Dog Barf Notebook

Wow!  Hello again world, it's been a WHILE since I've posted anything on this page. But I'm here, I'm back, and I've been busy, so I wanted to update you on what I've been working on since summer started to turn to fall.

Most recently, my good ol' Lizard City project has been taking up a fair amount of my time. I've been thinking about not only the art style, but also the general mechanics and layout of the game.  I'm really excited with how it's coming along.

Here you can find a collection of the notes I've been writing for the game.  Not everything is still relevant to how I intend to build the game, but it gives you an idea of how my mind works through the design!  I've been working in this little notebook for the past two weeks or so, filling it up with ideas any time I have a chance.  And yesterday, I left this sacred notebook on my couch and went out to eat. I thought it would be a NICE READ for my dog while she was home by herself.  Instead, the dog decided that this notebook is the ideal place to BARF.

And so, here you go.  A little look at my game design thoughts, spiced with a dash of dog stomach-contents for good measure.

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Color and Style Guides

Color and Style Guides

Here's a quick shot of some notes I've been developing for the new game I'm working on!  Because this game will be using the talents of multiple artists, it's important to develop a consistent style guide to reference throughout development.  This is one example of a breakdown that I use to demonstrate styles and rules that help keep all work looking like it belongs to the same game.

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New Game!

June has been a super busy month for me! First of all, June is the beginning of family vacation season, which means there are plenty of opportunities to house/pet sit for friends and family off to the beach or Disney World or wherever else in the world people go on vacation.  Currently in my charge is a slightly geriatric Boston Terrier named Tux.  He's cute, tends to wobble when he walks, and likes to fart at you if you stop playing tug of war with him.

But that's not all that has me running around this month.  In fact, I've taken on a few new projects for the summer as well! Not the least of which is an as-of-yet unnamed travel board game I'm helping to develop for a company out of New York City.  I can't share a lot of details about the mechanics of the game as 1) they haven't been 100% hammered down yet anyway and 2) I said I wouldn't share a lot of details about he mechanics of the game.

However, while specific play details might be thin, I am free to share whatever pictures I choose!  So far I've mostly been focusing on creating the visual language for the game; looking at colors and style rules to pull together a cohesive aesthetic that will function in any part of the world.  The vague 'aim of the game' is to get from one part of the world to another, exercising knowledge of key landmarks and historical references to navigate across a map.

The first thing I try to do when I set a style for a game is to standardized the types of brushes and textures I'll be using for the artwork.  This helps keep the artwork consistent throughout, even when the subject matter goes from 'Great Wall of China' to 'Giraffe wearing a sombrero in an airplane".  If the lines and textures are consistent, then it still looks like it was drawn by the same (digital) pen, in the same (digital) notebook. Above you can see a set of rules that help me stick to this same standard regardless of the content I'm creating.  The other, less tangible features of a style (the shape of the eyes, the look of leaves and foliage, etc) follow suit.

So far this project has been a lot of fun to get off the ground, and as it develops I'll make sure to plop updates about my progress as this game starts to really take shape!

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Lizzerds Lizzerds Lizzerds

Lizzerds Lizzerds Lizzerds

I just love drawing lizards.  Scary lizards, funny lizards, fat lizards, ugly lizards.  Lizard City is my canvas for exploring some of the more emotional concepts that don't always make it into my professional artwork. I love using the meandering reptilian shapes to loosen up my sketch style.  Though there isn't a concrete story behind the world of Lizard City, there is a myriad of moods and feelings rolling around in the dark caverns. Here is a collection of some of my scribbles.

Lizards on the topmost level of the City ("The Shallows") have the luxury of basking in direct sunlight through cracks and grates in the ceiling.

Since my brain works in game-design language, some of the concepts of Lizard City are mechanics-oriented.  Your goal is to get tot he bottom of Lizard City and turn on the lights.  Don't get distracted, don't lose your way, and don't forget why your down there. I use this concept as a spring-board for my drawings. Each layer of the City is one step closer to the Bottom, and the closer you get the easier it is to get lost. As a lizard, you are drawn to the light for warmth, and the further you get from the light, the slower you move.  Get too far from any single light source and you will stop entirely.

Lizard City is an intentionally confusing place.

Most of the lightbulbs are missing or stolen down in the depths.  In order for one lightbulb to light, every lightbulb in the circuit must be screwed in and working.

Every level of Lizard City occupies a different headspace. Some lizards want to help you get to the Bottom and bring light back to the city.  Some are skeptical; they've seen many before you fail.  Others still want to take the opportunity to mug you, steal your wagon, and keep the lightbulbs for themselves. And the further down you go, the more you run into lizards who have no recollection of surface light at all.  These lizards are starved of energy-giving light-- lethargic in nature and completely ambivalent to your journey.  Some of these lizards used to be just like you.

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Road Trip Sketches

Road Trip Sketches

Normally I don't draw on long road trips in the car because A) I'm usually the driver and B) Sketching in the car makes me carsick.  But every once in a while I have the chance to be the passenger with no responsibilities like map reading/radio controls. And sometimes if I'm really really bored, and the trip is really really long, I overcome/ignore the grumbling nausea that comes from sitting still looking at a sheet of paper while simultaneously barreling down a highway at whatever-miles-an-hour, and I draw. Here are a few pages of my sketchbook I managed to put together on one such trip.

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Goodbye Old Blog!

It's finally happening!

About 3 months ago, I stopped updating, my faithful blog site for the past five years. I haven't gone this long in a blog update since I first started writing it! But like all things in the tech-o-sphere (a blog is techy right? I had to explain it to my grandma, so it qualifies?), it becomes outdated.  Weebly has been a great platform for the weird, sometimes mindless journals that filled my site. But with an archive that spans 5 years and more than 200 posts, it's really overdue for a full-body makeover. Actually going back through some of the old post has been refreshing, and helps me think about what I want to write more of in the future.  I'll still keep the website live until I can find a way to transfer the billion posts and images over to the new snazzy WordPress location, but is gearing up for its swan song.

I've collected some of my favorite posts below.  You can click on any you find particularly captivating:

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Creating a Constellation

Creating a Constellation

With 36 unique star patterns included in the upcoming game Constellations, I've had to come up with a way to streamline my illustration process. Creating a glowing, monochromatic design is something I had never approached before in my drawings, and it's something I foolishly believed would be like any other drawing.  But without color to help break up the image, each figure is defined solely based on shading and linework.  This forced met o come up with some unique designs that rely heavily on the silhouette (a word I still have trouble spelling and always will) of the subject.

An instantly recognizable silhouette helps me get away with keeping the detail work limited to one color. Bearing in mind the final artwork will be printed on 3 1/2 inch cards meant to be viewed from a table's distance away, it's vital to communicate as much to the viewer as possible at a glance! After a bit of reworking to fit the design into a square orientation for the card, I'm able to finalize my linework and start adding the shading.

Places on the drawings where I would normally use color to break up the character, I had to rely on shading and value shifts to get the point across.  For instance, where Cetus's top and underbelly meet, I would normally use a color shift from a light greyish-yellow to a deep blue-black. For Constellations, I approached this color shift by always shading one side of the linework more than the other.  This gives the edges dimension and weight when they would otherwise feel empty.

Another challenge in developing the artwork for Constellations are the eyes.  Being that the constellations should appear to be glowing in the night sky, the color I'm adding is actually the light, not the shadow. This is a huge departure in the way I normally work.  Usually when you work with pencil on paper, you're shading in the darkest parts of the image, and leaving the brightest parts of the image the color of the paper.  This is the opposite.

This means that when drawing the eyes, my instinct was to go in and lay the most color down on the pupil( the darkest part of the eye) and leave the color of the background for the glint of light bouncing off the eye.  But when using inverted shades, this makes the eye appear to be blind!

If you want to see even more Constellations lighting up the night sky, you should head on over to the Xtronaut Facebook page here:

Check out the process video to see how I developed Cetus:

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Texture Demo

One fast-n-dirty trick I use to give my drawings added interest is overlaying hand-made textures in the design.  Once I have a drawing finished and the colors figured out, I spend a bit of time integrating textures from my personal texture bank in the image. The difference can be subtle, but I think it helps give my work a more traditional feel, which can sometimes get lost when I’m working exclusively digitally.


While there are lots of great resources for textures out there (Lost and Taken is one of my favorites, CG Textures can be great as well), when I’m making a big piece that really showcases the textures, I like to make my own.  There are a bunch of different ways to do this and many involve raiding your basement for garbage and papers you forgot about. One of my favorite effects can be achieved by grabbing some wood stain and card stock of the shelf and taking them to a *well ventilated* area.


I used a paper towel to spread the stain over card stock and plain old construction paper (I like construction paper because it already has a soft, pulpy look to it). I take a saturated piece of paper towel and sweep over the card stock in small circles. Since wood stain is generally made for wood the paper absorbs it very quickly, so it’s best to try to cover as much ground as you can before re-dunking your paper towel.  I find that patting off the excess stain before touching your working paper helps keep the stain even over the paper.


Small circles keep the whole paper looking cohesive and prevents long streaks in the pattern. I start in the corners and pull the stain out from there, that way the edges are the darkest point.  This helps give the texture a more naturally-weathered look.


I find that using lighter papers work best when you’re using multiple shades of stain; the different colors in the stain tend to get lost on a darker construction paper or card stock. Darker paper works when you’re using only one shade of dark stain like walnut, and the darker paper also takes well to flecking.


I’ll be putting together a more detailed tutorial in the coming weeks, along with a set of textures to download, so keep an eye out!

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Illustrated Book Demo!

I have been *super* busy as of late working on the upcoming Constellations game from Xtronaut, which means I have been rudely neglecting my own blog. However, I DID manage to find time to squeeze in a demo for a children’s book for an author in my neighborhood.

Prince Peter Ponce is a children’s book from author Maria Sundy. I had an opportunity to work with her ideas and pull together some illustrations for the project. It was a great experience as I grow my body of work and build a consistent portfolio for future clients.

There are a lot of steps that go into building a  children’s book; from outlining the basic structure of the book, providing sketches for layout and content, and adding color to really bring the pieces to life. While I have developed outlines for books of my own, Maria’s story gave me the opportunity to  approach the design with an end-client in mind.

I experimented with two different coloring techniques; a flat version and a shaded version. By providing to tiers of coloring levels, I can better manage my time when tackling a big project like an illustrated book. I know what level of detail to deliver, and the client knows exactly what to expect from me.

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