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.

LCAD Creature Design Student Work

It's been a whirlwind of a summer. As fall rolls around, things are leveling out a bit. As you might know, I have been teaching an online creature design course with LCAD, Game Art department. It's been a lovely experience. My first class with LCAD this last Spring was a great group. A lot of the students improved quite a bit with drawing animals and working on their concepts. It was very encouraging and rewarding to see such a great group of concepts at the end of the course. I wanted to showcase a few that I received in my inbox below. I've listed each student's name and website below in case you'd like to check out more of their work. Please click on the images below to view larger. 

Leostrix by James Bear : http://www.jamesbearart.com/

Brachyurilla by Ian Joseph Diaz: http://ijsdiaz.blogspot.com/

Damien the Manticore by Kial Fukuda : http://kialfukuda.blogspot.com/

The Mexican Chupacabra by Megan Tompkins : https://www.artstation.com/artist/megantompkins

Striped Cuttleshark by Nicholas Williams : https://www.artstation.com/artist/nickwilliams

The Faux Phoenix by Donna Vu : http://www.donnavu-portfolio.blogspot.com/ 

More updates again soon. 

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!