Sunday, February 22, 2015

Here in my (electric) car.


Here's the latest comic for The topic this week is a rumor that Apple is developing an electric car to compete with the likes of Google and Tesla.

I was asked by the crew at to draw a racetrack with three cars on it. The Tesla Roadster was to be in the lead, followed closely by Google's smart car with Apple's concept car bringing up the rear.

I would normally show the sketch and outline phases of the comic at this point, but neither was particularly interesting this time around so I'll just skip to the final:

In my continuing effort to draw more dynamic comics for, I spent a little more time on the composition up front. Ordinarily, I would have probably just drawn all three cars in profile. But A.) That would have been a pretty boring-looking layout, B.) Lining up all three cars horizontally would have meant having to cram them into the frame and make them smaller in doing so and, C.) This composition was more fun to draw.

Granted, "more fun" to draw can also mean harder. But the extra time and effort doesn't feel like a chore if it yields something worthwhile. In this case, I'm happy I pushed myself a bit. I'm going to try to do so more often. I can't say that I'm completely satisfied with the result here (it's a little too clean, I think the composition could have been smarter and I wouldn't make the same color choices a second time around). And I'll probably be satisfied less often with the outcome when I push myself outside of my comfort zone. But hopefully the result will be some technical and artistic growth that will lead to stronger comics in the long run.

Fingers crossed.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Financial and artistic roller coaster...of love.


Here's the latest financial comic for This week's topic was negotiations over Greece's fiduciary woes. Greece's finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, has said he'll implement about 70% of the reforms in the current bailout deal but will not accept conditions that derail Greece's budget. This is causing some tension between Greece and its creditors in the European Central Bank and making negotiations more complex.

Early Wednesday morning, I was asked by the team at to draw a roller coaster. On the roller coaster, ascending a tall incline, they asked for a roller coaster car. Inside the car was to be German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi. In the foreground, Greek Financial Minister Varoufakis was to be manning the controls of said roller coaster.

Here's the sketch:

Here's the outline:

Aaaand here's the whole kit and kaboodle:


This was a bit of a tough comic. Last week's comic didn't have any people in it. Although I like variety and the people-less comic offered a bit of a respite, I was hoping I would have the opportunity to draw people again this week, as I loves it so. And boy, howdy, did I ever have the opportunity. Three characters is a lot of work. Even with a fairly simple background, this comic took longer than usual.

As far as the people go, I think Merkel turned out well. She has a pretty expressive face. And the idea of her frowning visage in a roller coaster car makes me chuckle. Draghi's caricature is a bit so-so, IMHO. It's not spectacular, but it's not a spectacular failure, either. Varou...uh...Vari...uh...the Greek Finance Minister's caricature, well, I can't actually decide if I like it or not. I think he turned out looking a bit like an Oompa Loompa version of Bruce Willace (a little orange and a little squashed). But I need to live with it for a couple of days and then come back to it. Maybe I'll be more forgiving with time.

I like the colors some; they're bright. I used to draw absolutely everything in earth tones and unsaturated colors. I'm not sure if the brighter palette is a visual improvement or not, but it makes things more interesting to draw and shade. As for the composition: meh. I actually did think about it a LITTLE. I thought the primary action should be located at the right of the comic (given that most people read left to right) and that the shape of the roller coaster and clouds would naturally lead the eyes to the right as well. But...I'm not so sure that theory panned out. It might just be kind of an awkward placement of elements. Again, I'll have to live with it for a while.

Overall grade: B-

Until next week,


Sunday, February 8, 2015 4th Quarter


Here's the latest comic for The topic this week was fourth quarter earnings reports (last week's comic touched on the same subject with regards to Apple's record profits).

I was asked by the crew at to draw a small group of company logos waiting outside the principal's office. Each was to be holding a stack of papers, symbolizing their individual earnings reports.

Here's the sketch:

The outline:

And the final:

I'm not feeling particularly verbose this time around. This comic was a little more fun than I anticipated and I think the result is a decent-looking comic. Not my best work and not a ton of opportunity to get crazy this time around, but still fun and satisfying to finish.

I like my job. Have I mentioned that before?

Until next week.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Capitalism and Customer Moat: Post-Poster Post


Several months back, I was contacted by a gentleman in Seattle about illustrating a poster. The poster was part of the promotional campaign around his book, Customer Moat, which outlines a specific business strategy. The poster is a visualization of the more aspirational aspects of this strategy (and a more ethically-based implementation of commerce overall).

Projects can begin in a variety of ways. Sometimes I'm given a general concept and asked to come up with ideas that will communicate the concept and its purposes clearly. Sometimes the client has a starting point or a number of potential ideas and the project begins by exploring these ideas and figuring out which ones best accomplish the goal. In the case of this poster, there was a fairly specific concept before I even put pencil to paper ("fairly specific" seems like kind of an oxymoronic term, doesn't it?).

The concept even had a rough sketch with a number of notes outlining various details and aspects of the poster. Although I really enjoy developing an idea through the concept process, sometimes it's nice to have the specifics laid out in advance. With the bulk of the idea already in place, my job in this instance was simply to bring that idea to fruition. In a way, my jobs here were to visually interpret those specific ideas and then to execute them in illustration form. I still prefer the job title "illustrator" to that of "executioner", though.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well...about that...

Here's the sketch and the reason that, even with the idea pretty much hammered out in advance, this STILL wasn't exactly a cake walk:

The layout of this puppy took a goodly chunk of time. A couple of reasons include:

-Size: This poster is big. 30" big. The bigger the poster, the more time it takes. Period.
-Detail: There's a lot of it.
-Revisions: See the three panels in the shield section? Each of those had to be re-done at least three different times. There was a very specific look and feel the client wanted for each of those characters. It took us a little while to figure out how to visually convey that look.

I wasn't keeping track of how long the layout process took, but it was longer than we expected. Still, it was worth it to finally hit the mark.

Next up, the outline:

This ended up being the fastest part of the process. It usually is. With all the t-crossing and i-dotting taken care of in the layout phase, the outline was just a matter of sharpening the lines and cleaning up the details. Still, with this amount of detail, the outline still took about a week.

Next up, flat color:

Ordinarily, I wouldn't share the flat color. I tend to think flat color looks bad, regardless of the project. But in this case, there's something worth mentioning. Depending on the project, flat color can be either pretty straightforward or very very complicated. For this project (as you might have already guessed), it was the latter. Yes, this was due in part to the degree and quality of the detail. But more importantly, the complexity stemmed from the elements being both visually and conceptually disparate from each other.

Lemme explain: This poster has a number of different elements (the eagle, the swords, the banners, the various elements within the shield, etc.). Those elements vary widely in a visual sense: size, shape, complexity, etc. But they also vary widely conceptually. The elements outside the shield are all visual metaphors; they represent the nation, war and peace, money, history, etc. The inside of the shield are still technically metaphors in the sense that these are illustrations of people who represent real people, but the metaphors aren't as abstracted as the other elements. They vary pretty widely in the degree of the relationship between the metaphors and the reality of the thing being represented.

We're starting to get into complex territory here, so I'll cut to the chase. Flat color was super complicated to figure out on this poster because, even with the substantial amount of difference between each of these elements, they all had to be in the same poster. Conceptually, they're related to each other. But visually, it was reeeeaaally hard to make these elements mesh into one cohesive illustration. However many revisions I went through in the layout sketch phase, I went through far more in the flat color phase. It was, as Ned Flanders would say, a real "noodle scratcher".

Once I came to a solution I thought was decent, it was on to final color:

Final color is my second favorite part of the process (the sketch being first). Cliche though it may be, final color is where an illustration comes to life. Depth and richness of color and lots of fun detail get added in the final color stage.

So there you have it. This project was an intense amount of work and a genuine challenge, but I'm pretty satisfied with the result. As skeptical as I was at certain points (and there are almost ALWAYS points in every project where I sincerely ask myself, "Is this thing even going to work?"), I think this did turn into a decent, cohesive illustration.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Cook's Illustratred

Ahoy, mates.

Here's the latest comic for The subject this week is Apple's recent record-breaking profits, due in large part to sales of the iphone 6+ (the one with the big screen).

Early Wednesday morning, I was asked by the team at to draw the following: Tim Cook, laughing and looking upward. In the clouds (the real ones, not the computer ones), Steve Jobs looking down with a smirk. He was to be holding two phones: one of the new, large phones and one of the early iphones Jobs himself brought to fruition.

Here's the sketch:

Here's the outline:

And here's Johnny:

It was interesting to draw Steve Jobs again. The very first financial comic I did for ForexPros featured Steve Jobs. That was somewhere in the neighborhood of 110 comics ago.   Here's that first one:

It's interesting to look back at this one. My techniques have changed a bit since those first comics. They're not as sketchy anymore. In fact, you can't really see any sketch lines at all in the most recent comics. I feel a bit ambivalent about that disappearance, since I think sketch lines add energy and expression to drawings and I always enjoy seeing them.  But on the positive side, I think my abilities have sharpened up a bit and my sense of color and composition have improved, however marginally.

As far as this most recent comic goes, I think it's decent. The likenesses are fairly good and I like the colors. I think the background buildings could have used more effort (they're pretty mediocre as is). Overall, not bad. Just not great.

I think next week I'm going to try to step my game up a bit on these comics. I think the compositions and posing need to be more dynamic. I'm not exactly sure how I'll go about it (or IF my convictions hold out). Also, the time constraints might hamstring my new explorations, but we'll see. I suppose adding a little dynamism to these comics is sort of contingent on the subject matter. If it's a super-complex comic, I might not be able to do anything but scramble to finish on time. Still, fingers crossed.