Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I created this cover last year for a Harlequin Historical by Gail Ranstrom. The idea was to somehow get across that this is a story of intrique and maybe dark deeds, as well as romance. The art director suggested we show the back of the woman's dress open, to suggest she's dressing (or undressing!). I used Maria again, but made her very blonde, and Jason Wright. This is set in the regency period of London,( around 1815), but I think it has more of a Grace Kelly Hollywood look. Whatever, it was a very popular cover! I'm showing you the larger, uncropped image, as it was done for the final art. What the art directors do with my images is pretty much out of my control!
This is a digital image, composed in Photoshop and made much more painterly in Painter. When I work, I try to have the technique enhance the spirit of the book. If this were a modern spy story I think the old fashioned paint look wouldn't be right. But in this case it seemed to fit.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


I haven't posted for a while, sorry! Things have been a little out of whack recently, probably due to the fact I moved to upstate NY for the Fall. Nice place to be for Fall, but such a big change from tropical Sarasota! I'm finding my moods being strongly affected by the ominous change of Fall into Winter, with it's lessening light and dissappearing foliage. I'm not used to coat-wearing and huddling inside. I lived up here for many years and the same thing happened every time. It's one of those deep, animal things... One of the consequences of the darkening season is that I get more intensely into creative projects. It's a way of fending off depression, I think, but it works! I notice there's an edgier quality to my work, with a more troubled spirit. But that's kind of interesting.
This piece, named Sagkafior, (for no particular reason-I just wanted a mysterious sounding name!), is an experimental piece, not done for a client. I was attempting to tell a story in a more abstract way, hinting at the nefarious goings-on in the story,(if it was a story). I imagined a queen of an alternate world. Beautiful, but evil, she schemes and plays people off each other, while gathering power around her ever tighter. But really, I also just wanted to play with design ideas, so things don't really have to make sense, do they?
This image was built on a shot of a new, ( to me), Egyptian model named Ewa, that Shirley Green photographed and kindly allowed me to play around with the shots. Because no client is waiting for his or her concept to be realized, I can be free to push the envelope. There are so many elements and textures in this that I'll just name a few: the "ribbon" is a doodle I saved and scanned, texture in the upper right is frost on a window, the wheel thing is part of an architectural decoration on a Chicago building.
Ok, now I've taken all the mystery out of the image. But that is partly why I do this blog. To lift the veil of mystery we artists try to maintain around our work. There's an awful lot of B.S. out there concerning how art is created, and I think it's harmful. Art usually doesn't just flow like a faucet out of an artist's fingertips. Most of the time it's thought about, planned, tried and rejected. Ideas are played with and played with some more. I believe most artists only have a vague notion abot where their work is going and that's as it should be. It keeps life interesting. But it also makes for anxiety when you embark on new direction, as I'm always doing. I have reinvented my art so often that it's hard to nail down my style for gallery owners and art directors. My hope is that somehow an essence of whoever I am comes through in all these different styles. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Thursday, September 28, 2006


This image wasn't done for a book, but was one of those things I do for pleasure, when I "cut loose". It's just fun to try new ideas out that nobody has to see, - unless it turns out well! And believe me, there a plenty on the cutting room floor, as they say in the movie biz. So I guess I like how this came out. It really started with a face from a shoot I did several years ago. I was having Irina twirl in the wind, wearing dress, a long cloak and a sword! She was playing with different expressions of fierceness and something about this frame struck me as intense and beautiful.
I added lots of hair and started playing with the background, which was a swirly fantasy scape. It didn't work. It got put in a folder,where it sat for maybe three years till I retrieved it. This time I had a better idea of where I wanted it to go, perhaps as a result of something I'd figured out in that time.
That is one of the interesting things about working creatively, ideas evolve. Often an idea is hatched, but the knowledge or experience isn't ther to make it work. The artist, Charles Burchfield went bask to little sketches he'd done 20-30 year earlier and glued them down in the middle of large watecolor paper and just elaborated on the images outside of the small original rectangle. He did some of his best paintings like that. Anyone who is not familiar with his work should have a look.He was a truly unique painter and viataly in touch with nature and with expressing emotion. He also managed to convey sounds in his paintings!
Wow, that was a tangent! All I was trying to say was to hang on to those ideas you have an maybe later you'll know what to do with them!

Friday, September 22, 2006


Here's another mystery cover, done for a Berkley book of the same title by Bruce Alexander. It is the last of his Sir John Fielding Mysteries, sadly the author has died. I was asked to create an image that looked like a period painting, but gets across the mood and hints at the story. The series is set in Regency times, but involves a young investigator who works for and is the 'eyes' for the blind Sir John. There's a nice mix of views of the better side of London society and the really seamy underbelly of dark streets, danger and shady characters. The story begins with the discovery of a murdered child and that's the scene I was asked to do.
I started by doing a lot of research into early photos of London, but they don't really exist from this early on. Photography really started to be a real device for recording scenes in the 1840s, while this story is set around 1815. there were later pictures of the Thames area, but by then the character had changed quite a bit, so I extrapolated from photos taken a little north of london back in the 1870s which showed smaller buildings and a little more humble waterfront. To these I added a faint St. Paul's on the opposite shore, and populated it with figures and a cart. The figures were all made up, using reference of workers and fishmongers in old photos, with one especially important figure, the fishmonger on the right sadly carrying the bundle containing the dead child.
It's an incredibly gloomy scene! You can almost smell the coal smog. I was worried that the art dierctor would hate it, saying it was too dark and to lighten thisngs up, give it a blue sky,etc. Surprisingly, they went for it, maybe because it conveyed the mood of the story.
I used the horsecart, the most foreground object in the scene, to draw the eye in and then over the diagonal line of the road to the man and his bundle. So, rather than just see a gloomy old painting, the mind is curious. Just what is going on here?

Monday, September 18, 2006


This one goes way back, to 1986, two years after my Italy trip. I think it is heavily influenced by Carravaggio. I don't remember the real title for this book, but I was doing a bunch of covers for the well known mystery author, Mary Stewart, so it could have been one of hers.
I love doing mysteries, especially when I can get into the pychological state of mind of the protagonist. In this case a young woman in hard times is married to a rich but disturbed Lord who takes her off to meet the folks, a difunctional family unit, if there ever was one! Just when she is getting used to the icy dislike of the in laws, she begins to think her new husband might be trying to kill her! She is snooping around at night, in my picture, trying to find clues, when she hears someone else skulking around,-maybe her murderous husband? I chose to bring the girl right up front so we can see her expression, while she is turning and directing our look to the shadow of an offstage person at the bottom right. It is much more frightening sometimes to just hint at the "monster in the house" than to actually show him.
The Carravaggio influence is in the strong light and shadow on the girl and the contrast between her and the dark background. In an illustration you have to grab the attention of the viewer and make the important action in the story you're telling very clear. Every element in the picture should help direct the eye to that message. But art works best when there is more to it than just the obvious message. We want to read into the image and in this case, the eye keeps coming back to the girl whose expression is somewhat ambiguous. Is she frightened? Determined? Curious? What does her hand express? These are the stories under the Story and help give the image interest.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


THE SUN, from Forces Of Nature series. This is the latest image in the group, in fact the paint is still wet! This series is not for any book, but is part of an ongoing set of allegorical images I'm doing, using female figures to embody the forces of nature. This is the second attempt at The Sun, the first just didn't feel right. I found the sun to be a very challenging subject, perhaps because it is so important. The painting went through months of changes, sometimes looking to harsh or too warm or too religious, like those paintings in Mexican churches of the Virgin Mary. That wasn't what I wanted. Instead I envisioned a woman, young and powerful, radiant with energy and even sexuality. Yet there is a spiritual quality about the sun, too and I hope I conveyed some of that in this piece.
I set up problems for myself from the start with the lighting. Where was the light coming from? Behind her? To the side? From inside? Each question goes to the essence of what she is and I never really decided, so the light comes from behind her, as if she was bringing it to us, but also from the sides, as if it were wrapping around, in order to keep her from being just a silhouette.
Departing from my usual practice, I didn't use a model, but instead created a woman in Poser. I wasn't happy with the poser girl's face, so I borrowed a face from an earlier shoot, but changed it drastically, adding yards of golden hair and her gold accessories. Her gesture kept troubling me. Was she aggressive, like a warrior? Her gait and body posture sure looked that way.
I tried adding a spear or something to her hand, but it seemed distracting and too warlike. I don't think of the sun that way. In fact, I don't think of the sun in only one way, it is so important, so vast and life-giving, but can also kill with it's heat and intensity. I think this won't be the last version I do of The Sun. Wait 'till you see my rendition of The Moon, as a contrast! It's in the works now.
It's important to note the difficulties and the failures when talking about the process of art. Museums rarely show artists' failures, and they don't show up in books much, but believe me, they exist! The creative process is hard, messy and generally a fight between discouragement and perserverance. A typical project for me starts out with the excitement of potential. This could look cool, or maybe like that! It's all possible. Then my limitations begin to show. I get depressed. "What a lousy artist!", goes the voice in my head. Sometime, often, that voice wins and the image never gets finished, particularly in my personal work.
In Illustration, of course we don't have that luxury.We have to come up with something at least acceptable, if not better! What pressure! But this is also one of the great things about the job. We aren't allowed to give up, so somehow we find a way to get beyond the discouragement and then something begins to work.
My Grandpa told me back when I was just a kid, that the true test of whether a profession is a good choice for you is how much you love of it's drudgery! So much of what goes in to any work of art is like that. Just menial, hard work. Drudgery. But somehow it can be therapeutic, just to clean the brushes, or arrange the computer files. Inspiration comes along to those already working.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


This illustration was done recently for a Fern Micheals novel of the same name. I'm happy with the way it came out, I don't mind saying! It is a digitally painted image and I do mean painted. It was quite a challenge to get the girl looking natural on that boat and to have the water rippling out from her toe, but it was the labor of love. I enjoyed every minute of it! The model is Laura Williams, one of the best and most versatile models arround. She never fails to catch exactly the feeling I'm after and she does it with ease! The was no boat,( totally made up ), or water at the shoot. Laura was perched on a bench, with her legs draped over a sawhorse. More and more lately I'm finding art directors asking me to have the woman turne away, or somehow anonymous. The thinking is that she could be you, the reader,( in a perfect world!). I think they're right. But it's a bit of a shame not to see her lovely face!
Here's a link to Fern Micheals' site: http://www.fernmichaels.com/newsflash.html

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Ok, In the interests of being informative and because PC Cast expressed an interest, I'm posting the photo used as reference in her cover, Divine By Choice. To recap the process a bit, I do a sketch, set up a shoot, pick the model, interpret the costume, ( in this case bringing in yards of gauze), specify the lighting, point of view and general pose. In the New York phot studio, the photographer, the costumer and me all run around like mad to achieve this result, wind blowing, fabric being wafted with lots of help, while the model, Maria, becomes the goddess, - all in one hour! In my studio I select the shot from about 90 frames and begin creating my illustration. It's not easy to describe how I do this. It is a bit like collage, mixed with painting, but also something else that the computer bring to it. I have to be mindful of the vision I have, no matter how focussed I get on the details. Back in the days of straight painting, we illustrators used different methods to help keep perspective, like looking at the painting in a mirror, or through a reducing glass, ( which makes the image very small), or even taking the painting outside, where it always looks tiny, pale and weak! But it's helpful to see the image with fresh eyes, to gauge whether it's getting the look we wanted. Nowdays on the computer, I can reduce the image on the screen, flop it, print it, whatever.
With this illustration I wanted to get across her divinity and her relation to the old tree, which I think is a portal to the other world. I wanted the tree to have a spirit, and envelop the girl, but also let her stand out in all her glory. I remember trying various electrical rays and lightning behind her, to show her magical power, but the art director wisely talked me out of it. The tree itself was inspired by several different ancient trees, one being a huge tree called the Angel Oak. It is really out of scale with her. She would have have to be very tiny in the picture or the tree would be just one massive wall of bark. So I just used some limbs from that, the trunk from another tree and the moss from yet another tree, which I then added to. I was trying for the whole scene to look like it was a sacred, ages-old place, and felt it needed a special stone, perhaps created by some long lost culture, to mark the spot. The stones were made in 3d, using Cararra with some wonderful, lichen textures I collected from somewhere and then given the embossed symbol and lots of chips, cracks, encroaching moss, etc. in photoshop. I sound very technical but it actually feels like painting.
It is essential with figurative painting, to get the figure to "inhabit" the space. There are techniques, like making sure the perspectives agree, the lighting and shadows, but also the artist has to"feel" the figure's gravity intuitively. I envision a line of weight, running from the top of her head right down to the soles of her feet. When we stand, our weight is often carried more by one leg than the other. Paying attention to that leg helps visually anchor the person in the scene.

Friday, August 25, 2006


This cover was done for the second book in the series by P.C.Cast, Luna Books, soon to be released. Maria, the same model from the first cover, portrays a heroine now at home with her divinity. She stands in front of an ancient tree, a portal into the other world where she is a goddess. This was done without having read the book, so I just imagined, based on a spare description, what the scene was like. There's a long-running dispute about how accurate the cover artist should be to the author's story. I've witnessed authors and editors holding up production because an item of clothing was the wrong color, but just as extreme, covers that don't have anything to do with the story inside! Some sort of happy medium is best, where the artist has license to interpret the scene and give it visual excitement, but also is reigned in a bit, so that the illustration really is about the story. The challenge for the artist is to find a way of summing up the scene in an image, without getting lost in slavish worrying about every detail.
It works best for me when I read the story and can visualize the characters, setting and action. I think there is usually a dramatic point in the story that might lend itself to imaging, but the spirit of the book has to be considered. Is it an action-packed adventure,or a thoughtful, poignant love story? These would require very different approaches! That love story might be best hinted at, with a subtle image, like a hand lifting a tea cup, or a beautiful scene that has a poetic connection to the book. The illustrator also should remember his or her image will help sell the book. So in that sense, accuracy to the story is less important than who is the intended reader. I've never liked this part of the creative process, because I think all sorts of people respond to good images. But there is a reality that can't be ignored! Readers picking up a book that has tough guys and explosions on the cover, would be upset to find a gentle story about a woman finding her true love, nor would the reader be happy who picks up a book showing laces, flowers and sunshine, only to find a book about monstrous flesh-eating aliens!
Why I don't like to pigeon-hole the intended reader too much, is because these conventions become stale very quickly. You can see this phenomenon in book stores, where all the books in a certain genre take on a look that is incredibly similar. They all are using the same symbols. Adirondack chairs are big right now. Check it out!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A GRATEFUL HARVEST, Prairie River Series

This oil painting was done for the second book in the Prairie River series,by Kristianna Gregory. All four books of this series used the same central character and I used the same model as that lead character. Luckily, because these were spaced over a few years, the character in the book was maturing right along with my model, Kelly Lynch! From the first book to the last, she had tremendous ability in acting a role outside herself. She showed a lot of spirit, especialy in the first shoot as a 13 year old alone in a studio of adults, lght and camera pointed at her and the photographer and myself calling out directions.
I was after an heroic look to the scene, the young girl/school teacher toughing it out on the prairie. I wanted a sense of urgency, conveyed by the look on her face and the kid's poses, but also in almost every element in the picture.
I believe that everything in an illustration should support the story or feeling you're trying to convey. If it doesn't, it's a distraction.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Captive Dreams

This is a recent cover for Berkley and I'm afraid I don't know the author. I'll try to find out. Fantasy starring sexy alpha males came up in the discussion on Michele Hauf's Blog,(http://dustedbywhimsy.blogspot.com/). So here's my contribution to the genre. By the way, the dragon is supposed to look like it is made out of metal, like a broach, or something like that. I found it hard not to make it into a real, living creature. To do this image I had to train my eyes to see the guy the way a woman would. I asked myself, " What does a woman find sexy in a man? " All my experience indicates it's not the way he looks as much as the kind of person he is. Strong, decisive, but listens to his woman. He's independent, but devoted to her, and because he's magical, he can take her away from her mundane life! And of course he wants her body passionately! Is that about right? No wonder guys feel intimidated by the romantic ideal! Both sexes constantly do battle with the ideal and the real.
We might be strong, but we don't know how to listen, or we're good listeners, but can't whisk anyone anywhere! Do women read these books and then turn and look at their mates with dissapointment?

Friday, July 28, 2006


This digital painting was a cover illustration for the first of 2 books for Luna by P.C.Cast. The second is called, Divine By Choice. I enjoyed creating this image, even though tons of work went into it. Another opportunity for fantasy and a goddess! Most of the work went into creating the dias she stands on. It was made entirely in 3d. The horse heads were made in Poser and imported into Cararra, where they were flattened and attached to the steps previously made to form a frieze. The other motif used on the step fronts was made in tiny parts, assembled and stuck on the steps. The bronze incense burners were also created in Cararra. I applied and refined the stne and bronze textures in Cararra, too. The rendering from all this was brought into photoshop, where I added the background, running horses and grass. All this before the shoot. Actually, I made a girl figure to stand on the dias in Poser, to help the art director and photographer visualize thow it would look. On the day before the shoot I found an area of wild grass growing by the roadside and cut a large pile of it. My wife, Tabita gathered it into a tight bundle and braided some strands for a rope and we trimmed the bottom flat. I bought about 6 yards of flowing white cloth and lugged it all in to the studio for the shoot.
I had worked before with Maria, a tall, voluptuous Russian model, and she seemed right for this part. Sharon Spiak, costume designer, dressed her and Shirley Green, Photographer, set up lights and a platform to match my sketch and we were off!
The shoot was like a ballet, with various participants. I believe all the work plus my enthusiasm helped everyone get into the spitrit. This wasn't an ordinary, everyday shoot. We all knew we were creating art!
I don't want to forget another key ingredient in this process, the art director. I had the priviledge in this series of working with one of the best, Kathleen Oudit. It is not an exaggeration to say in many ways she was a co-artist on these two. We often work closely, inspiring each other with flashes of imagination. It is a rare pleasure to work with her !
As you can probably tell, I love my job. I often do way more work than necessary, going beyond what is called for, but I don't care! There is something about creating beauty, about giving a project your whole heart that is wonderfully fullfilling.
Very few people know what goes into making these images. Now you do!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

F is For Freedom

I did this oil painting for the book, F Is For Freedom, by Roni Schotter in a re-publish by Scholastic. The story is about a young girl who discovers her home is part of the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves go North in the pre Civil War era. The two young models, who look just right in their mid-19th century costumes, were comparing notes after the shoot, talking about working in Italy for Vogue Bambini and Gap Kids, etc. Quite a contrast! I try to get the models interested in the drama of the story, how frightened they would be, the danger & excitement. I get totally caught up in the mini movie we're shooting. Of course, I do a lot of work post-shoot. For instance, one girl's expression is good in one shot, but the other's is better in another shot, involving lots of swapping of body parts. Many of changes go into the hair, costumes, colors and getting the figures to be 'in' the landscape. The painting is about 36 inches high.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Time Walker

I created this image for Time Walker, another in the Time Twist series by Harlequin. All the books in this series deal with time travel in some form. I believe this was about an Native American from hundreds of years ago, who is a shaman and somehow managed to suspend himself in a time-less zone, to be discovered by the heroine. As with the other books, I knew only the barest elements of the story, just one or two, really. The rest I just made up. My apologies to the authors if I didn't adhere to their stories! I pictured the man doing a ritual dance that somehow performed the magic of time suspension. The model, Richard Myers, was able to get into the part, once in costume and camera shooting. He was excellent and went beyond what I was hoping for. I decided , after looking at the shots and not being able to pick just one favorite and seeing two or three shots together, to combine multiple shots in one image. This was really kind of a happy accident, but I had been experimenting with ways of depicting motion, so multiples had been tried before. I liked the way the several shots were a little cinematic and went along with the theme of moving through time.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Legend Of the Christmas Stocking/Title Page

This is from my first fully illustrated childrens' book, titled The Legend Of The Christmas Stocking, published by Zondervan in 2005. I didn't write the book, but did all the illustrations. It is set in New York in 1815 and is a sweet morality tale about the spirit of giving. My favorite image from this book is this title page. I really got into showing a South Street seaport kind of place. I love History and doing this scene in a place I'm familiar with, set back in 1815 was a thrill! I took liberties with the place, of course, widening the street and making up storefronts and things in a romanticized version of what it might have been like. The boy in the foreground is the main character.
All the images were designed in Photoshop, Cararra, and Poser, and then painted in oil on canvas. I love the feel of paint and I have more control over color blending, but it's hard work. Plus, no "undo" button! I photographed a boy dressed in a costume for the front cover, but all the other pages had made up figures. On a few pages I found it helpful to use Poser to get the basic forms of the people and also play around with interesting viewpoints, but then I just drew & painted. It was quite a change from working with very photographic reference for clients who demand high realism, to trusting my hand and eye. It taught me a lot about trusting my abilities.
I used to work directly from my imagination and still do that in lots of areas on even realistic images, but for many years the emphasis has been on realism,- in the paperback industry at least.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Proposition

This was an Inside Cover for a Harlequin Historical book of the same title. It seems there's a big following out there for Mounties! Dudley DoRight, notwithstanding, I guess women love that red uniform and the heroic reputation that comes along with the Mountie legend.
One of the challenges when designing these covers is allowing for all the type, logos and the accursed UPC code, which takes up a huge amount of illustration real estate! In this case the UPC code takes up the whole lower left of the image! But limitations have always been part of working for clients. I like to think that most artists in the past, ( up to maybe the late 19th century), as illustrators. They were hired to paint images to fit certain areas, tell a certain story, on and on. Sometimes the patron insisted on having his visage included in the action to be imortalized as a witness to some saint's matyrdom.
Things aren't usually that bad now, but we don't have the time they used to have to complete a picture. It's both a curse and a blessing. At least things can't drag on too long. the art has to go to the printer! The book has to go on the shelves!
The curse is that you seldom have enough time to refine all the elements as you'd like. It teaches you to see and think efficiently, to go for the essentials. What's the story? What's the setting? Action? Mood? And then to see it in you mind, the best way to convey all that.
In this illustration, I knew the couple had to travel a long way through the wilderness, the classic romantic theme of a couple being forced together, falling in love along the way. I concieved of this scene all at once, the warmth of the fire contrasting with the cool darkness outside their warm circle. Then it was a matter of getting the couple to be believable in this story. Fortunately, I was helped by having 2 terrific models, Nando and Suzanne Fogarty, plus a genuine (rented ) Mountie uniform and prairie dress costume. Warm gels were used on a very low angle light, cool gell on a second background light.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Morning Glory

I painted this illustration in oil back in 1989, for a book by the same title by author LaVerle Spencer. Quite a good book, actually, which they later made into a movie. I recently gave the original painting to my 80 year old parents and noticed the toolbox, saw, etc wasn't in the image! I remembered that the art director or editor at Ballantine books must have felt it cluttered things up too much! Oh well it's still there, it's under the grass I had to paint over it. There's a definite inspiration from Norman Rockwell in this one, I don't mind admitting. I didn't like adding the morning glories climbing up the right side of the image,it didn't look believable, but they wanted them to be visible at the edge of the front cover. They call that a " step-back " cover.
I brought my shaker rocker into the photo studio and had one of the most used Romance models of the time, P.J., now married with kids, bring her boys in to be in the shoot. Simon Rogers, British model, still in the biz, played the part of the out of work drifter in this depression-era story. At this time, we were shooting black and white film, so all skin tones and other colors were made up. I found an old, decrepit house on Mountain road, Dutchess County, NY, which became the inspiration for this house.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Not Qite An Angel

This is an example of a hybrid art form that I've been involved with, neither strict painting or straight photography, but a fusion of both. It is a collaborative artform. The image is concieved of, a model is chosen, I bring in props, ( in this case yards of light, diaphinous cloth ), the photographer sets up light, wind and camera position as I want and then we see what'll happen! In this case I was working with one of my favorite models, Irina, (who is also featured in several of my Forces of Nature series). She is one of those rare models who seems to intuit what I'm after and express it with her movements. It's theater, dance, silent movies, all rolled into an hour of intense activity! I'm very glad to be working with photographers now, who use digital cameras, allowing the shots to be seen almost instantly. This is such a huge help over the way it was back in the dark days of film! Then we hoped and prayed that what we saw was what we'd get when the pictures were developed.
When I first started using photgraphs as reference in my paintinngs I tended to feel what I call, "Art Guilt ", which was a general sense that I was cheating by not painting from my imagination or life only. I couldn't resist photos, though and when I began doing illustrations, using them as reference became second nature. I don't feel Art Guilt much anymore, but am occaisionally reminded of the feeling when I meet an "Art Purist" . These people are seldom producers of mush art themselves, but frown, sneer and look down on any artform they see as impure. I suspect their very strict standards actually prevent them from creating most of the time.
Today I was reminded of Art Purity when I tried to list this Blog on a site that said, "No Photographs!" It started me thinking. Would they see this image, for instance, as a photograph? Probably. And yet, the shots didn't look like this before I started working with one of them, changing, painting, adding and subtracting. It's not really a painting, though, I will agree.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Seraphim, the first cover for Michelle Hauf's Changling series was done in 2003. I was thrilled to be working on this kind of project, a female fantasy/warrior/Joan of Arc type character, battlling the forces of evil! After so many years of Romance covers, I was trying to get the srt directors to see me in a different way. I felt I had so much more to offer in art. The realms of Fantasy and supernatural hadn't been tapped at all. I had tremendous fun with this one, both shooting it and doing the illustration. I chose an untried model, Topaz, who seemed to have the edgy look and slight boyishness I was after. The suit of armor, of course, didn't come in the female variety, but was nevertheless a good authentic looking costume, that took about 45 minutes to put on the model. Things seemed iffy, until we got he in front of the camera. That's when magic happened! That's also when my excitement about this image must have bee transferred to Topaz and Micheal Frost, the Potographer. Sometimes I can see that we have the cover in one shot, and that was the case here, but I got her to be even more edgy and powerful. It's method-acting really, and one of the most fun parts of my work. I would describe it as intuitively feeling what the model has inside. That fire, the fragility or confidence, whatever, and bringing it out. Working with the photos and my imagination later in my studio, I felt that something really special was being created. I've been a painter most of my life, but the collaborative storytelling and imagemaking is something quite unique to this business, I thnk.
A link to the author, Michelle Hauf's Blog: www.dustedbywhimsy.blogspot.com/
Please leave your comments!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Public Wife, Private Mistress

Working with art directors can be a lovely experience, or it can be hell! Sometimes we're just not in sync, they want the art to go one way and I see it in a different direction.This can lead to stiff, or uptight-looking images, but sometimes the challenge of doing something in a different way than you're inclined to do it can lead to suprising results. That's what happened in this piece. These books are always about a Greek, Italian or Spanish billionaire, who just happens upon an ordinary girl from Midwest, USA and falls for her. Hard. The art director wanted all the books in this line to be very photographic looking, which is a lot harder than it sounds. The photographs we take in the studio are not intended to be ready for the cover. For instance, at this shoot the couple wasn't in Sicily, but in a NY studio, on a table with a cloth over it. The girl was a brunette and a bit too large for the guy. There were no candles, etc. I decided on a high viewpoint, to be able to see past them and take in the shoreline. Because their relative sizes weren't a good match, I chose to put the guy in front with the girl behind, which allowed the guy to spread out a bit. I still reduced her later, but it seemed to work. Not only that, through a magical process of collaboration between the photographer, ( Shirley Green ), the models, ( Emrie, Jason Wright ), and myself, a really nice, sexy mood occurred. I'm offerening suggestions and commands, so is Shirley and the two models are doing what they can to be in the part. The whole thing, from putting on costumes, setting up the lighting & set and shooting maybe 75 pictures takes under an hour! When everyone's in the groove, it seems like a Major Motion Picture ! Anyway, I had my way two years after the job was finished. I simply re-worked it to be more painterly, the way I originally intended.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sunshine Diner

This was done as "wrap" book cover, which means it goes from the front around the spine of the book to fill the back cover, too.
The image shows my admiration for one of the greatest Illustrators, Norman Rockwell. I grew up looking at his Post covers and wondering how anyone could paint like he did. Not just the technique, but the story-telling. I don't know where I saw a grimy old Diner like this, but it must be a compilation of many Greasy Spoons I've eated in and drunk bad coffee in. It may be part Rockwell, as well. The diner interior and exterior were made in Cararra, which is a 3d program. First I shot models at a table interacting. The photographer for this , Michael Frost, had some diner cups and other items and even the correct table and benches, making it somewhat easer for me in that they could be touching the cups. I then made the diner to fit them in Cararra.
In that program you can move he lighting around in your model and move the viewpoint, ( also called the camera in 3d programs), to view the scene from any angle you choose. I matched the angle that looked right for my photographed couple and rendered the scene. The rendering and photo were combined in Photoshop and I think the Sunshine Diner type and menus were done in Photoshop, too. I worked on this in Painter to give it a painterly look and back into PS to mix it all up. The last thing added was grime and a color layer to tone down the exterior, to help give it the feeling like you were outside at dusk, looking in.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bewitching Familiar

This was another cover for the Time Twist series, published by harlequin. It was a blast, getting the models to act like they were being spun through time & space! I ended up having them sit, or lie on small stools while the photographer shot from above. I was trying to get them to imagine they were being pulled apart and had to hang on. Interesting lighting with a green gel helped Models: John Paul Feiffer and Desiree, ( never learned her last name). This is an example of an image that is a hybrid of photography and digital painting. In this series the art director wanted a photographic look. I think the result is something you couldn't do with just photography.

Prairie River

I did five covers for the Prairie River Series.This was my first 'young adult' series in a while and it was especially memorable because Scholastic wanted it done in traditional oils. The model, Kelley Lynch literally matured as the series progressed, Which was good, because so did the character in the book! In this cover, the first, the heroine arrives as an orphan trying to find her own life in a town way out west somewhere. I put her in the middle of the dusty street, looking a bit lost while the stage coach takes off in a cloud of dust. At the shoot I knew I wanted a twisitng motion in her body and that lost, but confident look and Kelly nailed it. It's one of my favorite parts of the job, bringing out something special in the models. When it's good, it's Art being created before your eyes! Somewhere inbetween silent movies and theater. More later on this series...

Man From Forever

Man From Forever was part of a 12 book series called "Time Twisters", all dealing with time travel. This one involved a Native American from the past, or something. I rarely get much info on these, and even more rarely remember the books after they're done. The series was fun to do covers for, in spite of a demanding art director. I could tell the models all enjoyed working on projects where they could play and use their imagination. I did, too. after so many Romance covers, Sci-Fi and fantasy is a treat!

Sunday, July 02, 2006


This digital painting was originaly much brighter in mood, but I reworked it after Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld invaded Iraq. The girl, of course, represents peace or the yearning for peace. Her dress and shawl grade to blood red at the bottom as a way of using color to express emotion, the emotion in this case being despair about the needless horror and killing, which I felt would only stir up even more bloodshed. I doubt if we have ever had such wrong-headed leaders running the US. Their idea of working things out is to shoot first, ask questions later. Or never!

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Saturday, July 01, 2006


I created this illustration for a book by Michele Hauf. Gossamyr is the second in the series, the first being Seraphim. Rhianna was the third book in the group . They're all about powerful women/warriors/fairies/godesses that inhabit another world. I enjoy creating these powerful women for a combination of reasons. The concept of beautiful, feminine creatures having vast powers is just intriguing and sort of sexy to me. There's also the feminine principle, which is that men carry in them the ideal female, the oposite, but also part of their masculine self. So in these powerpuff girls I'm also bringing for to the female side of me. But mostly it's just fun to get the models dressed up in these fantasy costumes and act out these powerful roles!
Photographer: Shirley Green. Model: Hillary. Costume: Sharon Spiak. Styling: Nevio Razzagani
Link to Author, Michelle Hauf's Blog: www.dustedbywhimsy.blogspot.com/

Gossamyr/ For book of same title

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Night, from Forces Of Nature Series

The Tides, from Forces Of Nature series


I've been working on this series called, FORCES OF NATURE, for maybe five years. The idea was to give myself a 'grand project' outside of my illustration work, but using the techinques & skills I've developed for Illustration. It's based on the ancient concept of allegorical figures representing, in this case, anything I see as a force of nature. Traditionaly, allegorical figures were used to represent ideas like Wisdom, Justice, or Liberty, like the colosal statue in NY harbor. Seasons have also been represented by figures. I set out to do 12 of them, so they could become a calendar, perhaps, but I haven't been pursuing that too hard. In fact, I've been taking my time with them, for a change. The illustration business is pretty high pressure and you don't often have the time to really develop ideas over time. So giving myself a defined project like this keeps me focused and provides a framework for developing long-term ideas. So far, I have: The Storm, The Tides, The Stars, The Night, The Day. Previous versions of The Sun and The Moon are being re-worked. Other themes that I'm considering are: Time, The Volcano, The Forest and the four seasons, done individually. The Wind might also be an exciting one. The project started out digitally, posing models, or using shots from previous photo shoots and going from there. More about models and shoots later. Now I've taken to painting these in oil about 36 inches by 24 inches. This fits in with the leisurly pace I have set for the series and allows for further development.

The Stars, from Forces of Nature series

THE STORM, form Forces Of Nature Series

Global warming, tropical hurricanes, floods, etc. The world climate is in trouble and we have corrupt idiots "leading" our country. It's hard sometimes to be optimistic, but the world has always had terrible troubles. Anyone who is interested in History knows that plagues, wars and all manner of catastrophies are the usual state of affairs. This makes me want to hold on to the ones I love and cherish beauty and the good things in life. It's a time for Art, if there ever was one! I look at the process as a meditation sometimes, but at other times it's more like perpiring or breathing. You do something persistently enough and it becomes the thing you do. It also develops into something bigger than yourself. Delusions of grandeur and other ego trips seem to loose their grip when the humble process of work goes on and on. We work, we try, we strive to do good work, as good as we can do. But it's the doing that is the spiritual thing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

DAY from Forces of Nature series


Mid-day, mid- work week. Why should anyone care about art? Because we dream of better things. Because we have nightmares, fall in love, get dissed. Because life is full of experiences felt deeply, but very hard to bring to the surface . There are other ways of expressing ourselves than smashing things, driving too fast, getting drunk, etc. And we all have inside that feeling that no one can hear us or see us. No one touches that essence of ourselves. THAT is what art is for!
It's a way of first communicating with yourself and then with others something yearning to come out and be seen. A spark of life! A moment of greatness! A sense of beauty!
You can tell, that I care about art. Mostly creating it, but more and more, helping others to discover it. I don't care if it's traditional painting, or objects made from trash, or items created in the computer. All media is valid.But it works best if it comes really from inside you, even if it's unschooled or rough. It's a spiritual thing. It's also a fun thing! It's about not being quite as alone as before.
I would love to hear from you and share my long experiences at making art. Maybe we can help each other!