Revisiting the Sural for Art Order's The Journal

As some of you might know, I was invited to contribute to an art book organized and published by Jon Schindehette of Art Order. The book features 78 artists in the main show, and 54 artists in the Salon section of the book, expressing aspects about their work without any boundaries or direction. The book was successfully Kickstarted in early June and has just wrapped up it's preorders.

Me and the other artists included in the book has been collaborating via Slack to show each other progress on our spreads. It's been incredibly inspiring seeing all of this come together. The spreads included in this book will be epic and I am extremely proud to be among this lineup! 

In brainstorming about what I wanted to focus on for my spread, I turned back to the project that's been on my mind for over five years. The Red Valley is still a place I visit often. When I started work on the project back in 2011, I was in a completely different place with my work. The way I handled design was different, the way I use materials was different and since then, I've grown in my own artistic voice and skill.


This project is not one I take lightly. I love the desert. It's always been a home to me and will continue to be a place that I am inspired by. The Red Valley is more than a bestiary, it's a place. So it's taken me a while to build up the skill and courage to approach it again. 

The Sural, concept from 2014.

The Sural, concept from 2014.

From my newsletter in 2014:

"The sural has been following me around for some time now. This creature was the first to emerge from the The Red Valley back in 2011 but it has been a constant work in progress. In my plans for Spring: Book One, the sural is our first encounter and leads us through the cold yet, sunbathed sand dunes that make up a large portion of the northern regions of the Ansari Desert. I've been doing lots of sketching of this creature; off and on across many sketchbooks. I tend to come back to the lanky build, wide feet and large, blunt head."

Here we are, two years later, and I am still refining this creature. No, I don't sketch the sural every day but I do think about it almost every day; mulling over designs and ideas in the back of my mind. This creature is important to me and to the story of The Red Valley. It's our first encounter and will set the tone of how the other inhabitants survive in such a place. The Journal was the perfect place to explore more and to see if I couldn't get closer to what I've been envisioning in my head for so long. 

The silhouette of the sural has gotten lankier. The head is more slender and the neck more swayed. I want this creature to feel odd, with strange proportions and a simple yet, memorable silhouette. This is one of the final drawings that was later painted in gouache for the book. You can see the full spread below.

This was an absolute joy to work on. I am thrilled with where the sural is headed now. I think I am just about there. If you're curious about more on The Red Valley, sit tight. I've got more updates planned through this newsletter in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for updates on The Journal via Art Order on Facebook.

Digital Drawing for Science & Fantasy

It's been a busy summer so far and it's looking like it will be an eventful fall as well! There will be lots to share in the coming months. For now, I've put up a mini workshop I put together. This lesson will show how I build up an anatomical study from wire frame gesture to final drawing. I’ll show how I break the skeleton down into planar shapes to better draw it as a 3D object, attach the musculature to the bone, use animal reference for creature design and I how use these principles to better understand the anatomy of a creature. I cover basic photoshop techniques and how I use them to edit and manipulate my work. Inside you’ll find notes and observations on drawing techniques as well as design principles.

Inside the ZIP file you’ll receive a 25 page PDF workshop with written notes, diagrams, images and menu screenshots. You’ll also receive a 300dpi PSD file of lion anatomy diagrams; both the side views and the ¾ view. The PSD file contains all of my original gestures and work that builds up to the final line drawing.

You can find the workshop here: https://gumroad.com/l/QAcmT

Designing Radish Spirits

My last reveal from the Miyazaki show are radish spirits. I have always loved Spirited Away. It's sort of a "comfort food" movie for me. One of my favorite characters is the Radish Spirit. He/she is so peculiar and odd. The character has always stood out to me. So, I knew I wanted to illustrate the iconic design straight from the film. 

That said, I also wanted to put my own spin on the name "Radish Spirit". I assume that the traditional Radish spirit from Spirited Away is modeled after a daikon radish so I picked two more species to model my own spirits from: The French Breakfast Radish and the Spanish Black Radish. 

All of my work starts as messy scribbles. I like to sketch out roughs in my sketchbook and then move to photoshop where I'll work out the details, proportions and color. 

Here I can sketch rather quickly, trying out colors, shapes and sizes. For these spirits, I wanted them each to occupy a shape: a triangle, a square and a circle. A lot of design in animation is based on overall shapes that describe a character's personality or attributes. Mostly it was an exercise in variation. 

From there, I used my usual method of bringing a digital sketch to finish. I print the image out, lightbox trace it and bring the drawing to finish from there. After that, I will apply color via gouache painting.

For this piece, I wanted the coloration to feel light and airy, similar to what you see in Studio Ghibli's art books. This piece was a fun way to use my creature design muscles for something so established. The original paintings are actually all separate from each other. This lineup was created for a limited edition of prints available at the gallery.  These spirits will be on display at Sketchpad gallery for the remainder of the month. To inquire about seeing the show, contact Sketchpad on Facebook.

Okotto, Nago, Beautiful and Strong.

Nago was beautiful and strong. 


This month I had the absolute pleasure to exhibit alongside nine other artists at a Miyazaki Tribute show! It was hosted by Chris Koehler and Joe Ching at Sketchpad Gallery in San Francisco. 

Of course, how do you choose a Miyazaki world to depict? I have a few favorites but when there are giant boars to paint, I'm going to head there first. I decided I'd illustrate Nago from Princess Mononoke in his peaceful form, before he lost himself. I produced two original pieces in the creation of this illustration; a pencil and a painting.

The pencils I use tend to be on the softer side and don't do well with lots of painting over top, especially on a painting this detailed. So instead, once the pencil is finished, I scan it in and reprint it as a giclee print on hot press watercolor paper. This way, I can preserve my pencil work underneath the gouache. 

I tend to layer quite a bit with gouache, staining and building up values slowly. Overall, this piece took about 3-4 days to complete. I am still breaking into the world of gouache but I am quite happy with how this turned out.  

The final image measures 9x12 and is gouache on hot press watercolor paper. This piece will be on display at Sketchpad gallery for the remainder of the month. To inquire about seeing the show, contact Sketchpad on Facebook. 

Special thanks to Chris Koehler and Joe Ching at Sketchpad Gallery, Luke Harrington and Craig Drake for organizing the show and the other artists who contributed such beautiful and inspired work. It was an absolute pleasure to work with all of you. 

Huge thanks to the fans and patrons who came out in terrible weather to see our work! You all rock and are the reason stuff like this happens. 

Read a feature on The Verge about the opening and to see other works from the other amazing artists in the show! Stay tuned for more updates and for a first look into designing the radish spirits for the show!