Friday, April 29, 2011

From The Vault: Disaster Preparedness Pt.2 - 2003

These were the final six illustrations I did for a research paper about disaster preparedness in the case of a terrorist attack.

As you can see, the detail is minimal, but the bright colors and circular shape make the illustrations not all that bad to look at in the end.

Thankfully, none of this has come to pass--let's hope it stays that way.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Famous Monsters of Filmland: Underground

The new magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland: Underground debuted this week, so I finally get to talk about the work I did for the mag, as both artist and writer!

My pal and then-editor of the mag April Snellings asked me to design a logo for FMOFU, which you see above. Here's what it looks like on the cover and on some trade ads that have been appearing in the last few months:
The little skull I used in place of the "o" was replaced on the final cover by a photograph, but the essential design is the same (my little skull drawing can be seen throughout the insides, as a button at the end of various articles).

I also have a full-page ad in the mag, which I designed just for the occasion:
I was very excited to work for my pal April (who I call "Chief") and of course its great to have some of my work on the cover of a magazine, especially as the logo: that means it will be seen on every issue. As a lifelong monster fan, I'm really tickled I got to do something involving the classic FMOF franchise (I created about two dozen logo treatments while working on this, so maybe some of those will show up on this blog's "From The Vault" Friday segment).

As I mentioned above, I did some writing for FMOFU too, so head on over to my Rob Kelly Writing blog to check that stuff out. It's a blog crossover!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


This is a portrait of Sacajawea I was asked to do by Scholastic Books for a proposed series of children's biographies of famous people. They were looking for a cover artist for the series, so they hired a number of different artists to do a portrait of the same subject and would pick one to do the cover artist for the series.

Sadly, I didn't get the gig, which of course is a big disappointment. But overall I have no complaints--I've landed the majority of the jobs that I was in competition for, so I was bound to lose one eventually.

Both Scholastic and I were happy with the piece; maybe I'll get to do something for them in the future.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hard-Boiled Horror Tales

This is the cover to Hard-Boiled Horror Tales, a new comic written and drawn by one of my oldest friends, Doug Slack. Its currently available in print and online (ooh! technology!) over at

I'm mentioning this here because Doug asked me to do the logo for the book, as well as the main story's pseudo-title card:
I love doing logo work, especially when its for something super-fun like Doug's nastily violent, gory, and profane comic. If those three things appeal to you, go check the book out over at DreadCentral or the Hard-Boiled Horror Blog!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Souls In Satan's Servitude

I've been trying to branch out a bit genre-wise for these faux-paperback book covers, and this one is another example of that: instead of a crime noir or nudie book, Souls in Satan's Servitude is, as the tagline indicates, a "shocking expose" about people who have decided to join a cult that worships Satan.

The author is a doctor, of course--giving this lurid little tale of sex and blood an air of legitimacy.

Friday, April 22, 2011

From The Vault: Disaster Preparedness - 2003

This was probably the weirdest assignment I've ever had--illustrating scenes from a research paper about disaster preparedness in case of a terrorist biological attack. Fun stuff!

I don't remember how the person who hired me to do these illustrations found me, but they told me they needed twelve scenes from the paper turned into graphics which would be interspersed throughout the text.

The paper involved some sort of high-tech "disaster suit" that people could activate in the case of an attack--a mini-alarm goes off, you take some pills, etc. I guess the final panel represents running like hell.

I didn't have a lot of time to do these, as the lack of detail shows. I ended up doing twelve total, we'll see the other half next week!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Killer Covers

This is a banner I did for the blog Killer Covers, run by my friend J. Kingston Pierce, dedicated to classic paperback book covers.

J. asked me to design a banner for the site, using some real-life paperbacks as decoration. Not only did it sound like fun, but J.has been a big booster of my site, something I very much appreciate--in fact, it was his recommendation that led author Mike Gerrard to contact me about Strip Till Dead, and we know how that turned out!

J. also did an interview with me about my work and some of favorite paperback covers, which you can find at Killer Covers today.

Thanks to J. for all his efforts on my behalf, and for asking me to do the banner. I'm very happy with it, and I hope it adorns Killer Covers for a long time!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Laura & Dolly

I did this portrait of my pal Laura and her beloved pup Dolly for Laura's birthday last week.

I knew I wanted to keep it really simple and graphic, but that doesn't work too well for dogs--at least, not in Dolly's case, so she ended up getting a lot more attention than the Laura half of the portrait did. And I'm pretty sure Laura's okay with that...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hellcat With A Holster

I first came up with the title for this faux-paperback book cover and sort of worked backward from there. Inspired by the new movie Hobo With A Shotgun, I thought why not a female version of that kind of story?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

From The Vault: Coffee - 2003

Back in 2003 I had hired an art agent, and for a while I sat down to a bunch of advertising art, in a conscious attempt to show potential clients my style would work in that arena.

Some pieces came pretty well, some merely okay--this is one of the latter. The typography is kinda cool, but the actual drawing of the coffee is kinda ehh: it doesn't look like liquid to me, it looks like mud or, worse, river sludge. Starbucks didn't end up with a bajillion locations by selling that!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Razor's Edge

Wow, it's been almost a whole year since I designed a new Razor's Edge book cover!

As regular readers of this blog will know, W. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge is my all-time favorite book (I even have a whole blog about it--of course I do), and every so often I find it a fun exercise to design my own cover for it.

I hadn't planned on doing another one (I did one in December '08 and May '09), but then I saw the above photo while Darlin' Tracy was surfing teh interwebs. The photo is by Edward Dullard and is a shot of Ballycotton Island Lighthouse in Ireland, and I was immediately struck, thunderbolt-like, that it would make the perfect main image for another edition of The Razor's Edge.

Graphic design-wise, I wanted the typography to be a little more modern and rough. Classic books when they are reissued tend to look a tad stuffy because they are classics, esteemed examples of literature with a capital L. So I wanted to go the other way, and make it look a little more current.

I added a half-tone effect over the photo to give a slight old-timey feel (in contrast with the type) and make the image feel more like a memory, which I thought was in keeping with events in the book--the entirety of The Razor's Edge is told via multiple flashbacks, primarily those featuring the main character, Larry Darrell. Larry's story is told to the book's narrator, so even within the flashback structure we are beholden to how Larry remembered the events he's recalling.

I just love doing these Razor's Edge covers, they're pure artistic fun. I'm sure this won't be my last...

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Ron Swanson Mystery

I admit right up front, there were probably better ways for me to spend my time than coming up with a faux-paperback book cover starring a character from Parks and Recreation, but sometimes when I get an idea, I just can't let it go.

I was discussing with a friend on Facebook how much we like the show, and how that clearly Ron Swanson (played by Nick Offerman) is the breakout character: a die-hard Libertarian who nonetheless loves his government job--as long as he doesn't have to actually do anything. An avid hunter, craftsman, and jazz saxophonist, he never met a buffet he didn't like. But Swanson is also, at times, quite sensitive and perceptive about people's feelings, most especially his high-strung and overachieving deputy, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler).

My friend and I were joking that Ron Swanson, in another TV universe, could star in his own 1970's-style cop show, like The Rockford Files. So it didn't take long for me to imagine Ron starring in a series of mystery novels, of which this is the first(?) one!

Friday, April 8, 2011

From The Vault: Where Are You Tonight? - 2003

An early, kinda lazy attempt at a paperback book cover. I like some of the elements here, but I didn't push this enough to turn it into something really worthwhile--I think it needed another pass on the figure, and not have it quite so distorted.

The type is handwritten, something I should try again sometime!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2011 YNPN Chicago Celebration

Pictured above is Torey Malatia, a name well known to fans of NPR's This American Life. And the end of every episode, host Ira Glass credits Mr. Malatia for his management oversight of the show, followed by an out-of-context clip from that particular episode, usually designed to goof on Mr. Malatia in the most embarrassing manner possible.

Mr. Malatia was the guest of honor at the 2011 YNPN Chicago Celebration, and one of the people organizing the event contacted me, wondering if they could get a copy of my radio poster to give as a gift to him.
Being a fan of TAL, I was of course thrilled to help out, so I got a print made which YNPN had framed and gave to Torey at the ceremony. As you can see, he liked it!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spider Lady

This "Spider Lady" piece was the illustration I submitted for a contest, which I mentioned on the blog a few days ago. Apparently, most people who voted didn't like it too much, because it received so many "0" votes (out of 0-5) that it didn't make past the first round of cuts. Ouch!

While I don't think is the best piece I've ever done or anything, I didn't think it was that bad ("0", really?), so I figured why not repurpose it for a faux-paperback book cover?

I never throw anything away!

Friday, April 1, 2011

From The Vault: Aretha - 2003

This was a conceptual piece that didn't quite work, but I still kinda liked it: I pictured the viewer standing on the other side of a recording booth, not hearing the tidal wave of sound being produced by Aretha Franklin's booming voice.

Of course, the whole port hole thing doesn't make a lot of sense, but I just kinda liked the way it looked.