Abbey Lincoln portrait, revised

A couple of years ago, I drew this portrait of Abbey Lincoln in one of my sketchbooks. I was experimenting with painting a shape and then inking line details on top. The paper was a bit too thin for the gouache painting so some wrinkling occurred and came through in the scan along with the gutter fold of the sketchbook.

I opened the scan in Photoshop and converted the blue painted shape into a single color. This also captured a bit of the gutter fold shadow creating a crease across the face area.

I then converted all of the ink line details to solid black. This also captured some of the gutter fold shadow along with some additional shadow areas from the wrinkling of the paper.

I cleaned up the black from the wrinkle shadows as well as the sketchbook edges, but decided to leave the gutter shadow marks. I liked the accidental aspect of it and how it referenced the sketchbook, also how the line related to the diagonal black lines in the background. I didn't realize though that some might see this mark as a cut across the face, not my intention of course. And I realized that the reference to the sketchbook was probably only apparent to me. So I decided to remove the gutter shadow "cut" mark.

I also lightened up the blue a bit. And looking back at this piece, I remembered that I had made an alternative version, one with less distortion.

I liked how this version turned out, although I think it makes the body appear a bit odd in relation to the head. Overall, I prefer the distorted version, even better without the cut.

Patchwork man illustration

Last week, I created this illustration for The Wall Street Journal for a story about how our early ancestors from different continents mingled earlier than we thought. One of the ideas suggested by the editor was to show "figures of various colors overlapping or merging."

This idea reminded me of an illustration I created seventeen years ago (back in my early vector period) for Outside Magazine for a story about testing athletic clothing material. The idea was a figure running through the environment with a quilt-like outfit.

I revisited this idea but for the new illustration, I wanted the figure to be more monolithic, like a giant running through the woods. And inside the figure would be the merging, different-color figures.

This was a quick deadline so not much time for sketching. I presented four ideas in the merging figure direction, plus a couple of additional ideas. The art director chose the top left idea.

Since it was a fairly simple composition, I knew the fingers, toes, and the head would be important details, so I sat down with my ink brush pen and some paper and started loosely drawing, experimenting with line and edge quality, and with pencil and marker, and then chose the drawn elements I liked the most.

This loose drawing session helped determine the style of the figure. Usually, I resolve that in the sketch, but in this case, the sketch was rough and quick (short deadline) with few details.

I began with a green field and a yellow figure. To make the figure, I duplicated and distorted the ink drawn body elements to create a full figure and then attached the hands, feet, and head. I cleaned up the head a bit and added an eye and a mouth.

Color was an important part of this concept. I used a three-color palette for the figures, yellow for the main figure and then blue and red for the interior figures. To add some additional visual interest, I separated the figure from the background with a white edge and then added a shadow figure.

The trees represented the environment, the woods, and their arrangement created a background pattern that suggested a larger continuous space.

As a final step, I softened and dulled down the colors a bit.

Unfortunately, the editor decided to go with a photo for the story, but it was a great assignment to work on, even if the art didn't make it to print.

Brain illustration for Quanta Magazine

I created this illustration for Quanta Magazine for a story about the brain and a theory about how it self-organizes. The editor wanted an image where sand or grains represented the brain, as if the sand or grains were being poured into a person's head.

I created this illustration for Quanta Magazine for a story about the brain and a theory about how it self-organizes. The editor wanted an image where sand or grains represented the brain, as if the sand or grains were being poured into a person's head.

I sketched up a few quick directions for this concept. The art director and editor wanted to go with the top left sketch but asked me to make the grains form the shape of a brain rather than a triangular pile.

I sketched up a few quick directions for this concept. The art director and editor wanted to go with the top left sketch but asked me to make the grains form the shape of a brain rather than a triangular pile.

Above is the final sketch with a couple of drawings to show how the brain details could be added to the brain shape. They liked the idea of the grains conforming to the shapes within the brain rather than adding line work.

Above is the final sketch with a couple of drawings to show how the brain details could be added to the brain shape. They liked the idea of the grains conforming to the shapes within the brain rather than adding line work.

I hand inked most of the dots for the brain. I felt the scale of the dots started out a bit too big (middle top) so I reduced the size of the dots to make sure the empty areas within the brain shape would be more easily read. I also drew some dots for the stream of grains coming from the spout.

I hand inked most of the dots for the brain. I felt the scale of the dots started out a bit too big (middle top) so I reduced the size of the dots to make sure the empty areas within the brain shape would be more easily read. I also drew some dots for the stream of grains coming from the spout.

Here  is how the illustration appeared online.

Here is how the illustration appeared online.

Walking therapy illustration

I created this illustration for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for a story about a therapist who walks and talks with her patients rather than meet with them in her office.

I created this illustration for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for a story about a therapist who walks and talks with her patients rather than meet with them in her office.

The art director saw these two illustrations in my portfolio and asked me to create a new illustration incorporating hand lettering with walking figures.

The art director saw these two illustrations in my portfolio and asked me to create a new illustration incorporating hand lettering with walking figures.

To reference, Minneapolis, I chose the Stone Arch Bridge, a metaphor for the therapy.

To reference, Minneapolis, I chose the Stone Arch Bridge, a metaphor for the therapy.

I tightened up the sketch but the art director wanted me to include land at the top of the illustration, a reference to the city, or a park, something on the other side of the bridge, a destination.

I tightened up the sketch but the art director wanted me to include land at the top of the illustration, a reference to the city, or a park, something on the other side of the bridge, a destination.

I roughed up a quick revised sketch with a cityscape. These rougher figures actually influenced the direction of how I would end up depicting the figures, less line and more shape.

I roughed up a quick revised sketch with a cityscape. These rougher figures actually influenced the direction of how I would end up depicting the figures, less line and more shape.

Above is the hand lettering I created for the illustration along with some buildings and shrubs. I decided to go with a park destination rather than a city skyline destination for the top part of the illustration.  Below is the Photoshop art in sequential states of completion. I begin with a background of textures and then repeat and edit these textures to create the other parts of the illustration.

Above is the hand lettering I created for the illustration along with some buildings and shrubs. I decided to go with a park destination rather than a city skyline destination for the top part of the illustration.

Below is the Photoshop art in sequential states of completion. I begin with a background of textures and then repeat and edit these textures to create the other parts of the illustration.

I really liked this stage, felt finished to me, calm yet active.

I really liked this stage, felt finished to me, calm yet active.

Above is the final with the strip of land at the top. This strip added more color and gave the piece an optimistic feeling, like spring.

Above is the final with the strip of land at the top. This strip added more color and gave the piece an optimistic feeling, like spring.