live creature and not just a man in a suit with a CG face.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


My dreams are strange. Part of my conscious is always aware that it's a dream, and when things get too tense it just takes over---concocting powers and abilities that allow me to deal with the wagon of ninja clowns or whatever the threat happens to be. Because of this I'm never afraid of nightmares.

But last night I had a dream about being hunted by a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a desert canyon. As usual, just when I was cornered with the T-rex bearing down, my brain flipped the switch and I flew out of there like a rocket. But when I looked back, there was the Tyrannosaurus, soaring over rock formations and bursting through cliffs as it flew after me. And no matter what I did I couldn't stop him. My brain kept coming up with new powers, each of which the T-rex countered with a power of its own. I finally woke up, but I'm still puzzling over my new nemesis, the Super-Sith Rex. Will I run into him again? What could it all mean?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


We've had a bunch of storm clouds pass through our area lately, blasting us with driving rain, hail, and lightning. The bright side is that we get to see all sorts of cool cloud formations. I did this one night after I saw these clouds approaching. Unfortunately, the photos (last two images) are still cooler.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

But Oz Never Did Give Nothing to the Tin Man

This represents a few hours more on top of the last iteration I posted. And it still needs more help, but I'm calling it done.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More artists

Samuel Michlap: I feel like I've posted his work before, but even so, his art is worth posting again.

Jeff Turley: Really appealing work with a variety of styles.

Pedro Sanchez: Has a truly unique and interesting style.

Zaruhi Galstian: Does some really appealing and expressive character designs.

Hadi Tabasi: Just fun.

Cory Loftis: My new favorite artist. So, so versatile.

Brittney Lee: I can't say how much I love Brittney's art. Her designs and compositions have all the charm of a Pixar movie and the finesse of an artsy French film.

Tatevik Avakyan: Again, super fun characters.

Tom Humber: One of those amazing artists who can do just about anything.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Artists to check out

I haven't shared links for a while now. Here are some that aren't in my sidebar---in my mind, these are the best of the best out there:

Justin Gerard: If you aren't familiar with his work, you need to be. His latest series for the Hobbit are some of the finest examples of how to handle comlex composition that I've seen in illustration.

Dave Guertin and Greg Baldwin: Two artists from Insomniac. The energy in their drawings never ceases to amaze me.

Erwin Madrid: Great style, lighting, and composition.

Jason Seiler: The most amazing caricature artist since Sebastian Kruger decided to get all serious on us.

Annette Marnat: Beautiful, fluid lines.

Mike Lee: Has awesome designs and a great handle on values.

Ben Caldwell: Has a fantastic sense of design. The Wizard of Oz picture I'm working on was actually inspired one of his drawings.

I have more, I'll post them next week.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tin Man

I wanted months ago to do the Wizard of Oz as an Avalanche topic, but everyone was busy, so I tried it out on my class instead. I had a suspicion that I was overtaxing my class, work-hour-wise, so I decided to do the assignment to test how much time it would take. I limited myself to one hour per week of time they were working on it, to compensate for differences in speed and experience. So here's how it progressed, hour-by-hour.
Hour 1:

Hour 2:

Hour 3:

Hour 4:

Hour 5:

Last Hour:

At this point, I'd used up the allocated amount. Since that Time I've spent a little more time on it. This represents about 2 hours of work:

I have one more version I'm still improving on---I'll post it when I find time to put those last finishing touches on it.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

For my past, present, and future students:

You should read this. It's true for my classes too. Except for the part about teaching acting, because I don't do that.

Monday, May 04, 2009


My wife and I just got back from an anniversary trip (8 years!) to the Redwoods in California. That place is amazing. I got all inspired and felt the itch to draw but never got the chance. I drew this after we got home. I'm probably going to do a more, but I felt like I needed to post something new, so here you go.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Living Dead Published

Remember the book I did the cover for? Now you can buy it, here:

Want to preview it before buying? Read the first ten chapters, here.
(Also, please note that I didn't actually design the cover---so the tangents/strange overlaps with the title aren't my fault)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bolt enemy minion

The last of the Bolt stuff I did. This was one of those do-a-bunch-of-drawings-and-cobble-together-your-favorite-parts type of designs. Not always the best way to go, but it got approved so I won't complain.