brave new world

Facebook Faces

A deteriorating stylus pen has precipitated an upgrade of my work environment this weekend. Anyone who knows me well is aware of the fact that I am a creature of habit, and don’t take well to change in my routine, so I tend to hang on to outdated software, and work methods long past their expiration dates, just so I can avoid the unpleasantness of the unknown. I had been using Painter IX for a long time, even though my wife had purchased an upgrade to Painter X several years back (I found Painter X so buggy and frustrating that I never made the switchover – constant crashes and lost work), and in the meantime, Painter had evolved through XI and XII. My Wacom tablet was the original one that we purchased over a decade ago, a huge honking thing that took up most of my desktop, and a stylus that was showing its age more and more with each passing year. I was on my last stylus tip, and the pen itself had some damage to the tip-end, making even replacement tips useless, so we upgraded this past week to a new Wacom Intuos 4 tablet. Well, the tablet didn’t want to play nicely with my old Painter IX software, and Painter X was still having problems when I tried it, so this morning we made the leap to Painter XII. Thankfully, I don’t have a lot of pressing work coming up in the next few days so I’ll have plenty of time to do some experimenting and figuring out where they hid all the bells and whistles in this new version, but for now, it feels like I’m drawing with a 4 foot rubber pencil wearing boxing gloves.

This facebook portrait today was the first thing I’ve drawn using the new interface, and just to make things even more challenging, I chose a new set of drawing tools and brushes that I hadn’t tried before, and also tried to stray further from the original photo reference. So, apologies to Tammi (#87), an old high school classmate, who had the misfortune of being my guinea pig this morning.

Mary, Sam, Scott, Mitt, Ellen & Scott & Blown Covers

Blown Covers, ChronicleHE, Facebook Faces, Uncle Goose Toys


Another facebook portrait this morning, and will probably do another on Sunday. #86, Mary, another high school classmate I assume, since she’s from Durand. Did this one in a mixture of pastel & watercolor from a rather fuzzy indistinct photograph.
I’m getting very near the halfway point in this summer challenge to draw each and every one of my facebook friends in a variety of styles. It has been an interesting experiment, and when I reach the end, I may find myself moving on to friends of friends and complete strangers, as I find myself with more freedom from the shackles of having to flatter and/or capture a specific likeness the more obscure and tenuous the relationship.

Today’s portrait is of a local singer/songwriter who runs several open mic venues here in Grand Rapids, Sam, done in a black and white pen and ink style.

And later in the day, I also did a portrait of Scott (#85), another high school bandmate, in a mix of colored pencils and watercolors.

And, no, I’m not facebook friends with Mitt Romney, but this was an addition to the ‘presidential blocks’ illustrations I did for Uncle Goose Toys a few years back, and they want to be ahead of the game, should Romney get into office this fall.

This week’s Blown Covers topic was ‘fashion’, and below was my entry for this week.


The above illustration was a small online spot for the Chronicle of Higher Education that I did earlier this week. This month marks the 20 Year Anniversary of working with this magazine (and the same Art Director, Ellen Winkler). Clients have come and gone over the past few decades, but I am grateful every day for the Chronicle, which has been, since the beginning, one of the most pleasant, enjoyable and stimulating working experiences of my career, and Ellen is one of the best ADs I’ve ever worked for, who knows when to let me loose, or reign me in, and has stuck with me while I learned the ropes of this vocation, worked out the kinks in my illustration style, and occasionally fallen flat on my face. Happy Anniversary Ellen and Scott and the rest of the gang at the Chronicle.

sketchy (& more portraits of course)

Facebook Faces, WSJ, xibitz

I spent a good portion of the day today working on sketches for various projects. The ‘figures’ above and below are for an upcoming museum display project that has been ongoing since early this spring, and will no doubt continue on into September. Once I get these figures approved, I’ll be finishing them in a black and white scratchboard style and they will be reproduced at life size.

Also this morning I had a project for the Wall Street Journal, that I was contacted about yesterday afternoon. I was made aware that there were other illustrators involved, and that this would possibly result in a kill fee for the sketches alone (and that’s how it worked out). Below are the two scenarios I was asked to sketch up.


And since I’m in a ‘sketching’ mood today, I’ll probably do a couple portraits before the day is out, in a sketch style (since I missed doing one yesterday due to taking the afternoon off for an extended bike ride in the 90 degree heat). Stay tuned.


The first of my ‘sketch portraits’ today is of Sarah, a German Exchange student we had living with us for a few weeks back in 2006 or 2007. And the second one of the ‘catch-up’ illustrations today is the wife of my music partner (#80), Beverly.

Chuck (81)

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Today’s portrait is another high school bandmate, Chuck, who graduated the year before I became a freshman, although he followed the marching band for several years afterwards and is the older brother of #66, and plays and sings in an ‘old timey’ band down in Florida. I did this one in oils, and tried to limit the color array to a certain extent. I may use this style for my blown covers sketch this week, as I came up with a concept around the same time I was working this drawing up.

Back to Work, you!

Blown Covers, Facebook Faces, Jukejoint Handmedowns, US Catholic


After an enjoyable but busy weekend, I’m settling back into work. The go ahead arrived for a couple big projects and I’ve got a few smaller finished illustrations to finish up this afternoon (which I’ll post later today), but in the meantime, here’s today’s portrait (#80) of my JJHD bandmate, Nate, done in a modified scratchboard/colored pencil hybrid style.

In other news, the ‘Blown Covers’ blog got another mention in the New Yorker’s ‘Culture Desk’ today because one of our group made the jump to the magazine this week, and since I happened to be one of the runners-up, my sketch is included in the slideshow at the bottom of the article (#9). You can click on the small version here to see a larger version. This is as close as I’ve ever gotten to being in the New Yorker (my dream client since first starting freelance illustrating back in 1989)


Also finished up an illustration for US Catholic this afternoon on rising divorce rates among the ‘over 50′ crowd.