Sunday, June 28, 2009

SKETCHBOOK: "A Few More Bots"

Okay...technically, these images were not done in a "real" sketchbook, but are digital. I was just playing around in Photoshop, trying out some brush effects. I have no idea what the first bot is running from, nor what that glowing light thingy is...I just sort of went with the flow as I painted.

The "waving bot" was just a quick study on color variations.

The "fish bot" was a test to build the drawing up from a dark underpainting, then "carve" out the linework with lighter colors. It was also inspired by the fish-bot sketches below that I had done earlier.
These little guys were done a while back, while I was at my daughter Courtney's swim meets. I'd noodle in my sketchbook between her events. I threw in a little color for the blog.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

PAINTINGS: "Plants and Fruit"

These top two paintings were "homework assignments" from a Joan Parker workshop I went to. I'm not used to doing still lifes or florals, so I was pleasantly surprised how the sunflower painting came out. I really enjoyed Joan's class and had fun getting to know her. (Sorry, Joan, that I haven't been painting as much as I should...too many hobbies!)

My Mother-in-law owns the apples and pears still life below.

This sickly jade plant was in it's last days, but I liked the tall thin stems. I apologize about the reflections from the varnish on the painting...kindof messes up the rich background colors.

Here's one more, in keeping with the theme...I was intrigued by the pattern inside the bowl. Think I'll stick with landscapes.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Fathers Day, Dads!

Today is somewhat bitter-sweet for's the first Father's Day I've ever had without my Dad (since he passed away in March). I just got back from my Mom's yesterday, after spending a few days helping her clean up my Dad's tool room (Big thanks, Kris and Debra!). We found all kinds of really interesting antique tools that we didn't even know Dad had stashed away all these years. My favorite is the one shown here...a #45 Stanley Combination Planer from the early 1900's that belonged to my Dad's Uncle Jim. I love all the knobs and movable parts. Thanks for the Father's Day presents, Mr. Shorty...I'll take good care of 'em for ya! And thanks, Mom, for sharing the "treasures".

Finally, I just want to say how proud I am to be the father of my two daughters, Jenni and Courtney...and thanks to my sweet wife Cat for making my Father's Day possible for all these years. I love you ladies!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

AUTOMATA: "Computer Cats"

Here are a couple more of my first wooden crank toys from a few years back. I made this one for my Mom for a Christmas present. When you turn the handle, the cat's paw bats at the dangling "mouse" cord, and the cat tail goes down. At the same time, the cord swings to the left while the computer keyboard pivots up on off of the desk. When the keyboard goes up and down, the "real mouse" bounces and slightly rotates a bit each time. Sorry, but I didn't take photos of the "action", so you'll just have to use your imagination on how it works.
This next one was made the following year for my sister-in-law, Debra. She's a great lover of cats and computers, and really had her eye on the toy I made for Mom. I simplified the mechanics a bit, but I think she was happy with it. When you turn the crank, the arms tap away at the keyboard. I like the "antique" feel of old wooden toys from days gone by, so I painted it to have that worn and aged look.

Friday, June 12, 2009

TABLETOP GAMING: "Tree Fortress"

Here's another fun gaming project for my friend, Jaye. And thanks to Jenni for the use of a couple more of her New Zealand photos for the background great...looks like my tree is really there in the deep jungle!

Obviously, I was heavily influenced by the "Lord of the Rings" movies, Disney's "Swiss Family Robinson", and all the Tarzan movies I watched as a kid. Always wanted a really cool treehouse like that...just made one a lot smaller! Below are the initial sketches for the fortress.

Here's how this all came together...I cut rough shapes from pink insulation foam and glued them together. I then began the messy process of sanding everything to a smoother surface. I then coated everything with gesso. I also hot-glued on wire bits for the root system.

Next I began to cover the foam with paper mache (the premade "mulch" formula that just needs water added). I made several circular shaped platforms and stairs, then hotglued them to the tree. I covered all the "decking" with toothpicks, sanded the edges, then painted everything with gray acrylic.

I later decided that I needed some kind of railing around the platforms. I glued toothpicks onto soft foam rubber strips, cut them apart, then hotglued them on. Finally I built up washes of browns, grays and greens to finish the paintjob.

Here is the completed "fortress". You can see the tiny little figure standing in the "secret doorway" at the base of the tree. (Though, white is not the recommended color to wear, if you wish for your secret entrance to stay that way.) I like to imagine that the huge tree has been hollowed out inside, with a circular stairway leading up to the big opening in the middle of the tree. From there, the occupants can climb ladders up the limbs to get into the " lookout towers".

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Time for some more "Tabletop Terrain". This was a rather large set piece that I made for my friend, Steve. After I had made the Lava for Jaye, I wanted to go to the other extreme. By the way, the really cool photo of the glacier above (in the background) was taken in New Zealand by my daughter, Jenni. (She and her boyfriend, Brad, were touring, hiking and climbing there in 2007). Thought it added a little drama...thanks, Jen!

The set was made in two sections, each about a foot wide and two feet deep. I designed it so it could be repositioned for multiple game scenarios.

The rough sketch below is where this project started. I soon realized that I my design was a little overly ambitious, so I simplified it some during the build (eliminating the "beach" of icy water).

Here's the basic shape of things, before I started carving more details into the pink (and blue) styrofoam insulation. I used hot glue and "super 77" spray glue to build up my layers. I kept the ice bridge as a separate it could be relocated on the plateau, or not used at all.

I coated everything with artist Gesso mixed with sand, then built up several layers of icy blues and white with acrylic paint.

In keeping with the design of my original sketch, there's a removable roof to access an "ice cave" at the top of the stairs.

As the images below show, there's a "secret door" inside the leads down a tunnel and comes out onto a ledge on the back side of the cave.

Below are a few "floaters" I made from scrap pieces of the foam.

Even though the Ice Canyon ended up being a bit more involved to make than I expected, it was a fun project.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

SKETCHBOOK: "Rainy Day Robot"

After posting my original sketch of this little guy on Monday, I decided to add some color this weekend. Below is a close-up crop (that my wife liked when looking over my shoulder).

Happy 29th Anniversary, Cat!

Just wanted to let everyone know how much I love my sweet wife and how glad I am that she said "I do" to me 29 years ago today! I'm very blessed (and anyone who knows Cat would agree).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

SKETCHBOOK: "Mascot Makeover"

Last summer, I was sketching in Lawrence, KS while my wife was taking an evening class. I must confess that I have often made fun of her alma mater's mascot...what kind of bird is a Jayhawk, anyway? So I decided to beef it up a bit. The color version above is a photoshop variation of the original sketch below.

(And for any university representative whom I've just made nervous, this is a "parody" for my own amusement and is not intended to be used for any kind of product...unless you want to make an arrangement...but you'll probably have to chat with Marvel Comics, too. No lawsuits please!)

Monday, June 1, 2009

SKETCHBOOK: "Robots...again"

This "Bot Welder" drawing was done as I was waiting for my wife while she was getting an eye exam. I remember looking at all of the glasses frames around the room, and started sketching the welder's goggles. As often happens...a robot showed up on the page. Last night, I finished a digital painting from the sketch. I made a few modifications from the original (I used an ink brush-pen, so there's no fixing things as you draw)...the welder's "torch arm" always bugged me. It was also fun to goof around with my "Corel Painter" program, which I rarely use (with a little help from Photoshop, too).

Here's a "Robot for a Rainy Day".

Another variation on the "Walk-The-Dog Bot".

Which came first...the chicken or the egg (or the robot)?