Image Descriptions

Well, in an attempt to clean up my gallery, I'm getting rid of the image descriptions. I kind of liked having some of them there to add a little something to the image. However, we must make sacrifices. So I'm going to put a few of them here, with their image descriptions so they are still on the site. Also, I can go back and retrieve them if and when I ever come up with a better solution to my gallery.

Run Away Little Girl, Run Away

'Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this evening's presentation! Tonight, things are not what they seem, for tonight, your eyes may not be trusted. Take for instance this quiet, elderly woman, waiting for a visit from her granddaughter.  Surely there is nothing to fear from this sweet, gray-haired old lady. But don't let me pull the wool over your eyes. See for yourself what lies beneath those covers. And now: On with the show!'




 Have You Met My Girlfriends?

 A man of noble birth, Strahd spent much of his life serving causes of goodness and law, most notably as a warrior and leader of armies. Years of such service took their toll upon him however, and by the time he reached middle age, Strahd came to believe he had squandered his life and his youth. With this dark mood upon him, he came to conquer the region known as Barovia, and assumed lordship there, taking as his residence the pre-existing castle known as Ravenloft. From this position of power and security, he called for members of his family "long unseated from their ancestral thrones" to join him, including a younger brother named Sergei.

Some time after this reunion, the Count himself fell in love with a young Barovian woman, Tatyana, though she rejected his affections in favor of the younger Sergei. Filled with despair and jealousy, and brooding a growing hatred for Sergei, Strahd sought magical means to restore his youth. In a moment of desperate frustration, he "made a pact with death - a pact of blood." On the day of Sergei and Tatyana's wedding, Strahd murdered his brother and pursued the grieving Tatyana until she flung herself from the walls of Ravenloft. Strahd himself was shot down by the arrows of the castle guard. Even so, he did not die, but went on to rule the land of Barovia as a vampire.

Productive Procrastination Again

I had busy work to do last week, and didn't get alot of art done. So I did this over the weekend to quiet that nagging voice in my head. The art voice anyway. The other voices require different things. One would like a cigarette. One would like alcohol, another would like a Big Mac, yet another would like a human sacrifice. They really do keep me busy. Enjoy (or don't).

Oh. Some of you (out of the 5 people that read this) would like to know particulars. 2 hour (or so) painting, using exclusively Painter 11 for this one, from a photo. Yes. "Reference Used"

Figure Doodlin' Night VIII - First Contact

Uhhh....First Contact = My first time using compressed charcoal on newsprint. Yeah. That's it. That's the ticket.

The first one is a 1 or 2 min. gesture. The other 2 charcoals are 5 min. I think. And then the pastel was a 30 min. I got too precious with that one. Not enough confidence in the lines and it needs better mark making.

I guess that's why we do this. If I was perfect at it, I would quite trying. It's like golf. The whole day could be absolutely horrible, but there is always that one perfect stroke that gives you hope and brings you back the next time. Yeah. Sports metaphors. Just what every artist likes to read about. Next week,Rugby!

Shiny things!!! ------->


Productive Nerd Raging

I was working late in the studio, and ended up sleeping on the couch. When I drug my carcass off the couch this morning to get to work again, I decided to procrastinate. I was toolin' around the interwebs and saw some promo stuff for the new G.I. Joe movie.

Honestly, I wasn't a fan of the first one. However, I don't think it was made for middle aged men that still hang on to their childhood with a death grip. I realized that when my friends kids, LOVED IT!

I won't go into all of my complaints about the movie. I am curious why the hell they changed Cobra Commander's mask. He had two that were cooler than that stupid plastic see through thing from the movie. Both of his masks were iconic. Changing his mask, would be like someone changing Darth Vader's mask. I'm sure Lucas would not survive the nerd rebellion if he did that.

So anyway, while I was nerd raging, I decided to take a break from my portfolio for a couple hours and do a quick painting.

I have no idea how to make a long story short, but I am very adept at making a short story long.

I'll shut up now.


The best laid plans......

This piece was a nightmare.

I went through my process like any other piece. Thumbs, sketch, better sketch, etc.. Then I started working on the finish and quickly realized that my masterpiece was not going to work.

A problem (definitely not the only one) was that it's hard to let go of ideas you already have.

So, we will start with the story. I wanted a World of Warcraft piece. I used to play the game. As far as addictions go, it's up there with smoking and drinking. Just doing the research was enough to make me contemplate loading up the game again. Which of course would lead to the wonderous bliss of gaming life. No showers, heart attack inducing amounts of Diet Mt. Dew, and alot of Red Baron pizzas. Sounds wonderful, I know. But, I digress...

I wanted an iconic event of WOW (learn the lingo, noob!) One of those instances that everyone talks about being so much fun. Again, I went to the collective nerd brain (my friends). The one event that was mentioned multiple time was Karazhan and the "Opera Event".

So without completely nerding out and explaining every last detail about the event........Your group enters the opera, and the evenings show is announced. There are three "plays" that can happen at this point. Hood, Oz, or Romulo and Julianne. I think you can figure out what stories these are based on.

Here is a little video for you to watch, if you are interested. You can even hear them talk in that foreign gamer language. Karazhan Big Bad Wolf

The "play" that everyone remembers is Hood. So obviously (oh of course!)  the point is to kill the Big Bad Wolf. While you are in the process of trying to do this, the BBW will yell out, "Run away little girl, run away!" and turn someone into Little Red Riding Hood. That persons only option is to run like the wind, or be squished like a little red bug.

So how to tell this story in one image.....

I liked the poster idea above, but it didn't have the action that I thought was fitting.

I decided on the big action, dramatic pose, with red running around in the back.

So the sketch was done, the line drawing was ready to start painting. I'm a genius! This will be epic! I'm L33t!

I started working on the grayscale. I quickly (not so much) realized that this wasn't going to work. The cut out house didn't work. There needed to be something in the foreground. My drawing was horrible. To name a few things.

These should have been relatively easy corrections. However, I am a dedicated man. Dedicated to making things as difficult as possible for myself.

 Ok, so we will throw in a dead "Tank" in the foreground. It will add to the drama. Red is in some serious shit without anyone to protect her.  Here is where I should remember the words of William Faulkner. "Kill your darlings". Meaning, have the courage to get rid of the elements that you love so much yourself, but that don't really add anything to the whole - or, even worse, actually weaken it.

That dead body wasn't going to work for me. No matter what pose I put him in. As you can see, I tried and tried and tried and tried........and tried......

Finally, I got it through my thick skull and went for the standing pose, getting ready to take on the BBW.

Finally at this point, I thought I was home free. Just add the color and finish up. Oh, if only......

I was trying to use the WOW palette that they used in the game. However, I didn't really set up my value structure of the image to fit this quite right. I grew progressively more frustrated with the colors. This lead to the very simple palettes that I tried with the black and red. I didn't want to do just the greyscale image with spots of red. That seems to be everywhere right now. Seriously, go to a Gamestop, and look at the video game covers. It's popular. I tried adding just a little blue. Ugh. Nope.


Finally, I got something working. After discussing it with Sterling and the rest of the studio, it was decided that it was too chalky and the palette was all over the place. Hence, the warm wash. Not only did that help the palette, but it also added some atmospheric perspective to add depth between the BBW and the Warrior.

A few adjustments and we have the image at the top of the post. TA DAA! It really is magic!

So the moral of the story? Sometimes you do everything you are supposed to, take all the steps to a successful image, and it still doesn't work. You have to learn to roll with the punches. And kill your darlings. Kill them with impunity! Die! Die! Die!........I'm still working through some of the frustration.

I should have gone with my friends idea. A pile of dog crap on a stage, with a little piece of red cape peeking out. Simple and elegant.

Figure Doodlin' Night VII - Trail of the Pink Panther

I'm trying some different things with my color. I used a much darker blue, which enabled me to use my pink as kind of a midtone, hence the title (yep, I'm a genius). My gray works as the "light" tone.

Not perfect by any means, but figuring out some things I like with the color, tempered my murderous rage. Nobody died. Minor injuries, maybe. I think someone got pastel dust in their eye. It was their fault though. I didn't have anything to do with it. They shouldn't wipe their eye after using pastels. It's not my responsibility to tell them what can happen. It's common sense. I'm not McDonalds and the pastel can't burn your lap...............What the hell am I talking about?

Ok, I now present the shiny! Imagine a curtain slowly opening, building the excitement, building the tension.............the music reaches a crescendo .................. to finally reveal...............................some average pastel figure drawings. Awwww. That was a bit of a let down wasn't it. I'm not crazy.

5 Minutes

20 Minutes

Figure Doodlin' Night - Episode VI Return of the Jedi

I am not nearly so arrogant as to call myself a "Jedi". It was simply the last time I would be able to use a Star Wars title. It's better than "Curse of Michael Myers" or "Jason Lives".

This week did go rather well though. So it is a return. Maybe "Return of the mildly competent".

My mark making was alot better than the last couple of weeks. I think so anyway. It was good to go home in a good mood this week.

So here ya go. Here's the shiny.

I think these were mostly 10 min. poses.

Figure Doodlin' Night V - The Final Frontier

Uhhh....I could probably tie that title in somewhere if I really put an effort into it. The truth is, there are few movie franchises that have gone to 5 (without rebooting). I'm going to be in trouble in about two weeks. I'll be down to  Harry Potter and James Bond movies.

I will also spare you, my banal bitching about my drawings this week (Like how I still fit it in a little bit though?)

They are what they are. I would have preferred better, but I think that will happen until I die. So I might as well quit bitching about it. At least until later this week.

We missed a week for spring break, these are from the week before that, when I was being lazy and didn't take pictures before I left the studio. Confused yet? Probably not, because I'm talking to myself here.

Here are the shiny things

An excuse to do Star Wars

Lyssa - A young female human wizard with black hair who always wears white trimmed in gold.

That was the description, and the only restrictions for yet another ArtOrder contest.

It was wide open, and the history of the project from Scott Taylor at Black Gate Magazine was a huge draw for me. I actually read Black Gate Magazine and had read all of the entries for Art Evolution.

If that wasn't enough motivation, one of the one of the judges, Jeff Easley, was one of the reasons I got into art (and D&D for that matter). I still like looking at his images. His stuff from Dragonlance is some of my favorite work by anyone.

 Also judging the contest was Todd Lockwood. His work is everywhere. He is one of the most popular fantasy artists working. His work is great, and once guessed it, I'm a big fan! It's another guy that I study to try and improve.

Ok, on to the project.

I normally try to give myself restrictions on each piece. Otherwise my brain starts going haywire and I can't make a decision. This usually ends in a nap. I had no time for naps though.

So if you look back at all of the great Lyssa's done for BGM, most of them were fantasy types. Wizard is a keyword that just brings fantasy to mind first. Not all of them were fantasy, but the majority were. That lead me to the first restriction I gave myself. No fantasy.


My 2nd restriction was the attitude of the image. I didn't want it to be a pin-up or have the concept art character development feel. I had a feeling alot of people would be going this direction. So no half naked, hot chics with a pretty face.



Now, whenever I think of  a character in white, the first thing I think is clean and holy. A healer type. Not my Lyssa.

Look at some of the bad guys that have worn white. They seem that much more sinister. Stormshadow, Stormtroopers, Boss Hog, the "Man in White" from family guy, and obviously the White hat in Spy VS Spy.

So I reached out to the nerd collective (my friends) for different "wizards" in different games, books, movies, etc.. As soon as I heard the words Star Wars, I knew I had my Lyssa with the Nightsisters

The Nightsisters were a group of Dathomiri Witches (usually exiled from one of the other clans) whose magic was powered by the dark side of the Force. Not to mention they use a Light Whip instead of a Light Saber. How cool is that!?

I did some research, reading up from gaming manuals, watching Star Wars The Clone Wars, and reading excerpts from books. That was rough. I mean, reading and watching cartoons!? Just pure torture!

So on to the thumbnails. I got some opinions from the studio mates and cut them all down to three that I worked up a little more. The one looking down on Lyssa was too "serene" for me.  The last two were in a tie until I held someone at gunpoint to make a choice. Just kidding. It was knife point. I can't afford a gun. Still kidding. I bought them a sandwich and begged. I'm pitiful.

Once it was decided, I shot some quick reference of one of the studio folk. I got out the tracing paper and started working up the drawing and her outfit.


When the drawing is pretty tight, I scan it in to Photoshop and start adding some values. (I obviously didn't notice her eyes were all jacked up)

I explained before how I add color. However I usually try to have a direction instead of just blindly adjusting colors. I look at "those that have gone before" (say that in James Earl Jones voice...Epic!) to see how they handled a similar painting with a similar mood. This one was dictated so much by the whip having to be red, and the clothes being some form of white. I just had to make the rest work.

After I have the color pretty close to what I want, it's on to Painter. I like using the brushes in Painter for the final mark making and blending and such. It just adds a touch that I like that makes it look a little less digital (hopefully). I also like using the paper libraries. I've been experimenting with those more and more.

Oh, and the light whip shapes were just vector shapes with some fx thrown on.

And now, how do I promote a Star Wars painting?

"Check out the Star Warsing Star Wars I just Star Warsd! Star Wars is so Star Wars, that I was just Star Warsing all over the Star Warsing, Star Wars. Star Wars!"

It's like filling out a Mad Lib with just the words Star Wars.......I'm an idiot.

Figure Doodlin' Night - Episode IV - A New Hope


I wasn't

waiting for

the chance to

do that title since

I started this stupid

string of titles. How does

it apply to this week? Uhhh..

I thought this drawing was horrible

last night. I thought I wouldn't have anything

to post today, because figure drawing night did

not go well for me last night. (You will soon find that

I say that every time, but this time I really mean it. Seriously.

I do. I'm not kidding. No joke..Really....I couldn't be more serious...

stop looking at me like that) I took a picture of the only drawing that

was even recognizable as a human figure, and went home feeling very

despondent. This morning I loaded up the shots of last nights drawing. As

I looked at it for awhile, I realized there was.........wait for it..........................

A New Hope!

*a cheer goes up from the crowd*

It doesn't make me want to cry and break my own hands. Yep, that was a very

long way to go for a really crap joke, but if you can't tell; I'm doing this to entertain

myself, more than you. Now on to the shiny! 15 Min. Pose - NuPastel on toned paper.

Was that funny? Not really. Was it hard to read? Certainly. Does it look more like a christmas tree than the original Star Wars scrolling text? Unfortunately. Do I care? Nope. I was giggling to myself the entire time. Have a good weekend!!

Figure Doodlin' Night III - The Search for Spock

How old is that dumb ass joke? I'm going for the Steve Martin thing. I'll just keep using it until the fact I'm still using it, becomes so ridiculous, it's funny again. That should be about a year from now.

Anyway, things didn't go so horrible last night.  I have two whole images for you to look at! Wee! Aren't you all excited. They aren't perfect by any means, but there are things I like in them. I'm not telling you what though. Tee hee!

Yeah, all right. Enough blah blah! Here's the shiny stuff.

The first one is pretty rough, but there is something I like about that.

These are both 15 min. poses.

Figure Doodlin' Night - Part Deux

As with most sequels, it's not as good as the first. Fortunately there isn't far to fall.

Only one image was worth looking at for any amount of time. The night as a whole was just a big hot mess. So if you squint, and click away real fast, this one looks pretty good. I will try to do better next week, please don't hit me! I'll do better, I promise!!!

20 minute pose

Figure Doodlin' Night

Figure drawing started up again at the studio......We planned it. It wasn't like a flash mob. Although, that would be interesting. All of a sudden a bunch of people bust out some newsprint pads and charcoal sticks. Some woman (or man) shucks some velcro clothes and jumps up on a flower pot, conveniently close to a street light. "Let the gesture studies begin!" or "Oh Shit! The cops!"

Anyway, enough random blathering. These were all 10-15 min. poses.

I plan to post these after every Thursday night drawing session.  Hopefully we will see some improvement over time. Then we can come back here to the first posting and laugh and laugh at the silly way Aaron drew these (or the fact I can't seem to fit them on the page).

There is a new painting in the works, that has to be done by Sun. night for a contest. So there will be a gallery update next week. Wee! I know we are all excited. (Someday the internet will figure out how to convey sarcasm in type.)

Cool Sh.....tuff.

Taking a break from the narcissism.
My friend and studiomate Leslie Herman is part of a show at Ghostprint Gallery.

It starts tonight, and goes until the 25th of February.

Leslie is a gold medal winner from the Society of Illustrators show this year. For those that don't know, that is about the top of the heap for Illustrators.

It's a great show. Do yourself a favor and come check it out.

Bucket O' Thumbnails

Taken out of context, that title sounds disgusting.

What it really means, is that I did an endless amount of thumb nails for this piece. These are just a few pages of them. It's worth it in the end, but sometimes........sometimes.....

I had quite the struggle coming up with an idea I liked. I obsessed over it for a couple of days. Still nothing. Obsessed a few more days, and yet, still nothing.  Cried in the corner of the shower, drank several bottles of hard liquor, and punched myself in the face once or twice. Still nothing.

The problem I was having, was coming up with something unique. All of the old pictures seemed to be of the same scene in the book, or the "Frazetta" pose. Not that there is anything wrong with any of those. I just wanted to do something different.

Then, just as I'm about to give up......VOILA'! An idea that I was kind of excited about.

The general concept that got me to this point was tying together the idea that Carter was a soldier on both Earth and Mars. I wanted the silhouette to be one person. Yet the two sides are different (obviously).

I made the gap for the sword larger. I wanted to make it obvious that it was supposed to be "split", not just bad drawing.

After I have the reference done, and the details worked out I wanted a pretty tight drawing. I have to draw everything out to understand it. Then I go back in and block out the unnecessary stuff. I love paintings that looks so detailed that it is nearly realistic; yet when you look closely, it's just some pockets of detail. Your mind is filling in the rest.

Working out the values.

I usually work out the image in grayscale, then add color. I learned that from watching a Jon Foster demo at Illustration Academy. I can't say that it was my idea. I've kind of changed the overall process, but the idea is the same. It allows you to sneak up on the color instead of being overwhelmed by it. You can also experiment more and possibly find something that you wouldn't have thought of.

Tighten up the painting. Adding the "painter" flourishes.

Just about done. I made some color adjustments. It was a little too cold. I also added the original pencil drawing to the top of the painting. I lowered the opacity and erased alot of it. I left just enough to add some interest, and texture. If you look closely at the large image in the gallery, you can see it in the shadow areas.


Yes, it's a word. Sort of.

Strange coincidences are always fascinating. I made this picture at the Academy this year, because I had some extra paper, and I had been wanting to do a Natalie Wood piece.
I had no idea that this year, on November 29, would be the 30th Anniversary of her untimely death. Not only that, but this would be the year they re-open the investigation of her death. It just seems crazy to me.

Yes, I'm kind of in love with Natalie Wood. A timeless beauty, my friend.

Seriously!! Look at those eyes!

No glitter or teen angst....

Let's face it. Vampires are f'n cool. Even the glittery teen ones in the books and movies, that I haven't read or watched. Ok, so they appeal to some people.  And those people think they are REALLY cool! Seriously, they are obsessed....uncomfortably. Alright, that's enough of my thinly veiled insults. (I'm just teasing! No angry emails!)

So, I wanted an old school vampire. The old Count Dooku....uhhhh...... Christopher Lee type. Nicely dressed, big cape, suave mutha #*@!

I decided to focus on Strahd, from Ravenloft. The story was pretty cool and slightly different from good old Dracula. I wanted to do something kind of conceptual, not just a cool guy in a cape.

These are the early, early ideas. Just putting things down as quickly as possible. This is just a couple of the pages. I do alot of thumbnails. Every time I think I'm too rockstar for that, the image doesn't turn out as good as I think it could. Sometimes, I nail it with the first sketch. More often than not though, I will find something better by pushing it until I'm out of ideas.


Once I have a couple of ideas I think will work, I flesh them out a little more.

I decided to focus on the Tatyana aspect of the story. After all, it's why Strahd became a vampire, and her reincarnations consume (get it? consume? ba dum chh!) alot of his free time.

So anyway, I gathered some reference and some inspiration.


Got some feedback from the studio mates. Changed the layout a little.

I drew out a bunch of different screaming women on tracing paper. Scanned them in seperately so I could arrange them inside the cape.


Want to know a benefit of working in a studio with other artists? Check out that head. I may have noticed that he had a little squished head, before I called it done. More than likely though, I would have noticed it a couple of days after I showed it to the world.

Re-arranged the faces, and made some color adjustments. Tightened up his face a little, and then called it done.

I just wish that I could claim that I planned this antithesis to Twilight so perfectly. That would be some genius planning. Just dumb luck though.