Thursday, January 27, 2011

Free Books!

I got an email late last week from Captsone Publishing announcing an offer of free books if you bought a certain amount of books in the next year.

What struck me as funny is that, in the list of books you could get for free, was Cowboy Up, the book I am actually working on and trying to finish up this week.

I guess I better get to the art table and get this thing done.

You can check out the offer for yourself HERE

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Just sitting here inking the day away.

There are a mere 102 hours left before all of these kids books are due.

So, if I'm a little quiet over the next few days you'll know why.

OK, back to work!

Monday, January 24, 2011

From The Studio

As I worked today I didn't realize how much I had going on until I walked back in the studio to find this scene in front of me. Art had spilled out of the nice clean and tidy piles I had them in and escaped all over the place.

On the table, floor, and even the chair.

No matter how much I work I can't seem to escape it all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Airborne Toxic Event

I got a chance last night to tear myself away from the art table, get into a car, and actually leave town and enjoy myself for a few hours.

I bought the tickets for the Airborne Toxic Event show back in September as soon as I found out about it and as soon as they went on sale. So, for me to cry "I'm just too busy to go" would have been lame having waited for this day to come along for months.

And, it wasn't just a regular rock and roll show. No, this was something different. The band that I've come to love were actually going to play in one of Denver's performing art halls and be backed up by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

So, buried under work or not, I was going to this show.

I worked most of the morning and a lot of the afternoon but, by five o'clock, I punched out of work and Monika and I drove down to Denver. We walked along the 16th Street mall, got some dinner, and then headed back to the concert hall.

We found our way inside and found our seats. Because I had gotten tickets so early I picked out a couple of great seats so we were right up front, eye level with the stage, with no one in front of us. Monika went out to explore while I watched our stuff and listened to a few conversations around us. It turns out the guy in front of me with the camera was actually with 9 News and was taking shots for publication. I'm sure these photos I nicked from the Internet were his so thank you man with the camera.

Monika came back in a hurry and asked me if we thought a DVD I had already bought last fall would be a good gift for any of our friends. I wasn't sure but she told me the catch. If she bought a DVD we could get backstage after the show and meet the band. Of course I told her to buy a DVD so off she went and returned just before the show started with the DVD in hand.

The show started and it was just incredible. Rock and Roll mixed with classical music. How can you go wrong? The web page I grabbed these photos from actually explains it a lot better then I can. And, if you'd like, there are a lot more photos over there to see. Check it out HERE.

And, after the show we got into some sort of a line. I wasn't sure if the band was going to come out to the lobby or what was going to happen. But, after a while, they let us all go downstairs, show our new DVD, and let us wander backstage. We followed the rest of the people into a small room and down another flight of stairs.

Now, I figured a meet and greet might be the band behind a table while everyone formed a line and met them and had them sign stuff. Kind of like what I was used to at a comic book convention. But, this was as far from that as possible. It was just the band in this room, all mixing and mingling with the public. It was like an odd cocktail party where the only way I could tell if anyone from the band was near me was to look for the crowd of people with a little circle of space in the middle of them. I figured, somewhere in there, was someone from the band.

In that kind of situation I'm really not the best. I love the band and all but it's always hard for me to meet someone on such unlevel ground. I know what they do and who they are but they have no idea who I am. So it's hard to really have any kind of genuine conversation with someone like that. And you're also vying for someone's attention as a whole group of people swarm around them trying to get their two minutes in there as well. I do wish I had more of a chance to actually talk to the band, ask them questions, and even tell the bass player that I bought a bow for my bass guitar because I had seen him use one a year and a half before.

But, in the end, I told each of them I really enjoyed what they did, said thank you, and had them all sign the DVD.

But, leaving that room it really gave me the itch to do something of my own again. To see a large group of people really love someone for what they do from the heart makes me realize I'm kind of wasting my talents on clients who's reoccurring comments include, "the crotch looks weird."

So, for that, thank you Airborne Toxic Event. Not only for the great show, the great music, and for shaking my hand. But also for opening my eyes up just a little bit more.

And, if you're not familiar with the band, here is one of the videos they did when they released their first album. Once a week, for ten weeks, the band performed one song from their debut album in an acoustic setting. And, while the Calder Quartet may not be as big as a symphony orchestra, this video will give you a good idea of what I saw last night.


Friday, January 21, 2011

From The Vault - The Shift Pin-Up 1996

In 1996, while I was working away on my first self published comic book idea, Exit 6, my friend, Craig Patrick, was working on a book of his own. A book about werewolves. A book called The Shift.

The initial plan was for Craig and I to go into self publishing together, hand in hand, each putting books out at the same time under a common publishing company. The name of the company was Lost Cause Graphics.

When I left New Jersey in the spring of 1996 I spent about a month at Craig's house in Ohio. We set up a studio in his basement and both started working on our books. In between working on our own books we did pin-ups of each other's characters for inclusion in our books when we put them out. This was my take on Craig's werewolf characters. It was a really fun time but, after a month of living there, I felt I had outstayed my welcome with his wife and left on my way out west.

Unfortunately, we found out after I settled in Colorado that the name Lost Cause Graphics had been taken. So, we brainstormed a bit and came up with the name Lost Horizons Graphics. It wasn't the same and I felt like losing that name took some of the wind out of Craig's sails. With me not being there next to him in the basement and with the loss of his publishing name, it seemed like he just gave up.

Which is too bad. His story was, in my opinion, always a great idea and the way he was going to execute it is still something that I hope to see one day. But, after arguing with him for over ten years as to why he should do this book I simply got tired of banging my head against the wall to try and make him do something he obviously didn't want to do. With Craig there was always some excuse. Some new technology he had to master before he could start his book. Always something.

In 1998 I self published the Exit 6 comic book under my Plastic Spoon Press company. It may not have worked out exactly as I hoped and I would have to stop publishing the book by issue number three but I'm never sorry that I gave it a try.

And Craig...I actually tried to find something, anything, online that had some of his Shift artwork so you could see how great it is. But, there was nothing. Not even a small little image I could lift off of Google. Which is too bad. Because I still think it would be a great comic book and one I would happily order and read.

Maybe once he gets whatever new technology figured out we'll all be in for a treat.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What The F*@K

While I sit alone in my studio and draw the day away I'm kept company by a few things. Sometimes it's the TV, sometimes a movie, sometimes some music, and lately, it's been a variety of podcasts from the internet.

One of my favorite I've found was recommended to me by my good friend Jen. It features comedian Marc Maron, broadcasting out of his garage, interviewing all sorts of people he's run across in his life and career.

What's great about it is that, while it's a show mostly interviewing comedians and run by a comedian, it really gets below the surface of why creative people do what they do and how they think. All the weird stuff we all do to kind of psyche ourselves out and make ourselves miserable. It delves into us all seeking approval in some way, whether it's from a parent or the guy out there in the audience. And it talks a lot about how that one bad comment from someone you don't know can stick with you all day.

He's interviewed a lot of people you've heard of and a lot that you know about but don't quite know their names. Some of my favorites include Kevin Smith, Ben Stiller, Ray Romano, and even Robin Williams. You'd think, after all the Robin Williams interviews you've seen and heard that it would be the same old Robin Williams, manic and pandering to the microphone. But, it's so far away from that attitude I was amazed. It was the first interview I've heard of this man where he really talked about who he was, his fears, and how he got to where he was.

It's a great podcast and I'm glad it's around to keep me company.

So, go check it out. Each episode is about an hour and it's a great thing to listen to while you work the day away.

WTF Podcast with Marc Maron

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

BMX Bike Ride Revisions

I thought I was done with the covers for the latest round of kids books and was well on my way through the interiors of them when I got a request from the editors of the BMX bike book.

As I did the pencils for the interior of the book, the story called for the main character to wear a full BMX dirt bike helmet as he raced his new bike. So, I followed the story, gave him the helmet, and everything seemed OK.

When I did the original cover for the book I hadn't read the story yet and was given very little direction as to what the cover was to look like. I didn't know if the story was about bike racing, doing tricks, having adventures, nothing. All I had to go on was the boy looked like a young Will Smith and was 14 years old. I had to ask what kind of bike riding he was doing and was informed that he was racing. So, I asked again what kind of gear he would have on while racing. Was it a casual race, with regular bike helmets and pads, full BMX gear with the plastic armored chest pieces and full helmets, or something in between? I was told to put street clothes on him and a helmet and pads.

Originally I penciled the character on the cover with a full BMX helmet but was told, in the pencil stage, to change it to a regular bike helmet. So I changed it, finished the piece up, and turned all the covers in.

But now, with the character wearing a full BMX dirt bike helmet in the interior of the book I was informed by editorial that they wanted me to change the helmet I had on the cover to a full BMX helmet. I asked if they were aware that I had done the full helmet originally and was asked to change it to a regular bike helmet? Yes, they said, they knew they had messed up and, as they said, "it was our bad."

So, I changed the helmet back to what it originally looked like when I penciled the piece and then even went one step beyond and gave the character on the cover the sweatshirt he wears on the interior of the book.

Because, you know, I want to make the kids who read the books happy.

Plus, I like the BMX full helmet a whole lot better.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lou Tube

This is another blog I started the other day, uploaded the content, and then had little to no time to write anything about it before the steam roller of work buried me once again. But, I've found a little bit of free and quiet time tonight to reconnect with a few things I wanted to share.

Yes, I've been working a lot, doing a lot of art for clients, and helping out people around me here and there. One of the things I've been doing to get myself away from the drawing board for an hour a week is playing some music in the house with my friend Lou. Lou comes over, plays the bass and sings, and I play the drums. It's great for me because I love playing drums but, as my drum teacher said, the drum set isn't a sit around the camp fire and play it kind of instrument. It helps to have someone else there and play some songs with them.

It was in the middle of one of these sessions that Lou started telling me about his million dollar sitcom idea about a man who is abducted by aliens and the twist was that he really enjoyed it. As I sat and listened to his wacky idea the only thought going through my head was ,"why am I not recording this???"

So, I set up my computer, turned the webcam on, and asked Lou to tell me about his alien sitcom idea again. He said he would only do it if he could play it to music.

Thus began the first try at doing LouTube. The microphone was turned on way too high so the sound got all distorted. But, it will give you an idea of who Lou is and how his mind works.

After doing that first one I couldn't let go of the idea I had to do a weekly five minute Lou show. So, the next week we got the microphone levels right, played around for a bit, and put together the first official episode of LouTube.

The first official episode includes babies, aliens, a song about how Lou didn't get to go see the movie Tron, and an ode to a long lost friend of his named Liz Rock.

More are definitely on the way but I think I'll be too busy with work and doctor's appointments this week to attend Friday's taping of the show. But I think we had more than enough material from the previous week to still put together a five minute episode.

So, there it is. Enjoy LouTube!

Friday, January 14, 2011

From The Vault - Exit 6 Promo 1996

Ah, the weekend almost away from me again before I had the chance to write anything for Friday's From The Vault post. Once again, I scanned the art, uploaded it to the computer, even loaded it onto the blog, and then I saved the post and didn't get a chance on Friday to write anything. Of course, Friday drifts into Saturday and I find my self now, on Sunday, trying to write something I should have done Thursday night.

Have I mentioned yet that I feel like I am slowly falling behind in everything? I guess this confirms it. But, it's not too bad, I'm only two days behind the rest of the world now. I'm sure I can catch up. Or, it'll just have to slow down and wait for me. Either or.

Anyway, this piece from back in the vault was done in 1996, right in the middle of me actually starting to draw the Exit 6 comic book. I was penciling page after page, sometimes drawing whole sequences, thinking I could do better, and then starting it all over again. I think, before I did the finished pages you see in the actual Exit 6 #1, there are maybe three more versions of those pages sitting around here somewhere. I was a little obsessive back then.

In the midst of doing all those pages I was really itching to just do something and finish it. Something I wasn't looking over and over again trying to do it better. Something I could ink and color. Something I could just call done.

So, I did this Exit 6 promo piece for myself. It never saw print and the only reason I colored it was to play around with some markers I had. Yes, you heard right, this isn't Dr. Martin dyes or any airbrushing technique that I was painting with at the time. This is all regular markers.

It was a fun piece to do but, unfortunately, with the way the sales turned out on Exit 6, it looks like Keith will have to drop Frank off the top of the building.

Poor Frank.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Touch of Gray

The hockey black and white inked illustrations have been scanned into the computer, cleaned up a bit, and all of the logos and numbers on the player's jerseys have been added.

All that's left is adding some grays to the art and giving each illustration a little extra love before I shove them out the door into the cold, cruel world.

Here are a few of the nearing completion.

It's been a long work day so it's off to the couch for me to watch a little TV and sleep for a bit until I get up and do it all over again.

See you soon!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On The Floor

Since I couldn't fit all of these pages on the art desk at one time I figured, when I show off a mass of work like this, I might as well call it "On The Floor" as opposed to "From the Desk."

Here is the newest kids book, inked up in all its glory. It's all about hockey, playing hurt, and helping your team out even if you can't do it on the ice. Not a bad message for the kids. And, it was fun to draw as well.

Now it's just a matter of scanning all the inked art into the computer, adding some logos and jersey numbers, and laying down some gray tones.

Off we go!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Brushes

I've been dreading this day for some time now. But, no matter what I did or how much I tried to will it away the time has finally come.

I've had to try and use a new inking brush.

Since I was 19 years old I've been using a Raphael 8402 brush with a yellow tip to ink all of my work. Even when I moved to Colorado I'd still special order this brush from back in New Jersey. I'd stock up on them and hold onto them like gold. But, recently, the company who makes them in France has decided not to sell this brand in the good ol' USA anymore. So I had to buy a few new brushes in the closest style I could find, the Raphael 8404 with the orange tip.

The current brush I've been using has finally run it's course and, honestly, I probably used it a few more months than I normally would if I knew I had a batch of them in a cache by the art table. So, I have one last lone solitary 8402. I don't know that I'm ready for it to be the last one I ever use. So, I broke out a few of the new 8404s and tried them out today to see how they felt.

I pulled out an old pin-up piece I penciled a while ago and never had the chance to ink. I moistened the new brush in water, dipped it in the ink well, and went to work. It's not bad and you can see some of the results above. The brush tip isn't quite as long, you couldn't tell by looking at it but you can feel it, and it has a little thicker body. It's not bad but it took some getting used to. Plus, I was looking at it with a high degree of scrutiny.

But, over all, if I do use my last yellow tipped 8402 brush, I think the 8404s might work out OK.

Of course, it doesn't stop me from looking online to see how I can smuggle a few 8402s out of France and across the border. Manu, I'm looking at you.

Please France, I'm sorry for Freedom Fries! Just give me my 8402s back!!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Maybe Next Life - Part 2

One of the things I did last week in the midst of trying to work on a few client's art projects was to have Amber come over and finally do her singing parts for her song, Maybe Next Life. If you need to refresh your memory as to how this all came about you can read the previous blog post about it HERE.

Amber came over last Tuesday to work on her song. I tried to show her how to play the song on guitar and even went so far as to print her out the lyrics, chords, and even diagrams of the chords to help her. She didn't seem too interested and wanted to get right on to the singing. So, with Monika's help, she and Amber sang the song while I played accompanying guitar.

It took a while but we finally got a few decent takes and I messed around mixing them for a bit before sending her home with a demo CD in her pocket. It seems like she was happy because, that night, she had already posted the song on her MySpace music site.

Below is an embedded player from MySpace but, if it isn't working, you can go directly to the site HERE.

Personally, I still like my version better.

Have a good one.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

First Step...

I was never one to take the idea of a New Year's resolution too seriously. I never make them and the only time I can even remember saying anything about doing something in the New Year was five years ago at a party where we went around the room and all said what we hoped to accomplish in the coming year.

So, it's not like I made a resolution for this coming year but I've decided to make a few changes and do my best to get OilCan Drive and a few other personal projects out there into the world in the next twelve months.

So, with that in mind, I took advantage of a holiday sale that was having that ended this weekend. CDBaby is the premiere site for independent music. They have a one time set-up fee that allows you to put an album out there into the world as both a physical CD and as a digital download program that shows up in places like ITunes, Rhapsody, and

It was 20% off the set-up fee and you could put the album out anytime in the coming year. So, I signed up, sent in my money, and OilCan Drive is now the proud owner of a CDBaby sales site and it's very own bar code for the first album.

Now, I just need to finish recording the music and put it out there.

This may be a bit like putting the cart before the horse but, in my mind, it's very cool and very exciting to see the OilCan Drive page above all primed and ready for content. Whether or not I am strong enough to turn away some client work this year and devote time to my dream project is yet to be seen. But I hope having already paid for this program helps push me in the right direction.

It's not a big step, but it's a first step...

Friday, January 7, 2011

From The Vault - Wall Mural Color Sketch 1995

Geez, it's been a busy week again and it seems all the artistic flow I have has left me and I am stuck grinding out art simply because I have to. I'm not sure if you could hold two pieces of mine up next to each other and tell which one was easy for me and which one was a struggle. But it does make for a long week of beating your head against the art desk.

I even had at least two blog posts I planned on getting up this week. But, when I looked up from my desk I realized, "hey, how did it get to be Friday again so quickly??" So those other posts will have to wait. It's From the Vault Friday!

I did this piece back in 1995 when I was bartending at a restaurant in New Jersey called The Terra Marr. It had a sort of island theme to it and we all wore Hawaiian shirts. The guy who hired me knew I did art and knew I worked for Marvel Comics so he was continuously asking me if I could do some sort of work around the restaurant. Jumping at the chance to paint on a canvas that was larger than my art desk at home I came up with a few different projects we might do.

The first thing I did was some simple lettering above the second bar room. What I originally envisioned for the colors was shot down after I painted it and I had to make some changes. It was one of the first times that I really knew I should have done some sort of thumbnail piece to show the guy before I went to the finished piece. It would have saved me a lot of time and a little embarrassment. It was a lesson I still hold onto closely.

The second idea I had for the restaurant was to do a giant mural on this one big blank white wall. It had a fish tank cut right into the wall so I thought it might be a great idea to paint some sort of underwater world. It would fit with the theme of the restaurant, look cool, and might impress a certain someone I was chasing at the time. You see, at this time I was very much infatuated with a girl who was a huge Wyland fan. Wyland is the famous artist who paints all sorts of undersea life and does a beautiful job.

So, of course, being young, I figured if I did an amazing art job in a Wyland like style, how could she resist me? It's funny the things we think will make girls like us when we're young. Silly boys.

So, I started thinking of how to do a Wyland type painting on this wall, incorporate the fish tank, do a great job, and win the girl.

But, learning from the lettering job I did for the restaurant, I did this color thumbnail sketch first.

I think I originally did the pencils on tracing paper and made a simple photocopy of the sketch onto regular paper. I then airbrushed the whole copy with a blue gradation. After, I sat down with some watercolors and mixed the paint and airbrush to create some simple colors. Finally, I added some white to the whole piece. When it was done I mounted the copy onto a piece of heavy illustration board and showed it to my boss.

He loved it and wanted to know when I could start. I told him I was still waiting to be paid for the materials and labor from the simple lettering job I'd completed and I'd wait until I was paid for the previous job before I started the new one.

Well, to make a long story short, within two or three months the restaurant failed, I lost the bartending job, I was never paid for the lettering job, and I didn't win the girl. By early the next year my jeep was packed and I was on the road out of New Jersey on my way to Colorado.

But, at least I still have this great color sketch that I'm still really proud of.

And the girl still talks to me. Those are her kids in the blog post right below us.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My Fans!

My good friend from Pennsylvania, Christine, sent me this photo from Christmas morning of her kids opening up their present of a bunch of Jake Maddox books I have drawn.

I usually get five copies of each book I illustrate and keep a couple of them for myself while trying to find friends with kids who I think would enjoy them for the rest. And it seems at Christine's house that the books have gone over big. I've sent her books in the past and the kids really seemed to love them.

So, for Christmas I took a batch of the newest books I've done, signed them, and sent them out to Pennsylvania. And it looks like the kids still love them and love what I do.

When I visited Christine and her husband a few years ago and met her kids in person for the first time I felt like royalty entering the house. The two phrases I remember best are these:

When I was first coming into the house and the kids were being put down for bed, they were all trying to sneak out of bed and get a look at this man who draws cartoons for a living. They were generally excited to meet this person who did this for a living. Christine yelled up at them, "he's just a man, just like Daddy!" I'm sure, to a kid, someone who draws cartoons for a living must seem like they are from Mars.

And second, when I got to meet the kids the next morning over breakfast, the oldest one asked me, with all the earnestness of a nine year old boy, "how is it that you got to be so famous?"

How is that not the best thing you could ever hear about your life and the career you've chosen.

So, I may not have a lot of them, but because of a few kids and parents here and there, I have the best fans in the world!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Year in Review

I figure, with the starting of the new year, it might be a good time to go over the last year and see all of the blog headers I created all in one place.

I originally got this idea of changing images each month from Skottie Young's blog. His thinking was, even if not much is going on in his life, at least the art was changing and giving people something new to look at. I took to his idea and have really enjoyed doing it even if it meant ,more than a few times, I was scrambling at the end of the month trying to find something good to put up.

It's interesting to see OilCan Drive in at least half of these pieces. It means I was working on something but, by the end of the year, I got so busy with other work that OCD was, once again, put on the back burner.

I hope to rectify that situation in the coming months.

Keep your fingers crossed...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope the year has started out well for all of you.

Only a few hours into the new year and I'm already sick and not feeling well. It's been a week of working and being sick and doing holiday stuff all at once. I'm trying to treat it like being a machine and just doing my best to get the work done but I fear the machine needs a rest.

So, late last night, when I couldn't sleep, I started watching the HBO 24/7 series, Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic. It was really great and I was immediately drawn into this great record of two great hockey teams and the struggles they have gone through to get to the big outdoor winter game, being played later today.

I have one more episode of the series to watch before the puck drops in the next hour. It's really a great show and even if you're not a hockey fan, it's really a beautiful show to watch. Seeing hockey shot this way, in hi-def HD and slow motion cinema style, really makes the game play look amazing. And seeing the behind the scenes lives of the players is really an interesting look into the men who play this game. I am really loving it.

So much so that I thought a good way to start off the year would be with a hockey player of my own in the new January Header.

OK, I am off to lay on the couch, watch some TV, and get ready for the big hockey game tonight.

Enjoy your new year everyone!