Painting Practice: Prisons

As I mentioned before, I have been having lots of fun painting imaginary environments in Photoshop. I’ve been playing around with quite a few different paintings, but this is the one I like the best so far:

I wasn’t actually intending to do something that looked like prison towers, and I have no idea what horrible crime you’d have to commit to be thrown into one of these and forgotten, but here they are anyway.

Sketch: Domestic Gnomes

In preparation for homeschooling my two boys, I’ve been studying different methods of education. I’ve recently been drawn to the Waldorf method, which focuses on creativity and artistry and beauty in the early learning years. On many of the Waldorf blogs I have found a peculiar abundance of felted gnomes. Now, I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with letting your little ones play with gnomes, but I am a bit concerned that too much attention from the human world might encourage the gnomes to become reliant on the benefits of living too close to people, and cause them to lose some of their wild skills. To bring attention to the problem, I did some sketching:

I worked very hard to get this pencil sketch to a finished state instead of lazily scanning it in early and hoping that I could fix all the problems later. So, the coloring process was much easier:

Study: Offspring

A couple of weeks ago I set a goal to do a new post on non-comic days of the art I’m working on. No, you didn’t miss anything. There haven’t been ANY posts. I’ve done quite a lot, but none of it seemed post-worthy. Either my practice paintings are terrible or my standards are going up.

One of the things I’m trying to work on are faces. And I am more than a little ashamed to admit I’ve never actually done a study of my own children. Yes, I know I draw them every week in the comic, and I have attempted to quick sketch them as they are running around the house, but neither of those really count. So, here are my lovely boys:

They really are beautiful, and hopefully working on more accurate drawings of them will help me evolve them in the comic a bit beyond circles with straight or squiggly lines for hair. What is funny is that even two-year-old James can quickly identify himself in my simplistic comic, but when shown this drawing, both boys were confused about who they were supposed to be. Guess I need more work!

Dragon sketch

I recently picked up the Dracopedia by William O’Connor for my nephews, for a little instruction and inspiration. Now, I can count on one hand the number of dragons I have tried to draw in the last couple of decades, but flipping through this book, I don’t think it’s possible to not want to start drawing a dragon immediately. The book is so beautifully and imaginatively done that my youngest nephew’s eyes have been opened to dragonology as a potential career path.  So, while visiting with my family I did some sketching with the tools on hand (mechanical pencil and copy paper), just playing with shapes and form.

It has been a while since I actually tried to bring a pencil sketch to anywhere near finished and I had forgotten my old problem of putting down graphite indiscriminately and then realizing that I haven’t thought through the issue of depth.  Anyway, back home I opened it in Photoshop and added a little color.

Come to think of it, dragonology might not be a bad career path after all.

practice: fishing village

I have been trying to refine my brush sets, and practice painting, so I did an imaginary fishing village. Let me say first, I am not good with actual paints, so the idea that I might do better in Photoshop is pretty fun. Once I had the main village, using a reference photo for colors I decided to do two more, creating different moods.

Here is a the village in bright, mid-morning light.

Here is a stormy afternoon. The buildings got a bit out of control, but I am rather pleased with the water. Water is hard. 

fun with concept art

While discussing Photoshop with my nephew Ivan (or Gimp in this case, which is a great, free alternative), I stumbled upon some concept art tutorials by Feng Zhu. I watched amazed as he used an inspiration photo, one layer and a couple of brushes to do exactly what I knew I could do, albeit with considerably inferior skill. Something just clicked, so I gave it a try. I haven’t honestly been this happy working on a piece of art in recent memory.

Here’s what I came up with, inspired by the layers of light that filter through a forest:

Jade Weald

Baby Po Cake

My baby turned two at the end of February, and since the scene from Kung Fu Panda 2 with Baby Po makes him giggle uncontrollably (and I also love Kung Fu Panda), I decided a Baby Po cake was the best choice for both of us. (It was that or Caillou, and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t!)

Yes, okay. I cheated a bit. There’s not much cake in this cake. But how much cake can you really give a two year old? 


Okay, I was really happy with this drawing, so I’m putting it here as well. Maybe because he’s as cuddly as he looks. Maybe because I’m better at pencil than paint. Regardless, this looks just like the old man and it’s worth saving.

hermit crab

I’ve been struggling for some time to do some ocean-themed artwork to add color to my kids’ bathroom. After way too many bad renderings of coral reefs I came up with this little guy:

That’s it. Hermit crab. I plan to do a whole series of these, and if they turn out well, I’ll post them.

cat in the hat cake


John turned the big “3” in March, so to celebrate, I made a cake representative of his favorite book. The cat is modeling chocolate with royal icing and gum paste accessories. This cake has a couple of firsts for me. First structure using pvc and a copper wire frame and also the first attempt at using a cornstarch mold for sugar candy (for the fish bowl).


The cake on the top of his hat was actually cake, and had the birthday candles in it for John to blow out.


John liked the cake, but was equally impressed with the effect of the blue frosting on his tongue.


All in all, I was probably happier with how this came out than with any cake I’ve done so far. Now I just have to figure out how to make sure I have enough time to set up good photos for these cakes before its time to blow out the candles and destroy them!


tiny train cake


My very first birthday cake (of any note) was a train cake in 1996 to celebrate my nephew Jonathan’s third birthday. I’ve worked on a couple of Thomas the Tank Engine cakes as well, so I wanted John’s second birthday cake to be a different challenge. I made the train set completely out of homemade modeling chocolate and the rest is just cake and frosting. Simple, and it looks just like his favorite toy, so he played with the cake longer than any of the presents last night. “Fun” and “dewicious”.


dragon cake


Jonathan’s birthday was last weekend, and since he seemed unsure about this year’s theme for his cake I convinced him to let me just come up with something on my own. Of course, I did have to promise not to make good on the Barbie cake threat I’ve used in the past. This was a little simpler than some of the previous cakes, but I thought it was more fitting for his sixteenth birthday. He seemed pleased.


The dragon and the lettering are all gum paste, tinted an ice blue with edible silver powder painted on. Dad suggested carving stonework into the side, and Phillip suggested the black sugar I put around the base later (see pictures below).

sari in ink

I’ve been playing around with inks lately, and this is something I was inspired to do by a new project. Obviously my technique needs work, so I’ll have to completely redo this design before I try to use it for anything.

artistic musings

So I’m working on an illustrated children’s book. Its an idea I’ve had for a decade that involves a story that was written over a century ago, and I’ve done no real work to see if its even feasible because I’ve never really believed my artistic talent is up to par for this sort of project.

Maybe it isn’t. But it isn’t getting any better – just worse from disuse-  so I’ve been making a concerted effort to focus and try to regain some of what I’ve lost, and at least give artistic pursuits a shot. I’ll go into more details about the book later, my current goal is to have a finished sketch for each illustration, and then (and only then) allow myself to buy a few needed supplies to take the project further. If I get some good sketches that are a fair representation of what is in my head, I’ll post them.

So, I’ve been working on that lately, and also challenging myself with as much sketching as I can fit in. One of the things I’ve started doing is playing along with DrawerGeeks! They do a weekly posting of themed art that I’ve been following for a while. I’m just picking and choosing from past challenges right now, and most of them have been so-so, but this quick sketch I liked:


Probably because it reminds me of my sister and a photo that my friend Catherine took of her a couple of decades ago. (She had goth style long before it became a fad in our little town.) Sorry for the poor image. Scanner is broken, so this is a photo of the sketch. (I told you I needed new supplies!)