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.

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! 

Spectrum 22

Quick update! I am ecstatic to announce that three of my pieces have been accepted into Spectrum 22! I've entered every year since my junior year in college and this will be my second time in the annual.

  “The Magician of the Mountain of Death”   by Bastien Lecouffe Deharme

“The Magician of the Mountain of Death” by Bastien Lecouffe Deharme

Needless to say I am honored to be included. Not to mention three of of my favorite pieces made it in! You can see them below: 

I'm very much looking forward to seeing the whole book. It's always a joy to see the works included and every year it gets better and better. Special thanks to John Fleskes, Cathy & Arnie Fenner and of course the judges, who had the impossible task of choosing the works included this year. 

Down the Rabbit Hole : The Jabberwocky

Long time, no updates! Things have been busy and this year is already going by way too fast. I have a new piece to share! I am included in an amazing lineup of artists for an Alice in Wonderland show that will open in beautiful downtown Oakland, April 10th. I thought I'd take the chance to paint the fabled Jabberwocky! 

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came!

This piece is 8x10 and was created with pencil and gouache. I thought I'd share a bit of my process for this piece as well. Of course every creature starts out with sketches. I doodled out a few messy jabberwocks in my sketchbook: 

From here I needed to push the design of the head more. I took it as a teaching opportunity and discussed it with my students. I showed them which animals I was looking at when I came up with the initial design (top middle sketch) and then took other animals and their features to add to the final design. 

Click to view larger

Now that I had my Jabberwocky designed, I could move on to the sketch for the final piece. I tend to sketch digitally, even when I'm working traditionally. This is a good way to figure out composition and color. 

After sketching in photoshop, I'll print the image and trace/draw the image on a light-box. Here's what the final pencil looked like (after I had tinted the line a bit).

I'm trying something new with this piece. Instead of painting directly over my pencil, I decided to print a giclee pencil on a piece of hot press watercolor paper. This would give me two originals: a pencil and a painting. This would also insure that the pencil wouldn't bleed into the gouache. I am unable to use spray fixative (I have a severe reaction to it) and so this process would help. 

The show will be up in April and if you're in the area, I suggest you come out for the opening! I'm included with an awesome list of talent, it'll be a fabulous show! I've got one other piece in the works for the show as well. More on that soon. 

 Poster image by Steven Russell Black

Poster image by Steven Russell Black

Hope to see you there!