Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Don't Start a Band

Maybe I should have listened to this advice from Reel Big Fish before I started the OilCan Drive project.

Reel Big Fish is one of my favorite bands out there and this song is from their 2005 album which is awesomely titled, "We're Not Happy Until You're Not Happy."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I went to the hospital last week and was diagnosed with something. It's not too bad and nothing to really worry about but the doctor prescribed some pills for me to take to make things all better. So, like I was told, I took the two pills once a day with a big glass of orange juice. The only problem was the side effects from the pills made me tired and manic all at once. Oh, and they also made my skin itch and squirm.

I was happy to get better but the feelings I had while taking the dose for three days straight didn't put me in the best mood to get any work done that I didn't have a deadline for. Tired and manic all at once is never a good place to be.

So, mostly I took naps, read a book, and watched movies. I did get some client work done but that's about it.

So, now you know why I've been quiet for the past few days.

But, I am alive and all is well and things are slowly getting back to normal. Today was a really good day and I got a lot of work done and I'm (excuse the pun) itching to do more!

So, back to business as usual!

One of the things I did before I went on the daily pill dose was a little paint texture experiment I've been thinking of for some time.

I've always loved the art of Drew Struzan. I love the way he designs a movie poster, renders his figures, and uses the paint texture of the illustration board to give every piece more detail.

After watching his How-To DVD and learning he simply gessoed a board to make it look like he used big, strong paint brush strokes on certain backgrounds I had an idea.

I rummaged through the house hoping I still had some unused gesso lying around. I thought I did but, if I did, I couldn't find where I had hidden it. So, it was on to Plan B.

I grabbed a gallon of some unused house paint we have stored in one of the back closets and ripped the backing cardboard off of one of my pads of illustration paper. I figured since this was just a test why waste a good piece of illustration board when the cardboard would work just fine. And, if I screwed it all up, so what...

Using the idea for doing a paint swirl like in the Indiana Jones poster above I painted house paint on the cardboard using an old brush and moved the paint into a swirl.

The only problem with doing this was having the patience to let the house paint dry. And, of course, the cardboard buckled as the moisture from the paint left it. I tried to flatten it by putting some heavy books on it but some of the cardboard actually separated from itself and left me with an odd shape in the middle of my swirl.

When the paint was finally dry I put the whole thing onto my scanner bed and scanned the piece. What I got was a great painted swirl effect I can now put onto any digital painting I do as an overlay.

I did a test of it here on a great sunset photo my Dad took from the island I grew up on back in Maine. If you click on the thumbnail and look for it you can see the subtle painted swirl effect that makes it look like the photo is actually a painting.

So, while it's not as elegant as what the master Drew Struzan can pull of it makes for a great new effect I can put into my toolbox for future pieces. Try doing that with a simple, off the shelf, Photoshop filter!

Friday, March 26, 2010

From The Vault - OilCan Drive Open Mike 2003

When I was first toying around with the idea of doing actual music for the OilCan Drive comic book project I always linked the art to the music. Meaning, if I was having trouble on the music side I tended to slip back into the illustration side to even things out. I think it's why I did this piece way back in early 2003.

In 2001 I was dating a girl I cared very much for. She, of course, left disappeared, and dumped me. I didn't know where she moved to but I knew where she had been working. So, in late 2002, while waiting to see the new Lord of the Rings movie, I popped into the restaurant where she was waiting tables to see if she was there. With a restaurant staff there is a lot of turn over so not many people knew who I was talking about when I asked for her. But, one girl knew her and told me where she was. She told me she had moved back to San Diego and gotten married.

The girl who, when I was dating her, said she didn't believe in marriage, a year later, was married.

To say I was devastated would be putting it lightly.

This sent me into a deep depression where I wondered what I had done wrong and what I was doing with the life I was living. And, as much as I tried, I couldn't shake myself out of this depression. It lasted for a few weeks and I was getting sick of feeling that way.

But, then I figured out what to do.

I figured if I was going to beat the depression I'd have to replace that emotion with something stronger. And when I say stronger I don't mean love and joy and happiness and all of that Hollywood movie crap. Nope, the one emotion that seems to trump all others is fear. Fear speaks to that lizard part of your brain that triggers the fight or flight response. It's such an ancient part of the brain that, when triggered, no other emotion has room to exist.

I had to make myself afraid.

So, I decided, for the first time, to get up on stage with a guitar and perform at an open mike night.

Just the thought of doing that put a panic in my brain and all other emotions were sent running. I was no longer depressed. I was afraid. I was afraid of going up on stage and playing guitar and singing. And, to keep the fear alive, I knew I had to get up and do it.

So, I'm sure to alleviate some of that fear, I drew this piece a day or so before I went up on stage.

And, in the end, I got up on stage with a guitar, a microphone, and a friend backing me up on bass guitar. I played and sang all original songs and, even though the fear was right there with me, it went great. People clapped and cheered and I felt much better.

I was no longer afraid. And I sure as hell was no longer depressed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shirts and Bags

I've had these OilCan Drive t-shirts up at for a few years now. I don't make any money from them but I always thought it was a cool thing to have out there for sale if you happen to like the band. I personally have two of these shirts myself.

But, when I got these photos from my friend, Cyndi, in Texas, I saw the shirts in a whole new light.

Apparently, after wearing her shirt for long enough she cut it up and made it into this stylish bag. As Cyndi says, this has to make her OilCan Drive's number one fan. She has known about the project for a bunch of years and has always loved the characters. I think this little arts and crafts project of hers has really cemented the fact that she really is OilCan Drive's number one fan.

And, for the rest of you, the shirts are still available at HERE. Like I said, I don't make any money off of these at all and did them for fun. So, if you like the band, like the art, and were itching to part with twenty bucks, here's your chance.

Have a great day!

The original shirt before it's turned into a stylish shoulder bag.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Time and Techland!

One of the client jobs I was working on last week were a few new contributor illustrations for Time Magazine's website Techland.

Since these images have already been posted on that site I figured it was safe to show them off here. And, if these happen to show up in any issues of Time magazine please let me know. I was amazed when the last few turned up there but I don't read the magazine on a regular basis so I'll need a heads up. Thanks in advance.

I still have one more of these I am working on that came in late Monday night so I'm not done yet. I did a pencil sketch of the final person last night and am now waiting to see if any changes will need to be made or if I'm good to go to a finish.

These pieces are always fun to do but a little nerve wracking. I don't know the people I am drawing and I always hope they like the way I've depicted them. So far only one of the contributors has asked for the piece I did of them not to be used. If you head over to the website and check out the contributor bios at the bottom of the page you'll see what I'm talking about. He's the one photo that looks out of place amongst all the cartoonish drawn art. Ah well, I guess you can't please everyone no matter how hard you try.

But, I hope these three people like how I've depicted them. I'm doing my best.

And, as an exclusive to this blog, you get to see Evan both in the black shirt they've used on the site and the plaid shirt I originally put him in. Who says you don't get to see good stuff when you come and read this blog?

Have a great day!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Getting There

Geez, I actually started writing this blog post on Saturday morning and then the weekend completely got away from me. So, sorry for the delay. Here we go!

I finished up coloring both of these pieces the other day and here are the results. I also got a chance to pencil the desert scene background and sketch out the two little airships the band is using to race with.

I've never really done a cover like this before where I create all the elements separately and hope, in the end, that they all fit together. Usually I have an idea, do a quick thumbnail, and pencil the whole thing as one piece. I know what the finished piece will look like from the get go. I really don't know why I felt like doing all these pieces separately this time but it will be interesting to see if they all fit together. I've got my fingers crossed.

So, why did the weekend get away from me? One word...taxes.

Yeah, I finally started doing my taxes. I pulled out my shoebox full of receipts, dumped them on the floor, and started sorting and punching in the numbers. Tax time is the one time of the year I wish I had a simpler job where I did my work, got a check at the end of the week, and that was that. Deductions, estimated taxes, income from makes my head spin just thinking about it. But, they are almost done for another year so, in about a week, I can be happy I'm a professional artist again.

I also did some thumbnails for a new client project and even found some time to lay down the bass parts for three of OilCan Drive's songs. So, even with the crazy tax stuff I found some time to do a few creative things here and there.

We're getting there...

Friday, March 19, 2010

From The Vault - OCD Groupie 2003

Around the time I was putting together new stories for the OilCan Drive project I met a girl named Jessica. I figured the band could use a fan who would dance to all their songs while they played on stage. And, since Jessica seemed to like the ideas I had for the project she didn't mind a character being based on her to fill the role.

So, I did this illustration based on her in my comic book, OilCan Drive, style.

I never used the character again but it's funny to see where Jessica ended up in history of the art of Sean Tiffany. You see, Jessica is the girl who posed for the illustration I did of the girl in the pink hat. Yes, that girl. The one you all seem to like so much.

But, she started out here, as the first fan of a cartoon band traveling the wastelands and singing their songs.

Just goes to show you that you never know where you're going to end up.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Test

I realized late last night that in the last post, while I talked about the new coloring technique I tried and later abandoned, I never showed the results.

So, I took a few screen shots to show you what I was talking about. It's a quicker way of coloring but, at least to me, doesn't look nearly as good as what I am doing already.

Although, I did like this second screen shot, where I pixelated the whole colored piece and made it look like a page out of an old magazine. I thought that looked pretty cool. I might use that someday in the future.

So, this is what I tried and dismissed. It's just not for me. Not when I can do what I already do and make it look as good as I can.

OK, back to the color...doing it my way.

Mmmm...pixelated goodness!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Onto the Color

Since I inked all day today on the "project that cannot be named" I took tonight and played a bit with the coloring on the OilCan Drive cover. I think, tomorrow, when I end up all day on the computer coloring the client project I'll take tomorrow night to pencil some of the other images I need for the OilCan Drive cover. That seems to make sense to me now. Of course, we'll see what happens tomorrow.

I experimented a bit tonight with a coloring technique I found online where you basically take the image, lay flat colors on top of everything, and then add a layer of black or dark brown on top of it to add shadows. Then you make that layer transparent and turn the opacity down a bit and, boom, instant shadows. It makes sense and works but, after seeing the result, I wasn't happy with it over my stuff. So, I think I'll stick with the way I've been coloring. I think it looks much better and is a lot more fun. The only benefit I could find from the experiment tonight is that it might be quicker. But, in the end, I'd rather put the work in and make it look the best I can. I hope you agree.

So, while I may not have gotten much done on this piece tonight, it's a good start. Here is the piece, both with and without the original black line art.

It's getting there. It's not there, but it's getting there.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Late Starts and Weird Dreams

I got a late start to the day today since I ended up sleeping in three different places around the house last night. I moved from the couch late last night to the guest bed in the music room and finally settled in my own bed around eight this morning. So, it was an odd night.

I woke up remembering a dream where I met my neighbors because I was using their bathroom. Apparently I didn't think anyone had moved in yet so I was using their bathroom instead of my own. Why? Who's a dream and I'm trying not to read too much into it. I just remember the looks of horror on the neighbor's face when they came into the house. Ha ha.

I'm back to work on a bunch of "client work I can't talk about" today but I did get this piece of the OilCan Drive cover inked before I had to start. It features guitarist Vincent and drummer Nicole. They'll be merged later with the previous piece of Ryan and Henry. And, last night, I scanned the Henry and Ryan piece into the computer and started coloring it. So, I'll try and get a screen shot of that here and there while I work.

But, for now, back to the client work. Daddy's gotta pay the bills!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ink Ink Ink

The inking (and a bit of white-out touching up) was the order of the day. It felt good to get something (almost) done that I can show off on the blog again. I may have to make this a regular thing.

The other good news is that my friend Adam, who was home for a quick visit from Nashville, came by and listened to some of the unfinished rough mixes for the OilCan Drive album. He is one of the few people who's opinion I really trust with the music side of the project. And, of the four tracks I had him listen to he liked them all, liked the way they sounded, and told me to keep going.

So, I'll keep going.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I got the penciled parts for the OilCan Drive piece done late last night. Not only did I do the piece with Ryan and Henry but I also found some time to do the head shots of Vincent and Nicole as well.

If you check out the photo I took yesterday you can see, on the right side of the photo, the thumbnail idea I came up with for the cover. That will give you a bit better idea of how thse pieces will all fit together when they're done. Now all I need to pencil is the desert background and a few small airships racing over it.

But, for now, on to the inking of these two pieces!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sharpening the Blue Pencil

After a week of doing client work I can't show off here in the blog I thought it would be nice to do a piece I could show here.

Taking a break from doing the music of OilCan Drive gave me the chance to move back to the drawing side of the project. I was really inspired after spending a day last week with my friend Jeff. I had no choice but to sit down and do something creative myself. The covers and a few pieces here and there still needed to be done for the OilCan Drive project so I started there.

Up until a few years ago I would always do my layouts on tracing paper. I would sketch out the pages and drawings there, figuring out proportion, design, and placement of figures on the page. Then, once all looked good, I would use a light box to trace the images onto a clean piece of bristol board. I did this from the time I got out of art school up until a few years ago.

The trouble was that it was such a pain to sit down once the sketching was done and trace the whole thing over again. I found myself doing anything else I could do in the house, watch TV, surf the internet, and even clean the bathroom, before I would sit down at the light box and trace. It was just a pain and no fun at all. I felt the life being sucked out of the drawings every time I had to draw them over again.

So, I skipped that step in the process I had learned in art school. I did my sketches right on the bristol board. But, instead of using a regular lead pencil I would do the sketches in blue, non reproducible, pencil.

I first started doing this while drawing storyboards for advertising agencies. The deadlines on those pieces were so tight I ended up sketching the storyboards in blue pencil and inking with markers and brush right on top of them. This saved me the step of erasing any pencil lines since the non-repo blue lines wouldn't scan into the computer. Boom, instant clean ink lines.

So, on a few projects I started penciling with the blue pencil right on the board and skipped the tracing paper. And, I LOVED it! It felt like I was actually drawing again. Everything was flowing and it felt great! I had the same feeling I get when I sketch in a sketchbook and not the tense feeling I got when "doing an actual piece of art."

So, I kept doing that and I still do it to this day.

Capturing the details of the light blue pencil on the board with the camera was a bit tough to do but I hope you get the idea and enjoy the process.

Full pencils will be done on this piece soon!

Friday, March 12, 2010

From the Vault - OilCan Drive Promo Photo 2002

In 2002 I was reading a lot of music magazines. From Spin to AP, from Guitar World to Total Guitar, I was reading them all. And, I really liked the way a lot of the band's promotional photos looked. So, I decided OilCan Drive needed one of their own.

Not a concert shot or one of them having an adventure but something that looked like a photographer took them out to a location and shot some promotional photos for them.

And this is what I came up with.

One odd technique I was playing around with at the time was blurring the background a bit and then turning it into a sort of zip-a-tone looking dot pattern. I think I got the idea from Chris Bachalo's work on "The Witching Hour." I haven't done it too much since but it might be a technique worth exploring again.

And, for those of you who have been following OilCan Drive, you'll notice the clothes changed a bit around this time as well. Ryan wasn't wearing his familiar hockey jersey. I'm not sure why I did this but I have a few pieces where he is wearing the black t-shirt with the old air force logo on the front. I'm guessing he didn't like it too much because he soon went back to the familiar burgundy and white jersey. But, this look might be worth exploring again in the future as well. Maybe it's what he has on under his jersey.

I do remember printing this piece out really big and dragging it to one open mic I did. I thought it would help explain more what I was doing with the project as I pulled out my acoustic guitar and sang some songs. Of course, the one time I pulled it out and successfully explained the concept I really bombed at the music part.

Nothing is worse than being half way through a song and have the sound guy try and push the microphone closer to you, causing you to stop. And, even worse, stopping mid song as you hear one lone person kind of clapping, not sure what they just heard. Then you nervously tell them, "no, I'm not done yet!" as you try to start somewhere again in the middle.

Good times, good times.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Don't Talk About It!

It's been an interesting week here in the studio. I took some advice and am taking a break from recording the music for a bit. I hit another wall last Saturday where I was ready to trash all the work I'd done the last month and start all over again. But, instead of doing that I simply put the guitars and bass away and took a little break.

Looking back, I'm glad I did. I went back into the files today and found I have almost two thirds of the album complete. Luckily I didn't give into the crazy part of myself and waste all of that work.

So, I'm feeling good about the music again and I think a break is just what I needed. So, what am I doing while I take a break from punishing my ear drums, you ask? Why, back to the drawing board, of course.

The only problem is that a lot of the stuff I am drawing this week is being done under a bunch of privacy and non-disclosure forms I signed last week. So, nothing to show yet. I don't think the clients would approve.

But, I am feeling inspired again (thanks to Jeff, who's house I visited today and gave me a chance to see the amazing new thing he is working seeing someone work on something like this and not be inspired would amaze me.) So, not only did I do a few client jobs this week (shhh...don't talk about it) I also started sketching out the OilCan Drive cover that I've been putting off forever. It's about time.

And, because I have images of OilCan Drive on the brain, here is the band's Cloudhopper airship they use to travel around the Zone. I wrote a one page synopsis to the next story this week which tells the tale of how OilCan Drive acquired their ship. It features the military chasing them, a bit more into each band members back story, and a sexy mechanic. The story is slowly gelling in my brain and writing it all out helped. When I'll get to draw it, who knows? But, it's a start and it's a great feeling to be creative again!

Monday, March 8, 2010

OilCan Drive Website

Amidst all the other things I've been doing with the OilCan Drive project I've also been playing around with the idea of the OCD website.

I created this mock-up a few weeks ago, made all the buttons and links I could think of that a working band might need, and embedded a streaming blog on the front page. The blog would feature each member of the band checking in from time to time and give fans a reason to keep coming back to the website. And, because I thought a simple embedded blog on the front page might be a bit boring I created a "skin" around the blog to make it look like a digital pad reader(something that combines an I-phone and a guitar pedal) that someone from the futuristic world of OilCan Drive might use.

I also designed the page so the main image of the band could be easily swapped in and out for new art, keeping the main page fresh without the work it might take to redesign the website every few months.

So, what do you think? Should I keep working on it, design something new, post the web page up even though none of the links work at the moment? The blog is working and the band has been checking in from time to time so something would be there. So, let me know. I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


With the new Gorillaz album dropping soon I've been getting a lot of "so, OilCan're trying to be like the Gorillaz, right?"

Well, kind of. But, mostly, no.

I created OilCan Drive as a concept before I had heard of the Gorillaz. In fact, when I came up with the idea in early 2001 the first Gorillaz album hadn't even come out yet. And I heard about them when a friend, who seemed to revel in torturing me, told me about the new cartoon band.

But, I kept going with the OilCan Drive idea.

I figured a cartoon band is nothing new, no matter that the press thinks the Gorillaz are revolutionary and new and that no one else in the history of man has ever come up with such a thing. You see, I remember things like the Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Archies, the gang from Fat Albert playing junkyard instruments, and Josie and the Pussycats.

So, even though I love the work of Jamie Hewlett, the artist who created the Gorillaz, the next time someone asks me if I'm trying to be like the Gorillaz I can tell them, "nah, I'm going for more of a Josie and the Pussycats kind of thing."

And I can look at them as they stare at me like an idiot with no idea what I am talking about.

Friday, March 5, 2010

From The Vault - OilCan Drive 2002

I'm guessing this piece was done sometime in 2002, after I did the first OilCan Drive full color mini-comic.

The big concept behind OilCan Drive, and the reason I came up with it in the first place, was because it could be told in both long stories, short stories, and even single page comic books. I didn't need to do an eight issue story arc to tell the complete tale. I could do quick and simple stories like this one and still get away with it.

Of course, some of that concept went out the window when I found myself writing a full 120 page movie script for OilCan Drive a few years ago. But, that's what I like about it. It can support a long movie as easily as telling quick one page stories.

After doing that first mini comic I had the idea of doing single page comics telling the back story of each character. I had done an earlier version of how Nicole, the drummer, and Henry, the bass playing ape, grew up together loving music. Now, it was Ryan Burke, the lead singer's, turn.

Even with no dialogue you can look back into Ryan's life, see how he played hockey, got kicked out of the league, and made his way into the desert wastelands of the Zone. It even has a quick panel showing how Ryan's father was a famous military man who was lost in battle (one of the reason Ryan resents the military.)

The word balloons were supposed to have an interviewer asking Ryan questions as he responded. The last few panels had the interviewer asking, after being kicked out of the league, with no family, living in the wastelands, what did he do when his life was so low?

"Easy," Ryan responds, "I started a band..."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Guitar Labels

You know I love guitars. So, when I got a call from my old drumming teacher, Christian Teele, about designing a label for his brother Morgan, who builds guitars, I was all in.

Morgan builds acoustic guitars and anyone who can do that I consider myself a fan of. He was looking for a label he could stick inside the guitars he made to both let people know who built them and to also personalize a few of them he was building for friends and family.

After a few sketches and false starts I came up with something he was happy with. Something that incorporated some of his design sense, the color that was his namesake, and even a few dragonflies that he has cut into a few of the guitars.

Morgan was happy with the design and kind enough to send me a few photos of the first label being placed into his new guitar build.

Guitars...gotta love em.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Happy March!

Geez, with the OilCan Drive drama running through my head and a birthday I celebrated on Sunday I almost forgot it was March already!

And, because it's a new month, here's the new blog header featuring the band that loves to drive me crazy, OilCan Drive.

Things are going much better with the album recording since we last talked. After Friday night's little mental meltdown I was back at it again on Saturday and spent the day recording the acoustic guitar parts for about half of the album. One little trick I've found when recording is that, even if the track is all electric guitars and driven amplifiers if you put an acoustic guitar part underneath all of that noise it really fills the sound out and brings the whole thing to life a little bit more.

So it felt really good to have a day where everything was working and sounding great.

I have hope again for the project and know now that I can never really quit it.

The cartoon band in my head won't let me.