Preview for an upcoming show: Hues/Muse

The purple one could be on your wall!

The one and only • Prince (15″x22″)

The blank vinyl figures are from RoseArt.

Little topiary dude (4″ tall)

Here’s a preview of two projects-in-progress that will be for sale! In May I’m joining artist Celeste Young for an artist takeover of Chromatic Coffee. The theme of our show is Hues/Muse, a collection of works organized by the moods of eleven different colors. I’m working on ’em all now and will post both sets once they’re ready.

I’ve been in the mood to do more illustration, so the first set of goods are portraits of musicians. It includes the only suitable choice for purple: Prince.

The second set of goods are a bunch of custom vinyl figures. I’m painting/decorating them in different styles of arts/crafts. The green choice is this Topiary creature. Maybe I should name them!

The opening reception is Thursday May 7th from 6-9pm, and they’ll be shown for the month of May. More details to come on Chromatic Coffee‘s Facebook page!

Can you guess which ones get which colors? Tricky!

Ten more musicians to go


Sketches: Undefined Variables continued

Next batch of the sketches in the Undefined Variables sketchbook I carry around. Enjoy!

It's not easy to get into the semi-sized tow trucks.

Cafe Legato

Just one crayon, left outside.

Stray crayon

I have no idea where that rabbit came from (or went).

Easter at home

Good spot to duck away from conferences at Moscone too.


Sending off the orange seats at Candlestick.


"Paper" bags = insulated drink koozies.

55 South

Not sure what game that was. Maybe a Magic variant?

PAX Prime

Got some good use out of my bag from Headknife! Good size for a Nintendo 3DS.


Yep, that's a Buster Posey bobblehead.

Kensington Circus

I don't draw cars very often. Oops.

Just Tire

Kiss for Pie

Alan and I had been dating for about a month here. Aww!

Valentine’s Day at Julian’s (Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo)

I did some quick graphic design work for Hello Good Pie in prep for their annual “Kiss for Pie” event this Valentine’s Day.

Our friend Cordelia started this delightful event based on an event we encountered in college. We all went to Cal Poly SLO which used to have an ice cream shop on campus called Julian’s. Every Valentine’s Day they’d give away free ice cream to couples that would kiss. Cordelia is carrying forward this tradition in Norway by giving away little pies to couples.

Picking up the assets & copy created by Jørgen, I picked a few fonts to perk up the copy. The body font is Arvo which is a serif font by Anton Koovit (via Google Fonts). The fancy font is Amatic which is a handdrawn font by Vernon Adams (via Font Squirrel). Amatic reminded me of a romantic comedy font. The text colors are sampled from the logo.

For the versions with one large photo, I wanted a more decorative edge between the photo and text area. I tried an edge that looked like scrollwork but it ended up not looking right. Instead, I picked a simpler “rick rack”-style edge that evokes handmade valentines.

Last but not least: I was looking for a way to simplify the grid of photos. I ended up using two different approaches here: either interspersing the “Kiss for Pie” text, or alternating the appearance with a simpler black-and-white style. Enjoy!

This was the trickiest one with the grid. The black-and-white treatment helped tone it down.

For Mathallen’s big screen

I ended up adding the line under "for" to reinforce the handwritten look.

For Mathallen’s doors

This is my favorite one!

For S&S’s web page

This grid layout was a little trickier with the text, but it works.

For S&S’s display screens

The simplest one. I mostly just added the rick rack here and scooted the logo around.

For S&S’s web page

Statement VII

Will poses for a patient interview

Statement VII • 8″ x 10″

Since starting the Statement series I’ve been on the lookout for interesting variations on white fabrics. It occurred to me that there are a few occupations that include uniforms or articles of clothing that fit the bill. My friend Will, who currently pursuing an MD/PhD, has the accoutrement of the practice and kindly posed for me.

This was a fun shoot because it touched upon some of the style I use for user interviews for my experience design projects. I asked him to imagine he was conducting a patient interview and tell me about how it happens. It was interesting to see how he stayed attentive while taking notes (and the occasional teasing about me taking photos). The notes he was jotting down related to a patient interview he’d conducted in a class earlier that week.

When painting this one I tinkered with the order of what to paint when and am pretty happy with the results. I end up using a dry brush type of technique on both skin and the white fabric to eliminate hard edges. Knowing this, I worked on the skin and shirt first (after the initial tones) so I could allow myself a little overspray that I could tighten up when refining the background.

Working on the skin early is also a good way to reduce that antsy low point that comes during a half-finished painting. If the skin looks good, it’s okay to have the abstract/unfinished look to the clothing or the background. The core of the figure grounds the whole thing. I’ll probably play around with this more in the future when I’m ready to mix figurative work with other styles.

I particularly like the chiaroscuro effect in this one. The lighting adds an extra gravitas to an interaction that already feels serious. This painting feels familiar and friendly to me because I know who it is but I imagine it’ll feel very different for anyone else viewing it.

Was debating how much to draw in the rolling chair he was sitting on.


I'm going to have to buy more yellow ochre soon!

Yellow ochre

Starting to get some tones here.

Burnt sienna

Getting better at keeping a wide range of tones.

Burnt umber

Almost always the low point; everything just looks rough at this stage.


I think I'll always jump into the skin tones at this stage. It makes it much easier to work on.

Skin tones & shirt

These are still a little too red, but getting there.


Really like how the coat pops here! Painting with nearly-pure white is striking.

White coat

Filling in the detail work is always fun.


Make It Legit “thank you” gift

Of course I forgot to get a picture of the finished thing..! Thank you Steve for getting one. :)

Ta da!

This year, instead of spending my creative energies on a holiday card (doh) I focused on creating a “thank you” gift for Make It Legit. What started out as a theme for my blog became my business name when I decided to strike out on my own this last year. Though there are many people to thank for their kinds words and support, there were a handful of people (okay, maybe two handfuls) that were pivotal in making this a success. These are the people who alerted me to opportunities, stood by me as references, and/or were my key client contacts that made it happen. I wanted to thank them properly at the end of the year.

This was one of those ideas that popped into my head nearly fully formed. I think it may have been my subconscious harking back to the first assignment I had at my first post-college job: creating stamp graphics to use to indicate spec states (draft, final, etc.). I tracked down that file so you can bear witness to the folly of those unnecessary drop shadows…I will only say in my defense that the team liked and used them, and they looked pretty reasonable at the time.

I wanted to make some kind of physical good that would be interesting-looking and potentially useful. An old style wood-handled rubber stamp fit the bill. I got these made at Simon’s Stamps where I also bought simple stamp pads. Gotta make ’em usable right out of the package! I hadn’t ever thought of a brand color for Make It Legit since my logo is black and white, so I picked the “Grasshopper” ink because it was a cheery shade of green. It’s natural, it’s positive, it’s “go”. Why not?

The card is designed in Illustrator, and after a few fruitless attempt to make my printer work with cardstock I took it down to Kinkos instead. I mostly eyeballed the size to leave a reasonable amount of room for the LEGIT stamp. The mat cutter makes clean lines very easy, and a bone folder gave it the proper folded-card edge. The actual stamping was more challenging than I expected to uniformly land ’em centered and at a reasonably jaunty angle.

Originally I was going to send these in bubble-wrap envelopes, but I wasn’t happy with the different ways I found to bundle the stamp, pad, and card. At one point I had cut cardboard squares and pseudo-shrinkwrapped them. I took a stamp and pad out for one last attempt to find the right-sized box. With the actual pieces in hand, I realized they’d fit perfectly in CD/DVD mailers. Plus: the way they fold means there’s a lid to open for a nice reveal of what’s inside. Double plus: by sheer coincidence, the cards I’d made fit perfectly in the opening to be seen first before discovering the rest of the contents.

It was pretty involved but well worth it. I’m grateful for the people that made this happen, and am happy to already have a few folks on my 2015 list!

**bonus: I got motivated enough to write up some career-ish thoughts about this project and the motivation behind it on LinkedIn. Go check it out!

That fuschia is pretty awful too.

I would Not Approve that drop shadow now

Special appearance by my Undeclared Variables sketchbook and a Game Informer.

Making stuff is messy


Statement VI

Statement VI • 10" x 8"

Statement VI • 10″ x 8″

Got this lovely late afternoon shot for the latest painting, part of the Statement series.

My friend Teresita is renting a room in a house with this fabulous master bathroom. The windows overlook trees surrounding the property, and was too good to pass up. She had a white (well, cream) towel, so we tried a bunch of shots here. This was one of the last ones we took, and the best of the bunch due to this great casual hand gesture.

The sun was low enough to highlight just the towel. That towel highlight had particularly nice lighting that matched the tealight. The tiles also had some interesting reflections that took a little effort to figure out – some were from the sun, some from the tealight, and others are reflected light from her. Overall, it’s pretty close to how it looked except that I ended up toning down the wallpaper a bit. It was some kind of 80’s glamorous and very, very shiny. Quite happy with how this turned out!



Yellow ochre

Yellow ochre

Burnt sienna

Burnt sienna

Burnt umber

Burnt umber

The blues

The blues

Bringing the greens

Bringing the greens

Toning down

Toning down

Cooler lighting

Cooler lighting

Towel details

Towel details

Final details

Final details

Lighting studies using Adobe Ink/Sketch

Gadget testing time – here’s some sketches I made with Adobe’s hardware/software offering for tablets, the Ink stylus and Adobe Sketch app. Overall the heft of the stylus is quite nice, and the app is a reasonable minimalist sketching app.

Despite my background, I generally avoid making art on tablets because I end up disappointed with both the feel of making it and the fidelity of the results. For the feel, Adobe Sketch has a bit of pressure sensitivity…which does help, and is a feat given the lack of support for this on iPads. The results, though, are similar to other apps in this class. I can’t un-see the frequent hallmarks of digital art: consistent brush edging, unnaturally uniform transparency, recognizable filters, excess dodge/burn, smoothed-out vectors. I always find myself wishing I’d spent the time with a sketchbook instead.

Knowing that, I thought I should come up with alternate uses more suitable to its limitations and a little less focused on creating an artifact. Here I focused mostly on loose studies of lighting and color to exercise my perception of the colors a bit more. These were sketched at Jillian’s studio earlier this year.

It mostly gets the idea across.

Wobbly lines

This looks halfway decent since the shapes are so simple.

Red pipes pop

I noticed some interesting bits of green and blue here.

Good color variation

Good view from here!

Attempts at fabric

Not a fan of this one; detail work is really tedious with this setup.

An awkward straw mat

Statement V

From 2014

Statement V • 8″ x 10″

Another collaboration in the Statement series – this one courtesy of my friends Jennifer and Dave. Dave is a connoisseur of bowties and has written an eBook all about them. He had this great photo for the cover, so in exchange for borrowing it for a painting, I created a few layout options for the cover.

The bookcover

What you see here involved a little Photoshop work on the layout and colors. Though I liked this source photo best, it was opposite of the orientation I hoped to use. I flipped the photo and adjusted the orientation of the hand (right hand = no ring) and the shirt placket so they would be accurate. I also shifted the color of the tie from an executive red to a stylish purple. I came up with three cover variants, and they chose the third one.

Go check out the eBook and elevate your bow tie game!

This one has a particularly textbook-like feel.


This one's a little more like a cookbook.


I call this one the "O'Reilly".

How To

The painting

I ran into my classic dilemma with skin tones here. I usually end up skewing them too pale to counterbalance the warmth of the underlying tones. Those are the middle awkward steps.

The texture of the bowtie fabric was particularly fun to paint. Not only did the fabric weave run perpendicular to the stripes, it also had a little bit of a sheen that created some interesting highlights and shadows. One comment I got upon showing this to a friend: “I just want to run my fingernails across it!”

Sketch first, as always.


Yellow ochre fills in most of the foundation.

Yellow ochre

Midtones in burnt sienna.

Burnt sienna

Just a touch of burnt umber.

Burnt umber

Here's the point where it starts getting a little dodgy: the ultramarine.


So purple! It's a starting point, I suppose.


Went a little wild on the yellow/taupe tones, especially on the shirt.

Lightening up

Bringing in the crisp white for the shirt and tie helps a lot.

Bright stripes

A few shadows help make it less flat. Pretty happy with the subtle shirt folds too.


The skin tones needed more warmth, and a bit more definition on the neck.

A little warmth


A fresh painting in the style of an earlier one of mine, Release

(re)Release • 20″ x 20″ • 2014

This one’s a return to a style I enjoy for an auction to benefit Works/San José on December 13th. It’s based on a painting I made years ago called Release. That’s the cheery abstract painting that I’m currently using as a background on my Twitter account. I even decorated my study around it.

This version follows the same color scheme and feel as the original with a few variations. It is a wall-friendly 20″x20″ square, in contrast to the original 48″ x 24″ landscape. I also opted to add more texture to it with a toothy crosshatched base for the background. And: instead of a black border, I kept the border blue to emphasize the wrapped look. Getting the original blue was a little trickier than I anticipated. What you see here was my fourth attempt after starting too thin, then too green-ish, and then too dark.

I picked this one to return to because it is one of the ones that seems to be the most popular when I give visiting friends the “art tour”. It’s also fun to see what people interpret it to be. While painting it, I was thinking of a combination of a falling motion (flower petals, autumn leaves) and a gathering motion (the feeding frenzy of koi or goldfish). I’ve also hear that it looks like fireworks, confetti, and – my favorite for being odd – candy corn.

A particularly petal-like piece of it

Texture detail

A little happy chaos

The flurry

I experimented with different brushes and had the most success with the flat-edged ones

Color variance

Statement IV

Thanks Hannah and Amanda!

Statement IV • 10″ x 8″

The Statement series is mostly individuals, but this lovely pose was too good to pass up. This photo is from Hannah & Amanda’s commitment ceremony and was either taken by me or Alan. Only the metadata knows for sure!

This was shot outside in the sun which was a cheery change from the indoor lighting of previous images. I think I was still in indoor-lighting mode, and realized partway through that it was a little too cold and blue-ish. I ended up doing a sweep of warmer colors to fix it. It was also a group shot originally. I blurred out the background as I painted but opted to keep some of the tone changes for variety, in particular to highlight the hand around the waist.

Sometimes I can’t tell whether I’m done unless I let a painting sit around for a bit. On this one, I decided that I had wrapped it up a bit too early. After looking at it for a few days, I ended up coming back to the black/blue details on Hannah’s dress this morning to touch it up. Glad I did!

As always, taking the time for a good sketch pays off.

Initial sketch

Lots of detail on this one!

Yellow ochre

Started paying more attention to shadows on this layer.

Burnt sienna

The burnt umber pass is always satisfying.

Burnt umber

The ultramarine pass...not so much.


Decided the skin needed to be done first or it would bother me.

Skin tones

Needed to lighten it up here.

Lightening up

As long as I made the green for the leaves on the dress, I figured I should take a pass at the background.


I know I should probably do bigger areas first before diving into details, but I get impatient.

Flower detail

The lighting looked too flat, so I focused on better contrast here.

Tonal fixes

Here's where I warmed it up. It was looking way too cold before.

Warming the light

I was going to leave Hannah's dress more abstract, but that just didn't look right given the details on Amanda's dress.

Dress details