Here’s something extremely cool I just received, The Little Chimp Society’s 2015 Award for Excellence. I’ve been extremely fortunate this year to have received this and a few other awards for my work recently. I was also selected to be one of Creative Quarterly’s Top 25 illustrators of 2014. That being said, as I mentioned in my previous post, I don’t do this for the awards or the acclaim (although I’d be lying if I didn’t say it provides quite an ego boost). I mostly do it because art is that thing that, aside from my family, makes me happiest in the world. It took me years to realize that. I’m extremely fortunate to be able to do what I can do and to have received so much praise for my work. So, to each and every one of you who has shown such confidence in me and my work, thank you.
I never set out to be a professional illustrator. When I was a kid in school I was always “the guy who could draw”, but after high school and knowing I had to make a living for myself I moved on from one graphic designer and art director job after another. It wasn’t until a few years back that I realized how long I’d gone without drawing much of anything and how much I missed it. So I grabbed my dusty, seldom used Wacom tablet and tried to learn how to paint. Even back then, when I started posting my stuff on various message boards, I was mostly just looking for advice on how to get better. I was as surprised as anyone when people started telling me how much they liked what I was doing and offered to pay me to do more of it. So even today I’m still incredibly flattered and a little surprised whenever I receive a complement from people. Just this weekend I had a mom from Vancouver send me an email asking for my autograph for her son’s 12th birthday because I’m one of his artistic idols and he wants to learn to do what I do. In the years that I’ve been doing this I’ve won a handful of awards, done work for a lot of amazing clients and received many complements from my own artistic idols, but it’s emails like the one from that boy’s mom that make me really think I’m doing something right.
Very high on my bucket list of magazines I’ve always wanted to illustrate for is Mother Jones, and finally I got my chance. This is for an article about local elected judges who take in huge amounts of political donations from outside money groups that they later may have to rule on in court cases. And yes, I did take reference photos of me posing for this one, and no, you will never see them. Thanks a bunch to Ivy at MJ for a really fun assignment.
So recently I went looking for a portable solution that I could draw on like my Cintiq 21UX that was still small enough to yank out at a coffee shop. I considered buying myself a Wacom Cintiq Companion, but I ultimately decided it was just a bit too pricey for a device that I really didn’t know how much use I’d get out of. I decided instead to get a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and, the short version is, I absolutely love it. The long version is as follows:
I knew what I wanted from a tablet going in: something that was pressure sensitive, that could run Photoshop and Sketchbook Pro (my number one and two most used apps). The Surface Pro is a full-blown PC laptop mixed with the best elements of a tablet. As a dedicated and long-time Mac user, I didn’t know how well I’d adjust to a Windows machine, and I must confess I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I know Microsoft has gotten some grief over Windows 8, but as far as using it on the Surface Pro goes, I find it to be a smoothly operating and highly intuitive user experience.
Microsoft has released a Surface Pro 3 recently, but I opted for the SP2 partially because I could get one quite a bit cheaper than the 3, but also because SP2 uses a Wacom digitizer for pressure sensitivity, whereas the SP3 uses N-Trig technology. According to the specs, the Surface Pro 2 with Wacom technology has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, whereas the Surface Pro 3 with N-Trig has 256. I know, to some degree, the pressure sensitivity levels are just marketing speak, and I’d be curious sometime to compare how it feels to draw on the Surface Pro 3 compared to the 2, but for now I decided to stick with my tried and true Wacom tech.
My Surface Pro 2 has 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB solid-state internal drive and in the week-and-a-half that I’ve been using the device it has proven more than capable of running anything I’ve thrown at it. Photoshop CC runs like a dream. I haven’t experienced the least bit of brush lag yet (though I suspect I probably would if I had a hundred layers open, but then again, my Cintiq lags when I do that too). Autodesk Sketchbook Pro works even better, in many respects, because now I can actually hold the tablet it my lap just like I’d hold a paper sketchpad and draw to my heart’s content.
The 1920 x 1080 screen resolution is absolutely gorgeous and is easily one of the clearest screens I’ve ever seen on any device. One drawback I do find is that the resolution is so high that the menus in some apps like Photoshop can get very tiny unless you go in and tinker with the app settings. The 10″ screen is a little on the smallish side and it’s taken some getting used to drawing on it when I’m so used to drawing on my comparatively giant Cintiq screen. I’d be curious to compare it against the 12″ screen of the SP3, but that’s for another day. Also, the glass itself is an extremely slick surface (no pun intended) that doesn’t have quite as much “tooth” to it as my Wacom screen does, so the pen does have a different tactile quality to it than I’m used to.
As for the Microsoft Stylus itself…well, I really can’t say. The device I got was a refurbished model that didn’t come with stylus, so I went ordered myself a Wacom Bamboo Feel Stylus, which I felt was probably the right way to go since I’m still so used to Wacom tech.
The Surface Pro 2 is built with a nifty kickstand in the back that adjusts to two angles, which is especially useful when you realize the device weighs about two pounds, which may prove to be a bit heavy for some people to be holding up for a long period of time. One thing I would chide Microsoft on is not including the Type Cover with the Surface Pro. The magnetic keyboard that snaps on and off is a brilliant idea and is absolutely essential to have if you get one of these devices, but the drawback is you have to spend an additional $120 buying it separately.
All in all, I really have very few complaints and the few I have are more than overshadowed by how much good I have to say about this device. If you’re an artist looking for a portable drawing solution and the Cintiq Companion is out of your reach, you really won’t be disappointed with the Surface Pro.
For a while now I’ve been itching to do a caricature of actress Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, The Borgias, Elementary, Captain America). She has a really great face for caricature, because she’s both a beautiful woman while at the same time having one of the goofiest smiles I’ve ever seen. It almost looks like she just sucked on a lemon right before voguing for the camera. Last night I drew her in Sketchbook Pro (see below), and today I painted over her. I think I made her look even more like a living, breathing Disney princess than she is.
New illustration for Seattle Met Magazine. This was a double page spread and features Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and several other major players in the fight to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. Big thanks to AD Sara D’Eugenio for a great assignment.
On Friday, July 11, the EVO 2014 Championship Fighting Game Tournament begins. I was invited to take part in the inaugural art show. Here’s my piece, featuring my favorite Street Fighter character, Chun Li.
This is a caricature I did of my niece, Nicole, for a new caricature painting tutorial I wrote for the June 2014 2D Artist Magazine. In the article, I break down my process from observation to thumbnail sketching all the way to the final painting. The issue is available for sale now.
Here are a bunch of recent sketches, both digital in Sketchbook Pro 6 and ballpoint pen on paper. I try to sketch every day, and if you’re an artist, you should too. Regular sketching is the same as going to the gym every day. It gives your creative muscles a workout and keeps the imagination flowing. You’ll have to forgive a couple of the crappy iPhone photos I took from sketchbook. Here’s Steve Buscemi, Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Marilyn Monroe and Jack White.
Most of the time when I’m sitting on the couch watching TV, I’ll have a sketchbook in my lap drawing at the same time. Last night I did a ballpoint pen sketch of Thom Yorke of Radiohead I liked a lot, so today I decided to paint it. Here’s the original sketch: