Blog Navigation:


Merry Christmas!

Perhaps the day after Christmas is too late to be wishing people a “Merry Christmas!” and giving them gifts, but I never knew quite how to act proper. So, in honor of yesterday and in gratitude for the few of you who know about this site, I show you some of the paintings I made for this Christmas! I hope these paintings give you a smile and a sense of awe in your heart. May this Christmas season bring you and your family closer to heaven and to each other.

Snowball - My sister and I would run around the backyard and pelt each other with snow. While my memories show me as the one sneaking up behind my sister, I do remember the distinct feeling of snow down the back of my neck. Obviously, my sister got me good too.

Hard Luck Story - I am privileged to have discussed life and prayed with a few of our local homeless characters. I had the idea for this piece based on a couple incidents which happened to me. Thankfully though, I haven’t gotten a pink slip like the poor guy outside the Unemployment Bureau in my painting.

Treasured in Her Heart - This is an adaption of my Heaven in His Eyes for a church in my area. We wanted to give more context to original image. In creating that context we changed the meaning slightly, which is fine with me. The original image was more of a statement on the Jesus’ deity and humanity. This image is about Mary’s (and all humanity’s) relationship with Jesus. The title comes from the verse, “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” [Luke 2:19]

Peace on Earth - A local church asked me to paint this for their Christmas Eve service. I tried to emphasize a real family dealing with a stressful situation, and the wonder in the midst of the strain. Normally, I would like to make my paintings more historically correct, but I do not think that most people would recognize the original nativity. Someday, I will make the totally historically correct portrayal of the manger scene.

Until then, I hope you will remember that the event actually happened and ushered in the most remarkable change in human history. No longer are men left to their evil and judgement. A Savior has come. The Lord of the universe made peace between Himself and men, by living with us and sacrificing Himself for our eternal salvation. Christmas is a celebration of that liberating gift—Jesus Christ our Lord.


My Favorite Illustrations

Every once in a while a project lands on my desk that just stands out from the rest.  Something happens where one illustration ends up better than the others.  These paintings are my favorite professional illustrations.

I like this painting better than any other professional illustration I have ever done.  The main visual themes from the story weave together with the carefully chosen colors, the tight composition built around the title, and the themes of adventure and tenderness all in one illustration.  It is not often that an artist gets the privilege to work on something so involved and rewarding.


I like this.  I could talk about why I like the composition or the interplay of colors, but in the end I just like it.  When I look at it, I can taste the hot dust in my mouth.  It is a dry year to be planting, but maybe after the plowing is finished, the rains will come.


I enjoyed working on Helen Keller.  She faced so many obstacles with her limited senses, but she overcame them through hard work and discipline.  The world around her is barely perceptible, as this picture illustrates, with her hands the least altered by the fog.  Her hands became her doorway back into reality.


For this illustration I distorted photographs to provide realistic texture and recolored them as color washes inside the lines.  As an illustration, I like it’s novelty.  And as an illustrator, I just think that it’s fun.


A poem in one of the A Beka readers needed a portrait of Pocahontas.  I chose a historically correct portrayal as far as age and ethnicity goes, but I had to remove all the facial piercings and body paint that she probably would have worn.  The poem made no mention of the practices, and many of the readers would have found the strict historical interpretation offensive.  As it is, it is my best digital imitation of an oil portrait.  And it’s a touching picture of a young woman coming to the age of decision.


This is one of my earlier computer paintings.  I took a sketch and colorized it.  The young man in the story is essentially sacrificing his chances to become the king’s son in order to protect a lost little girl and bring her home to her mother.  His coat, a gift from the king, is tattered and torn from his good deeds, while his rival sits inside and preens the matching coat.  I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t guessed the outcome, so I’ll just say you can read about it in A Beka Book’s reader, Open Skies.


Life can be complicated for missionary kids.  They deal with the trauma of extreme situations in foreign lands, many times with very little time from their parents who have gone to the field to minister to others.  Ofter the children feel isolated and lonely.  In this story the missionary boy befriends some Japanese boys through a makeshift basketball court.  The colors in this illustration especially appeal to me.


Edison experienced an accident on his first real job selling newspapers on a train.  He saved up for chemicals and would conduct experiments with chemicals he had bought.  Once the train hit a bump and a jar of phosphorus spilled and started a fire on the train.  The enraged conductor physically threw Edison and his chemicals out of the train onto the train tracks.  The tilt of the train car is shown visually with the strong diagonals and Edison’s contrasting corrective movement.


While this may not be the most captivating image I have ever created, but for those who have ever been lonely or those who have stared at fires, it may strike a familiar chord.  The illustration has just enough detail to make scene look stark.  The vibrant color contrasts with the mood, and the cool blues and magentas carry the lonely feeling.


This illustration started as a very textured colorized sketch, but I layered opaque color to cover up a lot of the texture.  The overpainting subdued the strong texture in the sketch.  I used the same colors as I used in the last illustration, but they are softer, more fitting to the mood of the story.  I found a bust of Beethoven and used it as a source for his head in the picture.  Believe it or not, the shadow on the wall is my favorite part of the painting.


I visited the Rockies only once, and Arizona once.  Someday I’d love to go to the badlands or travel the Oregon trail.  This cover is sort of an ode to all those dry and difficult places in life that can look so beautiful in the right light.


The Animals in the Great Outdoors reader was one of my most intense illustration experiences, and one of the most profitable.  I had just finished college, and still had that ignorance that made impossible deadlines seem feasible and the energy that compensated for my time miscalculations.  Frogs are wonderfully clumsy and beautiful creatures and I look back on this reader as some of the best creative work I have done to date.


One of the third-grade readers included a poem with a mock rendition of Robinson Crusoe.  I created this illustration, a tongue in cheek, as an almost "Wish You Were Here!" postcard depiction of Crusoe.  I like the sun hitting his left eye, the perfect shipwreck practically sitting on the water, and the sand castle peaking over the beach.  I laugh whenever I see this.


This is one of the first illustrations that I used the colorized black and white sketch style.  I had not refined the style yet, but it displays a raw intensity that convinced me of the technique's potential.  I still begin many of my illustration with variations of this technique.


This began as a joke in the publishing department, and provided a great deal of enjoyment for everyone involved.  I love the sheer variety in this painting—the cat breeds and the expressions on their faces.  I also enjoy the grouch of the bunch.


This final painting expresses an ideal that is too often absent in the modern conception of a father.  This father, as he checks his son in the night, provides a portrait of a loving, protective father.  One hand holds the lit match, the other shelters the flame, and both hands form a heart.

How I Illustrate

Anybody can write a story, some write good stories.  Really, anybody can illustrate, but it is my job to illustrate well.  Through my process of idea generation and refinement, I strive to make the best illustrations possible.

First, I read the text to be illustrated.  If I do not know what the text is saying, I cannot illustrate it.  In this case, the text was the nativity story from the Bible.

Very often when reading a historical story, I realize that many details have been left out.  What exactly did people wear during that time period?  The author is not going to spend a chapter detailing the make and fit of the heroine’s dress with the fabrics and patterns.  So I will have to research characters and settings outside of the story in history books and encyclopedias.  Sometimes I will call museums or specialists to isolate the right fact.

Throughout the research stage, I am thinking of images.  How can I illustrate the text in the most powerful way?  As I am researching, or afterwards, I spend a certain amount of time creating rough sketches.

A rough sketch is a road map for the artist.  Many clients insist on seeing sketches, but I have rarely met a nonartist who understands what the illustration will look like straight from the sketch.  A better indicator is either the final drawing, the color study or a color sketch.  Often I will jump straight from the rough sketch to a color sketch, and then start refining that into the final illustration.  However, I started with a rough sketch for this illustration because of time issues.

After a sketch is approved, I look for source photos.  For this painting, I visited a farm and photographed cattle eating.  A friend who lives across the country posed as the face and my sister posed in costume as Mary.  In lieu of a friend from New York, I posed for Joseph, but more on that later.

I also looked up pictures of sheep on  Most photos only give a feeling for the anatomy of the sheep, and I mix and match body parts and poses, making sure to keep the image my own.  Every once in a while, I run across a pose and lighting situation that matches exactly what I want and have to resort to changing the species, like in the above image.  In the final illustration, I changed the species to one of those speckled lambs.  I would be more careful with what I use for my sources, but this was a donated illustration.

After creating my source collage, I create a color study to get a better idea what the painting will look like when it's finished.  I now have correct poses from the collage, and can experiment with the colors.  I paint the characters and setting in with broad brush strokes, not caring about a lot of detail.  I know that I will be going over the entire painting before it's finished.  I just want enough detail to get a feel for how the painting will look in the end.

The faces and the hay painted.

I usually break the illustration down into sections.  I work first on this face and then that face, then on this body and then on that body, then on the foreground elements, and then on the background elements.  Step by step, inch by inch, I steadily finish the illustration.

Sheep painted on the right side.

Cattle painted on the right side.

Mary's outfit painted.

Animals painted on the left side.

Wall blocked in and Joseph painted.

Often when painting a face, I will have a friend pose as a character from history or as a different nationality.  This pose will give me the lighting and much of the modeling needed, but will not give me the unique facial features.  I will then find photographs or artwork depicting the face I need.  I will then think about the face in a three-dimensional way and model the face after the source, while preserving the lighting of my model.  As a final step I will tweak the expression to make it exactly what I want.

Rock wall and final tweaks.

After I finish a painting, I send it off to my clients and often they have suggestions to improve the painting or to mold it more closely to their vision.  Sometimes comments can leave me feeling troubled, as any creative person feels when someone critiques their work.  Many times, though, after assessing them for validity and urgency, the suggestions cause me to create an even better painting.  And I really enjoy making my paintings better.  There is few things in life as pleasurable as a job well done.