Anyon Knot illustration

I made this illustration for Quanta Magazine for a story about anyon particles. I based the design of the anyon on a few diagrams I found in my research and also added 'knot' elements.

In the sketch approved by the art director, I originally placed the anyon in a room, like the apple in Magritte's The Listening Room, and I included figures around it to represent scientists or researchers.

Initially I made vector art, working with gradients and a complimentary color scheme, blue and green for the background and main body of the anyon, orange and yellow for the center detail area of the anyon. Bringing the background colors into the anyon made it appear more ethereal, an object but also a part of its surrounding environment. I decided to convert the original room setting into a long angled wall to create a diagonal across the composition.

I was a little unsure about my initial vector approach and the art director felt the same. She suggested reducing the color in the background and taking out the figures since they weren't really adding anything to the concept other than a sense of scale. She also wanted me to add texture.

For the revision, I first redesigned the background, still in vector form. I placed the anyon on a flat horizontal floor. I limited the complimentary colors to just the anyon shape and made the background a neutral bluish gray with hints of more vibrant color in the floating elements.

As a final step, I brought all of the separate elements into Photoshop to add texture and to make final color adjustments.

No body talk illustration

I created this illustration for The New York Times for a story about a summer camp that did not allow any body talk. I used the smiley faces to represent the positive conversation as well as cover the bodies. Below are sketches showing options for the smiley face balloons. For the print version, I sent in two options, one with texture and one without. The art director preferred the texture version but I think I like this texture-free version better.

Snooping government illustration

I created this illustration for Christianity Today for a story about government snooping. I sent in a number of ideas for the illustration, but mostly a big head representing the snooper and a little head representing the person being snooped. The client asked me to go forward with the bottom middle sketch, the big head with an Uncle Sam hat.

Above are the outlines in Adobe Illustrator. This illustration is symmetrical so the left matches the right except for the hand. I decided to use a red, white, and blue palette, white for the face, red for the hair, and blue for the background (below).

I realized I needed to include line work if I wanted the underside of the brim to be white, and for the eyebrows and ear details, so I added a lighter blue to the palette and used that color for the fill of the eyes (above) and for any of the line work. Below is the final vector illustration, the top image in this post is the texture version, with texture added in Adobe Photoshop as a final step.

Jesus strip club illustration

I created this illustration for a story asking the question, "Would Jesus hang out at a strip club?" meaning would Jesus spend time with the fringes of today's society.

In my sketches, I represented Jesus with a Sixties hippy-type look, sort of a George Harrison hair and beard style from 1968, or so. For the strip club, I thought symbols for vices would be safe, maybe, money, booze, cigarettes, and such. I used a dot pattern in the background to suggest the flashing lights used on a marquee sign, spotlights, the overall energy of the place.

For one set of sketches, I showed Jesus close up and for another, set showed him entering the club.

The client chose the lower left sketch, the shoe and Jesus, simple, direct. It was my choice as well. The high-heel shoe really summed up a club dancer I thought without getting too revealing. And it created an obscure relationship between Jesus and the dancer, allowing the viewer to wonder, what is he thinking? Is he sad for her, sad for himself, for both? is he interested, uninterested? is he meditating, bored? a client, friend, protector?

I created this illustration in Ilustrator and then as a final step, added texture in Photoshop. I like the flat, graphic look of the vector art, but a few of my clients prefer my signature texture style. So I either ask which style they prefer or send them both options.

Illustrator pattern with background color

I really like the new Pattern Options introduced with Illustrator CS6, but I have one problem with it. I don't see a way to create a pattern that includes a background color. There may be a better workaround out there (let me know) but for now, here is one solution.

First, design your pattern element. I'll keep it simple for this demo, a target.


Select your pattern element (or elements if yours is less simple than mine), go to the Object menu and choose Pattern>Make.

Choose the Tile Type that best fits the type of pattern you want to create. I chose the Brick by Row Tile Type with a 1/2 Offset.

Check the Size Tile to Art option to adjust the Horizontal and Vertical spacing. For my pattern tile, I set the number of Copies to 3 x 3.


Click Done and your pattern tile is saved to your Swatches panel. Now, to add a background color, we're going to use the old-fashioned way of defining a pattern tile in Illustrator.

Go to your swatches panel, find the new pattern swatch that was created, click and drag it onto the artboard. This will place a group of paths onto your artboard, the paths that make up the pattern swatch.

With this group still selected, you will see two rectangles. The outer one is the bounding box and the inner one is the cropping box.


Double-click on this group of paths to enter Isolation Mode, then select the inner rectangle, choose Copy from the Edit menu (shortcut is Command-C), and then choose Paste in Front from the Edit menu (shortcut is Command-F). Give this pasted rectangle a fill color, for mine I chose black.


Once you have the color you want, exit Isolation Mode and then drag the group of paths back into the Swatches panel. This will create a new pattern swatch that includes the background color you created.

To verify your pattern with your background color included, use the Rectangle tool to create a large shape on your artboard. Then choose the newest pattern swatch for its fill. You should see this large shape filled with your pattern that includes the background color you added.