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.

For the cover, I came up with three variants depending on the impression they wished to make. They chose the third one, which I always thought looked a bit O’Reilly in its style.

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!

I was eager to paint this for a change of lighting. 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.

This 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 hindsight I could see reworking some of the tones around the left edge, especially to highlight the hand around the waist. I decided to leave it as it because it felt balanced this way.

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.

Inktober week 2: Michael

For this week of Inktober I’ve been sketching Michael, 23 years old. Last week I decided to go directly to ink, and continued that this week. Like last week, the first one felt a bit awkward and got better with successive expressions. The mustache was a bit too heavy on the first, and I realized I needed to use a lighter mark to make it look right. It was also challenging to draw someone much younger (few creases!) so every mark counted. I finally noticed the small bit of a wave in his hair on the final drawing too.

Lots of stippling with his hairstyle! I enjoy stippling, but it takes a lot of patience. There are so many ways to unintentionally create strange patterns or marks, especially if you rush it. I usually end up blurring my vision a little bit and getting into an almost trancelike state to stipple consistently.

I've been starting with the neutral expressions to get a sense of their overall look.


Good hair on this one, and definitely a better mustache.




The eyes on this one look a little more accurate than on the smiling one.


Woo hoo!


This looks like it's saying "really? This is the one you chose?"


Sketches: Undefined Variables

I have this little book with me whenever I go out. At the time of posting this, I'm close to halfway done.

Undefined Variables, the book

This is the latest little sketchbook I’m carrying around for the occasional moment to draw. The theme of the last one was Object Oriented, and it was a little brown book with sketches of objects drawn in brown ink. For this little black book I wanted a different theme, ideally playing off of another computer science term. Hence: Undefined Variables.

I’m trying out a more elaborate ruleset on this one. I didn’t really know whether it was working until I’d gotten four or five of these done. The ruleset is this:

1. Draw a scene of the objects in front of me and pick one object to cut out, leaving only the outline of the space where it would be.
2. Instead of drawing the true background, fill it with a nearby pattern.

Here’s the first quarter or so of the book.

Zach's sippy cup, and a very strange children's book.



SJ Singlebarrel

These chairs are like miniature couches.

AMC Saratoga

Pro tip: don't buy a kid's bike from a guy on the street.

SOFA district

Always a good time with Ted & Claire!

Parker, CO

Denver of the variable weather, and tons of craft beer.


Celebrating Lulu's bachelorette party in style.


Think I've had enough time on the lawn. It's seats all the way now!

Shoreline Amphitheatre

Dan Savage is super nice in person, as you may have guessed.

Hancock Building

Go here. This place, and the ACME Hotel it's in, are very cool.

Berkshire Room

Universal remote? Naah.

Daly City, CA

There would probably be more Chromatic drawings in here if I weren't trying to actively change these up.

Chromatic Coffee

Slo-mo flames are pretty relaxing to watch.

5a5 Lounge

Inktober week 1: Roshan

I’m participating in Inktober, an annual event since 2009 that’s an excuse to practice inking. I decided to practice facial expressions as a counterpoint to my Statement series of paintings.

Here are the rules I’m following: pick one person from the excellent Facial Expressions reference book, and each week, focus only on that person and draw a different expression every day. The book is a wonderful reference of people of a mix of ethnicity, body type, and gender, from 20’s to 80’s.

This week I chose Roshan, a 47-year old woman. I started off by penciling first and then inking. I’d barely started on the eye when I quickly realized that the Uniball Vision I was using put out too much ink for the notebook I’m using (a blank thin-paged paper-cover Moleskine). I switched to a Micron 02 (0.3mm) since the paper is so delicate. It’s much easier to draw creases and wrinkles when drawing with thinner lines overall. It feels slightly like cheating to me because I’ve been drawing with thicker (more unforgiving) lines. I figure if I do this for a while I can get more confident about working back to the thicker lines. I felt like it lost a bit of the expressiveness by drawing it in two stages (pencils & ink) so for the rest I used ink only. Week 1 is done!

A good starter post.


I can imagine the sound she's making here.

Oh boy

This is my favorite one, with the head tilt, wide-eyed, with a tiny bit of a grimace.


A little more subdued, thinking or resting.


Or possibly defiant.

Deep in thought