Tumblr Tuesday – Summertime and the Lamp Post Guild

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Sketchbook illustration by Red Herring IllustrationAt the end of last Summer, I took an online class taught by Cory Godbey with the Lamp Post Guild. The Class was The Art of Personal Work, and was really pretty great, in spite of a lot of other projects and deadlines I had going on at the same time. As some of you may know, I’m no stranger to doing personal work…Heck, I do it every week here with Watercolor Wednesday and the Life With Girls comic. I wanted to take an opportunity though to work under someone else’s guidance, with a group of people who had the same goal, and learn a bit about my process and see how it could be better.
I started off the project in pretty much the same way that I always do, by working out various ideas in my sketchbook, and thumbnailing the main composition. Making rules for how things work together is also a big part of this phase, because the ultimate plan has always been to do all four seasons, and I want them to be thematically consistent. Normally, I’d move straight from here to a final drawing, but Cory had some more steps…

Sketchbook Illustration by Red Herring IllustrationScanning the thumbnail into Photoshop, we blew it up to it’s final size, and started adding in the more finished sketches as small pieces. This way, we could explore scale and size relationships, and also make sure that everything did indeed make sense. We also took some time to actually paint over a lot of the sketch exploring tone and placement, and getting a more clear idea of where the illustration was headed. I realize now that this planning stage is important, because we rely less on things just “working out” and it gives a solid base to start from. Now that the planning was complete, I printed it out at the final size (11×17) and took it over to the light table to do the final pencils and inks.

I’ve been following him on his blog and in social media for quite a while, so a lot of what he had to say I’d already heard. There were still several surprises in the working process though, and I feel like my illustration work is much stronger because of it. Cory’s class was a great experience, and I’d recommend it to any one.

One MO Picture – Sisters, Birthday, and Easter

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birthday_sistersWhen people ask me what I do, like what my job is, the answer is always the same. I’m a stay-at-home dad, illustrator, and crafter. It’s always my hope that this blog reflects those different aspects of my life and job, because this is as much a document of my lifestyle as my work. I’m very lucky to be able to do what I love and still feed the kids most days…Just kidding, they always get to eat.

When we’re talking about Handmade family our backgrounds are always part of the conversation. We have one of those rare and cool jobs that take where you’ve been and use it to help define where you’re going. Kids have always been important to us, as have games and storytelling. First products often spring from seeing a need in your life and acting on it. When we finally got around to having kids of our own, we soon found that the receiving blankets we had just weren’t big enough, so Amy made bigger ones. At the same time, we began looking for characters that personified qualities we hoped to see as they got older. Kindness, cleverness, confidence, compassion, strength, imagination…While there are several good examples of these qualities, we felt that exploring these stories on our own would help really tie them all together. Over the past Six years we’ve made a LOT of content to help promote these things in individual children as well as social games that promote role play, problem solving, comfort, and community.

Six years. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long since Abby was born, and seriously I don’t think we could have imagined how fantastic she would be. Is that too sappy? Well, this is a dad writing about his daughters birthday…you’ll just have to deal with it. đŸ™‚silvie

It’s been an interesting week. We had our first fish fatality. It’s just such a sad thing to see the poor little thing floating at the bottom of the tank. I couldn’t find the net to get her out, so poor Silvie had to sit there until Abby and Amy got home. Abby was crushed (this is her first fish), but pulled it together pretty quickly, and wanted to scoop her out and take care of the body. She seemed to get a good sense of closure from that. I’m glad we waited for her to see.

swing_setLeveling this section of the yard has been an on and off project for the past two years, and I finally got it finished in time for the birthday party this weekend. Now maybe I can focus on the garden for a little bit.sisters

This picture was hilarious trying to get. Olive kept wanting to grab her sister and fall into her. Abby really wanted to have the fish tank visible between them…Sometimes, you just have to do the best you can. Ha-ha-ha!abby

She called these tiny sombrero party hats her “Fiesta Hats”. Which makes a lot of sense. It’s funny how they look at the camera differently depending on who’s taking the picture. In a lot of ways, this is the most “like her” of any picture I’ve ever seen. Amy’s mom took some great pictures this weekend.easter

Amy’s mom made this suit for her when she was a kid…a couple of years ago, you know. The year before last, Abby wore it as her Easter outfit. It’s funny to me how kid’s brains latch on to certain things. This suit has been forever now her “Easter Outfit” and she has to wear it. Well, it’s getting too small. She managed to get the shirt on, but the pants just would not fit….

So she gave them to Olive. And the tradition lives on.

Watercolor Wednesday – Q is for Quarren

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"Q is for Quarren" by Red Herring IllustrationIt never says it in the movie, but the literature says that the Quarren are one of two races from the planet Mon Calamari who have been locked in civil war for like, forever. (the other race being the Mon Calamari…Admiral Ackbar’s people.)

I have always wondered, what riches Jabba must have offered, or what dire straits he must have been in to lead this guy to settle on Tatooine of all places. I honestly can’t think of anywhere worse for a squid man from a planet of vast oceans to move to…except maybe a planet of deep fat fryers.

Oh man, I’m probably going to have to watch all the movies again now. (Terrible, right?) and see where all we see these guys. I’m pretty sure they appear in the senate chambers in the prequels, but other than that I can only remember seeing them on Tatooine. Was it a color palette thing, or was there some big, underlying reason for it?

Tumblr Tuesday – New Story

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Sketchbook Illustration by Red Herring IllustrationWhat I love about sketchbooks is that they’re a swirling vortex of ideas, and even the bad ones have potential to be something great…or at least make you chuckle when you flip to that page.

As I mentioned  last week, there have been a lot of sketches lately…a lot of world building for a story that’s been kicking around in my head for a while. The story is bigger in scope than I can really deal with as a web comic, so I’ll be working on it a little bit at a time. This week, I wrote a four page story to submit to the Ink and Drink Comics Superhero anthology this spring. The story is a small chunk of events outside of the main storyline, but still related to the world as a whole. I’m excited to be able to explore the world further, practice my craft, make decisions about the future of the book, and participate with the Saint Louis comics community.

Watercolor Wednesday – Apple Jacks and Emperors

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Applejack CosplayLast week, in preparation for Wizard World, I asked my friends for a list of characters. My intention was that I would draw them out of my head. With no reference. If I didn’t know who they were, I would make something up based on what the name said to me. The first couple were pretty funny, but it became apparent pretty fast that this would be no way to actually make money at a comic con. People want their characters to look like their characters…mostly. Ideas are seeds of infinite possibility though, and after a conversation with some friends a different sort of plant sprouted.

This is how Cosplay Characters were born. Taking characters from the Life With Girls comic, I started drawing them dressed up as the characters from the list. When asked, I’d generally say that Rainbow Dash is my favorite pony, but when My Little Pony was suggested on the list, Apple Jack was the one that spoke to me to dress April up as.

One of the great things about doing this kind of exercise every week, is that it offers the opportunity to try out different papers and materials. I wasn’t thinking about the final outcome of this drawing when I started it, so I think it was drawn on a piece of scrap card stock…not the ideal paper for watercolor at all. There are three things that made this a challenge.

  • The paper is really smooth, so it held more of the waxy blue pencil I used to do the initial drawing. The paint just sort of rolls off the waxy surface.
  • The fibers of the paper aren’t as dense as watercolor paper, or even bristol board, so it got sort of fuzzy as I worked.
  • The paint would sort of sit on top of the coating on the paper, making it really easy to disturb colors underneath where I was working. The only way to really deal with it was to paint boldly, and hope for the best.

"P is for Palpatine" by Red Herring IllustrationP is for Emperor Palpatine…Force lightning is one of those Dark Side powers that is good for causing all kinds of trouble. Can you imagine the shock that Vader gets when he’s putting on his socks in the morning.

Thunderdome Tuesday? How about Tumblr Tuesday

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Sketchbook Illustration by Red Herring IllustrationToday was supposed to be Thunderdome Tuesday, but I’m not sure that any of us really are up to it. Maybe it’d be a little less stressful for all of us if I share some stuff that’s been going on my tumblr blog instead…Tumblr Tuesday. Basically, I pretty regularly share out of my sketch book on tumblr, but that means that unless you follow me there, you’ll never see it.  So I thought it might be nice to share some of those posts here as well, grouping past posts together so we can get a sense of where ideas are going all at once instead of when I remember to post them.Sketchbook Illustration by Red Herring Illustration

This is a project that has been slowly coming to life in my sketchbook since around Christmas. So far, it’s just a little bit more than a very rough outline and a collection of character sketches, but I’m excited about the direction it’s headed.

Sketchbook Illustration by Red Herring IllustrationAlready, I’ve seen a lot of evolution from the initial ideas as the world grows and the story starts to take shape. It’s also been great fun exploring poses and drawing nature.Sketchbook Illustration by Red Herring Illustration

You can find me on Tumblr here: http://redherringjeff.tumblr.com/

One MO Picture – Wizard World 2014

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Hero's JourneyWizard World was pretty fantastic this year. Big thanks to everyone who came out! A personal highlight for me was being on this fantastic panel about the Hero’s Journey, and how it still relates as a major storytelling framework after more than 3000 years. Things we talked about were how modern stories fit into the framework, how our own lives do, and examples of stories that have turned it on it’s ear. It was great sharing the table with our moderator Rhiannon Paille, Artist Christopher Boll, Writer, creator of the Nerd for a Living podcast, and all around great guy Adron Buske, and the incredible Genese Davis, media personality and author of The Holders Dominion.

Thank you to our friend AnnaMaria of Black Arrow Workshop for the picture from the panel!Table mates

My Table mates James and Lindsay Hornsby were fantastic as always, as well as our friends on the other side of us, Andrea of Zenbot Design, and Mary of Unicorgi.  Those Wrestler plushies are super cute, just don’t call them Patrick Star…Lindsay might flip the table on you.argyleshmargyle

I got to meet my Instagram friend Argyleshmargyle, and she picked up a couple of prints! I always love meeting internet friends in real life.Wonder Woman and Batman

I didn’t take as many pics as I’d like to have because I was pretty busy, but I did get this great one of Wonder Woman and Batman. This picture is my favorite two types of cosplay. Both really thought out, but one has fantastic, accurate details and the other is just totally home made. Really great work, guys!

Watercolor Wednesday – The Weaving Guys

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"The Weaving Guys" by Red Herring IllustrationThis week on Watercolor Wednesday I’d like to talk a little bit about process, and our friends The Weaving Guys. A little while back, Jim and Dante approached me to do some illustration and design work for them. They are looking to open a brick and mortar shop this year, and would like to rebrand themselves a little bit. One of the things that they knew they wanted was an illustration of them as part of their identity. The two of them are just about the kindest people in the whole world, and they make such fantastic hand woven rugs that of course I jumped at the chance to work with them. If you’d like to see more of their work, and maybe help out on their way to a new shop with more room to work, and the possibility of class space then I’d also like to invite you to check out their kickstarter. Some of the rewards are just AMAZING.

"The Weaving Guys" by Red Herring IllustrationI started out this image in my sketch book. working out a good likeness for each of them, and making decisions about where everything should go. The only thing we really talked firmly about was that there should be a loom in the background (or in this case part of a loom) and that they wanted head and shoulders shots of themselves.

After scanning in the sketchbook page, I cut it apart in photoshop and then frankensteined the composition together, adding some simple text while I was at it, just to make sure it all worked together well.

"The Weaving Guys" by Red Herring IllustrationNext, after scaling the image to the correct size, I move over to the light table and do a tighter pencil sketch on regular layout bond. This phase is mostly about fixing proportions, and making sure I have details right.

One thing that I try to avoid doing is drawing in all the details at this stage. It makes inking a little boring, and honestly is a bit of a waste of time. All those lines are just going to get erased anyway, so if there’s something that I know I want, I’ll just write a little note to myself."The Weaving Guys" by Red Herring Illustration

I did all the inks on this one on the light table as well, using a hot press watercolor paper, and waterproof pens I began translating all the details I had in my head. To see more of this kind of behind the scenes stuff, check out my instagram account."The Weaving Guys" by Red Herring Illustration

And finally, the finished inks on this piece. Before I start coloring, I make sure to scan and save it as a 600dpi tif…just in case I mess everything up and have to come up with a new plan. Besides that though, it’s a good idea to have your artwork available in many different forms, because you never know how you’ll want to repurpose it later.

Thunderdome Tuesday – Sidekick or Companion

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Is it too late to post about Thunderdome Tuesday? This week’s topic didn’t really go anywhere, because I did a terrible job promoting it. Mainly, it’s a new concept for me and I’m still figuring out how to deal with it. So let’s try it again."Thunderdome Tuesday" by Red Herring Illustration


This challenge is open to any media. We look forward to seeing what you come up with as a companion or sidekick to your adventurer. Submissions are going to be handled a little differently this time. I think we’ll try posting them to an album on the Life With Girls facebook page, so that everyone can see them as they are finished. Then I’ll compile them and link them back to you all here.

Watercolor Wednesday – Copilots and Uncles

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"N is for Nein Nunb" by Red Herring IllustrationMy friend Emily said something really nice to me about this picture on Facebook today. She said, “I love when you do the characters I’ve never heard of…” which was just so timely, because I find myself wondering if the decision to focus on just characters that don’t get a lot of face time was a good one.

Nein Nunb has always been something of an oddity to me. For a number of reasons. He’s also one of my favorite characters from Return of the Jedi…I think it has something to do with the way he laughs after they almost got blown up inside the Death Star. At any rate, here’s a character that is totally unheard of. He has no prior screen time, no known relationship to any other character in the trilogy. In spite of this, he gets the second coolest job in the fleet. He get’s to copilot the Millennium Falcon with Lando during the attack on the second Death Star.

The Second totally weird thing about him is, now that Lando has switched to the snazzy general uniform (complete with cape) and isn’t tromping around in Han’s outfit anymore (like he was at the end of Empire), here comes this stranger wearing Han’s vest…over a crazy red jumpsuit. Awesome. So I always pictured him trying on Chewie’s bandolier first and being like “Nah, it’s gotta be the vest.”

"O is for Owen Lars" by Red Herring IllustrationThe more I think about it, the more the idea of Luke’s Uncle Owen being a moisture farmer is either genius or just reckless writing. It would have been so easy for him to be a mechanic, or miner, or some other working class Sci-Fi job, but instead he’s a farmer. A farmer that grows water. On a desert planet. Just let that settle for a minute, pretty ridiculous, right? Or pretty genius?

All that aside though, Owen knew who Luke’s dad was. He knew that there was potential for Luke to be a hot mess like that too. So here’s the thing, Luke want’s to go to the Academy. The Imperial Academy. Owen knows that’s just trouble waiting to happen. On the other side, when Luke is talking to Obi Wan, he’s all about being a part of the Rebellion against the Empire…

I like to think that he also knew that Obi Wan was the only person around who might be able to deal with that mess. This might just be me getting too far into my own head while I work, but it seems like if he’d been a little more proactive about the situation, rather than hunkering down and hoping it all would blow over,  his story may have turned out differently. Given the alternative, wouldn’t it be better to send the boy to join Obi Wan on one of his crusades, than to even entertain the idea of sending him to the empire and risk him being found by his father?

I mean, databases exist in the galaxy far, far away, right?