Friday, December 29, 2006

Does This Seem Too Dark to You?

I did this book cover a few weeks ago but now seemed like a good time to post it. It's for a book called "When the People Fell." Just now I adjusted the color some and I think I like it better but maybe it's too dark now.

An odd thing happens to me when I do an illustration, as opposed to something for myself, I don't have much to say about it. The book was very good and very strange. If you've not read anything by Cordwainer Smith I'd pick it up but it probably won't be out for awhile.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Dead Santa with His Robot Helpers

One last ghost. I went to Ryan Wood's blog and I saw his very nice Christmas robot so I felt I should put up some Christmas robots of my own. This pen & ink comes from a long, long time ago: college. Everyone will recognize it as a Rockwell pastiche. It's a bit different though, with Santa dead and all. The elves are all dead too and robots took over long ago. This is why they won't let me do children's books.

I did it for a class that assembled artists and authors to make a science fiction magazine. We got credit for doing what we wanted to. I did three of these takeoffs on Rockwell.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Cards of Christmas Past

I thought I'd post some Christmas cards I've done in the past and one New Year's card. A few of these are in my book Kiddography but they're very small and all in one montage. My blog is a chance to travel back in time with these Christmas ghosts.

The above was actually used as a Christmas tag. It was pulled from a cover I did for a book titled "Unknown."

One year we sent out magnets. People seemed to like those a lot so, of course, we stopped doing it. (Above)

I was lazy the year I did this so I just modified a painting I did for figurine for Danbury Mint. (Above)

I'll have to find the poem we wrote about the tradition of the Christmas bookmark. (Above)

I think that the picture above is my first home printed card. It goes back a ways and this is a scan of a printout. (Above)

A lot of the time I send out multiple cards. This pen & ink was an insert inside another card and it had some bad poetry to go with it. (Above)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Card

That Santa Claus stuff is a bunch of hooey. He’s long dead. How can anyone believe in idiotic fantasies like that?

What is there, like 6.5 billion people in the world? Okay, so not all of them will get Christmas presents but clearly, with a number like that, it’s impossible for one person to get all that stuff delivered. Also, how the hell do those reindeer fly without wings? This stuff is just not plausible.

After 35 years of legal maneuvers I finally got the F.B.I. to release the secret file that explains it all. I’ve got the documents here that’ll prove it. Snopes will back me up on this.

It’s all them elves. There’s about a hundred million of ‘em and a hundred million winged reindeer too. Each delivers between 200 to 350 presents. It’s all freeze-dried stuff too that expands on contact with any liquid. That’s why you got to leave a drink for “Santa.” Have you ever noticed how presents smell a little milky?

How could there be that many elves? Easy, they’re freeze-dried too. All the elves and reindeer are kept in a box about the size of a Volkswagen beetle the rest of the year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Black Lines

I only dabble in it. For me it’s a hobby. Pen & ink is rare today but it is not a forgotten art. Even though I’m writing about other artists all these pictures are mine. I’m sure you’ll see the influence. Links to the other artists’ works are in the text.

With all the options out there for making pictures why do anything with just black lines on a piece of paper? Heck, you can use your computer to make entire landscapes, people, machines and cityscapes all in 3D full color, animate it and put it to music.

In contrast, how can manually putting black ink on a surface be useful? Especially when you can turn any picture into a line drawing with a simple filter.

The answer to that is easy. Go look at the work of Orson Lowell, Charles Dana Gibson, Joseph Clement Coll, Daniel Vierge or Norman Lindsay but that’s just the tip of the crow quill – a drop in the inkwell.

There are a number of great books on pen & ink art. I recommend Jim Vadeboncoeur’s Black and White Images. Clearly low-tech in a skilled hand can accomplish true wonders.

A surprising thing about ink lines is how the various textures they create can take the place of color. Franklin Booth is the best example of the great range pen & ink has. Compare his work the wild lines of Heinrich Kley. It shows you power and versatility of the line.

I was thinking about all of this the other day when I was goofing off. For no reason I was pulling out little idea sketches and using a Pigma pen to ink them. I’m using them plus a few older things to illustrate this essay.

Every now and then I try to do a detailed pen & ink piece but it’s really just a pastime. A lot of the time I like to work directly in ink but I’m not a master at this either, so it’s a matter of keeping the ones that work and chucking the ones that don’t work.

Roy G. Krenkel did drawings directly in ink all the time. I have one of these little gems. It’s worth taking a look at his work. Most of what he did was for the fun of it and that’s the case with most of what you see here today.

Friday, December 08, 2006


I got tired of seeing my face, especially when I leave a comment on another blog so I'm using this guy's face. All the other artists use art for their picture so who am I to buck the trend?

This book cover is one of the few paintings that I've always thought of as a success but has never been a fan favorite. It's old . . . 1987. Whenever anyone sees it they exclaim, "What the hell is that?!!!" referring to the worm creature. That's just the reaction I wanted.

Sadly, I got a lot of negative comments about it, like the pitchfork having too many tines. If you're going to make a comment about farm equipment I say you should put in the research and learn the difference between a pitchfork and a hey fork. Furthermore, I heard that the author of the book hated the cover. An editor later told me that the author imagined a different cover altogether that, to add to my frustration, matched exactly the one sketch I did that the art director hated. The art director wanted something much more silly and that's what I gave him. Maybe I pushed things too far with the sphincter-like quality to the worm's mouth. Hmm, maybe I should've used that for my picture; people sometimes tell me that I can be an ass.

Oh, and that giant black worm thing, it sucks oil from the ground. It's a living oil drill.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Secret Door

When I was a child, and this has continued into adulthood, I've had a recurring dream that I've opened a door, a cabinet, entered a tunnel or just turned a corner and discovered something remarkable that had always been there. You’d be surprised how often that’s happened for me in the real world.

That’s what I’ve found by putting up my Kiddography blog. By doing so I’ve discovered the work of a number of artists I’d not seen before. Most recently I’ve come across the work of Scott Altmann, Mark Reep and Todd Harris. When I went to these artists’ sites I found links to dozens of other artists whose art I greatly enjoy. This is just a start; in time I’ll have a long list of suggested viewings.

The digital work I saw this week inspired me to try one more pixel-only painting. Well, it started with a scanned drawing and I painted it in Photoshop. Typically I’ve done these mostly with multiply layers but I used semi-opaque layers this time. The background is a modified scan of a section of an oil painting I did long ago. My problem with working digitally is that it doesn’t have the nature reflecting aspects of a physical medium. Even though the basic principles of aesthetics will always apply, I miss the fortunate little accidents I find with watercolor or oil paint.

I wrote an essay for a book coming out next year from Nonstop Press called “Real vs. Virtual. My essay is likely the silliest thing I’ve ever written. I’m truly surprised it was accepted. It would be a terrible thing if I were ever taken too seriously.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Miniature Black Pearls

Quite often I hear art directors say how important it is that an illustrator can draw and paint the human figure. Hey, we see humans all the time; why would it be difficult to paint them? The hard part is that, because we’re so familiar with what we look like, it’s fairly easy to see major mistakes in a figure. Typically I like to adjust or exaggerate the figure in a way to make it more interesting. It’s much harder to alter human features and gestures to help a picture than it is to just follow a model. Here I didn’t do that. I just made this mermaid up, depicting her in a very pedestrian/matter-of-fact kind of way. Nope, I didn’t use a scrap of reference on her, but when it came to drawing the shell and the foam on the beach, I felt I should take a look at those. I haven’t studied beaches and shells as much as I have naked women. All for the sake of art of course.

Like many of the idle drawings I’ve posted here, I found this one in a stack of other unfinished drawings I’d abandoned and decided to give it one more try. It’s a very lazy self-absorbed process -- pure free association. Even when I have an assignment, it’s usually best to approach it in a similar oblique manner.

PS: I'm adding stuff to my Gnemo Sketchbook blog now but in a different way than I'd originally intended. Link at right.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Helioderms 103: Deflated

Call me the Walter Keane (actually, his wife Margaret is the real painter of those big-eyed kids) of fantasy if you like but the fact is that young mammals (even if they lay eggs) are cute. In this case, the eyes are even sad.

I guess we can all get deflated from time to time but for a blimpephants it’s literal. I’m thinking that there may be a children’s book here.

To balance out the cute I’m including a cross-section of a helioderm propeller. Whenever I create an animal I like to imagine it inside and out. Sometimes it helps my drawing but I do it mostly for the fun of it.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Helioderms 102 & Gnemo's Sketchbook

First, I've updated my very clumsy website (I really don't know what I'm doing) with a Gnemo's Sketchbook section. There's a link to that above and I'll add a link to it on my Gnemo's Sketchbook blog soon.

Helioderms 102:

Besides being a form of pilot fish to the larger zepploderms, blimpoderms (pressure-shaped helioderms) also form a much more sophisticated type of symbiotic relationship with their massive cousins. This alliance is most similar to the bond between cecropia trees and azteca ants of Central America.

Like the cecropia trees the giant maconderms, also called carrier-phants, have evolved an environment that is especially conducive for smaller helioderms. The tops of their outer envelopes are largely hard and flat surfaces that the blimpoderms can land on, grapple to with their extendable toes and feed on the moss that grows on top. Removing the moss keeps the maconderm streamlined and adds variety to the blimpoderms diet. The maconderm (named after the Navy airship Macon, an internally rigid airship aircraft carrier used in the 1930’s) even provides little warm pockets for the blimpoderms to lay their eggs.

In exchange for this aerial nursery the blimpoderms defend the maconderm against all assailants, especially hungry dragon packs. Blimpoderms have a variety of weapons and battle techniques: they dive bomb to drop their own body waste on attackers, they have an internal ignitable gas that they use and they will also spurt out helium in small bursts to put out dragon fire. If enough helioderms are present they will work together to asphyxiate a dragon by releasing an inert gas mixture to envelope the dragon cutting off its air supply and ability to ignite its own gas.

The gargantuan maconderms troll the skies sucking up vast quantities of insects much like whales do with krill. One additional service the blimpoderms provide is fruit to the otherwise all-insect diet of the maconderm. Expectant parents fly to its lower trunk and hand off large fruit laden branches in exchange for the best nesting spots.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Helioderms 101

These beautiful lighter-than-air creatures fly the skies of a world not too distant from ours called Deutro. Their multilayered expandable skin is virtually impermeable to any gas. It’s this skin that allows them to float high in the atmosphere and it’s the special pebbled texture of this animal’s epidermis that creates micro air swirls that greatly decreases the natural drag of the air that flows over them. Despite their great volumes the helioderms cut through the air like an arrow.

Their tusks might seem like an odd evolutionary adaptation for a flying creature but the “tusks” are actually extremely porous helium processors. They remove all heavier noble gasses and chemically active gasses. Helium, which is all that is left, is absorbed into the helioderm’s envelopes – internal lightweight gasbags.

This is a heavily forested planet with unusually massive and dense trees. Most helioderm species eat by grazing the tops of these trees using their long extendable trunks to reach deep within them.

Their only natural enemy is the fire-breathing dragon. The dragons are considerably smaller than the helioderms and will only attack the weak and the young. Typically the smaller blimpoderms live in a symbiotic relationship with larger zepploderms. More on that in my next installment.