Friday, December 31, 2010

With a Little Help From My Friends.

Just a brief end-of-the-year post. I've gotten an overwhelming amount of support for my art over this past year: invaluable creative input on many fronts, inspiration, commissions, and print sales. I can't begin to express how important this has all been to me. I'm starting to have an actual art career, and I couldn't have done it without that support.

Hell, why don't I just list some names? In no particular order: Cynthia McShane, Regan Taylor, Chad Horwedel, Berkley McLean, Lori Kittelberg & George Smeltzer, John & Chrissy Watson, Joe Clark, Mike Watson, Brandee Brown Barker, Genina Dovale, Ben Lipman, Rob Cooper, Nicole & Todd Cruickshank, Linda Kat Spencer, Cathryn Smith, Holly Morrison, Brian Cronin, Jason Williams, Eric & Jennifer Davis, Don Lloyd, Gus Lindgren, Tina Power, Neil Ford, Asa Ellerup, Alyson B. Stanfield, Paul Sizer, Lola Augustine Brown, Gary Bolt & Morna Tudor, Sean Parrack, Mike Rooth, Jeff Hotchkiss, Donald Milliken, Jason Light, Chris Nowlin, Ray Rivard, Gene Gillespie, Robert Genn, Amber Mac, Eddy Crosby, Wes Thompson, Jeff Clow, Jessi Sensabaugh, Kevin Bungay, Laura Whaley, Pól Rua, Thom Taylor, Jaye Frisina, Lisa and Rev. Paul from Mojave, Matt Osepchook, Paula McCloskey, Lief Peng, Mordechai Luchins, Daphna Luchins, Mystery Shopper, the gang(s) at CBR, deviantArt, WetCanvas, Whitechapel, Flickr and Motorburg...

... and most of all my extended family, without whom none of this would even be happening.

Thank you all so very, very much.

P.S. If I forgot to mention you, it's a headcold-induced oversite on my part. No offense intended.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Three More Days...

... and it'll be 2011. To quote John Lennon, "another year older, and what have you done?"

I'm tempted to just say "I survived", which is no small feat in this economy. My advertising career is bottoming out so bad, it feels like it's almost over. But the art, on the other hand, is thriving like never before. Sales and commissions are way up, and once again it's been a stellar year in terms of artistic growth and education.

Roughly 15 paintings completed, along with 35 illustrations. Many more of each underway. Published a calendar, sold a few books, and several prints (including the biggest sale of my art career to date, which was a nice Christmas present).

I won't go into plans for 2011 yet. That'll be another post. Instead I'll just say this: art is what kept me alive this year. And in closing I leave you with this recent painting:

Nautilus - @Bret Taylor, 2010.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Almost There.

Only 15 days to go in this latest experiment in drawing/painting every day. And this one's been much more productive than when I did it the first time, in 2008. It started out mainly as an exercise in discipline, but what it's really about is training your subconscious mind to be more creative.

Not sure whether I'll try it again next year. It's quite possible - I remember how twitchy I got on the first day of 2009 when I took a day off. Maybe I just won't make it such a formal thing.

Anybody else ever try this method?

Friday, December 10, 2010


Today the UPS guy dropped off an amazing present:

You've heard me rave about the Liquid Mirror before, so I won't give you that spiel again (let's just say that a bottle this big is a pretty extravagant gift). But the Sludge is one of the smarter products I've heard of - basically it's comprised of the leftover gunk from the normal paint-making process. Leftover gunk (both solid and liquid waste) that would otherwise have to be disposed of somehow. You can read more about it here, but it's a pretty impressive and ecologically-friendly product.

Thanks, Rheni. I'll try to use it wisely.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Waste Not.

If you dig paint as much as I do, you probably realize how easy it is to waste lots of it. I'm slowly getting better at judging how much paint to use when I'm mixing colours, but it's still a tricky process. More frequently than I'd like, I end up with more than I need.

Occasionally I save it in a small container, and then forget about it - only to open it months later and find the paint is completely dry.

What I've ended up doing over the years is putting that leftover paint to more productive use in a couple of ongoing projects. Smearing the stuff onto a glass palette can come in handy - once you've got a nice thick layer of paint built up, you can peel it off and cut it into pieces to use in new paintings (trivia note: these are referred to as "paint skins"). You can do all sorts of cool stuff with them - building impressionistic colour, creating texture, making mosaics, etc. etc. Just google "acrylic paint skins" and you'll find lots of articles and tutorials like this one.

I've also got a couple of long-term projects in the works using the leftover bits. Both of them started with me just innocently wiping my brush or knife on the nearest convenient surface. They're still transitional pieces, and probably will be for a long time to come, but eventually they'll be full-fledged works of art on their own.

The first is this former coffee mug:

A souvenir of my first advertising job, I still use it to clean my brushes. It's gradually getting so coated in paint that the bigger brushes will barely fit into it. I also do a lot of colour experimentation on the surface of this thing. No idea where this will take me, but for now I just want to make it a lot wider (possibly even spherical) with a semi-lattice effect.

And the other piece is this old beach towel that I use as a drop cloth:

It's still quite flexible now, but once it's too stiff to roll up, I'll mount it to some kind of support and make an actual painting out of it. I can almost see the design in my head, but not quite. My subconscious needs more time, I guess. I suspect there'll be geometric shapes laid out in gold leaf on top of the final painted surface.

Kinda makes me wonder what else I could do with leftover paint.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Few of My Favourite Things.

As you may have noticed, I've really been cranking out the art the past few months. Another highly educational period for me, especially since I started working on roughly 20 paintings at once. I realized once again tonight just how much I love playing mad scientist with paint.

That being said, there are a handful of products that really float my boat. So with your kind indulgence, I present the following list:

Liquitex Pouring Medium. Seriously, this stuff is the real deal. I've used many other manufacturers' self-levelling mediums, and most of them are garbage. Liquitex, though, has come up with the magic formula - the stuff dries hard and clear with no crazing, sets up fast, and looks gorgeous when it's done.

Tri-Art Liquid Mirror. Another product that absolutely raises the bar. I've used a lot of iridescent paints in recent years, and nothing else even compares for reflectivity. Even when it's relatively dark, Liquid Mirror will pick up any minimal ambient light and reflect it - it's almost phosphorescent in that respect. Washes of transparent colour on top of it barely affect the reflectivity at all. I'm told the secret ingredient is bismuth oxychloride, but let's call it what it is - magic.

Golden Iridescent Copper (Fine). I'm a little bit obsessed with copper. Even as a child I was drawn to its colour and sheen. When I built my bar in 2004, I put $500 worth of sheet copper into the top. Getting back to paint, there are many iridescent coppers, of course. I've tried 5 or 6 at last count, and I finally found what I was looking for with the Golden. So rich and vibrant it puts others to shame.

Montana Gold Spraypaint (various colours). A stunning array of colours, seemingly endless cans of paint, and a system of interchangeable nozzles in a wide variety of sizes. I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of what's possible with these paints. Expect a major push in this direction in my art in 2011.

Anybody else have paint or mediums they'd like to recommend? I'm all ears.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Further to the last post, here's another shot of the red metalflake:

Just added a layer of clear (Liquitex Pouring Medium in this particular case) yesterday, and the added depth really makes a difference. Planning to add another layer or two in the coming days.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tip #002.

Been doing a lot of thinking and reading about paint the past few days. My primary sources were Rheni Tauchid's superlative New Acrylics Essential Sourcebook (I've had this for awhile, but haven't delved that deeply into it till now) and a growing library of car magazines. Now, if you're familiar with custom cars at all, you've probably seen how a well-done metalflake job looks like it's a mile deep - essentially there are transparent layers of rich colour laid down over a base that has tiny pieces of metal (or mica) suspended in it.

I'm currently in the middle of new batch of paintings, and as fate would have it, I want a background treatment for one that resembles candyapple metalflake red. I've got any number of acrylic colours, texture gels and grounds, but I had my heart set on micaceous iron oxide for a base. From what I hear this miraculous substance, in addition to providing all sorts of chromatic variation effects, is a formidable protective coating.

I say "from what I hear" because I was unsuccessful in my attempts to track some down, despite the efforts of a helpful sales associate at Opus.

Which is largely, of course, what led to my latest research. So with my thinking cap on, I came up with this recipe: a base of black gesso, a layer of black lava gel, some drybrushed highlights in Tri-Art Liquid Mirror and iridescent stainless steel paints, and finally, a series of glazes in Alizarin crimson. I may yet add a protective layer or two of clear gloss gel for added depth, but that remains to be seen at the moment.

So, to make a long story short ("too late!"), my solution worked just fine. Have a look at this photo:

Towards the corner, that's just the glaze over the lava gel, and moving left there's a band of the stainless steel, followed by the Liquid Mirror. I'd call that a successful experiment. Playing mad scientist is one of the best parts of painting with a medium as advanced as acrylics.

ADDENDUM: Now that I've given this some more thought, there's another potential solution: a base coat of the Liquid Mirror, then the lava gel, and then the crimson glaze. May have to try this option out as well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Today's Post Was Brought to You by the Number 3.

Just a quick blog post before I call it a night - er, morning. Today (that is, Tuesday) marks my 313th straight day of creating art. I did almost break my streak in the last couple months, though. I was so caught up in work-related stuff one day that drawing barely even entered my mind. Fortunately, I happened to do a quick 5-minute thumbnail in the middle of all the madness, and so that day was saved.

There's another place that the number 3 factors in - today I wrapped up a couple more cars for the book. The total number completed is now 30. Yep, we're 60% of the way there. Without further ado, here are the cars in question:

That one's a heavily-modified '69 Chevy Z28 Camaro. I call it the Z28 Speedster.

And that one's a '63 Ford Galaxie. Initially started for a commission that's apparently fallen by the wayside, but at least a decent illustration came out of it. There's also a version of it in my calendar.

As always, thanks for reading.

Bret Taylor
November 9, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Pair of Chevys.

Two new illustrations in the works as of tonight. A '72 Chevy Blazer, and a '56 Chevy Nomad. Lots of body mods, but nothing really that extreme. A long way to go with each one yet, of course. In the case of the Nomad, I just really needed to do some sketching tonight, and I decided to try the one tri-five Chevrolet that I've never drawn before.

So that's 28 pics for the book done, and 9 more in progress.

Oh, and the calendar is selling nicely. My thanks to all who've bought one so far.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dawn Patrol.

I bought three of these yesterday (the 24x36-inch ones). My cousin is commissioning a massive painted version of my old Dawn Patrol piece from a few years back:

This'll be the biggest (in every sense of the word) commission I've done yet - mounted together, the panels will be 3 ft. x 6ft. I just laid the panels together on the floor and I'm finally getting a sense of how huge this will be when it's done. The panels themselves are extremely high-quality pieces. Everything is very solid, and they're braced well on the backs. You could park a truck on one of them, I swear.

Can't wait to get started on building the background textures, but first there's a bunch of surface prep to be done. I keep telling myself to be patient. So far it's working...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This Art Thing Might Actually Work.

It's been an interesting month or so. I think I'm finally building up a decent body of work for sale, and forming a bigger, better network of friends and potential clients (do I dare say "fans"? It seems a mite pretentious).

I've sold a few calendars, prints from the Imagekind store, and I'm working on 4 commissions at the moment. This has easily been my best year yet - by the time the year's out, I'll probably have sold three times as much as I have in any previous year. Hard to believe - especially in this economy - but this art thing might actually work.

I know, I know. I'm still kind of in shock myself.

And I really should say a word or two of thanks for all the support - financial and otherwise - I've gotten in recent years. I really couldn't have done it without you folks. Thank you.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Calendar Cover.

Been messing around today, choosing cars for the calendar, investigating RedBubble's print specs and such, and designing the cover. Sounds like I might be able to drum up some real interest in this project.

Here's a first draft of the cover design:


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Up to Date.

Hey. For those kindhearted souls still frequenting this blog, I've got something on my mind. I mentioned recently that half of the hot rod book is done, but at the rate I'm going, I'm probably a good 8 months away from the big finish. And people have indicated they're interesting in buying some of the new art now.

The other day it occurred to me that a hot rod calendar might well be the answer. Poked around the internet today to look at my options, and I've settled on RedBubble. Which leaves me in a bit of a quandary - should the calendar be a standalone piece, or could it overlap some with the book, in terms of content? I certainly don't wanna stop doing the automotive art anytime soon, but at the same time, if I have to do 12 more cars on top of the 50 in the book, then the book release will be that much farther away.

I'm also looking into magazine options from Magcloud. Maybe take the same cars that are in the calendar/book and show a bit more of the creative process - initial sketches, maybe some discussion of the different directions a piece might've gone in.

I dunno, a lot to think about here. I'll have to make a decision fairly soon to cash in on the Christmas market, but some feedback would come in handy at this juncture. While you're thinking about it, feast your eyes on some eye candy:

What say you?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Red or Gold.

Brothers and sisters, once again I come to you with a colour question. In this case... well, you can see for yourself:

So what's it gonna be? Red, or gold?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Halfway There.

Just a quick note - finished the 25th car this afternoon, so the book is half done. This is the milestone car right here:

(There are 6 more well underway, too.)

This calls for bourbon.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Panther Pink vs. Plum Crazy.

So I'm workin' on yet another car - a 33 Dodge coupe customized with elements from a 70s-era Dodge Challenger. Those of you who remember those Challengers will likely remember all the wild colour options they had - Hemi Orange, Sublime Green, and so on. I'm still trying to choose between Panther Pink and Plum Crazy:

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tip #001.

So I was just thinking it might be helpful to throw out the occasional art tip in the blog. Okay, that's a lie - I've actually been considering it for a long time, but it's only now that I came up with something I thought would be helpful. I wouldn't want to just regurgitate advice from other artists, after all.

Now, where I was again?

Riiiight, tips. I use spraypaint in my work from time to time, and the stuff I like the best is Montana Gold. Great selection of colours, plus they've got a system of interchangeable caps in several different sizes. My one beef is that the caps can gum up pretty easily, depending on how you use 'em. I'm a big fan of spatter, and that seems to exacerbate the gumming-up issue. The other day I busted out a can of Red Orange (#2090) and found the cap on it was completely blocked.

Undaunted, I tried a couple other caps and found them clogged, too. But fear not - eventually I found a few that were still functional. So I got to work laying down some orange shading on my latest car illustration (more on that later), and when I was done, I put on my thinking cap and started pondering the whole clog issue.

The "aha" moment came when I remembered I have a compressed-air gun that I use to blow dust and crap out of my keyboard:

Just a cheap little accessory from Staples. I think it cost 20 bucks. I just inserted the nozzle into the bottom of the cap I'd just used, and blew all the residual paint out of it:

It was just that simple. Now, I haven't sat down with my abacus and crunched any numbers yet, so I couldn't give you any kind of cost-effectiveness breakdown, but I can tell you the caps cost something like 75 cents, and a pack of 4 CO2 refills retails for 20 bucks. Considering I've had caps that were ruined after one use, I think this'll eventually work out for the better.

Oh, and the car I was talking about? Here it is:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inspiration: Bob Peak.

Let's talk about Bob Peak today, shall we?

Bob was a legendary illustrator - another one of those whose names you might not know, but whose work you have definitely seen. He got his start in magazines and advertising, back in the days when you could still make a living as an illustrator in those fields. His work from that era is amazing - incredibly dynamic, bold, adventurous, full of movement and all sorts of visual excitement. His work appeared in (and on) Time, Newsweek, Cosmo, TV Guide, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, Boys' Life, Esquire, Look, the Saturday Evening Post, McCall's, etc. etc.

It's his move posters that you'll recognize, though. Apocalypse Now, the Star Trek movies, In Like Flint, The Spy Who Loved Me, Superman, My Fair Lady, Funny Girl... he revolutionized the whole artform. He jumped into acrylic paints when they were a relatively new medium, and inspired generations of illustrators and painters.

Commercial artist/blogger/all-around cool guy Leif Peng has a great collection of Bob's work in this Flickr set. Go take a look; I'll wait right here.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Okay, you're back? How was that? I could trawl through those images all day, personally. That art, regardless of topic or client, is just something to see, and it's really inspiring me to get my Bob Peak on.

For more info on the man, check out his official site. You can also see a few samples of his work right here.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Buzz Buzz.

I'm getting prints done of the robot bee soon. Did a test print on my trusty Epson earlier, with the bee itself almost 10 inches high, and it looks pretty great, if I do say so myself:

This presents a promotional opportunity for me: because of the odd size of the artwork (20" x 10"), there'll be room on the print (20" x 16") to squeeze in a few business-card size pieces to give to clients.

So the question is, which of my illustrations should go on them?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Colour Me Happy.

So hey, I'm still plugging away on the hot rod book. Learning all kinds of things - some trivial, some not. One of the most fun things about a new piece is deciding on the colour. It's amazing the kind of resources that are out there on the net these days. Yesterday I started on a picture of a 1960 Chevy Impala Brookwood station wagon, and put the word out in a few places (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that I was looking for colour suggestions. In the space of an hour I had about a dozen suggestions, and dammit, they were all good. I'm still undecided, to the point where I may actually do 4 versions of the car.

But I digress - I was talking about the resources you can find online, wasn't I? Well, one of the responses was a scan of the paint-chip chart for 1960 Impalas. You can find it here if you're interested. Stuff like this is a goldmine to me. I think from here on in, I'll make an extra effort to source this kind of reference material whenever I draw a vintage car.

So, back to the Brookwood wagon. I wanted a two-tone paintjob, and a couple of non-stock colour combos came to mind. Then when I saw that chart, I saw several other viable options. (Even as I type this, more come to mind. Maybe I need to stop looking at it now.)

I finally narrowed it down to 5 options yesterday, and then managed to weed out one more. Without further ado:

That's option 1 - what I call the Creamsicle Combo. Cream and orange pearl.

Option 2 is based on factory colours - Jade Green and Cascade Green. I may render them to look like metalflake, though.

Option 3 is Pagan Gold and Candy Root Beer. From what I'm reading in the car magazines these days, that brown is one of the trendiest colours around in that scene. Though I must admit, I never thought I'd draw a brown car.

Option 4 is, like option 2, based on the factory colours (in this case, Royal Blue and Horizon Blue). And again, will probably be done in metalflake.

Obviously these are all still in the extremely rough stages, but what you see here should get the point across. And the more I look at these, the more I like all of them. This car would probably look good in just about any colour, really.

Anyhow, if you've got feedback, I'd love to hear it. Other suggestions would be fine, too. Maybe I could do a poster with a whole slew of Brookwoods on it.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

To eBook or Not to eBook.

Been doing a lot of reading about social media and the future of publishing lately. And tonight I've been doing some thinking about releasing Hey Ladies in eBook format. I still know next to nothing about the format - haven't used a Kindle, haven't even seen an iPad yet. But something about the idea intrigues me. I don't yet know how I'd get around potential copyright-infringement/pirating issues, but I'm definitely gonna look into it.

In the meantime, let me ask you fine people a couple questions: first off, does the idea even appeal to anybody? And equally importantly, how much would you be willing to pay for something like that? Inquiring minds want to know...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Greasy Wheels.

Hey folks, just completed a little teaser trailer for the hot rod book. Be sure to watch it at the 480p setting instead of 360; the improvement in quality is pretty drastic:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Who Likes Free Stuff?

So I'm thinking about starting some kind of weekly art-print giveaway thing. Not sure how to structure it just yet, but I'd like to keep the process fairly simple. Blatant attempt to get more Facebook fans and get more exposure for my art, obviously.

Who's interested?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thoughts on the Editing Process.

Earlier today I was alternating between editing a picture and posting on Twitter, and things kinda went like this:
Just been doing some touchup on an illustration, and it prompted a question for my fellow artists (especially the ones whose rendering styles are relatively loose). If and when you’re cleaning things up, how do you decide which lines stay and which ones need to be edited or removed?
'Cause y'know, I think about these things sometimes. Especially when I'm doing something that's more mechanical than creative. Didn't get a lot in the way of replies, but the one guy who did answer gave a nice, in-depth, nuts-and-bolts reply. (Thanks, Wes. Much appreciated.)

Anybody else have some feedback? What I realized about my own process is that every piece seems to have its own internal logic as far as style is concerned. Which only makes sense, given that I rarely work in the same style. How 'bout the rest of you creative types?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Go Habs!

Well, tonight was a heady experience. I got to watch the hallowed Montréal Canadiens shut down the reigning NHL Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. A really fast-paced game; reminded me of the glory years of my childhood as a young Habs fan.

Which of course got me thinking about how much the Canadiens are part of our national culture, transcending every kind of barrier. If hockey is, as we call it, The Game (and believe me, brothers and sisters, it is), then Montréal is The Team.

And what better example of that passion, that belief, than the famous Habs sweater. (That's right, I said "sweater". Not "jersey".) In 2008 I painted this during the playoffs in tribute to the team I've always believed in:

And now here we are again. Soon the Habs will be facing Philadelphia or (please, please, please) the hated Bruins in the next round of the battle for Lord Stanley's Cup. And they'll be ready.

So as a symbol of my faith, I'm offering this painting to the Canadiens if they can bring the Cup back home this year. We believe in you, boys. Let's go all the way in 2010.

P.S. And if you're reading this, please spread the word far and wide.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

When Giants Walked the Earth.

Frank Frazetta is no longer with us.

Let me say that again: Frank Frazetta is no longer with us. And we are the worse for it.

The man's reach was enormous: movies, music, comics, novels, hot rods - he left his mark everywhere. Growing up in the 70s, it was hard not to know who he was, even if you didn't know the real extent of his talent. The handful of paintings you probably know on a subliminal level are just the tip of the iceberg. Google the word "barbarian" and 90% of what pops up is influenced by Frank Frazetta, even if he didn't draw or paint it himself.

Ever see a picture of a guy holding an axe over his head, standing on a pile of dead bodies? Maybe a half-naked, extremely curvy woman at his feet? Of course you have; those images are everywhere. Among many, many other things, that archetypal illustration is Frazetta's invention. He did covers/posters/etc. for Conan, Tarzan, John Carter (Warlord of Mars), Vampirella, Eerie, Mad, and Creepy magazines, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Clint Eastwood's movie The Gauntlet, King Kong, and more Edgar Rice Burroughs material than you could shake a stick at. Even his signature was iconic.

The man was indomitable. A giant. Until very recently most of us felt that he was invulnerable. Here's an example of what I mean: a few years back he had a series of strokes which almost paralyzed his drawing arm. So what did he do? Retire? Sit back and live off the proceeds of his mind-blowing career? Get old?

No, he did something else altogether: he taught himself, while he was in his 70s, to draw with his other hand. And still drew better than any of his imitators. I'm not sure if the enormity of that really sinks in with non-artists, but think of it this way: assuming you're not ambidextrous, try writing your name with your non-dominant hand. Now, how'd that work out?

Rest in peace, Frank. Thanks for everything.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

120 Days.

It's a beautiful sunny afternoon in Vancouver as I write this. The kind of day where the light couldn't be any better for painting. As you can see, the sun hasn't quite reached my painting surface (AKA the bar) yet:

And this is an anniversary of sorts. Once again this year I set out to draw and/or paint every single day, and April 30 was the 120th consecutive day.

So what's come from the 120 days so far? For starters, a much deeper understanding of light and colour. For another, I'm dreaming a lot about the whole process, and sometimes I'm even coming up with viable solutions to art problems in the dreams. Beyond that, I've completed five paintings and eight illustrations (including a header for a friend's blog), and I've got another painting (you can see it there on the bar in the photo above) and a dozen or so illustrations underway. Oh, and included in those numbers are three commissions I've completed, the third of which is FedExing its way to its new owner as we speak.

All in all I'm feeling pretty positive about the months ahead. And on that note, I'll leave you with a teaser from a work in progress:

Thanks for reading.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Miscellaneous Updates.

Kind of a catchall entry this time around - no specific theme, just a few updates and tidbits.

First off, two more of the car pieces are finished. A 1929 Ford Model A Tudor Coupe:

And a hodgepodge vintage racer that I just refer to as "Lucky Seven":

It occurred to me recently that matching art styles with vintage cars would be an interesting exercise. It immediately got me thinking about drawing some drag racers from the late-60s psychedelic era in their full mind-blowing day-glo glory. Hell, that could almost be a book in itself. So far I'm leaning towards some type of Mopar funnycar at night, foot-long flames shooting out of the zoomies. Or maybe a lace-painted Corvette with a rocket engine.

Next on the blog agenda is this 54 Chevy:

I'm seeing this one in my head as being inked with a brush, and then coloured with watercolour paint splashed all over the place. As I've indicated before, inking is a real chore for me, so obviously I need to do a lot more of it.

In other news, I just shipped a commissioned piece that I've been cleverly referring to as Top Secret Painting. Once the lucky recipient gets it and I know everything's cool, I'll show the whole piece. In the meantime, here're a couple of macro detail shots:

The skulls are just a minor background accent; unless the light hits them just right, they're practically invisible. But I think they really make the piece.

This glossy green bit is a more significant part of the painting. I used a faux-encaustic technique to add depth, and as is often the case, it resulted in something I couldn't begin to capture with a camera.

This last shot is of a green pearl paint I mixed for this piece - a mix of Tri-Art Liquid Mirror and phthalo green, with a subtle touch of interference green.

Finally, I wanted to mention that I may be participating in a group art blog with some artist friends of mine. Things are still very much up in the air right now, but I think it's an idea with some promise. More info to come once things get finalized.

And now I think we're up to date. What are the rest of you people up to these days?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Repurposing an Old Piece.

It's a funny thing when you've built up a backlog of art - sometimes you suddenly remember a piece you'd forgotten about, or have a brainstorm about how you can spin off something new from it. In 2006 I did a poster for my brother featuring two of his favourite cars: a Plymouth Cuda, and a Chevy Chevelle SS, both from 1970 (pretty much the twilight of the behemoths as far as the original musclecar era was concerned).

Anyhow, tonight it occurred to me that with a bit of tweaking, this could easily fit in my next book:

So that's 5 illustrations down, and only 45 to go...

Friday, April 9, 2010


Okay, confession time: drawing is something I struggle with from day to day. Some aspects more than others - hands, for example, are a real bear. They're gradually getting easier, but they still take a lot of work. Which doesn't come as much of a surprise, given how complex the structure of a human hand is. Definitely one of those areas where practice is the answer. I also used to find hair pretty difficult as well, but not so much anymore. (Oddly enough, it was harder to draw back when I still had hair.)

In comparison, pulling a long, even, curved line in ink never gets easier for me. I've never had the steadiest hands for that kind of thing. Short lines aren't a problem, so if you've seen me do something with lots of loose, sketchy lines, now you know at least part of the story.

Take this illustration for example:

I inked this today. The rough sketch was printed out at about 10 inches wide, and I inked over that. Now, knowing how tricky the linework can be, I got out my French curves, my oval template and my ruler, and I decided to just keep drawing through if something went wrong, rather than agonizing over something I could fix after the fact, and letting that derail the whole process.

So finally I got the linework finished and scanned, and then I spent a few hours on the details - smoothing out uneven curves, duplicating repeating elements like the louvers, and just general touchup. Probably spent almost as long cleaning up the illustration in Photoshop as I did drawing it in the first place.

This is often a dilemma on my part, of course. On one hand I'm tempted to draw the stuff fairly small, so it's easier to get smooth curves. But then the gaps between the lines fill in, and I can't use reduction to clean things up.

On the other hand, if I draw it large I have to freehand all the lines, because none of my French curves and oval templates are big enough.

I guess it's largely a matter of what sort of touchup I want to do. Do I fix a lot of little, niggling details, or do I use Bezier curves in Photoshop to fine-tune the bigger areas of the lines? By now I'd likely have hit upon the optimum procedure, if I didn't work in so many different styles.

Something to consider in the future, I guess. Not like my hands are magically gonna get less shaky.

Thanks for listening, everybody. What aspects of drawing trouble you?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dropping the Ball.

Currently working on a commission for a friend - a fairly simple composition with a partial human figure in it. At the risk of sounding like I'm rationalizing, the painting is more about texture and colour than it is about anatomy.

Anyhow, there I was building up textures, laying down washes of phthalo green, messing around with black lava gel and Liquid Mirror... and then I noticed a minor detail on one arm that needed tweaking. So I made the tweak. Put it aside for a day or so while I was busy with other things.

Then I noticed it needed another tweak.

This went on for several days, but eventually I got things to a point where I was happy with the painting again. At which point I took a long look at the opposite shoulder on the figure and realized it was massively out of proportion with the other side. And of course, the edge of that shoulder and arm was defined not by some simple linework or brushwork, but by areas of fiber paste, black lava gel and high solid medium gel that butt together. Which is to say it wasn't something that I could just paint over - oh no, it was too sculptural for an easy fix like that.

Here, maybe this photo will give you a better idea of what I'm getting at:

Note that this is the post-error photo. What I had to do was take a palette knife and gouge off all the offending extraneous material, then sand that part of the panel down to bare wood (good thing I didn't do this on canvas, huh?), reprime it, patch up a couple of divots with some molding paste, and then start again with the black lava gel. Which, fortunately enough, is quite forgiving.

All this being done, it finally occurred to me to dig out the initial rough comp for comparison purposes. And sure enough, the pose and composition had mutated a lot when I transferred everything to the wood panel.

A lot.

So I guess that's the moral of my tale: keep your eye on the ball, folks. Don't get so caught up in one aspect of the art ("ooh, shiny!") that you blank out on another. Especially when that other is something as crucial as anatomy.

Monday, March 15, 2010


And in other art news, I picked this up from the printer today:

That's a 16x20-inch lightjet print on metallic paper - essentially it's a photo, as opposed to an inkjet print. Up close it almost looks like there's a layer of liquid between the paper and the ink. I've done several commissioned pieces this way over the past few years, and they never fail to wow the client.

Testing, Testing...

I've just been informed that I've been selected by the good people at Blurb to beta-test their new book-preview feature. It should enable you, the blog reader, to preview and purchase the book without leaving the comfort of my blog.

So without further ado...

How's that work for you folks?

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Brief Teaser.

I've probably mentioned this before, but my good friends in Mojave (check out their music; it's pretty great) are putting on an art-and-music show at the Tipper in a couple weeks, and yours truly will have three pieces in it.

Here's a quick teaser:

Just a small detail from one of the paintings; they're all tied together thematically. So far the best part of this has been giving Tri-Art's new Liquid Mirror paint a test-drive. The stuff's amazing.

I'll keep you posted on how well the show goes.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sell, Sell, Sell! Everything Must Go!

(Just pretend there's a photo of a fat, toupee-wearing, furniture-warehouse guy in a loud polyester suit here.)

Okay, all hyperbole aside, I've decided (after much deliberation) to drop the prices in my online art store. I've been reading a lot of spirited debate about how artists should never cut their prices or give discounts - lots of comparison to bargain basement stores, etc. But ultimately I think that's an easy argument to make if you're already an established, successful artist. Me, I'm really just starting out in my art career, such as it is. I need all the help I can get.

That being said, I'm not going to drop them permanently. That strikes me as a bad (self-defeating) career move. So just as an experiment, prices have been cut by 1/3 for the remainder of March. I'm curious to see what effect, if any, this will have on sales.

I've also added two recently-finished pieces to my Automotive gallery. You can see all of the work here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


So in the midst of all this flailing around looking for new promotional venues, several people mentioned deviantART as an option. Without further ado, then, here's my brand-spanking-new deviantART page.

Tip of the hat to all who suggested it. Let's hope this is a positive step.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Question.

So, a question for those who are making money off their art - and even those who aren't - how and where should I be promoting mine? I've already got a blog, a Twitter account, a Flickr account, two online stores, etc. Sold a decent amount of stuff over the past few months, but sales have pretty much petered out, and most of the sales were to family and close friends. Where should I be pushing this stuff? What (ideally cheap or free) venues am I missing out on?

(Just for clarification, I'm primarily looking for ways to drive traffic to my existing online stores, as well as to this blog.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

More on the Automotive Front.

Lots of automotive art coming from me these days. I'm havin' so much fun it's ridiculous - I keep flashing back to the cars I used to draw in junior highschool (except now I've got 30 more years' experience under my belt, of course). And I've got many, many ideas to choose from, but you can never have too many.

Anything you folks would like to see?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Jesus Built My Hot Rod.

Well, I think the next book's off to a fine start. The last few days have been extremely productive:

All I did today was be creative. It's a pretty good feeling. (All of these are just the preliminary stages, of course. Stay tuned to see where I go with them from here.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I've Been Interviewed.

Hey folks, I've been interviewed by Jaye Frisina over at Thirteenth Story:

JAYE: In the past, you have committed yourself to drawing every single day. What has this practice led to, in terms of creative development? Are there days when you are just not inspired, and how do you deal with those days? Is drawing every day something you would recommend to other artists, and do you have any advice for those who dare?

BRET: I'd recommend the practice - or something similar - for any creative person. The biggest benefit from it is just training your brain to think creatively all the time. When I was painting every day in 2008, the ideas just wouldn't stop. And this year I'm doing it again, though it can be either drawing or painting, just to mix it up a little. Plus, a year of being focused almost solely on painting tends to make my drawing skills rusty. And discipline is its own reward.

You can check read the rest of the interview right here.

Also, Jaye's site is here. Well worth checking out; her art is amazing.

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Next Book.

So I dunno if you heard, but I published a book in December.

What am I saying? Of course you heard; all the cool kids know.

And now what am I doing with my spare time, you ask? Well, I've started another book - this one will be all cars. I'll be pulling some old stuff from the archives, but mostly it'll be new material. Here's the first one:

Still lots to be done yet - more engine details to be drawn, etc. Plus I'll eventually be eliminating that black linework altogether.

Wish me luck?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My Process.

I thought, just for the hell of it, that I'd do an overview of my creative process for the blog. Hopefully this won't come across as too egotistical; I've always been intrigued by other people's methodology. I won't get too nuts-and-bolts about the whole thing, though, 'cause I think that might make your eyes glaze over. Without further ado, then, this is for all you process junkies:

First off, I've got a bar in my livingroom (built it myself, yes I did), that quickly got pressed into service as a drawing table/studio. It's a big, flat, extremely solid surface, and it's got lots and lots of booze in it.

(Also, the light is really good during daylight hours.)

The digital part of my work gets done on the computer from which I'm currently typing - 24" iMac, 4 gigs of RAM, 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo - plus an Epson Stylus Photo R320 printer and an ancient Epson Perfection 1250 scanner. I keep thinking the scanner's on its last legs, but I've been thinking that for at least three years now, and it still takes a licking and keeps on ticking. I've gotten several thousand scans out of it to date - not bad for a $175 scanner with a $25 mail-in rebate.

The ideas, though - those just pop into my head unsolicited, for the most part. It's almost rude.

But seriously, I learned a long time ago to let my subconscious do the heavy lifting. As long as I feed my subconscious well - stuffing it full of sensory output, basically - the creative part of the process is probably the easiest. Years ago I was given a blank hardcover book, and I stuck all my loose thumbnails and PostIts into it. (There are hundreds of still-unused ideas in the book by now.) Looking through the book is usually enough to jumpstart the process. Not an entirely efficient method in terms of time and money, but from the perspective of pure creativity, it works like a charm. And it only recently occurred to me to do the same for my graphic design work, but it's already starting to pay off.

The gist of all this is, you're trying to train your brain to do a lot of the work while you're not even conscious of it. If you keep pointing your subconscious in the right direction, eventually it'll go there without being told. Example? In 2008 I made a point to paint every day, even if only for a few minutes. The payoff was that painting was always on my mind, so a lot more creative ideas were generated. (I'm doing it again this year, hopefully.)

So in a nutshell, then - set yourself up a dedicated workspace if you can, keep a sketchpad or notebook with you at all times, and above all else, feed your head.

Also, whiskey.