Marin Magazine Zen of Surfing illustration

I created this illustration for Marin Magazine for a story about The Zen of Surfing. My idea was to show a surfer within a wave, as if the wave formed a temple, an arch around the surfer. In the middle of this arch, would be a setting sun, like the eye within a storm. I included some variations on this idea, more active wave lines, closer views of the surfer. The art director chose sketch 3, the temple wave idea with a more active wave pattern.

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.

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.

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.