Saturday, December 28, 2013

Yaro Starak: Living "The Laptop Lifestyle"

Yaro Starak has an enviable lifestyle. His primary workplace is coffee shops in his native Australia. 

I can identify with his "laptop lifestyle" because I, too, am part of that small band of people who don't have to report to work somewhere. Most of my writing and illustrating is done in coffee shops. The above Yaro caricature was drawn in a coffee shop in  Puyallup, Washington, USA. 

I might add that some people are very easy to caricature...Yaro Starak doesn't fall into that category. He's a very difficult subject to caricature because he doesn't have many outstanding features that lend themselves to capturing a likeness. 

I have been a faithful follower of Yaro Starak for many years. I never miss his blog posts. He is one of the "white hats", one of the good guys in the Internet marketing business. You can sense his integrity in his writing. 

Yaro's career began during his college years at the University of Queensland when he set up some hobby sites for the popular trading card game, The Gathering. His work on The Gathering gave him the foundation of technical expertise and online marketing knowledge that he needed to begin building his Internet marketing career. 

After selling his most popular Gathering site, he created BetterEdit, an online proofreading and editing service.  Several years of success followed in his BetterEdit business. Then, one day he installed a blog on the website to improve its SEO. That first blog was the spark which ignited his career and led to creating his popular Entrepreneur's Jouney blog in 2005. He has been at it ever since, making a pile of money along the way. Not a bad gig. 

If you want to take a closer look at making money at blogging, Yaro Starak is a great place to start. At his web site, out his Blog Profits Blueprint and The Membership Site Masterplan. It could be the best decision you ever made.

Check out my other blog: The Trowbridge Chronicles here

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Joanna Penn: Indie Writer Luminary

STARS Of the NET - I first discovered Joanna Penn while perusing on Twitter a few weeks ago and I have since found her to be a prime source of inspiration, and a wealth of information...flavored by a crisp English accent. It's the first thing you notice when you listen to her podcast.

She launched her writing career in 2009 by joining National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Since then she has been writing books and garnering accolades at a dizzying pace. This year she was voted one of the Top 100 Creative Professionals of 2013 by The Guardian.

Since her writing debut she has penned six novels: Pentecost, Prophecy, Exodus, One Day in Budapest, and her most recent book, Desecration.

Her prolific career and her fan base has been largely fueled by the strength and longevity of her engaging podcast, which she launched in March of 2009. At this writing she has posted 172 podcast episodes, most of which feature luminaries in the field of indie writing, marketing and Internet entrepreneurship.

If you want to learn more about the burgeoning field of indie writing, you'll benefit greatly from Joanna's podcasts, and her Author 2.0 Blueprint book, which will take you step-by-step through the process of writing and marketing your book.

To learn more about Joanna Penn, or book her for a speaking engagement, go to her web site:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Discovery Bay Rhododendron, Progress

This Rhododendron flower that I found growing on a wild Rhododendron bush along Highway 101 just west of Discovery Bay in Washington State, USA has been my early morning-late night project over the last ten days. It will probably require at least ten more days to finish it, depending on how much time I can set aside to work on it. 

The top flower portion of the painting is now complete. I have enjoyed working on this project because I'm using a technique that I was not previously aware of. In preparing for this painting I discovered the blending brush. This unique brush contains a chemical that dissolves the wax in the colored pencil, giving it a "wet" appearance. 

Though I teach watercolor in my Painting in Paradise workshop, I wanted to try the colored pencil technique with the blending tool and see how it works. Now that I'm familiar with it, I might even incorporate the blended colored pencil technique into my workshop. If people would rather apply color in a dry media, they would have that choice. It would make things much simpler when you're working away from your studio as we do in the Cook Islands. Plus, it think it's easier for most people to control a dry media than watercolor.

I'm still looking forward to moving into the dark background portion of the painting. At that point the flower will begin to stand out. With no low-key background color, the high-key flower colors are still suffering from a lack of contrast. 

Check back soon. The next thing you'll see will be a finished rhodie in the lower right, which is still in pencil. Then I will begin work on the background.

Have you seen my other blog? It's called The Trowbridge Chronicles.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Discovery Bay Rhododendron Painting Progress

I'm making slow and steady progress on my Discovery Bay Rhododendron painting. Realistic studio paintings require a lot of patience since the progress moves so slowly. This is actually a colored pencil drawing that I'm "wetting" to make it look like a watercolor painting. This is my first attempt at this technique. I've found that it works very well, and allows for more mobility since colored pencils are much more transportable than watercolors or oil paint.

The wet technique is achieved by using a colored pencil blender. It's a two-ended brush containing a solution that dissolves the wax in the pencil, giving it a "wet" appearance.

There still is a lack of contrast in the painting since the white flower petals are all high key, making them disappear into the background. That will all suddenly change when I start applying the dark background colors.

The above painting will be posted on my Painting in Paradise web site. If you would like to learn how to paint flowers in a realistic fashion, my next watercolor workshop on the exotic South Sea Island of Rarotonga begins on March 30, 2014. There's more info here:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Discovery Bay Rhododendron Painting...Beginning the Color Application.

I've begun to add the color to my Discovery Bay Rhododendron colored pencil painting. To some extent it's not ready for the public to see yet because at this stage of the painting the colors of the flower are so high-key that there's very little contrast between the flowers and the background. The contrast will dramatically change the painting as I add in the dark background information.  

If you like to get out of your studio and paint, I've found colored pencils to be just the ticket. You can go wherever you want and create a painting. In the next post I'll tell you what I do to make it look more like a watercolor painting than a colored pencil drawing. Colored pencils are much more mobile then watercolors or oils. I've colored part of this at Starbucks, as well as in my home studio. 

The next posting will show the entire flower and perhaps part of the leaves. Then the fun part, watching the painting begin to "pop" as I add in the background. 

Have you seen my other blog, The Trowbridge Chronicles. It's popularity had really increased recently. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Discovery Bay Rhododendron

This past spring while traveling along Highway 101 just west of Discovery Bay, Washington, I stopped to photograph the wild rhododendrons growing in abundance along the highway. I wanted to use them as reference for a future rhododendron painting. I have just begun a painting of one of my favorite rhodies among all the photos that I took that day. Above is the initial pencil layout.

It was hard to decide which media to use. I'm always tempted to do my flower paintings in Photoshop, with my Wacom Cintiq because it's so quick and easy. But the problem with painting in Photoshop is that there is no original art to display, and I wanted this painting to hang on our wall. Hanging a color copy as opposed to the original just isn't the same. I also like working on the move, and watercolors don't lend themselves to working at Starbucks. So I chose blended colored pencils. Check back soon to see my progress. The next post will show the image partially painted in.

If you'd like to see some of my finished flower paintings, this is my flower web site, Painting in Paradise. If you'd like to join us in our next flower painting expedition, there are details on the web site. The location is the exotic island of Rarotonga, located in the South Pacific Ocean.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Get Your Own Syndicated Comic Strip

One common trait among syndicated cartoonists would certainly be "grit"...not just ordinary grit, but True Grit. You have to have that rare kind of grit to stick it out until you break into that small, select group that syndicates refer to as "creators". We're the ones who create the content for syndicated features: comic panels, comic strips, political cartoons and newspaper columns.

I knew going in that I would stand a better chance of becoming an NFL quarterback (and I'm not very athletic) than to join the ranks of comic strip cartoonists. But that was my childhood dream. And I knew that if I didn't try...and keep trying...I could be assured that my dream would never come true. My dream was also the dream of thousands of other young hopefuls around the world. I knew the odds were long when a syndicate employee told me once that they receive up to 7000 submissions for comic strips per year...and they sign only one or two. And of those one or two, neither one may survive. Many newly syndicated features are promptly cancelled when the sales team discovers that they can't sell the new strip.

So how do you break into the syndicated comic strip business? Unfortunately, there's no easy answer to that question, but I think the best answer is that you must have the iron will to stick with it and never give up. That's how I did it. It took me decades of submitting features, only to have them rejected. One editor told me that my proposed feature, called Obrien's Beat, was the worst proposal that he'd ever seen. Yet every now and then I would get an encouraging personal note from an editor. One prominent editor at one of the big syndicates told me that my proposed panel was "the strongest panel that I've seen in six months, but I don't think we can sell it."

That encouraging personal comment gave me the courage to dust myself off and start again. Starting again means that the syndicates want to see three weeks of solid panels or strips. They want to see if you can sustain your feature over the long haul.

For my next attempt, I decided to go around the syndicates and self-syndicate a feature. Since I've studied health and nutrition for many years, I decided to make it a health-related panel. So I created a batch of sample panels, and began faxing them to newspaper editors. My goal was to contact an editor each day, and play the numbers. It worked. I slowly began to gather a small group of newspapers who carried my weekly feature, some of which are with me to this day.

I found my target market to be small-town weeklies. I started in my own state of Washington, contacting every editor of every newspaper in my state by phone, then following up with a fax sample of my feature.

After building up a small following of newspapers over a period of a year and a half, I felt like I would have nothing to lose if I sent some fax samples of my fledgling panel off to the syndicates. One of those syndicates was United Features. The editor was Amy Lago. That same day I got a fax from Amy. Her words are forever burned onto the back wall of my memory. She said: "Your timing is dang good. Could you send 12 more samples?"

I fired off 12 more samples to her, and three weeks later I was signing a contract with United Features Syndicate. It was one of the greatest days of my career, the dream of a lifetime. I couldn't believe it had happened to me.

The above image is the panel that I faxed to Amy Lago that day in 2002. My self-syndicated weekly feature was called To Your Health. My daily feature with United Features Syndicate, Health Capsules, was originally drawn by Jud Hurd, and written by Dr. Michael Petti. Because I had a background in health and nutrition, the syndicate allowed me to write and draw the feature.

Since the day that I signed on with United Features, now Universal UClick Syndicate, I have written and drawn 3582 daily Health Capsules. I get mail from around the world, from readers across India, who read my feature in The Times of India, to Lima Peru, to the tiny far-flung island of Mauritius, in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

What amazes me most, after writing and drawing Health Capsules for so many years, is that I never tire of the routine. I always look forward to creating my batch of six panels every week. I try to write it on Friday, and draw it on Saturday. I'm required to stay at least six weeks ahead. At this writing I am just moving into 2014. My next batch will appear during the week of  New Years, 2014.

In conclusion, my advice is: In order to get syndicated, you'll have to have a good idea that a syndicate can sell, and above all, you'll have to have the grit to cling to your dream, to take the repeated rejections and refuse to give up, until that day when the odds finally fall in your favor. And when you get that big break, like I did, it will be worth all the blood and sweat. It happened to can happen to you.

Health Capsules is syndicated by Universal UClick syndicate in newspapers around the world as well as in GoComics:

Health Capsules can also be found on Facebook:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My Illustration Planning Process

The above illustration is the header art for my Facebook fan page. In this post I thought I would show you part of my planning process for an illustration. I have a rather unorthodox manner of working out an illustration. I tend to make things up as a go along. Any thought that comes to me, I pencil it out in the side panel for consideration.

All of the notations that you see around the final ink line drawing demonstrate that process. You can see that my inked title lettering on the right side ended up on the cutting room floor, along with most of the other notations above and below the illustration.

After I was satisfied with the contents of the illustration, I scanned it and painted it in Photoshop using my Wacom Cintiq. I'm so glad that early on, even before art school, I worked at teaching myself how to paint. I've done more than my share of simple line and wash art, but it's so much more fun to paint, with or without the support of an ink line.

Have you seen my other blog, The Trowbridge Chronicles?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Earthing Odyssey

Have you heard of "earthing", or "grounding" yet? If you follow health trends like I do (I write and illustrate a syndicated newspaper column called Health Capsules), you may have already heard of this new phenomenon that's not really new. Earthing has been a natural part of human behavior for many centuries, yet it has been rediscovered and practiced in recent years for its numerous health benefits.

Because it was such a beautiful fall day in the Pacific Northwest today, I decided to ride my motorcycle to one of my favorite places where I write and draw, the dining area of the Safeway store in Orting, Washington. After I finished drawing my Health Capsules, I continued on toward Mount Rainier.

Several miles up the road I pulled over, parked my bike, then resumed my journey..."barefoot", on the scenic Orting-South Prairie Trail, which follows along the banks of the Carbon River. Going barefoot is the essence of earthing. But earthing doesn't work if you walk on asphalt, so I stayed on the grassy area beside the paved trail. I might add, as a neophyte to earthing, my feet don't handle cold ground in the late fall very well. Fortunately, you can also earth with moccasins on. I plan to buy a pair of moccasins.

The idea behind earthing: The earth could be described as an "electron sponge". It soaks up electrons from the sun's rays and from lightning strikes. All living things, including humans, require electrons for survival. Without them there would be no life on earth.

We get electrons in our daily diet from antioxidants, but we require more electrons than just those that we receive from our diet. We humans were designed to naturally take in electrons through the bottom of our feet by way of direct barefoot contact with the earth. But a few decades ago, when rubber-sole and plastic-sole shoes came on the scene, we lost contact with the earth. Rubber and plastic insulates us from the earth's electrons. We lost the benefits that we had derived from direct contact with the earth.

Walking barefoot on a daily basis offers a host of benefits. Among them: thinner, faster-flowing blood, relief from pain, lower blood pressure, calmer mood, and much more. It has even been called the most important health discovery ever. But what if you aren't able to walk barefoot through the winter with three feet of snow on the ground? There are ways of deriving the benefits from earthing while remaining indoors. For more information on earthing, indoors and out, watch this gripping documentary, called Grounded. Right now it's free on this web site, but it might not be free much longer. The DVD will cost $25: 

Another information source on grounding:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Refueling the Tindenburg

CAN YOU FIND? A dozing dog? A pig? A drippy hose? A curious cat? A pair of sunglasses? A man who lost his hat? Kilroy? 

The year is 2192. Post-Apocalyptic North America would become known as the "Post-Tin Age". With automobile and airplane manufacturing at a standstill, transportation began to reemerge in the form of hand-made contraptions, patched together with rusty spare parts and scrap tin. The Tindenburg, or "Tin Zep One" was such an airship.

The Tindenburg was named in honor of a German dirigible from a past age: The LZ-129 Hindenburg crashed and burned in 1937, bringing to an end the Golden Age of Zeppelins, which flourished in the early 20th Century.

The Tindenburg lead the way in the revival of airships. Other zeppelins would follow until tin zeppelins dominated the Post-Apocalyptic skies.

Friday, October 18, 2013

My first Monster Safari fans

This is the first group of kids to draw from my Monster Safari book. Hopefully, in the years ahead there will be many more. The woman, who received the book as a gifts, shared it with her tutoring group, above. These Monster Safari fans live is Ontario, California. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Progress on my Airship Fueling Painting

Now I've completed the fueling port structure and the dwellings on the right in my Airship Fueling painting. I'm trying to keep the colors in the low-value range to lend a post-apocalyptic tone to the painting. Its not natural for my work to have a grim, post-apocalyptic tone since I'm from the wacky Mad Magazine school of art. 

If I would have been working traditionally, I would have had to scrap the painting and start over. Three of the horizontal support planks along the bottom of the fueling platform were straight horizontal, which threw off the perspective. Somehow I missed this oversight in the preliminary sketch. But I was able to cut them out in Photoshop and slant them upward, and seamlessly repair the perspective error.

Next I'll paint the structures in the bottom center, then the airships in the background. I'll leave the "centerpiece", the foreground airship for last. I still haven't figured out what I'm going to put on the fuel tank in the upper left. Still open for suggestions. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sky background for Airship Refueling painting

This is the first color application for my Airship Refueling painting. I thought that painting the sky to achieve the effect I was looking for would take considerable time. It took about five minutes. You get kind of spoiled with Photoshop and the Wacom setup. You spray until you are satisfied. If you're not satisfied, there's always good ol' "control z".

Contrast that with the airbrush days. I did many illustrations using an airbrush. With this tool, you're working without a net. One false move and you may have to start the entire illustration over again. Been there, done that.

Next you'll see the airship refueling station rendered in color with the appropriate shading tones.

Have you seen my other blog, The Trowbridge Chronicles

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Here's the final line art for my Airship Refueling painting. Because the line art always looks so flat, it's always a pleasure to start applying color. The depth and dimension of the color always brings the image to life. You can see that I added the buildings in the bottom center. It was still in pencil in the last version. But I'm still up in the air about what will go onto the fuel tank, center left. It seems like there needs to be an appropriate name or graphic there. I still feel like Sub-Standard Oil is a little too tacky. Let me know soon if you have any brilliant ideas. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Airship Refueling Port

I'm finally on the home stretch with the ink line on my Airship Refueling painting. I'll be painting soon. It always amazes me what a huge leap there is between the ink line and the finished color because of the contrast and depth that the color brings. My first decision was whether to paint it without an ink line or leave out the line. I've gone both ways many times. Of course the ink line won't look so strong when the color is in.

The highest values and hues will be with the airship and the fueling port. The dwellings on the hillside will be rather monochromatic and muted. The sky will be obscured by a heavy industrial smoke, throwing the background airships into a low monochromatic value. The lights on the airships penetrating the smokey fog should provide a dramatic effect, as will as an unseen light out-of-frame on the left. There may be a hint of blue sky in the upper right portion of the frame. This is what's in my head...we'll see what lands on the "canvas".

 I'm still up in the air (pardon the pun) about what sort of building I will draw under the airship, in the bottom center of the frame. Also what to put on the refueling tank on the left side, a name or logo of some kind. I had originally lettered "Sub Standard Oil" in the pencil layout, but I think I've abandoned that idea. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Have you seen my other blog, The Trowbridge Chronicles? Check it out here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Airship Refueling sketch 3

Here's the third stage of the pencil layout of my Airship Refueling painting. From the last sketch you can see that I've started the inking process. I usually pencil and ink my way through a color illustration. When I'm satisfied with the pencil layout in a section, I go ahead and ink it. I'll add a little more pencil detail to the dwellings on the lower right, then I'll ink that section. Then I will invent one or two more airships in the distance to increase the sense of perspective. Then I'll decide what buildings will go in the bottom center. 

The final phase will be taking it into color. That will be critical because I want to make the color as dramatic as possible. I plan on creating a heavy industrial smoke atmosphere, with perhaps a hint of blue sky showing through.

Have you seen my other blog, The Trowbridge Chronicles?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Airship Refueling, 2

Here's the latest version of my Airship Refueling painting. I tweaked the airship from the last sketch and added the refueling depot, along with background information. The background shanties and factory will be monochromatic and low value so that they don't get confused with the foreground. The sky will look smokey and polluted with a small patch of blue sky peeking through in the upper right. At least that's what I have in my head. We'll see how it translates to color. 

Have you seen my other blog, the Trowbridge Chronicles. Right now we're right in the middle of my graphic novel, The Legend of Shrew Khan. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Airship Refueling

This is
 a detail from my next painting of an airship refueling at a docking station. In the next pencil layout you'll see the docking station, background, and more refinement in the rendering of the airship.

My new children's book, Monster Safari is now available. To order, click on the Monster Safari graphic in the right column. I'll sign the book on request.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Secret Forest Studio

Deep inside an ancient forest in the Pacific Northwest is my secret forest studio, where I go to get away from civilization and work on my projects. Above is a river in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Just off the river bank  is my forest studio. I have everything I need here, except Internet access. I'm off the grid while I'm here.

Today the conditions are perfect. It's about 80 degrees, and it's pleasant and cool in the rain forest. I'm sitting on my seat cushion on a thick floor of sphagnum moss. The big nurse log behind me has a thick layer of moss, which makes a perfect natural back rest. I prop my feet up on the log in front of me and bury myself in my work. Just to my left is my beverage of choice, which rests comfortably on a shelf fungus (Basidiomycoda). Behind me is a giant Western Red cedar tree.

I often look up and remind myself of where I'm at. I wonder why it doesn't seem to occur to other artists that they can escape the confines of their studios. I spend enough time in my studio as it is. It's always wonderful to get away and hide in the deep Northwest forest while I do my work.

My drawing board is a sheet of Plexiglas, so it doubles as a light table. Today I'm working on my Oakdale, California cartoon map. I need to trace images from my pencil layout onto my Strathmore Paper. So I simply tilt my Plexiglas board until it's vertical, and the rays of the sun come shining through to illuminate my pencil sketch.

I will return soon to my secret spot. I hope you find a secret spot of your own.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Monster Safari How-to-Draw Book is out!

Add caption
Here's the cover art for my new kids' book. It took me over a year to write and draw the book. It's almost entirely hand-lettered to give it more of a sketchbook feel. Only the last page is typeset.

Young readers follow me on a make-believe expedition to a remote, unexplored island in the South Seas, known as Monster Island. Each page in the book shows a sketch of one of the crazy creatures that we encountered on the island, as well as a page that shows, step-by-step, how to draw the monster. Also included are shading and other drawing tips. You can order the book from the side panel.

Have you seen my other blog, The Trowbridge Chronicles?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sky Fishing

Here's the final Sky Fishing painting. Below you can see the two pencil layouts that lead to the final painting. The fish is a grouper. It's painted digitally with a Wacom Cintiq on top of the pencil layout that you see below, with some tweaking. Check back soon to see the Sky Fishing book cover. 

Have you seen my other blog? The Trowbridge Chronicles 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sky Fishing, Revised Sketch

The above sketch is the next phase of developing the rough layout of the sky fisherman that you see below. I enjoyed working on this while sitting in our woodsy back yard over the last couple of warm summer evenings. I worked off my lap on a lapboard. 

I decided to come in closer on the boat to give it more emphasis, and edit out the little dinghy. The fish, by the way, is a grouper. Next I will paint the sky and clouds. Then a lot of time will be devoted to rendering the color on the boat to make it look weathered. 

Have you seen my other blog, The Trowbridge Chronicles? 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sky Fishing

It was a warm and pleasant night in the Pacific Northwest last night, so I went to one of my special places on the far corner of our property where the saw grass is eight feet tall, and did this small sketch. I might have been influenced just a bit by James Christensen, only my drawing style is miles from his. This is just an initial sketch. I will probably do a larger more refined sketch next, then I might paint it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Loving County, Texas: The Least Populated County in America

For several years I've wanted to create a cartoon map of the lowest population county in the United States. Why? Good question.

I found the lowest population county in Loving County, Texas. So the other day I decided to create the map and use if as the header for my new Facebook fan page. Then, after I'd finished the art, I realized that I'd made a mistake. In drawing the map, I didn't allow for the picture and other windows that are a part of the Facebook header. These would cover up much of the text that I had hand-lettered on the map. So now what do I do? I decided for now to just drop it onto my blog, for your cartographic viewing enjoyment.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fast Food

I've used my Skagway toad character many times over the years. I still use him often in my school appearances. In this case I used him for some greeting card art. I drew this several years ago, back in my pre-Photoshop days, when I was using markers and Prisma colors.

My other blog:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sir Francis Drake's Ship in Combat

Over the years I've illustrated over three dozen books for the Teaching and Learning Company. One of my favorite books in that series is called Explorers of the New World Timeline. In researching for the illustrations I learned a lot about those explorers who first sailed to the New World. The ship that I illustrated above was captained by Sir Francis Drake.

Have you seen my other blog: The Trowbridge Chronicles.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Crab that Got Away

This is a thumbnail sketch that I drew for my Monster Safari kids book. This was my original idea for the Snaggle-Tooth Crab, but I ruled it out because of its menacing appearance. When you're working with a G-rated audience, you don't want to get too menacing. I wouldn't want young children to have nightmares about a "scorpiocrab" hiding in their bed sheets at night. So this is the crab that got away. You'll only see it here, not in the book.

My new Monster Safari kids book will be out within two to three weeks. I'll keep you posted.

My other blog is called The Trowbridge Chronicles.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Last Page - Monster Safari Book

The last two pages of my Monster Safari book are instructional, with advice on drawing and shading. The above illustration gives tips about pencil shading. 

The book is now complete. One more final read-through and it's ready to send out. Monster Safari will soon be available for purchase. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Monster Safari - Title Page

This may be the last image that I will post from my Monster Safari kids book. I discovered yesterday that I had overlooked the title page, so I banged this out today. Everything is hand lettered. I think all of the pages are written, lettered and drawn now. From here on out it will be final proofing the book, the dull but necessary part of producing a book.

This creature is a cousin to the Eelops, which is one of the how-to-draw monsters in the book. He has a Velcro tongue that captures prey with the flick of his tongue, but I didn't feel at liberty to draw a terrified little fishy struggling to break free from the hairy tongue. I have no idea how many moms would be upset if they were to see the ghastly image of a dismembered little sea creature on the end of the Sea Beastie's tongue. There is a price to be paid for working in the kids' market. Everything you draw and write needs to be G-rated.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Back Cover - Monster Safari

I'm really on the home stretch now. This is the final art for the back cover for my Monster Safari kids book. With the exception of the last two pages, the entire book is hand-scribed, as you see above. The book should be out in a couple weeks or so, depending on my deadlines. The empty spot in the lower right corner is where the bar code and ISBN number will go.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Monster Island Back Cover Art

My progress on finishing up my Monster Safari book was temporarily put on hold due to the birth of our first grandchild this past weekend. Now I'm back on track in the race against time to finish up the book. I have school appearances coming up and I must have my book available for my upcoming school dates.

There are 12 monsters featured in the book. Now there's 13 with this guy, who is as yet unnamed. I needed art for the back cover, and this dude just missed the 12 monster cut, so I figured that rather than start a new drawing from scratch, I might as well dip into my stack of monster rejects and make some fortunate creature the star of the back cover. You can't tell by the expression on his face, but he's thrilled.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Monster Safari Book Cover

This is the final cover art for my Monster Safari children's book. There's no type-setting on the cover. All the lettering is hand-done. The illustration is painted in Photoshop with a Wacom Cintiq. I'll make a few more tweaks before I let go of it, but it's 99% done.

The character looks a little too yellow from when I painted it. It's probably because it's in CMYK mode, which would throw the color on the screen version off a little.

Next comes the back cover, which will be more hand-lettering, though I may change my mind and type-set it. We'll see. Then there will be about two wrap up pages at the end of the book, then I'm done. I leave for a business trip to Pennsylvania in the morning. I'll plan on finishing the book at the airport, on the plane and in my motel room while I'm gone. So when I get back I can bring it all to a close.

Then I'll get the paper book published, and right after that the ebook, followed by a YouTube tutorial drawing for each of the pages. Then on to the next book. What fun. I'm sure glad I don't have to have a job.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Monster Island Cover Art

All of the lettering on the cover of my new Monster Safari book is now finished. Today I will be working toward finishing the cover illustration. I will add in more background behind the creature and perhaps make some changes on the creature as well.

I have some issues with the little creature in the Pooka's grasp. When you're dealing with a young  audience as I do, you have to be extra careful about any negative implications. Will the Pooka soon be including the helpless little creature on his lunch menu? Or are they best of friends? I will have to resolve that issue. Mothers are always very protective of what they expose their children to. A big monster eating a little monster might move the book from the "G" rated category into PG territory. It's frustrating to me, but that's the audience. Has Barney the Dinosaur ever gobbled up a smaller dinosaur on camera? I seriously doubt it. That's my audience.

The entire book, from the cover to the end is hand-lettered, with the exception of the ISBN page. I hand-lettered the very first book that I wrote and illustrated. It was called The Great Thistledown Flood. I was thrilled to learn that it became a Gold Medallion Honor Book, and I attended the Gold Medallion Awards in Denver, Colorado. That was a memorable night. Because of the painstaking hand-lettering, the book also introduced me to carpal tunnel syndrome.

The next post will reveal what I came up with for the cover art. It will either be the finished sketch, or the final art. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Monster Safari Intro Page

As I press on toward the finish line, here's the introductory page to my Monster Safari kids' book.

This little creature is a fitting image for the intro page because my initial sketch of this little guy was what turned into my Monster Safari book. He was a character that I penciled out several years ago as part of the initial sketches for an online game. I used him for the initial monster character for this book, then added 11 more. Here's the initial sketch that I did for the online game:;postID=6194046565805754604 

The entire book up to this point, including all 12 monsters, is all here on my blog.
Next I'll be working on the front and back cover art, and I'll post it in a few days, as soon as I'm finished with it. 

Have you seen my other blog, The Trowbridge Chronicles?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hornballs at the Water Hole

This page that I just completed for my Monster Safari book will help to give the reader the impression that the setting for the book is deep tropical jungle. I had fun drawing and painting the scene, but it made me wish that it wasn't just a fictitious story. I love tropical locales and I wish I had another life to be an explorer, as I appear to be in this scene.

Yet there is some truth to what you see above. The safari outfit that I'm wearing in the illustration is's hanging in my closet. It's the costume that I wear when I do my school appearances: In a couple of weeks I'll be flying back to Palmyra, Pennsylvania. I'll do four school shows in four days, and I'll be selling my new Monster Safari book while I'm there. That's why I'm in such a hurry to finish the book.

This is the Hornball how-to-draw page that will be in the book:

I will feature 12 Little Beasties by way of the how-to-draw pages in the book. About three more pages to go, and the book will be done. Then on to the next book. Will it be called Dragon Safari?

Have you seen my other blog, The Trowbridge Chronicles?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Monster Island Page - Herd of Hornballs at the Water Hole

This is the line art for one of the introductory pages for my kids' book Monster Safari. I only have two or three more pages to go, plus the cover art, and the book will be done. I have not much more than a couple more weeks to go before it has to be done.

The way that I put these illustrations together sort of defies convention. When I was in art school I never embraced the idea of drawing tons of thumbnails before I start work on an illustration.  There was no thumbnail with this piece. All I did was pencil in the "stage", which consisted of the shape of the water hole and the hill behind it. With my stage blocked in, I just started making it up as I went along until the picture area was filled up. Sort of unconventional, not something that I would teach in one of my classes. But somehow it seems to it seems to work for me.

It waffled back and forth, then decided to hand-letter the whole book, since it's a sketch book format anyway. I've hand-lettered so long that I would just as soon go ahead and hand letter something, as opposed to going into InDesign and typeset the text.

Also, I don't pencil the whole illustration in before I start inking. I'll pencil an area, and if I think it's safe, I'll go ahead and ink it in. So I sort of pencil and ink my way around until it's done.

Of course, there's no contrast in the art at this stage. But tomorrow when I start filling in the color it will start coming to life and take on a much better contrast definition. My challenge will be to take care in creating the lights and darks, and carefully craft the dappled light effects that work so well in moody jungle scenes.

The open area behind the expedition members will be free-washed in without line. It will look much better off in the distance when it's not defined with a line. The farthest thing in the distance with a line definition will be the big tree on the left, because it's part of the mid-ground.

Check back soon for the final color art. I should be done in two or three days. I have to be done with the color soon, or the book won't be done on time.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Monster Island Spread, Final Art

This is the final art for the Monster Island Expedition Map, which will be an orientation map for readers of my upcoming book, Monster Safari. I put 29 hours into this illustration.

The expedition begins at the helicopter, a CH-47 Chinook, in the bottom center of the spread. You then follow the dotted line through the reference points that number up to 20. You end up back at the helicopter landing and pick-up point on a small motu. This page will show the readers where the monsters were first spotted, along with some of the key reference points on the island. Following the orientation map will be the monster profile pages, which include a how-to-draw page for each monster. The relatively empty portion in the center of the map is the gutter of the book. 

Next comes the cover. It will be posted soon. I have to have this book finished in two to three weeks. I"m not sure how I'll do it, but four schools in Pennsylvania are expecting it. I will be flying to Pennsylvania on the 28th of February. 

Have you seen my other blog, The Trowbridge Chronicles?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Monster Island, Ink Line

Here's the ink line for the Monster Island Expedition Map page of my Monster Safari kids book. I threw some color in to help define the water from the land. The dotted line indicating the route that was taken over and around the island is now defined in ink. There are also a few issues with the positioning of the monsters on the map that need to be corrected in Photoshop before I start adding color. The next image that you see will be the finished color. 

This book must be finished ASAP. I have a week's worth of school assemblies in Palmyra, Pennsylvania in the end of February. They are all expecting to purchase the Monster Safari book, so I'm definitely under the gun to get this project wrapped fast. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished results very soon.                                                                                                

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monster Island Pencil Layout, no. 2

The pencil layout for the Monster Island expedition map spread is about halfway complete now. I decided to add a quick dash of color to separate the water from the land, so the sketch will be easier for you to figure out. 


You'll note a pencil line running around the island inside the lagoon as well as over the land area, showing directional arrows. This will be the track that the expedition follows. You'll note the helicopter in the lower center. That's the drop-off point, where the expedition begins. The first portion of the expedition as it tracks into Hooloo Cove is indicated by the dotted line. The next time you see this sketch, the course of the expedition will all be drawn in dotted line. (Enlarge above image for a closer look.) 

In the last sketch (scroll down one image) you'll see that the helicopter was a small size airship, similar to a LOH (light observation helicopter). I decided that in order to carry all the kayaks and other supplies that we would need a much larger airship. So I swapped the for-seater LOH ("loach") out for a Chinook. They're jumbo-size choppers, designed to carry larger numbers of people as well as supplies (It cost me a fortune to lease the Chinook, but it was worth the expense).

The Chinook lands on the small motu and unloads passengers and supplies. We immediately observe several skulls and other bone fragments in the coral sand. The skulls do not resemble any animal life that would exist on a tropical island. I make note of that in my journal. We assume this must be a feeding site for a sea creature of some kind. 

Then, with some trepidation, we step into our kayaks and the expedition is underway. We paddle single-file in a clockwise position. The expedition will be accomplished by circumnavigating the island along a course that stays inside the fringe reef, to avoid the risk of swamping the kayaks in high seas. The waters inside fringe reefs are generally quite calm.

We enter the first cove that we encounter and one of our Maori team members names it Hooloo Cove after his island of birth. There we beach the kayaks and begin our overland exploration of the island. 

I named the "Needle" peak in the upper left portion of the island after The Needle on the island of Rarotonga in the South Pacific Ocean. The last time I was on Rarotonga I had planned to climb The Needle, but ran out of time. I hope to climb it on my next visit.

We'll pick up where we left off with further development of the sketch in the next post in a few days. Check back soon to see how the expedition is progressing. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Monster Island Initial Layout

I have now begun the pencil layout for the Monster Island map page. It will be a double-page spread. I thought I would first show the page layout in its early stages, before I begin adding details and refinements. So now I know the shape of the island, but I only have a general  idea of what will follow. This is because I seldom do thumbnails. I just start drawing and wait to find out where the drawing leads me, following a rough mental picture in my mind. In art school we were taught to do thumbnails...I never got into that very much.

Next I will work on the title banner and start laying in the route that the expedition takes. I'm concerned about space. Is there enough space to include the locations of all the beasties on the map? I'll know soon when I start laying out the expedition route.

As soon as the book is completed, it will be available for sale, also as an Ebook. If you choose to buy a copy, let me know if you would like me to autograph it. I'll be glad to accomodate.

Have you seen my other blog? Check it out. It's called The Trowbridge Chronicles.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bird's-Eye View of Monster Island

This is the final art for the Monster Island bird's-eye spread. It will be the opening spread in my Monster Safari kids' book. I inked the pencil layout (below) then colored it in Photoshop with my Wacom Cintiq. Most of the graphite under-drawing is still there, mostly covered with color. I did remove the graphite in the light areas, like the beach.

At present the text remains my hand-lettering. But I will probably substitute the hand-lettering with typeset text. 

The next thing that you'll see on this blog will be the pencil layout for the next spread, which will be a straight-down view of the island. It will look more like a treasure map, in that it will show where we located the monsters, the location of the peaks, swamps, etc. There will be a dotted line which will trace the route of our expedition to the island. 

Check out my other blog: Trowbridge Chronicles.