Friday, June 26, 2009

CAT BURGLAR BLACK Preview 2: Aunt Vivian!

Judy Drood and Friends

At one point there was talk about an animated project featuring Judy Drood and other characters from Mad Night. I even did some production art to help those interested visualize it. Above are a couple of examples... Judy Drood, Girl Detective and her cartoon pals! (Might have been a bit dark for Saturday mornings -- but who knows!?)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


From the archives: two different versions of the cover art for my modest 2003 vampire novella, Peculia And The Groon Grove Vampires. The first version was misguided, really. I wanted to do kind of an amoeba-shaped portal through which you could see a scene from the story. Well, it looked good as a sketch anyway! The real mistake was doing such a hard-edged shape (which is not the best solution with watercolor, which favors softer edges) and then
making the background a solid black. I often get inspired by cool hard-edged designs on book covers and subsequently make an attempt to duplicate it with watercolor. In never works... And what made it worse was that now the "view" through the portal needed to be lighter, to stand out from the black. So -- that's right, I made it a daytime scene. I have vampires strolling along during daytime. Oops...

Even though I kind of dashed off the second version, it still made a better cover than the first. Neither one has much to do with any actual scene from the story. I just wanted kind of dynamic image to convey a certain mood. I don't know. Like many of my paintings, I wish I had just one more shot to make it better. But you have to let go of these things once they're out there in the world...

Here is a scene from the book...

Monday, June 22, 2009

DELPHINE 4 - Sneak Preview 5

Gallery Ghost

A couple of years ago I got an assignment to do the cover ( as well as dozens of interior drawings) for an oversize hardcover book for kids called "Gallery Ghost". The story (actually a clever game) involves the ghosts of artists whose work is in the National Gallery (where the story takes place) coming out at night and adding little details to each other's work. An art student who works the night shift cleaning up the gallery discovers these paranormal hi-jinks and the ghosts allow her to participate in the fun. Anyway -- after the usual round of thumbnails, a cover idea was chosen and a full-size sketch was made.
At the same time I had also done a sketch for a border that was going to go on the title page.

A suggestion was made that perhaps the border could be used on the cover instead, so I did a mock-up to see how that would look.

Luckily everyone agreed it was way too busy. (The border didn't even end up in the final version of the book.) So we went back to the more simple cover illustration. I did the final and the designer added type, as well as the images of actual paintings.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Out of the Past - Part 1

Originally published (with atrocious reproduction) in the 1992 anthology titled "The Residents Freak Show", this strip hasn't been reprinted since. Here it is (finally) the way it was originally meant to be seen -- the tale of "Herman The Human Mole"...

Out of the Past - Part 2

The artwork for this strip is for sale. If you are interested, please write to

Saturday, June 6, 2009

For Those Interested In The Process...

I always ink the artwork I do before applying the watercolor washes. Sometimes I photocopy the line art so I have a record of what it looked like in case I screw up the painting and have to start from scratch. (It's easier to start over by tracing line art than a painting). And sometimes I even save the photocopies of the line art, for some reason. Above is the line art I saved for the front cover of the book PECULIA. At the right is a (slightly dark) scan of the painted art, made after coloring with watercolor washes over the ink lines.
The scan was made at the point when I thought I was done. But after living with it some more (always a good idea), I decided it needed more work.
I lightened her dress (a laborious process that involves blotting the painted area with a wet rag or paper towel to slowly lift off the layers of watercolors, without smudging or smearing any of the areas around it). I had wanted a monochromatic look, but there wasn't enough of a range of values, so lightening the dress, and tweaking the color to be more purple than blue, helped. (I changed the color of the cat as well). Then, for balance, I realized I needed to darken the ground, so I did. I still wasn't 100% satisfied, but I knew I was on the verge of overworking it -- the worst thing you can do with a watercolor painting. If it was oil or acrylic or whatever I'd be able to paint over areas -- and you can even "fake" small areas of watercolors by matching the color in opaque gouache and painting over the watercolor that way. But I'm addicted to the light, transparent look of watercolor and although I have used gouache for corrections occasionally, I really try to avoid it, because the comparative heaviness of the opacity can throw the whole "look" off. So, I reluctantly laid down my brushes. (The age-old question for many a painter is "when is the painting done?" It's easier with watercolor, since you are definitely done when you should have already stopped working on it!).

So I packaged the art along with the title logo I'd drawn and sent it to the publisher, who put together a mock-up of the cover for me to see. That's it at the left. And that's what we went with. (Looking at it now, I think I should have added a bit of shading to her dress. Oh well...) Of course, the final printed version often doesn't look anything like the work at
this stage, so all that's left to do is cross your fingers and hope that they get it as close to the original art as possible. It used to be nearly impossible to get an accurate reproduction of watercolor art in print. I used to have to jack up the color intensity with garish dyes to prevent illustrations in magazines and newspapers from looking completely faded out. And you never knew how it would reproduce until you saw it -- an often disheartening experience! Nowadays, though, thanks to computers, you can get closer than ever to what the original painting looks like. Yay for technology! It's given new life to the old arts. (And to the old artists!).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Un Rire Dans La Nuit

The French version of The Chucking Whatsit, published by Vertige, has something the English version doesn't: cover-flaps!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cat Burglar Black -- Final Cover!

Oops! The cover I posted below was an earlier version. This is the final (improved!) version designed by the brilliant Colleen AF Venable for MacMillan's graphic novel imprint FirstSecond.

DELPHINE 4 - Inside Front Cover

DELPHINE 4 - Sneak Preview 1