How a Page Is Born

February 23rd, 2012

Family Man layout sketches

This is a quick picture I took of one of the stages in the creation of a recent page of my graphic novel, Family Man (

Since my script doesn’t always break out action or dialogue into specific panels within specific pages, each page is its own little puzzle; how much of it will make sense as a visual unit? What moments need their own panel, and which ones can be combined? What’s important, and what can I just suggest and move on from? And does character X really need to say three sentences when she can say one?

Unless the page is very simple, I’ll start out by drawing a big brain-dump like this on a piece of printer paper, covering ALL of the stuff I think might go into the page.

I break out chunks of action, experiment with facial expressions, poses, and angles, and just generally reassure myself that I’ve given everything a good dose of consideration.

On of my great hang-ups is the belief that somewhere in my brain is The Perfect Layout, and if I just keep trying and redoing and rearranging, I’ll eventually stumble across it. Imposing a period of playful experimentation like this helps shake me out of that notion.

You can see the finished version of this page here:
And some of the visual information was bumped onto the page following it:

Happy new year!

January 6th, 2012

Preview of Page 236

Page 236 of Family Man now online!

Happy 2012, all! I am kicking off the new year with this scene, which is going to be A Thing. Oh yes; it is going to be A Thing. I apologize to those of you who track updates by way of Wordpress/Livejournal; last week’s post got eaten, so if you missed it, you’ll want to backtrack and read the last page of 2011.

Thank you to everybody who bought stuff from my Etsy store this past week – the cash infusion was welcome, and I’ve been having a lot of fun sending out art both long-finished and brand-new to good homes. Everything should be in the mail by Monday! Depending on my workload I might put up some more items in the store this week, so keep your eyes peeled.

Here are a few of the tiny paintings I’ve been making for folks – you can see the rest by visiting me on Flickr. I’ll be posting the rest later today!

Tiny Paintings: Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes Tiny Paintings: Lord Nelson Tiny Paintings: Artsy Rat

Family Man: Page 231

December 2nd, 2011

Preview of Page 231

Page 231, now online!

All sorts of familiar things making (re)appearances! It’s fun to draw circles.

Holiday shoppers! This is your last week to use the code SPINOZA in the store to get 20% of your order. If you’ve already got the delightfulness on offer there, keep on eye on my Etsy store today. Starting at 12pm Pacific, I’ll be posting over a dozen itty-bitty, one-of-a-kind watercolor paintings, most 2.5×3.5 inches, for sale throughout the day! I don’t sell art very often, and these paintings are fun because they’re way more affordable than bigger pieces.

Also! Last weekend I appeared on the 3rd annual Freelancer Roundtable, hosted by Katie Lane of Work Made For Hire and featuring fellow knuckleheads Bill Mudron and Erika Moen. We answered audience questions and said inappropriate things and just generally had a delightful time. You can listen to it in audio form or watch our antics on camera at the bottom of the Podcast page.

Lastly, there’s a new set of Notes up, for pages 210-219! Possibly the sauciest set of notes I’ve written yet.

Family Man update!

November 11th, 2011

Preview of Page 228

Page 228 now online!

Some of this might be starting to look familiar. I suggest you maybe reread the Prologue, if it’s been awhile. (Don’t let that five year-old art stop you! Agh, my eyes.) Also, man, bunnies just have no kind of luck in this comic, do they? I swear there’s no personal vendetta at work.

Portlanders! Please join me and everybody else who is cool at Comics Underground, next Saturday (11/17) at the Jack London bar, where the fantastic Everett Patterson and I will be doing a reading of Outfoxed. I’ll be sharing the stage with several irritatingly talented people, including my studiomate Ron Chan and friend Mike Russell! It’ll be swell.

In the meantime, I put up a series of 12 Western-themed illustrations I did for a roleplaying game this fall on my Flickr stream – I’m fond of how they turned out. Click on the preview below to visit:

Dogs in the Vineyard

Family Man update!

October 20th, 2011

Preview of Page 225

Page 225 now online!

We’re really getting somewhere now, aren’t we? Heavens have mercy. (They won’t.)

I’m a little wonky under the hood this week, so I won’t try to dredge a big blog post up out of my fuzzy brain. Enjoy the page, and I will see you all next week for more fun with the Nolte family.

Meanwhile, here is Mama Quilla, an Inca goddess – click to read a little more about her and see her full-size.

Goddess: Mama Quilla (Incan)

Family Man update!

October 14th, 2011

Preview of Page 224

Page 224 now online!

Rector Nolte is having a very, very bad day. It will probably not get any better. I never had any particular fondness in the past for drawing aggravated old dudes of post-boxer physique, but he honestly might be my favorite thing to draw. Go figure.

As my aside for this week, I thought I’d point out a nice article that Laura Hudson recently posted on ComicsAlliance. She asked nearly a dozen comics creators and editors – including at least four people I can personally confirm are awesome  - to sound off about how superhero comics could do a better job at depicting female characters. I’m don’t follow many capes ‘n tights titles these days, but there are lots of good, thoughtful suggestions in there that apply to any storytelling genre. Well worth the read!

Lastly, I’ve been drawing goddesses from around the world as a warmup exercise. Here are the first two – click to find out who they are and which mythology they come from!

Goddess: Saga (Norse)

Goddess: Pele (Hawaiian)


September 23rd, 2011


Taking the summer off of updating Family Man, and away from the internet in general, allowed me to do a lot of things. Foremost among them was getting married, which was fantastic. Workwise, I devoted a lot of time to hashing out plot details and writing new material for Family Man. And, in the category of “So Fun It Didn’t Feel Like Work” is Outfoxed.

Several years ago I wrote a script for a short comic – a cynical little fairytale about a girl and a fox. It’s probably the tidiest idea I’ve ever come up with for a story, and my original intent was to draw it in 14 pages and submit it to the Flight anthology. But paying work and personal life intervened every time the antho deadline came around. The constant scramble of a freelance career made it hard for me to justify spending time on “personal” projects other than Family Man.

Of course, I realize now this is a terrible attitude; the thing that keeps you alive as an artist is making new stuff, different stuff, and giving yourself the chance to remember why you enjoy what you do in the first place. You have to play. You have to force yourself to play, if necessary.


So I had three months of “break”, stretched before me. Realistically, I couldn’t spend it all in isolation at the writing room at the library; I’m the sort of person who starts having aggressive conversations with inanimate objects after six hours alone.

So I said what the hell, and decided to devote a month of studio time to finally drawing Outfoxed. To help break through my tendency to second-guess myself I asked a studiomate to be my “teacher”, giving me deadlines and offering critiques when I hit milestones. I expanded the comic to 20 pages to lower the panels-per-page count, designed everything in a drawing style that I find fun and easy, took up the missions of learning how to ink with a brush, letter with an Ames guide, tone with a single Pantone spot color, and draw to standard comics dimensions (big and tall). All sorts of big-kid stuff that I never gave myself the breathing room to learn.

And it was a blast.

I hope you enjoy it. it’s all online now:

Japan piece: now on auction

March 25th, 2011


I created the above piece this month; it’s my contribution to the Periscope Studio charity auction, with drawings going up for sale on eBay and proceeds going to Peace Winds Japan, a partner of Mercy Corps that’s providing tsunami and quake relief in Kesennuma.

The piece is NOW UP FOR SALE. Please consider bidding. I’m really very fond of the piece, and I’d like it to go to a good home (and do some good along the way).

My earlier comments on how this piece came about, from my Tumblr:

Trying to come up with a subject to depict, I was struck by Mike Clarke’s widely published AFP/Getty photo of a girl on an evacuation bus:

I also have a love of classical ukiyo-e art (and the early 20th century revival of many of its techniques, shin hanga).

(detail from “Woman in Summer Garment” by Hashiguchi Goyō, 1920)

So I tried to combined the two. It was an interesting experience.


The Fool

March 12th, 2011


Here’s a higher-res image of Luther as the Fool.

Adding the book, the watch, and swapping the little dog for the wolf were all fun notions to carry out, as was swapping the mountains for the treeline.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people who are mostly familiar with the Rider Waite tarot assume that the little white dog is this handsome young troubadour’s loyal pet. In the history of tarot depictions of this card, however, the dog is an angry local mutt actively trying to bite the Fool. The Fool isn’t always a happy young Bohemian, either.

Here’s the original, by Pamela Coleman Smith, under the art direction of Rider and Waite:


And here’s the Fool from the version of the older Tarot de Marseille deck, by Jean Dodal:


Happy Presidents’ Day!

February 21st, 2011

Happy Presidents Day!

In my defense: sometimes these things just happen when you’re an illustrator. With an eccentric brain.

This little abomination is up for sale on Etsy if you’re looking to decorate!

    {blog in Livejournal flavor}

    News Bulletins.
    Bite Me! will go out of print for a few months soon as I reprint the book. Order your copy before I run out!


    Upcoming in 2011: Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Toronto ON, May 5-6

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