Tag Archives: sketches

Transformers Sketch: Windblade

I recently did some inks for IDW’s Combiner Wars: Windblade #3 (I’m a little fuzzy on how all the titles are numbered.)

I realized I hadn’t drawn Windblade before so I used her for some marker practice. I’m trying to do a little more subtle blending and focusing more detail on the parts I want the viewer to focus on.

Not sure how successful I was with any of that, but here you go.


Gorilla Sketches

As a social media experiment I labeled one of these gorilla sketches as “gorilla Grodd” on Instagram. It got more likes, even though the sketch was just another gorilla head study like all the others.  That one got more likes, because the perception of it as a known character somehow adds more interest to it, even though the sketch isn’t any different than any other gorilla sketch. In fact, Grodd is just a super-gorilla, but design wise he really is just a gorilla.

I have no conclusions, just something I find interesting.


The Traveler and Pen: Wilmington, NC

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”

―G.K. Chesterton

If you drive down I-40 East long enough, the rolling curves and ample exits of the North Carolina Piedmont will give way to a flat stretch of coastal plain.  Periodically the highway will present a sign or two advertising a single gas station or fast food restaurant.  How far apart you perceive these stops to be grows in proportion to how full of soda your bladder is.

wilmingtoncolorsAfter a couple of hours the landscape will give way to the outskirts of Wilmington, NC–ripe with all the generic trappings of any city between there and Barstow, California.  Citgos, Shells, Wal-Marts, and Walgreens proliferate like weeds.  Stick with your drive long enough and you’ll emerge from this artificial thicket into Wilmington’s historic and revitalized downtown.

My wife and I have made this drive every year  since 1999 to celebrate our anniversary.  We typically stick close to the downtown, which stands on the edge of the Cape Fear river.  We park in front of our usual Bed & Breakfast and walk through the Victorian neighborhood down to the river walk.  I’m still impressed by the river itself, which moves up and down with the tide alternately bringing the decks of docked boats into view below you and then, hours later, pushing them high above your sight.

The Battleship North Carolina sits permanently across the river from downtown.  She’s been museum since the 1960s having long finished her impressive, though brief, tour of duty during World War II.  The river has since ceased  raising and lowering the warship, and instead has encased her considerable hull in mud.  Once a day the river gets low enough to reveal that her last victory has been against the tide itself.

After all these years we usually find ourselves in the same old places.  We’ve done all the touristy things:  the studio tours and the historic tours, the walking tours and the riding tours.  When all the tours have been done – and they’re worth doing – you’re left with the place itself.  We would just rather be there by the river.  wilmington_battleship

I just want to see the bookstore and the cigar shop.  I want to see the boats rise and fall, and the battleship not.  I want to walk by the old house that occupies two lots that used to look haunted, but now looks like a place I wish I could afford to live in.  I want to walk by the oldest building in town that was standing while John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were still trying to work the kinks out of the republic.

After a few days we pack up and drive back through that generic stretch of road that we could experience anywhere in the country.  The last impression you have is the contrast – the difference between a real place and anywhere.

Practicing Simplicity in Drawing

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” – Blaise Pascal


“Simplify, simplify, simplify, throughout!” – Alex Toth

Generally speaking, if I can’t communicate the general idea with a few lines, I probably don’t really understand the object I’m trying to draw. Break things down. Then break them down more. Once I’m able to make an object recognizable to a reader with just a few lines, then I’m beginning to grasp what makes that thing look the way it does.

Excess is easy. Simplification is hard.


I’m still not there. But I think I’m getting better.


Practice simplicity in drawing. When it’s time for detail you’ll know when to stop. You’ll know the life of the object isn’t in the excess.

Why Drawing With Crayons Isn’t Just For Kids

Watching Christmas Movies and Drawing with Crayons

Click to Enlarge

Why are crayons associated with kid’s drawings? They’re sticks of color that can be put down on a page. What has that got to do with youth and immature skill?

Marketing, that’s what. Too bad, because they’re really good for anyone who wants to experiment with color and color relationships. If I ever open a restaurant, every customer will be seated at a table covered in white paper and given three crayons. Fill up the whole table with drawings and get a percentage off your bill. Until then (which is really until never, because I’m never opening a restaurant) I’ll have to settle for swiping a crayon from my son and pilfering a kid’s menu to draw on.

Let me tell you why drawing with crayons isn’t just for kids. If you want to get better at seeing how colors work together give yourself one rule and a pack of crayons.

The rule is: Never use just one color in an area.


Single colors are boring. Two or three colors are interesting. Are you coloring red hair? Throw in a touch of orange. Presto! It’s alive! Sure, rules are meant to be broken, but there’s something about crayons that adults do that kids don’t. Kids are all over the map when drawing with crayons–they disregard borders and overlap their efforts into muddy-colored chaos. Adults tend to segment everything into it’s proper place. Blue here. Red here. Yellow inside this area. What predicable bores we are.

The sweet spot is in the middle. Get used to using two colors per area or blending one color into another and that’s when it gets exciting. The rule is actually liberating: it forces you to experiment.

There are two more reasons to use crayons in your sketches.

Crayons are cheap to replace. If you’re sketching and practicing, burn through them. Move! Move! Move! Buy some more to experiment with. The marketing demographic of crayons being children has an upside: They’re inexpensive.

What you learn about color can be applied to other mediums. Every medium has it’s own learning curve, sure. But there are rules of color that apply with paint that you can learn drawing with crayons. If you’re struggling with color, try to get handle on it inexpensively before dropping a wad of cash on a medium that has it’s own learning curve.

Now go draw!

Dad’s Sketchbook

My Dad passed away 16 years ago today.  I don’t know how much of the drawing “talent”/desire/proclivity or whatnot is passed down in families, but he was inclined to doodle earlier in life. Though by the time I came a long I can only remember a handful of times he drew and most of those were drawings of Donald Duck.

I think most everyone draws when they’re children, but usually seem to stop by high school if they’re not really into it. I’ve always thought it was odd that dad both continued way past that point, but then stopped later. He joined the Army when he was 18 and had this sketchbook–I know because he stamped his name and serial number about a hundred times on the cover. Inside I imagine he tried to escape the routine of Army life, which he said he never cared for.



jms1 jms2


I think some of these images were copied from an old cartooning book (the good old, oversized ones that they don’t seem to sell anymore) as he tried to practice. jms3


He was a very precise guy. When he hung a picture, out came the tape measure and level. It was in his nature and I think inclined him to be adept at lettering. Just not spelling. He was excellent at math and horrible at spelling.

jms4jms5 jms6His Army time was in the early 1960s, before Vietnam (which he was never called up for) and right in the middle of the space race.  Between the drawing of the bulky tv console/furniture unit above and the rocket ships below, a future historian would have no problem placing this in its proper decade.




By the time I was born his drawing skills were limited to deliniations of floor plans. He only went to college a few years but worked his way up through the architectural/construction industry. The lack of education would eventually cap his advancement, though I’m pretty confident in retrospect he had through experience acquired just as much knowledge as anyone with a degree. I still have the blueprints he drew for an addition to our house, though it was never built. I imagine the funds were never there.




Years after he put away this sketchbook, his youngest son –the compulsive drawer– would find it and draw the bossest car ever.




Weekend Adventures


TARGET_STARBUCKS Last weekend I pilfered my son’s red twistable crayon. On Saturday he saw it laying on my desk and said it was his– which meant he suddenly wanted it. A few minutes later he put it back down in the den, so I required it before we took our weekly trek to Target for groceries.triad_stage

Red is a good color to have while sketching at Target.

The next day my wife and I went to see a play and having some time to kill  we found a spot to wait in the mezzanine level above the lobby. Perfect for people watching and sketching. The guy in the that sketch in the upper left used to come into Starbucks years ago when I worked there. I can’t remember his name (I don’t know that I ever did) and I have since forgotten what his drink was (which is how I used to identify people.) In fact, even if I still worked there I doubt he would recognize me. No one ever recognized me when I was out of my hat and apron.

If I ever need to disappear, it’s the perfect disguise.