Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Back to the Kubert! Part Eleven

And that, my friends, is the last page of "Back to the Kubert" I have. As you can see, it's not even all the way finished. And, where do our heroes go from here? I have no idea. I talked to Dan recently and even he didn't know. He told me he liked to keep the stories open ended so they could go anywhere he wanted.

So, I hope you enjoyed this lost tale I found under my bed in Maine. I know I enjoyed revisiting some great art from a great friend.

And, it gave me time to catch on some new work. So, thank you all and thank you Dan!

I'll see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Airborne Toxic Event

Just a quick commercial break from the "Back to the Kubert" adventures!

I saw the band "The Airborne Toxic Event" last night at the Boulder Theater and had an absolutely great time. I came across "TATE" (as they're called by the in-crowd) by hearing one of their singles on the radio. After hearing it a few times and finally figuring out who it was I bought the album to see if the rest of it was as good as the single.

And, boy, was it ever. Their debut album has been on constant rotation here at the studio for weeks. Trying to describe what there music is like is hard. After thinking about it for a bit I'd say it's a little bit of rockabilly, a touch of the Cure, and a few hints of some early 80's new wave music. But, whatever you want to label it, I call it "good" music.

The kind of music that, after the day I had yesterday, was just what I needed to put a smile back on my face. So, thank you "TATE"!

Here are a few of their acoustic performances I pulled off of YouTube. Enjoy!

Back to the Kubert! Part Six

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Back to the Kubert! Part Four

As I mentioned before, somewhere over the last few years the second and third episodes of "Back to the Kubert" were lost. So, your guess is as good as mine as to how we ended up here. I think we must have been in some far reaches of space and an alien ship brought us on board.

And, as I also mentioned, at this point Dan had taken over all writing and art chores of the pages. I just had a fun time seeing where the story went. I hope you enjoy the results.

Our adventure continues...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Back to the Kubert! Part One

While I get things together and take care of some business I thought it might be a great time to roll out some pages I found under the bed while I was back in Maine. Given the length of the story I'll probably be running these right through the "From the Vault Friday" blogs. But, look at it this way...this stuff is all from the vault!

The short lived comic book story "Back To The Kubert" was done in the summer between my first and second years at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Arts. The story featured two good friends I had made my first year, Dan O'Connor and Thom Zahler. Along with myself, the stories were about the three of us having adventures with a time and space traveling motorcycle. Dan was doing the plot and pencils, I was doing the inks, and Thom was on lettering duties.

This line-up lasted for all of one page before Dan took over everything and just started doing all the pages himself. Which was fine with me. Personally, it was much more fun reading about my adventures then actually having to work on them. And, I liked Dan's art a lot so I didn't mind at all.

The only problem with the story is that parts 2 and 3 are somehow missing. I don't know if I had them or if Dan had them. But, it looks like they have been lost somewhere in the last few years. So, even now, I have no idea what we were up to for the two missing episodes. Hopefully, after part four, you can figure out what's going on and enjoy the adventure.

So, here it is, over the next week or so, "Back to the Kubert!"

Monday, September 21, 2009

No Action

I went to bed last night listening to Elvis Costello sing his song "No Action".

I had the song in my head for hours but didn't know the name or any of the actual lyrics. So it made it hard to type anything into Google and come up with some sort of lead. The only line I could remember (and I remembered it wrong) was "I'm not a hurricane junkie" (the line is actually "I'm not a telephone junkie")

I finally found the song because I remembered Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day sang the song live with Elvis one night. That, at least, narrowed down the songs quite a bit. So, I finally found it and listened to it a bunch of times last night.

When I woke up this morning the song was still going through my head.

I've been thinking a lot about the music side of OilCan Drive lately. With the interior art almost completed on the comic book side and only a few covers and pin-ups left to do the big 800 pound gorilla in the room (no offense to Henry, my bass playing ape) is actually doing the album.

And it has me scared to death.

The majority of the album has been written and arranged. I need to write a few lyrics here and there and it will be ready to go. Then it's just a matter of demoing the whole thing, listening to it again, making changes, and then laying down each song, track by track, with guitars, bass, drums, vocals, and whatever else I can think of to put in there.

It's a huge task and it's staring down at me like a huge brick wall I need to climb up. It's daunting to say the least. I keep trying to tell myself, "one step at a steps...just do what you can today and there is always time to do more tomorrow." I think I need to take that first step and just start working on it. (it's funny, I just typed stop instead of start...hmmm....Freudian slip, anyone?)

I have the image in my head of Samwise from the Lord of the Rings as he and Frodo set out from the Shire. "If I take one more step I'll be as far away from home as I've ever been before."

That's how I feel. I'm taking a huge step into a very great and vast unknown. And I don't know if this will work at all or if anyone will care.

It's hard when you're tackling a project like this all by yourself. It's all on you. There are no "professionals" in the room to fall back on. The project lives and dies by what you do alone.

But, I won't let whatever fear I have stop me. I'll take that first baby step soon and get this tremendous ball rolling. The fear is good. Every great project that I love I've heard the artist talk about how if you're not scared then you're not doing it right.

Did I mention I'm scared, yet?

No wonder I have Elvis Costello's "No Action" running through my brain. I promise I'll get myself out of neutral soon.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy Anniversary

My parent's, Rob and Jill Tiffany, just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on August 29, 2009. It's one of the main reasons I headed back to Maine when I did.

While I was back home in Maine and had a little time to myself, I snuck out their old wedding album and headed to the upstairs computer to scan in some of their photos. After fumbling with the scanning software for a while I finally got a few pieces into the computer. Then it took me a little while longer to find out where the computer had put the files. It's not like I could yell down to my Dad to ask him where they might be so it took me a while to figure it out for myself. But, I finally did and got the photos onto a USB drive to bring back to Colorado.

So I had some great reference to do this piece for my parents for their anniversary.

It was odd, but fun, to draw my parents the way they looked forty years ago. Both of them even look at those old photos and wonder who those two young people are. But I am really happy with the results.

I got this piece finished in time for my parent to come out to Colorado to visit me. I presented it to them last night to huge smiles and big hugs. Now we just need to figure out how to get it back to Maine in one piece. I'm not sure it would be safe folded up in a suitcase on a plane. So, it looks like we'll send it back through FedEx.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! Here's to forty more years!

Friday, September 18, 2009

From the Vault - Venom 1992

I know this piece was done sometime in the winter of 1992, after I had graduated college and was living in New Jersey by myself.

Oh, my children, it was hard times back then for your old Uncle Sean. Yes, I had a job in the art field, working as an assistant artist at a studio designing various comic book merchandise, but the previous few months had been rough.

The day I got out of school, back in mid-May, I had a girlfriend, lots of friends from school, and a promising job opportunity as a designer for Hasbro Toys. When school ended every friend I had moved away from New Jersey to live back home. By mid-summer I hadn't gotten the job at Hasbro. By that fall my girlfriend had left me to pursue her romantic dreams with a married, older man. Oh, and I was still stuck in New Jersey. By myself.

But, I did still have a place to work. I had a place to live. I barely had any money to live off of but I had enough to pay rent and eat. I think even at this time I didn't have enough money for cable (I lived for about a year without TV until one Sunday I just got fed up and somehow hacked into the cable line that ran through one of my closets to my upstairs neighbor's TV...desperate times, my friends, desperate times.)

But, during all of those hard times I still had one thing going for me. I could still draw.

Venom used to be one of my favorite Spider-Man villains when I was growing up. I liked the idea of someone being linked to Spider-Man in that way, having a personal reason to hate ol' Spidey, and even had the knowledge that Spider-Man was really Peter Parker. I also loved the way you could play artistically with the alien symbiotic suit, making it twist and turn and LIVE around Eddie Brock.

So, one day, I drew Eddie Brock as Venom. Just for something to do.

Even through those rough times, I kept on drawing. I don't know if I could ever really stop even if I wanted to. It's the one thing I have always been able to do that no one could take away from me, no matter how big and bad the outside world was. So, now, if you'll excuse me.

I have to go draw something...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back To It

During June I was on fire with getting the new OilCan Drive book done. I had three pages left to ink and the interiors would all be inked and scanned.

Then July hit and three kid's books in a row forced me to put the personal work on the back burner. After finishing those books I went right on a two week vacation to the east coast. Getting back to Colorado and the studio, it took me a bit to get back up to full working speed.

And then my parents came out from Maine for a visit. Four years of not seeing my parents and now we've visited each other more in the last month than we have since I can remember.

But, slowly, what seems like VERY slowly, I am getting back to those last three pages. One page is inked and scanned. One is half way done. And one is still sitting on the edge of the studio waiting for its turn.

Here is the second to the last page, half way done.

It's getting's getting there...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


This is the last color piece I did for the Stone Arch Jake Maddox basketball books. It's an image of the team's mascot, the Wildcat, and, honestly, I'm not even sure if this image will ever show up in any of the books. Maybe somewhere on the covers or maybe on chapter starts or a page inside of the book. But, he wasn't in the manuscripts anywhere so your guess is as good as mine as to where he might land.

I designed the mascot to make it look like a kid had a huge paper machete tiger mask over his head. The idea came to me from an old episode of "Freaks and Geeks" starring a very young Shia Lebeouf as the school's viking mascot. He wore a HUGE viking head and it looked just great.

The only other time I designed a mascot like this was for a sticker book I did years ago. The art director asked for a mascot but the name of the school or team was never decided. So, taking matters into my own hands I decided the team would be named after my old high school team, The Portland Bulldogs. I designed a logo for the team jerseys and a mascot, much like this design, but of a bulldog.

In the early goings the team was put into generic green and white jerseys with an oval for a logo. I guess they didn't want to offend any of the cat lovers out there by putting a dog on a team's jersey. So, with the generic team chosen, the mascot idea was thrown out the window.

Actually, I should have redesigned the mascot to just be a generic green oval with hands and feet. That would have been funny. I don't think it would have passed through all of the changes though.

So, sorry Portland Bulldog fans, your time has yet to come. And, for all of you Wildcat fans out there, well, we'll just have to see where this guy shows up.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Win or Lose

PJ is the tallest player on the team. The problem he has is that he can't shoot a foul shot to save his life. So, what's a boy to do but practice practice practice?

"Win or Lose" was the first book in the basketball series that I tackled. Before starting these new books I was given a few suggestions as to how I could improve my art by a few art directors up at Stone Arch. One of their comments was that I sometimes drew my children a little too big next to the adult characters. They wanted them more "child sized". OK, I could work on that.

And then I read the manuscript featuring PJ. In the first page PJ is described as a 5'11" fourteen year old boy. Personally, I would KILL to be 5'11" at my adult age. And, I'm a full grown man!

So, after beating my head against the nearest wall I could find for a few hours, I finally figured out ow to make PJ more "child sized" next to his team's coach.

How did I do it?

You guessed it, the coach is now about 6'10" tall.

Am I not an artist who aims to please, or what?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Playing Forward

The third book of the Jake Maddox basketball series featured a boy named Isaac who, you guessed it, wants to play forward for his team.

Not too much to say about this one that hasn't been said before. Unfortunately, the last three books in this series got so backed up that I was doing them one after the other for six weeks straight. You know you're in trouble when your art director writes you an email saying, "how is the latest script going? You know, the one we sent you a month ago..." didn't send me one a month ago. I haven't seen anything new in a while. "Oh, OK, well here are two at once and then the next one is coming next week."

So, yeah, things on the last three books kind of ran together and the days and weeks became "How much can I get done before I go to sleep" kind of times.

But, I got it all done and am still happy with the results. Even if sometimes I don't exactly remember doing them.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Off The Bench

Here is another of the cover illustrations I did for the newest line of Stone Arch Books by Jake Maddox. Once again, this features the original colors I chose so, beware, when buying the books, colors and tones may vary. ha ha.

This is the character who I assumed, when doing the initial character designs, was the "bad boy" of the group. Once I finally read the manuscript I found nothing could be further from the truth. Daniel was simply a boy who was trying to make the first string team and was working hard to do it. I guess that shows you that you can't judge a book by its cover.

Since getting back from vacation I've slowly been getting back into the groove of things with art. Luckily, the itch to start working again has finally kicked in and I'm looking forward to a good week of drawing and inking ahead.

Now, if I could just stop this sunburn I got while driving to New Jersey from peeling off of my arm. Oh, it doesn't hurt at all. It just makes me feel like I'm a walking leper or something. I don't even notice it until I look down at my arm and, "gah!" So, hopefully this runs its course soon too.

Friday, September 11, 2009

From The Vault - Exit 6 1990

When I was back in Maine one of the things my Mom tasked me with doing was going through the piles and piles of artwork I had left there. I took one afternoon and pulled piece after piece out from under a bed and took a big trip down memory lane.

And, of course, I pulled out the camera and snapped a few shots of pieces I thought would work well for "From the Vault" Fridays.

Most of the work was from my high school and college days. It was funny to see the evolution from what I was doing in high school to how much better I got in college. And, then, to see how much I had gotten better since college up until now. I guess that's the name of the game with art, or with anything...just keep trying to get better. And never hate your old stuff. You were doing the best you could with what you had at the time. It's all in the journey, young grasshopper.

I had the concept of Exit 6 in my head since high school so, naturally, the story and characters followed me into college. A lot of my assignments and ideas always came back to these characters. They were a big part of my life up until I finally published the book in 1998.

I'm not sure what this project was for. Maybe a mock up of a magazine article? I don't recall. But, I do know the piece was inked and then colored with Dr. Martin's dyes. There looks to be a little airbrush work on there (this was before I had really mastered that tool) but the figures look to be all painted by hand. I think I was messing around with the idea that you could use household bleach to eat away at the dyes so I think that's how I got the whites in the piece without using regular white-out. There also looks to be a touch of colored pencil in the sign. Oh, and all the "greeking" of the lettering was done on a plastic overlay so I could keep the art intact.

I'm pretty sure this was done during my second year of school.

So, there you go. Our first look into the far reaches of the vault I found under a bed in Maine. Believe me, it won't be the last.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On Guard!

Usually when I do a book cover for the Jake Maddox books I'll do a figure and then drop in a suitable background and turn the whole thing in as one finished piece. But, for the basketball books, I was asked to do something different.

This time I was asked to only provide the figure so the designers on the book could play with the images more and try something new. I've seen a few different variations of the covers so even I'm not sure what the finished ones will look like yet.

But, here is how the figure for the first cover I did turned out.

Again, the colors will be changed on the finished covers from my original orange, black, and white uniform color scheme to blues and whites. But, I figured it would be fun to show you what I had originally thought of and how I pictured the guys on the team.

I really liked the way this figure turned out. I love the movement of his body and the foreshortening on his arms. I really get a sense that he is driving towards the net and going for a shot.

So, as the title suggests, the opposing team better be "On Guard!" (wa wa wa....ha ha!)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Wildcats!

I've been the artist, cartoonist, illustrator, or maker of all things art (whichever you want to call it) on the Jake Maddox line of books for Stone Arch for the last three and a half years. There have been stories about sports, disasters, and even a line of books about Nascar racing cars. But, of the almost fifty books I have worked on none of the stories ever overlapped or intracted with each other. We never revisited previous characters or had main characters in one book become a secondary character in another book.

Until now.

The latest four books I just finished up all featured the same basketball team and each book focused on one member of the team. For me, it was a great way to spend four books, drawing the same characters over and over again and getting into each of their stories. I really enjoyed it and hope that it can become a continuing theme in future Jake Maddox stories.

When coming up with the look of the team I was given a general idea of what each kid looked like and ran with it from there. The only problem I have with doing character designs before I've read the actual story is that I get a preconceived notion of what each kid is about without having any real idea. Luckily, I wasn't too far off with my general ideas. I did think one of the kids was the "bad boy" of the group when, in fact, he was just a kid trying to make the first string team. But, the art I did didn't really show that so I was pretty safe when I had to adjust my take on him.

The team uniforms were also changed a number of times during the initial art designs. When I heard the team was called the Wildcats I naturally pictured orange, white, and black as the basic team colors. But, a few go rounds with the art directors and the colors are now powder blue, blue, and white. So, because my original colors will never be seen in the books I thought it might be nice to showcase them here and see what could have been.

Changing colors is never a real problem in the digital age. A few clicks of the mouse and some inventive thinking usually gets the job done. The problem with this image is that I somehow had the brilliant idea to make all of my usual black ink lines colored lines a la the old 2D Disney animated movies. It took a little longer than just doing a regular color job over the black and white line art but I was really happy with the results and it was a successful experiment. The only problem came when I had to change the colors from orange to blue. Not only did I have to change the major colors but I had to go back and change the colored lines as well. Not that it wasn't doable, it just took a little longer than usual.

But, I was still happy with the results and, I hope, when the books see release later this year, you'll be a fan of them as well.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Using the a nifty little tool in the newest version of Photoshop I pieced together a few of the photos I took when I was on Peaks Island. Click on any of the images to enlarge them. Blogger did shrink them a bit so if anyone wants a higher-res image, just let me know.

First up is a shot taken from the back of the car ferry, leaving Peaks Island and heading the the mainland. On the left is Little Diamond Island. Then Peaks Island and, finally, on the right, House Island. This is the scene I saw every day as I left Peaks Island to go to school in Portland. If you look closely, you can see my parent's house. It's covered in trees and hidden a bit, but it's right on the shore.

These two panoramas were taken on the back shore the day the edge of the hurricane was pummeling the island with awesome waves. Something about the mix of people on the rocks, people watching the waves, the surf of the ocean, and the island homes to the right make these two of my favorite images.

And finally, an image from my parents front yard. This is the view they wake up to every day and, sometimes, if they're lucky, they'll get a beautiful sunset in the evening. On of the nights I was there, I got lucky.

After stitching all of these photos together I'm really happy with the results and amazed that someone wrote a program that can pull a bunch of images into Photoshop and instantly, by itself, put them all together and make sense of them. Bravo, Photoshop man, bravo!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bye Bye Peaks Island!

Last Wednesday I woke up on Peaks Island, got on a boat, said goodbye to my parents, and headed back to Colorado.

I had a really great time being back home and finally getting some real time to relax for the first time in four years. The first few days I was back I wandered around the house not sure of what my purpose was there. But, then I took the trip to New Jersey and slept in the back of a mini-van. After that I lost track of first the hours and then the days.

And, next thing I knew, it was Wednesday and time for me to leave.

So, now that I am back in Boulder, back in my condo and studio, I am suffering the same problem I had when I first stepped foot in Maine. What am I supposed to be doing here? There are a ton of projects I have lined up but nothing that needs my immediate attention so I've been slowly getting back into the swing of things.

First, I cleaned the house. Then I unpacked. And, then, the final step, I think, that will put me back into a creative mood...

Writing this blog.

Sorry I've been away for so long and the posts have been sporadic. But, I was on vacation and all. I hope some of the photos of where I've been and the people I've seen have made up for the fact that no art has been showcased in the last few weeks. But, the good news is that, while in Maine, I went through a lot of old work from both high school and college. I took a ton of photos so the From the Vault Fridays should be well stocked for quite a while.

And tomorrow, the art will resume. Until then, here are a few more photos of me and the family, together again for the first time in four years.