Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The Cookie Thief  |  Copyright 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Final Page

This is the final entry in the Tumnus Journal, however, there's room for more... I just never finished it.
This is a stained glass window commission for "the North Tower in Cair Paravel." The windows are based "on the events surrounding the coming of the Kings and Queens - the two sons of Adam and the two daughters of Eve - and the sacrifice of Aslan."
I really enjoyed creating these and would love to make them sometime... if I knew how to work with stained glass. 
There's a few other pages in the journal, but I have shown you the major works. Maybe someday I will be able to re-work this into a published work.... but for now it remains a one-of-a-kind. Can't wait to show the kids.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Beavers

Here is a page for Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. One of my favorite characters from "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe." It's really just a sketched portrait of the two of them by Mr. Tumnus. For fun, I included actual pieces of birch bark into the trees. The little note under the portrait reads, "The Beavers love Birch. (Not the living Birch however - only the Birch that can never be awakened - The Beavers would never cut down a Birch madien!)

Below the Beaver portrait, Mr. Tumnus included in his journal a personal invitation from The Beavers to tea. The note beside the envelope reads, "A little note inviting me to tea; The Beavers were well known for their tea and I accepted any and all invitation!)
The envelope is hand-made with leather buttons. When opened, you see that it is lined with a Narnian tartan. (Not woven by me... just a cool looking fabric I had.)
The note comes out of the envelope and is written on a piece of Birch bark.

The note reads (in yet another handwriting style), 
Our Dearest Friend of the Forest, 
Please accept this humble invitation to our home for tea. It feels like ages since we've seen you - as you have been so often a guest or our fair Kings and Queens - may the Lion keep them - at Cair Paravel. We will be expecting you on Thursday for the mid-morning meal. 
Our humblest hopes, 
The Beavers

Our Pardons - You are more than welcome to bring your little flute - and any new tunes if you are so inclined! Our ears are itching for the sweet songs of a faun! And a day doesn't go by that I don't hear Mr. Beaver humming or singing your song of the coming of Spring! 
May the Lion keep you 'til you come!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The White Witch

This was probably an acrylic wash with pencil and gesso, and is another college friend. 
The text reads: 
I was at one time under the service of the cruel white witch. (Many Narnian's were forced to work for her at the risk of their lives - for she often turned them into stone.) When she learned of my artistic talent - she had me paint this portrait of her. I had only gotten this far however when I found Lucy by the lamp post. I wasn't able to turn in Lucy to the witch - which was my duty - and I was arrested only a few days after I helped Lucy escape. The witch was so angry, I was turned into stone before I ever had a chance to finish. I am glad however, for I was never able to place a crown upon the head of the witch and Lucy make a far better queen!
Lewis describes the queen as "... a great lady, taller than any woman that Edmund had ever seen. She also was covered in white fur up to her throat and held a long straight golden wand in her right hand. Her face was white - not merely pale, but white like snow or paper or icing-sugar, except for her very red mouth. It was a beautiful face in other respects, but proud and cold and stern."
C.S. Lewis form The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

This Image is sewn unto the top right corner of the image above. It was a sketch I had done for another etching in printmaking class, but it never turned out right. It's funny because I did so much research on this particular piece (medieval sleds, reindeer, etc...) but the design never struck me as good enough to etch into a metal plate. Fortunately I kept the sketch because it makes for a good story telling element for the journal.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Lamp Post

One of my favorite literary scenes - the mysterious lamp post in the middle of a snowy woods. I've drawn/painted it a hundred times. It's the perfect contrast of light/dark, nature/man-made, warm/cool... with variety and repetition. All things I teach in my Design class that are staples for good design. (The imagery is also used as the name of a DHARMA station on one of my favorite television shows, LOST, where it serves a similar function.)
This page was fun. The large image was an etching from my Printmaking class at Indiana Wesleyan University. I loved that class and if I had a printing press - I would incorporate etchings into my illustration work. I also sewed Tumnus' original sketch onto the top corner. (A sketch I made from a photo of a lamp post I took outside of Buckingham Palace in London, England.)
The text reads: The Lamp Post. Truly a mysterious place. Legend has it that the lamp grew from the fresh earth at the beginning of time. Some say it has origins of another land - of the Land of Adam & Eve. Either way, or even if both are true - the lamp is a beauteous sight and I have always enjoyed spending time there. The light burns always, as if by some magic - and magic it must be - for this is the very spot where first I found Lucy, way back during the reign of the White Witch. How Lucy came to this place, I'll never know - though she has explained it to me a thousand times (something about a city of War Drobe within the land of Spare Oom - but you never can tell with daughters of Eve.) Anyway - it all must be within the power and plans of Aslan - for shortly after her arrival, all of Narnia changed and the ancient prophecy came true! Long Live Aslan!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tumnus' Self Portrait

Tumnus begins his journal with a self-portrait created "by looking into a still pond." C.S. Lewis describes Mr. Tumnus with "a red woolen muffler round his neck and his skin was rather reddish too. He had a strange, but pleasant little face, with a short pointed beard and curly hair, and out of the hair there stuck two horns, one on each side of his forehead." The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
I drew quite a few Tumnus' while in college, but this was my favorite image. The model was a good friend whom we all called, "Crazy Dave." I guess you can see why. (Thanks again Dave.) 
I just started reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe with my kids and it's really fun to see their excitement and curiousness over Narnia. I can't wait to show them this journal. 

An interesting note. This sketch helped me to get  my first freelance with Focus on The Family. The art director liked the loose background. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Opening Pages

The idea behind this journal was to make it seem as if it was actually created in the Land of Narnia - and somehow made it's way to Earth. Each page is not only adorned with text and/or illustrations, but is also weathered and worn to appear as if it is an ancient text that was created in the forests by woodland creatures. (The page to the left was stained with coffee.) All text is handwritten by myself with a traditional pen dipped in ink.
The first page sets the stage for the remainder of the journal. It is an official, royal request by Queen Lucy the Valiant to her dear friend, Mr. Tumnus. 

I, Queen Lucy the Valiant, with the special consent of King Peter the Magnificent, Queen Susan the Gentle, and King Edmund the Just, do hearby appoint Tumnus the Faun, to recreate in journal form our beloved land of Narnia and the miraculous wonders that have occurred here within - least we forget.

The second page is penned in Tumnus' own hand, and gives further explanation into the book. I won't rewrite the entire thing here, but I will give some highlights. 

This journal, though loose in form and design, will attempt to capture the land of Narnia as seen by and through me. It is a record of what I have seen, who I have been, and the amazing things I have been apart of in my simple life - where the unexpected it true - may all that you see and understand bring glory to the great Lion himself.

I pray this journal may defy the sands of time, so that many generations of Narnians - and men for that matter - will know of our amazing land, and the sacrifices that were made to keep it so. May the magic of the Birch Maidens - of whose leaves and wood I have used generously - weave their eternal beauty within the pages of my journal, and the strength of The Lion hover over it's covers.

Notice the leaf print on the top right corner of the page. During the process of weathering the pages, I tied a stack of paper together and buried it outside in the leaves for a number of weeks. When I dug them back out, the leaves started decaying on the paper and left those great prints. What a happy accident.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tumnus' Journal

I know I keep blogging about past work, but I recently showed this project to my Drawing class at Union University, and their excitement over it re-inspired me to blow off the dust and bring this book back into the light.
As a high school graduation gift, three good friends bought me my first set of C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. I read the entire series the summer before I started college at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) - and the impact was so powerful, that I began to use the stories as the basis for most of my projects in art school.
After I graduated from IWU, I decided to begin the process of binding some of my favorite pieces in a book. The project morphed into a vintage-style Narnian journal. The book is unfinished, but I thought I would post some of my favorite pages over the next few weeks leading up to Christmas. Enjoy the book.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Signing

Everyone in Jackson, TN, please join us this afternoon at 4 pm for a book signing at one of my favorite places in town, The Casey Jones Museum at The Casey Jones' Village. There will be refreshments, Ben Mandrell will read the book, I will have original art work, as well as books to purchase and have signed. Looking forward to it and hope to see you there.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Clarence Visits Horace

Six Summit Gallery linked to my blog and so I thought I should mention the painting that will be hanging in their show, A Menagerie of Misfit Elves which opens in December.
The piece, Clarence Visits Horace, is part of a story I was working on when I first graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2000. The story was a self-initiated project for a children's book I wrote entitled, Clarence the Crazy Snowman's Crazy Christmas Caper. The book was never published, but it gave me the inspiration to develop another self-initiated project entitled, When Pig's Fly, which was published this year with BorderStone Press.
Clarence Visits Horace is oil and color pencil and is for sale through the Six Summit Gallery.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Menagerie of Misfit Elves

This Christmas season I was invited to display some Christmas themed art at Six Summit Gallery in Ivoryton, CT. I am excited to have the opportunity to display my art alongside a cast of very talented illustrators and friends. If you're in Ivoryton, CT November 21 - January 21, stop by the show. If not, check it out on line at

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Final Image

Copyright 2010
Here is the final piece. I was pleased with the outcome - of course, as always - there are things that need tweaking. However, it's been a year since I finished it, and I'm still happy with the final image. That's usually a good sign. 

The most incredible part of the experience was presenting it to the Hartford program at The Society of Illustrators in New York City. It was my first time both at The Society and in New York - and it was the most amazing trip I've ever been on.
Here is a photo of Murray Tinkelman, Doug Andersen and Bill Thompson critiquing our work on the second floor. What an amazing experience.

Next up... I start to celebrate "the most wonderful time of the year."

Monday, October 17, 2011


Like I posted earlier, one of my inspirations for this painting was Walt Disney's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It was part of Disney's The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad which was released in 1949, was directed by Clyde Geronimi and Jack Kinney and featured the voice talents of Bing Crosby. It has always been one of my favorite fall-time favorites and I still watch it every year. (For some strange reason, I still rent it... I really need to buy my own copy.) 

I was able to find  background paintings from the film on a great blog site that C. F. Payne told me about called Animation Backgrounds. The stills not only brought back some great childhood memories, they also provided rich information for setting the mood to the story with color, lighting and shadow. 

Click HERE to see the rest of the paintings from the film.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rough Sketch

Here is my rough sketch. I don't always do this, but it was very helpful for this piece because the photo reference was so extensive and messy. This allowed me to see everything as a united whole. From here I began to lay out the final sketch and then painting - but I still made some changes to better fit Irving's text. I switched the "athletic" horse with an older, stronger work horse (plow riggings included - a throwback to Disney's version). I also changed the old bridge into the church. I had originally planned to create a evil glow coming from inside the bridge (the Headless Horseman) but Ichabod was moving away from the bridge and in the in the story that is the end of Ichabod's mysterious journey home. The Headless Horseman's power lay between the church's graveyard and the covered bridge... so I went with the church/graveyard. You'll see that soon. 

For those who are watching the process of my Sleepy Hollow cover, I apologize for jumping around so much. Does anyone know a way to group blog posts together, instead of grouping everything by date?  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Joke of the Week

So my family started a new tradition... The Joke of the Week. It's a great way for me to keep sketching for fun, and my kids to enjoy drawing. Once a week we post a joke, then everyone has the week to draw their idea. On Friday nights (Family Night) we unveil our drawings and all have a great laugh. Our timing was a little off this past week, but I wanted to share my drawing as well as show off my son, Caleb's, work. The joke was: Why did the dinosaur paint its toe nails red? To hide in the petunia's! (Corny, I know... but fun.)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Research & Photo Reference

One of the first things I did was to read Irving's book. I love his style of writing and attention to detail. I was able to incorporate a lot of Irving's details into the sketch, which made it a lot of fun for me. After I nailed down my idea, I started looking for reference. I had a great old photo in my files that I have always wanted to use for a Sleepy Hollow painting. There's an old church in the background with super gnarly trees in the foreground. It's very foreboding. I then scheduled a photo shoot with a friend of mine, but had to add the horse and background in digitally. Our family loves going to fall festivals and there are a few good ones in West Tennessee. I brought my camera and was able to get a lot of great shots of horses in harness, old wooden wagon wheels, etc. I also had to incorporate the face of Danny Kaye to fulfill the assignment, as well as research the look and layout of The Saturday Evening Post in 1953.  The final Photoshop file is a mess - but provided a wonderful map for me to use to begin my final drawing... complete with a copy of Cotton Mather's History of New England Witchcraft.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pigs Are Flyin'!

Copyright 2011
I'm taking a short commercial break to promote my first children's book which is now for sale on and Barnes and Noble.  
It's called, When Pigs Fly, and is the story of a little pig who is able to do big things with the help of his friends. The story is fictional, but the moral is real... and has especially been true with the publishing of this book. I started creating When Pigs Fly almost ten years ago, but without the help of friends along the way, it would have never been published. I think especially of the author, Ben Mandrell, who helped raise the level of the book with the quality of his writing and my good friends Jared and Heather Schuler who introduced me to Brian Mooney at Borderstone Press. 

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me along the way with prayers and words of praise. I'm just a silly pig who dreams big dreams but you are the birds who allow me to fly.

If you purchase the book and like it, please leave some feedback and encourage others to buy it as well.
Copyright 2011
Copyright 2011
Copyright 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Fall, Autumn... call it whatever you want, I love it! The cool weather, the scent of wet, falling leaves, college football, camp fires,  jackets, jeans and long sleeve shirts...  (not to mention the gradual build-up to Christmas!) This kind of weather invigorates me and calls for me to create. I'm currently working on a few projects, but I thought it would be fun to show you the creative process of a painting I did last fall which was inspired by one of my favorite fall books as well as Disney animated features - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. The assignment was for my MFA program. We were asked to create a magazine cover from the 1900 - 1950's. I chose the Saturday Evening Post, October 31, 1953. The idea was inspired by the covers of Norman Rockwell and had to include a notable figure from the time period... I chose Danny Kaye. Below is the initial moleskin sketch.
Enjoy the process and happy fall!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What I Did Last Week...

Copyright 2011
Last week I created some concept art for a potential job. I was excited to see I could still kick something out with some quality in such a short amount of time. It also felt good to create something that falls in line with what I would like to do - dream job kind of stuff - similar in style to my San Francisco painting, Escape from Alcatraz,  which I did this past spring. I'll be sure to post the outcome of this piece. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I thought I'd post a recent sketch of a good friend of mine... he's not really a pirate, but that's the fun of being an illustrator. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bragging on my MFA

It's been almost three weeks now since I graduated from The Hartford Art School with my MFA in Illustration. It was an incredible, life-changing experience, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to brag on my program a little bit.

The photo above was taken during our San Francisco critique with the combined classes of 2011 and 2012. This is only a fraction of our faculty, but look at the talent and fame represented by the illustrators in this picture. Starting at the top with the Casey at the Bat book we have C. F. Payne. Moving right is Bill Thomson, Murray Tinkelman, Doug Andersen, Ted Lewin, Betsy Lewin  and Gary Kelley! These are the faculty - these are the professionals guiding and directing us to be the best we can be! Every day I went to class to learn from my illustration heroes... like I said, it was life-changing. I'd like to think my art has been lifted up to a new level of excellence. Thank you Murray and the staff and faculty at the Hartford Art School's MFA in Illustration program. I will miss you immensely.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Trying Some New Things

"Escape from Alcatraz"                                                                    Copyright 2011
I'm trying a new look with my blog. I hope it's easier to read and highlights my art better. Let me know what you think.

I've also posted the final image of my San Francisco assignment. I received good reviews during my critique last week... I even made C.F. Payne chuckle... which I took as a compliment. If you want to see the process of how I created it, look back to my May 2011 posts.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rest in Peace

Copyright 2011

Here's the final illustration for my thesis show. It's the actual grave of Casey Jones in Jackson, TN... however, the stone wasn't placed until many years later by a group in New York wanting to honor him in a more appropriate fashion. Jones' grave is also in a church graveyard... not an empty field... but the general look is accurate.

Amazingly, Jones' pocket watch survived the wreck and is still intact. His original watch is on display at The Casey Jones Museum in Jackson, TN. If you're a Casey Jones fan, it's a great place to visit.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Crash

Copyright 2011

Here is the image of the train crash. One of the reasons Jones became an American hero, is because he remained at his post in the cabin, applying the breaks up until the moment of impact. Jones saved every single passenger on board his train. He was the only one who died. I can't help but think of John 15:13. "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Apologies...

Copyright 2011

The head of my MFA program at Hartford, Murray Tinkelman, likes to quote John Wayne. "Never apologize, it's a sign of weakness." Unfortunately, the digital image of this painting is terrible, and I have nothing but apologies for those of you who are viewing it now. My computer skills are not the best, and my abilities to color correct scanned images is even worse. This particular painting was near impossible for me to get right. If you'd like to see the original, it's hanging up at the Joseloff Gallery at The University of Hartford as part of the 2011 graduating show. Stop by if you're close, I'd love to say "Hi."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

One Hour Late!

Copyright 2011

"Need more coal there, Fireman Sim!
Open that door and heave it in.
I'll run her 'till she leaves the rail.
We're one hour late with the southern mail."

Another one of my favorite pieces. Special thanks to The Casey Jones Museum in Jackson, TN for allowing me unhindered access to their replica of Jones' engine 382. I was able to get in there and take all sorts of photos from unique angles. I also shot my models with lights to get the intense light from the engine and the cool light from the moonlight. (And that's me shoveling coal into the boiler.)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Locomotives & Lightning Bugs

Copyright 2011

And the children knew by the whistle's moan
That the man at the throttle was Casey Jones.

This is one of my favorite pieces, mostly because it stars two of my children. My original sketch had the train far off in the distance, but my instructor, Ted Lewin, encouraged me to make the engine close and BIG. I think it was a good decision. I like the contrast created with the large, dark, mechanical engine and the small, light, fragile children. For reference, we went to The Casey Jones Museum and I had my kids stand next to their replica of Casey's 382 engine. They practically fit inside the wheels! Those old engines were so amazing and powerful and BIG!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Beginning of the End

Here we have Casey Jones pulling out of the station as he departs on his final journey.

Casey Jones mounted the cabin.
Casey Jones, with the orders in his hand.
Casey Jones, he mounted the cabin.
Started on his farewell journey to the Promised Land.

I don't have any special insights into this illustration other than I worked on it a lot... and the background morphed quite a bit as far as lighting and coloring are concerned. I really enjoy watching the sunrise and sunset whenever I can. One of the things I liked most about this series of paintings was the opportunity to paint the beautiful changes that occur in the sky as the Earth moves around the sun... I will never grow tired of that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

B.F. Gribble, Clipper in Stormy Sea, nd, oil

Last summer at Hartford, Chris Payne gave a great lecture about "standing on the shoulders of giants," meaning - we, as contemporary artists and illustrators should not be embarrassed to learn from great artists of the past and present; to see the lessons they learned and allow their work to influence us and catapult us to new heights. During my research for my San Fran painting, I discovered an artist I was not familiar with - B.F. Gribble (1873-1962.) He was a British marine artist and I have just fallen in love with his ocean work. Here is an oil painting he did entitled, "Clipper in Stormy Seas." I think it's a great jewel of a painting, and I am hanging it next to my art desk as I work on my illustration. I plan to utilize his color palette as I begin the next stage of my painting.

Monday, June 20, 2011

End of The Day

Casey Jones (1863-1900) was a real-life engineer on the Illinois Central Railroad. The ballad that made him famous was written by Wallace Saunders after the great train wreck in Vaughan, MS that took Jones' life. I wanted to remain true to the original ballad, as well as the historical event, which took place the evening of April 29 and early morning of April 30. I didn't want all of my evening paintings to look the same, so I designed my book to take the viewer through a 24-hour period. The first illustration (the book cover) is during the day and portrays Jones coming home. The story continues through the evening and into the next morning, and then ends the next "day" with Jones in that "Great Train" in the Promised Land.This painting, the second in my series of eight, depicts Jones coming into the roundhouse at the end of a hard day's work on April 29. However, for Jones, the story is just beginning.

The roundhouse is actually based off of a roundhouse in Mississippi, not Memphis, TN where the story begins. Here is the original photo and 3-D model I built for lighting purposes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I'm taking a break from my San Fran piece and have been finishing my Thesis project for grad school. Over the past two and a half years, I have been developing a children's book based on The Ballad of Casey Jones. It has been an exciting project - and it is nearing it's first phase of completion. I will hang the show (8 finished pieces) and defend it this July in Hartford, CT at The University of Hartford. After I graduate, I will start sending it out to publishers and hopefully get it published as a 32-page children's book.

This is the first image, and what will hopefully be the cover of the book.

An interesting fact about this piece is it is the first piece since undergrad (class of 2000) that I used black paint on! Somewhere in school, someone told me that black paint was "the absence of all color" and I felt like it would only muddy up my work. So instead, I started creating my dark values using built up layers of colored paint and Payne's Gray. I've always been happy with my process... until I used actual black paint in this illustration. I loved the richness that was created when I put black paint down next to the vibrant colors. It was a mini-break through that has taken my work to a new level.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oil Wash

I'm doing some "new" things on this painting. Usually I will lay down a warm, burnt sienna wash on top of my sketch, and then work up from their. This piece is going to be cold and rough (rough water, fog, stormy clouds, etc...) so I am using a technique that I started playing with before I started my graduate program when I did my series of LOST paintings. I lay down some gesso with a palette knife and then put down a cool wash consisting of blues and cad yellow. With this process I get three really cool layered effects. The first layer is where there isn't any gesso. Here the oils penetrate the bristol board and create a really nice, dark, gritty wash. It is an awesome surface to draw on with color pencils. The second layer is where the oil lays on the gessoed surface. Here I am able to move the paint around a little more and get a soft blend of the colors. For the third layer, I take a soft cloth and wipe away a lot of the excess paint. Wherever there are raised ridges in the gessoed surface, the paint is almost completely wiped away - leaving some great patterns and textures. Most of this process is accidental - which I really enjoy. In the initial stages, I try to keep the painting as loose as possible. I will slowly tighten things up as I progress.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Final Layout

Here is my "final" pencil layout. I will probably make more changes and double check perspectives, etc... but this is what I will start painting on. I'm really pleased with the simplicity of the design. I can't wait to add paint and give it some life.

I couldn't afford to charter a helicopter to fly over the San Fran Bay for this piece. I did, however, stumble across a cool tool for the perspective and accuracy of the island and prison in their relationship to the Golden Gate Bridge. Google Earth is a free three-dimensional program that essentially allowed me to "fly in" and take a shot of the exact location I wanted for my painting. I will definitely use it on future projects.