Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections on 2014 and Goals for 2015

It's New Years's Eve and I just finished up a new digital painting! Here's a photo of me blogging this blog (whoa trippy) from the awesome Molino's coffee shop in downtown Riverside, CA.

Looking back, 2014 was a very good year. I kept busy teaching at Ringling. I had opportunities to teach new courses, including the Advanced Illustration Portfolio class in the Spring and PreCollege painting and illustration over the summer.

Some exciting projects also came my way in 2014. Here are a few projects I illustrated:
  • I got to collaborate with my good friend, Jodi Kendall and editor Molly O'neil at Storybird to illustrate Jodi's debut chapter book, Some Pig in the City
  • a picture book titled I Forgive You, written by Nicole Lataif, 
  • a middle grade novel written by Kerry O'Malley Cerra titled Just a Drop of Water, 
  • an early reader titled No Cookies for You.

One of my goals for 2014 was to paint more personal work, in addition to new portfolio and commissioned work. I was able to get one done - yay! One is better than none, although I would like to be more prolific in this area. Here's the one I got's called Divine Dependency. I put it in the Ringling faculty show, so it did serve some sort of purpose besides just being therapeutic.  

I am very grateful for all the blessings and success in 2014. I'll definitely be spending time this evening to reflect more deeply and thank God for His provision and guidance. 

2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year, too. I'll be attending the SCBWI Miami regional conference in January, and I'm going to be in a group show at The Hive gallery in LA. This show is a great opportunity for me to continue the goal of creating personal work. 
A few of my other goals for 2015 include:
  •  Looking for a literary agent or art rep for children's illustration (I've already queried a few this week...getting a head start!) 
  • Scheduling in spare time (not sure how this will work yet, but I'm determined) so that I have designated creative time to generate ideas and do skill building exercises, whether it be master copies, plein air studies, life drawing workshops, cafe drawing, etc. 
  • Be more consistent posting on social media. Even if it's just a few sketches, I hope to share something new weekly if not daily.

Overall, 2014 was full of good challenges and new growth. Here's to the upcoming year and a lot of new art! 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Of Trees, Bees, and Poison

I've finished up a few new illustrations for story ideas that have been in my head. This one is for a middle grade novel idea tentatively titled Queen Dagmar and the Battle for Treethrone. I had developed this cover concept a while ago and actually had a critique on it at the last SCBWI conference I went to. It was decided that the main character needed to look less stylized, so I went back in and reworked her expression and redesigned the crown (my friend Kayla modeled for me - thanks, Kayla!) The finished result is a "tradigital" piece, combining an oil painting with digital touches. 

This next illustration evolved quite a bit. I'm calling it The Poison Gathering...that title will definitely change at some point! But for now...yeah. It's an idea about two chemists on a journey to find a "good poison". Inspiration unexpectedly came from George Macdonald's short story "The Golden Key". The final is digital.

I'm working on a couple more new illustrations for the upcoming SCBWI Miami conference. Hopefully someday soon I'll sit down and outline these pictures into books!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gift of Tears

The SCBWI Miami chapter recently held a Writing and Illustration contest for members. The prompt was "Robin's gift was different from all the others."

It took me a while to come up with an idea I liked because the imagery could literally go anywhere. I ultimately decided to put a spin on it by giving "Robin" the Gift of Tears. While at first it might seem like a curse more than a blessing, it is an actual spiritual gift according to Catholics, where one "weeps for the sins of the world". It is in essence, deep empathy for others that proceeds from a softened heart.

So, here is my contest submission! I began with an acrylic underpainting then went on top with oil, and finished with a few digital touches.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Signing!!

On Saturday, September 13th, I took a trip down to Coral Springs, Florida to celebrate the launch of Kerry O'Malley Cerra's debut middle grade novel, Just a Drop of Water, which I had the great privilege of illustrating the cover. Check out the book trailer:

The launch party was a huge success! Over 300+ people showed up and we signed books nonstop from 3pm to 6pm! Here are a few pics:

Illest of Ill Demo Night 2014

This semester's Demo Night at Ringling College of Art & Design was super fun, as always! 
I love my faculty trading card, created by illustrator Angela Tsai. Thank you, Angela!!

Check out more of her work here:

For Demo Night I decided to do something crazy and let loose. I rendered a high fantasy concept sketch a did a while ago, using pastel pencils on toned paper. Took about 2.5 hours total. 
And here it is!! Looks to me like it would make a pretty sic tattoo.

Recent Figure Drawings


I have not posted in a while because there has been a lot going on, and now a lot to post about!

Just to get warmed up, here are a few recent figure drawing and gestures from last Wednesday's faculty figure drawing session. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

YA Muses muse on Storybird

Here's a really great blog post from author of Some Pig in the City, Jodi Kendall, about Storybird. She does a great job of summarizing everything. Check it out!

Summertime Stuff

Hello! It's summertime! Hope you are having a lovely one so far...

Just a quick update here:
Things are much different this time around compared to summers in the past. I usually go home to California, but this time I bought a house in Florida and have decided to stay here to fix it up and teach PreCollege at Ringling (which starts on Monday!)

I've been working on a few freelance projects too, the first being Some Pig in the City, written by Jodi Kendall (which is a serialized project where new chapters and artwork post every two weeks (it should wrap up in August) and an early reader book titled No Cookies For You published by Heinemann Young Readers.

So things are quite busy and exciting! The above illustration is an in-progress sample from the No Cookies book. I've been working digitally for both assignments. For PreCollege, I'll be teaching Illustration and Painting, which will be a nice excuse for me to switch back over the the pen nibs and paintbrushes for a while! I'll post demos if I get a chance.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hamlet Escapes!

The third chapter of Some Pig in the City, written by Jodi Kendall, just posted on Storybird! Here's the color illustration I made for this chapter. Go read what happens!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Panera People

Annika in Reclining Pose

Here's a snapshot of another 3-hour oil study from this weekend's figure painting session. 

This was a pretty challenging setup. All the values were mid to low key and I had to really push for contrast. I initially started out just wanting to do a hand study, but there were so many lost edges that 5 minutes into it I started over (because I could tell it was gonna look like a blob) and decided to take on the whole pose. Glad I did because it was more fun and turned out way better than I anticipated. 

I love getting to retreat for 3 hours and paint the figure. It's so fun sitting in silence with a few friends, just painting away. I feel so recharged!! Going to need the energy for this LAST WEEK of SCHOOL!

Excited ;)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Storybird Collaboration


I finally get to share with you some artwork I've been making behind the scenes! 

I've been collaborating with my talented writer friend, Jodi Kendall (check out her site at and the talented editor Molly O'neil from Storybird (the same editor who discovered and edited Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy!)

Storybird commissioned 10 writers and illustrators (hence, Jodi and me) to help launch their new longform book platform. What is that, you might ask? To give it some context, is an exciting new way of being creative. It's an online image archive/social community/young readers library where people can go to write stories inspired by beautiful artwork, comment and discuss ideas, and read picture books and chapter books. The chapter books are the newest edition, aka longform books. Jodi has written an inspiring, charming book titled Some Pig in the City. A new chapter posts every two weeks with illustrations. 

So, I am joyously sharing with you the cover for Some Pig in the City, along with a few close-up details, and how the platform looks on an iPad. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Agnus Dei

This is a study I did maybe a year or so ago from a postcard that a friend sent me from the Prado museum in Madrid. It's titled Agnus Dei, by Zurbaran. It means "Lamb of God". Thought I'd repost it for this year's Easter.

I was experimenting with Golden's open acrylics, which is why there are paint dabs up above.

Portrait of Annika

Being an illustrator and teacher, it's not often that I get to paint from a live model. I'm usually working from photo reference or out of my head. But, luckily, I had an art education based in observational drawing and painting that has stuck with me.

That's why this weekend I was excited to have the opportunity to paint Annika, one of Ringling College's models. Here's a 3-hour oil painting on canvas board.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring 2014 Demo Night at Ringling

Hello again! I'm back!

Well, sort of. There are 4 weeks left of Spring semester and so it's a bit frantic, but things have been going great!

I have some drawings that I can finally share online. These were for Demo Night this past Tuesday at Ringling College. I demoed how I create all of my black and white spot illustrations. Like these two fellas:

Technique is charcoal pencil on hot press watercolor paper. It's quick, versatile, and looks great when printed. Try it!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rabbit Trail of a Thought

A quick late-night rabbit trail thought for you to follow, if so intrigued…

I've noticed this old man in my neighborhood who always sits outside on his patio working intently on his laptop. He wears a headset with a microphone and has a stack of books and a tall beverage by his side. He's AWLAYS out there. I drive by several times during the day, and even at the end of the day, he's still sitting out there. He has invented a strong recipe for chair butt glue is my guess.

That, or it's his job and he's required to sit out there.

Or, it's his passion and he LOVES sitting out there.

I'm thinking it's the latter - which is really inspiring, and leads me to this next thought:

It's Sunday night and I am preparing for class tomorrow - Figure Drawing II for Computer Animation. We are having a critique and a pop quiz on some reading from Walt Stanchfield's book Drawn to Life. As I review the reading material, I find myself falling even deeper in love with art, sketching, storytelling. It's often confounds me that this is a textbook and that I have the great privilege to teach this stuff. Stuff like observation, emotion, the hidden truths of life, and how to show it ALL in a simple gesture drawing. As artists, we study things that most people aren't trained to see. Like angles in a pose…

"Some of the most graceful people are put together with 45 degree angles. Watch them - they seem to have studied how to play one angle off another to create those tantalizing poses. Sometimes the angles of cheek against neck, or hand against cheek are so subtle they are felt rather than seen." -Walt Stanchfield.

Meanwhile, other students at some other university are studying for a lab test on microbials.

But the artist - while we may not make a scientific breakthroughs that change the face of humanity, we do make pictures that reflect the beauty of life to those now living (and those yet to come), to imbue hope and restore love, to evoke an emotional catharsis, uplift and entertain. Does not this literally change the face - and heart - of humanity?

I feel there is a lot going on much deeper in art than we will ever be able to perceive…or appreciate.

To return to the old man sitting on his patio - in my mind I link him to this other quote byWalt Stanchfield...

" Hours and hours should be spent with anatomy books, old Disney films, and scenes of the old masters. Also much time must be spent flexing one's emotional muscles with 'essence' sketching, reading a great variety of authors - novels, biographies, psychology, metaphysics, and of course, humor. Don't be like a friend who used to say he was waiting for the 'light to come on.' Well, he was a real charming guy but he retired before the light came on. Moral: Don't wait. Immerse yourself in the search now."

I guess what I want to say in summary is this:  I am grateful to be an artist and a teacher. I have always been intrigued by spiritual things and how the life force is woven into our physical beings. It is a rewarding and passionate pursuit for God, beauty, knowledge and understanding -  a search worth immersing oneself in.