Photobooth Reference on Tumblr

Finding good reference images can be difficult, especially of people. In an ideal world we would all be famous artist working under a wealthy patron or at a prestigious Academe d’Art with a whole stable of models and costumes to work from, but we lowly modern artists have but Google Image Search, and Photobooth – you know, that program that lets you take pictures of yourself with your webcam.

Well some brilliant chaps have managed to collect some of those images from a bunch of working illustrators and start a blog called Not only is it a great place to see people you respect making ridiculous faces, it’s a good place to find some interesting pictures to sketch from. Here are a few digital sketches I did about a month ago:

This is Nicola Rowlands. She is a british illustrator of many beautiful things.

And this is Si Smith.

Thanks for the photos guys!

Radio Table

A digital quick-painting of my radio table.

The wall behind the table is my bulletin board wall. A few years ago we made giant push-pin boards that basically cover the whole wall so I have lots of room to pin things up.  The little jam-jar on the table holds my thumbtacks so the cat won’t eat them by mistake. I got the table for 8 dollars at a garage sale. It’s very fancy and shiny looking so naturally it goes with nothing else in the room, which is just the way I like it.

Nadar, Dazumier, 1856-58

After the KU library was unceremoniously closed for Spring Break a few weeks ago and I drove all the way into town only to find out I couldn’t get in, I was really itching to give it another try this weekend. One of the books I came home with is a collection of portraits by the early French photographer Nadar.

I love early photographs and the people in them so I’m planning on using the books for sketch fodder for the next few weeks. This is a quick photoshop sketch of a Mr. Dazumier, apparently taken around 1856-8.

I’ve been reading a lot about digital painting lately, unfortunately there isn’t much in the way of quality materials, but I did find some very interesting videos Daniel Lieske has been posting on his blog. Daniel is the artist behind The WormWorld Saga which is an amazingly beautiful digital comic that’s layed out with each chapter as one long flowing painting with each panel sort of melding into the next.

Daniel just recently finished chapter 1 so he’s been putting up information about his painting techniques. They have been very helpful.  Keep it up Daniel!

Photomatic Portrait

Photomatic portrait web

A little experiment in opaque digital painting. I found this charming young man in an old instamatic photo someone posted to flickr (unfortunately I’ve lost the link, if your recognize him please post and let me know). I wipped this out pretty quickly just as something to play with but it has a sort of creepy charm so I decided to share. Aren’t you lucky!

An Illustrated Tour of My Evil Lier

More observational drawings from my sketchbook. These are all from my house / evil lier.

This is the fan in my bedroom. It sits across the room from by bed and doesn’t really point at it. I run the fan every night, even in the winter, because it drowns out all the creepy deep dark woods sounds that are outside. The table is an antique that came from my grandfather’s house and somehow ended up as my end table. It’s way too ornate for the rest of my room.

This is one wall of the room next door where we watch TV. You can see my overflowing book cases on the right. They’re full of computer books, most of which are out of date now but I can’t get rid of them. To the left of the TV are a bunch of magazine clippings I’ve thumb tacked to the wall. My favorite is a New Yorker cover painted by Wayne Thiebaud of two melting ice cream cones. Under those is my cat’s little scratching post thing. She likes my office chair better. On the far left is my piano.

And here is my nightstand, which is actually my dad’s TV tray repurposed as a nightstand. The lamp cost $4 and does not work, but it looks like bamboo! The cloth there is an old t-shirt. I use it to wrap around my alarm clock because the numbers are too bright at night. I cover over the face with the shirt and just lift it up when I want to read the time.

These are a few buildings from near my house. The one on top is a gym that has very nice architecture to fit into the rolling hills. The bottom building is a watertower that I think is one of the better looking watertowers around.

In the Company of Taxidermy, and other titles I’ve rejected for my autobiography

Over winter break I spent some time working on my observational drawing skills. I’ve been applying to a few art programs that require admissions portfolio’s, and most ask for recent examples of observational work. I’ve been doing a lot of art lately but it’s mostly illustrative imaginary or narrative stuff that didn’t quite fit the bill. I’m planning on posting a few things in the next few days.

This whole endeavor however (it rhymes!), brought me to this question:

Does taxidermy creep you out?

I ask because it completely fascinates me. It seems a morbid curiosity, I realize, but I can’t help it. Taxidermy animals and skeletal specimens have this atmosphere of victorian curiosity about them that harkens back to when the lines between science and art and philosophy were all blurry, biologists were “naturalist” and spent most of their time trekking through wilderness with firearms, and discovering something new meant you could name it after yourself.

I’ve never owned a taxidermic animal, per say, although I have several lucky rabbits feet I got as a child, which I suppose are sort of similar. Funny thing, you used to see rabbits feet for sale all the time in airports and gas stations and little knick knack stores all over the place but I haven’t seen one for sale in decades. I wonder if they’re illegal or just passé. I’ve always wanted a preserved raven that could sit in my room and be my friend, and I think an elephant or a small whale would be so cool, especially if you has a small apartment and it got a room all to itself. There was a trend for a while of preserving your cat or dog after it died – they have this whole fancy freeze-drying process – but somehow that doesn’t interest me all that much.

Here in Kansas we have what is probably the most impressive collection of taxidermy animals you’re ever likely to see. In Dyche Hall on the University of Kansas is the Panorama of North American Mammals. Developed from an exhibit originally built for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair the exhibit has over a hundred taxidermic animals displayed in one huge diorama that transitions through their native habitats.

The exhibit was built by Lewis Lindsay Dyche, one of those Teddy Roosevelt Victorian-style naturalists I was talking about, all from specimens he collected traveling the world. You can read about Lewis on the University’s website.

The best part of the exhibit are the walruses (which I find are the best part of anything that contains walruses). I’ve been going to the museum for years to sketch the animals. I find they’re much more cooperative than those fidgety versions at the zoo.

Here are a few sketches from the museum. The skeleton in the upper corner belonged to a manatee. I don’t know it’s name or if it was a boy or a girl, they don’t put that kind of info on the museum placards for some reason, but I’ve named him Lindsay after Lewis Lindsay Dyche, and because he kind of looks like a Lindsay.

Oh, and just so you don’t think it’s all about the dead, here are some sketches of my very lively cat. She was a very good girl to put up with me following her around with my sketchbook for as long as she did, but she’s not so good at sitting still just yet. We’re working on that.


A friend asked if I could draw some penguins for her so I took the opportunity to get the ink and brushes out over the weekend. I have a very sketchy piece-meal style of drawing that basically involves drawing a contour and then redrawing and re-redrawing it in fits and spurts until I can find right shape. I know other artists who do this, but I also know artist’s who can draw things with only a few strokes as if they’re doing all the work I’ doing on paper in their heads. It’s very enticing I have to say. Especially when you want to draw something in ink with a brush or pen. Every once-in-a-while I give it a try, but in the end I usually end up back where I started with lots of little lines.

Museum Sketches

Sometimes art practice is like an idol threat.

I live very near a great art museum, the Nelson Atkins in Kansas City. Despite living here for quite some time I’ve only been to the museum twice, once to see a traveling Egyptian exhibit that was basically unremarkable, and once to see a really fascinating exhibit about the industrial revolution through art that spanned late 1800’s to late 1900’s that was really cool.

Exhibits come through the museum pretty regularly, but the Nelson has a large permanent collection spanning the whole breadth of art history. I’ve been threatening for some time to take a weekend afternoon to wander around the rest of the museum.

The museum itself is a large classical looking building that could just as easily be mistaken for a Federal Reserve Bank or something, except for the fact that on the laws around the museum there are giant 2-story tall shuttlecocks scattered about. They’re sculptures by Claes Oldenburg. The art classes I’ve been taking meet right across the street from the museum so every night when I park my car I can see the shuttlecocks beckoning to me. This weekend I finally caved.

I brought along my sketchbook hoping I could spend some time drawing from the paintings or sculptures. There were a lot of things I wanted to stop and draw, but it turns out Saturday afternoon is a busy time for the museum so there where too many people for me to comfortably stand around drawing from any of the European paintings.

Lucky for me tourists think Asian art is boring because the Asian wing was all but deserted. After walking around a bit I came to what is now my favorite thing in the whole museum. At the back of a large room of Chinese sculptures and pottery the curators have created a sort of truncated Buddhist temple. On the back wall is a huge crumbling mural taken from the wall of a real temple, there is a carved and painted wooden ceiling about 20 feet high, and scattered about are 4 or so carved wooden bodhisattva statues.

The “temple” is dim and quiet and empty and fantastic. I could live in there. I made a few brief sketches of the statues. They have very interesting geometric facial structures and pursed lips.

Junk Drawer Collage

For a while now I’ve had a little folder on my computer’s desktop called “interesting pictures”. I put it there so that, as I’m out looking at things on the web, when I come across a picture that trikes my fancy I can save it for later.

I don’t really have a plan for the pictures in the folder. Sometimes I flip through them to get ideas but it rarely works. Sometimes I draw from them, most are just odd photographs, but usually they are too weird. Sometimes I go through them and weed something out and think to myself “why on earth did I think that was interesting?”

Well this last week was the first time that the folder came in handy. I just started a painting class and my instructor suggested making a collage as a way to start building ideas for a painting. Here’s what I came up with: