Monday, December 31, 2012

Have A Doctor Who Year!

With the year drawing to a close, a lot of people are thinking about time. Thinking about time inevitably leads me to thinking about the Doctor. Doctor Who, you ask? Exactly! Ha-ha-ha!  One of the great things about being a freelance artist and crafter, is that sometimes people ask you to make really cool things. Towards the end of this year, I had the opportunity to make several cool Doctor Who Items, and now that Christmas is over I can finally share them with you!

My friend Carter was looking for something to give to his wife for Christmas other than the usual Jewelry, so he asked for the Tenth Doctor (Played by David Tennant) in an illustration acting as Hamlet giving the speech to the skull of Yorick.  I was familiar with the fact that Tennant had performed Hamlet before, but hadn't actually seen it before. So I looked it up on YouTube. I'm not sure whether the whole thing is available there or not, but I was able to watch several scenes, and it was a very good update on the classic play. This illustration was a lot of fun to do, and I look forward to doing some more like it in the new year.

I think, looking at my work, that it must be obvious that I'm a child of the eighties. The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) will always be my doctor, when I think about the series. He's the one that I watched with my brother on Sunday afternoons, hanging over the side of my mom's bed. Over the summer, I'd made a few Doctor Who Peg People as I was trying out some new things for new products. In the fall, one of my friends bought the four that I'd made (Ten, a Cyberman, the Empty Child, and Rose Tyler) and asked me to make 9 more and three play houses to go with them. Her only stipulation was that they all had to be Doctor Who characters and buildings. WOW! It was a lot of fun picking the characters that I wanted to make into peg people, and an interesting challenge translating them and the buildings to this simplified play format. It also allowed me to come up with certain "rules" for the construction of the houses and the details of them, which I may not have ever done with just working from my head.
Amy's House
Martha Jones, Amy Pond, Eleven, and Rory Williams
The Tardis
 The Silence, Vashta Nerada, and a Weeping Angel

We hope you all had a wonderful 2012, and that the worst day of the New Year is better than the best day of the last one. Until next time, take care and be good.
Your friend,

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The 30 Day Post-It Challenge

So, what to people who draw (or do any creative thing) for a living do in their free time? They create more stuff. Just like athletes have to constantly train to play harder and better, artists constantly create to sharpen their minds, try out new ideas, or just get rid of bad ones. During the month of November, I participated in the 30 day Post-It Sketch challenge. It was a lot of fun, I think I grew some over the month, and it was great getting daily feedback from friends and family on instagram and facebook. As you can see, I didn't quite make it to 30, that's because I got a little behind and a new daily project needed my attention for the month of December. More on that in a minute though, for now, here's my 25 Post-It sketches.
 December is busy with the holidays, commissions, and more work...and the girls. To re-start the Daily Life series as Life With Girls, I'm doing some journal-style comics in a small, 30(ish) page sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project. The girls are really excited about Christmas, making things and seeing people, and we'd like to record some of that and share it with our friends.
Until next time, take care and be good.
Your friend,

Friday, November 16, 2012

Working on Commissions...

I'm getting caught up on my commission backlog, which is great, and still making progress (albeit ridiculously slow progress) on my personal project...which is also great. A couple of people asked on the Facebook Page this week when the Fairy Tale book will be done. The best answer I have right now is soon...hopefully before Christmas. I hate sounding wishy-washy like that, but I SWEAR I'm working on it. :) At any rate, I don't really have time for a big post, but it's been three(ish) weeks since I checked in so I thought I'd better.

Plus I promised my instagram followers some zombies.
 Four zombies going after a meal in Saint Louis. This is a marker sketch commission from Archon this year. I had a lot of fun working on it. Zombies aren't usually my thing really, so these ones look kind of like Muppet zombies to me.
 Lando Calrissian. Another commission from Archon for a local home-brewer that likes to use Star Wars themed labels.
The finished Jack and the Beanstalk illustration.

Okay, that's it for now! This weekend, I will be at the Lindbergh Craft Fair at Lindbergh High School here in Saint Louis. It's a big show, and a lot of my friends will be there too. If you attend, be sure to stop by and say hi!

Until next time, take care and be good.
Your friend,

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Say It Every Year...

Every year, I say I'm going to start my big personal projects earlier...I'm going to finish them earlier...Every. Year. Then, I spend most of September through November apologizing for having too much other work to get it done, and I feel like I look like a flake here on the blog. Enough of the apologizing for now, though. I want to show you all some of what I've been working on, and I also have a couple of progress shots (in varying stages of doneness) from the calendar to show you.
We do a lot of shows, and I spend part of the time there working on small commissions like these drawings and coloring in marker. They're quick(ish), fun, and something that I can do on the go. Most of these were done a couple of weeks ago at the Archon St Louis Sci-fi/Fantasy and gaming convention in Collinsville, IL.
One of my recent larger commissions was for a gift from a bride to her groom. Apparently, he'd proposed to her in a haunted house, so it was only fitting that they be chased by zombies on their wedding day. Ha-ha-ha!
The inked crow from the Fox and the Crow story.
And the fox, in ink and color. 
And the color "flats" for the calendar illustration. I thought this story would work really well as a shadow puppet style illustration.
And finally, the inked characters for the "Emperors New Clothes" illustration. Ha-ha-ha!

Well, it's been great stopping for a minute to chat, but I have a ton of work on my desk, and it's not going to do itself. Until next time, take care and be good!
Your friend,

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Strange Folk Wrap Up

It was a super busy weekend...a super awesome weekend. We got to see tons of old friends, and make some new ones. One of the things I love most about doing shows is getting feedback on our work in the moment. This weekend was definitely good for us, reaffirming that just maybe we're on the right path. Awesome as it was...I forgot to take a single picture. I feel more than a little sheepish about this, because I really, REALLY wanted to share some of our experience with you all. Luckily, we have good friends, and they DID take some pics!
Our friend Beqi of Beqi Clothing got this one of Mrs Handmade and I setting up our tent on Saturday morning. We decided to add a third table, and change the way the gridwall was arranged, and I think this is our best set up to date.
And the finished set up. :)
Karen from Binx Ceramic stopped by and got this photo of me and the new playhouses I made for the weekend.  Karen's always so funny and fun, it was great seeing her.
And finally, some of the loot that I left the show with. Clockwise from the top: "Out of the Woods" Limited edition printed shadow box by Sadly Harmless. Ragdoll and plush fox by Riley Construction. Soap by Buddah Body and Bath. Carlton the Cutesy Vampire necklace by Morbid Unicorn. And Sammy the Soda painting by my friend Alecia's daughter. 

It was a fantastic weekend, and I'm still recovering. There's lots of work still on my desk though, so no time to take a day off!
In other awesome news, "The Brave Little Tailor" as retold by Brandon S Graham with illustrations and layout by me is in a show on the fifth floor of the Columbia College Library, in Chicago. The opening reception will take place on Oct 5th, from 5-8 pm.
624 South Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60607
I hope some of you can make it!
  I've made the layouts available on the Downloads page of my website as well, so you all can check out a little of the book progress. I'll have more big news on that front next week.
Until then, take care and be good!
Your friend,

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Little Houses on the Hillside...Crafting Strangefolk

Last year when were deciding what we wanted to be when we grew up, Mrs Handmade and I went to a lot of craft shows and festivals, testing the waters of the indie-craft scene. In late September, we went to the Strangefolk Festival in O'fallon Il. We were hooked. I wrote about the show afterwards, and remember how excited I was about it. Shows were definately something we wanted to do, and Strangefolk was at the top of our list. With the festival coming up this weekend, I've apparently decided to test the limits of "mind over matter" as I stay up doing client work, working on the Handmade Tales book, and getting new product ready for the show...Building a little neighborhood of little houses and people, in fact.

These little handmade playhouses started out life as a doodle on my desk blotter and have grown into these. There are two types, above are the Deluxe version where the face is painted, and the interior has a chalk board paint coating so that kids can customize their inner playhouse.
There's also the anywhere version with both faces painted with chalkboard paint to allow for maximum versatility in scenario location. I'm really excited to show these this weekend, and will be adding them to our online shop as well after the festival. 
In other news Brandon Graham, who I collaborated with on the Brave Little Tailor story in the Handmade Tales book has printed out the spreads of his story and my artwork to be included in a show in Chicago. How awesome is that? Next week, in conjunction with that I will post that layout here, as well as a downloadable pdf with the preorders for the book in our online shop...but more on that later. :)

Until next week then, take care and be good!
Your friend, 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Brave Little Tailor: Illustration Process

When I started this years big personal project, I knew it was going to be a lot of work...and boy was I right. As I'm nearing completion though, I'm really pleased with how it's all coming out. It's been really rewarding on so many levels. The friend's I've made, collaborating with writers, not to mention I have a large new body of work rolling out for the winter shows. One of the things I really like about doing these special yearly projects though, is seeing how the work changes from year to year, thinking about how the family has grown, and all the new things we do and are capable of doing. I'm really lucky to be able to do the things we do, and am so happy to share it with you all.

Today, I have a large set of images to share for the first complete calendar image. Showcasing the climactic scene of "The Brave Little Tailor", the idea is that the kids and us are acting out each of the stories in a theater setting. As I've been designing these, I feel like our love of the muppets and puppetry are really showing, and I'm reminded of one of the reasons I began drawing in the first place. In high school, I wanted to be a puppeteer and work in the Henson Creature shop. At any rate, This is my basic process for creating an image. I hope you enjoy it!

I started off with the thumbnails at the right of the page (the full size version is at the top of the post), and then rough in the major forms. I'm working at about 9x12 on bristol board.
Next, I pencil in the details of the characters, and firm up some of my ideas for the background.
Then, I ink the main characters and scan them into the computer. Without the background.
I put the background together in illustrator, right on top of the original pencil drawing. I also paint in a base color for the characters to help isolate them and unify their color schemes.
Here I put the final calendar layout over everything to make sure it all fits. I add a texture to the page, as well as paper textures to the background elements. I lay down color on all the foreground elements quickly to give everything a base to start from.
 The Characters are painted.
 Here I added some details to the background like the stage floor, shadows cast by the set, and the theater spotlight.
 And last I went in and added some detail to the set pieces, finished up the floor and added some sheep to fill in some dead spaces.

Thanks for stopping in. I hope this all made some kind of sense. I enjoy posting about process, so I hope you all enjoy reading about it. Ha-ha-ha!  If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. 
Until next time, take care and be good!
Your friend,

Friday, September 7, 2012

Superheroes Need Groceries, Too

One of the great things about making things that we love and selling them is that sometimes we get to see them out "in the wild". Mrs. Handmade has been making superhero cape and mask sets for awhile now, and we always love to see the way kid's eyes light up when they see them. They are durable and washable and make a great asset to any kids dress-up box.

A friend of ours posted a picture of her kids wearing our capes and masks to the grocery store today. "Superheroes need groceries, too." She says. :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Handmade Fairy Tails: A Version of Thumbelina

I like to write. I like to draw. I like to paint...unfortunately, I don't always have time to do all of these things. Ha-ha-ha! When I was initially concepting the Handmade Fairy Tales project, I knew I wanted to have an updated version of each of the stories to go along with the illustrations. I knew it was going to be an ambitious project, but we like books and wanted something that families could share. We also wanted something a little darker than the mainstream because we don't like the idea of insulting our children's intelligence. So far, I like to think that they pay us back for that.

     It's hard for me to give up control of projects. I don't feel like I'm a good delegator, and I'm used to working alone. I am however blessed with several very talented friends, and after thinking hard about how much work I needed to get done I asked around to see if anyone was interested in doing a little writing for me. I am SO GLAD I did! Not only are the stories all done, but they're all done on time and are really great. It's been a real treat seeing them come together from the ground up, and as I'm nearing finishing the artwork I'm really looking forward to sharing them with you!

     Rob Lammle, from wrote a two fantastic versions of Thumbelina for us. The first was a modernized take on the classic tale, it's funny and clever, and I think captures the characters well. Unfortunately, it didn't really fit with the rest of the content in the book so he decided to go a different way with it. I didn't want it to go totally unused though, so I asked if it would be okay to showcase it here along with the illustrations for the actual story...I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.


by Rob Lammle

Thumbelina sipped her thimbleful of Caramel Macchiato with seven drops of vanilla, light foam, extra caramel, and non-fat milk while she leaned on the side of her iPhone, waiting for it to connect to the coffee shop’s notoriously weak, but free, wifi.  It had been a long day at the office – tax season, ya know? – and she’d earned this small caffeinated, sugary respite. 
She glanced at her Gmail app icon with disdain.  It had been staring at her all afternoon; glaring with its silent, but accusatory “5” just above the red-lined envelope.
Thumbelina sighed.  Might as well get it over with.  She tapped on the icon and the program opened.

Inbox (5)
Hi, LittleWoman34! My name is Nancy Toad. I saw your profile on and I just had to write and tell you about my son, Todd.

Todd is 36 years old. He's the Assistant Manager at the mini-mart on Marsh St. He’s worked there since he was 16, so loyalty is obviously very important to him. He’s intelligent, very polite, takes care of his laundry most of the time, and never makes me cook for him (although sometimes I make him a home-cooked meal so that he'll eat something other than those microwave Hot Pocket things). He’s very independent, but insists on staying at home to take care of me ever since his father became the lunch special at that horrible Freddy's Frog Legs Restaurant back when Todd was just a tadpole. Isn’t that sweet?
So, LittleWoman34 (if that is your real name haha!), Todd would love to meet you. He normally works Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am – 4pm, so any other time would be fine.

Nancy Purloin Toad

Inbox (4)

So I’ve been talking to my sister and her friends, and they say you’re not pretty enough for me. I mean, you only have two legs. You have beady little non-segmented eyes. You have a strange mouth. No feelers on your head. Heck, you don’t even have wings.

I mean, I'm sorry, but I'm just being honest - it's not me, it's you. I think I’m just too much insect for you. I’m looking for a real May Bug, not some weird little human. So, anyway, yeah, I’ll see you around.

Mitch Cockchafer

Inbox (3)
Hi, Thumbelina!

It’s your old (very old. haha) friend, Mouse.

Guess who stopped by my burrow today? That’s right – that dark and handsome man in the velvet coat, Mole.

He said he came just to say hello, but all he could talk about was you, my dear. He just went on and on about how pretty you were, how much he loved your singing voice, how you were such a good cook, etc. He asked if you’d ever dated an older man. He didn’t come right out and say it, but, c'mon, he has to be interested.

Oh, Thumbelina, if you and Mole got together… He’s so smart and sophisticated. He has more food than you two would ever need. And his burrow – his burrow is HUGE! It’s at least twenty times bigger than my little place (and you and I were pretty comfortable that winter you stayed with me. Imagine having Mole’s house to roam around in!)

Anyway, think about it and let me know what I should tell him the next time he comes around.

Love ya,
Tanya Field Mouse

Inbox (2)
Hi there, LittleWoman34!

Look, there's no easy way to say this, so...

I think you're really great, but I think we should just be friends. It's just that, I'm only here for the winter, so I don't want either one of us to get too attached. I really do wish there was some way we could make this work, but with me migrating all the's just not the kind of life that a woman like you should have. Besides, you've seen my place – it's far too messy for someone as great as you.

But, seriously, if you want to get dinner sometime or coffee, I'd love to see you again. Maybe this could be the beginning of a great friendship. I hope so, anyway.

Talk to you later.
Jack Swallow

Inbox (1)
Hi, LittleWoman34!

My name is Prince. I'm 25. I live in the forest, where I'm King of the Flower Spirits (it's a living). I saw your profile and, well, you are stunning! Not to sound too creepy, but if you were here right now, I'd probably just ask you to marry me straight out. I know, crazy, right?

I know we'd have to get to know each other better first, but if you'd be interested, you'd have your own pair of wings so you can flit around the meadow where we'd live. Of course, with the title of Queen of the Flower Spirits comes a name change (hope you don't mind). It's totally up to you, but I see you as a May Blossom; I think that has a nice ring.

Did I mention the golden crown? Because there's a golden crown, too.

Anyway, if you're interested, check out my profile and hit me up.

Hope to hear from you soon.
 Thumbelina tapped on the link to Prince's profile.  It took a while for the webpage to come up (shoddy, free wifi...), but when it finally did, Thumbelina gasped.  The tiny man in the photos was, for lack of a better word, beautiful.

The photos were pretty typical for a dating profile: the obligatory pet picture (he has an adorable little aphid!), the common groomsmen photo of him in a tiny tuxedo, Prince in his rock climbing gear as he tackled the dizzying heights of a garden gnome, etc.   In each photo, he flashed a kind, warm smile.  His silver hair shimmered in the sun.  His transparent, dragonfly wings mesmerized Thumbelina; she'd never seen anything like them. 

But the one photo that got her, the one that reeled her in, was taken at dawn as the sun rose over the meadow.  The light refracted by the morning dew gave the whole thing an otherworldly glow.  Prince sat cross-legged on the center of a daisy, looking into the glorious morning below.  The sun hit his face just right and he looked totally at peace.  He was in his element.  That is where he belonged.  And suddenly, Thumbelina wanted to belong there, too.

She tapped on the “Contact” button at the top of his profile.  Her Gmail popped up.
                Hi, Prince.

                My name is Thumbelina (AKA LittleWoman34). 

                Wanna get coffee sometime?

 Until next time, take care and be good!
Your friend,

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A quick post about my process

Each month, either Mrs. Handmade or I work four shifts at Fusion, an art co-op we are members of here in St. Louis. One of the great things about working there is that after the dusting is done, and if there are no customers to help, all the time is ours. We're actually encouraged to bring our craft/artwork to do, because seeing us working helps draw people into our story. I spent this last Saturday working at the shop all day, and inking storybook drawings. It was great talking to people about what I was working on, telling them about the project and answering questions. One couple asked me about my process, which I love talking about because drawings seem like magic sometimes instead of a series of steps. I thought I'd take a minute and share some process drawings from Little Red Riding Hood with you today.
I started out by doodling in my sketch book, looking for who I thought the character of little red is, and what I wanted her to look like. This includes her reacting to things and doing things. This is a pretty well refined sketch of what I decided I was looking for.
 Next, I do very rough layout sketches for the drawings I'd like to include...Mostly these are just notes to myself, and I'm just looking at shapes and deciding where I want things to go.  I know I did one for the drawing I'm about to show, but it must've been on the back of an envelope or something, because I have no idea where it is now. Ha-ha-ha!
 Armed with the rough layout, I sit down with (in this case) cold press watercolor paper and a non-photo blue pencil. I use the blue pencil on these because it doesn't compete with the graphite when I do the final drawing, and it adds another layer of texture to the finished image when colored. Basically, I just like it. :) So, here I loosely and pretty quickly put down all the major shapes that I plan on being there when everything's finished.
 Next, I use a 2H graphite pencil to work out all the details, and to start figuring out the textures I'll need when I ink it. This is also where I start posting the images for the writers to see, so that we're all on the same page, and to give us all a chance to ask questions and comment.
Inking is probably my favorite part of the whole process. It's soothing, and probably the only part of the process where I don't always feel like I'm fighting it. I think this allows me to take more chances with it too.
Also, it's where everything sort of solidifies for me, as it approaches being finished. The trees were inspired in part by Charles Vess and his awesome artwork in the Dream Makers anthology. I got that book for Christmas when I was 13 or 14, and just pored over it. If you ever find it, definitely check it out.

I'm finishing up these spot interiors now, and starting the 12 main calendar images over the next week. At the same time, I'll start coloring the interiors...hopefully I don't mess them up, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, am I right? I'll leave you with one final image, the inked Tailor and Giant from last week. Brandon Graham did a really great little write up for the project over on his blog today. Go check it out!
Until next time, take care and be good!
Your friend,

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Some background and progress on Handmade Fairytales

Whenever I'm asked what Handmade Family makes I say stories...Actually, that's a lie. I just now thought of it, but it sounded so good, that I honestly want it to be true. Maybe I will start saying that for real. The real truth, is that we make back-to-basics gifts, toys, accessories and decor that promote education, problem solving and imagination. We're more than the products we make though, and we know that our customers are more than what they buy...we make things to be a part our families' lives. Stories are an important part of that, and we love telling them. When Abby was born, I knew that I wanted to collect these little experiences and illustrate them, so I started a little web comic called Daily Life. One panel cartoons with some accompanying text. I did several of them over the course of a year or two, and then decided to make a calendar collecting twelve stories about my first year as a stay-at-home dad my two little girls.

Looking for an idea for the second calendar was tough. I wanted to still tell stories about my family, but was looking for a way to stretch my abilities a little and offer something that people who didn't know me, and who didn't have that back story could relate to. Part of what inspired me as a kid, and made me want to follow a career in art was a love of movies and games. I remember being a member of the Rebel Alliance, or a Ghostbuster on the playground. Movies have become a part of our cultural dialog and there's such a rich source of material to play with there. One of the really fun aspects of that project was researching accurate costumes for the kids, while thinking of ways to make costumes for the adults that made sense but were obviously hand made.

I've enjoyed working on these projects so much, and have learned so much by doing them. This year though, I wasn't sure whether I was going to do one. I talked to Mrs Handmade about it and while we both agreed that the fan inspired work for 2012 was really cool and we love showing it, maybe we could do something more...So we decided to do a book. At first, I wanted to do just a "sketchbook" collection of drawings and illustrations. Sort of a best of the last couple years with some new work to tie it together. She thought (rightly) that it would be better to do a book of all new work, and to continue telling stories. So we decided to work on an illustrated book of Fairy Tales. As we talked out the idea, it grew. And grew...Into the most ambitious project we've done so far. The book will contain 12 fairy tales, written graciously (and incredibly) by our friends, with illustrations, layout and design by me. Along with this is the 2013 Handmade Family with us and the kids acting out the stories as illustrated theatre...
Brandon Graham, with The Brave Little Tailor
Justin Hunter, with Goldielocks, The Fox & The Crow, and The Frog Prince
Josh Burnett with Hansel and Gretel
Leighton Connor with The Princess and The Pea, and The Seven Ravens
Richard Smith with Jack and the Beanstalk, and an original story about my forest sprites
Rob Lammle with Thumbelina
Steve Johnson
with The Emperors New Clothes, and Little Red Riding Hood

So would you like to see a little bit of what we've been working on? Here's a couple of the pencil drawings from the Brave Little Tailor, by Brandon Graham

“Seven,” he said. He would have to swat them all at once. If he missed even one, he would be stung for certain. Stings were not his favorite. He found his straw broom and tested its heft. He aimed carefully. Then he let fly. SMACK. Seven wasps curled harmlessly along the ground.
“Did you see that?” he called to his sheep. The sheep were hard to impress.

He was, however, truly miffed that no one had bothered to warn him the giant was there. Meridee might have said something. Poor manners were inexcusable. He turned on his heels to go back and give her a good talking to.
We're all really excited about this project and are looking forward to sharing the ideas and progress  with you over the next few weeks as we lead up to their release at the Strange Folk Festival in O'fallon IL, at the end of September. Until then, take care and be good.

Your friend,