Wednesday, September 29, 2010


This is Mookie, a sweet pup whose mommy, named Christine, was the winning bidder in the Animal Care for Artists auction they held a couple of months ago to raise money for the organization.

I had volunteered a free pet portrait as one of the prizes, and a week or so after Christine won my prize I was staring at a picture of Mookie. Christine specifically asked me to use the pattern you see here for the background; it matches the carpet in the room that this portrait will hang in.

Working on this was pure fun, and I'm glad I could help in some small way to raise money for the ACA, a truly worthy cause.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Charlton Heston

Several suggestions were made over on my illustration Facebook page as to which movie tough guy I should tackle next, but since I've been watching all the Planet of the Apes movies recently, movie legend Charlton Heston was on my mind.

Sure, Heston wasn't a classic movie tough guy (at least in the same vein as my previous subjects like Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, etc.), but when I was deciding who to do this week I remembered a passage from a biography of J. Edgar Hoover I read a few years ago.

Apparently Heston--who was a big, vocal proponent of civil rights--was scheduled to appear at some sort of rally in Washington for such a cause in the early 1960s. He got a personal phone call from Hoover, who strongly suggested Heston not attend.

According to the story, Heston told Hoover in no uncertain terms to go screw himself, he was going, and he did. If that isn't a "tough guy" I don't know what is.

Friday, September 24, 2010

From The Vault: Bikini - 2004

I have no idea what this was supposed to be, but looking at other pieces from around this time shows I was seeing how things looked when stripped of almost all detail, leaving just colored shapes.

There are some elements of this I like, but the colors--the orange specifically--is too muted and dull to make much of an impact. Just a doodle, really; quickly finished so I could move on to the next piece...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Time Out New York: Susan Sarandon

I was asked to do this week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York, the subject this time being legendary actress Susan Sarandon!

For whatever reason, I had a real Andy Warhol-ish concept in mind for this one, with a rougher look than I usually go with for female portraits. But if anyone would work being portrayed like that, it would be the no-nonsense, tough-as-nails Sarandon.

I fiddled around with this for a while, trying to hit the sweet spot between too rough and too smooth. I originally had the dark grey tone much lighter, but when I darkened it to what you see here it gave the piece a harder edge, one that I liked a lot. Plus, it looks a little different than the stuff I normally do, which was a bonus. I also had extra detail in the hair, but finally settled on a flat red shape, which I thought contrasted nicely with the bright yellow background.

I think Ms. Sarandon is a great actress, and many times has been outspoken when I'm sure it would have been easier on her to keep quiet. I have no idea if she'll ever see this piece, but if she does I hope she likes it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Princess In Exile

My pal, writer Chris Wichtendahl, asked me to do the cover to his newest book, Princess in Exile, a long while ago.

I'm ashamed to admit, it took me forever to work on it, because as I read the book and was flooded with all the fantastic sci-fi concepts contained therein (Chris is a fountain of ideas, as one look at his website will attest), I simply couldn't compose one image that I felt represented the story.

When I finally did sit down to sketch it out, I really got in my own way and designed this hugely ambitious cover, comprised of almost half a dozen vignettes, representing moments from the book. I wasn't all that pleased with it--aside from the terror of how I'd actually pull the thing off to completion--but because I had taken so long to show Chris something I sent it off to him anyway.

His reaction was polite but mixed--I could tell that it wasn't really what he wanted, and a few weeks passed before we discussed it in detail. Then, out of the blue, this other cover idea--pretty much exactly what you see here--popped into my head, almost entirely fully formed.

Not only would it easier to complete, but it was a lot closer to the old school style 70s/80s paperback look that Chris told me he wanted in the first place--mostly text with one small element from the book (in this case, a wooden sword the main character wields). I sent this version off to him, and just minutes later he told this was it!

He made a couple of small suggestions which I implemented, and all of a sudden a project that had become a tedious slog did a u-turn. Now we were both happy--Chris got the cover he wanted, and I was able to deliver on the promise I had made.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lawrence Tierney

Several suggestions were made over on my illustration Facebook page as to which movie tough guy I should tackle next. I liked all of them, but Lawrence Tierney interested me the most.

Tierney is probably most famous for his role in Reservoir Dogs, where he looked like a mountain of mean. But he had a long career in Hollywood--playing mostly tough guys, of course--decades before that, which was when I chose to illustrate him.

Friday, September 17, 2010

From The Vault: Lex Luthor - 2004

I was digging through my vault looking for a good piece for this week, and I happened across this portrait I did of Lex Luthor. Not only do I think it turned out pretty well, but Luthor was played by yesterday's subject, Jon Hamm, in a very funny video for Funny or Die. Perfect!

Most of the time when I've tried to mesh my style with a superhero portrait, it doesn't work that well, but of course for regular guy (he'd hate me calling him that) Lex Luthor, no weird costumes are required--just some monolith-y buildings with LexCorp's blood-red stamp on the front.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jon Hamm

I haven't done one of my Hot Seat-styled portraits in a while because...well, I've generally been busy doing the actual ones. But I had some time this week, and thought Jon Hamm would be as a good a subject as any. Not only do I see him every week on Mad Men, but he's also in a new movie, The Town, opening this week.

Hamm has an old-school charm and classic leading man looks that makes him seem like a Hollywood star from the 50s or 60s dropped into the 21st Century. So I didn't get too fancy for the portrait--pretty much a straightforward shot with some cool, classy colors.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

He'll Be Dead By Morning

One of my more crazy faux-vintage paperback book covers, this one started life with just the portrait of the gun-totin' babe and it somehow found its way to this Mondrian-inspired crazy quilt design.

When searching for an actual book title, I knew I wanted to keep the idea that the woman is the protagonist, maybe even an assassin (which was not typically a plot you'd find in a 40s or 50s paperback). I found a book called She'll Be Dead By Morning, and I was content to remove the "S" to make it a little more appropriate to what I had already conceived. The author and tagline remained the same.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Charles Bronson

I had a couple of suggestions for the next subject in my informal "tough guy" series, but at some point it occurred to me Charles Bronson fit that theme perfectly, and I had never really done a suitable portrait of the legendary actor.

I chose to represent him during glory days--the early 1970s, when he was about as a big a star as he ever was. Considering what most movie stars look like nowadays, its kind of amazing a guy who looked like this was considered a leading man.

While I was doing this, all I had for his hair was a flat black shape, and that didn't quite work for me--it looked too neat and tidy. So I went in and added a bajillion little strands of wild greyish hair, really letting my hand go all over the place, the better to capture that wild mop of hair that sat atop Bronson's head.

I've been trying to use the same elements for all these tough guy portraits--namely, the same set of colors for the skin, a light blue tone for the shirt, and that rough pattern I would place on top of it.

I at first thought the light blue shirt here didn't look sufficiently tough guy enough, and considered changing it. But then it dawned on me that if Charles Bronson is wearing a light blue shirt, that makes it a tough guy shirt.

Friday, September 10, 2010

From The Vault: Negative of a Nude - 2006

One of my faux-vintage paperback book covers that was on my regular site's paperback page for a while.

But in the regular pruning of the site's content that I do, I dropped it in favor of newer compositions, though I think this one still holds up pretty well. I think I'd use a different font for the author and tagline, but I love that checkerboard background!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Time Out New York: Ed Westwick

I was asked to do this week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York, the subject this time being actor Ed Westwick, who is a cast member on Gossip Girl.

Not being familiar with Mr. Westwick, I searched around the internet for pics and info on him. I noticed that while he was squeaky clean in his PR shots, he looked much scruffier in more informal pics, so I thought it'd be more interesting to go that route for the portrait.

I knew I wanted to keep it monochromatic, and I think this came out as one of the best Hot Seats I've done in a while. I like the rough gray tones, the messy background, and the squiggly lines for his jewelry. I've already put this one on the "best of Hot Seat" list I have in my head.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


This was me just goofing around. I'm in the middle of a big magazine job, and while taking a break from it I worked this up just for the hell of it.

Zorro is such a natural subject for my style that I keep trying out portraits of him. The first one I did was just okay, but too stiff and formal. This one started out as a portrait but evolved into this design-y button type thing, and I kinda like it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lee Van Cleef

Another portrait in my informal "tough guy" series, this was another suggestion that came from my illustration Facebook page. After posting the Lee Marvin piece, someone suggested Lee Van Cleef.

Cleef, like Marvin before him, was someone I'd never done a portrait of before, so that seemed like fun. This one's a little less ragged than the previous two tough guys, so I'm a little less satisfied with it. Weird, I didn't see that the time, but just a few days later, its jumps right out at me.

Well, now that I've done two Lees in a row, who's next? Lee Majors?

Friday, September 3, 2010

From The Vault: Drug Raid - 2007

I did this piece for a medical magazine, part of a series of illustrations for a long article about a South American country. One of the aspects covered was the massive drug trade, the evidence of which can be seen here.

For reasons I can't remember, I don't think this ever saw print, which is kinda too bad--its different than the kind of stuff I normally do, and I thought it came out okay.

Plus, it took forever to draw all those packages!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Namtab on the Web: Horror Squad

John Gholson--of the swell horror movie site Horror Squad--wrote a very nice piece about my Monster PSA posters, which you can see above.

Thanks to John, and thanks to my pal Joe Mello for finding the piece in the first place and altering me to it!