Category Archives: illustration process

Country mouse in the city

Mela, my agent, asks her artists every so often to create images keeping to a theme. This time it was City/Country. I decided to update the old Æsop fable about the country mouse and the city mouse.

To feel the city from a mouse’s point of view, I used some crazy linear perspective—with a vanishing point in the sky—and aerial perspective, making the nearby colors vivid and the faraway colors pale. One rainy afternoon I happened to be stuck in midtown Manhattan traffic, so I took a few photos. I’m glad I did! They provided perfect reference for this scene.

Oh, that Samson

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So I’m trying to work up a character design for a project. It’s Samson, from the Bible—you know, Samson and Delilah, one of the judges of Israel, gets all his strength from his hair—and I want to show how he looks before he gets a haircut, and after. Here’s the problem: in the ‘before’ sketches hardly any of his face shows, right? Samson took a Nazarite vow never to let a razor touch his head. Between his hair and beard, only his eyes and nose can be seen. Below his beard, of course, is Samson’s magnificent physique. Get a load of those delts and pecs!

Now I want to show the same character after Delilah shaved him. No more beard, no more hair. You can see Samson’s face, but since you never saw much of it before, how do you recognize him after? That’s okay—everyone can still recognize his muscles. Except Samson lost all his strength when he lost his hair. His physique has to sag a bit. Kind of tough to see who it is. Hey, what about those eyes? Eyes are the windows to the soul—we’ll be able to tell it’s our boy from his eyes. Er, no. Those rotten Philistines blinded Samson as soon as they knew he was too weak to fight back. I put sunglasses on him. I can’t even let you know who it is with his eyes. What’s left? Samson’s NOSE. That’s it. That’s pretty much all I can give you to clue you in that it’s the same guy, before and after.

You can read Samson’s story if you have a Bible handy. It’s Judges Chapters 13 – 16. Samson is a not-so-bright lunk with a weakness for pretty girls. Maybe better you should click on this link. It’s G rated.

A Funny Thing Happened…

Another fantastic and fun project for the Pittsburgh Public Theater—create an image for A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum! My talented pal Paul Schifino art directed. He asked for something with a cornucopia and spectacularly oomphy slave-girls. I generated a bunch of rough ideas—we lost the cornucopia along the way. Harem pants looked too ‘I Dream of Jeanie’, so they got replaced with skimpy versions of ancient Roman fashion. Not a job for the faint-hearted.

A side note: this 2017/2018 season will be the finale for Ted Pappas, the Public’s Producing Artistic Director. I’m grateful to have seen many of his fabulous productions over the years. Best wishes for a well-deserved retirement!

Cherry Valley-Springfield School

I had a wonderful time meeting the students and teachers at Cherry Valley-Springfield last month—thanks for inviting me! Those guys had some crazy ideas for the painting demonstration. Here is something you don’t see every day: an alien pirate bunny riding a dragon/dinosaur while eating a cheeseburger. With a cat and a spider.

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Sixty-Six Books

I just finished a poster for an upcoming event at my church—66 Books In 2 Hours. Pastor Greg will be cramming the entirety of Holy Writ into a frothy evening of dinner and a floor show.

If you are anywhere near Second Presbyterian Church in Oil City, Pa on Saturday, October 22nd, 5:30 – 8:30, I hope to see you there.

Here’s the rough sketch and final painting:

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Oskar Schindler

Some black & white inking, purely personal work. I was trying to capture Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler in the Steven Spielberg movie, Schindler’s List.

Maureen & Lee

Here’s a caricature assignment I did recently for my friends Maureen & Lee—

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Twelfth Night

Once again I had the honor of creating an image for Pittsburgh Public Theater‘s season brochure. For Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, designer Paul Schifino asked me to focus first on the title lettering rather than images from the play.

I generated a bunch of rough sketches, first fooling around with different lettering styles. We added elements of the story to the type, like a pair of yellow stockings and roses. One character sends another a forged love-note and I used that motif in one of the treatments. The client picked out two favorites and I drew two tight sketches based on those. I created separate components for the winning image: lettering was done in ink on a light box and the notepaper and roses were painted as another piece.

You can find the entire 2016/2017 season brochure here. Twelfth Night is on pages 8/9.

Some old sketches

I don’t think I posted these earlier. They’re from Peter Spit a Seed at Sue by Jackie French Koller.

Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I’ve been busy developing one or two new projects and they must be kept secret until the publisher gives the go-ahead.

Escape from Netherworld—Piper

Here she is: Piper the elf from jacket art for Escape from Netherworld—about a group of role-playing gamers who are somehow transformed into their characters and transported into an alternate realm: Netherworld.

My pal, the extraordinarily talented Gina Datres, is the book’s designer and she called me in to illustrate the jacket. After some discussion and rough sketches back & forth we hit on the idea of 3 individual images of the gamers going through their transformation. For the 2 guys, Twiggy and Borhai, I drew the gamers in pencil but fully rendered their characters in paint. I work with watercolor (gouache), so I traced some of the drawing with a wax candle. Since watercolor won’t stick to wax, you can see the drawing of the gamer ‘through’ the painting of the character. Piper, the elf-girl, doesn’t change in size enough to make that idea work so I made her hair a magical element that swirls around her as it grows.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Escape from Netherworld just click here.

Author: David Kuklis
Designer: Gina Datres
Illustrator: John Manders
Editor: Nan Newell
Published and Printed by:
Word Association Publishers
Tarentum, PA 15084
ISBN: 978 1 59571 994 2
Available for purchase:
wordassociation.com   —   1 800 827 7903
barnesandnoble.com
amazon.com

As usual, here are the rough sketches, tight sketches, color study and final painting.