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Thursday, December 26, 2013

That Busy Time of Year.

Well merry Christmas one and all! It's been a fun and exciting year and what better way to end it than with something fun and exciting. The freelance/writing my own book thing has been a little slow in getting going but I've finally started getting some work coming in - some really cool stuff too.

This was a fun, but busy, Christmas. Dina got me some cool new shoes, a pair of pants that I love so much that I've already ripped them getting into her car yesterday. Being the skilled seamstress she is she's already repaired them and I am happily wearing them again today. She also got me the Lethal Weapon series soundtracks box set! I'm a big collector of movie soundtracks - think Star Wars, Batman, Predator, etc - not Top Gun, Ferris Bueller's Day Off... This box set was released by La-La Land Records and features all 4 complete scores. Other favorites in my collection: Conan The Barbarian (Intrada 3 disk set), The Shadow (Complete), and Predator. I have close to 500 soundtracks... so... yeeeah...


It was a happy Christmas. I spent the day with my beautiful wife and her family.

Among the many freelance jobs I've gotten in the past couple months one stood out as particularly special. I enjoy being asked to help create a special gift for a friend or loved one. Dina worked as a costumer for 5 years on the show Big Time Rush, she introduced me to the wonderful cast and crew of that show. One of the guys of the show - Carlos Pena - had asked me, long ago, if I could do a painting of his fiance. We never get around to the painting until a week ago when he contacted me about doing the painting as a gift for Christmas. I was thrilled and honored to be asked to complete the task of creating a special gift for his fiance.

He met Alexa while he was working on BTR (Big Time Rush) and she was working on Machete Kills and wanted a painting that commemorated the event. He texted me with his ideas and I quickly got to work. A few of his stipulations were that he was to be in the painting somewhere wearing what he was wearing the day he met her, and that the words "The Beginning" be present as well. No problemo!

First I did a sketch painting portrait of Alexa to practice - I was a bit out of practice in the portrait department and I didn't want to waste time or risk screwing up and starting over. I would be working from photographs Carlos provided me and I decided to work with what I was most comfortable and confident with - watercolors.

I looked to the work of Alex Ross and Anders Zorn for inspiration as I would want this to be halfway between a portrait and an illustration. Zorn has some amazing watercolor paintings and Ross is unsurpassed in his illustration techniques and voice. I was nervous going in... really nervous... ask Dina. The final painting would be 25" x 35"... the biggest I've done yet. The practice sketch was only 10" x 16" and was just a close-up of her face so it wasn't as scary an endeavor as the big painting would be but once I got going it went surprisingly smoothly.

I also took progress pics which I will share in the next blog entry.

Here's the portrait "sketch" that I did as a warmup and to get a sense of the colors I would need to complete the full painting. This painting took about 2 hours (+-) with watercolors on a scrap piece of 10" x 16" Arches watercolor board. I'm glad I did this painting because it got me back into "portrait mode" after having spent so much time drawing and painting monsters and hamsters. :) It was able to figure out mixing and colors as well. I gave the painting to Carlos as an added gift.

Alexa Vega - practice portrait
With that done I felt a bit more confident and ready to start the painting... not that I had much choice, the Christmas deadline was only a week away. I transferred the images I was using onto the huge board and quickly got to work!

Here's the final painting! It took 4 solid days to complete. I delivered the painting to Carlos at his home last Saturday and he loved it! He surprised Alexa with the paintings on Christmas eve and I was relieved to hear that she loved the painting too. It really was such an honor and a huge compliment for me to be asked to complete such a thoughtful gift. Carlos and Alexa are engaged to be married in January and I couldn't be happier for them.

Ugh! I'm babbling! Here's the painting...

final painting - 25x35 watercolor on Crescent illustration board
It was such a huge painting!

Here are a few close-up details...

"The Beginning" that Carlos requested be present somewhere in the painting.

Detail - Alexa

Detail - Carlos

Detail - Carlos and Alexa

A picture of Carlos with the painting. He was eager to give her the painting... as was I.

Me painting...

This was a scary painting for me (not the subject matter)... it was something I've never done before, I wasn't the most confident going into it, it was being given as a gift commemorating the start of their relationship... I was psyching myself out on so many levels. My wife Dina was so very confident that I could not only complete the task but that I would do it well... I love her so much. She's there by my side, while I bite my nails anxiously before I start a new project, cheering me on. I'm not nervous about every project I start... just the big ones. :) Hamster and monsters...pssh! No sweat!

But I dove in feet first and just went to town. There were a couple moments I was convinced I had messed up and would have to start over... I stuck with it and when all was said and done - it worked.
This was a fun project, a learning one and a confidence builder. I can finally see what my artists friends were talking about when they told me "don't make excuses - just do it."

I couldn't wait to share this painting with Carlos and Alexa and everyone. I can't wait to share some of my other projects too.

Stay tuned!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Has It Really Been That Long?

Whoa! Last blog was nearly a month ago?! What have I been doing this whole time? ...lots!

Some really exciting stuff happening with the Monsters and Hamsters book, been getting a fair amount of freelance work coming in and was just asked to design my first book cover!  Oh and painting and filling up my sketchbook with ideas and pages for these projects.

I attended the SCBWI Art Director's Day in San Gabriel a couple weekends ago and met some fantastic artists as well as made a few new contacts. It really was a great event, I'm glad I went. As part of the event artists got to show off their portfolios and possibly be chosen by an art director for a one-on-one portfolio review. I was fortunate to be one of the 6 selected... it was quite a treat and an invaluable experience. I got quite a lot of great feedback and it gave me a chance to practice my pitch/explanation of just what the hell is going on with these monsters and hamsters.

It was a weird thing to be on the opposite side of the portfolio review and offering up my work for scrutiny as a, sort of, newby to the industry. I've spent so many years with a strong portfolio in the video game world and always felt confident. Between the Art Director's Day and SCBWI summer conference I gotta say, it's made me very aware of the contents and subject matter of my portfolio. It's all monsters and hamsters! But in my defense - it's all I have been working on. It's all I've wanted to work on. This is why I left Blizzard, this is why Dina and I took the leap of faith - so I could make this book! So, for now, my portfolio will remain filled with these characters along with a smattering of miscellaneous illustrations - a desperate attempt to demonstrate that I can indeed do a variety of work.

This is a dual pronged effort... one is to work on my book while getting it in front of the right people. The second is to get work to help pay the bills. But taking on too much freelance pulls me away from my original endeavor... but to get more work you've gotta have the portfolio. Well, I will take what I've garnered from these conferences to expand my portfolio, adding new pieces whenever possible. I'm new to this industry and essentially have to start from square one. The portfolio will come in time... I just wasn't aware of how my video game portfolio was growing because it happened over a course of 11 years. Guess I forgot what it was like at the beginning of that career path... it's all starting to come back to me now. :)

To help jazz up my portfolio for the Art Director's Day I spent a few days working on a new painting. It's always nice to have something new to show and hopefully rally support to my cause. So, I selected a sketchbook painting I titled "Gone Fishing" to do as a full painting.

This time I wanted to take progress photos through various stages... or at least try to. There was a period during the beginning when I was on top of it but, toward the end of the painting I was in a groove and wasn't taking as many pics. I will try to fill in the details wherever I can...

Bear with me on this... I tend to over explain stuff. :P
First off was the sketchbook painting. I did this on only one page of my sketchbook but I envisioned it as a more expansive final painting - something I worked out when I projected this image onto my 16x20 Arches Watercolor Board.

I project these images with my Tracer opaque projector and mask off the borders. I just use 1" masking tape.

Using Winsor & Newton Water Colour Art Masking Fluid I mask out the monster and hamster. The liquid mask is tinted yellow which allows you to see what you have and have not masked. This tint doesn't affect the paper at all. I brush it on with several sizes of brushes - cleaning them frequently as I go. This stuff will surely ruin your brushes if you don't take the time to clean them throughout this process. I've lost many brushes just masking my paintings. Make sure your drawing is done with an H pencil and is relatively dark, the removing of the mask will lift pencil lines. So if it's not dark enough you will lose some of your work.

With the characters masked out I am free to drop in the sky, water and background. I do the sky first using watercolor tube paint (Winsor & Newton). I wet it with a spray bottle and pat it down so it's just slightly damp - this allows the paint to move over the surface and I can use a paper towel to blot out areas that may be too opaque. It also gives you more time to correct mistakes. I work relatively transparently and layer as it dries. The water is done with my Caran D'Ache watercolor pencils - layering light to dark.
The masking material is also removed with a rubber cement pickup after the painting has dried. I will take some extra time to go back in and draw over the pencil lines that have been lightened. Depending on how opaque or transparent you work you can probably get away with lighter pencil lines. Since I work pretty opaquely for the main characters I need darker lines. The masking tape is also removed.

Time to start laying in the groundwork for these characters. The monsters are always the biggest elements in these paintings and require the most time. The hamsters take like 10 minutes and 3-4 colors so I save them 'til last. I had worked out the colors in my sketchbook painting and was happy with it so I was able to just start right in on her (the monster). The only thing to do before touching any watercolor pencil to the board was test the colors on a separate scrap piece. I tried several reds and greens before I found colors that matched the sketch.

Starting with the red. I also had to mask the hamster out since I didn't want any green bleeding into his body. I also masked out the sharp highlights on the mosnter's body.


Next the green. I used 3 different greens for this part. A lime green, a cooler richer green, and a blue green for the shadows. As these colors are laid in I am also working on the water, bumping up the contrast. and moving the greens into the water. Also visible is my scratch palette that I use for testing colors as well as using it as a palette for washing in other colors that I don't want to be too bold.

Laying in the purples now. I am holding off on the tail and the rest of the body for a couple of reasons. I hadn't worked out the colors for that part on paper but I had it in my head. I am also waiting to see how the head part turns out before I commit to the rest. And still working on the water. The highlights masking is lifted out to reveal sharp highlights.

I start getting impatient and excited at this point and am eager to see him really come closer to completion... to see her come to life. So, I start the next biggest section - the mouth. Initially it started to look a little too fleshy, detailed and dark. I worked to simplify it while making sure it still had the right value... Richer purples are added to the jaw as well. The hamster's mask is removed one I am comfortable that area is pretty well done.

The mouth interior is more where I want it and it's on to the blue tongue. I will jump around a lot, too. Something will catch my eye and I'll stop one part to work on another, then jump back over to what I was working on before. I was coming back to on the wrinkles under his jaw throughout the entire process. Also colored in the eyes... really eager to see her come to life. Added some green reflection to the water to better tie her into the environment.

She's done enough for me to add the pupils of her eyes - where she comes to life. Adding that highlight to the eyes is always so much fun. Satisfied with her colors I finish out the rest of the body, color in the fins and droplets of water. I use an deep indigo blue for the water at the base of each element, grounding them and framing the hamster. I use the same greens on the rest of the body but, more transparently and with more emphasis on blues and blue-greens to push them into the background. Added a few details while I jump around almost frantically as I zero in on the finish line.

The hamster and boat are quickly finished, darker shadowing is added along her left side, along with various refinements to the water and body. I finish it off with the semi-transparent colored outlines - nothing too dark. I use the regular watercolors for this part. If they come out too dark I can run a wet brush over them and blot them to lift some of the color. I like the subtle outlines, it adds a level of finish and detail to them while maintaining the cartoony quality I used for the others.

I was able to get this scanned, in full, at a nearby FedEx Kinkos. I was elated when I discovered they have a large format scanner that can scan up to 36" in width. I think it's $6 a square foot. A small price to pay to not have to try to scan these in 6 sections on a small scanner and piece them back together in Photoshop. It just saved so much time, the scan is top quality... it was scanned at 400dpi which is more than enough. It was $8 to scan this one image. I will be getting all my large paintings scanned there from now on.

Lastly, the materials I use. This is a question I get asked a lot. It's a process of trial and error and experimentation. Back when I started doing these paintings I used Derwent watercolor pencils. I had a set of 72 and loved them. But, after using a couple Caran D'Ache pencils I made the switch, dove in head first and bought the set of 120 Caran D'Ache watercolor pencils. I love them. These bad boys just melt away leaving vibrant colors. It was almost a little shocking how rich the colors were. It scared me. It didn't take long to get cozy with them.

So here's the list!
- Set of 120 Caran D'Ache Professional Water Soluble Pencils
- Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor tubes
- 16"x20" Arches Watercolor Board
- Princeton watercolor brushes (Various sizes - mostly rounds)
- Faber Castell H pencil
- Winsor & Newton Water Colour Masking Fluid (for some reason not pictured)
- Artists tape
- kneaded rubber eraser, white eraser (for those tougher jobs) and a rubber cement pickup
- little metal pencil sharpener (for the colored pencils - gives the best tip without stripping away too much of the pencil)
- blue masking tape
- a scrap piece of board (using the same type of board to ensure the colors' accuracy)
- some blood
- some sweat
- some tears
- and a lot of love.

Well, there you have it! My fingers are tired and I'm hungry. I hope this was helpful and, in some way, enjoyable!

At some point I promise to start selling prints and to do a video of me painting one of these! So much to do!

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bridging The Gap.

Hey, folks and happy Halloween!

Work on Monsters and Hamsters continues. It's been a fun and very encouraging couple of weeks. I completed another painting last night. A group of hamsters gets a fun and friendly helping hand from a gentle giant. HA! Alliteration... good times...

Titled "Airlifted", this piece was especially fun because I got to use my awesome new watercolor pencils. A set of 120 Caran D'Ache professional grade watercolor pencils, they are my new weapon of choice when completing these illustrations. I will still use my Derwent pencils but when it comes to vibrancy and ease of use, the Caran's win. When I started using watercolor pencils I had purchased the Derwent set of 24, a good little starter set. It's enough to get a sense of what they can do. Well, I was hooked. I was mixing them right on the board and if I wanted to use them like watercolors, all I had to do was just scribble some on a scrap piece of board and add water... a watercolor pencil palette. It quickly became obvious that this was gonna be a favorite medium and that I was gonna need more.

From there I graduated to a set of 72 Derwent watercolor pencils in a lovely wooden case. It was a sight to behold and I was in heaven.

The nice thing about watercolor pencils is they can be used 3 different ways... first as a pencil (I know, I know - Duh, Danny). So, if you're scared by the idea of squeezing paint out onto a palette, not knowing how much to use or wasting what you don't use, then these are for you. It's an easy transition to make too because they're in pencil form and you can't waste what you don't use. Then, once you've laid down your color, you can leave it as is - in pencil form - or hit it with a brush and water. This really is where the magic happens. It's a visceral reaction too - for me anyway. The painting really comes alive. And lastly there's the palette method which I use on every painting to add details or wash in some colors over others. At some point here soon I'll do a video or step by step of my process... but, until then... :)

The only problem with (but also a nice thing) is the Derwent pencils take a bit of "scrubbing" to get the pencil to 'melt' and wash completely. But this also leaves behind a nice little texture. Depending on what you're going for this can be a good thing. I like it sometimes, especially on the monsters. If I didn't want the texture then I have to use the palette or layer and scrub them with washes to get them to disappear.

After I purchased a few extra colors of the Caran D'Ache's water soluble pencils I was amazed out how they melted away, and into such vibrant colors. After a bit of use I was sold. I decided to invest in one of their big sets and I am glad I did. It was shocking how saturated the colors were... after using the Derwent pencils this whole time (which come out a bit less saturated in color vibrancy) it took my by surprise when I tested the new pencils. They're rich and melty... that's a word now by the way...

Suffice it to say I am very, very happy with my investment. They will help greatly me in my endeavors.

So, here's the painting! Sketch, final and a pic of one of the "palettes" I used in the process...

"Airlifted" watercolor pencil on Arches board - 16x20

Sketchbook painting - watercolor on toned paper
pic of the "palettes" I make along the way.

*this blog entry was in no way endorsed by Caran D'Ache or its subsidiaries. Danny Beck Art is in no way responsible for pretty paintings you create or any injuries sustained by the artist during the painting process. Use caution when lifting the pencils and do not dip the pencils in water thinking you were holding a brush like I have almost done so many times. Seriously, sometimes you forget which you're holding... the pencil or the brush - they're just that much fun to use.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Birthday Blogging!

Woo hoo! What a wonderful birthday it has been. Dina made me the sweetest cake ever. I'm a man of simple tastes so, my birthday cake request was the same as it always is. But, this time, with adornments of the most sugary kind - Circus Animal Cookies! These pink and white, frosting beasts are held firmly in place by the chocolate frosting that covers it. All that AND it has a layer of vanilla frosting in the middle of this yellow wonder of a birthday cake. I sat down to a slice of cake after lunch and it was everything I could've ever hoped for. Dina spoils me and I love her for it. :D

Today we've got a couple paintings to post. One is a commission painting I did for some good friends, the other is another #inktober entry. I love doing these armor studies. I treated myself to a trip to the art store to get some non waterproof ink and some white acrylic ink. I was using a white pen for the highlights in these armor studies but it just isn't good for blending out. I needed something that behaved more like the ink I was painting with. But I still use the white ink pen for the sharp, solid highlights. You can see the difference between the two armor studies.

The monster/hamster painting was commissioned from my friend Kevin to give to his wife as a gift. It illustrates a personal story of theirs. It was an honor for me that I got to tell their story with my creations.

Keeping this post short today! I gotta get ready for my birthday dinner at my favorite sushi place with the most amazing woman in the world - my lovey.

Armor Study - brush and ink, brush pen and white pen

Armor Study - brush and black and white ink, white pen

"Gacon!" - 16x20 watercolor pencil on board.

Friday, October 18, 2013

SuperDeluxeMegaMonster Post

A few new drawings to post! Ranging from a couple inktober entries to some new monster/hamster ideas.

Things have been fairly busy and there had been some exciting progress on my book endeavor. Can't say anything about it just yet but it's got me very hopeful that it's the start of something big. I also started a class at Art Center on writing and illustrating children's books. By the end we will have a dummy book and be armed with the knowledge of how to approach publishers with our book ideas. It's been a lot of fun so far and I've learned a lot but, we're only 2 weeks in and have 8 more to go and lots of ground to cover.

I learned so much at the LA SCBWI conference in August but this course will actually produce a dummy book which I am excited about.

On to the drawings!

First up is a vignette inspired by the day Dina and I discovered our little hamster - Jelly. We wandered in to Petsmart with no greater plan than to just look around. When we made our way to the critters section Dina was instantly taken with all the cuteness contained in those glass cages. The hamsters all went about their daily activities seemingly unaware of the people staring in at them. But one little hamster was very interested in our presence. She was putting on a little show like a puppy at the pound, using every adorable device she possessed to get attention. This little hamster seemed genuinely aware of us and we instantly connected with the precocious, little Syrian hamster. She became the inspiration and the hamster I used in my paintings. Dina named her Jelly and she is just about the cutest damned hamster ever.

"An Easy Decision" - watercolor and ink sketchbook painting

A picture I took of Jelly hanging out on our couch. 

The next is another revisiting of one of the Critter Riders. Like the previous reworks I wanted to explore them in color and more action. This is the Red Squirrel Rider. So much fun to paint.

The idea for this sketchbook entry was given to me at Starbuck's before I even sat down to start drawing. Waiting in line to order my hot chocolate, a mother and very small son were ordering ahead of me... I was taken aback when the little boy stepped up to the counter and order some complicated mocha frappacino latte half-whip double scoop disco inferno! It was pretty impressive actually... it's just a sign of the times, I guess... I sheepishly followed up with my mundane order.

I went back to my tiny round table, hot chocolate in hand and figured I would get the last laugh. I titled it "Starting Them Early"
watercolor and ink sketchbook painting
It's not all monsters and hamsters, ya know... as much as I love to draw them I gotta keep myself somewhat prolific. :P I love doing figure drawing and portraits as well but never have much call for them so, when I want to take a break from all the cuteness and to sharpen my more realistic skills, I will knock out a study or two. There is a little social media challenge (so to speak) called Inktober where any artist can participate by doing a traditional media drawing so long as it is finished in ink, post it on instagram, facebook, twitter, etc. with the hashtag "inktober." Many artists take part and there is some amazing work that is done. You can do one a day, one every other day or one a week... whatever you have time for... I decided to use the opportunity to do my inktober entries as more realistic studies of things I love... armor, knights and sculptures. I love doing these so much that I am gonna make it a regular deviation from my usual monster/hamster routine.

Met Armor - Brush pen, ink pen and white ink pen on toned paper.

Met Sculpture - brush and ink and white pen on toned paper.

And now to bookend this blog entry with monster/hamster cuteness...

"Airlifted" - watercolor and ink sketchbook painting

Catch ya on the flip side!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Swell party, where's the whisky?

Last night I got the urge to do another portrait in watercolor. The last couple I did went so well I thought I'd tempt fate and see if I could replicate that energy a third time. The first two I did were of my wife Dina and her brother's - girlfriend's - son I did as a gift to her for Christmas. I love working in watercolors and the portrait in oils classes I took directly contributed to my abilities of painting in watercolors.

The subject for this portrait study is Maureen O'Hara (and a gift for my mom). Maureen is a classic film star and close personal friend to my mom. I've met Maureen on a number of occasions and I'll never forget what it was like to sit in the presence of such a talented and wonderful actress. In the portrait I wanted to capture that proud, stoic, Irish personality. So, I went looking through all of my mom's pictures of Maureen - so many to choose from. But they were all very gorgeously lit and posed pictures. I wanted something with just the right amount of lighting, of her standing tall. I found it in a publicity still of her and John Wayne from "McLintock!"

I very nearly abandoned the painting half way through... I wasn't happy with the energy that I was painting it with... the last painting I did of Dina was painted with such love for her and my hope of capturing her beauty in such a somber pose. I left the Maureen painting, half done, over night and came back to it the next day and just started painting. Then it clicked and that energy I was looking for took hold. There are some things I'd like to fix on it - colors and a few strokes here and there - but I am happy I didn't give up.

I presented it to my mom and she loves it. I will take the original to her end of this month when Dina and I go back to Phoenix for a family visit. I'm hoping Maureen will see it too.

If you're not feeling the drawing or painting you're working on, leave it and come back to it later... you might see it with new eyes or find that groove you were looking for in the first place.

Watercolor on Arches watercolor board - 11.5" x 16"

detail and texture close-up
Here are the other two portraits...



Friday, August 30, 2013


Today's Starbuck's painting... I went with the intent of working on some more illustrations for my book but, after I was up until 3:30am writing ideas for it, I thought I'd hold off until I actually have my direction.

So, I started scribbling. As Tom Hulce said in Amadeus "Scribbling and bibbling, bibbling and scribbling." After a few scribbles I just started sketching out a Medusa. This time she's terrified... of what? Well, I am leaving that up to the viewer. I had a great time drawing and painting this one.

I start out with the sketch, of course. Once I'm done with that I ink in with my favorite brush pen and then bust out the watercolors. I went with a diamond back rattler for her snake half, since I made her green there weren't many other options. Even though it's a cartoon I still like to base the appearance with some sort of believability. Once I've laid in all my colors and refined a few areas, I go in with just a little bit of gouache for highlights and eyes. It just jumps off the page when the opaque highlights are in... and I lost the warmer green in the watercolor and I wanted to bring them back up so it really cooled the shadows back down. After the gouache I go back in with my brush pen to black some of the lines and shadows again.

I love drawing gorgons, centaurs, and pretty much any half man, half animal creature. It was nice to do one up in color.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Warming Up To The Idea...

Just a little warm-up painting to get things rolling today at Starbuck's. If you just start trying to knock out a painting without warming up you're liable to pull a muscle or something. So... I did a painting before my painting...

I am starting to find a little momentum on my book and what I think I want it to be. It's starting to form into a little, simple, something - something... the likes of which I must keep to myself for now.

Until I can share more with you, here's a frog monster licking a fly.

Frog Monster Is Too Lazy To Catch Flies, So He Just Sorta Licks Them...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hello, Library Card, it's been a long time.

One of the recommendations for us new to illustration is that we spend some time at the library, looking at the kind of books we want to write. So I did just that... after spending some time writing a story for my hamsters and monsters, I ventured over to the Santa Clarita public library.

Libraries haven't changed much since high school... when I last stepped inside the Tempe Public Library. Computers were making their debut when I last visited and now they are in full effect. I wandered over to the children's section and there I was, faced with thousands of options. But, how do I distill this all down and find books that are quirky, unusual and strange? The kind of books that have a weird send of humor don't just jump out at you... they're buried between the books of trips to the zoo and books about firemen.

It's even more challenging because I still don't know the story telling style I want my book to be. Before it was easy - each illustration was a story unto itself (think Gary Larson's Far Side) and the book was just going to be a collection of these individual stories. It was so much simpler then...

I just ended up aimlessly searching through all the books, grabbing anything with an interesting title. I gathered up 5 books and told myself I'd come back and try again later. Getting my new library card was easy and checking out was even easier. Ahh the wonder that is technology... it was so simple and easy. Now it's time to figure out what I want this book to be...

After attending the SCBWI conference in LA I got derailed yet again. Standing there, amidst a sea of artists with sweet and warm pictures of animals and children, clutching my "dummy" book of monsters and hamsters with a worried look on my face. Do I belong here? I can do the traditional illustration stuff but I wanna do my style... I want to explore a world of colorful monsters and helpful hamsters! This is a book that I would've loved to have read as a kid and that's enough for me to keep going... knowing that out there, somewhere, is another version of me in kid form waiting to experience monsters and hamsters and their silly interactions. Maybe there's more than one kid out there that would get a chuckle out of it... maybe there's a hundred!

I'd be happy with a hundred kids liking my book.

That's enough for me to keep going.

Illustrating this is the easy part... writing is a whole other cookie.
My goal is to combine the sweet and the sour even though the sour has a sweet side. Are the monsters the sweet and the hamsters sour? Do I write a story with different monsters and just one hamster named Norman? I want to stick to my guns but, I have 2 guns on each hip and they're both different. Maybe guns aren't the best metaphor here...

These are all rhetorical questions, of course...

I am going to be signing up for an illustration class at Art Center that starts in October. Hopefully that will help focus my goals a little more... but in the meantime I will be writing and drawing, drawing and writing, waiting for it to just click.

So, with that in mind and to further illustrate the perplexing situation in which I find myself...
Here's a hamster dancing with a monster!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lances A Lot.

Hey there! Well it's about time... Got around to redoing another Critter Rider. The Hamster Jouster was eluding me for the longest time until a magic little moment today drawing at Starbuck's...

 The Hamster Jouster sorta unwittingly started a series of drawings I called the Critter Riders. I combined my love of drawing knights, gladiators and jousters with my love of critters... The hero being the Hamster Jouster. They started out as black and white ink drawings. I did the Hamster Jouster as a big watercolor drawing and even tried it in oils - my painting skills with oils at the time still being very rough and unrefined... they still are. :-\ I also did one or two of them as digital paintings. They were pretty good but most of the series were more portrait like in the way they were posed and drawn, some had a little action to them. While I do still love many of the drawings I wanted them to be more dynamic, to have more action or be more intimidating.

So, there I was a few month ago, about to finish off a sketchbook and decided to (out of nowhere) take a break from my hamsters and monsters to revisit the Kangaroo Rat Rider. It was a drawing I did back in 2010 and was never quite happy with it. I just started sketching and it just started to click! I had to strike while that brush pen was hot, so I kept on going! Instead of stopping at the inking part I busted out the watercolors and, taking what I had learned up to that point in painting, took the drawing to a new level. Success! I had achieved the dynamic quality I was looking for with a new look for his armor and a kangaroo rat that looked more like a kangaroo rat. I was happy with it. It reignited my interest in my Critter Riders... I wanted to revisit them all, now!

Thinking lightning would strike twice, in the same place, within a few hours of each other... I started sketching the Hamster Jouster. Nothin'! OK, maybe lighting would strike again within a few days... nope! This went on for some time before I just gave up. I won't show you the other tries, they're just too not good. I was frustrated and defeated. I just couldn't catch that fire again! And being one who won't go out like no punk b***h I kept at it. Suffice it to say that the newer sketchbook is a few pages lighter courtesy of some page tearing out.

There I was at Starbuck's today... in similar fashion... I had just finished up a hamster and monster painting in my sketchbook and I was sort of aimlessly drawing. The thought crossed my mind - "Give that jouster another try..." - "Alright... let's take a break from hamsters and monsters and try this again..."

Before I knew it I was feeling that fire again! I knew what I wanted the drawing to look like! I could see it in my head so clearly... the Hamster Jouster barreling down on his opponent - the viewer getting to see what his ill-fated enemy sees just before he is unhorsed (or unratted). I checked some armor reference on my iPad and just started drawing frantically! It was so clear in my head and I couldn't get the idea down on paper fast enough. All drawn out and inked I packed up my drawing supplies and headed home where I would take my time painting it. Here it is!

I guess the lesson here being to not try to force it and whenever I want to redo one of these older drawings, wait until I feel like I need a break from hamsters and monsters to draw... hamsters and knights. :P

Monday, August 12, 2013

What a whirl! What a whirl!

Wowzerz. This has been a whirlwind couple months! July found me married to by beautiful fiance, celebrated 2 years together 2 days after our wedding and a week later I attended the SCBWI summer conference.

Dina and I had the most amazing wedding - an all black wedding. The ceremony took place at the Palace of Fine Arts under the rotunda. We had so many friends and family there all decked out in black. When the ceremony started Dina made her entry to our guests chanting "Dina! Dina! Dina!" She looked so stunning. Face to face with her I was unable to keep myself from smiling, this was the happiest day of my life. It's difficult, for me, to find the words to describe how beautiful she looked. Her long black dress, her wavy, raven hair streaked with purple cascading over her shoulder. Her sultry eyes as she looked at me lovingly from behind the netting of her hat that hung over her face, a sophisticated answer to the traditional veil. Aww hell, I will just post a few pics of our wedding and you can see for yourself.

We continued the celebration with our reception at the Supperclub San Francisco. All you were at the wedding were in attendance and ready to get the party started. We had the entire upper floor reserved and to ourselves. Everyone stretched out on the beds that line the walls of the venue, appetizers and drinks were served as the show started. For those who have never been to the Supperclub; they have themed performances each month that has performers doing acrobatic, dance and areal shows to entertain attendees as they dine on wonderful 4 course dinner. Again, I'll just let the pics speak for themselves. :)

Newly married and happy as ever, it's time to get to work.

I attended the SCBWI conference days after returning from San Francisco in August. What can I say? WOW! What started out as an intimidating first day of school, jitters and all - worrying I was gonna get stuffed into a locker at any moment - turned out to be so educational and the friendliest environment. I quickly made new friends - aspiring writers, seasoned veterans, talented illustrators. One new friend in particular, Karin (an aspiring writer with a heart of gold), became my cheerleader at the conference and made some invaluable connections for me. Thanks again, Karin! We're gonna kick some butt and take down a few names in the process!

There were so many great "break-out meetings" (industry professionals doing talks and Q&A's) that made me wish I could be in multiple places at one time. The break-out meetings and keynotes were so informative... so informative that it's made have to rethink my whole approach....

The portfolio showcase was fantastic. I entered. Didn't win. But, that's ok. It gave me an invaluable glimpse into what's out there and where I fit in. Stay true to myself and my ideas - that's the idea and the message the conference made sure to drive home. Plus all of my postcards were taken and gone half way through the showcase. That was encouraging!

My book is going back to the drawing board. The premise will stay as it is but the format and story telling style will have to change. People seem to like the illustrations and the idea of monsters and hamsters but in terms of a broader appeal, I think it will need something of a more traditional approach. I will still make the other illustrations available in either print or a picture book but as far as the actual kids book... well, we're looking at a revamp.

So now the real work begins... finding an agent, continuing work on my book and hopefully other projects (freelance, personal, what have you).

Enough with the jibber jabber! Time for some pictures!

First up is a sketchbook painting I did of little Norville who hasn't realized that he's got something bigger on the line. As with my other sketchbook paintings, this one is ink, watercolor and some gouache for that opaque magic.

Here's the postcard I was handing out....

And, as promised, some highlights from the wedding....
My beautiful wife.
Dina and I at the reception.
A photo I snapped during our photo session.
Dina's sister Erika doing an wonderful job taking our pictures.
The Dominguez Sisters - Erika (left) Dina (right)

Dina and friends - Scott-E, Jessie, and Rockie

Jesse and I. This was the best day ever.

Dina and one of her besties - Hannah

Ending the evening with a spectacular areal show.

Dina with her mom and dad.
Dina and her long-time friend Ruben
Me with my sister (Jennifer) and oldest brother (James)