Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Here's another strong, independent woman to add to my growing collection of heroic women. It's a recent cover for a book by new author, Christine Blevins, soon to be published by Berkley Books and titled, Midwife Of The Blue Ridge. The book is set in 1763 and has a very original story .
......."In the highlands of Scotland, Maggie Duncan is desperate to alter the course of her lonely, hardscrabble life. In search of a new beginning, the young midwife puts her mark to terms of indenture, turns her back on her homeland, and embarks on an adventure into the great unknown.
Maggie survives the perilous journey across treacherous seas and makes landfall in Virginia Colony. Her indenture is sold at auction and she is bound to provide four years of service to a farming family living on the remote frontier in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
No longer under threat of war, the Virginian uplands are being claimed and settled by bold men seeking their fortunes. Frontier folk face adversity daily as they carve out an existence in this wild, beautiful place. Rugged backwoodsmen vie with determined homesteaders and brutal land speculators for ground, game, and the favors of a handful
of women.
More than one of these daring men are drawn to the pretty midwife, and more than ever Maggie must rely on her wits, her healing skills and her strength of heart to survive in a savage land where the whisper of Indian uprising lies just over the horizon."
I was given this assignment as a rush job. The author had actually provided a great sketch, so I was able to "see" Maggie in my mind, given very little information beyond a brief description. This is either intuition, experience of just luck. Maybe all three rolled together! The cover crops in on my image just below the woman's nose, so Christine had never seen her face. When I sent her a jpeg of the full image this was her reply: ....."it is a bit eerie to see the full image. Your version of Maggie is exactly ? I mean EXACTLY how I pictured Maggie Duncan in my head. It is actually amazing to me that you caught her with such minimal information."
Well I'm pleased that she's pleased and the publisher is happy, too.
I don't know why, but I really like portrying heroic women. Maybe it's the contrast between their beauty and their determination, but actually, their beauty is partly a result of their determination! Whatever the fascination is, give me more stories like this to illustrate!
Model: Cole, from Click agency. Photography, Shirley Green. Costume, Sharon Spiak.Thanks all!

Please leave your comments!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


This image was done as the cover illustration for the book, The Alchemist's Apprentice, by Dave Duncan. The story centers around the apprentice of legendary alchemist and prophet, Nostradamus. Talk about a cool job! The story takes place in 16th century Venice and it's a great read, full of intrigue, action magic and the feel of Venice at its height.The art director wanted the cover to have the look of an old painting and also to convey the alchemy theme. Lucky for me, they haven't changed Venice in all that time, so I was able to start with a current photo of the Grand Canal. I had to cheat a bit to get a view down the canal from a balcony, which doesn't exist. I made that in 3d and other objects in the scene, but not the armilary sphere. That beautiful astrological device would have taken me too long to make in 3d and I had a good picture of one in a museum somewhere, so it was blended in. The young man went through quite a lot of turmoil. As it turns out, the art director, editor and others were uncomfortable with the first guy I had , who was dressed accurately in striped velvet pantaloons, tights, a doublet, etc. The whole Shakespear look. They were concerned he might not convey the "manly look" they wanted. So after various attempts to macho him up, we replaced him with the guy you see here, wearing clothing much more fitting the 18th century. I guess mass market books just aren't ready for the pantaloon! I gave the image several brownish "glazes", the same as I would do with an oil painting, and then added a semi-transparent crackle. This looks best when it's not an all over effect, but rather, appears in patches that fade out into a painted look. I could describe the technique further if anyone is interested.
Please leave your comments!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


This image was created for a textbook double page spread. The client wanted a view of the inside of a textile mill, typical of mills that flourished in the early 1800s. These were operated by children, as well as women and men and were really hellish places. I had to do a lot of research to get the feeling of what it was like inside one of these. Powered by water wheels and later, huge steam engines, they were dangerous, noisy and filthy places that shortened the lives of those who worked in them. This was before the birth of photography, so I had to rely on eyewitness drawings, but these were often sanitized. Dickens wrote movingly about the mills in his short but powerful book, Hard Times, and his view of them was very dark. This illustration began with an 3D construction of the interior space and machines. I used an architectural 3D program called Sketchup, then Cararra, another 3D program which renders more realistically. I only had to make one of each machine, and the clone them to fill the mill. It was a challenge to get the shafts of light pouring through the dust, which I managed by cutting virtual windows in the roof and blasting a bank of "lights" through them. The addition of "atmosphere" in Cararra helped make the effect. The people were created crudely in Poser and imported into Cararra, where their main function was to cast shadows and help me work out the relative sizes of people to machines. None of this was easy and things kept going wrong as the file size grew larger and larger, slowing the program down to a crawl. It also took a lot of time, but I just worked on it when I was in that technical state of mind. The final rendering took all night and half of the next day! After the rendering was in the bag, I started working on it in Photoshop. That's where I painted in the clothes and features of the people and worked on thousands of little details that give an image life. 3d programs a good and getting better every year, but I find they lack control to really bring out what I want in an image. ( or I may not have enough skill & patience! ). After fussing with this thing for almost a month on and off, I presented it to the client, - who wanted changes! This is one of the most frustrating aspects of being an illustrator. Changes.
The client doesn't know or care how much work you've put in, they just want it to say what they want and in this case it had to do with showing the misery of the children more clearly. A rare case where the client actually makes the image better! I worked on it for another week, drawing peolpe freehand and emphasizing the brutish manager and the suffering Dickensian children, while adding more grime. The final result reads like a story more than my initial sketch. I believe looking at it now, that the actual scene was probably much grittier, darker and filthy, the story much more tragic.
Please leave your comments!

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I've been a baaad blogger! Not because I haven't had images or comments to post, but due to being so busy with illustrating and with a major house redo here in Florida. I will try to post some examples of what I've been busy with. First, however, is my latest addition to the FORCES OF NATURE series, that has been going on forever, titled, DEATH. (Now there's conversation stopper!)
I think the image illustrates many conflicting and ambivolent feelings I have about death. For instance, is woman in my image menacing or welcoming? Is the scene calming or disturbing? Yes! I do see death as a force of nature and one which is vital for life. But it also terrifies the part of me that wants to continue to exist forever. These ideas swirling around the issue of death made it an irresistable subject for my series. I went to New York in April and shot a group of these: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall and Life. There was incredible excitement at those shoots, perhaps because we were all allowed to do something different from the usual book cover fare and because the concepts were abstract and open to interpretation. The photographer, Shirley Green and the costume stylist, Sharon Spiak were both in the "zone" and I was my crazed self, trying to direct something toward my vision that quickly took on a life of its own. I owe a great deal to the model, Ewa da Cruz, an actress who truly became the character of death.
I had discussed with her two possible was of playing the part, as a fearsome destroyer, and as a welcoming bringer of peace.
She said, " I'll do it both ways!" and she did. I ended up working with a somewhat 'inbetween' image. My painting depicts Death, suspended over a calm sea and gloomy sky, with some light coming through. I worked a lot on the cape to give it a rather gothic look, a bit like bat wings and created an strange pattern that becomes part of her costume. She has another pattern, like a star that reminds one of church windows. I felt compelled to add the black, slashing and torn, fluttering object flying around her to symbolize the fears that are there when confronted with our final hours. All the patterns were created in Illustrator and the image designed in Photoshop. Please leave your comments!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


THE MOON, the latest in my series, Forces Of Nature, is so new it's still wet! No one has seen it, so this is a first time viewing for readers of my blog.
I have always felt a close affinity with the Moon, at times feeling like it influences my moods, even things that happen. But mostly, I love the magical quality of moonlight, the light source of choice for Romantics!
This image is the second Moon I've done for the series, and probably won't be the last. For one thing, I want to get closer to the magical aspect and to capture the quality of light it reflects better. That light is a peculiar color, not a warm light, but also not just a blueish light either. It seems to be both at the same time! I went back and forth between the blues and naples yellow while working on this.
About the image itself. I imagined a man alone, but with a full heart, falling in love with the Lady of the Moon. She looks down and seems to see him, above the whole bustling city below. She looks lovingly at him as he shows his longing for her with his outstretched arms. Of course they can never be together, but she will look down on him every month.
There were no models in this one.
I am very curious about how you react to this image. Please feel free to let me know!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


This was the first of eight covers done in 2002-3 for a series of books by L.M.Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables. The series was called The Story Girl Of Avonela, published by Zondervan. In the story, the main character always wears red clothing and is prone to odd hats. She also tends to be a leader to the gaggle of kids that are her pals, often reading to them, so, to introduce her in this first book I had her sit close to the viewer, apart from the other kids, book in hand. My interest was mainly on the lovely face of Amber, a fresh young model, who has a beautiful, exotic look. She appears on all of the books in the series. I posed her in a position reminiscent of Renaissance figures, this appearence further enhanced by the abundant drapery of her dress. To help give her a plane that was distinct from the background I used a device I've employed before, a flattened plane of overhanging leaves. In this case the sun, shining through them making them glow and gave me an excuse to hit her with areas of intense sunlight. It also alowed me to minimize the detail of the background scene, which is a good thing, because it would have been incredibly hard to paint all that small stuff and would have competed with the main figure. But my favorite reason for using the overhanging leaves is for the graphic effect of forcing the eye back and forth between the flat composition and the spacial illusion of depth. Between a flat pattern and an image you look into. It's a theme I return to constantly!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


This image is the cover illustration for PC Cast's latest book in her 'Divine' series, DIVINE BY BLOOD, which is not yet released. This image is meant to show the daughter of the woman in the previous books, who has inherited the divine powers from her mother. I have to give credit where it's due and the design for this image was devised by the art director, Kathleen Oudit, at Luna. She came up with a powerful concept that was exciting to work with. This is really a pleasurable symbiosis, whene the artist and director are so much in sync that ideas flow back and forth freely. Thanks, Kathleen! And thanks, PC, for coming up with a story of such imagery!
Anyone who notices a resemblance in these covers to work by Maxfield Parrish is correct. He was a major influence and we set out to emulate his paintings, but, of course, do it in our own way. One of the ways I keep my art fresh is to continually look to the past for inspiriation. What I love is how an idea becomes transformed as it gets reinterpreted. Cross-cultural and across time, ideas get filtered through the culture we are living in. That's how we end up with crazy and wonderful things like the movie, MOULIN ROUGE. I'm sure Max did the same!

Sunday, January 07, 2007


This is an unpublished painting that is actually a predecessor to my Forces Of Nature series. I painted this to try and push the illustration market in a direction I wanted to go. I've tried this many times over the years and it almost never works! Well, not right away. Sometimes it take years for the publishers to decide it's a look they're after. This one never got me any work, and I don't know why.Maybe you all have some thoughts? It was intended to be a woman feeling the pleasure of awakening in this beautiful, somewhat fantastic setting. The comment it received most often was, " she looks lonely! ", not good for selling books, I guess. The publishers of romance interprted the image as if the girl awakened alone, maybe she spent the night alone, maybe nobody loves her!
For inspirationI took my cue from perfume and fashion ads where the woman is often shown alone, just looking beautiful. But I guess I broke one one of the unwritten rules of romance covers at that time.
I learned a lot doing this, just seeing how I could play with light and with the theme of a single girl. I think I was struggling with the realism of the scene, really wanting it to go into the magical realm, but it just teeters on the edge of fantasy. I guess I wasn't readu to push it over!