Inflammation technique & process

This image was commissioned for a magazine article about inflammation. The idea for the piece was a pattern of abstracted cell shapes surrounding a helpless floating figure that also contained some of these cell shapes.

I sketched out a couple of options for the client to choose from. The first was a hand rather than a figure. The inflammation was also concentrated in one part of the hand as if stemming from an injury. The client felt the figure better fit the story and wanted the cell pattern to be within the figure.

I first painted the silhouette of the figure using white gouache on craft paper.

Then I used a variety of media to create some abstract cell shapes.

Using a Pentel brush pen, I created some line work for the head of the figure.

I used graphite on rough paper to create a shadow to insert within the figure, darkening its edges. I also made a hand and a foot along with additional shading marks.

I had originally sketched the figure as upside down but the client wanted the figure to be right-side up. I widened the pattern out a bit to better fit the format and then placed this sketch into Photoshop to use as a guide for the art.

To start the image, I used a number of textures to build up a dark blue background.

I then arranged the individual cell shapes into a pattern leaving a space for the figure, and colorized the cell shapes using a blue palette that was brighter, cooler, and more saturated than the background blues.

Next I placed the figure silhouette in the open area and colorized it with one light value and one medium value cool pink.

I then added line work and shading to the figure and created a pattern of cell shapes within it using a darker pink and red palette.

And here again is the final cropped image. Prints of this image are available for purchase at

The Wall Street Journal: Which spouse gets the house?

I did a quick assignment for the Wall Street Journal this week, a piece for their October 1 issue for a story about how the market is affecting divorce arrangements. I really wanted to do the bird cage sketch but the art director wisely chose the house sketch and completely avoided discussing the cat sketch.

Below is my Colorforms version, all the vector paths separated.

Guitar Hero

I've never played Guitar Hero and this image wasn't for Activision. It was for a legal trade magazine for a story about patent law; so something dull and something exciting (if you're into that sort of thing, I'm perfectly content with my New York Times Crossword Puzzle app and maybe a little Brave Man now and then).

I wanted the image to be about both situations, the real and the imagined, so I combined patent writing with guitar playing. The patent attorney is writing while he imagines himself playing guitar.

For process, first I scan my sketch and convert it to bitmap to get rid of the gray pixels. Then I move it to a new layer and delete all of the white pixels. I lock the transparent pixels so that I can quickly change the color of the sketch using the Fill Command shortcut (Option-Delete to fill with the foreground color, Command-Delete to fill with the background color). Below is the sketch with some reference photos taken by my daughter Emma.

Next I introduce a background color and then additional colors, working at separating the foreground elements from the background. I use the Pencil and Eraser tools on Layer Masks to isolate the color areas, working quickly trying not to be to accurate or neat. I make sure all anti-aliasing is turned off (uncheck anti-alias for the Lasso and Magic Wand tools, set the Eraser to Pencil, avoid the Paintbrush, set Interpolation to Nearest Neighbor). This limits the color areas to hard edges which allows me to do quick color edits when I lock the transparent pixels on each layer. I work fairly large, 11x13" at 300ppi so no jagged edges will be visible on curved and angled edges.

After these initial steps, I spend a bulk of the time cutting and pasting in textures and adjusting the color palette as needed. I often add additional line work as well.

When I have the image design complete, as a final step I convert it from RGB Color to Indexed Color, limiting the palette to just a few colors, and then tweak that version a bit to fall somewhere between the RGB version and the Indexed Color version. Below is the final image design followed by the Indexed Color version. The first image in this post is the tweaked version of the Indexed Color image. It's the final image, the one sent to the client.