Thursday, December 31, 2009

See You In Hell, 2000s!

Holy Frak, has there ever been a decade worse than the 2000s? I suppose the 1940s had World War II, but even that only lasted six years. The 2000s have been consistently awful for the entire ten.

Any decade that gave us 9-11, George W. Bush (twice), Transformers 2, ringtones, the war in Iraq, Kim Jong Il, the Prequels, hanging chads, hurricane Katrina, reality TV, Enron, auto tune, the death of journalism and the rise of gossip as news, Freedom Fries, Guantanamo, Sarah Palin, texting while driving, SARS, $5 a gallon gas, rampant unemployment, the Virginia Tech shootings, Paris Hilton and the economic meltdown is rotten in my book.

Heck, it's 2009 and we still haven't figured out what to even call this ferkakdeh decade. The 2000s? The Aughts? Who knows?

So see you in Hell, 2000s. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Let's all hope the 2010s will be better for us and the world. They sure can't be any worse. Happy New Year, everyone.

Note to the nitpickers in the audience: I am aware that the decade didn't actually begin until 2001 and won't be over until the end of 2010. I just want to get it over with as soon as possible.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Zombie Space Cowboy

Because just a plain old Space Cowboy would be boring.

Sometimes when I'm drawing I have a plan in my mind, and other times I just sort of let the drawing happen. This was one of the latter. I drew the figure, but then had no idea what color scheme I would use or what kind of background to add. I just sort of made it up as I went along. At the last minute I decided that the figure looked a little too static, so I tilted him to make it look more like he was floating, which I think helped. I love that you can play around with color and composition like that when you draw digitally.

I think the colors may be a little too dark. I need to stare at it some more.

This will probably be my last illustration of 2009. As near as I can tell, the first one of the year was Count Gothula (I didn't have a blog in January; that's why the Count shows up in May). So I went from vampires to zombies. That seems about right. It was that kind of year.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original sketch of Zombie Space Cowboy. Looks like I forgot to draw his holster in the final illustration. Oops! I'm still recovering from the holidays.

Here's the digital sketch I did after that. I changed him to a somewhat more animated floating pose, and added a severed umbilical cable to explain how he probably expired (well, that and the shattered helmet).

Monday, December 28, 2009

Herschel Elfkowsky

Herschel looks like one shell-shocked elf. And who can blame him?

Well, another Christmas has come and gone. At the risk of sounding like Scrooge, I say good riddance.

Christmas is the best when you're a kid, but once you become an adult, not so much. There's nothing fun about it. It's just a month full of high pressure and stress and worrying about how you're going to pay for everything.

I wish Christmas was more like Thanksgiving. Just get the family together for a special meal and call it a day. No spending money you don't have on things people don't need, no rushing around, no stress. Just a nice relaxing get-together.

I know that will never happen though. Our entire economy is fragile enough as it is, so taking Christmas shopping out of the equation would throw us back into the Dark Ages. But I can wish...

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original sketch of Herschel.

"A Christmas Story" Detail You May Have Missed

I was watching A Christmas Story for the 85th time on Christmas day, and I noticed something interesting (to me, anyway).

At the end when the Parkers go out for Christmas dinner, there's a brief establishing shot of the Chinese restaurant where they eat. The sign on the door reads, "Bo Ling & Sons." Above that is a large neon sign that reads "Bowling," but the "W" is burned out, so that it also now reads "Bo Ling," the name of the owner.

Apparently at some point in the Christmas Story universe, Mr. Ling bought a neon bowling sign to put on his restaurant and disconnected the "W" so that it would read as his name. A very obscure little joke, and a nice bit of detail on the part of the film makers.

Another nice touch: note that if you look closely at the window of the restaurant you can see that Ralphie and his family are really sitting inside. Apparently they filmed this scene on location, not on a set.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Yeah, I know, this joke's been done ad nauseum. But I've never done it before, so that makes it OK!

I've always liked Admiral Ackbar. Even though he only appears in a handful of scenes, he's a memorable character. Just goes to show you can get just as much personality or more out of a guy in a suit as you can an all CGI creation. I'm just grateful that George Lucas left him alone in the Prequels and didn't try to give us some convoluted and unnecessary back story for him (cough, Jango Fett, cough).

I've always wondered why the Admiral has giant gnarly lobster claws and then tiny little feet that fit inside sensible shoes. And how does he get his shirt sleeves over those Popeye arms?

I'm sure everyone already knows this, but the Admiral's race is called the Mon Calamari. Yes, I said Calamari. I see what you did there, George Lucas.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original very rough notebook sketch of the Admiral. He looks a little wonky here because I was drawing him from memory.

Later I googled some reference photos and did a somewhat tighter digital sketch to get all the proportions and such right. Drawing that stinkin' trap was tough! It took forever to get the perspective right (just because it's a cartoon doesn't mean you don't need perspective!).

Here you can see me getting some free drawing advice right from the source. Yes, that's me holding an Admiral Ackbar figure. Yes, I am a geek.

Christmas With The Devil

In addition to my world famous blog, I also have a Flickr site. Among Flickr's various features is the ability to see which of your photos or illustrations are getting the most views.

So I look at my Flickr stats page today, and I see that almost all of the top ten most viewed images are Christmas related. Makes sense, as Christmas is only two short days away.

But take a look at the 7th most popular image. I want to know who's searching for pictures of the Devil during the Christmas season?

Told You I Did

Earlier this year I made a prediction. I predicted that monocles were due for a comeback. Well, it looks like I'm batting 1000 as far as predictions go!

According to, there's been a recent and sudden surge of interest in monocles:
But things are changing. The optician Vision Express has announced it is to re-introduce the single eye-glass following a sudden surge of interest among customers. “To our surprise we have had dozens of requests in the last few months so we thought we’d bring back the monocle on a trial basis,” says Bryan Magrath, the chief executive of Vision Express. “We’re as puzzled as anyone by the interest.”
See! Told you, I did! Of course as near as I can tell, this was the only prediction I made all year, so it's not that difficult to be right. A single prediction either comes true or it doesn't. Still, I think I'm on a roll.

I'm going to go ahead and predict that next year stove pipe hats will experience a surge in popularity.

You can read the full Express UK post here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Card 2009, Or What I Did On My Thanksgiving Vacation

For this year's custom-made Christmas card I had a novel idea: instead of waiting until the very last minute to begin working on it like I always do, I would actually get a head start on it! No more racing against the clock and mailing it out a day or two before Christmas. What an unorthodox concept.

My original intention was to make a simple card that looked like the cover of a Little Golden Book. But as I was sketching out ideas I started thinking of an actual story for the inside. Before I knew it my little card had evolved into a full blown eight page book.

I had a week long vacation at the beginning of November. I couldn't afford to go anywhere, so I spent almost the entire week in front of my computer working on this card/book. It turned out pretty much the way I pictured it in my mind. It was nice to have it done ahead of time for once.

Here are all the pages in order:

If you look closely you'll see I took advantage of Photoshop and reused certain elements to make my life easier. Page 5 is obviously the same as the cover, with a few tweaks here and there. The fighter jets and helicopter are reused throughout. The little girl on page 6 was reworked a bit for use on page 7. The red gift box is the exact same piece of art every time it appears as well. The cars and panicked citizens were reused here and there too. Is this cheating? Nah. I'm working smart!

The end papers and back cover feature many special guest stars from my Flickr stream.

Everything was drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet, then assembled in InDesign.

Now the only problem is what the heck am I going to do for next year?

Christmas Card 2009 Part 2: Gronkorr Papercraft Monster

In addition to my 2009 Christmas card/book, I also made a Gronkorr papercraft model.

This is my first attempt at a papercraft figure, so be gentle. As always, I learned a lot about what not to do. This one's pretty simple-- there are some awesomely complex and amazing examples of papercraft all over the web that put mine to shame. Maybe next year I'll be able to make a more complicated one.

Feel free to download Gronkorr, print him out on card stock and make your own papercraft model. Send me a photo of it if you like. I'd love to see it.

I drew the pieces in InDesign, then used Photoshop to add the painterly details. I got the whole thing laid out just so on an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper, then realized that there was no way to fit it into a greeting card envelope. I'd have to fold the page in half. I wasn't sure how to fix it. Then I realized that you have to fold the papercraft to put it together, so I rearranged the pieces on the page so that one of the folds on the monster's body lined up with the page fold. Problem solved!

I tested everything before I sent it out to make sure the pieces fit together properly. It really works!

My friend Dan Rittichier put his Gronkorr together and sent me a photo. He has his own photography business, so it's quite a dramatic photo!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Two Weeks!

"Get ready for a surprise!"

I went through a ton of onscreen sketches to get Two Weeks Lady just right. I made some screen caps of her from the movie and used those as a reference to draw her. I think I was following the reference too closely, because she kept coming out looking way too realistic. I had to keep throwing out details and simplifying her until she looked suitably cartoony.

By the way, next time you see the movie, you can amuse yourself by watching Two Weeks Lady's big yellow coat. When she's wearing it, it's very bulky to cover her ample curves. But as soon as her head splits open to reveal Ah-nuld hiding inside, the coat suddenly shrinks about 10 sizes to fit him almost perfectly. That future technology is amazing!

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rush Hour

It's morning rush hour in the future. What's that enormous thing in the sky they're all headed for? The moon? Another planet? The Death Star? I'll let the viewer decide.

Hey science! We're well into the 21st century, and I'm still waiting for my frakin' jet pack! Stop wasting time cloning sheep or whatever you do all day and get busy!

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.
Here's the very rough sketch I did for Rush Hour.

This is something I don't do very often. After I drew the two characters, I did a very quick and rough color study, to determine the best color scheme. It worked out pretty well, so I may do it more often.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.

"If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"
I wonder if Charles Dickens, in his wildest dreams, ever imagined we'd still be reading his little Xmas story over 160 years after he wrote it?

It's a story I never get tired of no matter how many times I hear or read it. Hopefully that isn't because I'm too much like Scrooge.

I deliberately made most of the colors as gray and desaturated as possible so that the red scarf would really pop. Why? Um... because I thought it would look cool.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet. The text was hand lettered.
Here's the original sketch of Scrooge.

Business Mouse

A few weeks ago I was listening to the "Bob and Tom" show at breakfast (I listen to the radio while I'm eating my cereal because I don't have cable anymore and there's nothing on over the air TV worth watching in the morning). That day they had a running joke about "Business Mouse."

So that night I was inspired to draw Business Mouse on his way to the office. Looking back, I don't really know what was so hilarious about their joke that compelled me to illustrate it, but there you go.

This is a good example of a problem I used to have when I would draw a thick-necked cartoony character wearing a suit. In the real world, the lapels on a suit jacket morph into a collar that goes all the way around the neck. I used to try and draw cartoon suits that way, and would struggle mightily trying to get it to look right. I never could get it to work. Finally one day I just drew the lapels and said forget about the collar, and it worked. It's a cartoon mouse after all-- his suit doesn't have to look totally realistic for it to work.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever drawn Jar Jar. I have to admit he's kind of fun to draw, even if he did ruin Star Wars.

If you're a regular reader of my blog, as most of the country is, you no doubt know that I usually include the original sketches of my illustrations here for future generations to study. You're also no doubt noticing there's no Jar Jar sketch here. That's because I didn't draw one. I haven't been sketching on paper all that much lately. More and more I find I'm sketching directly on the screen. It's quicker and more flexible and all that. My paper sketches are becoming less like preliminary art and more like reminders to draw something later, like a "Don't forget to buy milk" note. I haven't decided if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Reason For The Season

Amidst the hustle and bustle of this time of year, it's so easy to overlook the real reason for the season.

Festivus isn't just about gazing in awe at the bare aluminum pole standing in the living room, free of distracting tinsel. It's not just about telling everyone how much they've disappointed you over the past year during the Airing of Grievances, or attempting to pin the head of the household during the Feats of Strength.

It's about togetherness and sharing a nice meatloaf with friends and family.

Happy Festivus, everyone! Hope you have a true Festivus Miracle this year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

SantaTaur Little Golden Book Cover

It's the beloved children's Christmas classic!

What child doesn't love the story of SantaTaur? Yes, it's SantaTaur, who genetically combined himself with one of his flying reindeer, so that he could fly around the world faster and more efficiently, firing off gifts to good little girls and boys with his Enchanted Gift Bazooka.

Hole-lee crap, but this one gave me trouble. Did you ever have an image in your mind that you just can't seem to get down on paper (or in this case, on the screen)? I went through at least 10 versions of SantaTaur before I finally found one I could live with.

Then right as I was getting ready to add color, I thought, "Hey, it would be fun to make it a Little Golden Book cover. Yeah, it would be fun, but it was also another 4 or 5 hours of work! I guess it was worth it.

The title was hand drawn, based loosely on a real font. Not crazy about the "town" in the lower left corner. It looks more like Superman's Fortress of Solitude, but it'll have to do for now.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Frankenstein 008: Frankenclaus

Part of my 100 Frankensteins Project.

Time to get into the Xmas spirit, and what better way to do so than with a Santa who's a reanimated corpse, stitched together from various collected body parts?

This would no doubt make a lovely Xmas card for your friends and family.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original sketch for Frankenclaus. At first he was in a hunched over monstery pose, but I didn't think that was working. I thought he should be holding something. Something Christmasy. I drew him holding a gift wrapped present at first, but that wasn't really doing anything for me. Then at the last second Santa's gift bag popped into my head.

There's an extra special gift in the bag for some lucky boy or girl. Something red.

Morning Commute

That's pretty much how I feel on the way to work.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.
Here's the original sketch, from quite a while back. It looks like there's a faint outline of a tongue at the top of the monster's mouth. I guess I planned on it having a tongue and then changed my mind.

Does Not Compute!

This week President Obama accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

This comes just two weeks or so after he declared he's ramping up the war effort in Afghanistan.

Didn't Spock make some robot's heads explode by saying stuff like this?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Card 2008

I posted this earlier in the year for some reason and it's buried somewhere in the archives, so since this is Christmas card week, I'm dredging it up again.

The idea of the card was to make it look like an old-time boxing poster from the 1920s, starring Santa Claus and his made-up rival, Anti Claus. Nothing says Christmas like a card promoting two characters beating the tar out of one another!

I laid out the card and all the copy in InDesign, because I don't like working with large amounts of text in Photoshop. It's much easier to typeset and adjust text in InDesign. Writing the old timey text was fun; trying to match the archaic hyphenation and phrasing of the past.

I then imported everything into Photoshop, where I drew and colored the characters on the graphic tablet, and added some aging effects.

I guess the aging effects were successful-- I sent a card to my boss and when he saw it he thought his wife had bent the top right corner of the card when taking it out of the envelope!

Also, after I had all the cards conveniently mailed away, I noticed to my horror that I'd forgotten to add "VS" between Santa Claus and Anti Claus. A boxing poster kind of needs to say that. I added the "VS" later on, so if you received one of the original mailings, you've got a rare collector's item, just like that one stamp with the upside-down airplane that's worth a couple million dollars.

I'm still not happy with the fact that Anti Claus is brandishing a crowbar. Originally I was going to have him holding a large candy cane as a club. That was definitely Christmassy, but it didn't seem very dangerous, and it just didn't read as a weapon. It looked like he really enjoyed candy canes. In the end I couldn't think of a better weapon, so I reluctantly had to go with crowbar.

Christmas Card 2007

Here's the 2007 Xmas card/self-promo piece that I sent out to everyone. As always, it took 3 times longer to do than I thought it would (probably because at the time I was just learning to use my new graphic tablet).

Looking back, I wish I'd have integrated the text and image a little more instead of them being completely separate entities, but that's the way it goes.

I'd kind of like to revisit this illustration some day. As I said, I was just learning how to use my tablet when I did this, and I know a lot more about how to use it now. I think I could definitely improve the drawing.

You can see a primitive early version of my signature/logo in the corner. I think this was the first time I ever used it, and I went back and tweaked it afterward.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Christmas Card 2005

Apparently I didn't make a card in 2004. I must have been busy that year.

I designed this card for the company I worked for (at the time) to send to their various clients, hence the safe and secular "Season's Greetings" instead of "Merry Christmas" (don't get me started on that). The company rejected it, so I used it as my own personal card that year.

The snowman was drawn in pencil, inked, then scanned and colored in Photoshop. The 3D text was created in Illustrator with the extrude & bevel filter, then imported into Photoshop where the highlights and icy textures were added.

Backgrounds and snow were created in Photoshop as well.

I think this snowman was my first attempt at using Photoshop to make colored outlines instead of the usual black ones.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Address The Appendage!

Oh no he dih-unt!

Isn't it funny when you find out that something you thought was fairly new has really been around for a hundred years?

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet. It took amazing amount of layers to get it to look properly aged and distressed. Sometimes I wonder why I sit and carefully draw something, then do my best to make it look like it's been dragged behind a car on a muddy road for 100 miles.

Here's the original sketch.

I'm A Grown Man And I Bought This: Justice League Universe 3 Pack: Batman, Amanda Waller and General Eiling

This is one of the odder things I've seen in the action figure aisle in a while...

A little background: Mattel has been pumping out action figures based on the excellent Justice League Unlimited cartoon series for about five years now. The figures are all sculpted in the distinctive angular style of artist and animator Bruce Timm, who worked as a producer on the show.

They've released around a hundred figures so far, based on the various superhero characters that appeared on the show. Apparently though the well is starting to run dry because they just released this 3 pack consisting of Batman, Amanda Waller and General Eiling.

Fans of the Justice League Unlimited series will know that Waller and Eiling played pivotal roles on the show in the latter seasons, but the average person who happens to see this hanging on the pegs is going to think, "Why does that Batman come with Nell Carter and Terry O'Quinn figures?"

Kids might know who the characters are, but I can't see them getting very excited about playing with what amount to government officials figures.

That said, the Amanda Waller figure is actually quite a nice little work of art. She's sculpted just like she looked on the show, from her stern expression and smart business suit, right down to her sensible shoes. Funny how one of the best sculpted figures in the line isn't even a superhero.

It's a bit hard to move her arms though, as her... lapels get in the way.
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