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.