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

Inktober week 4: George

Inktober is done, and here’s the last batch of sketches: this time it’s George, age 76. Some of these expressions are very suitable for Halloween! [also see previous Inktober sketches ]

It’s been a fun exercise, though I like having these as pick-up projects rather than forcing a daily schedule. I’ll keep doing this and posting batches as they are ready. It’ll be a good project to have on hand if I’m more in the mood to draw people rather than my current object-sketching project, Undefined Variables.

Yeah, I'm not that thrilled with the straight-ahead shots either


Amused, in that slightly self-conscious way


I imagine him reacting to hearing someone else telling a story here


The word that comes to mind here is "egad!"


A bit unsure, but thinking it over




I'd be wincing too if someone drew my head this funny. Sorry about that


Statement III

Third in the series

Statement III • 8″ x 10″

The latest in the Statement series, with a fun variant on the white fabric: leather! A friend of mine has this neat leather motorcycle jacket, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to paint a different type of material.

Due to the color of the materials, I did something I don’t usually do on these painting: I used black paint. Carbon Black, specifically. I can usually get a good rich dark color out of mixing Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue, but I felt the colors in those would take away from it, and mute some of the matte vs shiny goodness here. I kept the rest of the colors pretty muted to balance it out…hence the grayish speedlines of the background.

There were a few interesting and tricky parts to this one. The jacket has a series of fine perforations on the bottom half of the chest and the inside of the sleeves. The helmet has mix of matte and glossy areas. Surprisingly, the jeans ended up being the most difficult part of this to get right in terms of the color and texture. I may need to find more photos with jeans in them for practice.

Also fun here: painting logos. The logos and color scheme reminded me of painting a 3-4′ wide piece of wood with a Nascar auto on it for a kid’s room decoration years ago. At some point I may try my hand at making a font.

Always, always worth it to spend time on a good sketch.

Starting sketch

I'm trying to speed up these steps since they're just foundation layers.

Yellow ochre

Sometimes, like here, I forget to take a photo before I start into the next stage. Doh.

Burnt sienna, a little umber

That's the rest of the burnt umber.

Burnt umber

I usually dislike this stage of colors, but I kinda like how this looks here.

Cautiously ultramarine

A proper black paint makes a big difference on this particular one.

Carbon black

I find these are looking better when I make the backgrounds more flat.

Gray background

It's nice to finally get to the detail work. I get impatient with the previous steps.

Detail work

Most of the finishing bits here were on that glove.

Gloves and finishing touches

Inktober week 3: Maddie

This week in Inktober is Maddie, age 31. My pen may be running out, so hopefully it will last another two weeks. I realized that I sometimes start making these expressions too while I’m drawing them…which is probably a little odd in public.

Here’s the rest of my Inktober sketches in case you missed previous weeks.

A little too much drawn around the nose here, I think.


One of the best side-view poses for her.


Started paying attention to the unruly parts of the hair on this one; guess it goes with the mood?


Aw yeah.


Been having trouble getting the eye contact right on some of these, but I'm pretty happy with this one.

Not buying it

Another one meriting a bit of unruly hair. Something's about to do down!


Sugar Skullduggery

I considered filling in the eyes, but this makes is look like's she's smiling with her eyes closed, anime-style.

Una calavera poquita

!Ay Dios Mio! in San Pedro Square Market hosted a sugar skull-making day today, in prep for Dia de Los Muertos. I missed it last year so I was glad to catch it this time. This one is complete with earrings, glasses (kind of), and braces…to correct the overbite, I’m guessing.