Sunday, October 31, 2010


The super hero project continues along...

Next up, color!

Friday, October 29, 2010

From the Vault - Loud Boy 2004

I've been trying to find the original file of this piece for a while now but, not finding it, I think it might have been lost in one of those pesky times when my computer freaked out and I didn't have the work backed up.

Back your work up, kids. Take it from someone who lost a few pieces here and there.

Luckily, in one of the folders of art I found, I had a hard copy of it printed out so here he is, Loud Boy himself!

I must have done this piece right after I moved into my new place. I remember still having things in boxes, trying to paint and fix up my new place, and doing my best to set up some sort of bare bones studio so I could work on this piece.

I got a call from Penguin Books in New York City and they were working on a few graphic novel projects. Somehow they'd come across my work and wanted me to do a sample for a new book they had in development called "Loud Boy." I can't remember what the story or concept were but, from looking at this sample, it appears, as you'd guess, to be about a boy who was LOUD.

So, I got my studio into some sort of working order and quickly got this piece done and out to them.

From what I remember, I don't think I ever heard anything back from them at all. Not a yes, not a no, not a maybe...nothing.

But, that's the way the freelance world is sometimes. If a client doesn't want to use you or even if they have used you and plan on using someone new and never talking to you again it's not like you get some sort of severance package or even a call to tell you you're "fired."

Sometimes the world just doesn't call you and that should be answer enough.

But, after doing the piece and having a good talk with the client about the job, a "no thanks" would have been nice.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hit Somebody!

It's been a busy week and whatever part of me that is the writer seems to have taken a break.

But, enjoy this, the pencil sketch of two superheroes fighting.

It's been too long since I drew anything even close to something like this. It reminds me of why I wanted to draw cartoons in the first place.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I found a little time this weekend, between dinner Saturday night and going out for ice cream, to ink the piece of art I did for Morgan.

I inked the piece while watching the Colorado Avalanche host the LA Kings. The Avs ended up losing but it was still a fun game to watch.

Art, hockey, and pretty girls...not a bad way to spend a few hours on a Saturday night!

Friday, October 22, 2010

From the Vault - Haircut 2003

Back in 2003 I was still working a nine to five job (well, eight to four) five days a week while I tried to get my freelance art career back off the ground. Doing my own comic books, doing work for local clients, and doing stuff for friends just wasn't paying the bills.

In August of 2002 a friend of mine, Rob Kelly, was finding success on a website called the ISpot. He'd been on it since early 2001 but, since it cost money to join, I hadn't jumped on the bandwagon. In 2002 it seemed like Rob's career was taking off so I looked into joining again.

I had pretty much given up on a career in art at that time. I figured I'd work a regular job like most folks and do art for myself and try to just be happy doing that. But, one day, luckily, the boss I had at my day job did something piss me off just enough to make me take action. I called in "sick" the next day, got a portfolio of art together, and joined the ISpot.

This was in August of 2002.

The first jobs I got contacted for were pretty nickle and dime stuff with people saying my prices were too high and other artists they talked to said they could do it cheaper. These days, with people like that, I simply tell them if money is that big an issue you'd be better off hiring the cheap guys. You get what you pay for. But, back then I worried if I could even make it in the art business again.

In November I got a call from Cincinnati Magazine about doing a full illustration for them as well as a few spot illustrations. They were all full color, and, thinking in terms of comic book pricing, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could get a couple hundred bucks for the whole job. When the editor asked how much I charged I asked him how much his budget was. He said, "I'm really sorry but all we have for all three pieces is (well, I don't want to say, but it was a lot more than a couple hundred bucks.)" I did my best not to drop the phone as, calmly as I could, said "um....that's fine."

Of course, when I got off the phone I jumped up and down a bit and did a dance around my apartment.

Finally, I could see myself making an actual living doing what I loved.

The next few months were pretty dry but I ended up picking up one more magazine illustration job in January.

Then the advertising agencies found me.

The first job I did in advertising were some quick penciled storyboards for two commercials. I think I did them over a weekend but it felt like I did them quick. Little did I know what "quick" really was. Less than a week later, I got a call from them saying they needed two fully colored illustrations for Johnsons & Johnsons done by the next day.

Now, remember, I was still at a regular day job and this was the middle of the week. I'd have to do the illustration work in the few hours I had between going home at night and showing up to work the next day. I remember panicking a bit. When faced with jobs like this my mind tends to race. I wanted to do a great job because, if things worked out well, this client said they had a ton more of work to give me.

And that phrase alone made me see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So, I took some quick photo reference of a woman who I worked with and a photo of one of my friend's kids. I pieced them together and went home to work.

Looking back now I'm amazed I got this piece, plus another, done in one night. I was still finding my way with the computer so I was still painting a lot like I used to airbrush. I scanned in the pencils I had done and simply painted over them in Photoshop. I think, if given the same job today, the color might be a lot flatter and animated looking. But, back then, you can tell I was trying to impress and this piece really came out a lot better than it should have given only the few hours I had to do it.

But, I got it done and more work started steadily flowing my way.

For six months I worked both the day job while doing freelance art work at night. How I didn't kill myself by working so much I'll never know. I guess I was a man on a mission.

By September of 2003 I left the full time day job and, for the second time, started my freelance art career. It's been a bumpy road at times but I've loved the ride. And I wouldn't trade those crazy six months I had working all the time for anything.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


The Sports Illustrated pieces have been inked.

Now, it's just a matter of scanning them in, coloring them up, and making sure they fit into the article.

And it's all due tomorrow!

Time to get to work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I need a Hero!

Like I said, before, it's been a while since I did anything even remotely super-hero related. Honestly, with the work I've been doing the last few years I didn't even think I'd be in the running for a job involving super anatomically enhanced characters.

But, I got the job and I have to say, I've really been enjoying the project. Not only does it have me going back to my college days when we learned anatomy but I've also been watching a lot of old Bruce Timm Superman and Batman cartoons. I've even looked into getting all of Timm's old Justice League episodes on DVD (I've never seen any of these episodes and, with over 90 of them out there, I think it would make for a few fun viewings.)

I even have visions of doing something involving Superman when I have some free time.

But, for now, it's back to the paying jobs.

These designs have been approved and now it's on to the fun stuff.

If I haven't drawn super heroes in a while, you can imagine how long it's been since I drew two of them throwing punches and duking it out.

The fun has only just begun!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Play Ball!

The weekend found a few new pencil sketches for the new Sports Illustrated Kids "What's The Call" article.

With approval it's on to inking, coloring, and laying them out to fit into the article.

I'm not quite there yet but it's a good start!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Finished Fender Mustang

I took a little time off from doing some client work on Saturday night to take a drive over to the local hardware store and pick up some parts for the Fender Mustang guitar I bought a few weeks ago.

After making a trip to a guitar shop on Friday afternoon I found out the bridge I wanted to buy for the guitar was spaced differently from the way the guitar was set up. I could have bought the new bridge and had the saddles for the strings filed in the correct spaces but, after thinking about it, I decided to use the bridge that came with the guitar. Using a new bridge just seemed like too much work and too much cost for something that seemed so simple. So, I polished the old bridge up a bit and came up with a new plan to fix the bridge to the guitar.

At the hardware store I bought a bunch of chromed washers and a new screw to fix the strap button to the guitar's body. Instead of spending about thirty bucks for a new bridge and probably another thirty to get it filed the way it needed to be, I ended up spending a little less than two bucks at the hardware store to get the parts I needed to get get the job done.

I used the washers to fix the bridge to the body so the bridge is locked to the body and doesn't move anymore. Because I did this, it raised the action of the strings off the neck a bit. So, while the bridge looked and felt great, I needed to do a little work to the neck to make everything play right.

I now had to shim the neck. I had some ideas about how to do this but, luckily, I met a guy at the hardware store who also loved guitars and gave me the advice that I might want to go to for some ideas. Luckily, I went and looked around and the site had all kinds of ideas and the exact measurements you needed to get the job done right.

I ended up using a few little pieces of chipboard (the board that comes off the back of notepads) to stick in the neck pocket between the guitar's body and neck. It took a few tries to get the number of pieces I needed to stick in there to make it right (sometimes the strings were still too far away from the neck and other times the strings were so close to the frets that, when played, the strings buzzed against the frets it was hitting.) But, finally, I got it right and the strings played great and were close enough to the neck to make me happy.

I plugged the guitar into a few of the effect boxes and amps I use to record and I wasn't too happy with the sound of the guitar. I started thinking about ways to change out the pickups in the guitar and the possibilities of routing out the wood in the body's cavity to make this work. My mind was racing.

But, then I took it into the little bedroom I have that is filled with music gear and plugged it into a clean keyboard amp that I use to play my drums through. There was no distortion, no effects, just the sound of the guitar going into a clean amp. And, it sounded AMAZING!

I guess this is the type of guitar that doesn't need too many bells and whistles to make it sound great. I ended up playing for about an hour until I was so sleepy that I had to go to bed.

But, it was a very satisfied sleep I fell into.

The guitar is done, looks and feels great, and sounds amazing. There are still a few nicks and dings in the body and neck from the previous owner's well use of it. It is a well used guitar and has the battle scars to prove it.

And now, not only is it a well used guitar, but it's also a well loved guitar.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Anatomical Heroes

I'm working on a new project this week involving superheroes, a subject I haven't tackled in quite a while. To tell you the truth. I was a bit nervous about doing big bulky guys with muscles again.

So nervous, in fact, that I pulled out my old human figure anatomy book from college.

But, from these rough blue line pencil sketches, it looks like I haven't forgotten too much.

On to the finished pencils!

Friday, October 15, 2010

From The Vault - OilCan Drive Calendar Piece 2003

Back in 2003, when I dove back into doing freelance art full time, I thought, since I left a regular nine to five job, that I'd have tons of time for my own personal projects.

If you've read this blog with even a passing interest you know one of those personal projects has always been OilCan Drive.

One of the ideas I had in 2003, while writing out new ideas and stories for the cartoon band, was to do twelve new images and put them into a calendar. I got so far as to draw about half of the images and get two or three of them colored. And that was it. That was all I had time for before a TON of freelance projects buried me in work for the rest of the year.

So, while all that work did help me buy my first home, it didn't do much for the cartoon band I've come to love. In fact, it seems like they're always getting thrown on the back burner whenever any new paying gig comes up. But, I still keep chipping away at the idea and maybe, just maybe, I'll have something someday completed to put out there into the world.

But, for now, enjoy the February 2004 entry in what was to be a full year of OilCan Drive calendar fun.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Promise

Since this debuted last Thursday night on HBO I've watched it four times through now. And, I'm still looking forward to it coming out on DVD so I can own it.

I love watching the making of anything interesting and creative. I love seeing the steps taken, the thoughts behind the songs, and how day to day life was for Bruce during this time in his life.

It's great stuff and, if you have HBO, worth a few hours of your time.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Guitar Project

Well, I got busy with a party for Monika's birthday on Sunday, worked all day on Monday, dealt with back and forth clients all day on Tuesday, and the next thing I know it's Wednesday night and I haven't written a blog post. Where did the week go???

It's been two years since I've purchased a new guitar. I almost feel like saying, "hello, my name is Sean and I'm addicted to buying's been two years since I bought my last guitar..." and, if that were the case, I would have ended that two year run last week when I hit EBay and purchased this little beauty.

No matter how many guitars I have filling the second bedroom in my condo there is always a list I have in the back of my head of new guitars I'd like to own. One of them for the longest time has been a Fender Mustang. And, if I could find a Fender Competition Mustang, all the better. I love Fender guitars and one of the favored Fender guitars of one of my musical heroes, Kurt Cobain, was a Fender Competition Mustang (the "competition" part of the name coming from the racing stripe on the guitar's body). Unfortunately, because Kurt was so fond of them, the price of these guitars have only gone up and up. Finding a decent one, used or new, is usually, even on the low end, around a grand. So, I never bought one.

Until now.

I'd been on a big Kurt Cobain Nirvana kick since I got back from Maine (I'm currently on a Bruce Springsteen kick...these things go in cycles) so I was looking on EBay at Mustangs. I even went so far as to type in "Competition Mustang" just to see what would pop up.

And that's when I found this beauty. Sure, it had some dings and nicks in it and you could tell it had been well used but it was listing at $475 with free shipping, about five hundred bucks less than the next cheapest similar guitar. So, instead of just buying it, I sent the seller and offer of $350. He countered with a price of $400 and, boom, I had bought myself a new guitar.

Usually when I buy a guitar and it arrives to the house it comes in a long, thin box that makes you know there is a guitar somewhere in there. When this guitar arrived at the house it was in a box far too short to fit a guitar. I almost didn't think it was the guitar until I saw the return address was from the same state the seller was in. My heart sank a little as I carried the box upstairs to my place. I opened it up and found he had unscrewed the neck and taken the guitar apart before shipping. Which, I guess wasn't too bad, but certainly not what I expected.

But, it's all good.

I took the pieces of the guitar out of the box and cleaned them all up. What appeared to be a really dingy guitar when I opened the box turned into a really beautiful guitar once I gave it a little love. Oh sure, there were still plenty of dings in it (the worst you can see in the photo right next to the jack input) but it just gave it character. I put it back together and strung it with one string just to make sure the neck was straight. Everything looked great and I actually spent about an hour playing the guitar with only one string on it (it's amazing how many songs you can play on only one string when you know where to go with it.)

That the neck has already been taken off of this guitar only made me want to modify it some more. The guitar had already been given a new pick up in the bridge position to give the guitar's sound a bit more oompf. Now, I think it's time to take it to the next step.

I've been reading about some of the modifications Kurt had his own guitar tech do to his guitars so I figured, since the guitar is already in pieces, why not give it a try. So, I am going to replace the bridge with a tune-o-matic bridge and get some washers in order to lock the floating tremelo system (the tremolo system is the thing where someone will hit the whammy bar and take the guitar out of tune for a second. Since I never play that way and I usually get whatever tremolo I do need out of bending strings I like the idea of locking down the bridge and making it solid.) The one problem with putting a tune-o-matic bridge on the guitar's body is that it will lift the strings a bit off of the guitar's body. So, I'll have to shim the neck pocket with some chipboard. That should be interesting. I hope I get it right.

I'm looking forward to tackling all of these ideas when I get some time. Maybe I'll hit a guitar shop and a hardware store tomorrow to try and find some parts.

Because, I figure, if I had so much fun playing this guitar with only one string, I can't wait to get it all fixed up and play it with six strings...

Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Girl on a Car

I met Morgan a few years ago through my friend, Adam, when I was out visiting him in Nashville. She was kind enough to pose for me and I got some really great art out of it that I am still happy to show off today.

So, when I saw this new photo of Morgan draped over her car, I knew I had to draw her again.

I messaged her, got a higher resolution photo, and we talked about her using the art as a logo for an upcoming blog about her travel adventures. So, with photo in hand, I started sketching away.

Unfortunately, a few client jobs got in the way so this piece has been on my desk, waiting to be inked, for a while. I also haven't tackled the actual car part of the art yet. I guess I'm more into cute girls than I am cars. It's just the way I'm wired.

But, it is coming along. And, with all the client work I've been doing lately that I feel iffy about showing, I thought I'd show you something no one would get bent out of shape about.

And who doesn't love seeing a cute girl draped over a car?

Friday, October 8, 2010

From The Vault - OCD Character - EMF Soldier 2004

Another piece I pulled out of my notebook from last week was this character design of a military soldier from the OilCan Drive universe.

In the world of OCD the majority of America's heartland has been turned into a vast wasteland of dust and desert. Little old western towns of lawlessness have popped up and it's where all the outlaw bands go to play their music. The government, in an attempt to control this area, founded the Environmental Military Forces (or EMF) to police the region.

I've always been a fan of anything military and since OilCan Drive threw everything I loved together into one big story it was only natural that I had some type of military soldiers in there. Even if they were the "bad guys."

The design of the soldiers actually came from what I was wearing at the time when I would go out every night and rollerblade around Boulder. I usually wore this old beat up hooded sweatshirt with a vest over it when it got cold enough. I liked the idea of the military being this faceless bunch, much like the Stormtroopers from Star Wars, so the hood idea worked out perfectly. From there it was just a matter of adding all kinds of gear to the figure to help him survive the desert areas and making the colors a bit more military.

The world of OilCan Drive was slowly getting bigger than the four members in the band...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

OilCan Drive Ad Spot

I almost forgot I did this piece before I went away on vacation so I figured it was about time to show it off on the blog.

A few weeks ago I got an email from Cyndi, an old friend of mine who has since moved from Colorado down to Texas. She was looking for some art for some sort of thing at her new work in order to fire up her team and win some sort of sales contest.

Cyndi has always been a big fan of OilCan Drive and requested that I have Ryan and Henry holding up some signs that she would later add text to. Seeing as Cyndi was one of OilCan Drive's first real fans I just couldn't refuse her. But, I did have a lot on my plate at the time and tried to get this piece done as quickly as possible.

I fell back on a technique I learned while doing a lot of storyboards for ad agencies in New York. With jobs like that the deadlines are so tight and there is so much work you're just trying to draw as fast as you can and still have each drawing make sense. So, for art like this I quickly sketch out the characters in light blue pencil and then go right to inking them with Sharpie markers. It's not as detailed or as subtle as I'd like but it does get the job done.

From there it's simply a matter of scanning the art into the computer, laying some color onto it, and calling it a day. For this piece, I did swipe some pre-existing art and gave Ryan his Fender guitar from an already completed piece. Shhh...don't tell Cyndi.

And, because this piece was being shown in Texas, Cyndi requested that Ryan be wearing a Dallas Cowboys football jersey and not his usual Colorado Avalanche hockey jersey. I wasn't a fan of it but I did it anyway.

What can I say? I just couldn't say no to OilCan Drive's first fan.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I Wouldn't Have Believed It If You Told Me...

One of the reasons I've been a bit quiet on the blog since I returned from my vacation to Maine is that I've been messing around with the music side of the OilCan Drive project. It makes it hard to show you on a day to day basis what is going on since music exists in only one dimension and I'm not ready to show (play?) anything yet. But, hopefully, soon...

Things are going MUCH better than they did when I last attempted this in the spring. I don't know if I told you this or not, but having OilCan Drive on an actual radio show was both a blessing and a curse. Don't get me wrong, it was really cool that they got on the air but then turning around to record new stuff I had a little voice in the back of my head saying, "this better be really were on the more goofing around anymore."

Which is the worst voice to have in your head. I started messing around with the music side of the cartoon band to simply have fun and see if I could do it. The greatest achievement I was striving for was to make it sound like a real band. Even if you hated the music and thought the band sucked, if you thought it was a real band, I figured I'd already won.

But, when the music was deemed good enough to be on the radio I figured now I not only had to sound like a real band but a really GOOD band.

So, I drove myself a little crazy last spring.

But, this time feels different. I've been away from the project long enough and it's been about ten months since it was on the radio so I am enjoying the process of just goofing off again and trying to make sounds.

And, while I was trying to make some of those sounds, I did something I really didn't think was possible on an electronic drum kit with rubber rims and mesh heads. I actually broke a drum stick.

In doing that I feel like I've stepped through a doorway and passed some sort of initiation test. Everything is flowing, everything is feeling better, and everything is fun.

And, I don't feel nearly as crazy as I did with the music as I did a few months ago.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Happy October!

Geez, where did September go and how did it go by so fast? And why am I still wearing shorts because it still feels like summer out there? What happened to fall?

I'm sure, within two weeks, we'll have snow on the ground here in Colorado. It's too bad fall is my favorite season because it seems to last less and less each year. Ah well, I'm sure I'll be in jeans and a sweater soon enough, watching hockey, having life make a little more sense.

Since I didn't do too much illustration work this last month I grabbed the newest OilCan Drive piece I did of Ryan Burke and threw it up into the blog's title piece. Hopefully there will be more of the same coming soon. I love working on the projects for the OilCan Drive universe and, given a little free time, some new stuff will be coming out soon.

Sorry I've been away so much in September and the blog seemed to stall. But, with the things I've been working on the last few days and the people I've been talking to I should have lots to talk about in the coming month.

See you soon!

Friday, October 1, 2010

From The Vault - OCD Characters - Lily and Big Jim 2004

Every time I think I've finally run out of pieces to dig out of the vault I always come across some book full of stuff that I haven't shown yet.

I had to scan these from some prints since I have long since lost the original files in one of those pesky computer crashes. At least I still have a record of these somewhere. So, that is why the quality of the art is a bit shoddy. Please forgive me.

OK, into the Vault!

As much work as I do there are always unfinished stories and unrealized ideas I have rattling around in my head. Unfortunately I simply can think of ideas faster than I can physically execute them. So, while some stories never get done there is almost always a snippet of that idea written or drawn out somewhere.

It is in one of these unrealized stories that these two characters from the OilCan Drive universe come from.

Having had the characters from the band OilCan Drive around for a while in the year 2004 I decided to expand the cast a bit and flesh out the world. I needed to give the band a past and also add a few antagonists to the story.

Now, don't tell anyone this, but I'm a big fan of Bob Dylan. And one of my favorite songs from Bob is called "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts." It is probably one of the greatest story songs ever written and the tale Bob weaves in a song that lasts under ten minutes has more twists and turns to it than most full feature length movies.

You can have a listen to the song yourself HERE. (it was the only video I could find on YouTube with the actual, enjoythe song and enjoy the student made movie...)

I've always wanted to interpret a song into a comic book story and this song by Dylan was perfect for a story in the OilCan Drive universe. In the song Lily is a dancer in a saloon and is an ex-lover of Jack. Big Jim, the diamond baron of the town, also longs for Lily. So, I thought I'd plug Ryan Burke into the role of Jack, have a girl named Lily as his ex-girlfriend, and have a sleezy bar owner named Big Jim. And, the line, "with his bodyguards and his silver cane, and every hair in place" gave me a great way to make Jim's bodyguards werewolves that he kept under his thumb with a silver cane.

The song is filled with lost love, jealousy, a shooting, a bank heist, and a hanging.

What more could one story hope for?

Have a listen to the song and imagine what could have been. It's one of my all time favorites. And, even though I haven't pursued doing this story yet I did come out of it with some great characters to expand the OilCan Drive world.

Thanks, Bob. Once again.