2015 Chuck Jones Auction Painting

Here is my contribution to the 2015 Red Dot Auction, benefitting the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity. This is my fourth painting for the auction and I'll keep submitting as long as they keep inviting me. 

2011 Painting
2012 Painting
2014 Painting

Watch me paint this on YouTube!

This year, I went back to the well of using Daffy and Porky in a pop culture mashup. This one features Daffy as Ned Stark and Porky as Hodor, doing a medieval version of "Rabbit Seasoning". 

In previous paintings, I've used gouache and markers, but I've been doing a lot of watercolor lately, so wanted to give that a try. Unfortunately this year, I opted to provide my own canvas, and didn't leave myself a lot of time to choose one. Turns out, all the canvases stores like Michaels carry are all pre-gessoed and are meant for oil or acrylics. I've tried these types of canvases with watercolor before, and they never work right. 

So I ended up buying a couple of their cheapest canvases, and a large sheet of 140lb cold press watercolor paper. I cut the paper into squares and stretched them by soaking them in the tub for about 10-15 minutes. My first time stretching paper, but I think it worked well. I then stretched these over the cheap canvases and stapled them in place. Boom, instant watercolor canvas. 

Out of all the paintings I've submitted to the auction, I think I might be happiest with this one. I think I'm just getting better with watercolor technique. I did, however, do the concept and color comp in Photoshop. I love the flexibility to work out the composition digitally where I can undo, resize and move things around. 

Then, I printed out the inked version and sprayed some graphite on the back, and was able to lightly transfer the art to the canvas. This was my single biggest problem in the past, how to get the comp design on the canvas. But this worked great. 

At any rate, here's the finished piece. Very soon I'll be publishing the process video showing me painting the whole thing!

2014 Roadmap Revisited

Over the last couple years, I've started the New Year off by writing what I call my "roadmap" for the next twelve months. It's not set in stone, and isn't a "resolution", but a list of guide markers to help keep me on track. Here's my entry for 2014.

I've also been writing a yearly followup to the previous roadmap, just to see how I did. Or rather, how badly the year got derailed. So before I post my roadmap for 2015, let's take a look back and see how 2014 fared. 

Daily Sketches

Not surprisingly, this didn't happen. Like, at all. I quickly learned that such a thing is just an unrealistic goal for most people. There's simply just not enough time every single day to crank something out just to say I did it. I know a lot of folks do it, and my hat's off to them. 

That said, I've done a LOT of art this year, probably more than any year previous (at least since high school). I actually did meet my goal of doing a drawing every day in October for the #Inktober event. Not only did I do 31 drawings in 31 days, but I sold every single one of them on eBay! I'm super proud of that, and hope to try it again in 2015. 

I also stretched myself artistically by exploring a more illustrated style with paper and pencil. I'm a huge fan of artists like Drew Struzan, Richard Amsel and Mark Raats, and once I'd done my first sketch, I was hooked on the style. I've since done about 10 of them, and sold them all. I've even sold prints of a few already. 

I also did a 30-card Return of the Jedi sketch card set for Topps I was super happy with. And the sale of the artist proof cards on eBay netted over $600. Absolutely makes it worth the effort. I'd like to do another set for Topps, but the timelines for others they've offered have just been way too short. I'm not a machine. 

Oh, and not least of all, I started a new video artcast on YouTube, showing my art and process. I've done 12 videos so far, one of which has already gotten over 1,000 views. I've been super happy with how they've all turned out. Excited to do more in 2015.

Verdict: FAIL (but with adequate replacement)


Art Store Consolidation

One of the problems I've had is not knowing where my art should be for sale on the web. Etsy seems to be a necessary thing to keep around, but I ultimately want to have just one main official "hub" for my store. Last year, I thought that hub would take the form of a store integrated with my Squarespace blogging account. At first, I thought it would serve me, but over time I decided it just wasn't there yet. So I bit the bullet and started paying for a Shopify account. At $30, I feel it's pricey for an individual artist, but I see it as an investment. 

That said, the argument for keeping the Etsy store around is getting thinner. Last year I made 8 sales there. Eight. Not even double-digits. I made about $295, and paid $90 in fees to Etsy. A couple of those sales were higher-than-normal commissions, too. 

For now, I'm keeping the Etsy store open, just because people still stumble upon my stuff and buy something, and it's relatively inexpensive (about twenty cents per listing). I did purge a lot of old listings I just wan't all that proud of anymore, which should lighten the monthly fees. 

Verdict: SUCCESS


Artist Proof Sketch Cards

Ugh. I still can't believe I'm sitting on blanks from the Walking Dead and Superman sketch card sets. I really need to just carve out some time and draw them all. The success of my Star Wars card sales on eBay has energized me to get them done and up for sale soon. I really think I'll get them done this year.

Verdict: FAIL


Chuck Jones Painting

Yep, I did my painting for the Red Dot Auction and I think it sold for a couple hundred bucks. You can see the Sherlock/Daffy mashup I did here. Assuming I get another invitation this year, I'll absolutely do another one. 

Verdict: SUCCESS



So I didn't get around to creating any more t-shirt illustrations in 2014, but I did make some sales. Specifically, for some reason, sales of my Ancient Aliens shirts just skyrocketed. I ended up selling 58 shirts and a handful of printed items with that design. Sadly, the Woody Dead print sold just one measly print.

Verdict: SUCCESS


This one just didn't go anywhere in 2014. I didn't even finish the short story I'd started the year before. I still intend to write more, but it seems art is in the driver's seat right now. And I'm okay with that. 

Verdict: FAIL

Of the things I said I might do in 2014, here's how all that panned out:

First Sketchbook

Didn't happen, but I'm going to start laying out a book that will collect pieces from 2012 through 2014, plus a few other goodies mixed in. 


I totally did not intend to try the webcomic thing again in 2014. But for some reason, the bug bit me and I was off to the races. I did several strips I was very happy with, but in the end I just couldn't keep up the pace. To have a full time job, family and still have time to write, draw and publish a strip even once a week, is just too much to commit to. Again, the site is always up, and if I get the bug, I'll post a few more. Just no guarantees.

Artist Commission Site

This one hurts. I've been talking about building this web app for artists so long, it's almost become a joke. I still believe it's a good idea and has the potential to help a lot of artists that regularly sell commissions. I just have to carve out the time to start it and not stop until I have a working product. Stay tuned on this one.

Speaking Engagements

Meh. I didn't get my proposal to CSS Dev Conf accepted, and to be honest I've kind of lost the enthusiasm for doing talks. I'd rather sit and make the sausage. Let other people talk about how it's made. 

So I think that's it. Overall, I'm very happy with what I accomplished in 2014. And even more excited about what's in store for 2015. Of course, I still have the day job, which is pretty cool and funds all this crazy stuff I do on the side. But if I can make more art sales and get my name out there more, all the better, eh?

Oh, and a HUGE thanks to everyone who commissioned me or bought any of my art in 2014. It means everything to me. Look for my 2015 Roadmap post, coming very soon.

2014 Chuck Jones Auction Painting

I'm proud to finally reveal the painting I contributed to this year's Red Dot Auction, benefitting the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, for whom I also built and maintain a website. 

This is my third time contributing to the auction, which keeps the artist's names a secret until after the lucky buyer has purchased their painting. 

2011 Painting
2012 Painting

This year's entry featured Daffy and Porky as the modern versions of Sherlock and Watson. It's also a reference to the classic cartoon "Deduce, You Say". 


First, here's the original, digital sketch:

From there, I did a fully-colored digital version, just to figure everything out, including basic colors. This might eventually become a print in my store.

Next, I printed out the digital inks and used a little projector to transfer the art to the 12" x 12" canvas provided by the center. 

And here's the finished painting. It's watercolor with inking done with brush and India ink, and Prismacolor marker for a few highlights. 

Overall, I'm happy with it, but it's clear I have SO much to learn about watercolor. It just never comes out like I have in my head. Oh well. 

Side-by-side comparison of digital vs watercolor

I'll post a followup when I find out if it sold and for how much. Meanwhile, here's a quick step-by-step of the painting progress:


Rescuers Commission and First Digital Painting

I just finished an art commission I'm extremely proud of. I received the request from Etsy and once I heard it, I immediately accepted the challenge.

The requestor was buying it for a couple expecting their first child. They were doing the nursery in a "Rescuers" motif, including framed animation cels from the film. She asked me to create a new piece to add to the collection. They also wanted their last names (Zagel) incorporated into it somehow. 

So I decided I wanted to make something that looked as if it couldn't been taken from the movie itself. I drew out the Bianca and Bernard characters using my usual inking method and flat colors. And the background is a more detailed digital painting. I used a lot of movie still photos as reference to try to get the look and feel right. I also thought it'd be cute to show the two characters with their own little mouse baby.

I've played around with Photoshop brushes off and on, but this was my first real attempt at a full painting. It's got some real issues and I have a long way to go, but I'm so proud of the outcome. I think it feels exactly the way I'd envisioned it, which doesn't happen often. 

It's going in the mail tomorrow, and I really hope the recipients love it. The Rescuers is one of my all-time favorites, and it was a ton of fun to do. 

Here's the sketch:

And here's the painted background:

And finally, the finished piece:

Also, I'm super excited that I finally bit the bullet and enrolled in the Oatley Academy of Concept Art and Illustration. It's an 18-month, go-at-your-own-pace course taught by a former disney concept artist. I only was able to watch the first lesson on lighting prior to trying this piece, but it helped tremendously. Can't wait to get better at this. 

My 2014 Roadmap

It’s January 1st, 2014, and time for plotting out my upcoming year. I don’t call these “resolutions” per se, but more of a roadmap for the general direction I want to go this year. There will be inevitable roadblocks and delays, but if I can get to even half my intended destinations, I’ll be happy.

Here’s the roadmap for 2013, and here’s my recap of how it panned out.

So let’s get to 2014…

What I’m Doing in 2014

Daily Sketches

I’m hoping 2014 will be the year I can finally break through this barrier I have with sketching. I did a whole talk at Big Nerd Ranch last year about “Blank Page Syndrome” and how it contributes to my lack of art output. I often get wrapped up in deciding what to draw and trying to make it perfect that it takes way longer than it should, and often I don’t even try.

Jay Myers' 365th sketch of 2013. I can do this, right?

Jay Myers' 365th sketch of 2013. I can do this, right?

I’ve brainwashed myself into believing everything I put to paper has to be perfect and has to be shared with the world. I’m going to try my best to get over this hump, and hopefully can lean on some fellow artists for support. I follow some guys that do amazing daily sketches and are a real inspiration. Jay Myers is one. If you don’t follow him, you should.

One thing that has helped with sketching in the past is to collect a list of ideas ahead of time. I’ve recently switched my to-do manager from Things to Wunderlist, and have started a list for “Daily Sketches”. I often think of things that would be fun to sketch and stupidly think I’ll remember them. I never do. But with Wunderlist on my Macbook, iPhone and iPad, I always have a way to make a quick note of it for later. Then when I sit down to sketch, I just pick one.

Giving this new sketch book a whirl.

Giving this new sketch book a whirl.

I also grabbed this new daily sketchbook from Amazon. The one I tried last year (which now contains a whopping 28 drawings), just wasn’t working out. It was a small book, and each page was split into two days. Plus, the paper is super thin, so brushed inks would bleed through. I ended up having to switch to colored pencils for coloring anything. This new one is much larger, about 8x10, with one page dedicated to one day. Plus, the paper is thicker. Only issue I can foresee with it, other than being heavy, is that it’s not spiral bound. Could be a pain trying to hold it flat while drawing. If all else fails, I’ll just keep using my toned paper sketchbook, which has a really nice look, too.

Art Store(s)

My Etsy store

My Etsy store

One of the things I’ve been struggling with a lot lately is how to display and sell my artwork and prints. I’ve had an Etsy store for quite a while now, with not much success. I only made 18 sales all year, including commissions, and I paid $68 in fees (not including Paypal). Overall, Etsy isn’t bad, but there is a limit to what you can do with it. And your fees are always totally different each month. Items are always expiring, so you have to re-list them again and again.

So I’ve been looking at options. A few weeks ago, I set up a trial store at Shopify. Hands-down, I believe Shopify is the superior platform for building a store and customizing it to your needs. And if you’re a developer, you get full access to everything. I absolutely love it, but it has some drawbacks. The main one is the price. The base tier is $30 per month, which is just out of range for a “hobbyist” artist like me. If I ever got a large enough following and could count on enough sales, it would be a no-brainer. But I just don’t (yet) sell enough to break even at that price point.

The other issue, and this is not unique to Shopify, is the lack of “discoverability”. On Etsy, I often make sales out of the blue to folks who later tell me they found my art through a random search. They might search for “Muppets” and find one of my sketches and buy it. They had no idea who I was before that moment. If all you have is a standalone store on Shopify or Big Cartel, etc, you’re out on an island by yourself. It puts a lot more pressure on you to self-market. Like I’ve said, if you’re Skottie Young with 44k Twitter followers, you can do that. All you have to do is tweet about new artwork and people will go check it out. When you’re still a nobody, your percentages are drastically lower.

I’ve also toyed around with a store on Storenvy. They are similar to Etsy, but also allow far more customization. You have a standalone store, but you’re also linked into their Marketplace, which supports discoverability through searches. One drawback to Storenvy is its lack of support for digital downloads. I can only imagine they’ll have to add that eventually to keep up. Even Etsy supports that now.

Then a few days ago, another option occurred to me. I’ve hosted AtlantaJones.com on Squarespace for a few years now and really like it. I’d forgotten that they’d added ecommerce support in the last couple years. When I first played with it, I wasn’t impressed. They provide a Shopify importer, so I was able to quickly add all my products and give it a spin.

My Squarespace store

My Squarespace store

I have to say, overall, I’m pretty impressed with it. It supports physical products, digital downloads, and even “services” as product types. It also supports multiple product variants and groups, all with potentially different prices. This was also a major failing of Storenvy. You can make a variant (like, specifying a matte or glossy print), but you can’t charge differently for each option. You also can’t group variants, to have separate sets of dropdown menus. Squarespace supports Stripe for payments and a bunch of shipping options. I’m not totally happy with my options for displaying a main store page, but as a developer, I have lots of flexibility there.

So I’ve been paying $10 per month for Squarespace for my blog. To open a store, you have to bump up to their “Business” plan, which is $30. In reality, it’s only $20 more, and it lets me integrate even more of what I do into one location. So for now, I’ll put Shopify on hold, and keep going with Squarespace to see how it goes. Most likely, I’ll also keep Etsy around, unless Storenvy just totally takes off. This will all evolve over the course of the year, I’m sure. The main thing will be to start increasing the amount of art I post and trying to drive up my follower counts on Twitter and Instagram. That should also organically increase traffic to my stores (fingers crossed).

Artist Proof Sketch Cards

My artist proof sketch cards for Superman and Walking Dead

My artist proof sketch cards for Superman and Walking Dead

So over the course of 2012 and 2013, I contributed to two trading card sets:Superman: The Legend, and The Walking Dead. The way it usually works is, you get paid a base fee for each card, then for every so many cards they approve, you get a certain number of blank ones back. These are called Artist Proof (AP) cards. You can then sketch on these and sell them outright for whatever price you want (they’re still subject to licensor approval first).

I’m still sitting on six AP’s for Walking Dead and 5 for Superman. This year I would really like to get those cards drawn and available in the store, or maybe up on eBay. I haven’t done any sketch cards since I finished the last set, so I could use the practice.

Chuck Jones Auction Painting

My 2011 auction painting.

My 2011 auction painting.

In both 2011 and 2012, I was fortunate enough to be asked to contribute a painting for the annual Red Dot Auction to benefit the Chuck Jones Center (which I’d done the website for a couple years ago). Was very honored to be invited and happy that they both fetched decent prices in the auction.

I was invited again in 2013 and received my canvas, but somehow everything conspired against me and I just ran out of time. I hated to not submit something, but this year I definitely will.


Super happy with how this came out.

Super happy with how this came out.

Towards the end of 2013, I started selling a bunch of shirts with the “Ancient Aliens” artwork. Not sure where the surge came from, but it was enough to get me my first payout from Redbubble. I’ve got several more ideas, so I’m going to make some more merchandise available throughout the year, starting with this Walking Dead/Toy Story mashup (which, ironically, started out as a simple sketchbook drawing).



2013 was a landmark year, in that it solidified something for me: I really, really like to write. Sure, I’ve written blog posts over the years, and at one point thought I wanted to be a screenwriter. But then I get busy with web development, art, or any number of other things. This year, I started reading more, and consequently developed more of a hunger for writing (a new Neil Gaiman book always does that to me). I’ve got a dozen short story ideas filed away, and posted one to the blog already. I have one about done, but got hung up on the ending for a couple months. Then one day, BAM, the ending hit me. I just have to write it down.

I’ve also been writing a lot more for work. I’ve already written two chapters for an upcoming Big Nerd Ranch book (and training course), and since starting in August 2013 have written a total of 7 blog posts (one will be published in early 2014). All told, it’s added up to over 14,000 words. And I’ve got a lot more articles lined up for 2014.

So my goal for this year will be to definitely keep reading more, but also finish 2–3 more short stories. And in between, find some time to keep my own blog fresh. Always. Be. Writing.

What I Might Do in 2014

First Sketchbook, Second Attempt

I love this sketch from early 2013.

I love this sketch from early 2013.

Last year, one of the end results for sketching more was to have enough art amassed by year’s end to collect them in a sketchbook. It may have been a physical printed book, digital or both. Unfortunately, I felt I hadn’t done enough art to warrant it. However, once I started really looking back through my files, I think I just might have enough, if I sprinkle in some older favorites as well.

So for starters, I think I’m going to try to put together a 2013 book in January or February. It will likely be a digital e-book only, and will compile all the halfway decent art I did that year, plus some noteworthy other pieces, and what the hey, maybe a short story or two.

Then, by next fall, I’ll start planning for the 2014 book. Sounds like a plan, right?

The Webcomic

Once again, I’ve utterly failed at a resurrection of my comic strip. I only did one in 2013, and that was in December, a full two years after the last one had been published. Problem with strips is that they just take so long to produce, even going as fast as I can. And ideas aren’t always readily available. Any time I try getting it restarted, I put so much pressure on myself to keep it up, the whole thing just implodes.

So, in regards to the comic, I’ll continue to play it by ear. I’ll do a strip when I feel I have a good idea and the time to do it. Period. Some year might be the “year of the webcomic”, but this probably isn’t it, either.

Artist Commission Site

I continue to be unwavering in my belief that this is a good idea: a web-based service dedicated to making it easier for artists to list, sell, manage and deliver art commissions. Nobody is doing anything exactly like it, and attempts by sites like DeviantArt are pretty lame.

I’m going to have to play this one by ear as well. Whenever I get close to starting, I realize the sheer amount of work to be done and I sort of freak out. Once I get it carved up into manageable chunks, I’ll feel better about getting started. This project depends on how some other things pan out this year, but I’m hopeful.

Speaking Engagements

One thing I’m looking at doing in 2014 is more speaking on web development topics. There are a couple conferences I’d like to submit proposals to, including the CSS Dev Conf, which I attended last year in Colorado (this year it’s in New Orleans). Not sure if I’ll make it in, but even if I don’t, I’ll try to do more internal talks like the one I did on Blank Page Syndrome.

What I’m NOT Doing in 2014

There are always casualties in these roadmaps, and in 2014 there are a couple.

Trading Card Game

This is the idea I had for a trading card game based on the Avengers poster project from 2012. I think it’s still a good idea, and I still plan to do it. Just no place to squeeze it in. I’d almost have to dedicate the bulk of my free time for a year just to pull it off. And I’ll need help.

Avatar Commissions

I’m going to keep my Avatar Commission service on hold for now. Honestly, it’s a mixed bag for me. I really don’t think $25 is enough to charge, but would anyone pay $50? And at $25, it doesn’t feel worth it to haggle with someone who insists the likeness isn’t “just right”. I mean, nobody will argue with me that a Batman commission doesn’t look like Batman. But if they think that drawing doesn’t look like Aunt Judy, holy shit, watch out. Right now, until I can safely raise the rates, it’s just not worth it. That said, once they reopen, I’ll likely also offer caricatures and zombie-fied versions to delight your friends.

Summing Up

So that’s that. Another year, another roadmap. More of a guideline, really. Plans will change and surprises will pop up, some for the positive, I’m sure. But mostly, this is the path I’m hoping to take this year. Watch me do it at the links below!

And hey, why not buy some of my crap?