Thursday, June 18, 2015

Beginnings and Endings

Cricket Magazine's Crowd Sorcery project which evolved into the fantasy story "The Girl Who Writes the Future" began just over a year ago and has come full circle. The first group of my Crowd Sorcery character sketches was published in the July/August 2014 issue of Cricket and the final part of "The Girl Who Writes the Future" printed in this year's May/June issue. If you missed any issues the entire story is available to read online. Now that Fable's adventure is complete, I thought I'd look back on the illustrations that opened and closed her story.

When I say "look back on the illustrations," I don't mean that I've already forgotten how they look! But while working with deadlines on a long-running project such as this, it's sometimes difficult to take a step back and evaluate all the work I'm doing with a fresh eye. I thought it would be interesting to compare side-by-side the first and final images I painted for the story to see how they relate to each other visually and thematically.

Fable reads by the light of the setting sun before she is suddenly thrust into a harrowing journey.

The first thing I noticed about both illustrations is that they have similar palettes. Both have a triadic color palette of orange, green and violet. I didn't plan this in advance so it was a happy coincidence that helped bookend the story. Both illustrations also feature warm light: in the opening image it's the rosy hue of a setting sun and in the closing picture, a luminous light radiating from the face of a sculpted full moon.

In the middle of the story, Fable and Luminè descend into darkness and mystery. Many scenes take place at nighttime or in the corners of ancient buildings and forgotten passageways, so for those images I frequently made use of a cool palette and a lot of blue hues. When the girls are successful in their journey they come back into the light once again.

I took a risk with the closing illustration and tried what I felt was a bolder color palette than many of the other images I painted for the story. Even though the palette included the same triad of colors as the illustration that opened "The Girl Who Writes the Future," the way I used them was a little less conventional. The swath of bright orange-yellow against violet could have been a disaster, but luckily it gave me the magical look I wanted. My art director and I worked hard to find room for this illustration in the space allotted for the final chapter, and I'm glad we were able to squeeze it in. It turned out to be one of my favorites. I hope that when readers look at this picture they feel the same satisfaction, relief and triumph Fable and Luminè do at the end of their adventure.

Luminè and Fable, exhausted but triumphant after completing their quest.

I write frequently about my creative process and I thought anyone reading this might like to hear about the creative process from the perspective of a writer. Frederic S. Durbin, author of "The Girl Who Writes the Future," shared his insights about the development of the story on his blog. He also wrote about the interesting relationship between authors and their characters here. I really enjoyed his posts and I hope you will, too!

Friday, June 5, 2015


The original sketch

I just lost a lengthy blog post I was planning to publish today which I now have to rewrite entirely. So instead, here is an old drawing I recently came across while reviewing sketches I'm considering for inclusion in my new sketchbook. These mother and daughter gorgons are from the book A Practical Guide to Monsters. I've forgotten the reason why my art director felt the character should be younger, but I was asked to change the daughter from a teenager to a little girl.

The revised version

Monday, June 1, 2015

Artist Privilege

"Being crazy...that's the privilege of being an artist."

From Overheard at the Museum by Judith Henry.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Children of the Forest

The Marriage is a Work of Art show has come to a close and my painting "Children of the Forest" has gone to its new home. I haven't made a process post in a while, so I thought I would share how this painting came together.

When we were invited to exhibit in the Marriage show I wanted to come up with a way that Vinod and I could tie our work together other than the incidental ties our art has as a result of our relationship as artists over the past 20 (!) years. I didn't want to just hang whatever it was that we had been working on lately and call it a day. We don't really collaborate on artwork other than offering each other critiques and we definitely don't work on the same painting together. (I don't know how Leo and Diane Dillon did it!)

Last fall, Vinod had painted a personal piece called "The Green Man." I was looking at it hanging on the wall in our studio one evening and decided that I could do a companion piece that would complement his painting and form the centerpiece of our wall at the Marriage is a Work of Art show.

"Children of the Forest" embodies many of the themes I explore in my work: mythology, folk tales, and nature and animals seen through a fantasy lens.

I knew the story I wanted to tell, but as I drew, other elements I did not plan in advance developed organically, like her flower "heart."

When we moved into our house two years ago, we set up our studio in a room facing our backyard which is adjacent to a woodsy green belt. Squirrels and many species of birds visit our feeders and bird bath visible from the window in front of my desk. This is the first time we've lived in a house with a window looking out onto so much wildlife activity. I love it. For "Children of the Forest" I decided to paint some of the birds that visit us I and picked a dogwood tree like the one in our yard for the dryad.

A little over a day into the painting.
A butterfly was one of the unplanned elements that revealed itself to me while I was drawing, and I decided to make it a monarch. Growing up in Michigan I would see monarchs and I remember a trip we took to look for them at Point Peele National Park, which is a rest stop for migrating butterflies.

A close up of the dryad's face.

Almost finished...

Deciding the crop of the finished painting using the mat.

This is pretty typical of the way my table looks during a project.

The title of this painting comes from a book I was referring to for bark textures, moss and general forest imagery called Secrets of the Old Growth Forest. Most of the time I was working I had the book open to a page with a photo of the massive trunk of a cedar tree. When I was finished and it was time for me to come up with a title for my piece, I happened to glance over at the open book and saw that the chapter title was "Children of the Forest." I thought it expressed the theme of my painting perfectly.

The final piece.

The framed paintings side by side.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Crowd Sorcery Sketches: The Villain Khaos

It's time to reveal the last group of character development sketches I did for Crowd Sorcery: Khaos!  


The Villain: Khaos

Created by Brooke E., age 11
The spirit of a wicked sorcerer who was killed in a huge battle that wiped out his monsters, he lives in a huge, ancient cave—a shrine for worshipping Mael-Koth, the pagan god of death.”

Khaos actually appeared in the very first part of "The Girl Who Writes the Future" but not in his "true" form. He was described by his creator as "disturbingly handsome" and Fred tells us that he has "dark hair...slicked back from a face so handsome it might have been that of an angel –– except for its cruelty." I had my work cut out for me! Help me, Ayami Kojima.* You're my only hope!

When I talk about designing characters I discuss how I work on the face first so that I can feel like I know the character better before I continue the design. I usually start sketching from my imagination, but if I get stumped, or even if a face is going in a direction I like but I want to make it more distinct, I will sometimes turn to reference for inspiration.

Round one of Khaos sketches.

I did this first round of sketches from imagination. I already had a general idea of how I wanted Khaos to look and I was exploring attitude and expression. But I wanted to draw more tangible facial features, so with some reference of faces in hand I refined the character design. I also fixed his bone crown so it'd look less like it was made of french fries!

Round two, taking features I liked best from round one and refining them.

Artists often have a sort of default face that they draw. Although our characters may be distinguishable from one another, there's a shorthand many of us tend to use when drawing facial features. To break away from the reliance on those stylistic tropes it's good to look carefully at real facial features from time to time and concentrate on the way faces are made up of an interesting variety of shapes.

The final drawing for the illustration of Khaos with his creepy crawlies.

"The Girl Who Writes the Future" by Frederic S. Durbin has just concluded its run with Part Six in Cricket Magazine's May 2015 issue. To follow the adventures of these characters pick up some issues at the bookstore. If you missed the earlier chapters of the story you can now read the whole thing online on Cricket's Chatterbox message board or follow the instructions for downloading the digital editions here.

*Ayami Kojima draws and paints what one might describe as disturbingly beautiful people. She is well known for her art for the Castlevania video game series.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Living Island

"The Living Island"

This is the final week of the Marriage is a Work of Art gallery show at Krab Jab Studio. If you live in the Seattle area I highly recommend you see it before it's gone, not only because Vinod and I have work hanging, but because it's an excellent show with many beautiful works on display from paintings to sculpture.

The two paintings that were the focus of our display have already sold, but others are still available including my painting "The Living Island" from The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures. There are also prints available in-person at the gallery and online at my Etsy shop. "The Living Island" has been my best-selling limited edition print since I started offering it two years ago and I frequently receive positive comments on the painting. It's hard to predict which paintings people will be drawn to and I'm happy that so many people have felt a connection to this one.

"The Living Island" as framed for Marriage is a Work of Art.

Click here to browse the online catalog for Marriage is a Work of Art to see the work that has sold and the many gorgeous pieces that are still available.

Friday, April 17, 2015

March and April at Krab Jab

Me next to my painting "The Black Feather" at the FAERIE III opening.
March and April were busy months for me. I wrapped up one big project and am close to finishing another. I exhibited at Emerald City Comicon at the end of March and attended a watercolor workshop taught by Omar Rayyan two weeks later. In the midst of all of that, I painted two new personal pieces for the Krab Jab Studio shows FAERIE III and Marriage is a Work of Art.

"The Black Feather"
FAERIE III was well-attended and featured works depicting denizens of the faerie realm in a wide variety of artistic styles and media. Some photos of the show and of individual works of art are below.

Toby Froud's sculpture"Troll Dance."

Virginie Ropar's sculpture "Wyrd."

Wendy Froud's sculpture "Amherst Faery."

FAERIE III artist discussion, with (left to right) me, Mark Winters, Sara Winters, Julie Baroh and Tara Larsen Chang.

Marriage is a Work of Art opened at Krab Jab last Saturday evening. Vinod and I arrived with Omar and Sheila Rayyan just in time for the artist discussion at 7:30. The two of us, Omar and Sheila, and Mark and Sara Winters discussed what it's like living (and sometimes working) together as artists. It was one of the more unique artist talks at Krab Jab!

Omar and Sheila Rayyan's wall leads viewers into the show.

Omar's watercolor painting "Beetle Battle" and Sheila's ceramics.

A close up of Sheila's stoneware sculptures "Skull Mask I," "Sun," and "Skull Mask II."

Drawings by Brian Froud and sculptures by Wendy Froud on display at Krab Jab Studio.

Wendy Froud's sculpture "Faery Man."

"Faery Woman" by Wendy Froud.
Drawings and oil paintings by Justin Gerard and Annie Stegg-Gerard.

Norman and Tory Taber's wall of assemblages and paintings.

Oil paintings and giclee prints by Mark and Sara Winters.

Our wall at Marriage is a Work of Art.

Hey! It's us!

Our wall with my painting "The Living Island" in the foreground.
Our companion pieces "Children of the Forest" and "The Green Man," which we framed identically, were the centerpiece of our wall. A couple days after the show opening, we received an exciting message from Julie: the paintings had sold!

"Children of the Forest" and "The Green Man" hanging at Krab Jab Studio.

My painting "Children of the Forest."
Vinod's "The Green Man."
Marriage is a Work of Art will be on display at Krab Jab Studio in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle through May 2nd. If you would like to look at the online catalog of artwork still available for sale, please click here. More photos of both FAERIE III and Marriage is a Work of Art can be found on Krab Jab Studio's Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Thank You for a Great ECCC!

After a couple busy weeks it's finally time for my wrap-up post about Emerald City Comicon 2015.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by our table this year! You helped make ECCC 2015 one of our best yet! We're looking forward to hearing if our application for next year is approved. If so, we'll be back. And next year it's a four-day convention. (Just don't get too big and become another SDCC...)

We were steadily busy so we only took maybe two or three photos the entire con. Because I was preoccupied at my table and Vinod was someplace else, I couldn't get this guy's photo when I caught a glimpse of him walking by. (Hmmm...maybe I should've yelled "Kaneda" real loud?) His costume was my favorite of the show:

Kaneda cosplay photo "borrowed" from ECCC's Facebook page.

Here are a few sketches I did during the convention. I would have liked to do more, but I was trying to conserve energy for the project I needed to work on after the con every night.

Thanks again for coming to see us! Hope to see you next year!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Marriage is a Work of Art Gallery Show

Vinod and I are both showing artwork as part of the exhibition Marriage is a Work of Art starting this Saturday at Krab Jab Studio in Georgetown. We will be hanging paintings alongside some incredibly accomplished artist couples: Brian and Wendy Froud, Omar and Sheila Rayyan, Justin Gerard and Annie Stegg-Gerard, Greg and Roxana Spalenka, Mark and Sara Winters, and Norman and Tory Taber.

The reception will be held Saturday, April 11th from 6-9 pm at Krab Jab Studio in Seattle and will feature a brief curator and artist talk at 7:30. If you live in the area but can't make it out for the reception, you can still see the show the rest of the month during Krab Jab's opening hours or call for an appointment. There will also be an online catalog of the featured works on Krab Jab's website starting on Sunday that long-distance viewers may peruse.

Vinod and I will be a bit late to the opening because we're attending a workshop taught by Omar Rayyan that also takes place this weekend, but we do hope to arrive in time for the artist talk. If you'd like to say hello to us specifically and won't be able to stay at the opening the entire three hours, plan to be fashionably late!

Marriage is a Work of Art Opening Reception
Saturday, April 11th, 6 - 9 pm
Show runs through May 2nd

Krab Jab Studio
5628 Airport Way S, Ste 150
Seattle, WA  98108