Archive for the 'Character' CategoryPage 3 of 9

Backwards Bill


I saw this guy on Pico Blvd the other day. I don’t know if he realized his shirt was on backward. He was carrying a big ring of keys and seemed a little lost. I hope he found his way home.

Smokin’ Geisha (Sketchcrawl 15 Revisited)

Here’s the smoking girl from Sketchcrawl 15, but with added watercolor. This is one really nice aspect to the modified Moleskine and having a sketchbook with watercolor paper. Any drawing is a potential future painting.

A Girl and Her Dog

I was having lunch outside at Bloom Café last week, when I sketched these two. She was lunching with friends while her pup trotted around on the sidewalk all around and under the table. The drawing might be a little confusing, but the dog was not standing on the table. Also, he was about half the size shown here in relation to her. I don’t know much about dogs, so I can’t tell you what breed he is. Maybe you know? At any rate, he was damn cute.

Sketchcrawl 15, Little Tokyo — part II of II

Tents and City
This (above) was near the cultural center. After sketching & painting the giant float, I felt I needed to loosen up and keep things simple. I liked the colors and the composition of this view, so I banged it out, just trying to focus on the key elements.
Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street
A sketch of the monument to Ellison S. Onizuka and the Space Shuttle Challenger. The street this is on is actually named “Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street” and is an exception to Los Angeles’ letter limit to street names (Though I’m not sure what that limit is. Maybe 16?). This monument and place is significant to me for at least two reasons. One, I remember when Challenger disintegrated. I was in my fourth grade classroom when we listened to the live broadcast on the radio. I remember a fair amount of emphasis being placed on the death of Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher from New Hampshire who was on the shuttle, and I wasn’t quite as aware of Onizuka. My fiancée Jamie, however, is from Hawaii (where Onizuka was from) and so I think more emphasis was probably placed on the death of Onizuka there. Granted, it was a tragic event for all involved.
Secondly, this place is significant to me, because I used to live here. I lived in Little Tokyo for about 2 and a half years, right on the 200 block of East 1st Street and the back of my building faced out onto Onizuka St.
Incidentally, I had a roommate from Japan who once told me that “Onizuka” translates to “Devil’s Tombstone.”
Smokin' Geisha
I sat at a table near a group of young (maybe 16-year-old) Japanese-American girls dressed in Kimonos, while they smoked cigarettes and talked about makeup. One of our other sketchcrawlers, Akiko, said she overheard one of them say, “Okay my dad is here, so I don’t do anything, okay? I don’t smoke and I don’t drink!”
Pippy Legwarmers
Another view from the back. It’s easier to draw people from the back, especially when they’re not going anywhere. I don’t think this girl was even Asian. Maybe hapa, but it was hard to tell if that was the case. She had her straight black hair in pigtails and her short kimono or “happi coat” with the big ribbon wasteband/sash (Obi) — plus legwarmers and sneakers!
New Otani Gardens
Lastly, we went up to the New Otani Hotel’s Garden. Where there was this inspiring view of the beautiful California Bank & Trust building.

Sketchcrawl 15, Little Tokyo — part I of II

Here is part one of my sketches from Sketchcrawl 15 (and the first sketches to go into my newly modified Moleskine)! A small group of five of us (in all of Los Angeles!) managed to meet up in Little Tokyo in the midst of the Nisei Week festival. It was really lively, with bandstands and food vendors and people everywhere. There was so much going on that I didn’t know what to sketch next.
300 block, E 1st. St.
It started out on E 1st Street, where we met in front of the tower at the Little Tokyo Village Plaza. This (above) is looking across the street with City Hall in the background and the renovated Chop Suey building at the far right.
Afro Kid
I sketched this kid with an afro as he passed by. It seems like sketching people in public often yields these angles from directly behind.
Go, Granny, Go
Did this one while in front of Yamazaki bakery in the Village Plaza. I saw this little old lady and just couldn’t pass it up. I realized her vehicle was like a little cherry sports car or something. Her whole appearance on this thing just cracked me up. I heard the “Go-granny go-granny go-granny-go” part of the song Little Old Lady From Pasadena playing in my head.
We made our way toward the cultural center building and I was stopped in my tracks by this giant. This is a float that I’m guessing was about 12 feet high or more and the exterior was made of paper. It had so much energy and character and vivid color. But I think I bit off a little more than I was willing to chew in a short amount of time. The pencil sketch I initially laid down had a certain energy and form that was lost when I then went in with the rushed ink. I would’ve liked to stay a little looser with the whole thing in retrospect. Gone in with expressive strokes of watercolor over the pencil and then just added accents of ink afterward where it would seem to need it. Still, I suppose all is fair in sketching, but sometimes less is more.
I will post part 2 of my Sketchcrawl results tomorrow!

Conan O’Brien

Conan O'Brien
Another caricature. If you’re in the U.S. (or anywhere else Late Night with Conan O’Brien is syndicated) and if you ever stay up past your bedtime, this will probably need little explanation.

I get the sense that Conan is always in the midst of an existential crisis while doing his show. No doubt, the self-deprecating is an intentional aspect of the comedy, but there may also be some authenticity to it.

Noah Kalina

Noah Kalina
Caricature of Noah Kalina, the guy who took a picture of himself everyday for six years. Well, almost everyday. Close enough. It looks like he’s missed a total of about 35 days in the last seven and a half years, actually. Though I’m a little confused about some of his absences. Like on September 8th, 2001, in place of his photo for that day, there’s a message stating, "Crossed International Dateline," but the photo on September 7th and the photo on September 9th are in the same location. Did he fly to Japan and then get right back on the plane and return to New York? Also, the photos for August 20th, 2003 and August 27th, 2003 appear to have been taken on the same day, because his hair is exactly the same in both. Plus, in the second of these two photos, I think he has the biggest smile of the entire series. Maybe the joke’s on us?
Noah gained net-celebrity status with his YouTube video of 6 years worth of self portraits edited together. It generated copy-cats, spoofs, praise, and criticism. A simple and clever idea, though perhaps a sign of the rampant narcissism that seems to be flourishing on the net, this has been his gimmick — his schtick — and it’s garnered a lot of attention. He appears to be using this attention to promote his professional photography, which he happens to be pretty talented at.

Creature from the Black Ink

Creature from the Black Ink
A sketch from last week. Loosely based on a girl in a photo I came across here (by Noah Kalina). Just an attempt at capturing her extremely gleeful expression and pose and another effort in my continued attempts to identify those elusive contours which signify the female form. It was also an opportunity to experiment with the white paint pen to give a good well-polished shine. Sure, I took a few liberties here and there (read: big boobs). It’s not a portrait or caricature of a specific person. Just a study and a sketch in which I had some fun.

Chimp Trip

Shannon McNally T-Shirt Design
I just completed this T-shirt design for musician-singer-songwriter and friend Shannon McNally. The design on the left is for printing on light-colored shirts and the one on the right is for dark shirts. Click the image for a larger view. Also, here’s a detail image:
Shannon McNally T-Shirt Design (detail)
This image came about while sketching on the concept of a chimp among mushrooms and Shannon liked it enough that we decided to go with it, even though her original idea had the chimp playing drums on some mushrooms. It’s another image I really like and maybe can pursue at some other point, maybe for another shirt design? She told me on the phone that the idea relates to a sort of theory she has on the origin of religion involving a drumming chimp and perhaps some mushrooms. You put the pieces together on that one, but just consider the possibility of non- or pre-human primates having vividly (there’s that word again, vivid! I think it’s the word of the week or something.) spiritual and creative experiences. I think it’s not so far fetched.

Scaredy Cat

Scaredy Cat
This one was inspired in part by this web site with 3D images, turnarounds and cross-sections of animal skulls (here’s the domestic cat). I was not looking at the site when I drew this, however. Thanks to Andrew Shek for the link.

Babar’s Dream (The Dark Thoughts Fleeing)

The Dark Thoughts Fleeing (Babar's Dream)
My mom recently sent me this email about my last blog post, The Dark Thoughts Approaching:

"The Dark Thoughts look a *lot* like the bad dreams in the Babar book that  scared you when you were little. I couldn’t possibly put this on your blog—everyone would know your MOTHER was doing it. But it really struck me.—Love, Mom"

Thanks, Mom!

Above is the illustration from the book, Babar the King (Le Roi Babar) by Jean de Brunhoff.

Apparently I was about three or four years old when this frightened me. I don’t really remember being afraid of it, but just looking at it as an adult, I can see how it might have disturbed me as a child. Brunhoff’s creatures are truly demonic looking. There’s a primal and vivid wickedness in these, however kind of obsurd or cartoony. And though they’re supposedly being driven back, perhaps to some underworld, I’m afraid they may be driven right off the page and into our world. But I’m able to revel in these images now. The embodying of the respective concepts (fear, despair, spinelessness, etc.) is genius and done with such beautiful simplicity. Wild imagination really gets to shine here (even if it does scare little kids).

The Dark Thoughts Approaching

The Dark Thoughts Approaching
These usurpers of joy, these harbingers of death, bringers of false friendship. Bloodletters, tricksters, murderers, thieves, liars, and fearmongers. Here they are approaching their victim, seeking to disturb the peace of the innocent, destroy the work of the creative, and dash the hopes of the visionary. Know their faces well.

Femme Fatale

Femme Fatale
“Here she comes, you better watch your step.
Shes going to break your heart in two, its true.”
I observed this woman during lunch, and while I don’t really know if she’s a Femme Fatale, it certainly seems plausible. The curves seem pretty dangerous and she exuded a confidence and a high-maintenance luster only seen in shampoo commercials. She seems well mannered, but I think if she didn’t get her way she could turn a man into a eunuch with one step of her heel.

Don’ Trip

Don' Trip
A new tool arrived on my doorstep Saturday: the Kuretake brush pen. It’s essentially a fountain pen with a brush tip. I’m so impressed with the elegance and quality of this pen! Thanks to John Sanford for the tip. I’m delighting in the smooth flowing thick and thin and just experimenting with the various qualities of line it’s capable of. The above drawing was done with the Kuretake, as were the drawings in my previous two posts (”OMG LOL” and “Sad Toad Man”).
This one, as is the case with a lot of my drawings, is largely the result of just experimenting with line. I happened to draw a character on the right and began playing with abstract line on the left. As the abstracts evolved, I began to see a relationship between the two. I imagined that the abstract stuff was something this character was seeing. A drug-induced hallucination, perhaps? Or maybe the result of sheer psychosis or a hyperactive imagination? Or perhaps it isn’t so literal. Maybe we are seeing a representation of his emotional state. The odd thing is the disparity between the wild quality of the abstracts and the extremely sedate expression on the guy’s face. I imagined he’s trying to stay cool in the face of all this really crazy stuff he is either seeing or thinking or feeling. “Don’ trip,” he tells himself. Don’t trip.
This video I saw last week of Oliver Sacks in 1986 is still resonating with me and the above drawing/painting brings to mind, yet again, the quote which turned up in one of my doodles:

“One way or another, people want to live creatively and they want to live vividly.”


These are some sketches from my ongoing quest to find the cartoon me. I am still warming up to doing some autobiographical or semi-autobiographical illustrated tales (a.k.a., “comix”) at some point. Note: The character in the bottom right is not me. I don’t know who that is.
I’m in the process now of compiling a list of story ideas and there are a lot more than I thought there were. I’m keeping them in a journal I’m calling “Short Stories” in homage to Roald Dahl. In a story by Dahl titled “Lucky Break — How I Became a Writer” (The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More), he explains that he kept a journal bearing the name “Short Stories” and whenever he’d get the inkling of an idea for a story, he’d jot down a line or two. He kept it very simple and straight forward. Just, as Dahl described it, the “slender threads” of a plot. Almost every story he ever wrote started out as a thought written down in that journal.