I have always thought of myself as an illustrator, not a fine artist, and I’m cool with that. With that, one of the cool things about illustrations is that they can often be repurposed.
Case in point—my main advertising client for a couple of decades has been SVP Worldwide, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of sewing machines, and that happens to include high-end embroidery machines. When the folks there found out that I was a prolific rubber stamp designer, they asked if we might be able to put together an embroidery collection based on those designs. As it turned out, my contract with the rubber stamp company stipulated that I was welcome to use my art for anything else not rubber stamp related. Like I said, illustrations can be repurposed.
And so, Pen, Ink, and Thread was born, an entire embroidery collection made up of my artwork. I even got my name big above the title. This was many years ago, but I recently on a whim checked and discovered to my surprise and delight that it’s still available. Here’s a link, if you happen to be a machine embroiderer:
While my son and I were at Plummer’s Great Bear Lake Arctic Lodge a few weeks ago, we became friends with a father/daughter duo, Greg and Madi. They shared with me an old photo of Greg taking Madi fishing when she was a toddler, and asked me if I could draw an illustration based on it. Here’s the result, which I’m very happy with. This was created on an iPad using Procreate with an Apple pencil.
My son Eric and I recently spent a week fishing at Plummer’s Great Bear Lake Lodge above the Arctic Circle. I promised Chuk, the lodge manager, that I would write a story for their newsletter, and do an accompanying illustration. Here’s what I came up with, an image of the lodge sign, along with Eric and I and our guide in our boat with a double hook-up, based on a photo a friend in another boat took. I did this on my iPad using Procreate, and I’m very happy with how it came out.
It was the best of times, it was the…okay, it was not a bad year drawing wise. I can boil it down to four categories.
MY REDBUBBLE.COM SHOP I started my Redbubble shop in October of 2020, but in 2021 I really spent time adding content. I’ve had a ton of fun drawing new art that, for the most part, works within my stated theme, which is artwork inspired by iconic books, authors, and movies. I define iconic as books, authors, and movies I like. Hey, it’s my shop.
Am I getting rich from Redbubble? Oh, hell no. The beauty of Redbubble is that they handle all printing and distribution, so I never have to worry about sourcing, say, slim-fit t-shirts, printing them, and shipping them to Paraguay. The downside is that Redbubble takes a huge slice of the pie. I sell more stickers than anything else, and I make, literally pennies on them. I’m not complaining, mind you. I don’t have the time or bandwidth to open an ETSY shop, so this works for me.
My favorite part of the whole thing? Seeing which countries my customers hail from. The fact that a water bottle featuring one of my designs is heading half way around the world is both fascinating and immensely gratifying. My best customer (Twitter friend Sheena and her fiancé Graham) lives in Norway. That is so cool.
AN IPAD, AN APPLE PENCIL, AND PROCREATE Speaking of Redbubble, nearly all the new art I’ve created for it (as opposed to older art that was already completed—some I did all the way back in high school) was done digitally, using an Apple Pencil and Procreate software on my iPad. I love the versatility, the fact that I can try different tools and different techniques and not worry about ruining a drawing, or having to start over. There are lots of other drawing programs out there, but for me at least, Procreate is easy to learn and intuitive. My goal is for you to not be able to tell which artwork of mine is hand drawn and which is digital. I think I’m getting close.
ART MARKETS In 2021 I starting selling my work at outdoor art markets and shows again, something I hadn’t done in decades. I blame my brother Jim. He makes gorgeous, imaginative fairy container gardens, which he’s been successfully selling at shows, and he asked me to share a booth space with him. We ended up doing a bunch of shows together. I rediscovered how much I love hanging out, talking to people about art, connecting with other creative folks. This will definitely continue in 2022. Oh, and I made a few bucks. Win-win.
ANTHOLOGY COVERS I’m a sometimes, somewhat active member of the Twitter writing community, and through that I was lucky enough to connect with a group of immensely talented writers and participate in two fiction anthologies: Heads and Tales: The Other Side of the Story, and the just published Welcome to Simmins, Detective Spencer. I have one story in the first, and two in the second. Our editor for both volumes, Chapel Grahamm, did a wonderful job—keeping a bunch of writers on task and on deadline can be like juggling cats—and I’m extremely proud of my stories in both books.
Dave, you may be asking yourself, what’s that got to do with drawing? Glad you asked! I was asked to create the cover art for both anthologies and happily agreed. Both jobs were fun as can be, and, I think, successful.
Curious? Here are links for both. Heads and Tales is available in both print and e-book editions, and Welcome to Simmins, Detective Spencer is available now as an e-book, with a print edition coming any day now:
A local propane company asked me to create a logo character for them, and this was the result. The little scenes were for a series of holiday posters. Supertankman has ended up as a 3D printed model, a plush toy, embroidered on jackets and hats—a surprising number of things.
I’m lucky enough to be participating in Heads and Tales, an anthology of reimagined myths, legends, and fairy tales told from both sides of the story. I have a short story here about the Wild Hunt, set during the War of 1812–my story told from the American side, and my co-writer, Renée Gendron, from the Canadian side. The book will debut in July, and I’ll write more about it then. For now, though, I wanted to share the cover art I created for the book. This was done using an Apple pencil and Procreate on an I-Pad. I’m very pleased with the results.
For the past several months, most of my art time has been devoted to new designs for my RedBubble shop. I’m really working on using my I-Pad, Apple Pencil and Procreate software to their full potential, and trying some new styles. Here are my most recent designs, artwork inspired by movies, books, and authors, and a couple of wild cards.
I’ve been exploring digital artwork, using an Apple Pencil and Procreate on an iPad, for several months now, and with this drawing I think I’ve gotten pretty close to what I can do with traditional pen and ink. I may add this to my RedBubble shop if I can figure out how to tag it in a description.
I just realized that, while I posted about my new edition of my novel Trapped In Lunch Lady Land, I never posted the cover art I created for it. I did this on an iPad with an Apple pencil using Procreate. I’m still getting the hang of digital art, but I’m really happy with how this turned out.
I’ve talked about this before on this blog, but I once spent several years as the main artist and designer for Stampers Anonymous, a well-regarded rubber art stamp company. The owner, Ginny (who continues to be a friend to this day) has an artistic sensibility, and a love for the weird, that dovetails nicely with mine. I loved designing stamps for her, and probably did hundreds throughout the years.
The rubber stamp community is passionately creative, and one of their favorite people is illustrator and collage artist Nick Bantock. He’s probably most famous for the Griffin and Sabine series, but he’s done many other art books as well. His collage work often utilizes rubber stamps, which is part of what endears him to stampers.
So I’m in Ginny’s stamp store one day, and she hands me Bantock’s lavish, oversized hardcover art book, Artful Dodger, and tells me to look at the collage in the center spread. Lo and behold, there, in the center of the collage, is one of my stamps. Probably the proudest moment of my stamp design career. Check it out below. That’s my artwork, the stamp featuring a quote about art, there in the middle.
I drew both of these for my Redbubble.com shop, but they got flagged. Weird, as a search for “Yoda” delivers more than 4,000 returns, and “Lord of the Rings” more than 5,000, but it’s not worth fighting about. Anyway, I loved working on both of these, and I learned a little more about using the Apple pencil with each one.
A couple of months ago I bought an I-Pad and an Apple Pencil. I realized quickly what a fun and versatile drawing tool I had with the combination, and an idea was born. Introducing Fan-tasm, a redbubble.com shop featuring artwork inspired by iconic books and movies. I’m working fast and loose, and really enjoying the process.
Here’s the link to my shop:
And here are a few samples of the kind of work I’m doing for this. I plan on adding lots more designs in the coming days. I’m also more than happy to take suggestions, or even custom orders. Drop me a line!
I finally broke down and got an Apple pencil to use with my iPad and, wouldn’t you know it, I love it. I can tell there’s going to be a steep learning curve to really figure out everything it can do, but here’s my first attempt. All things considered, I’m happy with it.
Many years back I worked with a a start-up kids TV show called The Magic Easel. Part of my job included designing the show’s opening sequence, which was a tour of the small town where the show was set. Just about all the art has disappeared into the great unknown, but here are some of the town sketches, plus the one piece of finished art I still have.
When I was a wee lad (okay, Junior High), I began to realize that creating art would be part of my future, and given that, I also began to notice the work of artists whose work I admire. Funny thing, though. While I appreciated many fine artists, particularly Dali and the other surrealists, the artists I gravitated to were illustrators—comic artists, magazine and book cover illustrators. They were doing the work I wanted to do. Here are some of those illustrators, the ones that made me want to be an artist. This is off the top of my head, and certainly not a complete list. I’ll start with the three illustrators mentioned above.
VIRGIL FINLAY and HANNES BOK—I’m lumping them together because for some reason I always think of them together. Both did extraordinarily imaginative, extraordinarily detailed work for pulp magazines on crappy pulp paper that in no way did their work justice. Truly inspiring. http://www.artnet.com/artists/virgil-finlay/
STEPHEN FABIAN—I discovered Fabian in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and his work immediately stood out for the texture and shadow of his work. https://www.stephenfabian.com/
FRANK FRAZETTA—I came of age in the seventies, so of course Frazetta is on this list, and not just because of his voluptuous women. His paintings have so much power, so much purpose. He’s a master of competition, and I love his paint handling. Boris Vallejo was working at the same time, in much the same market, but I always loved Frazetta more. As excellent a technician as Vallejo was, he was a little too polished for my taste. Frazetta was just more exciting. http://frankfrazetta.net/
ROBERT CRUMB—Crumb is a master, pure and simple. Consummate style, humor, storytelling, and above all exceptional pen and ink technique. Hey may be a curmudgeon, but he’s my kind of curmudgeon. https://www.crumbproducts.com/
BILL WATTERSON—Speaking of curmudgeons, Watterson is another one. Calvin and Hobbes is, to my mind, the finest comic strip ever made (nods to Doonesbury and Bloom County as right up there). Beautifully loose, expressive brush work. Watterson walked away from it when shrinking newspaper comic sections pissed him off. He lives not far from me here in Northeast Ohio, and it makes me happy just knowing he’s there. https://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes
WILLIAM STOUT—Another graduate of underground comics, Stout is just one helluva illustrator, with exquisite line work and amazing detail. Not as well know as he should be. https://www.williamstout.com/
LEO AND DIANE DILLON—I worked my late teen years at a Waldenbooks, and Leo and Diane Dillon were responsible for some of my favorite book covers. An interracial married couple, the Dillons have a unique style all their own. Their work is instantly recognizable. http://leo-and-diane-dillon.blogspot.com/
MURRAY TINKLEMAN—Often, right next to cover art by the Dillons, you’d find cover art by Tinkleman. His densely cross-hatched artwork is also instantly recognizable. http://tinkelmanstudio.com/
DONALD ROLLER WILSON—Chances are you may not have heard of Wilson, and that’s a damn shame. Richly realistic, yet utterly fantastic, often hilarious, often featuring animals of all kinds. Wilson is a true original. https://donaldrollerwilson.com/
ROBERT TUBBESING—Unless you grew up in Northeast Ohio, you probably haven’t heard of Bob Tubbesing, either. He taught commercial art at Maple Heights High School, my alma mater, and at Cooper School of Art, which I attended as well. Perhaps more importantly, he did some of the most inspiring pen and ink work I ever saw, filled with mysterious imagination. I believe he had some success as a gallery artist, but I couldn’t find any decent art links to include here.
Looking for links to include here, I was thrilled to discover that many of these artists are still doing exciting, vital work. Have a look for yourself, and get to know these inspiring illustrators.
Back when I was designing rubber art stamps, my local stamp store (Hi, Ginny!) asked me to teach a class in coloring. Turns out, once stampers do their stamping, they sometimes like to color the resulting work. It also turns out that folks in the stamping community are uniformly delightful people, and the classes were great fun to do. This is a handout I prepared for the class, outlining some tips, and techniques that work for me. They may work for you as well.