New Art: School Ground Banners

These five illustrations were commissioned for the Shining Mountain Waldorf School in Boulder, Colorado to hang on lamppost banners around their grounds.

Each depicts a unique area of the school with its eclectic grounds and architecture. I enjoyed this project for capturing the variety of artful elements across the school grounds.

A poster with all the images can be purchased here to support the school.


Drawing Experiment

I've had a new visual style in mind for a while that I've been wanting to develop. It's a look I haven't quite seen so I'm not sure yet how to get it out of my head. I'm attempting a sort of advanced colored pencil style created with some digital drawing tricks.

This test drawing is the closest I've come but it's not quite there yet. The sculptural treatment of the tree trunk is good but the hatching needs refinement.


New Art: Witch Doctor's Laboratory

Prompted by the topic of a witch doctor from Sketch Dailies, I decided to not only draw the character, but his laboratory. I wasn't originally planning on this much detail until I got carried away by inspiration.

Please click to enlarge:

The base line drawing:



I didn't base it on any specific culture, rather I combined multiple tribal objects and imagery, including a dose of fantasy elements.

I wasn't going to draw him naked but a loin cloth or grass skirt seemed too cartoony. When I first sketched out the figure, I decided instead to dress him in only tattoos.

New Poster Series: Carousel of Happiness

Not one hand-carved, wooden animal on the Carousel of Happiness in Nederland, Colorado is the same species. There are 36 different animals to ride and 25 more that decorate the environment. I was commissioned to create a poster series celebrating six of the most popular animals.

I set out to create a look that was both contemporary and vintage. The bold, stylized animals are visually modern, as is the color palette across the series. In contrast, the decorative border and classical typography recalls the carousel's Victorian heritage.

The border is composed of imagery from animals and ornamentation on the carousel itself, to the horns of the vintage Wurlitzer that provides its music. The bottom center features the building that houses the indoor carousel. The corner ovals feature other facets of the carousel's story - the puppet theater inside the building, and a view of the mountain landscape surrounding the area.


The series will be sold as posters and postcards in the carousel's gift shop. If you're in Colorado, plan a visit to the Carousel of Happiness.

The carousel posters are also available online in my shop.

Halloween Animation Background

I wanted to practice drawing on my new Cintiq tablet. How good could I get with detail? How easy was it to draw something complex? I decided to do a line drawing in the style of an animation background design. Having done much digital drawing, it was very natural to draw a few hundred pumpkins and tiny branches right on the screen.

Starting in late October before Halloween, I was in the mood to draw a pumpkin patch scene with a sense of mystery. Why the big hole hidden behind the thicket? Why the windowless tower?



Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

New Art Tool: Wacom Cintiq 22HD Touch

My new Cintiq!

My new Cintiq!

My fourth tablet over the years: Wacom Intuos 4.

I've been drawing on a Wacom tablet for over fifteen years, the kind without the screen like the one here. To draw digitally, I would look at my computer screen while my hand drew on the tablet outside of my field of vision. I usually held it in my lap. I can't remember when I first got a Wacom tablet whether I struggled to learn that skill, but it became natural for me to draw that way.


I drew on my iPad with a Jot Touch, usually in the app called Procreate. (This photo isn't me.)

When I got an iPad a couple years ago, I began to play around with some art apps. I bought a professional stylus that would give me the pressure sensitive control I was used to on my Wacom tablet. Because it's a more natural way to draw digitally, I started to prefer working directly on the screen. I've even done many professional illustrations on my iPad. But the iPad has limitations in terms of resolution and other factors for professional imagery.


The large 22 inch screen of my new Cintiq 22HD Touch. (This photo isn't me either.)

Eventually, it became time for me to get the mother of all Wacom products, a Cintiq. I've used one before but had only doodled on them at a friend's house. I hadn't done any professional work on one. In moving to Los Angeles to return to animation, it was the right time. When I left animation in 2002, most production work was still paper based. No more. I needed a Cintiq to draw the freelance backgrounds I've been doing for Cartoon Network.

Not only do I use the Cintiq for my animation work, I now do my freelance illustration on it. Furthermore, it offers an array of new options for digital art that weren't available to me before. While I've done plenty of illustration in Photoshop, I'm really discovering the power of digital painting in creative new ways. It's amazing!

A wolf drawing I did to experiment with natural pencil lines and textured brushes in Photoshop.

What is Animation Background Layout?

In traditional animation, a background layout is the line drawing of the background for a scene. It is not the finished background painted in color that you see on the screen.

Layouts are drawn from storyboards which define the action and perspective in the scene. Because storyboard artists draw backgrounds in a rough, simplified style, background layout artists take them to the next level by defining the detail and perspective. Layout drawings are then given to the background painters to color and complete the visual style.

Depending upon the style of the show, the lines of the layout drawings may be visible in the finished background that is used in a final production. Or the visual style may be void of line work, thus the layouts serve as a guide for the painters.

The line work will be part of the finished background.

Depending upon the production, background layout artists also do background design. This is standard in television animation, which is my field, and the position is often titled background designer. The designer must envision new locations when they are called for in the script, taking into account the action of the characters and the mood of the scene. The design drawings are given to the storyboard artists to show them what a place looks like.

A design drawing to establish a new location. The rain is animated and would not be part of the final background layout.

I often get asked what I do in animation since people outside of the industry are unfamiliar with the process. It's a lot more fun than this dry explanation of the job. A lot of creativity goes into making places that are believable in the world of the characters, and in supporting the narrative of the story.

Left: My layout drawing. Right: The finished painted background with characters and effects.

Thank you, Colorado. Hello, California.

The last dozen years of my illustration career does not quite reflect my talent for cartooning. My portfolio is rife with artwork of scenery and architecture. But I am a cartoonist. Upon graduating art school in the 1990s, I entered the field of animation at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Los Angeles where I became a background designer and storyboard artist.

I loved animation work. I thrived in a highly creative industry with many talented artists around me. It's fun to work on shows that are enjoyed by millions of people. But with that, I had to live in Los Angeles. It's not that I disliked the city, rather I longed for a different lifestyle. After seven years in LA, I moved to Boulder, Colorado where I built a prolific freelance illustration career.

In Colorado, I hiked and snowboarded. I became a homeowner thrice. I drove my 1967 Jeep in snowstorms and a sidecar motorcycle in the summer with my dog. I lived in town and in the mountains. I survived a flood. I raised money for Colorado's fire and flood relief with my art. I created hundreds of artworks. I started businesses to both success and failure. I got married on a mountain patio in winter. My wife and I had a son. I made lifelong friends. Colorado was good to me for a over twelve years.

The deck of our Colorado home.

The deck of our Colorado home.

You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

Our new LA home.

Our new LA home.

Last week, I returned to California, this time with my family.

I never left animation because I didn't like the work. In fact, I've missed it through the years. I am actively looking for work as a storyboard artist or background designer in television animation. Stepping away from animation made me I realize how much passion I have for cartooning and storytelling. As good as I am at illustrating landmarks, I'm better at telling stories through art.

New Art: Mid-Century Home Portrait

I often get commissioned to do home portraiture in my signature poster style. It's a fresh take on a type of art that is typically done in traditional mediums and styles.

This piece was commissioned by a real estate agent as a closing gift for a couple who has lived in this home for over forty years. I was not present when the gift was given, but the artwork moved them to tears. While I enjoy illustrating for companies, creating art that is deeply meaningful to someone is one of the greatest joys of doing home portraits.

Click to enlarge.

New Art: Restaurant Ordering Illustrations

I was commissioned by New York company, OrdrUs, to create a series of illustrations to help sell their service to restaurants. They provide online and mobile takeout ordering.

After doing a series of slick, colorful illustrations, they decided to scratch those for a different approach. I developed this rough line and watercolor style to supports their non-technical approach to selling their technology.

These were all created on my iPad with the Procreate app and a Jot Touch pressure sensitive stylus. I've been doing more professional illustration on the iPad lately.

There are over 20 illustrations in the series... and counting.

Weekly Warmup Sketches

I do warmup sketches at the beginning of the day to get my creativity flowing before starting client work. I used to do it about once a week but I'm trying to do it more consistently. Here are the sketches that got my day going this week.