Sunday, February 28, 2010

Interior Illustrations for Hex Games' "Waxmans Warriors"

As the babies due date gets closer, the weeks just seem to go faster... Whew, they're exhausting too, LOL! So, the week flew by and I managed to miss all three of my posts, but I got some other stuff done, and am ready to hit you all with some new stories this week... so I'm not going to apologize.

Last week, I talked a little bit about the cover art, and the general idea of the game. Like I said, it's satirizing the religious tracts of Jack Chick and offering a sort of commentary on that world view. While it can be tempting to dismiss much of this dialogue as juvenile, with some very generalized statements taking easy pot-shots at a... Let's dial this back a bit, before I get myself in trouble. I realize that this can be a sensitive subject, so I've been hesitant about even posting and talking about it. I am going to talk about some of the things that I thought about while I was working on them though, because I feel like that stuff is an important part of this process.

This first drawing is the kingdom of heaven. My brief described it as "...a large, clean city with streets paved of gold and an eclectic mix of breathtaking architecture and numerous public plazas and parks. A clear, pure river flows through the center of the kingdom from its source near a golden palace on a hill in the city’s center." Going on to describe some of the other landmarks in heaven. I chose to illustrate the Tree of life against a backdrop of the City and Golden palace.

Often while I'm drawing, I'll write notes to myself in the margins of my workspace. I had this idea that I would put a paved walkway circling the tree of life. In the margins I wrote "What kind of (insert explitif here) would put a sidewalk around the tree of life?!" For me, this is more of a comment on the culture I live in than on anything else. It seems like a terribly arrogant thing to do. I concede that this kind of thing makes nature easier to enjoy, and probably makes it possible for people who otherwise would not be able to. As I am writing this, I'm thinking of other examples of things I enjoy that should by rights be put into this category (the zoo, the botanical gardens... ) Wow. This is turning into another terrible post, where I look like an idiot that didn't think things trough very well! Ha-ha-ha!

This second drawing is of hell. Hell has always seemed like a disjointed set of ideas that are put together in discord. Maybe that's part of why we remember our bad dreams more than our good ones. Things that are off-kilter and discordant, seem to resonate more in our brains and are... scary. I think we tend to like and gravitate towards order. So, silly as I always thought Bosch was in art history, perhaps he was on the right track.

These two illustrations were basically conceived at the same time. I wanted the heaven drawing to be vertical and tall. Light and airy... tranquil, and framed by clouds. Hell was to be horizontal and heavy. Framed by flames and darkness. Jumbled and chaotic. The central elements of the hell illustration are the lake of fire and the heavenly monorail. This is the real impetus of the thoughts of arrogance and ego-centrism. The idea is that there is a monorail tour of hell for the residents of heaven. Like a tour of a third-world country where you see the highlights on the surface and get an idea of how horrible things may be, but then get to go home to a comfortable life.

It's all just thoughts, and the start of a line of questions about my values and beliefs. I hope I didn't come off too... something bad. Ha-ha-ha!

Until next time, take care and be good.
Your friend

Sunday, February 21, 2010

More work for Hex Games: Waxmans Warriors

Hi! I hope everybody had a good week. Mine was long, and a little tiring and frustrating. Tomorrow starts a new one though, with new possibilities. Looking forward to that.

This week, I have the cover image that I did for another game by the guys at Hex, "Waxmans Warriors". It's a satirical adventure based on the cartoon religious tracts of Jack Chick. I read a lot of these during the research phase of this project, and was really struck by how... mean they are. That's really neither here nor there, just an observation.

So, here are three images. The first is the pencils that I sent to Steve Johnson over at Hex for initial approval. The character is "Giant Glowing Jesus", a 25 foot tall robot Jesus that guards the gates of heaven. His character would be played by Viggo Mortensen if they ever made a movie of "Waxmans Warriors". Steve's only suggestion was that I add in St. Hubbins, the patron saint of quality footwear, to give a sense of scale.
...So I did. The next step is inking. Pretty straight-forward line work inking. I've been looking at some stuff on the interweb, trying to expand my inking repertoire, and have found a couple of things that I'm going to try out on the next project.
The final step was to take it all into photoshop and color it up! I'm really pretty happy with how the clouds came out.

Until next time, take care and be good!
Your friend,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What You Talkin' About: Josh Middleton

Since beginning his professional career as a comic book artist in 1999, Joshua Middleton has worked for every major comic book publisher, as well as book publishers and movie studios as a cover artist, character designer, and conceptual artist.

Joshua maintains a full slate of regular cover and illustration work while working on his own forthcoming illustrated faery tale, Sky between Branches.

I feel bad about making such a short post for such an incredible artist, but it's already been a long week, and it's just half over... LOL. I've been looking at the blog of Joshua Middleton for about two years now, and am always just STUNNED by his work... beautiful and ethereal, he captures the grace and movement of the world around us, and shakes it up (Yahtzee style) into these gorgeous drawings filled with fantasy characters and superheroes. On top of that, he makes it feel effortless. He's apparently been very busy with work of late, and so hasn't updated his blog since October, but it's still worth checking in on because there's always the chance that there will be something new to inspire awe and delight. Check his links at the bottom of the post.

Until next time, take care and be good.

Your friend,



Monday, February 15, 2010

Daily Life 015: Things to Come

This weekend, we watched our friends' four-year-old son, so they could go out to lunch for Valentines day. Abby was so funny, wanting to hang out with him. She followed him around, and sat on her little couch with him to watch a movie... it struck us that this is the same age spread that she will have with her little sister. Just old enough that they CAN do things together, and just young enough that maybe they'll WANT to.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hex Games: Mars & Venus at War

The Year is 1939. Mars and Venus have been at war for thousands of years.

My first experience with Hex games was around 2002 at Archon, a science-fiction and gaming convention in Collinsville, Illinois. A (more or less) randomly chosen adventure... actually, I think we were waiting for a different game and got invited to join this one at the last minute. I guess it doesn't really matter. The GM (game master for the uninitiated, LOL) was a fellah named Colin Thomas, and the game system was one I'd never heard of before, Quags. (Quick Ass Game System) Living up to its name, the game is easy to learn and moves at a speedy pace. While there is room for more rules, the focus of the game is primarily on setting and cinematic storytelling, drawing the players into the experience rather than bogging them down in rules.

I was hooked.

Fast forward a few years to 2008. Once again I was attending Archon, this time with work in the art show, mostly showcasing Abigail and the Doom Crew, but there were a couple of other pieces in there too. By this time, I'd played in a few other games hosted by the guys at Hex, and I was going to make a point this year to talk to them about doing some work with them. After the first game called "Destroy All Squishy Humans!" (involving war between the self-aware robots let by the infamous N-I-L-8 and the humans.) I handed out my card to everybody at the table (You never know where work may come from) and Colin said I needed to talk to Leighton, the creative director for Hex.

Are you tired of hearing how I started working for Hex Games yet? Ha-ha-ha! I will be doing a "What You Talking About?" post on them in the future, so I guess I'll wrap it up. Mostly, I just wanted to underline the fact that so much of the work I do, and the work I get is about relationships. That's really true for anybody, but especially true for freelance illustrators and designers.

So, these three drawings are from my first assignment for Hex Games, "Mars & Venus at War". Set in 1930's New York, the people of Mars and Venus are in a state of cold war. Neither has the strength to decisively eliminate the other, so they have signed a tenuous peace treaty while they each stockpile weapons and soldiers for that final battle. Meanwhile on earth, an "incident" has occurred that threatens to bring destruction upon both of these great peoples... as well as the hapless people of earth.

If you're interested in learning more about Hex Games or buying any of their products, you can check out their website, or their online store.

Until next time, Take care and be good!
Your friend,

Links:Hex Games Website
Drive Through RPG

Friday, February 12, 2010

One MO Picture 001: Penguins at the St. Louis Zoo

My wife loves penguins. This past weekend, we went down to the St. Louis Zoo to see the Penguin Parade that they do every Sunday in the winter. It was the perfect day for it, too. A sunny 40 degrees with no wind, and it was Super-Bowl Sunday too, so it wasn't too busy. The parade was pretty cool... Abby wanted so badly to run out and play with the penguins, and got mad that Mom was holding the back of her coat so she couldn't.

These guys weren't actually in the parade, but Abby had a lot of fun pressing up against the glass and talking to them!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What you Talkin' about? "Swallow Me Whole" by Nate Powell

At times, arranging and reordering was all i could do to handle the day. Didn't know they had a name for it and everything else. - Early on, I thought I'd found a way to exercise just a little control over my world, until I felt my size through it.

The first thing that caught my attention about this book (as with most books) is the cover. Beautiful, cleanly brushed linework and a muted color scheme grounded in drab reality... And a fantastical subject matter of a girl being carried over the trees by a swarm of insects. Glimpsing it out of the corner of my eye as I chased my daughter to the check-out counter at the library, I felt compelled to pick it up. And I was not dissapointed.

The line between what is reality and what is imagination is blurred in the Book "Swallow Me Whole", by Nate Powell. The story follows (I think) a year in the life of Ruth, a teenage girl living in the fictional town of Wormwood, Arkansas. Between Powell's lyrical, sometimes sketchy/sometimes clean but always precise, drawing style, and his well crafted writing, we are given a pretty clear picture of a girl, suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and mild Schizophrenia, trying to make sense of her world. a family trying to hold it all together, and a girl, suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and mild Schizophrenia, trying to make sense of her world.

As the book starts out, the family is going to see Grandma in the hospital. One of the things that struck me about this scene, is the way the details were handled. The hospital was clean, white... sterile. Grandma looked fragile and distant. The kids were sad and awkward, the way kids are in situations where they know they should feel a certain way, but aren't sure why. All of this was beautifully, delicately handled, but the thing that really hit me was the background. The doctor coming in the door was practically scribbled in... just a loose sketch in ink, because all too often, that's all a doctor is, somebody who's in and out, a fleeting character in the event of being in the hospital. the relatives out in the hall are loose drawings too, not on the minds of either the kids or of grandma. Their words just scribbled murmurs, hanging over their heads.

I'm a sucker for poignant moments, and subversive reinforcement of real social morality (is that even a word?) rather than the PC lip service that much of the media outlets feed us as "correct". Powell does such a good job of letting the reader identify with his characters. They know when they are doing something wrong, and as a reader I felt that. Also, even though Ruth felt like the world was (is) confusing, and jumbled she knew when something just was not right, and took a stand against it, when most of us wouldn't have. All in all, the book was a very good read, and I think I would score it a 4.5 out of 5.

Until next time, take care and be good.
Your friend,

Monday, February 8, 2010

Daily Life 014: A Tale of Four Penguins

Two-year-olds are funny people.

We went to the Zoo this weekend, and watched the penguin parade. All of the penguins marched out the back of their habitat, down the side-walk, and back into the front. Strutting their stuff, waving, straining their necks... one even laid down to take a nap in the sun. Abby loved it. She was so excited that Amy had to hold the back of her pants to keep her from dashing out to play with the birds.

After the parade was over, we decided that it would be fun to go to the gift shop, and let the girl pick out one of the cute stuffed penguins we'd seen earlier, to take home with her. Baby girl could care less about the four stuffed birds Mommy held out for her to pick from... She had her eye on the souvenir pen holder with the penguins that floated inside of it.

That's what we get for thinking a two-year-olds idea of "cool" is the same as ours.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

100th Post! Reboot, and plans for the future.

When I started this blog, it was with the intention of doing 100 self-portraits in 100 days. A bit over 2 years later, (and about 45 self-portraits short) I finally hit the 100 post mark. So I didn't succeed in doing what I originally set out to do, but I'm okay with that to tell you the truth. I think that while the journey was different, the destination ended up being the same. I explored subject matter that has interested me, experimented with different media and styles, looked at the work of people I admired discovering things that I liked or appreciated and have tried to share these things with you all.

Over the past two years I think I have come a long way towards finding my voice, and figuring out where I want to go from here. I would like to thank you all for sharing that journey with me. About a year ago, I decided that I really wanted to change what I was doing here. I knew I wasn't doing the portrait thing anymore (at least not as a regular feature) and I was looking for a new name for the blog. A name needs to be descriptive while at the same time drawing us into the narrative...

My friend, Crystal was telling me a story about when she was a kid, and they used to go to the old mill which had a sort of general store and buy penny candy. Crystal cracks me up when she tells stories, because she gets so... animated. So the story goes that they weren't supposed to go to the mill because there were all kinds of shady characters there, and while she's describing this, she's also showing me how they would buy the candy, hurry out to the grain docks and furtively eat it so they could leave quickly and also not get caught by their parents. This story of polarized elements, the penny candy (innocence) and shady characters (well... shady characters sure do sound sinister), and (again) the narrative... they all sort of gelled into the new name for the blog "Penny Candy & Shady Characters".

Here's a breakdown of how I hope to do this every week. I'll be posting 4 segments (those of you who've been following for awhile know that this won't always happen, but if you promise to forgive me, I'll promise to try) on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

-Sunday: Sunday's a free day, where I get to ramble about my week, and talk about what's going on. Normally I'll also be talking on something that I've either been working on that week, or that I've done in the past and would like to share.

-Monday:Daily Life - Illustrated thoughts, ovservations and memories pulled from my daily interactions with friends and family.

-Wednesday: What'chu Talkin' about? - Featured artists, books, TV shows, etc. Basically just talking about things that I've been looking at and reading that I think are interesting, and that I think you might think are interesting too.

-Friday: One MO Picture - A weekly photo scavenger hunt for images from Missouri. The point is to build a visual lexicon of images to draw from, as well as a broad library of images to pull from on a given project. This project is also to foster a further sense of belonging to the community in which I live.

So these are my ideas for where I would like to see this blog go over the course of the next year. My wife accuses me of spreading myself too thin, with too many projects, and I have to admit that there is some truth to that, but I believe in this (Big) project, and feel like it's a good move forward for all of us. Thank you for reading, and I hope you're looking forward to this year as much as I am. Until next time, take care and be good!

Your friend

Friday, February 5, 2010

Daily Life 013: Gravel on Satin

This is the international sign for "Holy crap this hurts/something's wrong inside of me!". If some guy is making this gesture because he just got hit in the nuts by a rogue baseball, while watching a Little League game... funny. If it's your wife, and she's six months pregnant... not funny. Actually, it's a little more on the alarming side.

Last weekend, Amy called me upstairs, in too much pain to even talk. She insisted that we didn't need to go to the ER. LOL. "It's probably nothing, and they'll think I'm a baby." God love her, she does NOT want to be one of those pregnant women that calls the doctor for just anything... Long story short, after four hours(ish) in the ER, we find out what the deal is. Gall Stones.

The doctor described the gall bladder contracting to release bile into the stomach (triggered by fatty foods) as two satin sheets sliding past each other... Throw a handful of gravel in the bed though, and it's a little less... um... luxurious. If she wasn't pregnant, the solution would be simple. Instead, we're moving towards a low fat diet, and painkillers as needed. Which fortunately isn't often.

On the plus side, I got to watch the last half of the new (meaning not filmed in the 70's) "Freaky Friday" movie, and most of "George of the Jungle"... The good times just never end.