Friday, December 30, 2011

25 Free copies "How To Design A Drawing"

I'm so excited to announce that I'm finally finished with "How To Design A Drawing" my new video tutorial. It will be hosted on and I'll be giving away 25 free copies here on my blog - first come first serve. How it will work: One day in the next week or so I'll roll out of bed, stretch, repeat a few affirmations, "you're a good artist because you use reference" or something like that. Then I'll hop online and update my blog with something like, "Enter your email address in the comments section below to win free access to "How To Design A Drawing!" I won't announce it on facebook so the best way to be ready is to get the rss feed by following this blog.

There are 8 videos in this new series and includes work that I've been putting together for the last 2-3 years. This was the hardest video tutorial to make so far because explaining concepts require a lot of visuals and careful descriptions.

Design is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. I was let into the BYU illustration BFA on PROBATION! Back in 1990 it was my wake up call. It was embarrassing and shocking - I thought I was pretty good at art and watching my classmates get in easily was humiliating but also motivating. It was exactly what I needed. Ironically years later I ended up teaching for the same instructors who put me on probation.

Anyone can learn to be a good designer if they want it and are willing to work hard. Every image I have in my portfolio was a struggle in the design stage. Perhaps struggle is the wrong word but each illustration I design is like solving a puzzle. The puzzle is solved when I have my final sketch and at that point painting is a breeze because if I've done it right I don't have to make critical decisions while painting.

I designed the penguins above live in front of our studio cameras as the final video in the tutorial so that the viewer can watch as I solve that puzzle. I will be using these videos in one of my UVU classes this coming semester - something I've only dreamed about until now. I also give my students free access because I want them to all have what I would have wanted to have when I was a student.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Do Public Schools Kill Creativity?

Back in 1971 I started attending elementary school just north of Washington DC in Maryland. I didn't know it then but I was a little seedling of an artist trying to poke my head out and catch some rays. There were a bunch of us - little budding artists trying to sprout. We were so excited about life and discovery yet unaware that the environment we were growing in was hostile towards our skills and learning styles. Turns out we were floundering in a system that looked at us more like weeds than flowers.

What I'm going to talk about is in no way intended to be an indictment of teachers or administrators but rather of the public school system in general. A system that no one individual or even organization is in total control over. Also, I don't want this to come across as a negative attack ad but rather as a wake up call for all of us.

Like many I never felt like I belonged in public school. I always felt like I wasn't good enough - like I was, well, stupid. I struggled with math - really struggled. My reading comprehension was horrible and for the life of me I couldn't stop day dreaming - and boy did I come up with some good ideas! My speling was atrowshous and writing - forget about it - I couldn't hold a thought long enough to form a paragraph and by the way there's a guy walking a dog across the street...I think dogs are smarter then humans...the man walks behind the dog...the dog poops...the man picks up the poop...the man carries the poop for the the dog smiling?...Oops - sorry - I'm back.

Today I probably would have been diagnosed with A.D.D and put on drugs but back then it hadn't been invented yet (he said sarcastically). My parents even had me tested to see what the heck was wrong with me. I was even lucky enough to have an older sister who was everything I was NOT academically (straight A's)- so that was really helpful.

I think we've grown to believe that a person is smart if they did well in school and not very smart if they didn't but isn't this short sighted? Lets think about this. Do we think that someone who can represent you in a court of law is more intelligent than a creative director at an ad agency? Is a concert pianist more intelligent than an accountant? Our university system was born out of a necessity to develop graduates with mostly left brain skills to manage the tasks of the industrial age and it worked. Now we are entering a new age where creativity is becoming more valuable. Daniel Pink says, “In school, problems almost always are clearly defined, confined to a single discipline, and have one right answer. But in the workplace, they’re practically the opposite. Problems are usually poorly defined, multi-disciplinary, and have several possible answers, none of them perfect. Are timed, standardized tests the way to ready youngsters for real-world problem-solving?"

Do smart people ever make stupid mistakes and if so why? Laurence Gonzales, author of Deep Survival talks about the question of why some people survive crises while others die. He says survivors have the ability to think deliberately under pressure helping them to avoid making stupid mistakes. Those that die are often intelligent people who simply follow already established mental scripts rather than addressing the reality of the situation. Having good grades in math and English probably won't factor in to the most important decisions a person will have to make in life.

The truth is we sift our kids in the public school system. We sift for the kids with math, reading, and writing skills and basically toss the rest aside. Sure we have art, band, and drama classes but do we hold kids accountable for doing poorly in those subjects? Do we have standards tests in those subjects? Do kids make the honor role for coming up with great ideas? No...and so creative kids like me go away feeling like their contributions are worthless.

So after high school I limped away damaged and insecure knowing three things: 1) I loved art 2) Nobody seemed to care and 3) I was stupid. Is this how it has to be? Do we need to destroy the self esteem of our creative kids and hope that some of them will somehow find their way into a job or field where their right brain skills will be appreciated? Is it possible to change the system so that we can perhaps teach creative children differently?

I find it ironic that we expect our kids to get good grades doing essentially left brain tasks but the items we place the highest value on are largely right brain creations: smart phones, internet based products and services, cars, motion pictures, novels, comics, tablet computers, designer clothing and accessories etc. I would argue that the innovators behind the scenes at companies like Apple, Google, Ebay, Pixar, etc were in some cases also survivors of public school. I think it would be a safe assumption that public school had little to do with these kinds of creations. These outliers had to develop a robust set of skills well beyond math and English and they did it largely on their own. Imagine what problems we could solve as a country if creativity was celebrated at school? Is there a correlation to the success of Google and their active reward program to reward creative ideas from their employees?

I was fortunate enough to have had wonderful parents who loved me and encouraged me even though they didn't fully understand me. My mom was a special ed teacher as was my wife and my sister teaches elementary school currently so I'm familiar with the the restrictions placed on teachers. I'm glad that I was able to show my mom and dad that I wasn't a lazy kid. I've accomplished a lot in illustration: acceptance into the society of illustrators annuals, an addy award, a client list of fortune 500 companies, and over 20 children's books published with national publishers - some winning state awards. I'm so glad my mother got to see me illustrate some of the same stories she taught from in school before we lost her last year.

Today I'm able to work on the projects I want. If I get an idea I go for it. I feel like I survived the public school system but how many don't? How many feel like they just aren't as good as the 4.0 earners? We have an amazing resource in our children and rather than cultivating their individual skills we sort them keeping the left brain dominant children and tossing the rest. We pick through them like we select produce at the fruit stand and for what? What benefit do we get for celebrating left brain skills while ignoring kids with right brain skills? - I don't understand it.

My college roommate (an engineering major) came to me a few years ago and said, "I have a son who hates school, get's horrible grades like you did, but loves to draw - what should I do with him?" I was pretty much at a loss because unless he was willing to put his kid in a private school he was stuck with a square peg kid in a round hole school. I told him to appreciate his abilities, nurture his art, and let him know how valuable he is while encouraging him to do his best.

Obviously this is a subject that I'm passionate about and in some ways is out of bounds for the direction of my blog but it's who I am and I wanted to share it. It's too important for me to sit by and watch while my heart aches for some of the kids I meet at my school visits. I love to tell kids how hard it was for me to learn to read. I love to watch their expressions as I tell them that even though I pretended to read and only looked at the pictures I was able to get it over time. It just took me longer and a few great teachers and a mom who cared and wouldn't let me fail.

A friend warned me not to post this on my blog because I do a fair amount of school visits and this might offend school teachers and administrators. When my 18 year old son Aaron was in elementary school his 4th grade teacher gave the class a self portrait assignment. Aaron was so excited and got busy drawing himself with a sword, an earring, and a Mohawk haircut - his teacher gave him an D and got upset at him. I wimped out and said nothing because I wanted to stay in good graces with the school district. I've always regretted my decision to do nothing. The truth is I don't want to visit a school where administrators aren't aware, sensitive, or at least willing to ponder and learn about this problem. It's not about us – it's about the kids. We need to send the message to our elected officials that we're tired of killing creativity in our Public Schools.
For more on this subject I recommend "A Whole New Mind" by Daniel Pink (I have it down on the left side of my blog) and TED talks by Sir Ken Robinson on youtube

Sunday, December 18, 2011

7 Reasons You Should Be Blogging

I think a lot of artists want to sequester themselves in their studio, nook, or cave and create - it's natural since our work is often very personal. But! The audience we create for wants to know more about us than just browsing our online portfolios. "But Will, what if I don't have an audience?" Here are 7 reasons you should be blogging anyway:

1) Online Journal of Your Progress -So what if you think nobody is reading - do it for you. Being selfish with your blog is a good thing - you'll do more of what you want and ironically that will make your blog more valuable to like minded people.

2) For Your Mom -Your mom wants to know what you're up to and if you're regularly blogging you can get a quick follower by letting her know.

3) Accountability -Having assignments and deadlines are good for us. If you know that you owe your blog an update you'll be more likely to log out of Facebook and get on with working on you - which is a good thing right? Good drawing skills require exercise - get crackin!

4) Learning -If you treat it right you'll actually learn more than if you don't blog. Not all blog posts are the same but sometimes you might want to teach a process, idea, or technique. Inevitably you'll have to look stuff up so you don't sound like a moron (like me) - there, now you're learning.

5) Help Others -Probably the best reason to blog. We're all in this together. I'm a product of many artists and teachers along the way - some I've given credit to - some I've forgotten or don't realize the impact they've had on my career - some I've borrowed from...ok, stolen - but you get the point. We all get help - blogging is a way to repay.

6) Story -Like I mentioned in the beginning - people want to know about the artist behind the art. In fact I'll go as far as saying that most people purchase the artist just as much as the art it's self. I'm constantly surprised and disappointed when I run across an artist's website with great work but no blog. I want to know the human side behind the craftsman. I want to learn from them - know what they're into besides making art.

7) Selling Stuff -Money often gets a bad wrap. Sometimes we look down on those who aren't afraid to come right out and talk about making money or running a business - like we're above it. Let me make a case for money. Everyone wants it and everyone needs it. Without it we don't have a car, home, clothing or food - so money is life. So perhaps #7 should be 7) Making Life (that sounded wrong but you get the point) As artists we have to sell our work in some form be it originals, prints, books, apps, ebooks, cards, stamps, collectibles, animations, etc. Developing a good blog following is a great way to get the word out when you have a new _______ to offer.

I've mentioned why I blog before but I thought I would try to give a more complete list because I know how much it's helped me. When I first started I'll have to admit it seemed really weird. "I'm writing to myself...this is strange...nobody even knows I have a blog...nobody cares...people will laugh at me...I have body odor, etc"

It's never too late to start a blog but if you wait, you'll be that much further behind when you realize, "I should have started last year".

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Color Comp In 45 Minutes!!!

No Trees were harmed in the making of this post!

So last week I was in a boring meeting being bored...and my back was a bit stiff as I recall - BUT, I had my trusty iPad! Have I ever mentioned how much I love the iPad??? Ok, so I whipped it out (the iPad) and started free drawing with my finger - which I almost forgot to bring with me - shewwy. The sketch portion took me about 3 hours - part in the meeting and the rest while watching "Waiting For Superman" which I highly recommend.

Sometimes you might want to try out some colors before making the commitment of a full painting but you don't want to spend a lot of time. This is an easy step by step if you have photoshop - or Gimp - I haven't tried it but I'm hearing great things. I would love to hear what those of you who use Gimp here is the iPad sketch:

And this is layer 2 in photoshop. I make it a "multiply" layer and with the airbrush and low settings on flow and opacity I start laying in values. Anywhere you think there would be shadows or dark colors.

Layer 3 is the easiest layer that should take about 20 seconds or less depending on your mad photoshop skills or caffeine/blood level. Make another "multiply" layer and then pick the color that you feel best represents the overall mood or tone of the piece. In this case I knew I wanted a night scene so I went with a dark blueish purple. Select "paint bucket" and click. Done.

The 4th layer is where you just pick out a few highlights and that's basically it. You can get an idea if you like a color scheme pretty quick with a process like this. It was one of the steps I knew I should have taken when I worked in acrylics but didn't want to spend the time doing. Sketching on the iPad really speeds it up in that you never stop. As soon as the sketch is finished you email it to your desktop or laptop and keep there's even time to check FB!

Here is a short video of the sketch process with narration - iPad/brushes app/finger

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sneak Preview - How To Design An Image

This has been a total joy to work on this image and video for two very different reasons. 1) Since I'm using it in my upcoming video tutorial "How To Design An Image" it was a good excuse to work on a fun piece. The video will be released at Folio Academy around January. 2) I figured why not kill two birds with one stone and make an assignment out of it - illustrate a song. The song is Tomorrow by Ladytron.

1) I've wanted to make a video series on design and composition for years and it's finally happening! I've been gathering and working this up literally for two years plus. It's been the hardest tutorial I've put together out of all of the video tutorials I've made thus far. Design is one of those subjects that teachers often fail to break down for students. It's really difficult to put feelings into words and concepts - things that you learn over time and begin to accept. There really isn't any magic to it if you're willing to break it down into steps and principles. So anyway I hope to have it up on Folio Academy in early January along with a complete re-design of the site.

2) I chose to illustrate a song because I've never done it before and I really really really love this song - Tomorrow by Ladytron. It's one of those songs that I think most of us can relate to in one way or another. The figure is loosely based on lead singer Helen Marnie but not really because I don't enjoy doing likenesses.

I went to H.S. during the 80's and will admit that I liked Thomas Dolby when you could get your &$% kicked for it. Also I was way into Depeche Mode, The Smiths, A Flock of Seagulls and so on. In the 90's Pet Shop Boys, Electronic, INXS, and so on. Now it's called synthpop or electronic and I still love it.

My iPod is full of: Cut Copy, Ladytron, Faded Paper Figures, The Dandy Warhols, Hey Champ, Miike Snow, Tenek, Coconut Records, Groove Armada, Empire of the Sun, Paola, Mount Sims, Zoot Woman, MGMT, Ladyhawke, Phoenix, Guster, Tesla Boy, and on and on.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Super Hero School Visits!!!

Imagine going back to elementary school - not as a kid or a teacher and not as the Principle or as a parent (been there done that) but as a SUPER HERO!!!! That's what it's like when you go as an illustrator. Think about it: the teachers hype you for weeks prior to your visit and the kids get the idea that you're a mythical creature coming to save the school - and you DO! because you get them out of class!!! So there you are (a normal putz like me) but the kids think you're awesome - so you start believing them...then you remember you're still going to have to do dishes when you get home -but while you're there you get to play super hero - able to draw tall buildings in a single swipe!...I need a cape.

Here I am a few weeks ago in Ogden Utah at Wasatch Elementary throwin down for the kids on my iPad. I had such a blast drawing for them and talking about what it's like to be an illustrator of children's books, ebooks, and apps.

What I include in my school visits:
1) Belly slide across cafeteria floor to get the kids amped! (remember to grease belly next time)
2) Talk about how hard it was for me to learn to read.
3) Explanation of illustrator responsibilities with funky pictures.
4) Read along with kids.
5) Short lesson on turning words into pictures.
6) Wow factor illustration demo on iPad.

My favorite part is how the kids go silent when I start drawing on the iPad hooked to the LCD projector - it's fun because I remember watching drawing shows and being mesmerized.

Suzane Bolar, the principle was awesome to work with - Thanks Suzane! She even called the press and got a write up in the local paper - here's the link:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tree Face Assignment

I gave this assignment in my media techniques class last night. I projected the images below from my iPad on the screen to be used as reference.

I told my class to create a tree that had at least one face in it. That's it. Then I started having fun. I didn't have any watercolor paper but I did have a gessoed board so I grabbed that and started drawing with a 12 cent papermate ballpoint pen.

I almost finished the drawing in class but when I got home last night picked it up again and fooled with it again in front of the TV (office re-runs). I love drawing in the living room - my mom used to needle point and I think of this as my equivalent.

This morning I decided to play hookie from the projects I'm supposed to be working on and fiddle with the sketch in photoshop. I got this far in about 3 hours. I'm still going to paint this in class next week with watercolor but sometimes you have to just do what you want and let the consequences follow right? I hope my kids aren't reading this...meh - no worries - they never read my blog.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Give Your iPad The Finger!!!!

I've gone totally paperless in my studio (for drawing) and in the above video I show why and how. Right now I'm working on an ebook app and I'm drawing it entirely with my finger on my iPad. I'm doing all the color work in Photoshop but all the drawings are being done on the iPad. It's not a fad or gimmick to be able to say I can do it, rather a natural evolution that has increased my workflow, productivity, and portablility. Check it out.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Meet The Monsters of my Monster App!

I'm putting all my faith in these dudes. They say they're good but we'll see when we finally get this app launched in the app store. I was first introduced to the big spotted green guy years ago and he says he won't work without his crew so I had to write all of them into the script. I gave all of them a fresh coat of paint so they shouldn't have any excuses. I have to admit they are pretty fun to have hanging around the studio although the purple guy makes a mess going through my trash.

For the past 5 months I've gone totally paperless and sketch exclusively on my iPad now. The major reason is that I never have to worry about running out of "paper" or room to complete a drawing. When sketching on paper if my drawing became cramped at the edge of the paper I would have to scan my paper or sketchbook, re-size in photoshop, and print on new paper. Not so on iPad - I just hit "re-size" in my drawing program (brushes) and/or move/shrink and keep drawing. My workflow is much faster - AND - environmentally friendly (insert my smiling face with eye sparkle). Anyhow, you can check out more of my iPad sketches for the ebook I'm working on in past posts.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How Teaching Art Put A Ferrari In my Driveway

I created the image above in my media techniques class at UVU.

Ok, follow me on this one.

I was stagnating as an illustrator 5 years ago when I was living in a small town outside of Fresno California. I didn't know it but I was losing my passion and energy for children's book illustration and I wasn't evolving. If I didn't have a commission I wasn't drawing.

When we decided to move to Utah I was contacted by Perry Stewart, head of the illustration dept. at UVU, who asked me to teach (currently teaching for Don Seegmiller ). I accepted and jumped into my classes. I had no idea that I would soon have a brand new Ferrari in my driveway!

I soon found myself reading and researching the principles and techniques I was teaching. I started discovering new artists- devouring their work and making collections on my computer from which to teach.
I started this blog with the encouragement of Lael Henderson- a friend. I figured if nobody visited my blog I could at least use it to post things for my students.

I started going to visiting artist lectures at UVU and BYU a few miles away. It's amazing how exposure to accomplished dynamic creators can influence your thinking and the way you view your own work. I found myself wanting to improve my craft and began to realize that I had been stagnating in Cali.

I was invited to teach the illustration track at "Writing & Illustrating for young readers" an annual children's book conference out here. In class I mentioned that I wished I could render my style in Photoshop and one of the guys in my class (Jed Henry a recent graduate) told me he could show me how. A month later I finished my first Photoshop piece (below) even though I had to start over three times.

I started making speed painting videos and posting them on YouTube just for fun. One day a former student emailed me and basically said, "neat- but no educational value....why don't you make a tutorial?" I thought, " yeah, why not?" now I have those as well.

Working in Photoshop was so much faster - I could produce more work in the same amount of time. When I learned about the possibility of producing my own ebooks I realized I could work them into my normal commission workload. Fast forward and my ebooks are earning a nifty amount of money....enough to put a Ferrari in my driveway? Not quite- but they could some day!...but I would never buy a Ferrari - not my style - couldn't even fit in it....I'll probably buy a beat up used truck.

Sorry for the bait & switch with the Ferrari but my point is that I've gotten way more value out of teaching than an exotic car could ever give. It's given me fulfillment, satisfaction, and re- tooled my process for the future. It makes me accountable in my own art. It forces me to revisit design principles regularly. It exposes me to new technology and methods and ways of thinking. Sure it puts food on the table but I get so much more than that. Probably the biggest thing I get is the satisfaction of helping others find the joy of turning their visions into realities. Helping someone have an "aha moment!" can't buy it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Frustration, Pain, Anguish, and Disappointment

First - here is another sketch for my monster app - The monsters are coming! This is going to be a really good test in marketing when I'm finished. Not only will I have it programed for Ipad/iphone but also Kindle Fire so I'll have a good comparison on these two retail giants. I don't ever know whether to call it an app or an ebook - if I call it an app people think it's a game - ebook and they might not look for it in the app store. Confusing.

Ok, what's up with all the frustration and pain talk? Over the years I've gotten to know quite a few artists and I've realized that most of us share something that I don't think the 9 to 5'ers have. We often bleed for our art. I'm not saying that people that work a shift don't care about their jobs and aren't dedicated but I do think that in general, artists have to invest much more emotionally.

There's nothing like the euphoria of working on a piece that's really working - at times it's almost like it's painting itself and you're just there as an observer. But, when it's not working out the agony is often hard to bare. I used to burn paintings every now and then and while it relives a little stress it still haunts you until you right the wrong you created. When a painting is going south the lies begin, "it's not that bad"..."it's good"..."it will start looking good after I finish the figure"...We want it so bad that we're willing to overlook obvious major problems - kind of like I do with my kids. :)

I've had students crying in my classes before because their paintings were heading straight to hell. I tell them that their tears are a great sign. Tears over paintings mean that you have the aesthetics and sensibilities to know that you aren't achieving the vision you have in your mind. That you know you are much more than your creation. That your expression is being stifled by the skills you have yet to attain. There's nothing sweeter than scratching, clawing, and bleeding for your art when it reaches your vision. If it were easy it would be common and worthless.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Don't Always Do It The "Right Way"

Remember when owning a home was a mandatory part of a healthy financial portfolio? I think this is the first time that financial planners are backing off saying, "owning CAN also be a good addition to a financial portfolio."

I bring this up because when I'm down at school I constantly hear students telling eachother things like, "you're supposed to do it this way" or "that's not the way that so and so said to do it." I believe in obeying the rules most of the time...wait - that sounded like a rule! bout: Obey some of the rules some of the time but not all of the rules all of the time unless you want to but if you want to break all of the rules that might be good too however that probably won't work either so don't listen to me but you should listen to some people if you feel they're giving good information. hmmmmmmm. How bout some examples:

Bill Gates - laughed at by IBM executives for only wanting to license his operating system. In other words he was laughed at for "doing it the wrong way."

John Lasseter - Fired from Disney for wanting to introduce computer animation to Disney productions - Started Pixar - Now chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He is also currently the Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering...pssssst - he did it the wrong way.

Steve Jobs - How many times do you think he was laughed at for all the innovative ideas he implemented. It's easy to think, "why would I laugh at Jobs? - he created so many wonderful products." Before he attained his unimaginable success he was often branded a nut for his strange decisions.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin created a search engine their way - a different way - they broke the rules. They were also late to the search engine party and couldn't get anyone's attention. All the big search engine companies showed them the door when they tried to sell their they started Google.

Last night in my watercolor class I kept hearing students talking about using watercolors "the right way."....

So I created this piece: Watercolor, collage, acrylic, digital, and ball point pen.

We are in a creative field and some rules are very important...but learning to break some of them is the difference between leading and following. Can you afford to follow in an industry that's always looking for fresh work?

Assignment: Illustrate a "banjo pig" using watercolor to post on

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monster App color work

I have nothing creative to write today - I'm drained from working til 3 am on this piece. I thought I was done but when I looked at it again this morning I realized there were quite a few more tweaks needed- 3 hours later and I think I'm finally finished...again!

I've included several versions with various assets on different layers because there will be animations in this app. If you've been reading my blog I said that I wanted to have animation but didn't know how to do it or set up for it but that someone would come into my life to help me. Well, it happened a few weeks ago - I've teamed up with a Disney animator and he's going to be teaching me and working with me to make this project happen! Kind of the, "If you build it they will come" model.

I wasn't interested in programing superfluous animations in my ebook. One thing I'm constantly seeing in ebooks and apps is animation and/or sounds that don't move the story forward - in fact I'm guilty of that in my Monkey & Croc ipad app. On this one I wanted to create a story/interactive ebook that couldn't exist in physical book format. Part of an on going exploration of this technology. It's fun to think about the future and how I'll feel about all of this 5 or 10 years down the road, lessons learned, bumps, bruises, and hopefully a few smiles....ok, a lot of smiles!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Get Over It - You're Just Another Artist!

Status Update: Monster App still on schedule (there's no schedule so I'm right on time)

Just Another ARTIST???!!! What kind of a statement is that?

Remember back when you were in junior high and you started making really bad copies of spider man or (insert cool character here) and because it sort of resembled what you were going for you thought you were an amazing artist? Your friends who had quit trying to draw were now propping you up - "awww WICKED"..."dude that's bad". Fast forward to high school and you were determined to draw in art class amongst the stoners. It didn't take long for you to get their attention: "Dude that's bad ass....draw Eddie from Iron Maiden on my Jacket." Your head was completely filled with hot gasses and arrogance as you headed off to college. Even though your teachers bathed you in beautiful images from working professionals you weren't that impressed. Caught up in the grandeur of your graduating portfolio you excitedly started marketing your work. When assignments didn't actually flood in you got the first twinge of insecurity but you shrugged it off. After a few years of struggling to keep freelancing you gained a partial attitude overhaul. Humility was still in short supply but you started giving a few nods to other artists. 5 years in and you put yourself near the top shelf of illustration talent. 7 years and you still grossly overestimated your skills. 10 years - the internet was bringing more and more amazing artists to your attention. 15 years you realized you're just another set of hands. 18 years you start to feel lucky to be an illustrator. 20 years and you know you're lucky! Being able to do what you do while there are so many artists much more talented and capable than you roaming this little rock. Fear sets in when you might not be keeping up. Embarrassing, but this was me.

Become a "WHOLE" artist:
Work hard
Have heroes
Open mind

Illustrating illustration ebook app kindle nook ipad iphone format

Monday, October 31, 2011

Is It Work When You're Having Fun?

Because I'm "working" late and often respond to things on Facebook my friends, family, and students know I "work" late. Sometimes I get accused of being a work-o-holic but is it really work if I'm having this much fun? I love drawing. I love illustrating ideas - but most of all I love the satisfaction I get when I see how children and parents respond to my work. The ability to communicate with pictures is basically a part of who I am. I can't imagine what life would be like without being able to create narrative images. I don't want to know what it would be like....I think you know it's not work when you're doing something you would do regardless of the monetary compensation.

So "working" on this monster app isn't work at all - it's therapy. I don't feel any stress or anguish over it and that in and of it's self is my payment. When I'm finished and it is formatted for Ipad / Iphone and perhaps the new kindle fire the money I make or don't make is a distant by-product of my passion. I'm not going to be a phony and tell you I don't want it to make money but the money is irrelevant to my joy and happiness in the creation process. I'm not going to worry about editing "this or that" in or out to please a certain demographic. All I'm going to do is make an app / ebook that I would want to buy and use with my kid - again, I'm going to be selfish.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Did I mention how much fun I'm having?

So anyway - working on this project is way more fun than getting hit by a car twice. Wait, have I mentioned that I've been hit by two different cars both while riding a bike? - not the same bike different bikes...and different cars - different years - and different drivers...I don't think they knew each other...both my fault. I did however learn two big lessons - 1) I am stupid and 2) I want to be in the car the next time I get hit.

But wait - this is supposed to be about illustration, ebooks, writing, apps, formating, tablets, ereaders, etc.

Ok, Status: All of these monster sketches are for an ipad / iphone app that I'm making. It will: have a story, be interactive, be in color, be animal friendly, eco friendly, kid friendly, and car friendly....It will have friends.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

ebooks, apps, and selfishness

Selfishness? really? but we were always taught to be charitable, giving, and unselfish. Ok - I needed a provocative title but I'm going to defend it. How many times have you as an illustrator, graphic designer, author, artist, or creator allowed yourself to create under the umbrella of a studio, publisher, client, friend, spouse, parent etc.? In other words how often do you create for someone else? How often do you allow the parameters of the assignment dictate choice? How often are your choices influenced by what you think "they" want and not what you want? We all do it - even if you're a gallery artist chances are you create "in step" with the body of work the gallery owner has accepted. Right?

So my message today is that the invention of computers, tablets and ereaders and the internet have given power back to the artist. It's an amazing time my fellow artists. I now give you permission to be selfish - and it's a good thing when it comes to your art. Never before in the history of the world have artists been given the ability to get their work to their audience so cheaply. Because it's so cheap it means we can do it on our own so we don't necessarily need someone putting restrictions on our content. I'm not saying that it's not good to get opinions from other professionals but now we can do what we want - the environment for complete creativity is autonomy. I'm embracing ebooks, apps, and whatever else develops in the future.

So be selfish - your best art has yet to be created - what's hiding in there?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More Monster app!

Having a blast working on this little project - I don't sleep much anymore but as I get older I realize that we only have a short window to make it happen - whatever "it" is. I love the challenge of developing good instruction for my college classes, pleasing my freelance clients, pleasing myself on personal projects and my continued involvement on the day to day workings of Folio Academy.

I think I've found a programer and animator to help me see this vision through - I'm having so much fun - at work!!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Monster App

Here is another sketch for the ipad/iphone app I'm working on. I do not have a programer yet - have talked to a few but I want to find someone who believes in my project enough to go all in with me and share the loot we most certainly will rake in. This is certainly another leap of faith but I've found that if you have a dream and can see - really see the vision of it, you should go for it! I've been learning this over the past year and have enjoyed a fair amount of success with this method of working. I'm sure I'll have my fair share of failures - wait - I've done that:

My Failed books: "The magical world Inside Abandoned Refrigerators", "Daddy Drinks Because You Cry", and "You Are Different and That's Bad".....ok ok - I lifted these from the internet but you get the picture. I've had failures and I'll have more and you know what? That's ok.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Justin Gerard Visit

The piece above is NOT mine. I wish it were. I love this piece. It's Justin Gerard's. You might have noticed that I've had a link to Justin Gerard's website here on my blog for a few years now. When I came across his work for the first time in 2008 I was blown away. His sense of design, color, drawing, rendering, etc spoke to me right away. Definitely one of my mentors in illustration and I was so excited when Don Seegmiller invited him out to give a lecture and all day demo here in Utah at UVU.

After all the illustration stuff was out of the way a few of us: Don Seegmiller, Peter Sakievich, Justin, and myself were able to sneak away down to Goblin Valley for a few days.

It's so important to take time to get out and observe natural surroundings to increase your visual vocabulary but also unplug and feed your spirit.

There are lighting situations that you just can't conjure on your own - even if your work is highly stylized I believe that it all starts with careful observations that can later be distilled into original work.

Justin had way more energy than the rest of us put together - while we surrendered to taking our shoes off and fording the stream a few times - Justin took on the challenge showing off his mad scrambling skills. Then he walked the next two or three miles sans shoes!

Justin has a great sense of humor (not shown in this picture) and is very approachable (just don't say, "I'm lovin it!" - he hates crass commercial messages). I was surprised at how much we share in common especially our theories of making great images. He's accomplished much more than I ever did at age 31 - scary for some of the older students at UVU. We had a great time and I hope to meet up with him again sometime soon. Oh, one more thing - he doesn't snore but Don can compete with a diesel engine! Check out more of his work at his blog. He's also a regular contributor over at the Muddy Colors Blog.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sketch for a New Book Project

I'm working on a new picture book and I thought I'd post one of the sketches - it's a bit rough but I thought I'd post work in progress as I get going on it. This will be another ebook that I will finish down the road. I say down the road because I know this one is going to take much longer than the other ones I've produced in the past. I've decided to gamble more time in order to produce a final product that I feel is worthy of long term recognition. Illustrating children's books is still probably the funnest thing on earth next to sneezing 9 times in a row (my personal best) and when I'm working on one like this -time seems to move x 10.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Experimenting on the Ipad

Just having a little fun with the "Artrage" app on my IPad. I like it for mimicking lush buttery oil paint without all the mess and clean up. I also like the ability to "dry" the painting so you can work on top of the thick paint you already put down. The wet into wet or alla prima simulation is almost unnerving in how real it feels.

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's live on Folio Academy! - New Photoshop Tutorial

As Promised I'm finally finished with this series - I'll be updating accounts this week for all those who have already purchased "Digital Painting in Photoshop from either or So - I'm giving this tutorial away for Free to anyone who has purchased the first course. I'm not sure how long it will take to get all the accounts updated - we're working on a way to automate it but either way it will happen soon.

Friday, September 2, 2011

New Photoshop Tutorial

Whoooeee - I'm finished! This was a fun one and now I'm in the editing process for the video tutorial. As I mentioned before I'll be giving this one away for FREE to anyone who has purchased my "Digital Painting in Photoshop" Videos from either my site or Folio Academy. It's my way of saying thanks for all the support we've been getting and continue to get. I hope to be finished with the editing process in a week or so - I have a crazy hectic schedule at the moment.

I'm tired - having fun but tired - I'm wearing lots of hats right now. Just trying to get the colors right - this piece is a challenge because there isn't a lot of warm light which means almost everything needs to be on the cool side.

It's slow going but I'll get there. Just starting to add lighter values and colors and trying to figure out my color scheme as I go. One of the advantages of working digitally - testing colors on "throw-a-way" layers.

I've now added a "multiply" layer and started to work color into the background using the airbrush with the "texture" turned on in the brush pallet. The texture is a scanned texture I made with acrylic heavy gel medium and black and white acrylic paint.

I added the value on the ipad using the airbrush tool. I want to try to figure out where all the dark and light areas are going to be before I start adding color. This is crucial because once you get deep into the color process it's hard to fix value problems.

Since I've switched over to Photoshop 5 I thought it might be nice to offer another tutorial. I'm going to give it away for FREE to those who have already purchased my "Digital Painting in Photoshop" video series - I'll just update everyone's account at Folio Academy with this new video series. So what I'm going to do is work on it a little each day and post my results here on my blog as I have a big project for National Geographic Kids Mag going on right now too.

This is a little sketch I did on my ipad with my finger - I've gone paperless by the way - I never intended to go green but when technology makes it easier to use than paper...

I'm calling this painting "Class System". I find it ironic that often it's the working class/poor who are much happier in life than the rich who control everything but still turn to drugs, alcohol, and suicide. Oh no - I actually have something to say? This is weird.

Anyway, I'll try to post my results each day for a week or so.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Rant About Artists Not Publishing Their Phone Numbers!!!

Disclaimer - The above video was produce by some nut job and cannot be held liable for opinions or expressions that may be contrary to this blog.
If you have questions or concerns please address them to him.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Folio Academy is finally here!!!

I'm so proud and excited to announce our new creation - Folio Academy - online art lessons for everyone. You can check it out here.

Back in October I was driving home from a long day teaching at UVU here in Utah and I heard a woman being interviewed by Dave Ramsey on the radio. I can't tell you her name or the name of her book because I was talking back skeptically and sarcastically. The woman was saying that EVERYONE has something they do in their spare time or professional life that they could use to earn extra income. I was thinking, "I'm an illustrator and a teacher...what else could I possibly have time for??!!!" It bugged me for about a week when a thought popped into my head - I teach...why not teach to the video camera and then sell the videos on my website???...I love teaching and video editing has been a little hobbie - so I did.

And then I heard the voices - "this is a waste of time"..."who do you think you are anyway?"..."you could be watching Flintstones re-runs." But I silenced the voices and forged ahead. In between a book project and some text book covers I grabbed 10 days where I basically didn't sleep. At the end of that torture session I emerged gleaming with my finished product: "How To Illustrate Children's Books". I was so proud. It was a labor of love indeed. I should probably back up a bit - I was lucky in that I have a programmer living with me - my brother in law - and he assured me that he was up to the task of programming my website so that we could sell streaming videos. He would take care of the tech end and I would take care of making the videos.

Because I had to jump right back into illustrator mode I was only able to spend one day marketing my little video series. I contacted a few illustration bloggers like Angela Matteson - Angelato and children's book blogs like Mark Mitchell's How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator and invited them to do a blog post and give-a-way of my video series. They accepted as did about 4 other bloggers and from there I started selling my videos. Every now and then someone who purchased my videos liked them enough to do a blog post on them like Paula Pertile who used the photoshop concepts I put in my videos to achieve an unbelievable digital version of her colored pencil drawings. I know I'm leaving a lot of wonderful people out but there are too many to mention...but Sue from Moab has been a great supporter!

Fast forward through a few more video series and I started getting asked by fellow artists about how my videos were selling and if I thought it was worth doing. Of course I told them I did but the problem most artists have is the programming side of selling videos from their own site. I put my head together with a few artist friends and together we decided to make a site available to artists of every kind. One of my illustrator friends said, "Can you imagine what it would have been like to have a resource like this when we were going to school?"

Artist Greg Newbold setting up for his video shoot

So our goal is to find the best artists from around the world and see what they have to teach. We've partnered with several local video studios like Amber Media Pro and Provo Creative and are inviting artists to come into the studio for a day and do their thang in front of the cameras. Of course not every artist can get to us so we'll also offer their videos if they can produce them themselves. We're of course small now but we plan to release one new video series per week. Over time there's no telling where this will go.

So, woman on the radio talking about monetizing your hobbie whoever you are - thank you! - and my apologies for doubting you.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Should You Follow Your Dreams?

What kind of question is that? Of course you should...I mean, of course you shouldn't. I guess it depends on who you ask. I'm often asked questions like this by my students. They often want to know if it's possible to follow their dreams of becoming a professional artist/illustrator and can they make enough money to support themselves.

This is an impossible question to answer in a few short sentences. It's also probably impossible to answer yes or no. What I can do is offer my insights but, I would also council students to get opinions from other sources.

First, I believe that most successful artists have an internal drive to create. A need. A burning from within to draw, paint, sculpt, write, play, or whatever. I also see that this desire is stronger in some than others - think of it like "the force". And then there's that need to make money for survival. These two needs are often at odds with one another. Parents send their kids to school to prepare them for careers and everybody knows you can't make a living as an artist...or that the odds of making a living as an artist are pretty slim.

If you only look at the figures it's totally impractical to choose art as a career - score one for parents - but statistics can be misleading. Lets go off on a tangent...

In the United states there are approximately 8,000 poisonous snake bites each year. So if you live here you have a one in 43k chance of being bitten by a poisonous snake. However what if you're a home body - couch potato - a slug who lives in the city and never goes out? Are your chances the same? Also, would your chances go down if you never pick up snakes? Included in the 8,000 statistic are all of the 16-24 year old boys/men who "feel the need" to pick up snakes. In fact more than half of the 8,000 people bitten each year are morons who picked up poisonous snakes. So are your personal chances of being bitten really 1 out of 43k? I know I have a much lower chance taken these additional facts into consideration - I don't pick up snakes.

So how does this apply to your chances of "making it" as a professional artist? I think you need to take a hard look at yourself because in the end only you can answer the questions that can get you past the statistics.

Are you always creating? Drawing, painting, etc? Is it the most important thing in your life? Are you happy with the visualization of yourself doing something other than an art career? Do you give up other activities to pursue art? Do you identify yourself as an artist? Do you treat socializing on weekends as a sacred ritual or can you give it up to perfect your art projects? Do you have artist role models? Are you motivated to pursue entrepreneurial projects? Do you believe you can "make money" if you have a good product and are willing to work hard? Do you feel free to do what you want in life without the blessing of your parents, friends, or siblings? Do you like to improvise and experiment or feel the need to follow instructions on projects to a fault? Do you over-estimate your artistic abilities? - you should if you want to go for it.

These are just a few questions I think you need to be able to answer in order to know if your odds are better or worse for being able to "make it" as a professional artist. I believe that some have a much better chance simply because of their life style, habits, and choices, while others have a horrible shot at it because it's just not that important to them.

In the end one thing's for sure: There are lots of people who regret not following their dreams and lots of people who have regrets about following their dreams. Each probably feel they should have taken the other path.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I Want To Dedicate My Book To Your Child?

I did this a few months ago for a different book - Now I have another book and I'm going to dedicate it to the lucky winner - one of your children or grandchildren! My kids are all too old to appreciate it and thank heavens I don't have any grandchildren yet. This is a re-telling of "The Little Ginger Bread Man" story by Helen Ketteman and she exchanged the ginger bread man for a fat sassy little corn cake.

1) You may only nominate one name.
2) It must be your child or grandchild.
3) The child has to be born (not cooking) and must be age 4 or younger.
4) The child can't already have a book dedicated to them.
5) You have to find me on Facebook and enter your nomination there.

I will choose a name out of a hat ON VIDEO and post it on FB On Sunday Aug 7th at 5:00 pm Mountain. Good Luck - I can't wait to see who wins!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Test Image

I was asked to complete a test image for a game project. I hope I get to do it because it's a really cool idea and the images would be really fun to render. I'm not allowed to discuss the concept but I had fun with this one! I started this image drawing in "brushes" on my ipad - then I brought the sketch into photoshop for the final rendering.

Being an illustrator has been a great career for my A.D.D. - there's always a new project, new image, new medium, etc to feed my distractions.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Oil Study

I can't believe it's almost August! This means school is less than a month away for me so I thought I'd get a little practice before I start teaching the Oil/watercolor techniques class at UVU here in Utah. I'm really looking forward to learning right along with my class - the emphasis is on experimentation/ innovation. I like to think of it like we're a bunch of mad scientists in our laboratory (pron: La-bore-a-tree) tinkering, combining, creating...basically making a mess and calling it work.