Archive for the 'Illustration' Category

Storytelling and Bookmaking at 826

So, I’ve been doing some pretty cool stuff at 826LA! Never heard of it?


Well, once upon a time, there was a Pirate Supply Store located at 826 Valencia Street in San Francisco. Little did anyone know there was a secret room behind the store and in this secret room, amazing things were happening (kids were getting help with their homework after school and going there for field trips during the day for awesome writing workshops and all kinds of other cool stuff). Still, to this day, amazing things are happening at 826 Valencia and at locations all over the United States by way of “826 National.”

In the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, there is a Time Travel Mart (a mini-mart for all your time travel needs). It’s behind this mini-mart where I’m getting involved as a volunteer and working to get kids inspired about writing and storytelling.


Mostly, I’ve worked with kids six and seven years old in the Storytelling and Bookmaking field trips. What 826 has designed for these field trips is truly a bit of genius. The kids are told that they are visiting “Barnacle & Barnacle publishers, run by Mr. and Mrs. Barnacle, and thank goodness Mr. Barnacle isn’t in the office today, because he is the meanest boss in the world.” Lo and behold, partway into introductions, Mr. Barnacle’s grumpy voice breaks in over a loud speaker and the pressure is then on to create as many original stories as there are kids in the room, in order to please Mr. Barnacle and keep the lowly Barnacle & Barnacle employees from losing their jobs.

So if there are 20 kids in the room, how will they get 20 original stories? They all write 3 pages as a group (with some help from a “grownup” or two), bringing the story to a cliffhanger, and then each of them writes their own version of page 4, creating 20 unique endings.

IMG_3305.JPG copy

My friend Eric Layer pictured here at far left, co-leading an 826 field trip.

That’s not the whole story, however, and this is where I come in. While they are writing each of their first three pages as a group, I am illustrating those pages — live. I have to time my drawing so that I have just enough information to create an image and have it done by the time they finish their page. It goes pretty quickly and sometimes elements of the story change halfway through a page, so I have to keep my ears wide open while I’m working.

After they’ve finished their own endings (which myself and the other volunteers and staff help out with), they have lunch. By the time they’re done with lunch, their books are printed and bound, illustrations included, each student receiving a copy with their own unique ending and their author picture on the back cover. Like magic!



Here are just some of the “illustrious” titles I’ve had the pleasure of working on: “Eek! No, I Am Nice,” “Shark vs. Coyotes: An Ice Cream Contest,”  ”The Adventures of Mr. Squishyman and Poison Ivy Fairy Girl and the Wicked Lollipop Lunchbox,” and “Watch Out For Mr. Couch!”


A section of "Watch Out For Mr. Couch!"


Mermaid Man and his sidekick Michael the Dolphin confront the evil Mr. Couch's super couch in "Watch Out For Mr. Couch!"


Mr. Squishyman and Poison Ivy Fairy Girl fly through space in their flying saucer made of pizza in "The Adventures of Mr. Squishyman and Poison Ivy Fairy Girl and the Wicked Lollipop Lunchbox."


Alien shark brothers Danny and Sal live in hamburger houses in "Shark vs. Coyotes: An Ice Cream Contest."

The Write Stuff, A Sketch + Colors

We are approaching the final hours to score my design “The Write Stuff” on Threadless! I’ve gotten some pretty positive responses on this design (including enthusiastic words from friends at 826 National) and it will be really exciting if this is selected for print, but I’m calling on everyone to give it that extra push it needs to really stand out by scoring it a FIVE (if you haven’t done so already). Don’t have a Threadless account? Sign up for free here. Just for fun, I’m posting a sketch from the “making of” and a couple images of the design against the Silver tee color, as well as some alternate colors of tees. The colors of the design itself have not been altered here — just the shirt colors. Enjoy!

The Write Stuff

I submitted my first Threadless design last night! It is pending approval, but the page is online here:

The Write Stuff by artandstory

You can check back over the next couple of days to see if it’s approved and available for scoring (I hope you will give it a 5). I originally intended this for Threadless’s challenge for 826 National, but the deadline was midnight last night (Monday) and I only just found out about the contest on Friday, with little time to work on it over the weekend. So… I missed the deadline by a few minutes. Nonetheless, I felt it was a solid design, so I submitted it to the general area of Threadless for scoring. Since the normal cash prize for having a design selected for print is higher than the one for the 826 challenge, should my design go to print, I’m pledging to donate a portion of the award to 826 for providing me with the inspiration.

I’ve experienced the work that 826 National does firsthand, volunteering as a cartoonist for their Storytelling and Bookmaking field trips. It’s usually a class of first- or second-graders. They come in to 826LA’s location in Echo Park, behind the Time Travel Mart, and they write a story. I illustrate it on the spot! It’s given me some insight/reminder of the sorts of things that are bouncing around in their imaginations.

See also: 826 National

Where’s Osama? The Final Artwork


Here’s the final artwork for the previously-mentioned Where’s Waldo spoof “Where’s Osama?” I worked on in late 2007. I created this full spread illustration (set in Washington D.C.) and a cover design. I gained a new respect for the Waldo books. It’s tricky coming up with this many gags orchestrated in a single image. This was the job that convinced me to buy a new computer and a Cintiq. I drew all of this in pen on a large sheet of paper and scanned it with a large drum scanner, then colored it in Photoshop at high resolution. Even with a simple color scheme, my G4 “Yikes!” (PowerMac G4, circa September 1999) was choking on it the whole way.



This was shopped around to see if there was any interest in putting out a whole book of these. Unfortunately it never made it past the first spread, but it had great potential. The meter may have been running on the topical humor, with Bush on his way out of office and the Presidential race underway for 2008, but I can think of several magazines that this image alone would’ve been perfect for. Brush up on your ‘08 Presidential race, click the image for a full size version, and see if you can spot all the gags, political players of the moment, and Osama bin Laden! Watch out for the undercover CIA agents in turbans.


Where’s Osama?

Recent events had me thinking about a book project I worked on in late 2007 called “Where’s Osama?” It was a concept for a Where’s Waldo spoof — various illustrated scenes within which the reader is invited to find Osama bin Laden. I completed one full spread illustration and a cover design. It was done on spec and proved to be a surprising lot of work. Unfortunately, the images are on an external drive that is having a hardware issue and can’t be accessed. I have just this one image of the coloring in progress and only at this low resolution. Gotta love technology. When I get the drive fixed, I’ll follow up with the real deal! For now, puzzle over this.



A caricature of PJ Harvey based on a photo in today’s LA Times (Oct. 26, 2007).

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.

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.

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).

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.”

Le Petit Chef

A big round of applause to the entire cast and crew of Pixar’s Ratatouille! It was a true delight! Superbe! Genial! Credit must be given to Jan Pinkava as originator of the film, but accolades to Brad Bird’s script and his unbeatable skills of direction, omission, and selection. The timing of the action sequences was just spot-on. I loved all the little touches. All the characters were a joy to watch (and superbly voiced — I couldn’t believe that was Janeane Garofolo doing a french accent), and I loved the designs of the rats. I could go on and on. Little rats are dancing in my head.
See story artist Jenny Lerew’s post on Ratatouille for much more thoughtful and eloquently stated observations, of which I wish I could plagiarize word for word.


I almost forgot to post this. This is a style experiment I whipped up a few months ago when a friend contacted me about doing a print ad design/illustration for Gemini Mixers. I didn’t have any samples that quite matched the style they were going for, so I came up with one. The job ended up not materializing, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

Sloppy Joe


El Loteriador

field31_card - El Loteriador
Loteria Mexican Restaurant, Los Angeles Farmer’s Market