Thursday, December 31, 2009


For Christmas, I got some Strathmore Bristol Board* and a SWEET watercolor set that kicks all your presents back to either the North Pole or Here's my first work with the board.

* Super geeks: the board is 500 Series, 4-ply, vellum finish.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Prince of Denmark

This image began merely as a prince peering over a castle wall, but approximately 99.9% of the way through, I realized it could make a cool cover for Hamlet. I used Gill Sans and Bauer Bodoni for the text. I love Bodoni but rarely get the chance to use it, so I thought I'd seize the day.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I've been busy doing contract work for the past two weeks. Hence the lack of posting. Sorry if I've thrown off anyone's blogging equilibrium. (Natalie.)

In other news, I learned yesterday that you can embed (not just attach) images in Gmail. BEHOLD! The very steps needed to unlock the hidden image-embedding-code of destiny:
  1. Click on 'Settings'.
  2. Click on 'Labs' tab.
  3. Scroll down until you see 'Insert images'.
  4. Click 'Enable'.
  5. Mock all of your friends for not knowing about this feature. (Conversely, mock me for not having known about this feature.)
  6. Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009


A little experiment using acrylics, gouache, colored pencil, and a few digital tweaks. I'm trying to decide if I like it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Owl With Hat

My post titles are getting more and more creative, as you can see.
2.5" x 3.5" watercolor on illustration board.

I Love "A Christmas Carol"

I like this better in real life. As usual, the colors aren't as subtle in the scan.

2.5" x 3.5" ink and watercolor on illustration board.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Illustration Friday - Crunchy

Almost missed this week's theme!

Given that snow is crunchy, it'd be even more crunchy if The Abominable Snow Monster danced in it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Red and Brown Sketches

I brainstorm for an hour every day to keep up reserves of great story ideas. Often, I discover new techniques that I decide to implement later. Sometimes, an idea that wasn't going anywhere from a long-past brainstorming session will suddenly click, and I'll know exactly what I need to do to make the image work. I almost always use pen when brainstorming, because the inability to erase means I have to commit to whatever I put down on paper. I can't go back on the ideas that come. Sometimes it's sloppy, but polish isn't the point. The point is to ensure that I'm not timid in my thinking. I do use pencil to shade, though, as you see here.

These are some images from a recent storm. I like the kid in the chair. And the guy with the bells.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Running Elf

Another page from my Moleskine sketchbook. Just playing with acrylics. I have a love/hate relationship with acrylics. Some day, I'll elaborate.

Octopus Machine

The title reminds me of a rock band name or something: "Ladies and Gentlemen--THE OCTOPUS MACHINE!!!"

Another trading card. Ink, watercolor, and white acrylic on illustration board.


Another artist's trading card. 2.5" x 3.5" pen and watercolor.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Here's an artist's trading card I made this morning. You can find out more about artist's trading cards here. They're basically 2.5" x. 3.5" works of art. For the art geeks, this one's done on Strathmore Series 500 Illustration Board.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Barbeshop Quartet + 1

Some thumbnails from my sketchbook. This rapper has serious attitude, and I can see him making it big.

Inspiring People of Incredible Talent

Okay, so you've probably been thinking, "I like Sam, but which illustrators does Sam like?"

In no particular order (well, actually, in the order I thought of them), I present a few of my faves (subject to change at any time). Although these artists work in a variety of fields (some in children's books, some in editorial art, comics, or film), they're the ones I most often go back to when I need a little inspiration. You'll probably see hints here and there of their influence on me. (Yes, that was a strangely-worded sentence.) Behold!
  1. Chris Van Allsburg. The Polar Express. The Wreck of the Zephyr. The Widow's Broom. Allsburg, you're a PHANTOM!
  2. Lane Smith. Stinky Cheese! Many people find Lane's illustrations overly quirky. I find them absolutely hilarious. His most recent book, Hyacinth, the Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated, written by Florence Parry Heide, is superlative.
  3. Lou Romano. Lou is pretty much awesome. Voice of Linguine (Ratatouille), brother to Ray (I think), and an amazing production designer, too. I look at his stuff as much as anyone's. Here's what he did on Up.
  4. Carter Goodrich. Look at his Ratatouille pencil work. He doesn't have an online presence, but a Google search will show you some of his stuff.
  5. Shaun Tan. This guy's work is a little too odd for my tastes, but he's really good and is basically a pioneer in graphic novelling (spell checker is telling me that's not a word). If you're interested in reading a book like no one's ever done before, check out The Arrival.
  6. Arnold Lobel. Frog and Toad Are Friends! I love Lobel's art. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
  7. Mo Willems. Funny, funky, and good. Leonardo, The Terrible Monster is his best book. Many would disagree.
  8. Norman "The Rock" well. I can't say I ever really want to emulate him (although when I was a kid, all I drew were Rockwell paintings), but Norm sure had a way with caricature.
  9. Peter de Séve. An amazing sense of line. And color. And design. And everything.
  10. Hayao Miyazaki. Yup.
  11. Nicolas Marlet. The guy doesn't really have an online presence. But he basically designed all of the characters for Kung Fu Panda. The guy's a genius.
  12. Mary GrandPré. Her sense of color is impeccable. And she illustrated Harry Potter. She will never go hungry. Unless Harry Potter 8: Revenge of Darth Maul comes out before she dies. In that case, she'll lose it all.
  13. Mary Blair. Color, color, color!
  14. Charles Schulz. Peanuts. You try drawing something brilliantly funny every day for 50 years!
  15. Bill Watterson. Calvin and Hobbes. 'Nuff said.
  16. Richard Thompson. Great artist, very funny comic strip: Cul de Sac.
  17. Glen Keane. Is ridiculously good at drawing. When I look at his stuff, I want to take my ball and go home.
  18. N.C. Wyeth. Love the light in his paintings. And the jumping Indian one rocks. It'll take you a while to find it. I couldn't even find it. But trust me.
  19. Leonardo da Vinci. This guy could draw. He also had a ridiculously cool beard. And I think my nose will look like his when I'm 90.
  20. Emma Thompson. Okay, so she's not an illustrator. But she is a really good actress! My wife's favorite, in fact. Remember the crying scene in Sense and Sensibility? For that, she gets a spot on the list anyway.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Illustration Friday - Entangled

Working on a project for my wife's uncle, I discovered a technique I really liked; so I thought I'd try using it again. The design here needs some tweaking (I think all the letters should be off kilter, for example), but I still really like it.

Stanley Elf: Grunt Laborer

Some thumbnails for a storyboard. I sketch the image entirely with a pen (pencil is for sissies) and then shade quickly with pencil (oh, wait). Each thumbnail is about 1.5" wide.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Some Stuff That Got Published

Here are some images I completed in July for the December issue of The Friend, a children's religious publication. The art director for The Friend usually sketches out what he wants, so I didn't get much leeway in how to represent things, but I hope I added enough of the "Sam Ricks Gumbi arms/legs" touch to make these interesting. You can download a digital version of the publication if you want to see what the images look like in the layout.

And I'm back from vacation. Yay!