Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Vacation Destination (Italy)

Shortly after getting married, in 2004, my wife and I went on a painting trip to Tuscany. If you ever get the chance to go, take it. The Italian country side is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Here are two paintings I did while on this trip.

"The town of Levanto is the doorway to the Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre (5 lands) is composed of 5 small villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, Corniglia, Riomaggiore.The Cinque Terre is a National Park and Unesco World Heritage site."

There is a trail that leads through all five villages, along the vertical cliff face. I made it to the fourth before bad weather forced a hasty retreat.

Cinque Terre oil on canvas board

"Imagine a beautiful little Tuscan town protected by massively thick 16th-century walls, featuring some of Italy's finest medieval and Renaissance architecture, superb dining, antique markets, classical and rock music festivals, easy access to stunning nearby villas in the surrounding hills and with endless beaches less than half an hour away. Lucca is one of Tuscany's best-kept secrets."

All of this, and I painted a bike?

"Bike in Lucca" Gouache in toned sketch book

Monday, December 29, 2008

Zombie Step x Step


Rough sketch

Reformated to fit cover and shadowed to guarantee PG13 approval


final design

Drawings and Demos (December)

40 min head drawing

25 min Fig Demo

2-3 min Quick Sketch

5 Min Quick Sketch

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Student Spotlight: Mike Hayes

I would like to take the time to introduce everyone to some of my more advanced students. This month I would like you to meet Mike Hayes. You can see more of his work here

Mike Hayes was born in a small town in Mid-western Canada, moved to Montreal when he was five, then moved down to San Diego when he was Fifteen. Mike moved up to San Jose when he was Twenty to finish his degree then moved back at Twenty-three. He have been working as a professional illustrator for about 6 months now as well as working very part-time for his Father as a Bookkeeper. Mike says " I don't really have much in the way of free time, but when I am not painting I enjoy just hanging out with friends, playing pool, watching movies, hitting on women that are out of my league,reading novels, and occasionally indulging the nerdier side of my personality playing trading card or miniatures games.

1. What inspired you to become an artist/illustrator?

This is actually quite a long story, if anyone is interested, the full version is on my website (www.artofmike.com) The short version goes something like this though: I had planned on becoming a software engineer, which led to web programming, then web graphics, then 3d modelling, then traditional sculpture and finally to traditional drawing and painting. From there, specializing in illustration was a natural fit for me given my tastes and desire to work on all aspects of a project, from start to finish.

2. What first drew you to study at Watts Atelier?

I had heard good things about the Atelier through the internet and a few friends. Initially I had only planned to stay for about a year, I had only really seen it as a place to hang out and work on my drawing a bit before I went off to get my masters degree. Within a few weeks of attending Watts I began to question that plan, by the end of the first quarter I was completely sold on the place and decided to stick around indefinetly. That was a bit more than 3 years ago, and was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions of my life.

3. What is you favorite genre/subject to illustrate?

While I enjoy painting just about anything in or related to the fantasy genre, I would say my favorite sub-genre would be mythology, specifically myths and legends from cultures that haven't been depicted as often as the Greeks and Romans. For me this is the right balance of making a painting historically and realistically grounded, while at the same time letting my imagination run free. As far as subject matter is concerned, you can take one look at my work and tell that I have a soft spot for painting beautiful women. I have been told I will grow out of this eventually, I sure as hell hope not.

4. What is your dream job/project to work on?

This is a bit of a tough question to answer, I have heard from many people in many different art related industries that the "dream jobs" are not usually all they are cracked up to be. I could give you a few stock answers such as working on my own book, doing a cover for [x] author or painting [x] character. I think though, when it comes down to it, my dream job is simply one that I really enjoy working on and leaves me with a painting I am truly proud of. I have already had a few of those and I hope to have a few more.

5. Which of your artistic achievments are you most proud of?

During my senior year of college when I decided I was going to abandon a potential career in 3d modeling to pursue traditional painting instead, I had a few professors and classmates tell me I was crazy and that I wouldn't make it. One professor in particular was especially zealous in trying to talk me out of it, going so far as to spend half an hour talking to my parents about his views on my future. This may sound a little arrogant and spiteful,(and I am not sure if qualify as having "made it" yet) but the achievment I am most proud of is working my ass off and proving him wrong.

6. What is your education background?

I finished high school in 2000, studied at a local community college for 2 years, graduated with honors from Cogswell Polytechnical College in 2005. I studied full time at Watts Atelier for 3 years and have recently moved down to part time status and plan to stay there indefinetely.

7. What do you feel has been most valuable to you in getting to where you are as a professional illustrator?

There is absolutely no way I will be able to narrow this down to a single answer, I think I could write a book on this. In no particular order: Hard work, smart work, patience, tenacity/persistance, excellent instruction/mentors, very supportive parents, great environment at the Atelier, friends who were willing to model for me, caffiene, the internet, illustrators/art directors who critiqued my work, luck... I could probably go on all day but you get the idea.

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Doing the same thing I am doing now, only I hope to be better at it, get paid more and work on higher-profile gigs. If circumstances permit,
I would also like to teach part-time in some way, shape or form.

9. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

For strengths: Patience, persistance and strong work ethic. I am simply not the type to half-ass things, whether it be my education or career in general or repainting a nose ten times until it is right. I have never seen myself as naturally "talented" but I think these other attributes have helped make up for that. As far as specifics go, I like to think that I am pretty good at faces/portraits.

For weaknesses. Here is another one I could write a book on... In the interest of not looking completely incompetant, I will try and narrow it down.
Speed , or lack thereof. I am a slow, methodical draftsman and painter. Thus, at the moment, I can't take as much work as I would like to, and I have to be really careful about taking work with tight deadlines. I am also a bit overly reliant on photoreference, I can make do without, but I don't like to and it slows me down quite a bit. For specifics: thumbs (the finger, not thumbnail sketches), I couldn't tell you why, but I *&%*ing hate those things.

10. What is your favorite book?

Without a doubt, "The Song of Fire and Ice" series by George R.R. Martin. Other notables are The Lord of the Rings, anything by Morgan Llywelyn and a newfound favorite of mine: Bernard Cornwell.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sketch Redux (December)

Here is one from the archives. This was my first assignment for Magic: the gathering.
this was my description:

ART DESCRIPTION: Color: Black Location: Ice Age Setting Action: Invent a horror creature that appears from the edge of oblivion. What it looks like is up to you. It should be at least 10 feet long/tall. Focus: the horror Mood: Oblivion is worse than death.
and this is the incredibly amateur sketch of an incredibly lame idea. I credit it to the stress of my first high-profile gig, but in truth I just had no idea what I was doing (as opposed to now when I a have very little idea of what I am doing)

I no longer have the email, but the art directors response was basically What the hell?! I hired you because you create creepy shit, and you give me a badly drawn "Starship Troopers" reject!!!
I am paraphrasing here.

So back to the drawing board I went, and came up with this.

He was much happier, so we got down to brass tacks.
Nice, but give him a body, right now it is too abstract.
Was the gist of his comments

So I gave him this

Good, but get rid of the cave man, this reads too much like an action, and not enough like a character.
He says, so I give him this

and the final...

So that was my first adventure into MTG

Friday, December 5, 2008

Greatest Show on Earth (December)

Scenes of the Season: Paintings and Illustrations from the Collection
November 28, 2008 - January 11, 2009
Winslow Homer, Maxfield Parrish, Jessie Willcox Smith, and N.C. Wyeth (plus the obligitory "and more") at the Brandywine River Museum... "hrmm"... could be okay, if you're into that sort of thing.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Author approved

I take it as a source of pride when, I can satisfy myself, the AD and the author with an illustration, especially when it is a writer of the caliber of a Hal Duncan.

Here is a link to an interview with Mr. Duncan on BookSpot Beat

and the pertinent excerpt

"Jay Tomio - The cover to Escape From Hell is sweet as well. . .hell. Did you have any input or is that just Chris Roberson handling business?

Hal Duncan - Chris put the artist, Erik Gist, in touch with me, and we threw a couple of ideas back and forth based on the synopsis – because the novella wasn’t quite finished at that point. There’s a scene later on that we both thought would have looked really cool — you’d have had the heroes all standing there, tooled-up and facing out at the reader; it would have had a nice “bring it on, motherfuckers” vibe – but one feature would have been a bit of a spoiler. In the end we both preferred the option Erik ran with, which is taken straight from the prologue with just a tiny bit of artistic license used to bring Lady Justice into shot. If I remember right, Erik suggested it in a really early email, and described it almost exactly the way that I’d always visualised the scene. So I was totally over-the-moon that we were on the same wavelength.

Really my input came down to “yes, that sounds fucking awesome,” and “oh, but yeah, this Hell is cold and grey rather than fiery and red”. I mean, the traditional imagery of Hell-as-inferno _almost_ got in the way for a whole millisecond – most images of Hell are all black and red after all, thick crimson skies, darkness and flames – but Erik had actually picked up on the ashen wasteland feel I was going for, so it was just a matter of confirming that his first instinct was correct. The colour palette he used for it is perfect, I think, and I love the little touches of red on the key characters – Seven’s shades, Belle’s rosary and so on."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Inside The Artist's Studio part 3

#3 forms and edges

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Drawings and Demos (November)

5 min quick sketch Demos

25 min +/- figure demos

2 hr drawing

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Vacation Destination

For once both my wife and I were relatively deadline free. So we took a day off and went up to a living history site in Oak Glen, CA called Riley's Farm I would encourage anyone in the area to go check it out, especially if you have kids.

Good food, the hallmark of any good day trip

We dipped candles... I know, DORKS!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Art Direction: Lou Anders

A 2008/2007 Hugo Award nominee, 2007 Chesley Award nominee and 2006 World Fantasy Award nominee, Lou Anders is the editorial director of Prometheus Books' science fiction imprint Pyr, as well as the anthologies Fast Forward 2 (Pyr, October 2008), Sideways in Crime (Solaris, June 2008), Fast Forward 1(Pyr, February 2007), FutureShocks (Roc, January 2006), Projections: Science Fiction in Literature & Film (MonkeyBrain, December 2004), Live Without a Net (Roc, 2003), and Outside the Box (Wildside Press, 2001). In 2000, he served as the Executive Editor of Bookface.com , and before that he worked as the Los Angeles Liaison for Titan Publishing Group. He is the author of The Making of Star Trek: First Contact (Titan Books, 1996), and has published over 500 articles in such magazines as The Believer, Publishers Weekly, Dreamwatch, Star Trek Monthly, Star Wars Monthly, Babylon 5 Magazine, Sci Fi Universe, Doctor Who Magazine, and Manga Max. His articles and stories have been translated into Danish, Greek, German, Italian and French, and have appeared online at SFSite.com, RevolutionSF.com and InfinityPlus.co.uk.

I first met Lou, along with John Picacio at Comic-Con in 2005, and again in 2006 at World Con where I discovered he is one of the best pitch men I have ever seen. He is a very knowledgeable and entertaining guy, which definitely makes for a good interview.

1:What education/experience/attribute do you feel has best prepared/served you for your job as an Art Director?
A lifetime spent reading comic books? Collecting endless Boris Vallejo and Roger Dean art books as a kid? This is a hard question to answer, because I came to art direction backwards from editorial, and I came to editorial from left field, having started out as a journalist and screenwriter in LA. My sensibilities may be more cinematic as a result. But I am indebted to illustrator John Picacio and Tor art director Irene Gallo for their advice. And to Jaqueline Cooke, Nicole Sommer-Lecht and Grace Conti-Zilsberger in the Prometheus art department for their talent and for putting up with me.

2:What project, that you have worked on, are you most proud of (as a writer, A.D., or editor or all of the above)?
It's hard to pick favorites among your children, let alone when we’re talking children from different households. But as an A.D., I'll say that the hardcovers of Kay Kenyon's books in her Entire and the Rose series (so far: Bright of the Sky, A World Too Near, and the forthcoming City Without End) are just absolutely gorgeous. Covers by Stephan Martiniere and design by Jacqueline Cooke. As an editor, my recent anthology, Fast Forward 2, pretty much does and says everything about science fiction and its importance I've ever wanted to say. The John Picacio cover is amazing, and it evolved across many, many hours of conversation between John and myself about the need of SF to engage the world. But the project I’m most proud of is always the one I’m working on at the time (at this very moment, that’s James Enge’s forthcoming Blood of Ambrose, cover art (a WIP preview to the left) by Dominic Harman, layout by Jaqueline Cooke, Interior Illustrations by Chuck Lukacs, Interior layout by Bruce Carle

3:Do you find it a hindrance or a benefit to wear many hats (writer, A.D., editor, etc.)
I love it, because I am involved in every aspect of a book’s production, from selecting the manuscript and working with the author, to selecting the cover artist and working with them. Because of this, it’s possible that I know the manuscript in a more intimate way and am more personally invested in it than most art directors would be able to, given the (mostly time) constraints of their jobs.

4: What is your dream job/project?
I'm doing it. Failing being the editorial director at Pyr, I have (pipe) dreams of some exceedingly well-funded animation studio opening up in Shanghai and hiring me to be the head honcho in charge of adapting English-language science fiction and fantasy novels for the big and small screen, to be dubbed into every possible language. I often despair at the intelligence/complexity gap between literary and filmic SF, but I think animation is a perfect vehicle for bringing works like John Meaney's brilliant Nulapeiron Sequence (Paradox, Context, Resolution) to life, and it would be a dream come true to have a hand in that.

5:Beyond technical ability, what characteristics do look for in an illustration portfolio?
Range. I see so many portfolios that are 20 or 50 examples of the same thing, which tells me that the artist would filter my book through his/her own narrow interests, rather than bring their craft to bear on the specific needs of the individual project itself.

Beyond that, I look for something that shows me they understand the specific needs of cover illustration. I see a lot of portfolios that feature interesting character design, sketch work, concept illustration, etc… but which don’t tell me a thing about whether or not the illustrator understands and can work to the specific requirements of book cover illustration. (That need being, to accurately represent and market the book.)

Personality. Is the illustrator following hi/her own path or falling in line with someone else’s direction? I see a lot of work that reminds me of Stephan Martiniere and Sparth – too absolutely stunning artists – but since I work with both of these guys, why would I go to one of their imitators when I can go to the source?

6:On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does an illustrator having a degree matter to you?
Zero. I’ve never looked and never known whether any of the artists I’ve approached have degrees. I know John Picacio, one of my favorite artists in the business, has a degree, but it’s in architecture. I believe Todd Lockwood started out working towards an art degree but dropped out for the same reason many genre writers drop out of writing programs. I could be misremembering though – which tells you how important a degree is to me. Final product is what counts, not how it got there.

7:You meet an illustrator at a convention, what do you look for in the artist as a person?
Professionalism, above all else. But, as in so many things, you want to be able to work with this person over long periods of time, hopefully over many projects. So you want to be able to get along, to enjoy the time, and to have trust between you. Funny, put that way it sounds like dating.

8:What first attracts your eye to an illustration (as an A.D. as well as a fan).
Personality. Also, it’s just my own quirk, but too much darkness and dismemberment in a portfolio turns me off. It could be that I associate it with immaturity – that whole high school heavy metal album impulse – but that might not be a fair characterization, as some artists I really admire (Caniglia, John Jude Palencar) do some lovely work in this arena. But it may also be that I’m viewing it with at least one editorial eye, and my most commercially successful books tend to be those that are exciting, fun, adventurous, etc… so I’m looking for work suitable for those sorts of novels.

9:How/where do you meet/hire most of the illustrators you work with?
It varies. I hate to disappoint, but almost never have I hired someone who approached me unsolicited in email. I tend to see works that speak to me on other book covers and pay attention to who the illustrators are. Other art directors make recommendations and put me in touch with artists. I met John Picacio in 2001 at a convention, when writer Graham Joyce introduced us. I believe Irene Gallo (Tor’s art director) put me in touch with Stephan Martiniere and Dan Dos Santos. Picacio introduced me to Caniglia, Bob Eggleton, Dave Seeley, Todd Lockwood and Dominic Harman. I engaged Chris McGrath after his agent approached me on another client’s behalf. Recently, I’ve begun to work with Benjamin Carre, after Mark Newton – and editor at Solaris but an author with a book forthcoming from Tor in the UK – put him on my radar. I met Dave Palumbo at a convention. I also follow Irene Gallo’s blog, Gorilla Artfare, Conceptart.org and (now) ConceptShips.org. (Interesting, I’ve posted compliments on artists’ works on some of these art showcase blog sites, but not once have any of them followed me back to see if I was interested in them professionally. Hmmm.) But looking at all this, it seems like the best way to get on my radar is to befriend John Picacio, doesn’t it?

10: How do you most like to be approached by a new illustrator (portfolio review, referral, mailer, etc.)
Despite the above, email me a link to an online portfolio. Don’t include jpg attachments, I won’t open them. It’s best if the website doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles (no Flash, please) and just has a quickly accessible, easily navigable online portfolio.

11:If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring Art Directors and/or illustrators what would it be?
The best piece of advice I can give is the best advice ever given me. The very wise Jacob Weisman of Tachyon Publications said, You should never judge an artist by the best piece in his/her portfolio. You should judge them by their worst, because if that’s what they hand in, you’re going to have to live with it. I think this is tremendous advice for art directors. For illustrators, I suppose it means you should identify the worst piece of art in your portfolio and get rid of it! In all seriousness, I see too many portfolios that include everything going back to college, too many roughs and early works. A portfolio should reflect where you are now, not where you were five or ten years ago. Best foot forward, and only that foot!

12:What is your favorite cartoon?
That would be a tie between Danger Mouse and Batman: The Animated Series. I have a soft spot for The Maxx too. Ghost in the Shell is of course seminal. And everyone should see Serial Experiments Lain.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Introducing Beatrix

Our zoo has a new member. I would like you to meet Beatrix. She is the one not wearing polka dot pjs

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wilds Step x Step

This is a cover recently finished for WotC


Rough Sketch


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Greatest Show On Earth (November)

The Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons November 14 – January 18, 2009

Opening tomorrow at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento is an exhibition of the art work and the creative process of one of the greatest influences on my young artistic mind. The denizens of "Termite Terrace" and more specifically Chuck Jones and Bob McKimson fed my early artistic tendencies with a candy most bizarre.