Friday, February 26, 2010

New book cover illustration!

My new project was completed two weeks ago: an illustration for the cover of a book to be published by Sourcebooks. My first real book cover. Here's how it went:

Started with my initial sketch. Printed it out and threw some paint on it to test the color I was thinking of using.

Made notations of the colors so I wouldn't forget the combinations when I actually started painting.

Photo reference came next, using props I either made or bought.

Drawing on the canvas.

Finished drawing.

Laid down the initial color layer, using the same colors as my test, but thinned with solvent. I use Gamsol, as it has the least amount of odor.

Started blocking in the face, using the established color, but in thicker applications. I like to start with the face since it sets the mood for the rest of the piece.

The pattern continued down the body; blocking in color in thin applications, then finishing off one area at a time.

With half the body done, I moved to the background. Since the top half of the body was going to blend into the background, I needed to establish both areas first so I could blend the two together on the lower half of his body.

The ground was next, followed by the feet. I then moved upwards to merge the two halves of his body.

Let it dry and varnished it. Photographed it and sent it off to the client. Click the image for a slightly larger view.


A couple hours after my last post, I was cleaning dried paint medium off an old palette. I was scraping away using a palette knife. I hit a hard spot in the medium and pressed a little harder. Then the fleeting thought went through my head, "Maybe this isn't a good idea."

Too late. The knife slipped and sliced the thumb on the hand that was holding the palette. Six stitches later, I was back to work. Lesson learned. When you think you're being stupid, you probably are. I'll have a nice scar on my thumb to remind me.

I finished up my Magic cards and sent them out today. I'm pleased with how they look. Now I have to bear down and work on more portfolio work in this upcoming lull. Here's one that I just photographed today:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I usually don't care about things like this. There are always those media-proclaimed "kid geniuses" who can paint well. Frankly, a 6 year old who can paint abstract paintings isn't all that impressive to me.

However, a 3-year-old with drawing chops? That's a different story.

I'm not going to call this kid a genius. Art is different than music. Early talent doesn't indicate a future career. A toddler can play Mozart or Bach on the piano, but a toddler can never paint like Caravaggio. But his understanding of light and shadow and his brush work (finger work) is pretty great. Plus, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are cool.

Monday, February 8, 2010

How cool is this?

Look at the list of guest artists for IlluXcon 2010! I'm excited for the show ...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, Norman Rockwell

Happy Norman-Rockwell-Birthday Day to you all. He's still memorialized on my studio wall, looking at me as if saying, "Keep working, kid."

Interesting note: When I took this picture last year, I had to blur out the Magic art hanging and leaning up against the wall. Can you tell which pieces they are?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Houston Prerelease Recap

I got back from Houston on Sunday. I spent all day Saturday at the Worldwake Prerelease event, from 8 am to 8 pm. I learned a lot from the experience.

The first thing I learned is that I probably got an unfair impression of downtown Houston. I didn't have a whole lot of time to explore, especially on foot. But when I got into town on Friday, I had two choices for dinner: McDonald's or a fast food place called James Coney Island. I opted for the latter. This means I took a three hour flight from New York to Texas only to eat at a place named after a New York City location. Worse, I ordered the New York Combo: a hotdog with sauerkraut. But don't worry, I had McDonald's for breakfast the following morning just for a little variety. Does anyone from Houston want to suggest a good place to eat for my return trip in April? Perhaps even a diner for breakfast?

Another thing I learned is that no one in Houston jaywalks. Everyone follows the law and waits for the little man to light up. Strange!

I learned that I can't anticipate which pieces of my art will be most popular. I also can't anticipate which prints will sell. For example, I printed 3 Khalni Gardens, 7 Nemesis Trap and 2 Crusher Zendikon, all Worldwake cards. I made prints based on my impression of the usefulness of the card, the rarity, and the quality of the art. I sold out of Crusher Zendikon in two hours and didn't sell any of the others. Almost the opposite of what I expected.

I learned that my new art case is fantastic.

I learned that many people get really confused when they see a painting on canvas. Here's a sample conversation that I had quite a few times.
"What programs do you use?"
"I don't use a program. I paint with a brush."
"Really? I didn't think anyone did that anymore."
"There are quite a few who still do. Dan Dos Santos, Matt Stewart .... umm I'm drawing a blank. But yeah, I make preliminary drawings, then transfer it to the canvas, and then lay down the paint. In fact, over there are some of my original illustrations."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I mail those canvases to Wizards and they photograph it and put it on the card."
"So this is like the only one?"
"Yup, it's the original."
"Wish I could afford it."

Conversations like these really got me thinking. So, I got out my set of Zendikar and made a tally of Digital v. Traditional. Of the artists in Zendikar, 39 work digitally and 20 work traditionally. In case anyone is curious ...

Finally, I continued to learn that Magic players really care about the art and the artists. Art is subjective by nature, so I may never understand what people like and dislike. But regardless of whether they like your work or hate your work, they still appreciate when the artists make it to the event.

So, a big thank-you to Sheila Weissman and Event Horizons for sponsoring the event and flying me in (and also for getting me lunch and dinner!) And thanks to all the players who came and stopped by my table. I look forward to coming back to Houston in a couple months. The Grand Prix should be really fun.