Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blue Man Group 2012

Great things are in store for anyone interested in seeing the Blue Man Group show in Las Vegas next year.  I can't say what those things are at the moment but will say I've thankfully been busy doing  costume design work for it all.  One of the design projects I recently contributed to was done in preparation for the move of the blue man group attraction to the Monte Carlo from the Venetian hotel in Fall 2012.  Sitting on a hard drive full of stuff I can't show is torturous but I'll manage...

Read about it here

Monday, August 22, 2011


Recent life drawings. The first is a 1 hour digital study done at a class with my tablet PC.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How NOT to collect photo reference

Or how I nearly fell off a cliff at Kaaterskill Falls.   I made a photo reference trip to Kaaterskill falls in NY awhile back for the big Ronin oil painting I planned to do.  Kaaterskill is the largest 2 tier waterfall in the state and an hour away.  After seeing old Hudson River school paintings of the area I knew this was where I needed to go for reference shots.   During that trip I climbed up to the second tier for more pics of the cascading water and vegetation.  Coming down from that level I slipped on wet red clay, fell hard and nearly slid off the side of the mountain (about a 40ft drop).  I now know the visual difference between wet and dry red clay.   It wasn’t a shear drop.  I would’ve bounced off a few trees and hit a boulder or two on the way down.   I laid there for a moment convinced I had broken my coccyx, and then carefully worked my way back down.  Some hikers who saw me staggering back to the main path gestured me over.  One of them happened to be a Nun.  Not just any nun, a nun studying to be a nurse and who just happened to go hiking with a first aid kit.  She bandaged me up and blessed me before I set off for home.  If you’re out there, thank you Sister Monica. 

Here are photos of Kaaterskill Falls and a panoramic view of the second tier. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011


“There is an ancient samurai legend that tells of the greatest of all samurai.  A master warrior said to be more beast than man, with four katana wielding arms and lightening speed.  The legend states that he who finds this master will be showered with riches, given the strength and skill to vanquish any foe, and be granted eternal life.  Yet only if the seeker defeats the master in mortal combat.”    I wrote this little back story to inspire a painting of a Ronin being pointed in the direction of THE master.

This is the biggest painting I have ever done so far.  32"x42" oil on panel.    A lot time went into the prep stages for this.  I decided to weave meso american, Maori, and Japanese influences into the design instead of the typical European motifs found in high fantasy. Illustrator/Sculptor Daniel Horne gave me some good tips for sculpting the reference of the ancient creature's face and torso.  The ancient was originally going to be completely nude and wrinkled but the idea of shriveled old boobs resting on the man's shoulder wasn't too appealing.   My 97 year old great grandmother served as reference for the turkey neck and gnarly fingers.   Thanks granny!   It was fun to paint and a welcome break from the digital work I normally do.

I came so close to giving this creature "Total Recall boobs" you know what I'm talking about!

ancient process sculpt

Captain’s blog supplemental:  For those who don’t know:  "Ronin" is a Japanese word for a wandering Samurai....or a master-less Warrior. Not a master warrior mind you, but one that has no master.  He may be a renegade of sorts, one who has lost the protection of his clan or society because of some indiscretion or another. His family may not exist anymore...and that is why he has lost his honor and decided to wander. He is a man unto himself, with only himself to answer to.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Robot Nation: An Outdoor Installation for the 21st Century | Norman Rockwell Museum

"Butch" The Constructo Bot chewing on Nova
Last month I had the pleasure of traveling for the first time to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA with fellow Hudson Valley artists James Gurney, His wife Jeanette, Mary Sealfon, Kevin Ferrera, Susan Voss and her son.  Susan also brought along her little robot pal Nova for this special event. 

 Artists and craftspeople working in all media were invited to submit proposals for an exciting summer exhibition of sculptural robots, inspired by Blue Sky Studios’ blockbuster 2005 film Robots. Three-dimensional, weatherproof, outdoor robot submissions will be exhibited on the grounds of Norman Rockwell Museum through October 31st. 
If you’ve never seen a Norman Rockwell painting or a giant robot up close then you owe it to yourself to make the pilgrimage.

There is no photography allowed in the Blue Sky Exhibit

After a long day Nova needed to take an oil leak

For more info check these links:

Robot Nation:An Outdoor Installation for the 21st Century | Norman Rockwell Museum

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

BATMAN: Heart of ICE

I don't know how many of you watched Batman the animated series, but I loved that show.  So when an editor at DC asked to see more of my work I decided to create a few pieces including this montage style poster based on the Emmy winning episode of BTAS titled "Heart of Ice".  I tried to capture the mood and palette of the episode while also giving a hint at what the wife of Victor Fries looked like before her terminal illness.   "Mr. Freeze, thirsting for revenge against the sleazy CEO who destroyed his life, begins to steal various equipment from GothCorp. Batman's sympathy is with Freeze, but first he has to stop him from using the equipment to destroy a building filled with innocent people in order to carry out his vendetta. "  12"x18" 300 dpi digital.    

I also played with the design of Freeze's costume since there really is no definitive suit.  I combined the design from both BTAS and the suit design from the latest show "The Batman".  It didn't make sense to me for a guy in a thermal suit to be running around in spandex so I tried to go for something more real like a modified astronaut EVA suit.   
Dr. Victor Fries - "Think of it--- To never again walk upon a summer's day with a hot wind in your face and a warm hand to hold. Oh, yes, I'd kill for that."

Mrs. Nora Fries -"This is how I'll always remember you--- surrounded by winter, forever young, forever beautiful. Rest well, my love. The monster who took you from me will soon learn that revenge is a dish... Best served cold." 
Ferris Boyle 
In my version I froze him up to his neck. He doesn't look cold enough here.

I was working on a wonder woman piece just before I started designing for BMG.  I’d still like to finish that one too, time permitting.  If nothing else it’ll just be fan art for me. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Aquanauts process detail # 4 Character close ups and descriptions

The final detail shots of this painting are of the characters.  I made up a fun little back story character description which kept me going as I painted.  From left to right is...

DREQ-Al  - (former) Commander ( full name unpronounceable - name sounds like human sneeze - condensed to Dreq  - Aquatic Alien from planet ( homeworld unpronounceable ) - referred to by star chart binary as PL86 - 75309 ;)   Dreq body has regenerative abilities like Earth Starfish.
Personal Log Quote " rggreregrgryy yyegruiuhjh hzzzzsssss!"  - ( Explicit content - Translation Deleted )
MIGUEL FUENTES New Commanding officer & Aquanaut war vet - Human male - Born Dominican Republic - Earth
Personal Log Quote #2 " It's all fun and games until someone gets blown out an airlock "
There typically isn’t any ethnic diversity in the humans depicted in sci fi fantasy illustration for whatever reason. So here was a chance to add an African American male and Japanese woman to the scene.  Nothing stereotypical or stupid.  I wanted him to have a heroic yet contemplative gaze.  More of a Benjamin Sisko vibe than “Homeboys from Outer Space”.  I felt his complexion and suit color would give a nice color accent and color contrast to what is essentially a blue painting.  Here is a close up of the face.  I’ve really been inspired lately by the work of portrait painters like David Kassan, Simmie Knox and Garin Baker.

SIVA – (former) Chief Medical Officer  - Amphibious Humanoid Female from small moon orbiting former commander’s homeworld. Hates Dreq's species due to a little issue of the enslavement of Siva's race and subsequent genocide of 3/4 her population.  Arrested for multiple assassination attempts on Dreq.
Personal Log Quote " Dreq?  Dreq can suck my left pouchling sac!  If she gets injured on an away mission she's on her own.   Believe that!"
Personal Log Quote #2  “When I find a way to kill something whose organs and limbs grow back…your ass is mine!”

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Aquanauts process detail #3 Value Study & Final Painting

When working in oils I follow the Frank Reilly method of painting that was started back in the 1950’s at the Art Student’s League.  This method taught me to paint with a controlled palette.  As I move through a painting almost all my essential colors are premixed into value strings from light to dark.  I toggle back and forth between direct painting and careful premixed areas.  There’s merit to both diving straight in and pre mixing for guaranteed results.  Ultimately you have to go with whatever works best for you.
3 value gray tone study - oil 3"x 6"?
Here are some stages of painting the background.  I tone the board in acrylics just enough to eliminate the glowing white surface but not enough to lose my underdrawing road map.  From there I move background to foreground and refine as I go.
This is a photo of my palette after a day’s work.  Based on this I was painting the creature’s head and arm.  I work on a glass palette placed inside a Masterson palette box.  A piece of masonite toned with a neutral gray rests underneath the glass.  This box retards the drying time of oils and can keep my mixtures wet for days.  If you premix an oil palette then put this box in the refrigerator, your palette can last well over a week.  Airtight box in a cold airtight box.  The fridge step was beneficial back in college but I don’t go that far anymore.

 Find out more about Frank Reilly:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Aquanauts process detail #2 Drawing and Color Sketch

As seen on Stargate Atlantis...Which is not why I bought it
About 80% of the prep work I do for a digital or traditional painting starts digitally on a fully loaded tablet PC.  This is used to handle my concept work as well as all my client presentations.  I use the Toshiba 14” satellite R25-S3503. 
When it comes to drawing something that I will paint, I don’t bother with tonal rendering. Instead I try to block out the planes of the faces, establish my light and dark then move on. Working out my values and light/dark contrast can be done in the color study. 

 At this stage I’ve basically worked out what I want the image to look like.  If it had remained a digital painting this color study would have represented my first layer/ first wash of color.  The whole image could’ve been done in less than a week.  No concerns of drying time or clean up.  This color sketch took about 2 hours.  I drop the saturation to 0% to check my values as I go. 

The high resolution drawing is then taken to my local art store. The original drawing file was 13”x21.7” @ 300 dpi.  I had the printer nearly double that to 24”x40”on acid free vellum.  Since this was a personal piece I wanted something that hopefully would have presence from across the room instead of working at a smaller scale to save time. 
Before transferring the drawing, my panel was primed and sanded 3-4 times to make sure I had a strong smooth surface to work on.  The edges of the board were also sealed with gesso to make sure no moisture damaged the bond of the MDF (medium density fiberboard).  MDF doesn’t like water.  The drawing is transferred, primed and ready to go.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Aquanauts process detail #1 Gathering References

After a round of rough sketches I had a fairly good idea what the composition and overall concept would be.   I then set out to find reference materials for the figures and environment.  Since the environment needed to be set deep underwater, looking to photos and paintings showing light falloff from the surface didn’t apply.   Oceanography photos of deep sea submersibles and remotely operated vehicles were studied, as well as images of various sea creatures.  Professional models were also used.

 I could have made up how light fell across an alien head but it needed to be as believable as the other two figures.  Luckily I had originally done a sculpture last year that fit perfectly.  It was just a small head and neck maquette done for fun.  When I had the opportunity to do this painting it felt natural to drop her in.  The wet look to the maquette was achieved by applying my mom’s clear nail polish.  I didn’t have the professional gloss coat normally used for sculpey but this worked just fine.  I’m glad I put time into every wrinkle of her skin.   Reflected blue light popped up in areas I would never have expected.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Illustrations that depict a person(s) standing in front of or gazing out a large window have been a staple in american sci fi for almost a century.
    Usually the image will show some futuristic vista on another world or more commonly a colorful nebula.  For that reason alone I decided to relocate this entire image deep into the unknown abyss of the ocean and focus on the characters within this world.  For beneath the surface lies the future… a shameless quote from the intro to “Seaquest”. 

 This image was done for an upcoming sci fi art exhibition being held this month at the Tubman Museum in Macon, Georgia.  The Show will include the work of JP Targete, "Brotherman" creator Dawud Osaze Kamau Anyabwile and many others working in the field of comics, illustration and fine art.
It was really cool to be included in the invitational for the exhibition.
I liked the idea of doing a simple portrait of a human officer standing between two opposing alien races on some distant aquatic planet.   I gave two of the aliens’ gills to suggest some common link between the two.   Here is the result.  24” x 40” Oil on MDF panel. 
A few weeks ago I met a number of students from all over the world at a workshop given by James Gurney.  Some of them had  many questions that I tried my best to answer without visuals.  So for them and you, the next few posts will chronicle the creation of this image from start to finish.


This is a grand experiment, the first entry of a long overdue blog.  The last few years have been bittersweet.  They have also been the most demanding and rewarding of my career.  I can only hope that the future holds even greater professional challenges.  I’m currently working as lead concept designer of unannounced projects for The Blue Man Group.  In 2010 I also had the honor of working remotely with Richard Taylor’s design and fabrication team at WETA Workshop on designs that didn’t involve middle earth.   BMG has two years worth of my portfolio that I can’t show publicly for at least another year.  So I figured it was time to post some new work in order to remind companies that I exist.    

I would like this blog to be a visual archive of things I’ve done, places I’ve been, works in progress and various images I will show when NDA’s clear.  So I guess without further adieu…Begin Captain’s Blog: Artdate 0715.11