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! 

Spectrum Art Live 2015

Next week I will be exhibiting at Spectrum Art Live in Kansas City Missouri. I adore this show. It's like a retreat for me to see friends, old and new, and be inspired.

If you're in the area, I highly recommend you go see the show. I will have my own booth this year but my usual booth mate, Michael Manomivibul, will be right next door at booth #313. Be sure to drop by and say hello. I will have both Endeavor Vol. 1 & 2 for sale, as well as a few prints and original drawings. 

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! 


It's been a while since I've been able to update! I've been busy with Shark Cat orders and a few other projects that are under wraps at the moment. I did want to quickly share a new piece I completed last month for a local show. 

Muad'Dib, Teacher of Boys - Visions of Arrakis show - Pencil & Gouache

Muad'Dib, Teacher of Boys - Visions of Arrakis show - Pencil & Gouache

I had the pleasure of being included in a show that focused on the science fiction classic, Dune. Visions of Arrakis features work from an amazing list of artists and was coordinated by Justin DeVine. For my piece, I focused on a small creature that eventually becomes the chosen name of our hero, Paul. The Muad'Dib is a small hopping mouse that inhabits Arrakis. There's not too much  of a description of this creature's appearance in the book. There's debate about whether or not the mouse is a native species or something imported by the Fremen. I imagined it as the later but perhaps adapted a bit. I decided to create an original piece to hang in the show. I created the image above with pencil and gouache. I've included a small time-lapse of my working below. I thought it was fun. :) 

The show is still up at Bergeron's Books and if you're in the Oakland area, I highly recommend checking it out.