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From what I hear... it's Shark Week.

So, in honor of the event, here's a nifty shark-o-saurus that I quickly sketched from life, the last time I visited the ZMS (Zoo of Mad Scientists).  I highly recommend a visit, if you have the time and are in the area.

Oh, and don't pet the animals.


Quick Portrait Sketching!

Whew!  I tried to get into gear with some quick portrait sketches last week.  I'm still pretty slow, but I'll be working harder to get faster.

At a Wednesday painting group, I sketched Rev. Thomas, very happy to get so much done in only two sessions (approx 40-45 min.):

Then on Thursday night I went over to John Ball's to paint Brittany with his group.  I was surprised to do a quick 20 min sketch!

Then on Saturday I fought with a very bright day at the Laurel Hill Spring Arts Festival, and sketched a couple of new friends.  While I was working on them they looked kind of like this:

But when I was able to get them into the light they looked much better:

Both were approx. 15 minutes, and both were talking and moving around, so I think I did good considering.  Still I'm still practicing, trying to get better.  I have yet to master the quick portrait sketch.


George Washington App BTS

Confession: a major reason I worked on this app project was to collaborate with an artist.  

David Nielsen is a like minded artist—also an illustrator—sharing many of my faith and ideals.  But at the same time we have major differences.  Our styles, for instance, are very different.  In fact that was one of the things I was going to see if we could overcome over the course of this project.  

Here's our process:

After reading the story, I started with a sketch.  This is from a moment in young George Washington's life, when he first encountered military combat.

Second, David created value and color studies based on my drawings.

Of course it's slightly more complicated than paint by number....  

I took his color study and finished out all the details to make the finished painting.

This scene is from the American Revolution as the Colonial forces fought some of the best military powers in the world.  In the battle at Trenton, they fought against German mercenary troops in house to house combat on a snowy morning.

Preston Cone, one of the founders of the Founding Fathers Project, modeled for this shot in colonial garb!

Daniel worked on this, changing the perspective and creating some cool harmonies.  I took it from him before he could really get going though...

The finished shot.  Played with the perspective a lot more.  (Yes, I have both the walking and getting-shot Hessians on this pic.  It's a little confusing right now, but it's not in the app.)

At the end of the American War for Independence, Washington gathered his troops together for a very moving dinner together.

David's value and color study... 

And the finished painted.  

We did a lot more work that didn't make it into the app.  Maybe at some anniversary in the future, we can come back and hit some of these really interesting moments in the Washington saga....

Young George Washington and his Native American allies.  Color study for an illustration which did not make the book.

The Hessians surrendering at Trenton.  I'd love to see this finished with the falling snow and all.

Perhaps at that later date, David and I can go back and touch up some of the artwork.  But on the whole, I'm very satisfied with what we got done here.

I think we were successful, but you be the judge.  Try out the app.  What do you think? 


Step-by-Step Portrait Sketch

A couple weeks ago, my group painted the same model that we used to do the demonstration this week.  I saved more steps along the way and thought it might be nice to see the evolution of painting her in more detail.

First step: laying down the foundation.  I want the generally shape of the model's head right away.  Usually I can find this by nailing down the dark hair color, and what shape it is.

Second, I tackle skintones.  By this stage, I should see the model on the paper, though probably it will be very blocky.

Now I start refining.  This is mid first pass of refining.  Still very rough, but all of the most important features are there.

Most of the time my painting looks like this.  It's kinda a good sketch, but the only changes are very small little ones.

Finally all those little changes build up to make a fairly polished face.  At that point I can start working the face into the composition—finding ways to unify the figure and the background.

At this point, I finish and am mostly satisfied with my work, but I never consider this done.  I always need to let it sit overnight.

After I've slept on the painting (not literally), I tweak the values, the edges, and a few details.  Then I consider the piece finished.

It's good to get back at this.  It's been too long.

Portrait Sketch Demonstration

I did a demonstration on Wednesday!  A great opportunity to stretch my public speaking skills, which need much stretching.

I took the opportunity to go over my "7 Essential Skills Artists Use" content.  I learned that I probably want to short the skill set, using the seventh as a sort of prologue to the other six skills.  I also learned that I probably don't want to go over the skill set while I'm trying to demonstrate painting a portrait.   Not unless I figure out a way to unify the two.  At times it felt like I was giving two different lectures simultaneously.   Lesson learned.

 So here's how the sketch went:

First I nailed down the general proportions.

Next I worked on creating more detail.

With the computer I can work on composition late in my painting, allowing me to save this complex subject for later in my talk.

Finally, I surprised people by breaking out some old photos from the late 1800's and reformatting the model's hair and dress to look older.

I never post a painting as is.  I always let it sit a night at least, and then touch it up.  This is what I did to the painting just now.  The composition needed a little tweaking, and the neck had some muddy color, and some of the edges needed a little something.

We painted the model a couple weeks ago, so you might want to check out that step-by-step, too!  I've got a few more stages saved.

I hope you enjoy!


George Washington App

A little more than a week ago, I wrapped illustrations for an interactive book app on the military career of founding father, George Washington.

I'll show more work and some behind the scenes at a future time when the full app is available.  Until then, you can get a sneak peak at my work by downloading the free lite version at



Agnosticism and Media - 2013 Filmmaker Challenge

A couple months ago I met a young post-Christian who talked circles around me about creation and evolution and life and all sorts of things.  We sat next to each other on a flight from Phoenix to Atlanta—four hours.  

He was excited, informed, and rather evangelistic.  He believed and wanted to share his faith—or lack thereof—with me.  

Unfortunately, because of work and last minute packing, I had only slept 3 hours prior to the trip.  I tried my best to engage him, but I could only squeak out something about my brief time of agnosticism in my master's degree.  I wanted to defend Christianity from this onslaught of ideas, but I couldn't.  The quantity of ideas, the clearness and conciseness, I was blown away.  

Finally, at the end of the flight and our conversation, I learned this young man's dark secret.  And yes, he does have a secret weapon that he used against me.  And it is totally related to media.

But first, I don't know if you noticed, but I mentioned about my struggle with agnosticism when I was in my masters degree.  Yeah, I struggled with it.  I won't go into all the hairy details.  However it came about, I went through a time of what I call profound irrational doubt.  I started from scratch and tried to figure out reality and existence and doubted everything along the way.  Evolution made sense, and the Bible did not.

Oddly, skepticism aided my faith, and tree leaves (and God's grace).  I realized that scientists did not have all the answers.  In the leaves outside my window, I also saw the amazing machinery of photosynthesis as profoundly designed.  God had mercy on me, leading me to believe anew in His hand in creation, and then in His Son, and then in His word.  

I still struggle with faith now and then.  Parts of the Bible make me think really hard and ask questions.  But those questions are important parts of my faith.  They show that I'm really seeking truth, not having given up to the spirit of this age.  Not like others who have stopped asking the questions, thinking they have life figured out.

A good conversation, with give and take on both sides, may have been very healthy for both of us, giving us a greater understanding of our mutual experience in doubt.  But I was practically a zombie and he—well, he had a problem.

As we closed our 4-hour long talk he started jotting names down—not people's names—Youtube channel names.  He jotted down 10-12 of them and handed the list to me.  They were all atheist sites that constantly pump out material from an evolutionary or post-Christian perspective.  

During our talk, he had not given me carefully researched information, wrestled over for years.  He was repeating ideas—ideas crafted to be short, informative, but as is usually the case with the Youtube format, limited in scope.  These were propaganda channels.  He was reciting his catechism.

In light of that experience, I challenge Christian Filmmakers in 2013 in three areas:

1. Media is most powerful when we consume large quantities of it.  Are you a product of Youtube?  Or of the local multiplex?  Or of NPR?  Or are you a product of the Bible?  In what do you immerse yourself?

2. Infatuation with media does nothing for us or our world.  Hard work in the trade may.  We need to engage the media world in significant ways—presenting God-glorifying truths clearly and concisely.  We need filmmakers who do not fear their work being called propaganda, but who passionately proclaim God's truth in all areas of their lives. 

3. Listen to those you interact with.  Truly listen.  They may have deep reasons for not believing what you believe.  You may miss an opportunity to minister, because you are talking.