Monday, December 23, 2013

On the Digital Drawing Board: Rudolph's LinkedIn profile and other Holiday sarcasm

If Rudolph had a LinkedIn profile, it might look like this...

Some other recent work:

An advertising piece for longtime client, CGNet, in Menlo Park California, 
to announce their new Open Mobile services...

A couple of cartoons for Merk Investments, in Los Angeles

A cartoon written and drawn for Chango, inc.

A cartoon for Cookerly Inc., an Atlanta based PR firm, to help their client (an alliance of breweries), fight some proposed legislation.
I was recently hired to create political cartoons for a newspaper in Southern California. The cartoon below was the first,  lampooning a sculpture that was created in Encinitas, (the story made the national news, due to its odd nature. --Links: NewsStory )


A marketing cartoon for longtime client, Klee Assoc.

A holiday version of a logo created for A washington DC pet care company...

Just for fun, a cartoon created for my comic feature...and also used for the family Christmas card.

Lastly, a cartoon that was inspired by a conference call with a client, (who will remain nameless.)

And with that, may you and yours have a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

On the Digital Drawing board

It has a been an eventful Autumn...not all of it good.

Sadly, my father-in-law passed away in late September. He was an architect, a gentleman and an exceedingly nice guy. He had a terrific sense of humor and he was a good friend. (Not something I fully expected in a father-in-law.) He will be missed by yours truly and all who knew him. 

Naturally, work did not stop, though I tried to reduce my schedule to allow for being out of town for an extended trip East. We paid our respects and spent time with extended family...which all helps to process these things, but of course, not enough. I don't know how to make a seamless segue from somber subject matter to cartoons and I won't try.

With that said, here are a few of the more interesting things that graced my drawing board recently:


One of several cartoons created for an East coast Financial Advisor, for use in his column. This one, (for those who don't watch CNBC, skewers MAD MONEY show host, Jim Cramer. I'm thinking I didn't make his eyes crazy-looking enough.)


The monthly cartoon for Akamai Technologies, Inc. in Cambridge, MA, (a company you have probably never heard of but you have seen their work...they are responsible for serving 20 percent of all web traffic, powering sites like Apple ITunes, Amazon and 


A cartoon for longtime client, cloud computing firm CGNet, in Menlo Park advertise their new Lync service...and tie-in with an upcoming technology conference.


A marketing cartoon for longtime client Encore Media, in Los Angeles... The scene was an idea from the company CEO, wanting to do a cartoon about retargeting. (The method of placing cookies on any visitor to a retail website...allowing them to later see ads for the item they viewed -- on other websites.) This was a large illustration -- (click to enlarge)


This cartoon was a personal commission for a woman in London who wanted to create a New Yorker-style cartoon for a coworker. She provided me with photos for creating his likeness...the first was so close-up that I felt it distorted his head, so I asked for and received a second. Seems like a nice guy...certainly dresses nicely. (Don't ask me about the caption or the meaning of the scene. A falcon drinking coffee with me in the morning would scare me enough to not need coffee.) 


The last cartoons about outgoing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. (I'm getting all misty-eyed.) This one showing him giving instructions on inflating the money supply.


A Halloween and Harry Potter-themed cartoon for Merk Investments, detailing the changing of the guard at the Federal Reserve, with Yellen replacing Bernanke. (Link to published cartoon)


A cartoon for a new client, Connect360, in New York, NY. This one involved writing and art...and ended up being a lot of fun. (Just wrapping this up and communicating with their printer for some greeting cards which will be sent to clients.)


Lastly, a character design project and illustration for longtime client, Klee Associates, publishers of JDEtips, (training for JD Edwards users.) The monster character will be used in advertising and marketing...while the printing press illustration is intended for a contest for readers, (offering payment for content story ideas.) Link to their contest...

Well, badeep badeep, that's all folks. 

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

A New Digital Drawing Board: a review of the Wacom Cintiq 24HD

Recently I had an opportunity to participate in a discussion with a group of fellow cartoonists regarding our favorite drawing tools. 

This has been a favorite topic among cartoonists for decades...long before anyone who is drawing cartoons today was even born. While things have changed greatly in recent years, the reasons for using specific drawing tools are just as personal as they have always been.

Charles Schulz swore by a Speedball C-5 pen with India ink on Strathmore bristol board..others, like Walt Kelly loved using a brush. Many of those pen and bristol boards have disappeared, with some replaced by newer versions. Now that I think about it, the list of options most cartoonists use has actually narrowed in recent years as much as the technology has advanced.

I was surprised to find that many print cartoonists still use traditional pens and ink with paper. I was taken aback because almost every professional illustrator, commercial cartoonist and animator I know or talk with draws digitally today, mainly to save time.

The fact that many comic strip cartoonists are still drawing on paper is interesting...but I completely understand the thinking. For one, if it works well, why change it?

When I first worked as a newspaper political cartoonist, I used a brush with india ink, favoring its expressive line. Later, as I drew comic strips for newspapers, I added archival ink pens to my arsenal, as well as Staedtler Pigment Liners. The strength of the pigment in those pens was terrific for print reproduction.

In the past ten years, as I have transitioned from newspapers to full-time book illustration and advertising/corporate cartooning, I have gradually gone digital. Doing so has streamlined my process considerably; in fact I have not picked up an ink pen or brush for use in a client project in over five years. 

I invested in various models of the Wacom Intuos digital tablets beginning around eight years ago...and they are fantastic. I first scanned pencil sketches and "inked and/or colored" them in Photoshop with the Intuos 2. (Then the 3, and the Intous 5 Touch.) 

More recently I have also owned two Wacom Cintiqs, (investing in the aforementioned new HD model a few months ago). Simply put, it allows me to create a much higher volume of artwork than would be possible with ink and paper alone.

If you're worried about the learning curve -- and yes, there is is worth it. But it is much less than with the Intuos, which involves drawing on the tablet while looking at a separate monitor.  Also, I wondered about losing the tactile feeling of working on paper with ink, or even keeping originals. But the feeling of the Wacom pen has its own merits. Additionally, as my wife can attest, having thousands of cartoons and illustrations on a hard drive is much easier to store and manipulate than the previous piles of originals that I still have stored in flat files in my studio.

If you're curious, I'd suggest trying a recent model Wacom Bamboo or Intuos to start, especially if cost is a barrier. With the programmable shortcut buttons allowing quick changes between brushes and pens or revising of mistakes, you'll be amazed at how quickly you can create and revise professional-quality artwork that is indistinguishable from images created on ink and paper...and you can complete it in half the time.

With all that said, I still like to use pens and brushes for my own enjoyment on personal projects. But when numerous deadlines loom, drawing digitally helps me to get it all done on time.

(Caution: from here on this might be of little interest to anyone who is not a cartoonist, illustrator or professional if your eyelids are getting heavy, I'd suggest clicking on something less dry and peculiarly art-tech related.)

I have wanted to review the recently-released Wacom Cintiq 24HD for a while, but have been so swamped that it fell by the wayside. (It's not so "new" now that several months have passed since I purchased it, but it is still worth sharing a few thoughts and reactions.) After wrapping up a couple of lengthy book illustrations projects, I finally decided that I'd take a few moments to discuss it, because it truly is a great tool for artists, cartoonists, illustrators, and animators. 

So, onto the new Cintiq 24 HD and its features: Simply put, the Wacom Cintiq HD models are brilliantly designed and engineered. But they are also not cheap. Thus, it is often with some reservation that anyone considers biting the bullet to try one...especially given the fact that Wacom does not have any showrooms for test-driving one. Unless someone you know has one and will let you try it, you either just buy it and trust the idea that it might help you, or you sit and wonder. 

The Cintiq is so big that you can fit nearly any project imaginable on its screen. It also has so many Express Keys along with the Radial Menu, that you can have presets for any function or tool. Despite the size of the screen, I still like my second monitor, (a 27" iMac), so I have the Cintiq positioned on an Ergotron arm to the side of of the Mac. I can keep all of my other windows, browser, music player open on that display.  By pressing one of the Express keys to ‘Toggle Display’, I can temporarily jump to the other monitor, and the Cintiq becomes just like a traditional Wacom tablet.

I have added one other not-so-common third device to the mix: a Wacom Intous 5 touch. It allows me to enlarge, rotate and manipulate everything with my left hand my left hand as I draw with my right on the Cintiq. I simply love the seamless flow that results. Wacom also put a USB port right on the display itself. It seem like a minor thing, but I frequently take images with me or grab them from a USB key...I can also pug in my iPad or iPod. This is just convenient.

Wacom put a Tablet Properties button on the device itself.  This is helpful because it gives you quick options to open the properties, make changes, then get back to work.  It’s easy to program an Express Key to select tools, change image or canvas sizes or even to save a file.

I really like the fact that there Express Keys on both sides of the screen, plus two touch rings; so in total you get plenty of options for customizing your Cintiq so it works perfectly for the way you work. The Cintiq is a true joy to work on.  It is so well designed that I can’t think of anything I'd want to add to improve upon it. 

As someone who sits all day long while I work, I have considered getting one of those expensive adjustable desks that allows a person to work standing up once in awhile. I no longer have to think about adding that to my studio, because the Cintiq lets me stand when I need a break from the chair. I used to stand and draw at my first paying art gig in college, (as a cartoonist for the student newspaper at the University of Illinois)...and this allows me to take a step back to those early days.) I've done so many times in the past few weeks and I'll tell you, me and my lumbar region love having the option.

The real strength of the Cintiq is drawing directly on-screen in HD resolution with 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity...and for my particular professional niche, it benefits me in doing detailed color work, for say book covers, magazine illustrations, or even things like the caricature/painting commission in the photo above. It allows a level of precision that is equal to painting or drawing on actual canvas/paper/watercolor board, etc.

But it also flies at Mach one with simple black and white cartoons. The Cintiq more than paid for itself last month when I used it to create over 40 cartoon illustrations for a book in less than two weeks. (That includes sketches, revisions and finished artwork.) I'd estimate that using an Intuos would have taken 50% longer, (or perish the thought, pen & ink on bristol, three times as long)...hence, I could not have made the rushed deadline -- in which case the publisher would not have hired me.

Well, I'd better get back to it...time to turn on my music and have some fun!

Monday, September 02, 2013

Drawing Board wrap-up - Recent Work: August

This is one of those periods where I don't have a lot to show on the blog.

I'm currently illustrating four books, (one children's book, one adult humor book, and two business books)...all of them have requested that everything be kept under wraps until they are published, (certainly a common thing with copyrighted material that one is trying to sell for a profit.)

So, with that in mind, I'll share a few other things that have graced the drawing board in the past few weeks, since the last update.

A couple of political style cartoons on the Fed and Ben Bernanke...for regular client, Merk Investments, to go along with firm president Axel Merk's column. Merk insights


A cartoon for Akamai, a large but rather unknown company that powers the internet hubs of companies like Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, ITunes and Zappos.

(Update 9/11/13: Coincidentally, one of the co-founders of Akamai, Danny Lewin, was profiled on today....he was likely the first victim of Sept. 11 and the first hero, as he tried to stop the hijackers on flight 11.)   Story link


A cartoon for a start-up organization based in Chicago, desgined to help women of all ages and backgrounds succeed in business. This was a referral from an ad agency who I worked with back when I lived in Illinois. --A B&W sketch...

Another piece for, in their efforts to fight the NRA. (Sorry gun owners. I am one, too, but hey, MoveON pays very well.) (I used the fee for this to buy a new shotgun and ammo.)


I live in Boulder, Colorado, which is also the home of the main campus of the University of Colorado. As it turns out, there have been five Nobel Prize winners over the past few decades, four in physics and one in chemistry. The state of Colorado and Governor Hickenlooper decided that it would like to honor them with a sculpture and wondered about how to go about requesting design proposals from sculptors. I was recently contacted by the sculpture committee to create a drawing for an ad, requesting submissions for the sculpture. (There are many highly talented sculptors in the area, and a few have already come forward epressing interest in submitting a design.)

Here is an approved but very rough sketch that I created for their rough mock-up...the more polished art for the final ad will be created soon.

Bedeep, bedeep, bedeep, that's all folks. Back to work on those aforementioned books.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Digital Drawing Board wrap-up

With a deadline-filled month of July over, and now quickly crossing the halfway point of August, this is late.
 A few recent projects:

A large project for the summer was rather unique in scope; illustrating a humor book on the Old Testament. An author in New York wrote a book on the funny idiosyncrasies of the Bible -- from a Jewish perspective. To be honest, when I was approached, the project scared me a little, in that it was entirely new territory -- both for me and for the most part for any cartoons that I had previously seen. But those are the projects that also intrigue me. I created over 40 cartoons for the book...a few samples:

A cartoon about Anthony Weiner, Bob Filner and a lesser known California Representative...created for a newspaper in California. Related to this story about serial harraser & Mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner :

The annual cover of a brochure for Career Directors International...(I always look forward to these.)

One of a dozen or so cartoons created for an online dating book this month -- and ongoing project nearing completion.

A cartoon for a long time client; a lighting company in St. Louis:

A bi-monthly cartoon created for Integral Leadership Review magazine:

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

On the Digital Drawing Board: Cisco Systems

It's been a crazy month with regard to business and family. Several fun and challenging projects were on the board...and with school out, my free time was ever more valuable. 

Here are a few highlights from over the past several weeks:

Another cartoon in a series of pieces commissioned by Cisco Systems in California. 

(I wrote the concept and drew the cartoon.)

A shirt design created for an elementary school in Florida. The shirts will be sold to raise money...The sketch below will become art for a shirt for the kids to wear in the actual race.

A simple cowboy riding a wild boar, (you see that at most rodeos, right?) Apparently Bluewater Thermal Solutions based in South Carolina has a water process they call "the boar"...and hence this piece was created for their advertising.

A cartoon depicting Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's recent comments about tapering bond buying. (For regular client, Merk Investments in California.)

A very large illustration commissioned by the CEO of Medicard, a medical company in Canada. (A long-time client who has hired me to create illustrations for corporate use, and for whom I've illustrated two books.) This illustration was 18" X 24" and was printed out on canvas and framed for an award presentation. (Click to enlarge).

A political piece drawn for a group of medical professionals in California that is fighting legislation before the State Senate. This piece was part of a half-page ad in the Sacramento Bee,  last week, just prior to a vote in the state capital. I just received a call tonight from them saying that they defeated the legislation. 

Lastly,  a cover illustration for a humorous book on love and romance. I created the artwork over a year ago -- but just received word that the book is now being published. 

The month of July has two large book illustration jobs, as well as several corporate projects. We'll try to fit some vacation in somewhere. Meanwhile, I hope your summer is going swimmingly -- and that you have a happy, safe 4th!