Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Running of the Bears

In a recent speech, Ben Bernanke suggested that curbing Fed stimulus would be contingent on market conditions.  The markets reacted favorably or not at all to this news, which is a pretty stark contrast to last time he said almost the exact same thing and the markets tanked.

So, this comic (thought up by the team at has something to do with that.  Here's the layout sketch:

And here's what it looked like when it was all over but the cryin':


Monday, July 15, 2013

Financial American Gothic

Here's the latest comic for  Short story short: It's about the Beta version of their new app.  I was asked to draw a bear and a bull holding up the phone with the app screen on it.  They were to be shown in a theater.

Originally, I had drawn the bear and bull much smaller.  In that sketch, you could see the whole stage.  The phone was resting on a little display pedestal.  I realized the phone would be too small in that version to be able to see the app screen, so I decided to include a big projection screen in the background where the phone and screen would be projected in a larger format (something like an Apple unveiling).

I looked at the sketch.  And then I looked at the clock.  And I realized there wasn't enough time for that version.  And so a new sketch was drawn up, a kind of Occam's razor  of a concept (the simplest solution is usually the correct one).  This model of efficiency only applies to comics for me, because the detail I love and the speed and efficiency of these comics are often antithetical.

I was pretty happy with the choice to simplify the design and layout.  It made for a better (slightly less stressful) time drawing.  I like the character designs as well (the bull more than the bear).  Overall, I'd give this one a B+.

Quick side note:  I counted today.  To date, I've drawn 48 comics for Forexpros/  That's quite a few.  Particularly given the fact that, at one point in my life, I swore I would never draw comics again.  Perhaps I'll do something special for the 50th.

If I have time, that is.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Application Guide Illustrations

Here's the latest project for Decagon Devices, Inc.  This one was a series of illustrations for a manual that will accompany Decagon's VP3 sensor.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Ag Days Poster & the 3 Stages of Illustration Work

For several weeks now, I've been working like a madman on a project for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at the University of Idaho.  Ag Days is an annual event put on by the college and I was asked to create a poster that would advertise this event.  It needed to involve a plethora of different elements focused around the various activities going on during Ag days, landmarks and buildings on the UI campus, and a potpourri of other characters, people and objects.

Ordinarily I would have proposed a number of different concepts and moved ahead with one chosen by the client.  However, in this situation, I knew the complexity of the piece and the amount of time I had to create the poster would make for a lot of work and a close shave as far as the deadline was concerned.

So I worked up this sketch (which was a ton of work in itself), presented it to the clients, and held my breath that they would like it:

I liked the sketch and believed in the strength of the concept, but I was putting all my concept eggs into one basket here.  If they rejected it, all that work would have been for naught.  See, even if I have a concept I think is strong and well-drawn, it doesn't always matter.  It's my job to provide what the clients want.  So, no matter how well-drawn or clever I think a concept is, if the client doesn't like it or doesn't think it's a good fit for the project, the concept won't work.  Fortunately, they liked it.  They did have some revisions, however.  Round 2 looked like this:

After that, it was a simple matter of outlining the sketch, adding color, adding shading, adding additional details, making sure the piece was visually cohesive, interesting, and well-drawn.  A simple, 20-hour process.

I almost always go through a similar process with every project.  It tends to have three stages.  They usually go like this:

Stage One: Concept Excitement.  This is the part where I'm most excited about the project.  I love thinking about and imagining the various approaches, solutions, ideas and possibilities.  And, of course, I love sketching them out.  There's a life and an energy to a sketch.  Even when an artist died hundreds of years ago, that energy is still in the gestures and lines of their sketches.

Stage Two: Flat Color Fear.  All the energy of the sketch?  That's pretty much eliminated with the first stage of color.  Flat color almost always looks awful.  This is the part where I question whether or not I made a huge mistake with the concept and the whole project is going to be a colossal failure.

Stage Three: Acceptance.  After the last of the shading and detail have been added, the last line has been drawn, and the illustration has been handed in and accepted by the client, acceptance comes.  And usually acceptance comes with a healthy mix of satisfaction that the job is complete and dissatisfaction at parts of the project I wish I had done differently or had more time for.  Sometimes, though, I can look at the illustration when all is said and done, think about the amount of work and stress and thought and care and craftsmanship that went into it, look at the result of those efforts, and be satisfied.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Featured Work!

Some of my work was featured on a site called CharacterDesignServed!  I think it's pretty cool.  A nice salve on the unpleasant burn that is the end of my holiday weekend.

Here's the link:


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Spectral Reflectance Sensors

For the past several weeks, I've been hard at work on a poster for Decagon Devices.  They have a new instrument called the Spectral Reflectance Sensor.  Now, my understanding of its functions and applications is somewhat limited, but here's the gist: The SRS measures certain bands of light (specifically NDVI and PRI) that are reflected off of plant canopies.  This data can tell you about things like plant density and light use efficiency.

This project was an intense amount of work.  It was pretty challenging for me (which I enjoy in both an educational and a masochistic kind of way).  Remember how I mentioned that illustration often involves information design?  There was a lot of that in this project.  Here's the initial version:

Now, this in itself is quite a bit of information to have in a single piece.  Notice how there are three graphs?  There were some fairly substantial revisions required of this first version, the most difficult of which was that I was asked to combine all three graphs into a single graph.  That was a tall order.  Conveying all the information accurately and clearly while keeping it aesthetically sound was tough.  It took me several days just to figure out how that was going to work.

Many of the other elements changed as well.  The two panels in the lower left-hand side of the first version were completely redrawn, this time larger and with far more detail:

As I said, this one was a ton of hard work.  But with a lot of help and good guidance, we came up with a version that's stronger in terms of the way the information is conveyed.  I think it's also visually stronger: