Wednesday, April 30, 2008

After Whitaker

Another study, this time not quite so brief (about 2 hours), of a portion of a William Whitaker painting. I had to actually try this to finally get a feeling for how good he is. I never would have thought of using those colors myself. And the end result is surprisingly good, even filtered through my imperfect brain and hands.

I'm especially interested by how it continues to work well (I think) when shrunk really tiny:

I wish the stuff I do for myself would work so well. Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Struggle, struggle.

I don't know. This sort of works, kinda, in a way, in places. It might even get better, since it's a work in progress. But I worry about it. It's tricky.

Monday, April 28, 2008

After Hale

A quick copy, too pink, of a small part of a Phil Hale picture.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Here's the development process for the illustration I just added to my portfolio. It's based on the story "Toke," by Tim Akers. First, I spent some time coming up with an idea for what I wanted to make the picture look like. It only took a short while to get a vague idea. I wanted to show the inhuman "scarecrow" creature in a frightened pose, echoing old pulp novels, with a murderous shadow looming over him, er, it. I liked the idea of the reversal of traditional roles. I also wanted to show the way the creature was made of vegetable strands wrapped around a wooden frame, which I thought was a pretty neat (and unique) idea for a "monster."

With the idea in mind I spent lots and lots of time scribbling while I tried to find a pose (all sketches done in Painter, by the way):

The pose began to get clearer, and I did a little color study which turned out to be mostly wrong. However, the bottom two pictures show the final sketch coming together.

Here's the finished sketch:

The background actually went fairly easily, as I chanced into a nice loose pattern that looked like brickwork in yellow light. That pattern, and the shadow, remained essentially unchanged from here on. However, the figure gave me lots of trouble. On the upper right you see the remnants of some disasterous color experiments, and then on the lower left I revert the figure to the sketch (thank God for digital and saving backups, or that would have been much more tedious). Finally, on the lower right I start with the pole that forms the creature's arm "bone", then move on to the strands of it, and things seem to start working. (Color was done using the "Acrylics" "Captured Bristle" brush, pretty much throughout. It seemed to get the feel I wanted. Mostly I just varied the size.)

From here on out, it is "just" a matter of carefully rendering all those sticks and strands and shadows. This was the long (and nerve-wracking) part. Many, many steps are not shown.

Finally, after much effort, the final, tweaked slightly in Photoshop, and signed:


Twice in the past few days I have come across a link to this piece, Rebecca Solnit, writing in the L.A. Times, about how (some) men love to explain things they know nothing about to women, and how this oppresses the women. Indeed, she goes on to compare her experience with having to give an overconfident ass in a Raulph Lauren Aspen lodge the smackdown with the plight of women in Islamic nations who are not allowed to testify at their rape trials, or Maria Lauterbach being butchered by her rapist.

What? ... What!?

These people, the explainers, the talk-down-upon-ers, are blowhards. They like explaining things they know nothing about to everyone, not just to women. OK, sorry. I shouldn't be declarative like that. I risk being accused of explaining something, and of arrogance, asshattery, blowhardedness, and general male-dominated hegemonic discourse.

Still, please, hasn't everyone, female or not, met someone like this? Hasn't everyone had to sit through their bluster and arrogance and contempt? It's not like only men can act that way, either. Have you never experienced a woman's whithering contempt? Her certainty in the face of all reason?

Not all women, to be sure, and not all the time. Just some women, or rather some people, some of the time. It doesn't look like a male thing from where I'm standing. She doesn't even seem to realize that linking maleness to arrogance the way she does is exactly the kind of contemptuous stereotyping that she protests later, when applied to herself:

Several years ago, I objected to the behavior of a couple of men, only to be told on both occasions that the incidents hadn't happened at all as I said they had, that I was subjective, delusional, overwrought, dishonest -- in a nutshell, female.

Or, rather, when she perceives it applied to her. I doubt either of her accusers actually came out and said she was "subjective" or "dishonest" because she was female. (Though I'll admit the stereotype may have crossed their minds, because people are bad like that.) Indeed, I've seen this kind of behavior, too, and again from both sexes. People always, always remember the "facts" to their own advantage. Men do, and so do women, and so, I have no doubt, does Ms. Solnit. But heaven forbid the incidents in question not be perfectly preserved in the objective crystal clarity of her memory. There is no possibility that she might be subjective in the least, even if every other human being on earth is.

Of course, it never works to talk to anyone about that, because nobody will admit they do it themselves. "Everyone else is subjective, but not me! I know what I saw." Except when they show you the video later and point out the man in the gorilla suit.

No doubt the men in question were in the wrong, and Ms. Solnit was in the right, but to become incensed at the oppressiveness of these men questioning her version of events? Incensed to the point of making these people who had the temerity to disagree with her the poster-men of all male oppression? That seems strangely... arrogant. Isn't Ms. Solnit, now, doing the explaining? Perhaps it is people who explain things, to people, and let's just call them blowhards, whatever their sex.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Super secret project phase one is almost complete, so tonight I turned back to an old project which had been put aside. I abandoned all caution and slapped around some color very roughly. Rough makes for nice pictures, because the eyes fill in the missing detail. The hard part is tightening them up (and only in the appropriate places) later.

As always, deep apologies to the person who originally asked for this. It's late. Epically late. Probably too late. I'm still working on it for practice if nothing else.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Not Perfect But

At least it was quick.

I'm enjoying playing with light a bit more, lately, trying to push the drama. (The lighting is a matter of the references, of course, but I do think it's fun to experiment with how it can be rendered.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Probably not any better

Um, yeah

I'm gonna have to fix that chin later.

I hear you should usually wait a while after finishing something before you declare it "finished." It's because of this kind of blindness. Sometimes, when you work on something for a while, you can start to miss things that would normally be obvious. Put it down for a few hours (or until the next day) and suddenly all the flaws jump out at you.

Of course, it's just a practice picture, so I'm not going to get too worked up about it, but things are really jumping out at me now.

What a Surprise

Another attractive (well, before I got to her) woman. This one almost looks like the reference, I think.

I like women in glasses.

Glasses are hard to draw. Or maybe it was the angle here. Anyway, it took way longer than it should have.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Something Positive

To contrast with that negative semi-review I posted a while ago, here's something positive.

I just finished reading "In the River" by Justin Stanchfield, printed in Interzone 205. This is more like it. First of all, it's a story about people in an interesting situation, not a story wrapped around some point where you're supposed to say "aha!" as you figure out what the author has been hiding from you. Secondly, the prose flows, not trying to impress you with colorful language, fantastic sentence structure, or the author's spectacular ability to use a thesaurus. It uses evocative language that supports the reader's imagination, instead of drawing attention to itself.

There are no explanations, but you understand what is happening.

In other words, it's what a good short story should be. Even the artwork was good. My only problem with it is that it is a bit too short. The interactions between the characters are slightly abbreviated, and the story ends fairly abruptly (and, to be honest, a little predictably). But Mr. Stanchfield writes the kind of stories I like to read. I hope to read more.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Another Victim

Of my questionable draftmanship.

Again, a "warmup" that got out of hand, stopped as I realized how much time I was spending on it.

Slow, Slow, Slow

Work on super secret project(s) proceeds, at a snail's pace. I'm still hopeful the results will be worth it. The past few nights I have had less than an hour a night to work on something that is turning out to be fairly complex. It's maddening enough to make me consider staying up until the wee hours trying to finish it.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

080409 Warmup

A quick sketch to warm up. Maybe tonight I'll get more done than the last two nights. (They were productive, but it is going awfully slowly.)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Return of

After a very short absence indeed.

When will I stop this and get to work? Well, honestly I did do some things which could be considered work, today. And this kind of thing is helping my confidence a bit after the disasterous night I had Thursday. Still, not finished the picture I need to finish.

Believe it or not, I picked this reference because of the hands, which I only did a passable job on, in my opinion. Practice, practice and more practice.

(Painter, approx. 2 hours)

Saturday, April 05, 2008


A quick sketch of my daughters, who were mugging for the camera one morning.

This was a warmup. Now I should be getting to work-- look at the time! Time for bed... again. Sigh.

Friday, April 04, 2008

On the Writing Front

I've backed up a bit. While reading and revising the other day, I came to a point where I felt everything up to that point had been at least OK, but everything after was really bothering me. I've gone further back, added a bit to a scene, and I'm now in the process of trying to derail/re-rail what happens after the problem point. What this means is that roughly four thousand words out of nearly forty five thousand are... if not completely lost, at least in serious jeopardy.

Which is not so bad. So, I'm back to 41k. But it's better, I think.

And I'm calling it a novel. So there.


On the downswing. I really, really need to get that piece I'm working on finished. And then I really, really need to do something a bit more creative than those last few blog posts.

I mean, race queens... sheesh.

Luckily I have things to work on. Now where did I put my creativity...?


After a very frustrating session trying to finish off a picture, basically ending up right where I started, I did this to calm my nerves.

Very calming.

(Still... not quite right, though.)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


A not particularly successful portrait, done with a lot of guesstimation from a low resolution photo.

(About 1 hour, Painter)