Sunday, December 28, 2014

Just A Little Doodle Today

With all the work that I've been putting into our children's book class I haven't had time to write extensive blog posts. I love blogging but there's only so much time in a day. Looking forward to having my 200 page PDF manual finished!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Answers To Illustration Questions From Other Artists

I get a lot of questions from fellow artists. Sometimes I answer them with a short message. Sometimes I send them a link to a video I already made covering the topic they asked about - And sometimes I save their questions in a word doc and answer them in video form - like this one...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Get "Posing Characters" class FREE - with our upcoming children's book class

Jake and I didn't have room to include the material for this new class in our upcoming "Illustrating Children's Books" class at - so we recorded it separately last night and put it in our store. As a bonus to those who already bought any version of the Children's book class - Live or Video only - we'll send out the links to you for this new class for free today! It's our way of saying thanks for trusting us! Thank you for sharing our website and thank you for your enthusiasm for what we're trying to do! It's time to level up your skills for 2015!

For anyone thinking about buying "Illustrating Children's Books" before Dec 31 we'll also send you the links to this class for FREE!

Check out the details on this new class or the children's book class here.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Interview with William Joyce - Children's Book Illustrator

Pinching myself this week! I got to interview THE William Joyce along with Jake Parker about his career. William Joyce is an Emmy and Oscar winning children's book illustrator, character designer, feature film producer, Story app creator, and Co-founder of Moonbot studios. In this podcast episode we discuss his career, many projects, and life filled with passion and creation for children's stories. What an inspiration! I've followed his career for many years.

Monday, December 1, 2014

What Is It Like To Attend CTNx?

A few weeks ago I snuck away to CTNx in LA...this is a small portion of what it was like. I met so many amazing artists - the talent rich environment is almost's at least whelming!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Few Sketches From CTN

I'm at CTNx right now in Burbank and what a weekend! Aside from total retina melt down from seeing so many of my hero's artwork and hanging out with legends in the business I got to co-teach a class with Jake Parker for SVS - How to get a traditional look in your digital work.  It's so important to hide some or all of your process. Your "paint alchemy" fosters curiosity and intrigue...being multi faceted keeps your audience tuned in and guessing.

I watched a bunch of panel discussions and talks by animation pros - the Reel FX team that produced THE BOOK OF LIFE was the highlight for me - what a charismatic group! Great movie too! Here are some of my doodles...can't wait for next year!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Using Different Light Sources In Your Illustrations

Creating strong light sources can add interest and drama to your images. When I critique illustration work I often notice the lack of a planned light source(s). Understanding light and how it behaves is one of the first steps in creating powerful illustrations.

I created this image as a solution to an assignment I gave my UVU illustration class a few weeks ago but that's another story.

It's important to remember that illustration isn't photography. We don't have to play by all the rules of the natural world. We are creating an illusion. Our job is to communicate an idea -so bending and/or breaking rules is ok as long as it works and as long as we have a good reason. We can add atmosphere and lighting where we need it to set up a shot - similar to how it would be done in film. Have you ever noticed that night scenes in motion pictures often seem much lighter than they normally would? That's because it would be really boring to only hear sound while watching a dark, almost black night scene. Directors bend the rule of darkness by adding light from places where often there wouldn't be any light. Cheating? Of course!

I decided to use the 3 types of light sources you can have in an image. 1) On camera 2) On camera hidden 3) Off camera.

You can see below that using the candle alone creates a very dark mood. I wanted this illustration to be playful so one light source wasn't going to be enough. I wanted my viewers to see lots of items in the cave.

Adding a second light source behind the pirate helps by illuminating the right side of the cave. I envisioned this as perhaps a lantern that is below the pirate and objects in the foreground (on camera hidden.) These two light sources just aren't enough however to define the cave opening.

I had to add a third light source (the moon - off camera) that would shine down and reveal the cave entrance and the pirate ship on the horizon.

And this is what it would look like with only the two lesser light sources - moon and lantern. You have to have a primary light that helps create your focal point(s).

It's much easier to use one light source in your illustrations but in certain situations you can achieve the results you're looking for by adding multiple light sources as long as you make one your primary and the others secondary.

If you're looking for more instruction on Painting Color and Light we have a video course at that might be what you're looking for.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Which Tablet Monitor Should You Buy? Cintiq vs Yiynova

Have you thought about jumping to lightspeed from a drawing tablet like Bamboo or Intuos to a pressure sensitive drawing monitor like Monoprice, Yiynova, or the king of all monitors - Cintiq by Wacom? In this video I make the comparison to help you decide which is right for you.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Am I good enough to make it as an illustrator?

I get asked this question so often I finally decided to do my best in answering it. There are so many factors involved from what kind of illustration you want to do? what markets? what kinds of clients? how long you like to work on an illustration? Style? etc....

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Illustrating Children's Books - New Class at SVS

Jake Parker and I are very excited to finally announce our new class! We gave our first online children's book class about 18 months ago when we started We were happy with that class but realized that we needed to take some time to create support classes before we could run it again. We knew that there were many people who wanted to buy that class but we took it down for a handful of reasons.

The biggest reason was that we wanted to create a more complete class that focused on the storytelling aspects of children's book illustration instead of all of the support material we had to include. In the past 18 months we have created a foundation series of fundamental classes that will support our NEW children's book class. In short there will be about 10 times the information in this new class - including business and marketing.

If you're interested please see the listings in our online store to see the details - if you still have questions please ask.

This class has been so fun to work on and we really feel that with the over 200 pages of PDF manuals and workbook - our students will feel that they received a lot of value.

***Update as of Nov 8th - we still have 7 out of 25 spots left for our live class - I'll continue to update here...

Monday, October 27, 2014

I'm Not Getting Enough Freelance Work

I've been getting lots of questions from artists who do really good work but aren't getting attention from art directors and editors at companies who hire illustrators. Hopefully my advice will give you ideas to focus on.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Thinking about getting a tablet or pressure sensitive monitor like Cintiq? I go over my thoughts on what worked for me and what didn't and what I'm using now...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Fantasy Couple - Justin Gerard & Annie Stegg

I really enjoy talking with some of the industries best artists and if you've been following my youtube channel you'll notice that I've been doing a lot of that lately. I'm inspired by greatness and Justin and Annie are a match made in fantasy heaven. Listen to them talk about what it's like to become some of the best artists in the Fantasy Art community. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Is Learning Illustration Hard?

Yes! - but a better question might be: Does Learning To Do Anything Well Take Hard Work? I'm often asked: If I take your classes at will I be able to illustrate a children's book, comic book, ebook, etc? There's no way to answer that question unless I want to be a complete sell out and say, "But of course...all you need to do is pay me your money and the world we be opened unto you!"

Unfortunately what you are subconsciously asking is can I be good at something without working hard? We all think we want that. I thought I wanted to be good at playing the guitar without working many hours to learn it so I could impress people and myself with an ability I did NOTHING to gain. But doesn't that beg the question: How can you impress yourself or anyone else without having gone through the hard work and sacrifice of learning? - AND - if you could magically attain such a level would it be rewarding? Wouldn't everyone be magically amazing at everything? If everyone was amazing at everything than would being amazing be average?

I've seen a lot of people try a creative endeavor like illustration only to quit after a year or two because they realized how hard it was going to be to reach a pro level. Then they pick up something else and try their hand at it only to realize that it's just as hard to achieve greatness. The truth is that if you love doing something it's going to take many years of hard work and practice to attain a high enough level to impress people and get noticed online.

Take a look at one of my first paintings (below) and the one I just finished(above). I rendered the one below when I was age 10. I remember this because my grandfather gave me an oil painting set on my tenth birthday. I was so excited I started painting right away. The new one (digital painting) was finished last night. There is a 38 year span between the two. There was no magic or sorcery in between these two paintings but there have been many years and many paintings that led to my ability now and many dedicated teachers and peers that have given me valuable instructions and pointers. Many of you know that I almost got kicked out of my University illustration program. My desire to create great art far exceeded my ability but with hard work and determination I was able to make progress and a career out of it.

There were many times where doubt crept in and made me want to quit but I beat back those urges and pushed through the hard times. I'm at a place right now that I wouldn't trade for money. When you reach a level where you can compete nationally or internationally I promise you will look back and thank yourself for not quitting. This is not to say that you shouldn't make lane changes but that no matter what lane you switch to you will have to start from scratch and work really hard to get really good. Learning is hard work but worth every minute!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Technology Improves Teaching - Cintiq Monitor

When I was in school in the Mesolithic Age we actually drew on this thing called paper with devices known as pencils. Now days art students often draw on electric tablets or monitors even though we encourage our students to stick with the paper and pencils for a while longer. But all of this technology has not only sped up the illustration process and made it much easier to make corrections - it's also made it much easier to teach!

The Cintiq monitor by Wacom or other pressure sensitive graphics monitors have enabled teachers to perform "draw overs". I just started doing draw overs last year for both my online and UVU students. In the past I had to do a little drawing off to the side of my students work - it was good but really doesn't compare to actually drawing on top of their drawing to show what decisions I would have made. If I had done that on an original drawing on paper it wouldn't allow for seeing the students drawing without my "drawover" - in other words the original drawing would be altered forever with my crappy drawover on top. The student would have had no way to continue working on their drawing after my critique.

It is amazing for teaching online because we're only dealing with sketches that have been scanned and emailed to us. We have to be able to show our students what we're talking about - so this technology has actually been a key factor in us being able to teach online. Above you can see some of my UVU students work (draw a polar bear / Viking) and my rough little drawover which doesn't go into detail but focuses on general construction. It makes teaching so much more satisfying and  - fun!...Thank you Wacom!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Master Demo by Therese Larsson

I'm so excited to announce this new demo by Therese Larsson that's live in our SVS store now. She did a great job and I was so impressed that she was able to talk and paint at the same time. I have a hard time but she's a natural at explaining what she's doing while doing it. Jake Parker and I ask questions as she worked on this little fox character. Many of my students have had a hard time simplifying hair and fur so that it looks natural to the creature they are rendering. If you've struggled in the same way you may want to check this one out!

...and here are a few pieces Therese has completed over the years...her work is brilliant and she's quite busy with advertising clients all over the world. Therese lives in Stockholm yet works for many US clients which we briefly talk about during her demo. Check out her site!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Playing in Photoshop...

As much as I can I like to make time to doodle fun things that assignments don't have me doing to keep the skills fresh and advance my repertoire...enter the time traveling Viking!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Disney Artist Mel Milton - Interview - WOW!

Wow! I love talking to Mel - he is so positive and inspirational - I really hope you guys like listening to his words of wisdom as much as I did. We talk about money and art and all kinds of other tid bits along the way. I listen to a lot of pod casts as I work and thought that perhaps some of you will like this longer format as you work on your art.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Is Your Drawing out of Order?

Most of us jump into the details too soon! Building a foundation for the drawing is counter intuitive and the most common problem I see with up and coming artists...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Art Drop Day - Clues To My Painting! - FOUND!

I hid the original acrylic painting of the snowmen somewhere...if you know where the clue photo's lead you can go get it for free! This is Jake Parker's new idea for World Art Drop Day! If you get my painting please send me a photo of you holding the painting and I'll update my blog with it and share it on facebook and twitter! Hope you get there first!

Found!!! In a little over an hour! By one of my former student's kids...So much fun - hope you guys like it!

Monday, September 1, 2014

This was an image I created for a storytelling festival but it was placed on hold until next year...such is the life of an illustrator! I wanted to challenge myself to include 30 animals yet keep my focal point strong. I could never have pulled this off 10 years ago. I love my continuing education in the arts. Looking forward to learning more in the coming years! It's available as a print right here!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A few weeks ago you may have noticed that on my youtube channel I started interviewing other high profile artists about their work and a specific topic. I love getting to know other artists and as my passion for illustration is ever growing I felt this would be a way to help other artists - and fulfill my social needs. Below are my two latest interviews - might be something worth listening to while you work! I have many more planned out throughout the year so check back. Click here to go to my channel.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Afternoon Sketch Gone Too Far

Yesterday I started sketching for fun - a little line here- little line there - another character - wouldn't it look better with some value? - hmmm little more value....ok - I'm going to have to color this. So I lost a day (today) but had fun finishing this one! Available as a print here!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Jake Parker and I talk about his new BIG idea - World Art Drop Day - learn how you can participate and connect with people who appreciate art.

Monday, August 4, 2014

This One Goes Out To Art Teachers

This is a somewhat snarky post about those art/illustration students that exhibit behaviors counterproductive to improving their craft.  I've never had a student that's met all of the above criteria but a few that hit most of them. To set the record straight - I was this guy many times during my schooling in the early 90's. As school at the University is about to start in a few weeks I thought I would draw up this translator for teachers to get a laugh but more importantly to bring awareness to illustration students all over the world. We as teachers may not call you on your self destructive actions but know this: WE'RE THINKING IT!

I often start out my classes telling students what I think - when they do ________. It gets laughs and I see many of them squirm around in their seats realizing I'm not far off. I'm not the kind of guy who is going to call you out in class to embarrass you. I might make a light hearted joke to get my point across but I just don't have it in me to yell at you in class. Please don't mistake my lack of communication for ignorance, apathy, oblivious bliss, or that I'm unaware of what you're doing.

I've been around students long enough to know that when someone tells me how hard they're going to work on the first day of class it sends up a red flag. Too many of you who announce your future art victories have proven to be the laziest non producing students I've ever had. The students who sit quietly in the back are the ones that usually put up impressive work. There is a direct correlation between students who act the most defensive during critiques and the quality of their work. I get it - you're not ready to be taught. You're already feeling like you might not belong in this class so you go into defense mode. It's going to be ok. We'll work together to improve your artwork.

I'm hoping that my little comic up there might bring you to a level of awareness that will help us move forward. Just know that I know what you think I don't know about what you're doing. It's not fooling anyone - it's just delaying your education.

UPDATE - I got so many "why isn't there a positive slant?" comments, emails, messages that I decided to give them what they wanted! Here is the updated version below:

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Illustration War Stories!

In this video I share a few of my illustration nightmares working with clients over the years. There's no substitution for learning by experience - often sad experience :) ...sit back and enjoy my pain...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Don't let them CRAP on your ART!

Sometimes people crap on your art and they don't even know it. Sometimes they crap on your art and they know it but they think they're helping...and sometimes the angry, sad, and discouraged crap on your art because they want company - don't let them.

Many people have good intentions but because they haven't accomplished anything with their art - OR - they aren't artists they think they can help you by encouraging you to take a different path or quit altogether. The problem with taking advice from a non-artist is they don't understand what it feels like to create something. They don't understand the joy and emotional high you get from creating something better than you've ever created before. They don't understand that you will be depressed if you aren't expressing your creativity and working hard on improving your craft.

Words can inspire and words can kill your spirit. Surround yourself with positive people. Let them know that you're smart - you understand how hard it is to pursue a career in art - you don't need them to tell you about the perils - you need them to encourage you - if you need to take time off for a job or project that pays bills you'll do it without them telling you to.

Once in class I made some comments that I really thought were encouraging and the student I was talking to changed majors the next day. It might be for the better - time will tell and we each have a different journey but it reinforced the sacred responsibility we have towards each other. Be positive. Be helpful. Be an inspiration to your friends and they'll return the favor.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Gary's Place Got A Stared Review on Kirkus!

So excited to find out this week that Gary's Place our iPad story app written by Rick Walton received the coveted "stared" review on Kirkus! So exciting! You can check out the review and everything they had to say about the app here.

Monday, June 30, 2014

How To Get Past Artist's Block

I've been asked quite often how I get past Artist's block - you know, that feeling you get when you don't want to start or can't figure out how to start a new project. When you stare at a blank piece of paper and can't come up with anything that you think will make a good drawing. In this video I give my process for overcoming this paralyzing situation that happens to all artists from time to time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

SVS Summer School Critique Class

I created this image to keep my skills sharp and to announce our SVS Summer School Critique class. It's available for anyone of any skill level as long as they have taken or watched our "Creative Compositions" class. Most of the advice I give is design/composition related so I need class members to have gone through this class so we have a common language and understanding. The class will start on Tuesday July 15th at 7:00PM MST - then we will break for two weeks and meet again on Tuesday the 29th same time.

I'm limiting this class to 8 students to give ample time for each person. Students are welcome to have anything they are working on critiqued. There will be no assignments (best summer school ever!) so attendees will need to have a piece or two that they really want to polish ready to go for critique. It could be in the sketch stage or the painting stage. The idea for two classes is to receive feed back - rework or start over  - then come back for a final critique.

You can visit our store here where you can see the "Creative Composition" class as well as our new "Summer School Critiques" class.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Send This Video To Your Illustration Clients

I've been wanting to make this video for quite some time now. Often artists ask me to educate them on the best way to work with their clients - or they ask me the best way to work with a new, small, or start up client that don't know how to work with an illustrator. I made this video for just that situation. If you have a client that doesn't know how to work with an illustrator you may consider sending them this link...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Playing With Brushes in Photoshop

Just having a little fun working with a few new brushes in Photoshop. When I get time I like to experiment a little. I used 3 custom brushes to make this image - I'm going to experiment more to make various "fur" brushes.

I'll explain a little about the brushes I used for this painting. First, I'm a rank beginner when it comes to making and using brushes and after doing this one I have ideas for better brushes to add variety to the fur.

The top brush is the standard air brush that comes stock with Photoshop but it has the texture settings I've explained at length in my online video tutorials - check out the links on the right side of my blog...

The middle brush is the stock airbrush with my texture settings but I squished it with the "roundness" tool at the bottom of the brush pallet. I used this brush for the grass.

The bottom brush is just a few large dots I made to simulate hair. I've used this brush a lot but would like to make some variation modifications.

All of these brushes have the "transfer" settings turned on to take advantage of the pressure sensitivity of my cintiq monitor.

I'll practice this more and do some sort of tutorial/post/video on these settings and applications in the future sometime.

Monday, June 9, 2014

7 Reasons Why I Can NOT Illustrate Your Children's Book

I'm flattered when I'm asked to illustrate someone's personal project - like a children's book. I should have put this in the video but I forgot. It really bugs me when people don't get back to me in an email that I've sent them and I don't want to ignore or give a short "no" to people who email me with requests. I know it takes a lot of emotional effort to reach out and ask for something like this. I made this video to be able to send out as a thoughtful response when people ask me to illustrate their children's book. I hope my answers make sense.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Working on an Indie Xbox / Playstation Game

A few months back I joined a 5 person indie team to create an Xbox / Playstation game. I can't release all the details right now but I'll share what I can. First - it's sooo much fun! Second - and it's really FUN too! We have two developers, an animator, musician, and myself - artist/art director.

This project has teeth - pun intended. It's a platformer like Braid, Limbo, Guacamele, etc. Hopefully we get ratings like those games too! The opportunity came as a chance to own a piece of the game - so if it sells well I'll get compensated - if it doesn't - I will have done a lot of work and learned a lot - been there before.

The head of Xbox Chris Charla has said that indie games are the future of gaming and Xbox is really excited to support indie developers. We have a release date for this coming January so we have to stay on track developing each level, testing it, making tweaks, re-testing and so forth. We plan to release on Xbox, Playstation, PSVita, and STEAM...if it does well - iOS. The most rewarding thing for me is to be able to dream something up, draw it, bounce it off the team members, tweak it, render it, hand it off to the developers and see it in the game. I'll keep adding updates from time to time as we progress.

Monday, May 26, 2014

6 Business Tips For Freelance Illustrators

Over the years I have made quite a few business mistakes, some of which have cost me clients and others I was able to fix before I lost clients. In this video I share a few pointers that I've learned along the way to help you manage and care for the people who give you money. It's a competitive market out there and without good business skills you may likely undo all the good you did to attract your clients in the first place. I hope my tips hasten your learning curve!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Have You Plateaued With Your Artwork? Digital Paint Over

One of my UVU illustration students - Stewart Craig allowed me to do a "paint over" on one of his digital paintings. It's not easy letting someone monkey around with your art - I know - I've had teachers do it for me and it can be a little weird. Getting feedback is critical to improvement. Often we are too close to be objective in with our own work and it takes letting someone give you suggestions. Technology has allowed us to work on artwork digitally without leaving permanent marks. If you're struggling you might want to check out our online LIVE classes - we do this all the time for our students.  Thank you Stew!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Some Frogs Don't Like Rain

No words of wisdom this week as I prepare to travel to speak at the SCBWI in Colorado Springs this coming weekend. They still have room if you're interested. I really love being able to get out from time to time and meet fellow artists. I'll be speaking about the technical aspects of working digitally on a cintiq monitor, developing story apps, and the current situation of children's book markets.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Scanning, Re-Sizing, Resolution, and Pixels in Photoshop

I made this video to answer a question emailed to my by DeWayne about re-sizing your image in photoshop to prepare it to paint digitally. This is a beginner video so nothing earth shattering but if you're new to digital painting it might just be the information you've been looking for!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Wet Rat Speed Painting using Procreate App

I made this little drawing on my iPad air using Procreate app in just 2 hours. I don't normally take my sketches to finish on the iPad but Procreate has that nifty feature of being able to download every pencil and brush stroke and since I haven't done one in a while I thought I would upload one. What you won't see in the video is all of the zoom in and zoom out I'm doing to get my detail work.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Every week someone asks me what stylus I'm using for drawing on my iPad - so I made a video about it!

Friday, April 18, 2014

10 Things I learned at SLC Comic Con

Things I learned at the SLC Comic Con yesterday:

1. I was supposed to geek out on the famous firefly insect Adam Baldwin but I don't like insects much.

2. I take really good blurry pictures. Most people struggle with this technique - not I. Here is Corel Painter artist Don Seegmiller better known as Neil Young.

3. I enjoy meeting online friends in person like Mathew Armstrong and Jason Kim - Disney interactive artists.

4. Reconnecting with my blurry friends like Disney artist Ryan Wood.

5. ...and gopher turned Japanese poster artist Jed Henry (google Ukiyo-e Heroes)

6. That Ty Carter is trying to bulk up for his next career as an MMA fighter...

7. ...and Jake Parker is already an MMA don't disrespect.

8. Oh - and that Bjorn Thorkelson created the "Accurasee sketch caddie" the BEST product I saw at comic con! It's an art tools carrier that fits over the cover of your sketchbook. I was blown away by this nifty device. Many of you know that I mostly sketch on my iPad now but I had to have one of these for the times when I take my sketchbook out. I remember what a pain it was to try to carry everything I wanted - no longer! Check it out at his website.

9. That many of my students from UVU although blurry, have become amazing artists and will be forces to be reckoned with in animation, visual development, and illustration.

10. And finally that Jared Salmond has become completely invisible. People loved watching his pen sign all those posters. When I had him in class he was only "mostly" invisible but through hard work and determination he has finally arrived at his present form of, well, not being there....and for his next feat he will become mute.