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INKtober Witches October 31, 2017 00:03

Inktober is a wonderful month. You are encouraged to put ink to paper, which is something I never tire of and wish I did more often. There's no substitute for committed lines on paper, both the experience of doing it, and the final, tangible object that is created: an inked drawing, a little piece of art that is both a statement and a signature. A time traveler that you leave behind.

And whilst you are busied by Inktober, bent over your board with pen in hand, the weather is changing outside your cozy warren! Leaves are turning, winter sprites and baby goblins press their noses to your window to see what you might have for them, coffee stores are offering the stuff you really want: spicy drinks topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. Suddenly having a hot drink in the morning seems a better idea than ever!

Well, with all that in mind, I didn't want anyone to think I haven't been inking in October. Er, Inktober. I have. Almost every day. You see, I'm boarding again, on a new movie. And the best, fastest way for me to board is to just jump straight in and put ink to paper. I've emptied many cartridges of ink through a couple favorite pens I use for just this sort of job. Unfortunately, I can't share any of the hundreds of panels I've inked, since, you know. In production and all. 

But, I have also inked a couple of witches for the Halloween season that I can post! I love drawing witches, and always want to find some fresh angle for them. In the case of these two, I drew one cheerleader witch on her way to a rally, and a witch in a steep dive with her familiar. The diving witch is a rough I've fiddled around with off and on for a year, and I have several variants I'll be trying. Just the steep angle is interesting to me.

Cheerleader Witch inks
Diving Witch inks


Even here in California it eventually becomes cold, and sometimes we almost have weather! Wind, mostly. But that counts as weather here. My wife Jess is from Florida, so she's used to rain. And I'm from Colorado; I know snow and real fall. So we both spend gloomy days in the studio together, pretending it's snowier and rainier than it really is. And it's here we listen to the most dreadful podcasts we can find. Tales of misfortune and disaster, not unlike the short stories I wrote as a child. These are my favorite days. I draw; Jess writes and edits. Sometimes I even draw Jess! She's the rare person I ever try to draw a likeness of. Someday she may let me post one!

Jess is encouraging about me doing drawings, and helps me keep my characters' eyes straight. I, in turn, dissuade her from trapping the ravens that populate our premises. Not to eradicate them, but to befriend them. Jess, you see, gathers creatures of all kinds, and doesn't limit herself if the opportunity presents. At Skywalker Ranch, she collected salamanders that were in a winter torpor. She ran out of room in her pockets and hands, so the last couple got a ride back to our room in her shirt. It was as good a carrying place as any. Jess isn't happy lest she have buckets and baskets of slithering, snapping, hissing, or furry things. Her ideal situation would be to spend the winter in a mermaid grotto filled with furry blankets, books, candles, and eventually a 'possum that she will name "Pumpkin" that will munch on mint Oreos and clasp and unclasp his paws when presented with a melty brie.

For this month, since she has yet to disappear into her hibernation cave, Jess also edited together a video of me inking the cheerleader witch, and set it to some swell music.



These videos are tedious because of the way I ink: turning the paper constantly and frequently leaving it off-center. As soon as I hand Jess the raw video she has a mountain of color-correcting and cutting, reframing, and music syncing ahead of her. But once she is done, she has created a little gem of a video that's a lot of fun to watch. So I must credit her, and thank her profusely for making these. I'd never, ever find the time to do one myself.

So happy Inktober, and Happy Halloween to all!

INKtober 2017: Katrina Van Tassel Edition October 30, 2017 07:00

It's Fall again, the time when thoughts turn to cider, pumpkin carving, and my favorite Disney featurette, 1949's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

It's also the time of year that my wife Jess dons her amazing Katrina Van Tassel costume and spends the night enjoying the sights and sounds of Halloween-themed Disneyland with me. I dare say, as she floats through the crowds with her pumpkin in hand she really makes the park even more Halloween-ish.

I won't go into my regrets that this most wonderful Disney property seems to have vanished from our collective cultural landscape. People still know all the Disney animated features. The Disney princesses, villains, and core staples fill stores to bursting with mugs, T-shirts, and collectibles of all kinds. Heck, even characters within the rides have become iconic enough to appear on merchandise.

But poor Ichabod, the Headless Horseman, Brom Bones, and the fair Katrina Van Tassel are rarely, if ever, seen. Now, last year Disneyland opened their Halloween parade with the Headless Horseman, and this year he re-appeared, this time accompanied by Ichabod Crane. The Headless Horseman was even on a special Halloween pin for Annual Passholders! So that's encouraging. But Katrina -- the driving force behind the entire story -- is still nowhere to be seen. Thus, I always think it somewhat of a public service that Jess spend the evening traveling the darkened paths from Main Street to Small World, spreading Halloween cheer.



If you read last year's post, however, you'll recall we had trouble getting "Katrina" past Security in 2016 (despite Jess wearing the exact same costume as in 2014 and 2015); rules are tight when it comes to skirt length and width, etc. 

We have gathered through the grapevine that the park's concern is with guests that are costumed so accurately that they might be confused for official face characters. This would be especially odd in the case of Katrina, since she is neither a princess nor is she represented by a face character. Even so, we decided to play it safe this year and not bring the costume to Disneyland.

Instead, Jess suggested that I draw Katrina and we make T-shirts to show our Halloween spirit!

I thought this was a good idea, and I dove in with great enthusiasm. Holy mackerel, Katrina isn't easy to draw! Seems Katrina shares a lot of DNA with Cinderella, who is also hard to draw. Maybe not for some of you, but definitely a challenge for me. She's... subtle. And at the same time I was dealing with her elusive face, the rest of Katrina has some pretty extreme proportions. I actually toned her down a little for my drawing. After many, many false starts, I got a drawing I thought was close enough, and I proceeded to ink and color it. She definitely got a lot better with color, I think.



Jess and I made my drawing into "Team Katrina" T-shirts just in the nick of time, and we proudly represented one of our favorite Disney characters at Mickey's Halloween Party yet again.




This was, I realized, the first time I'd really ever tried to draw an established Disney character (well, outside of the films I've worked on, and those were always in pre-production). I think in the coming months I'll try again with Katrina, and maybe even add in an Ichabod! No promises, but I'll give it a shot! Happy (almost) Halloween, everyone, and don't forget to watch "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"!

SDCC 2017 July 18, 2017 00:00

And in the blink of an eye, it's time again for SDCC! Jess and I will be heading down today but before we go I wanted to give everyone a heads up on the new things we'll be bringing!


First up, enamel pins! The lead characters from our "Rescue Sirens" series - Nim, Kelby, Echo, Pippa, and Maris - have been carefully translated into these detailed nickel finish pins, plus a gold-toned "Rescue Sirens" emblem pin. Pins are something I've enjoyed collecting over the years, and Jess had the great idea to make a set of our own for San Diego! Hurry over to our booth (#4616) to see them in person!




Something I recently did just for the fun of it, was to generate chibi versions of the Rescue Sirens characters. They became the basis for the enamel pins, but Jess thought they would also make a great set of stickers. And here they are! These heavy weight stickers have great color and a gorgeous pearl finish. Really, really beautiful. They'll look great on a computer, a lunchbox, the bumper of your electric car, or even the control panel of a super-collider or tail fin of the next Space-X rocket. If they allow such things, that is. 


Once we saw how beautifully the Rescue Sirens stickers turned out, we thought we might grab some favorite illustrations from past sketchbooks and give them the sticker treatment as well. Here's four of my most popular pin-ups, as well as my good friend Ogo, looking quite happy with himself indeed.


But that's not all we'll be bringing. Jess and I are very happy to announce our first children's book, "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up." Beautifully illustrated by Dylan Bonner, this 32 page book has a great story all about our five mermaids saving the Miami Beach waters from some carelessly dumped aquarium pets. This is an engaging story for all ages, teaching the younger set (and all the rest of us) about the dangers of invasive species, as well as teamwork and keeping the ocean clean.

Jess's writing is fast and fresh, and Dylan's illustrations have the charm, joy, and vibe of classic Mary Blair drawings. We have a limited number of these advanced copies, so be sure to come by our booth early and pick one up for yourself.

This book is also splash-resistant, due to being printed on special synthetic paper pages. So you can read this "Rescue Sirens" book by the pool, ocean, or tub with confidence that a little water won't spoil it. Just wipe the pages dry if they get splashed and the book is as good as new! - We recommend you not leave the book to dry on its own, as the pages can tend to stick together. But with a gentle toweling-off, it will be ready for another read!


We'll also be bringing some copies of last year's debut, "Kiskaloo: Volumes 1 and 2." If you haven't picked one up yet, it's the collected first and second series of my web comic all about a little girl named Sesi, her older sister Autumn, and Ogo, their wretched little cat. They all live in a fictional town in Northern Alaska named Emergency, where odd things tend to happen.


If you like "Kiskaloo," and are familiar with its lead character Ogo, and wish to take an Ogo home with you, then you're in luck, as we'll be bringing a limited number of Ogo plush with us to Comic Con this year. He's soft, cuddly, and naughty. Don't leave him alone with your chocolate chip cookies or root beer lest they disappear!


One of the most frequently asked questions I get every year is whether or not I'll be bringing original art to San Diego. In the past I've resisted this, mostly because I don't have anything I'd want to part with. This year, however, I'll be bringing a few original inked drawings with me that will be available for purchase. Drawn and inked especially for Con this year, I'll have two to four inked originals with me. They won't be cheap, as I don't like to sell drawings, but I am possessed for some reason to do this. Created purposely for sale, these unusual offerings will likely appear in future sketchbooks, and the inking quality is what I would consider to be perfect. Suitable for framing, brush and Winsor-Newton ink on bristol, these are large: 14"x17".

You can find all this (and us) at booth #4616, in the Artists & Illustrators neighborhood. See you there!

Mer-May #rescuesirensfanart Contest May 22, 2017 00:00

My wife and "Rescue Sirens" co-author Jessica Steele-Sanders and I first heard the term "Mer-May" back in 2015. I loved the idea of a whole month devoted to all things mermaid -- but we couldn't celebrate or participate in it that year because "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist" was still being finalized, and we didn't want to let the cat(fish) out of the bag just yet.

Then, in 2016, fellow Disney artist Tom Bancroft debuted his swell #MerMay drawing challenge on Instagram. There's nothing more fun than drawing mermaids, and it's been great seeing mermaid artwork all over the place last year and this year. Inevitably I'm swamped with other assignments and don't usually have the time to participate in the mermaid fun, but this year I did scrounge up a few hours to draw and ink something! So to celebrate getting an actual mermaid drawing done in Mer-May, I'm offering up something VERY rare this month: that original inked drawing, depicting one of our "Rescue Sirens" characters. I almost never part with my drawings, so if you've ever wanted one, this is your chance!


How do you go about acquiring such a thing? Well, Jess and I are running a "Rescue Sirens" fan art contest, with this 11"x14" chibi-style drawing of Rescue Siren Nim as the prize.


Here are the rules to enter:

  1. Follow our @rescuesirens Instagram account.
  2. Draw one (or more!) of our five main "Rescue Sirens" lifeguard mermaid characters.
  3. Include the words "Rescue Sirens" somewhere in the image (drawn into the illustration, superimposed digitally, written on a separate piece of paper placed atop your drawing if you photograph it -- however you prefer).
  4. Post to your PUBLIC Instagram account with the hashtag #rescuesirensfanart so we can find your entry!
  5. Tag/mention @rescuesirens in your post.
That's it! A winner will be announced next Monday, May 29th.

Have you already shared "Rescue Sirens" fan art on Instagram in the past? You don't have to draw something new if you don't want to: just go back and add the hashtag #rescuesirensfanart to your original post so we know that you want to be counted amongst the contest entrants.

Best of luck, everyone, and happy drawing!

(Obligatory disclaimer: this contest is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Instagram.)

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! October 31, 2016 13:30

So here's the finished, colored witch drawing! Even though I draw and ink everything traditionally, I do scan the finished piece and often color it digitally.

The reason for this is simple: the computer allows me to experiment with color choices I would never risk if an original ink was on the line. I have indeed lost some well-liked drawings to painting disasters in the past, and, for me, death by color is never quick. It starts with a bad color choice or bobble somewhere, and then me trying to correct it, which causes something else to go wrong, and so on and so forth until I'm staring down at a terrible mess and I'm forced to concede that the drawing died a few hours back.

So here's to the arrival of Photoshop color! If you missed the process videos showing the preparation and then inking of this drawing, you can check out Part 1 and Part 2.


And of course, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!