Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Getting Closer

I've been surprised at how much color pencil I've used to develop this piece. Mostly, I guess, because I've done so much while my students were working during my classes at Union University. I'm really happy with the results and have been surprised at how much color and value I've been able to achieve with the pencils. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Playing Around in the Snow

Almost finished with my mouse painting... I just wanted to try creating an animated gif. Here is the original illustration - and here is the gif. I'm hoping it will bring in some cold weather. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Window

On Monday I cranked up the Christmas music and started painting the windows. It's so great to be an illustrator. I'm still adding my oils in washes (thinned down paint) - however, the washes are becoming more controlled. I've also begun to add thicker paint to the woodwork on the window where the light is hitting. It's not impasto by any means - but you can't see through it. The paint remains thin enough for color pencil work.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More Detail

I've gone back over my pencil work on the trees with oil to help pop out the highlights. I've also started to work on the interior (window pane and mouse) with pencils. Believe it or not, the sky is a very pretty pale blue - it must be "non-photo blue" because the camera just won't pick it up.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Leaves and Trees

I've started to layout some detail outside of the window with oils. It's still very loose, but this gives me a broad base to work with later. I love birch trees, and I know they are plentiful up north, so I am preparing the ground work for their beautiful yellow leaves.

When the oils were dry, I went back in with Prismacolor pencils and started to "chisel out" the detail in the leaves. You can see where I "cut out" the areas where the sky is shining through. I also started to give some distinction between the changing colors (green to yellow) as well as the cool shadows and warm highlights. 

I have really come to love working with pencils in between layers of oil. They are so much fun and act very similar to oils as far as blending goes - yet they retain their own textural quality.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Having fun, then.....NOOOOOOO!

My next step is something new that I've been playing around with over the past couple of years. I'm a fairly realistic painter, but I've found that my best pieces happen when I make mistakes. I think it's easier for me to let the illustration do the talking when I give up some control (or lose some of my control.) So I've tried to find fun ways to do that without ruining the painting. One of those ways is to take a palette knife and create some texture on the surface of the board with gesso. It's been so much fun for me and I'm almost always happy with the final look. It helps me loose control just enough to start having fun with the paint and stop worrying about achieving perfection. I haven't used this method on any paid jobs... but that's why I practice, and one of these days I will. 

THEN... I realized I have made a terrible mistake! I usually pride myself on checking all of the historical facts when I paint. My painting "Escape from Alcatraz" is a great example of how picky I can be with timelines and dates. Even though I'm working with fictional characters, I love to elevate the suspension of reality with accurate details and facts. After I laid down the gesso, something in my brain started nagging me to check the timeline I was creating, and that's when I realized I screwed up. Le Chateau Frontenac didn't open until 1893, and the large central tower was built even later than that. Since my story is based on a colonial mouse, and since tricorn hats were out of fashion by 1800... I had a problem. I decided to get rid of the hotel (with a layer of gesso) and am now trying to figure out what to put in it's place... if nothing else, maybe that's where the copy will go.  

C'est dommage.

Here is the piece with a burnt sienna oil wash over the gesso... with only a faint glimpse of the hotel. (Gotta like that texture though.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Final Drawing

Here is the final drawing with all of the elements added together. 

And here is the drawing with a Payne's Gray acrylic wash to help pop the shadows.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Photo Reference

I had the fortunate experience to travel to Quebec City, QC with my French class when I was a Sophomore in high school. It was an incredible place to visit. So full of culture and history - a little bit of Europe in North America.

I took so many great photographs while I was there and always knew I would use them as part of a painting someday - especially this image of the Chateau Frontenac (where we actually got to stay for a night!)

Next, I had to decide what kind of world to place my mouse in. Would he be a regular size mouse in a regular human world? A human size mouse in a human world? Would he interact/talk with humans? Would he live like a real mouse? Would he live like a mouse but dress like a human? Etc, etc, etc... Then I had to find the appropriate setting for him so that the Chateau Frontenac would be visible and help to set the scene. I found a great, weathered window at one of my favorite Jackson, TN spots - The Old Country StoreThe shadows were amazing that day. (Look at the blue tones in the shadow on the windowsill!)

And then photograph some period items to include in the scene. Overall, some great photo reference. Now to put them all together.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A New Project

I've actually been working on a few projects lately, but I am not allowed to show any work until the projects are published. Fortunately, I found some time to develop this mouse idea and I thought I would show the process from beginning to end - which I haven't done in a while.
I created this little mouse about ten years ago. Mostly just for fun, but I also knew that one day I'd do something with him. I recently showed my agent, and she was convinced I needed to develop him further. I always knew he would be a little mouse from Quebec - but I wasn't sure how to place him into that setting. After some brainstorming, I came up with an image I was pleased with, and everything started falling into place. Here's the final character development.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Autographs: Paul Rogers

I was first introduced to Paul Rogers on our MFA trip to Pasadena, CA. I wasn't familiar with his name, but I suddenly realized that I had seen his work all over the place. Postal stamps, Pixar movies and theatrical posters - just to name a few. I was frustrated with myself that I had not brought anything for him to sign. I considered it one of the few flaws of my MFA experience. 

Fortunately, a good friend of mine (and incredibly talented illustrator,) Aja Wells made the same trip with Hartford's MFA program two years later and got the signature for me. It's part of my signed children's book collection. A great memento.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Autographs: Dan Swartz

I live in Jackson, TN - and while it is a fairly modern city - it has the worst selection of art/cultural magazines. In fact, there is only one book store that carries such magazines - and I always leave disappointed. (Is it so difficult to carry Communication Arts Illustration Annual?) So when my buddy, Dan Swartz, told me he had the cover for Bookmarks Magazine, I didn't think I'd ever get the chance to see it. It was a lucky day when I walked into our book store and found one copy hidden in the back of the Arts/Cultural section - like striking gold. I bought Dan's issue, and got his signature the next time I saw him. 

Dan Swartz is a good friend of mine and fellow Hartford MFA'er.  He is a hard worker, go-getter, and all around great guy. Please check out his web site at

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Autographs: C.F. Payne

This is not only a treasured autograph, but a great story as well. Chris Payne taught a class during the second year of my MFA program at The University of Hartford. That particular week, he was working on a Time cover for that same weekend. It was great to not only see him work - but to create a piece for an actual job that was going to be seen nationally. While we were in lectures, Chris was out shooting reference shots. While we were in class - he was drawing and painting - and teaching us through the process.

On the way to class that Friday, my buddies and I stopped at every book store, grocery store and drug store - looking for the latest edition of Time with Chris' cover illustration. We found three copies - and were able to get him to sign them before he left. We literally got to see the entire process from phone call to print. Unbelievable.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Autographs: Peter deSeve

I've started entering the New Yorker's, Blown Covers contest on line - which made me remember my autographed copy of one of Peter deSeve's covers. So I thought it would be fun to show off that cover, as well as some of the other autographs I've collected over the years. 

I'll start with The New Yorker. I've always loved the work of Peter deSeve - so comical and thought provoking... and just good art. Mr. deSeve spoke to our MFA group in New York City at The Society of Illustrators... it was a dream come true and one of the highlights of the trip for me. I can still visualize the entire experience. 

Funny story - I had previously purchased the magazine specifically for our NYC trip. I brought it to New York, kept it safe... and then forgot to bring it to The Society of Illustrators the day Peter deSeve was going to speak! I remembered at our lunch break and decided to rush back to our apartment to get it. It was day two in New York, and I had not quite figured out the subway system... meaning I took the wrong train to the wrong stop... had to retrace my steps to figure out where I was... and ended up being late to hear Mr. deSeve speak. It was a wild ride - but I got the autograph.  Enjoy.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Some Storytelling

I tried to incorporate some storytelling into my pastel pieces from a photo I took in New York a couple of years ago. It's titled, "I spy something... Yellow." As soon as I get some time, I plan to take this to a full illustration. (I think it's hilarious!) 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

... a Couple More

A couple more pastel sketches. Same place - within 30min's of each other. The first image was done on white paper - the second on a painted surface. I prefer working on the painted surface.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just another pastel sketch.  Nothing great - but so much fun. It's a nice challenge mixing the pastels on the paper. The bark of the tree was a cold, blue-grayish brown... I just kept adding until I felt it looked close.

I'm hoping for some good storms from Isaac this weekend. I would love to draw some storm clouds.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Back to Work

Well, I finished my children's book last week. It was an amazing experience, and one in which I experienced the entire width and breadth of human emotions. I plan to share more about it as we get closer to it's publication date... but for now I need to move on. 

I am beginning to find my life again. I can get out of bed in the morning, I've started reading (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle,) and I've started to sketch again - just for fun. Over the past few months,  I found myself longing to create for no other reason but just to be creative. I don't make any promises to my audience or myself (because I tend to get lazy and forget,) but I am going to try to sketch more. I want to capture life and study the nuts and bolts of creation in a fun and "no pressure" way. 

So here's my first attempt. I am not a pastel artist, but I wanted to use some different mediums to try and capture what I saw. My dad found a lightly used box of Nupastels in someone's trash, and I've been dying to try them out. (I'm pretty sure it's a box from the 60's - but they worked great.) It took about 30 minutes over lunch. I also made a sketch book a few years back using different types of paper. I started with an oil wash on Arches cold press water color paper.  Then applied the pastels. Plein Air.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Final Image

Here's the final, approved art. Can you spot the differences? 

Next up, an introspective on Duck-Duck. "The Duck Inside the Duck."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Work in Progress

This is where I currently am with this illustration. There are a few minor changes and some additions to be added, as well as areas to clean up - but I am really happy with the end result. I'll post the final image on May 15 - which is when the publisher needs it. I also hope to write a little on one of my biggest inspirations for this project, Jim Henson.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Brunet & Sons Illustration

I was planning to post my nearly completed illustration from "I'm in Love with a Big Blue Frog," but I couldn't pass this up. My oldest son has to research a children's book illustrator for school, and create a picture in the style of that artist. He loves the book, "Chalk" by Bill Thomson (a former professor of mine at The University of Hartford.) Bill has a great web page where he talks through the development of his illustrations. (You can check it out HERE.) He starts with thumbnails, rough sketch, photo-shoot, etc... very similar to the way I work. So after our research, my son came up with an illustration idea. He started with a thumbnail sketch, drew a rough sketch, and last night he directed our family for his photo-shoot. 

I was so proud of him. He set us up, positioned us, and provide props for us. It felt very professional. 

Then... my youngest son (who is 3) came out with his own drawing and informed us it was his turn to direct a photo-shoot. It was hilarious. Somehow, from his sketch, he knew exactly how he wanted us to pose. He was very specific with each person's stance, where and how they stood, and what they were doing. We took it very seriously, but inside were cracking up. I think my business is grooming a couple of new talents. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


As I was working on my soda shop illustration, I got some wonderful inspiration from my favorite illustrator, Norman Rockwell. This painting was a Saturday Evening Post cover on August 22, 1953 and currently hangs in the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. It is so great... and it made for good reference as well. 

I also found inspiration at one of my favorite Jackson, TN hot-spots... The Old Country Store at Casey Jones Village.  Inside they have an old, 1890's ice cream parlor that has been named one of the top 50 ice cream parlors in America.

Here is the final drawing that was approved for painting.  You'll notice some elements from both Rockwell's painting and the 1890's ice cream parlor. Researching paintings is one of the best parts of creating. For this image, I have an entire file full of animal photos, models, paintings and props... it's just like doing a research paper in high-school - only instead of having to write the paper, I get to paint a picture. It's the best of both worlds.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Getting the Family Involved

Part of the fun in painting and illustrating is finding ways to get the whole family involved. I truly believe that my family is behind me and my painting career... but when you work three and four jobs to make it happen... sometimes it can be more of an annoyance than a joy. One way I like to get everyone involved is to make them a part of the process, so each illustration has a good memory associated to it so when we look back at projects they don't remember that   dad was in a bad mood - but how fun it was to be included. (At least that's my hope! I'm sure when the kids are all older they will all swap stories of how dad would force them to be in photo shoots against their will.) It's great to have built-in family models, but I also enjoy seeing their faces while I draw and paint at night. Even while they're sleeping, I get to relive sweet experiences with my wife and kids. 

Here's a few photos for the soda-shop spread. I was able to include some friends from work, but most of the characters are me, my wife and my son. I've become the model for the Big Blue Frog - which is funny, considering I'm 5'9". The world of illustration is truly magical. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rough Sketches

Here is the illustration I'm currently working on. In this scene, I wanted to show the Big Blue Frog on a date with his girlfriend. They are so in love that they don't even notice (or don't seem to notice) that everyone in the soda shop is looking on in disapproval of their relationship.

The idea was accepted, but the publisher wanted me to zoom out and show more of the soda shop and more disapproving customers. I think the second drawing is so much better - and it's always fun to get to draw more animals. It's been great working with a publisher and art director - each time they push me, the work just gets better.

So far, everything is pretty much from my head. They next step is to photograph models and research the animals and scenery. 

For my MFA friends and family who are familiar with "Duck-Duck," you'll notice him coming into the soda shop. In fact, he'll be on each page of the book which is really exciting and a great way to get my kids excited about this project. For those of you who don't know our famously-infamous family duck - that is for another blog post. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Conceptual Work: Big Blue Frog

It's been a while since I last posted, but that does not mean that I haven't been working. In fact, I have been very busy developing the images and layouts for my newest book with Imagine Publishing entitled, I'm in Love with a Big Blue Frog, by Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary) which is scheduled to be in stores January/February 2013. My publisher has been very gracious to allow me to post some of my work as I create it, but first I wanted to show you some of the conceptual work I've done to get where I am now.

Their has been a lot of revisions and start-overs as I have worked to develop the main characters, but the process has really refined the characters into a very lovable duo that I am very proud of. I am constantly reminded of my former professor, Bunny Carter, who always told us it took 50 thumbnails to come up with a good image... and that has certainly been true with this project. But the work has been worth it and it has been a lot of fun drawing and painting these two into the world we have created for them.

Here's a sample of the development process, with the final look of the Big Blue Frog and his girlfriend at the bottom of the page. More to come soon. Enjoy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My Son

So my son, Caleb, won an art contest at school... and ever since, he has been on fire with his artwork. The other night, he was in his room drawing to music and came out with this! He's only six years old! I just love it (and him) and wanted to share this piece with you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Blue Frogs!?!

I can't believe it's almost February, and I apologize for you having to stare at my Christmas painting for almost two months... but I've been working on getting a contract with Imagine Publishing for a children's book with Peter Yarrow from the legendary folk group, Peter, Paul and Mary... and I got it! And so, for the next 6-7 months I'll be working on that. It's been a great experience so far, and I am excited to see it all come to fruition. 
I'm waiting to see if I am allowed to show work in progress, but for now just enjoy the video above of Peter, Paul and Mary singing the book I am about to illustrate.