Friday, December 25, 2009

The Anatomy of a Dinosaur Drawing

A little over a year ago, I had an idea to draw a giant picture of dinosaurs for my nephews, either for their birthday (they're twins) or for x-mas. With time being a factor and the doubt that I could pull off such a huge work, I never got around to doing it. Picturing something in your head and making it real are two entirely different things. The large size I had in mind intimidated me, and the thought of diving right into it without a definite plan kept me from ever starting it.

So, just under a month ago, as I was drawing in my sketchbook late one night, I decided to do a rough version of what I had in mind. Once I did that, I realized that I now had a "map" that I could use to finally start on the bigger, final work. (A real artist would have immediately thought of this when they originally had the idea the year before, but I'm not a real artist, so please leave me alone with my retardation.) This is the small, rough sketch of the idea:

So, with x-mas just around the corner, I thought a great present would be to make it, frame it, and give it to the boys to hang on their bedroom wall. Time would still be a factor, but with about three weeks until x-mas morning, I thought I had a pretty good shot at finishing it. The day after I drew that sketch, I went to an art supply store in Brooklyn called Artist & Craftsmen (which I love because I can easily drive and park there and they usually have what I want) and picked up a giant sheet of black illustration board and brought it home. There it sat in the slim, clear plastic bag that I carried it home in for, I guess, a whole week without me taking it out or doing anything with it. Aside from the self-doubt that cripples me with most of the things I do, I was still undecided on the medium that I wanted to use for the project. I had a bunch of conte crayons and charcoal pencils laying around that I originally intended to use (and hadn't used in years), but I was having second thoughts about it and was thinking it would be better to make the picture less realistic (if you can call a picture of dinosaurs "realistic") and more colorful and childlike. I was also second-guessing my choice of illustration board: Was a black background with white charcoal pencil for the figure outlines really how I wanted to do this? So, there it sat for the rest of the week without a mark being made on it.

The following Saturday, I stopped at another art supply store, this one being around the corner from my parent's house in Maple Shade, NJ while I visited family for my birthday. I walked out with another large sheet of illustration board measuring 30" x 40", which was only slightly smaller than the black one I had just bought the week before. The biggest difference being that the new one was white. I had done some tests the night before on small, charcoal paper with various mediums I had on hand - the aforementioned conte crayons and charcoal pencils, as well as oil crayons and pastel crayons - and decided that the pastel crayons with black charcoal outlines for the figures on the white board would be the best way to go. (The black illustration board still sits in my Brooklyn apartment waiting for me to do something with it.)

Soon after I returned to Brooklyn, I got started on the project. (I can't remember exactly when I finally put pencil to paper, but it was probably around the 16th or 17th and was most definitely preceded by much uncertainty and procrastination.) After a lot of sketching then erasing, sketching then erasing, I eventually settled on a layout:

The figures were penciled in very lightly, so it didn't photograph that well, but if you look closely you'll notice the addition of two giant spiders to the left of the center dinosaur and that the pterodactyl has changed locations from the original sketch, now appearing at the top right instead of the top left corner. I dunno, it just seemed to work better to me, and the spiders seemed to add some excitement to a scene that would have otherwise amounted two dinosaurs and one measly, flying bird.

With the layout complete, I needed to start working in the color. Now, as you've probably surmised, I wasn't about to begin adding color to the picture unless I had an idea how the colors were going to work together. Fortunately, this time it didn't take me a year to decide what to do. Using the preliminary sketch idea from earlier, I simply made a quick color test on a small piece of bristol board:

While not perfect by any means, this test showed me what might work and, most importantly, what wouldn't work on the final version and gave me the confidence to apply those first strokes of color:

If memory serves me correctly, I colored in the yellow-brown of that sloping hill first, then the light green of the dinosaur's hide, then the bright yellow on his chest and eyes, and then the blacks and grays of the giant spiders. (I also added that third spider peaking around the hill at the top right corner). On a roll now, I brought red to the small dinosaur, orange to the pterodactyl, and blue to the sky above:

Here it is beside the smaller color test:

The next stage all the way to the finished version was done entirely in one day (Tuesday, 12/22/09), from 10:30am to about 5 or 6pm without breaking for lunch, although I think I grabbed a quick bowl of cereal around 2:30pm.

At an earlier point of decision-making - possibly as early as the layout pencils stage - I decided to make the hill slope under and around the large dinosaur's head, thus acting as a frame and drawing the viewer's attention, however subliminally, toward it. I already knew that the background was going to be a lush, black silhouette of mountains and that it would bring focus to that dinosaur's face even more:

When compared to the previous stage, you can see how the black ties everything together and adds dimension to the composition. Also, at this stage, additional colors have been added to the slope and darker greens to the main dinosaur's body. Next, the teeth and black of the dinosaur's mouth are defined:

And the red dinosaur is given black to his mouth and definition to his body with the addition of the black stripes:

The next step brought texture to the dinosaur's face and black outlines to all the figures:

Some shading under the main dinosaur as well as browns to the spiders, definition to their faces, and black to there large eyes:

More color and shading around the red dinosaur, more blues and whites in the sky, additional texture to the green dinosaur's body, and it's all done:

Well, all done except for being framed, which, due to it's apparently unconventional size, needed to be custom framed by yours truly and consisted of buying separate frame borders from Michael's and a specially cut sheet of plexiglass from Loew's on x-mas eve. Here it is, one day later, framed and unwrapped on x-mas morning:

And here it is hanging on the bedroom wall of my nephews, it's final destination:

So, after three weeks of bringing this thing to life, I'm surprisingly pleased with how it turned out. (Normally, my response would be, "Wow...I hate this", which is part of the reason why I've only rarely drawn anything over the last x amount of years.) In a way, though, I miss spending the time working on it and thinking about what I could do next while I was away from it. But maybe that's a good thing. It's got me somewhat inspired and it makes me want to get started on something else.

However, one thing I know for sure is that I'm not doing anything this laborious until I get a proper drawing table that tilts. Sitting hunched over a drawing board on my lap for too many hours in a row has left my back none too happy this week. But I've got some ideas in mind, and I'd like to make use of that black illustration board before it collects too much dust sitting there in my Brooklyn apartment. No dinosaurs this time, though. However, my roommate quite liked the giant spiders and asked me to do something with them for our wall, so we'll see what happens...

Merry X-mas!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dinosaurs, motherfucker!

A small sketch for a much bigger project. I've had the idea kicking around for a while and sketched it out with my pen around 1am this morning. It's not exactly what the final, larger version will look like, but it's fairly close. The final will require oversized paper, charcoals, and conte crayons. At least, that's the plan. I figure I've got about 20 days to get the final version done, and I'm not sure if it'll be enough time. But I'm certainly gonna try...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dismal & Abysmal: Vice Versa

Since the last post about seven months ago, I've drawn a bunch of ideas for Dismal & Abysmal strips in my sketchbooks; about 60-70 total by last count. Some day I'll hunker down in front of a drawing table (which I don't have yet what with money being the way it is, which is to say, nonexistent) and make these strips real on bristol paper using real pen and ink. But, until then, here's the latest "idea", drawn about an hour ago.

The first panel shows Abysmal standing in front a small spaceship. He says to Dismal, "Witness my new spaceship! With it, I'll explore space and conquer Mars. Those stupid Martians won't know what hit them!" In the second panel, Dismal looks concerned and asks Abysmal, "Will you send for me?" As Abysmal steps into his ship, he replies, "Nah! I've seen enough of your ugly face to last me a lifetime..." Next, a pensive Dismal bares his thoughts ("If I know 'those stupid martians' - and I think I do - Abysmal is in for a rude awakening.") as Abysmal soars into the distance shouting, "So long, sucker!" In the final, large frame, we flash into the near future after Abysmal has reached his destination. In the background, his lonely spaceship rests immobile on the peak of a distant mountain. In the foreground, Abysmal lays helpless, each of his limbs tied with rope leading to four Martians who look uncannily like our friend Dismal (with the exception of the antennae protruding from their heads). One of the Martians declares to his mates, "Alright! When I say 'pull', everybody pull! One...two..." After which, Abysmal cries, "Nooooooooo!!!"

Monday, May 4, 2009


Consider yourself teased!

(Once again, drawn at work.)

Our Friend, Dismal, As Cowboy

A sketch of an idea for a Dismal & Abysmal strip. Drawn at work, I believe.

Brainiac, Retard, Space Cadet, etc.

A selection of random doodles drawn while I'm supposed to be working. Guess which one's the retard?

(BTW, whenever somebody approaches me while I'm doodling at work, I tense up quickly and cover my notebook as if I had been pawing through a stack of porn. Such a pathetic existence.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

At the Park

This was done about eight or nine years ago at a park in New Jersey using charcoals and conte crayons, I think. It's been a while, so I'm not exactly sure. But I liked it enough to frame it and hang it on the wall, so that must count for something, right?

Blurry the Robot

Who doesn't like robots? Even blurry ones with no arms like this guy.

Dismal & Abysmal: To The Moon

I know I said in an earlier post that I wasn't going to upload any more rough strips of Dismal & Abysmal because of their illegibility, but then I realized that nobody's reading this anyway, so who cares?

There's a panel missing from this page and some of the dialogue isn't quite right (not that you can read it, anyway), but the photo of it came out fairly clear (again, I don't have a scanner, so I snap pics of my sketchbook with my digital camera instead). I normally don't like the things I come up with, but I have a special place in my heart for these characters. If I ever do finish that mini-comic I keep talking about, it'll mainly be because I want to see the Dismal & Abysmal strips completed. They might not be that great, but they make me happy.

By the way, in this strip, the characters talk about how cool it would be to go to the moon as they sit admiring its beauty amidst the black sky. When Dismal says it would be impossible for guys like them to go to the moon, Abysmal tells him they could be "the first idiots on the moon" and that he can prove it can happen.
As Dismal replies, "Idiots? Speak for yourself", Abysmal steps away and comes back and straps a string of dynamite around Dismal's chest and pair of goggles over his eyes. Dismal asks him what he's doing, and Abysmal says, "I'm preparing your rockets for take off, buddy!"
Dismal says, "What are the goggles for?", and Abysmal replies, "To protect your eyes from the blast, silly!" as he runs the long fuse far away from Dismal's body.
Dismal says, "Blast?" and then continues, "What's the match for?" To which Abysmal says, simply, "Lift Off!" and drops the match.
The next panel says "BOOM!" to signify that Dismal has either successfully launched to the moon or been blown to pieces. In the next (missing) panel we see that the answer is the latter. Dismal, his body charred and his limbs missing, asks, "What happened? Am I on the moon? I feel like I'm on the moon!" And Abysmal says something like, "No, buddy. I'm afraid I'm gonna have to go back and run some more tests before these rockets will launch successfully."
In the last panel, Dismal - finally realizing that he's been duped once again - says, "Oh, how I hate you." And Abysmal responds, "Really? That's funny, because I'm fairly indifferent to you!"

Ha! Ha! So, you see? This is how comedy works. Ha! Ha! Hahahahahahaha!


Sketches of a character affectionately called Dumbass and his best friend, Dickhead (background, top picture). Like everything else comics-related on this blog, strips have been written in rough form for these characters, but nothing has been finished. By the way, Dumbass is the kid's real name, it's not a nickname. His mother is just an asshole. Conversely, "Dickhead" is indeed a nickname given to Dickhead by Dumbass's mother who is indeed an asshole.


Nothing much to say about this guy (or gal), but you'll see him (or her) star in a charming comic strip below.

The Dark Man of The Smile That Wouldn't Stop

This is probably only interesting to me, but it's my blog, so fuck you. The sketches above are my immediate impressions of that seedy little character that starred in The Smile That Wouldn't Stop, a true story documented on my other blog called The Lightening Revolt. I'm sure you've already read it, so I won't bother to summarize it here. If you haven't, it'll only take you about five to ten minutes to do so, so go ahead and check it out now.

I originally intended to tell the story in a comic strip in the forthcoming mini-comic, Mystery Ghost Comix, and I wrote down exactly what was said, verbatim, and my impression of what he looked like immediately after it happened. After a while, I'd done nothing with it other than these initial preliminary sketches, so I figured I would tell the story in prose form on that other blog just to get it out there. Judging from public response after it was posted, the world benefited the most from that decision.

Anyway, when I think of that strange man now, this is how I remember him. To me, this is exactly what that little bastard looked like.

Man with Laptop, Coffee

A sketch from Bryant Park on my lunch break over the summer of 2008. I call it "Man with Laptop, Coffee". Scholars will still be discussing it long after I'm gone.

Cover Design

I sketched this from a magazine cover I found online. I forget the name of the artist or the magazine's title, but it was originally done in the 1930s. I found the image striking in its simplicity and thought it was a beautiful way to grab attention from the other magazines that would have surrounded it on the newsstand. Nobody really does cover design like this anymore, and it's just another example of clarity being trampled over in favor of the modern mass consumption of garish effects. Go to a bookstore and survey the wall of magazines there. You'll be hard pressed to find anything as simple, beautiful, and effective as this.

Dismal & Abysmal

Dismal and Abysmal, two soon-to-be-classic characters whose adventures and angst-filled friendship will be documented in the forthcoming mini-comic Mystery Ghost Comix (check your local newsstands in April!), in their very first comic strip. This is the initial rough layout of the first strip, and it pretty much summarizes their entire relationship. Innocent, trusting Dismal is tricked and maimed by Abysmal. No matter how poorly Abysmal treats him, Dismal always considers Abysmal his best friend. And, I think underneath all of the malice, Abysmal feels the same about Dismal. But you certainly wouldn't know it by his actions and the things he says.

So, this mess of a page that you see above is the first thing that happens after the idea for the strip comes. It's not intended to look pretty; the character's are crudely drawn and the point is to get the dialogue and some of the character's actions down while determining the use of time from panel to panel. I'm the furthest thing from an expert, but this is how I've been doing it. Once everything is fine-tuned, it can be committed to a final, inked version on bristol board. But, so far, I haven't gotten that far...

There are many more roughs of Dismal & Abysmal strips in my book, but I don't see the point in posting them here since the photos leave them mostly illegible.

Name That Goon

I think I drew this guy in my notebook at work (the company unwittingly pays me for a lot of things that are entirely unrelated to my job). Apparently, I liked it enough to rip it out and stick it inside my sketchbook when I got home, but I'm not sure why. Anyway, the character remains nameless. If I thought anybody gave a shit about any of this, I'd start a contest called "name that goon" where the best submission would receive an original sketch of the character, with the irony being that I don't really care to name the character and I'm sure the "winner" wouldn't care to own an "original sketch" drawn by me. It would be a classic lose-lose situation and, thus, perfect.


This is a comic strip drawn quite a few years ago in a sketchbook. Bird picks up worm, bird gives worm to boy (an alien? a ghost? WTF?), boy eats worm, boy gets sick from eating worm and spits out worm over cliff. The end.

If you are, right now, marveling at the ground-breaking nature of this story, not to mention the glorious splash page (!) that closes the piece, then I think we have a lot in common. Now, instead of talking about it, let's go back and enjoy the many layers of subtext hidden within this wonderful narrative.


Over the summer, I experimented with using a nib pen for inking in preparation of the mini-comic, Mystery Ghost, which will, at this point, probably never see the light of day (considering that I haven't started it yet and have no immediate plans to do so). Here are some results of that short-lived experiment.

Mummies? Zombies? Neither? WTF?

Another head-scratcher in the vain of "Devil & Water Creature" (see below). I don't know what this is, but I still like it for some reason.


These are sketches of an idea I had for a poster to promote my band Red Orange Morning. They were apparently drawn on March 6, 2005.

When I look through my old sketchbooks, I usually despise what I see on every page, but I still kind of like this. One duck drowns while another sits close by, uncaring. There's something poetic about that. And, yes, I'm only half kidding.

Devil & Water Creature

A crude version of a devil character that I came up with years ago stands atop some sort of water creature. I don't know why. I don't get it either. I'm sorry.

Another Little Girl at Bryant Park

This little girl sat quietly reading while most of the other kids ran around making nuisances of themselves. I realize the photo isn't very good, but neither is the actual picture, so consider it a favor.

Note: I currently don't have a scanner, so I literally took shots of the sketchbook pages with my digital camera. As you can see, quality varies.

Little Girl at Bryant Park

Another sketch of one of the kids in that class outing at Bryant Park over the summer. She sat mostly still, so I mostly drew her.


Here's a sketch of the "vagrant's" face. It's not very good, but, then again, neither am I.