Category Archives: Sketchbook

Modern Blackmail


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Filed under Comics, Sketchbook

You’d Better Watch Out…

(The result of getting distracted in staff meetings...)

He will most certainly steal your gifts.

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A Smattering of Side Projects

When it comes to freelancing, sometimes it rains, and sometimes it drizzles. And sometimes, the weather’s just really, really pleasant.

These past few months have definitely been the last one. Some good freelance opportunities have come down the pike lately, and Christin and I have been in a great place to balance those, the day job, our marriage, and adjusting to our new home.

Perfect weather.

Here, then, is a sampler of some projects I’ve been dabbling in since the summer:

First, a former employer of mine is expanding its facilities (and it’s a wise move for them). As they were assembling informational material, they contacted me to turn a series of 3D architectural renderings into 2D perspective drawings. Here’s one of a new outdoor building they’re putting up:

Later, it was decided to focus attention solely on the building, so the people were removed. Then, their graphic designer, Andrea, added some eye-popping color.

Here’s the final product:


In the meantime, I’ve been working with an author from my hometown (Brownwood) on a children’s book pitch. She’s written a really clever story about a boy who counts sheep at night, and I’m in the process of roughing out the pages. Here’s a preliminary sketch of the boy and his uncle:


And a sketch of the kind of sheep I’m drawing:


Finally, I’ve mentioned the graphic novel that I’ve been working on with Houston-based author, Kirk Blackard (see some behind the scenes material here and an interview about the process here, starting on pg. 106). I shot him some fresh layouts yesterday; seeing them, you can get a sense of how rough the pages look before they get inked:

Sadly, it’s going to get worse for our protagonist before it gets better. But there’s light at the end of his tunnel.

Which is still many chapters away.

(Sorry, Tony.)

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Watercolored Worship

I mentioned practicing with watercolors for an outdoor worship event we were gonna’ put on. That happened on Thursday night. And despite some unseasonable cold weather (for Houston, I mean… it never dips below 75 here), it was a great experience.

The concert was divided up into four thematic sections of 2-3 songs apiece, each based on a line from an old hymn called “Spirit Of The Living God.” They were:

Break Me

Mold Me

Fill Me

and Use Me.

As the worship leaders sang, I and my colleague, Judith Dollar, took turns quickly sketching out concepts and images from each song on matboard, then quickly dashing watercolors on before the set ended. It was a challenge, and you can see the speediness in each of the drawings I’m about to post here… but there’s also a fluidity to it that nicely captures the feel of worshiping together, huddled in blankets on a beautiful November evening.

First, my stuff:

This is from the Break Me set, with songs including “Come Thou Fount,” “Word of God Speak,” and “Restless.” I tried to put in our Creative Arts pastor and our mandolin player, along with some outright ventrical symbolism. I muffed a Hebrew symbol though. Anyone find it?

Judith was up next. Here’s her work from Mold Me. The first depicted “Like A Child” (by Jars of Clay) and “Beautiful Things (by Gungor)…

…and this depicted “Waiting Here For You” (by Christy Nockels… I think.)

You can see that Judith’s got this watercolor thing down. She used these special crayons to fill in space quickly, then went back over them with a giant wet brush to spread out the tones. I tried to emulate that on the The Fill Me set.

Songs here included “Captivate Us”… and I forget the other. I DID try to weave in elements from Jon Foreman’s “Baptize My Mind,” though.

Finally, Judith stepped back in with a bold piece for the Use Me set.

This exclusively concerned “Take My Life (And Let It Be)” which Chris Tomlin made popular a few years back. Note the strong color surrounding the guy on the right, with the heart exposed prominently in the middle. Almost like an aura’s coming off of him. Very cool.

Using watercolors is a fun, messy process, and if you keep at it, you can get some beautiful results (there’s a metaphor in there somewhere). If this stuff piques your interest, Judith also participates in a group that does live drawing/watercoloring on a regular basis. They’re called Urban Sketchers and they’re very cool. They also have a Texas-only branch, which you can check out here.

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Hey Bub.

Springing from my ballpoint pen today:

Doodling is a tactic that got me through many a math class. Some habits die hard (just like this guy)!

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Novel Graphics

Besides working at the day job and noodling around on odd comics, I’ve got a big side project in the pipeline– my first graphic novel!

I’m working with an author from Houston named Kirk Blackard on a story tentatively titled Makin It. It deals with a young man who grows up on the streets, makes some tough choices, and lands in juvie. Along the way, he meets Christ and learns (with a little help from a mentor) how to break the cycle of violence in his life.

(Just coming off a year teaching high school English, this subject hits close to home– I’d be lying if my time with the kids didn’t inform how I’m depicting the protagonist and his world.)

We’ve got a piece on the book with an interview and some page previews coming up in the next issue of BLEEP Magazine, and I’ll post the link soon. Until then, I figured I’d show you a peak at the process of how we take things from script to page.

The Making of a Page:

We start with Kirk’s script. He writes in a unique two-column format. One side contains the protagonist’s narration:

We all stayed with my grandmother.
She seemed like my mother and my mother seemed like a sister.

I called my grandmother “Mama Ruth” and my mother by her name, “Mary.”

Mama Ruth was gone a lot. She worked very hard for long hours. Drove the metro and school busses. Sometimes she worked as a maid.

The other column contains action descriptions for the page, usually matched with a piece of narration listed in the first column. What we needed to depict on this page included

Perhaps picture of two of them (Grandma and Mother)

Buses, actually doing work

Working grandmother—tired look

After Kirk sends me the script, I break it down in really loose pencils and send it back to him for revisions and suggestions.


In this case, we were pretty much in sync (and usually are– it’s been a good match!), so I started blackening in panel borders and putting ink on figures. That way it looks clean and scans well.


(The above is actually an experiment in inking on my iPad. I thought the lines were too pixelated, however, so I ultimately stayed with traditional pen and ink.)

Finally, after all the ink is finished, I scan the page and type the captions and dialogue in Photoshop. For this book, we used WildAndCrazy, which is a font you can get at Comicraft for pretty cheap.

And that does it!

At this point, the first chapter is finished and polished, and we’re shopping it around to different publishers and agents. We feel pretty optimistic that we’ll be able to get it to market, so be on the lookout for updates!


Filed under Comics, Sketchbook

Spider-Man, Spider-Man

I mocked this up over my lunch break. (Do I smell a boast? Yes, that’s my boast.)

My goodness, I love Photoshop.

The process started on Saturday night when I drew this picture of Spidey for a kid at the church. I snapped it with a super low-res camera phone:

After opening it in Photoshop, I fiddled with the levels and started filling in spots with color to take out some of the dark splotch on his left foot. After seeing the picture in red-and-blue, I really wanted a background. A Google Images search for “New York Skyline” (no restriction on rights) got me this:

Which I used “posterize” to turn into this:

and then layered the final image on top of. Using the “Stroke” function from the “Layer Style” menu gave Spidey a nice white outline, and the result is what you see above.

I’m telling you. Photoshop is MAGIC.


Filed under Cartoons, Comics, Sketchbook

Arise: A Collaboration

Check it out: a blast from the past!

Ever wonder what to do with manga and/or anime kids? You know. The ones that love comics and cartoons made primarily in Japan?

If you’re teaching, you join in the fun.

The above image is from back in the spring when I tutored at a local high school. One of my boys had started working on his own manga script and asked me to draw a page. I wanted to encourage him (and maybe I felt gratified), but I did this, dang it. You can still see the marks from the scanner.

Then I went back to visit him in September and saw that his art skills had GROWN over the summer.  His new rendition of the first page BLOWS this out of the water.

At the same time, this is really similar to a sequence in the first Scott Pilgrim book, which neither of us had read at that point. We were either hapless geniuses… or we were inadvertently confessing we could only talk to cute girls in our dreams.


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Filed under Cartoons, Comics, Sketchbook, Teaching

How We Spent Our Hallow’s Eve

Our first grown-up Halloween. Next year, we’re buying twice the candy and giving out half as much.

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Filed under General Musings, Sketchbook

Ex Nihlo

We went over John 2 in church yesterday. Specifically, we examined how Jesus transformed water into wine at a wedding. I tried to engage with the sermon in a new way by sketching on my tablet. This was the result:

Scribbly, but still: such a cool way to doodle! Instead of pen, paper, and ink, I fleshed this out with 1’s and 0’s. The blank canvas was digital and tactile. And whenever you can fill a canvas in a new way, well dang. It’s as close to pure creation as we get.

But how much more does my Lord do with just some water in a clay jar?

Well. He gets symbolic, first. The transformation of this particular H2O was significant because it was set aside for ritual washing, which was a big deal to the Jews. Cleaning their arms and hands was equal parts obedience and holiness, as prescribed by the Torah.

But Jesus took the 1st century equivalent of Germ-X (with a spiritual bent) and made something new out of it… Holy spirits, if you will. It’s as if He were saying, “Rituals are fine, but I’m turning this thing on it’s ear.”

In fact, we know this is on purpose. John says as much when He calls Jesus’s actions a “sign.” And coincidentally, what do folks consider themselves washed by in regard to Jesus these days? Here’s a hint: it’s not just water.

But here’s when you KNOW He outstrips you in the creativity department:

Jesus didn’t even have to use the water.

He could have just materialized Pinot Noir outta nothing. His creative power is ultimately superior to any human’s.

Nice to know that when He chooses to work with earthbound materials, He does it to make a point.

Me and my tablet can learn a thing or two from that.

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