Ah Nuts!

Ah Nuts! Micron pens on Strathmore 300 Series Artists Tiles. 4” x 4”

This piece is one I uncovered in a box of art supplies I’d left sitting for a while (as in years), so I don’t have a precise date of completion, however I’d ballpark it at 2015. It’s one of a series of small pieces I did to keep my hands busy while I thought about a problem. It has one or two very minor flaws, but the precision is very good to my eye, and I enjoy the humor of the squirrel in one corner and the nuts in another, hence the title.

Art Color Pen and Ink

Crystal Method

Crystal Method. Gelly Roll Glaze, Metallic, and Moonlight pens, Derwent Inktense pencils, and Holbein Gouache paints on Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Paper, mounted on a 12″ x 12″ x 1″ panel treated with hammered metal paint. 11″ x 11″

(SOLD) This piece was created for the UNDISCLOSED exhibit at the Toledo School for the Arts. The exhibit is a fundraiser for the school in which patrons purchase tickets, then randomly draw a number from a fishbowl at the event that determines the order in which they can choose a piece. The artists sign their works on the back of the piece; hence the “undisclosed” part, which puts all of the artists on a level playing field in the selection process.

I did this one in a style that’s different from my signature black-and-white, gravity-agnostic, news-driven pieces for the purpose of obfuscating who did it, and I think I was successful. The blend of gouache at the bottom was a last-minute addition at the suggestion of my daughter, and I’m pleased with how that came out; it creates depth where there wasn’t before. The top was surprisingly demanding to create with precision (freehand is hard!), and the entire piece took a good eighteen hours or so. The foremost row of crystals are outlined with Gelly Roll’s Metallic pens and filled with their Glaze pens, which gives them a three-dimensional aspect and makes them glisten as the viewer shifts their perspective. Those in the middle are filled with the Moonlight pens, and the rear-most were done with the Derwent Inktense pencils, the marks of which were then ‘washed’ with a wet brush. The purpose of using the different types of pens and pencils was also to create a sense of depth in the crystal array, but I can’t decide how effective that was – What do you think?

Art Sculpture


This blog is stale again, and I apologize to everyone who’s a regular follower. My work as a technical consultant for Improving has been taking priority, and though I’ve never entirely stopped creating, my ability to make meaningful progress on art has been substantially curtailed for a while.* Fortunately that’s changing, because of a major exhibit I have opening soon that I’ll be covering in my next post.

These are the sculptural works that I promised in my previous post. They were created using the wax from Baby Bel cheeses that I ate over lunch at the office. The wax becomes very malleable after being worked for a few minutes by warm hands, and it has reasonably good shape-retention characteristics after it cools back to room temperature, which makes it a great medium for casual, fingers-only sculpting.

Most of these came out very well without tooling, though of course they could always be better. Working exclusively with my hands limits my ability to do details, but it makes the work more challenging, which is what I enjoy. I’d like to do more of this kind of thing in a more permanent medium, maybe also with tools. However, I’m concentrating on new work for an exhibit I have coming up at 20 North Gallery that will be in my signature pen-and-ink style.

If you’re a sculptor, do you have a favorite medium? What properties does it have that appeal to you?

* Being a technical consultant is challenging, not least because the nature of the work changes on a regular basis as you move between clients. Improving in particular has what we call the Employee Improvement Program, or EIP. By participating in the program, we accumulate points every quarter for doing things that benefit the company and the technical community at large, whether it’s speaking at users groups or conferences, bringing in prospective recruits or sales opportunities, volunteering in the community, and dozens of other activities. We’re given a bonus at the end of the quarter from a pool of cash that’s based on our percentage of the points earned by everyone in the office, so there’s a financial incentive to do these things, and they also make decisions about promotions, equity stakes, and other things based on our performance in the program. I greatly appreciate that they’re putting their money where their mouth is as far as Conscious Capitalism goes, which is the philosophy we follow, and which is a topic I’ll cover another time. However, participating in the program aggressively has eaten up most of the spare time I’d been using for art.

Art Pencil and Paper

Sketchwork Spring-Fall 2018

I realized the blog was getting stale (sorry about that), but it’s not because I haven’t been busy producing art! I’ve spent the last few months stretching myself in some new directions, and even though this is nominally my record of my work in pen-and-ink, art is often about breaking the rules and trying new things, so here we are.

These pieces were created between May and September of 2018, and are in the order they were drawn. They were derived from photos posted online (not live sittings) of personal friends: Claire, Shelly, Dawne, and Sanazi. Claire’s was a quick sketch I drew to test the new materials I acquired, and I was so pleased with the results that I produced the others in relatively quick succession. (By ‘quick’, I mean over several months, as the time I have to devote to my art is extremely limited at the moment.) Each of them required a fanatical attention to detail, and though I know I didn’t get everything perfect in any particular piece, I’m deeply pleased with aspects of all of them, and I learned a great deal along the way.

I’ll be posting photos of my sculptural work soon – Stay tuned!

Art Pen and Ink

Black Panther

Black Panther. Micron Pens on Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Paper. 12" x 12"
Black Panther. Micron Pens on Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Paper. 12″ x 12″

This is a piece I was honored to have been invited to create for the Undisclosed 2018 Art Show, a fundraiser to benefit the Toledo School for the Arts. TSA is a non-profit charter institution based in the heart of downtown Toledo that provides a rigorous scholarly curriculum within the context of an arts-intensive environment, and Undisclosed is an annual event that regularly raises over $10,000 for the school. (Disclosure: My daughter is a student.)

The unifying theme from which this piece draws its name is a celebration of the explosion of African American influence on the mainstream pop-culture of America denoted by the release of the film earlier this year. I’m thrilled with many aspects of the end result, notably the depiction of the Black Panther costume; Wakanda as it appeared in one of the original comics; and the roaring panther. I’m also especially happy with some of the abstract elements, such as the five-pointed star-like shape near the bottom, and the factory/tree combination that’s a passing nod to the intricate relationship between our work and our world. The leafy structures near the center are a depiction of the leaves of the Umbrella Thorn Acacia, a plant that’s native to the African savannah in which the mythical nation of Wakanda is placed. (If I’d had more time, I might have spent some extra effort sharpening those up a bit.) It was also great fun creating the ‘Wham! Pow! Oof! Bang!’ bubble, especially considering how often I saw those in the TV shows of my youth.

The sharp-eyed viewer will notice this piece is not signed! That’s by design, in accordance with the rules of the show. The event attendees get to choose pieces without knowing by whom they were created until their selections are made and they can see the rear of the piece. Another subtlety is this piece is mounted to a wooden base which allows it to be hung any-side-up, at the discretion of the owner.

Art Color Pen and Ink

Leaves II

Leaves I. Zig Fudebiyori Metallic and Uni-Ball Signo pens on Fabriano Black Black drawing paper. 8" x 8"
Leaves II. Zig Fudebiyori Metallic and Uni-Ball Signo pens on Fabriano Black Black drawing paper. 8″ x 8″

This piece is the second in a series on the theme of leaves, which I mostly produced to test the Fudebiyori pens I acquired recently. This one was a lot of work to create, especially as I had to go over most of the white lines twice (and then do the typical back-and-forth cleanup), however I think the end results are solid. I really like the Black Black paper – It’s amazingly uniform in color, especially compared to the Strathmore, which is one of the reasons I left bits of it showing through. I also minimized over-use of the colored pens on this one, to try to preserve more of the sheen of the metallic additives in the ink; that was largely successful. I still haven’t gotten the time to set up high-quality photos of my work with truly accurate colors the way I’d like, but I’m hoping to get that issue resolved soon.

Art Color Pen and Ink

Leaves I

Leaves I. Zig Fudebiyori Metallic and Uniball Signo Broad pens on Strathmore 400 Series Black Artist Tile. 6" x 6"
Leaves I. Zig Fudebiyori Metallic and Uniball Signo Broad pens on Strathmore 400 Series Black Artist Tile. 6″ x 6″

I finally got a chance to do more art! Since I took a position last fall as a consultant for Improving, my evenings have been almost entirely occupied with user’s group meetings and technical events, which has severely constrained my drawing time. My apologies that the blog has gotten stale as a result.

This was a piece I did to test my new Fudebiyori pens that I picked up at the Art Supply Depō last weekend. The title is Leaves I, because I’m planning on doing a conceptually similar piece on a bigger, blacker piece of paper next. I learned a few lessons that will help with the next one. For example, using multiple coats of the Fudebiyori makes the color more intense, but takes the shine out of the ink (I’m guessing that the mica particles, which is what’s usually in these things that’s responsible for the metal-like sheen, sink to the bottom layer, but I don’t have a microscope for a closer look.) And the Uniball ink will melt some of the Fudebiyori colors, which makes it surprisingly hard to maintain the integrity of the white border lines. Overall, though, I think this one is technically decent and has a good balance of colors. I also suspect it will look really snappy once it’s framed, which I intend to do.

Art Pen and Ink

Swamp Things


Swamp Things. Micron pens on Strathmore 300 Series Bristol paper. 14" x 14"
Swamp Things. Micron pens on Strathmore 300 Series Bristol paper. 14″ x 14″

This is the second piece in the Swamp Things Collection, which I created in response to a call for artists from the Art Supply Depō in Bowling Green, Ohio. All of the creatures pictured in the collection are native to the Great Black Swamp region, and are not drawn to scale relative to one another. I’d originally planned three pieces, but I ran out of time before the deadline, so only the first two were submitted. I’m still planning on creating the third for posterity.

I wasn’t initially happy with this piece. You wouldn’t necessarily know it just by looking at it, but it’s production fell well outside my normal approach. Aside from there being no abstract components, I (mostly) drew the frames to fit the flora and fauna, so I could draw the entire corpus. Usually, I start by creating a series of frames in arbitrary shapes and sizes, then fill them in with material (which is why, in other works of mine, many of the realism elements are trimmed to fit.) It was surprisingly disconcerting to work this way, and led me to make a number of substantial mistakes. They are disguised to the best of my ability, but aren’t completely invisible, and might require further work. There’s also far more unused white space in the frames than I’d normally like to leave available. And to be be candid, I added the title at the last second in an effort to meet the submission deadline, rather than draw another animal in the corner. I probably won’t take that approach again in the future, though it works reasonably well here.

However, on balance, I think it’s decent overall. The individual plants and animals (which were mostly chosen based on the delightfulness of their names) are about as good as I can make them, at least at this point in my drawing career, and that’s pleasing to me. It was exciting, if a bit nerve-wracking, to be creating pieces to submit to the judgement of artists for whom I have a great deal of respect. I don’t know if my submissions will get accepted, but I don’t have any regrets about putting in the effort.

About the Species Represented

Art Pen and Ink

13-Lined Squirrel

13-Lined Squirrel (Swamp Things Collection) Micron Pen on Strathmore 300 Series Artist Tiles. 4"x4"
(SOLD) 13-Lined Squirrel (Swamp Things Collection)
Micron Pen on Strathmore 300 Series Artist Tiles. 4″x4″

This is the first piece in the Swamp Things Collection, a set of three that I’m constructing in response to a call for artists from the Art Supply Depō in Bowling Green, Ohio. The theme of the call is the Great Black Swamp, hence the collection will be based on species that are native to the area.  It’s a far departure from my typical abstract work, but I’m very happy with how this one came out, and the second item (which will be much larger) is coming along nicely.

Update: I’m pleased to report this piece has been sold in the Swamp Things Exhibition! Thank you to my generous patrons – I hope you enjoy it through the years to come.

Art Pen and Ink

Crazy Bird

Crazy Bird. Staedtler pigment liner pens on Strathmore 300 Series Artist Tiles. 4" x 4"
Crazy Bird. Staedtler pigment liner pens on Strathmore 300 Series Artist Tiles. 4″ x 4″

This is another in a series of small pieces I’ve created in my spare time at work. I used a new flavor of pen (Staedtler pigment liners), which didn’t work out quite as well as I would have liked. The ink stays wet just a little bit longer than the ink coming out of the Microns I usually use, which made it too easy for me to smear the ink accidentally. I also burned through an entire (.1) pen in one piece; the Microns tend to last longer.

As far as looks go, I’m pretty happy with how this one came out. I didn’t have anything particular in mind while I was creating it; it’s more of a stream-of-consciousness piece, like most of those that I generate at the office (I can’t do much in the way of controversial material there.) I’m especially happy with the textured section under the bird’s neck, which has a surprising amount of depth. The bird itself was an interesting side-effect of the drawing process; it wasn’t a pre-planned element.