Quick Sketch: Mr. Bongo

Quick Sketch: Mr. Bongo

Feeling silly tonight. This guy is, too.

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Quick Sketch – Bill

Quick Sketch - Bill

It was my coworker and friend’s 2nd work-anniversary today! I made this in a few minutes while I was drinking my coffee. It’s fun to be fluent enough with tools like Sketch that I can basically use them for doodling now. (Though that certainly hasn’t stopped me from doodling on paper, either.)

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I’m trying to learn a little about digital painting; right now  it’s something that I can’t do at all. And I’d like to be able to! Right now, drawing with shapes gives me a lot of control, but I feel like I’m working with a pretty limited kit of tools.

So I’m slowwwwly trying to force myself to branch out a little and stop using Sketch for everything I make. Tonight, I decided to do a quick drawing based on one of my favorite children’s books, Elementarz. It’s a Polish reading primer for little kids, so it’s relevant to my life — on a good day, I read Polish at about a first grade level. The illustration style is dreamy — the colors are bright (though not so much in the scan at the link I included), and all the people have big dark eyes that manage to be very expressive even though they were created with just a few brushstrokes.

Here is my first try:


I can already see a few things I’d like to do differently — namely, I need to spend a little more time with the brushes — but it feels like a start. This was the first time I’ve done something like this where I haven’t felt completely overwhelmed. It’s hard to imagine switching entirely from the vector art I do, but I’m looking forward to finding out what I can do with a slightly larger toolbox.



Of course, there are obviously already enough cats on the internet.  If you’re okay with one more, check out this quick one I did while drinking some questionable beer and glancing at a Little Golden Book.


Happy new year, everyone. This fall was not really a great one, but I’ve spent the winter feeling really happy to be the person I am and know the people I know. So: a lot of reading and talking and dancing and hanging but not too much (finished) art. I think I’m ready to get to work again, though. See y’all soon.

Character Study: Anne Shirley

Like a lot of women who used to be overemotional girls with meager social graces and a propensity for daydreaming, I grew up loving Anne of Green Gables. For those of you who don’t know (and who are you, anyway?), Anne of Green Gables is about an orphan who is mistakenly adopted by an elderly brother and sister at the turn of the 20th century in rural Canada. If you haven’t much imagination, the story probably sounds pretty dull, but the characters make it interesting — especially Anne herself.

It’s been quite a while since I was obsessed with the Anne books (there are six, plus a few others about her kids that I’ve never read), but Anne is still one of my favorite characters in all of literature. She’s funny and smart and surprising and goodhearted and has a real love for beauty — but she’s also full of faults. For most of the first book, she’s terribly vindictive and completely irrational in the face of her own emotions.  She’s judgmental and rash and more than a little obsessed with her own appearance. Even as an adult, she gets caught up in her imagination and confuses idealized notions of love and success for the real thing. Plus, while she loves to tell stories, she’s a pretty atrocious writer, at least at the beginning of the series — unlike her own creator, L.M. Montgomery, she can only imagine characters who are absolutely perfect and perfectly dull.

Anne’s been on my mind a lot lately, so I decided to take a stab at drawing her. She’s very expressive, so I didn’t think I could do just one of her moods.

Anne Group

I’d like to develop at least one of these into a larger piece: the one on the left maybe into something along the lines of this old cover; the other two into more detailed depictions of the scenes from the book that inspired them. You learn a bit about what’s going on in each picture (and see larger individual versions) after the cut.

Continue reading

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Turning 26 in Arlen, Texas

You may remember my friend Julianna. She is a really talented artist and photographer, and last year I drew her riding off  into the sunset on the back of a majestic giraffe.

It’s her birthday today, and this year, I knew I had to do something special. In addition to continuing to be a wonderful friend, over the past few months she has given me one of the most precious gifts one person can give another: a deep appreciation of King of the Hill.

I could go on about King of the Hill for a long time, but I think you should probably just watch it yourself if you’re skeptical. Or you could hang out with Julianna. In addition to being a fine King of the Hill screencapper, she has the quiet wisdom of Boomhauer, the creativity of Bobby, the fierce intelligence of Peggy, and, of course, the high moral qualities and plain old common sense of Hank.

With that in mind, I knew that the best gift I could give Julianna would be to insert her into the King of the Hill universe where she belongs. Selfishly, I decided that I’d like to tag along, too, and maybe even bring a few more friends. Once I got to that point, the rest of my choices were really obvious.  For your consideration, I present Arlen, TX by way of Raleigh, NC:


Happy birthday, Julianna!

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Two Triptychs

I’ve been flying more than usual lately. Last weekend I went to Boston, and the weekend after this one, I’m going to Chicago. I’m excited about spending time in both of these cities, but I have to admit that I always look forward to the travelling as much as the getting-there. I don’t mean this in the platitudinal, “It’s about the journey, not the destination,” sense. Even if that statement is a wise one, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t apply to comfortable trips that take less than half a day.

What I’m actually trying to say is that I really love flying. Every time an additional layer of hassle is added to the process, I get a little sad and think, OK, I’m probably not going to enjoy this as much as I used to. But I’m always wrong, because I do. No matter how hurried the trip to the airport is (and if you know me, you can guess that it’s usually pretty frantic),  as soon as I get through security, I feel so calm and ready to get up in the air. No matter how tiny the bags of peanuts are (so tiny!) and how pesky my seatmates are (always!), I love the feeling of being high above the ground.

And of course, the view isn’t bad, either.

triptych 1

I got really lucky on the way back from Boston: a window seat, no seatmate to annoy with my camera’s shutter, and a huge landscape filled with light. The window was super dirty, which you can see in some of these pictures, but I didn’t mind. There was a lot to see. (And you should definitely click and enlarge these pictures to see a bit more of it.)

triptych 2

Every single time I look out an airplane window, I think about the fact that humans have been humans for about 50,000 years, but it’s only been a little over a century since we first flew, and only 5 or 6 decades since ordinary people started taking commercial flights. In the grand scheme of things, these cloudscapes are an incredibly rare sight — but now anyone with a few hundred bucks and some time can see them, and most of us don’t even pay attention for more than a few moments. I wonder what some of the great painters would have thought about the view from an airplane — light is especially interesting when the only shadows are cast by clouds.

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Angel/Devil, OR Learn Polish with Dualities!

I have been working on and off on a visual dictionary in Polish– actually, let’s be real and call it a very limited glossary — since December. This is deeply silly on a few levels, the most prominent one being that it feels like the extension of a wonderful but incredibly long project I was involved with at work. It would be even sillier if I thought this project was a good way for me to actually work at learning a language — doing that usually requires you to focus more on the quantity of the words you know rather than the quality of the pictures you create to represent them. Silly or not, though, it has been a way to tie together a few things I spend a lot of time thinking about. I’ve always liked the feeling of working a few puzzles at once, and thinking about art while I study language and language while I create art has deepened my engagement with both.

I showed you one of my early favorites a few months back; here are two I’ve done recently. Fortunately, I don’t think you’ll need to hit up Google Translate — though you might find these pronunciations useful.


This pairing is such a cliché, but even if you take out religion, history, and Big Questions about the nature of good and evil, it’s easy to see why we return to it so often.  In order for two things to be “opposites,” they have to be very much the same. After all, each thing only has one opposite, and it’s never something that’s absolutely different (Dog and cruise ship! Tennis and slime! Nebula and scarf!). Rather, opposites are quite alike, except for the one thing that’s most essential to understanding them: Over and under, cat and dogman and woman.

For angel and devil,  the most interesting thing commonality is just how absolute a concept each represents. Of course you end up with a preternaturally serene angel and a gleefully bad devil. The thing that differentiates angel and devil lends itself to extremes better than, say, man and woman. Think about the angels and devils in movies and advertisements and even art — the main thing they have in common is just how over-the-top they are. I don’t think I need to explain how fun illustrating this type of contrast can be.

The big challenge of depicting these two is making the angel even a third as likable as the devil. I think I met that standard, at least — as I worked on the angel, I found his beatific little smile infectious enough that I smiled the whole time. Still: that devil! He is perfectly wicked, and a lot more charming than anyone so bad should be. Poor angel! At least he has justice on his side.

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Sleepy Monkey

Right now, I’m at the start of an interactive project of sorts. It’s going to involve a collection of responsive, subtly animated portraits. I have a modest-but-not-insignificant amount of the artwork done, but I realized that I still have to mess around with animation quite a bit in order to be able to achieve the effect I’d like to go for. My main question is this: how simple can an animation be and still convey a character’s personality?

To focus on that question, I’m taking a break from the artwork I’ll actually be using for this project. Instead, I’ve been doing some tiny experiments with animated GIFs.



I like this little guy a lot, not in small part because at this moment I feel exactly the way I think he does — pretty sleepy and not even half-heartedly trying to stay alert. This is kind of an obvious one, but I’m really excited about figuring out what I can do with just a few frames.

On that note, it’s time for bed for both of us, I think.

PS. I realize this guy is pretty abstracted from the idea of “monkey,” but I actually drew him from a photo of a Tamarin Golden Lion I saw at the National Zoo! That said, the monkey I saw was totally bright-eyed and not sleepy at all– I did take some liberties there, I’ll admit.

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Matching Set

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what people mean when they talk about two people being “a match” or “pair.” The whole concept of a perfect match seems off, somehow — you can have a matched pair or socks, but people seem a little more complicated. For two objects to be matched, they should be as identical as possible; for two people who are romantically involved, that idea seems a lot less sound.


This pair is pretty well matched; for that reason, I find them a little eerie. There’s something almost twinnish about them, and I think this set could just as easily depict two aspects of one person as it could a couple.

Obviously, a visual resemblance isn’t what people usually mean when they’re talking about a “perfect match.” That said, I’m pretty dubious of that type of match, too.  If you’re searching for a perfect match, on some level, you have to assume that you can accurately assess yourself — and that other people are truly knowable. I think I’ll stick to matching pictures for now.