Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Here's my self indulgent end of the year rambling:

Once again, I've reached the end of another year reasonably intact. Lots has happened to me this year, both top-notch and not so much. Professionally, I feel like I made some serious strides forward in 2011. I had the honor of seeing Guns nominated for a Harvey Award. (One of these days, we're going to start winning some of these awards.) My first project with a larger comics publisher, That Hellbound Train, came out this year. I got to illustrate a classic Robert Bloch story, adapted by Joe Lansdale, how cool is that? Let me answer that: it's pretty damn cool. And I'm working on a new project for IDW right now. (Well, not RIGHT right now. I'm writing this mess. In about 10 minutes I'll get back to work) I'm really excited about the work I'm doing on this project, and I'm hoping it will turn some heads. I make a living drawing comic books. Did you hear that? I'll gladly say it again if you didn't catch it the first time. What more can I ask? (Give me a few minutes, I always think of something.) 

On a more personal level, there's been a lot of up and down. I lost Rusty earlier this year and it still sucks. He was an awesome little dude and his absence left a hole. I made a concerted effort to get into top shape, and was doing really well until my body reminded me that I'm not in my 20s any more, and that I should buy some health insurance. I got to travel and see a lot of this country I had never seen, and a bunch of our neighbor Canada as well. Hopefully, I can make travel more a part of my life. I'm on multiple roads at the same time. Some have got me going in exactly the right direction, others require some course correction. I'm making a stronger effort to achieve more professionally and creatively. Also, to set aside fears that hold me back, to be more open and honest, and be willing to go out on a limb more often. This goes for both my work and my life. I'm sure to make a fool of myself more than once, but it might just be worth it.

I really dig Pittsburgh, and glad that I moved here. I'm extremely thankful for the friends and family I have, both near and far. I made some great new friends this year. I also got a chance to expand a few friendships. And yet, I've lost contact with some folks over this past year as well. A friend called me very recently just to tell me that I was an important part of his life this year. It meant a lot to me. But it also got me wondering: why can't I do that? Why can't I open up like that to the people who mean so much to me? Pride, resentment, envy, and especially fear, just a few of the little bastards that get in my way far too often. The most difficult challenge is getting past the darker sides of my own nature. These things can be tools for survival, but they always fight for dominance. I guess what I'm trying to tell myself is: Don't be a jerk. Whether it be through action or inaction, just don't be a jerk.

I'm also thankful for my fans. It's weird saying "fans", I'm not comfortable with that and I'm not sure I believe it. Let's just say anyone who follows my work. I'm really surprised when I see how many people seem to be aware of the stuff I'm putting out. It's comforting to know I'm not toiling away in complete obscurity. I'm not doing this just for the big fat paychecks, I also want people to see it. The many words of encouragement I receive feel mighty fine and I'm grateful for them. 

I'm looking forward to 2012. Not so much the part where the world ends, but hey, maybe it'll be a fun ride. At least we'll go out with America still on top. Take that, China! Every year has it's fill of triumph and tragedy. Next year, let's try to have more from the former.  

And next year I'm sending out Christmas cards. I'm really going to do it next year, I mean it.


P.S. It wouldn't be a proper blog post without some kind of artwork, so here's a little piece I haven't posted yet. I did this for my pal Ukulele Jim for his birthday.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ukulele Frank

Another small watercolor for the holidays: gunslinger Frank "Breakneck" Kelley unwinds with a few tunes.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gypsy Cafe

A little watercolor painting I did for my friends Jim and Mel, proprietors of the incredible Gypsy Cafe in Pittsburgh's South Side neighborhood.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Transmetropolitan Art

click on the image to see it big!

Way back in January I posted my inks for a two page spread I did for the Transmetropolitan Art Book. I have never posted the finished piece...until now! Proceeds from the sale of the book go towards the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. And it would make a great gift. I have a copy, and it's a beautiful hard cover book full of amazing art from a wide range of artists. You can purchase it online at the CBLDF site.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I did this a little while ago for a friend. Played around a bit and did a color version too.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

That Hellbound Train: process

The collected edition of That Hellbound Train came out a couple weeks ago. Added to the book are numerous pages of sketches that show my process in creating both the cover for issue 1, as well as some of the interior story pages. I wrote this text originally to accompany those pages. It wasn't included in the book, but I took the time to write it, so I thought I would go ahead and share it:

This is the story of how I draw the pages. Wait, where are you going? No, it's interesting, really. Really? Maybe not. Let's find out together!

First thing's first: research! Ugh, sounds terrible. But actually, it's kind of fascinating. Although it can be time consuming. That Hellbound Train is a period piece, spanning several decades from the Depression-era thirties up to the swinging sixties. Such a period piece, especially one that spans such a large amount of time, requires lots of homework. This is when I get down on my knees and thank the gods of technology for the internet. The magical World Wide Web can be a serious time waster, but in this instance it really streamlines the process. As long as you know how to use it. Every visual aspect of this story had to be researched: clothing, hairstyles, furniture, buildings, automobiles, props, interiors, exteriors, a couple historical figures and, of course, the trains. There are various photo galleries online, and especially for the 1930-40s material, the Library of Congress, (yes, your government) has an amazing array of photographs from all kinds of aspects of everyday life. Even when I'm not working, I just like to look at the stuff.

Next comes the part where I actually start to put together the pages. I sketch rough thumbnail layouts in the computer. I basically am just trying to get a general idea of the panel layouts, blocking and story flow. I set this in the background on a very light opacity, create a new layer and proceed to sketch a more detailed page, all still on the computer. This is where the research comes into play, as well as occasionally some photographs of yours truly taken to portray certain body movements or facial expressions accurately. This phase usually ends up looking like loose pencils, even though I don't actually touch pencil to paper. I print this file out in blue line directly onto the art board, then ink right over it. A lot of the 'drawing', all of the detail work and shading comes in at this stage of the game. When finished, I scan the page back into the computer, I drop out the blue lines, tweak the levels, and my work is done. The pages are sent off for approval and on to the colorist.

That's it for the process. As for my goals, I wanted to convey a classic kind of horror vibe. Something you might see in an old EC comic, or one of the old black and white horror mags of the seventies. It was important to really nail the day to day life, the realism of the characters and setting, so that when the supernatural stuff happens you know it really means something. For me, horror works best when rooted in the real world, when even the most supernatural elements resemble the world we live in, but are askew just enough to make us uncomfortable. Hopefully, that's what I've accomplished here. That's for you to judge.

By the way, there's a reason why you're scratching your head asking "who the hell is this guy?" This is my first work for a larger comic book publisher. It's been a wonderful experience and I hope the guys here at IDW like me enough to offer some more work down the road. Big thanks to our colorist Alfredo for putting up with my notes and bringing the pages to life, to EIC Chris Ryall for taking a chance on me, and the mighty Bobby Curnow, my editor, for spotting my work at San Diego Comicon and for being awesome to work with. Now let's all go to hell.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sketches from PIX 2011

This past weekend I exhibited at the 2nd annual Pittsburgh Indy Comics Expo, aka PIX. Another really fun show this year. I feel fortunate to have settled in a town that has such a diverse and thriving comics community.

Here are the sketches I did for some fine folks. I took more pics at the show, you can check them out on my facebook or flickr.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Question and Batwoman - SuperHero Weekend Charity Auction

This piece is for the upcoming Superhero Weekend art auction, October 29-30 at Comic Fusion in Fleminton, NJ. The event is that weekend at the store, where they will have artists and costumers (and customers) celebrating, but if you're not in the area you can start bidding early online for some amazing art at the silent auction. Check it out!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bedivere: watercolor book cover

This is a book cover illustration I was commissioned to do for my friend Wayne Wise for his novel Bedivere: The King's Right Hand. It's always fun to break out the watercolors. Check out more about it, including how to order the eBook, right here!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Batman mini sketch

This will be my last post for a little while. I'm leaving on vacation today, driving with a friend to Yellowstone, then later to Canada. So for the next two weeks my internet use will be limited. I'll see you later. Please try and have fun without me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


The concept: take a Legion of Super-Heroes cover and re-work it, modeling the new design after some other classic DC/Marvel comic cover from the 60s, 70s, or 80s. This is the cover to issue 259, when Superboy leaves and the Legion gain their independent title, modeled after Teen Titans issue #14. Here's a link to the rest of the Gallery.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Baltimore Comic-Con 2011 report

Since it was only my second time attending, Baltimore Comic-Con is still very new and fresh to me. But in the short time I've known her, I've been impressed by every aspect of this convention. It's just a 2 day show that could easily be 3. Saturday especially, the aisles were packed with eager con-goers. I mean seriously packed, San Diego style. The place was hopping. Financially speaking, I had my most successful con in over 6 years of selling my wares on convention floors. And I had a great time. Hanging out with friends at my table, and especially after hours, is time that is always well spent. As with this year's Heroes Con, I roomed with talented friends E C Steiner and Christian Sager. We all sat in Artist Alley next to each other along with our extremely talented friend Robert Wilson IV. I couldn't want for better company. All weekend was filled with lots of great conversation, laughs, and some thrown objects here and there. I travelled to Baltimore from Pittsburgh with the incomparable fellows from Action Lab: Chad Cicconi and Bryan Seaton. I was very excited to hear that they made a significant splash with their work this year. They're really doing it with this Action Lab thing and it's invigorating to watch. This is a show where I get to see lots of familiar faces, and I also got to make some great new friends. If I had all day to write this, I might be able to start listing names, but I don't, so I won't. I hope the friendships made and continued this year continue on for a long time. Awesome folks come to this show. The local crowd is always kind and enthusiastic. The organizers and volunteers really know what they are doing, and they create an outstanding event. The fellow creators and exhibitors who come from far and wide are a spectacularly varied and charming group.

My webcomic The Guns of Shadow Valley had the great honor of being nominated for a Harvey Award this year, and on Saturday night I attended the ceremonies. Sure, we didn't win, but it was a real thrill to be there. And I'm not just saying that, either. I was seated at a table with Bob Shreck and Jim Starlin, I could peer over a couple tables and see Stan Lee sitting there. I mean, c'mon, how amazing is that? It's pretty damned amazing, if you ask me.

There are hundreds of moments for this past weekend that I will carry with me fondly. Will you get to read about them all here? No. They're mine. If you can, get yourself and your friends to a comic convention and make your own moments. If you can get to Baltimore Comic-Con next year, that would be a great place to start. I'll see you there.

Here's pics of sketches from the show. You can see the rest of my photos at my flickr and facebook.

Friday, August 5, 2011


A quick reminder, the voting for the Harvey Awards ends tomorrow. If you are involved in creating comics, don't forget to vote. And if you would be so kind, please consider my webcomic The Guns of Shadow Valley for the category of Best Online Work. Thanks!

Monday, August 1, 2011

One Minute Later: Moon Knight

This is the second cover re-creation I've done for the One Minute Later series, in which a classic cover is reinterpreted, the action taking place one minute later than the original. You can see the incredible gallery here, and my previous contribution Fantastic Four 171. This time, I re-created the cover to Marvel Spotlight #29, featuring Moon Knight and the nefarious Conquer Lord. Here's the original: